Tim, the founder of Ruff Rescue Gear, designed The Back Country harness for his dog, Ruger. Tim is an experienced outdoor adventurer, but when he started bringing Ruger along, he wanted to be sure he also had a rescue plan for him. Their motto is “High-quality products made to help you and your 4-legged companions adventure safely,” and that's what their different products deliver!
The The Back Country Rescue Harness is different from the other sling-style emergency harnesses because it has multiple adjustment points to better fit dogs with different body shapes. In addition, it is not only adjustable but has buckles on the straps around the legs, which makes it much easier to put it on an injured dog.
The Back Country comes in two sizes that fit medium to large dogs (40-125 lbs). The buckles and extra straps add a little weight, but it's still reasonably packable and only weighs 10 oz (medium) & 12 oz (large). For an extra $10, they also offer shoulder pads (2 oz) to make carrying more comfortable.
The sling's material is very thin and lightweight, with reinforcement points and wide straps. The Back Country features plastic buckles around the dog and on the shoulder straps.
The setup allows backpack-style carry or crossing the straps on your chest. Their website recommends back carry, but it could be used to carry front if the situation requires it.
All the straps, buckles, and adjustment points make figuring out the fit a little tricky at first. However, it does help the process that there is a small buckle over the dog's back, so you can start with fixing that first to keep the sling in place while figuring out and adjusting the front and back section. It is definitely recommended to practice this at home, so you know how to do it in an emergency.
The Front(F) and Rear(R) sides are marked on the material, but I missed that when putting it on Mia for the first time.
The difference between the back and front sections is that the front sits higher to support the neck, while the back leg loops are lower to protect the tail. If you ever feel the front looks very low on your dog, double-check if it needs to be rotated.
To learn from my mistake, this is how it looks when it is on the dog THE WRONG WAY:
And this is how it should be:
Once you figure out the right fit, the sling will hold the dog's torso and front snugly. Mia is on the lowest end of their size range, and it did feel that this harness was a little too big for her. All the straps were on the tightest setting, and it still didn't provide much support for her back end, and the front kept somewhat sliding lower as well.
As far as I'm aware, there aren't any researches on the ideal weight support for dogs in these carry harnesses, so I asked Dr. Landry's opinion on how they should fit a dog.
I was mainly concerned about the chest section sitting over Mia's shoulders. This would be a problem with regular harness designs, but Dr. Laundry wasn't concerned about it since the weight distribution is pretty even across the dog - most of the weight-bearing section being in the middle of the dog's body anyways. The role of the neck/shoulder section is primarily to stop the dog from sliding out.
Dr. Landry raised an interesting point that I hadn't considered before. Having the front section fit higher on the neck keeps the dogs securely in the sling, but it could cut the circulation if the dog is unconscious or just hanging its head for any other reason.
The neck section of The Back Country is a good middle ground in this sense: it seems to be high enough to prevent a dog from sliding out, but it isn't too high either that would be a concern in the case of an unconscious dog.
We wrote a separate article comparing four emergency carry-out systems on the market, that you can check out.
The Back Country isn't as packable as its two other competitors (the Pack-a-Paw and the Airlift), but in return, it provides adjustability around the dog. This is not only helpful in case of injuries but also helps if you have two similarly sized but differently shaped dogs since you can get away with carrying only one rescue sling and adjust it for them.
The Back Country also has a more open design which might help to keep an overheated dog cool or prevent further injuries from carrying down.
Leaving bigger leg holes on the sling and featuring buckles and adjustment points help to fit differently shaped dogs into the same harness. The adjustment points also reduce the risk of cutting circulation and make it easier to put it on an injured dog who might be unable to stand.
I only wish there would be two more adjustment points to set the length of the section between the front legs and the back legs. This way, it could be customized how high the chest panel goes up, and the sling could also provide better support for the rear.
Altogether this is a well-made and thought-through design, the only packable sling on the market which is adjustable around the dog.
You can buy the Ruff Rescue Gear's products on their website. For reference, Mia needed their Medium harness.
Many of you asked Mia's measurements to better understand the different products’ fit. Your best chance of finding a good fitting gear is always to measure (and remeasure) your dog. Even we grab the measuring tape before getting a new product - even though we tested a lot of them, and have a good feeling of her size by now.
I share her measurements below, but don't go ahead and order the same size just because your dog is similar to Mia ;)
• Shoulder height: 19.5 inches (50 cm)
• Weight: 37-44 pounds (17-20 kg)
• Widest chest circumference (where the most harness would have the chest strap): 25-26 inches (63-65 cm)
• Neck circumference for collars: 15-16 inches (38-40 cm)
• Back lengths: 22 inches (56 cm)