Between his three coats, water/food bowls and multiple days food Rocco's gear is beginning to weigh me down. Although he does not enjoy having to actually carry his stuff, he accepts the practice, reluctantly. Years ago he owned an early version of the Palisades Pack from Ruffwear. It was a good piece of gear, but it had it's short comings. The pack also did not fit Rocco perfectly which made it difficult to balance on his back. I ended up gifting the pack to a friend. A few years later we gave the backpack another go. This time I went with the Approach Pack which went down in sizing to accomidate Rocco's small frame. The pack fit much better then the previous Palisades, but lacked the features I desired. Again this pack was given away. A few months back my girlfriend and Rocco when backpacking. She was not thrilled with the space and weight of all his gear and insisted we get him another pack. This time the newest version of the Palisades pack fit so we decided to give it another go.
Use- Unlike the Ruffwear Approach pack or the previously owned Palisades, Rocco's new pack is seeing some use. The harness system fits him better. The better fit translates to a better carry of the pack compartments. The trick to having the pack fit well is to balance the load. If one side is heavier then the other the pack will sag. Most people think that by cranking down on the harness the pack will carry better. The reality is that the harness should fit snug but not tight. over tightening will cause chaffing and make your dog uncomfortable. Balancing the load is much better method for using the pack. I have found that the top pockets of the pack work great for storing a minimalist leash and extra poo bags. The main pockets are large enough to accommodate Rocco's food and jackets for 3-4 nights in the backcountry. I have found that it is easier to carry his water in my system, rather then have to access his pack at each watering. With the main pockets stuffed the pack has a very wide profile. Rocco often gets stuck in narrow sections, but in most cases figures it out with out assistance. If he does need to be lifted the harness handle holds up excellent for short hauls through tricky terrain or stream crossings. The compression straps do an excellent job of reducing the profile of the pack, while also securing the load. The adjustment is easy to use and fine tune. The pack does not bounce and is secure on the harness. The material of the pack is stout enough that brushing up against sharp rocks and cacti will not damage it. One frustrating point is that the material is not waterproof. Since dogs are lower to the ground, the pack tends to pick up more water from low brush. On a recent trip this caused the pack to wet out, and some of Rocco's equipment got wet. This could be combated by using water proof stuff sacks or using Ruffwear's Hi and Dry Saddlebag Cover. The harness system has rubbed Rocco raw on a few trips, but this was only after he was soaked and probably had more to do with that then the pack. Overall the pack works great and is built of high quality materials.
Final Thoughts- The Palisades Pack from Ruffwear is the ultimate backpacking pack for your dog. The company really did some research and designed a pack that is loaded with features. The combination of the large compartments and compression system provide a secure carry for multi-day trips. In my opinion the packs features warrant the high cost over other packs. If you are looking for a pack for day hikes go with the simplicity of the Ruffwear Approach pack. If multi-day trips are more your style the Palisades is the best option on the market. You can find out more about the pack here.
*This product was purchased for review.