Ruffwear Palisades Pack Review

Let’s talk about backpacks for dogs.

This is the Palisades Pack made by Ruffwear:

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The Palisades is a “multi-day backcountry”pack meant for dogs who want to go farther and stay out in the wilderness longer. What really makes this pack stand out from others is the amount of packing space made available. There are 10L available in the small size, 14L in the medium, and 19L in the large which gives you plenty of space to cram whatever is needed in there. I appreciate the available space most when I’m on a multi-day or extended trip where I expect Opal to carry her own provisions. In the past, I always had to carry a portion of Opal’s food and all of the water, so freeing up that space in my backpack while better utilizing her carrying ability has been game changing. Longer trips, better comfort, and more tails a’waggin’!

Its durability and overall quality make it a go-to item for many outdoor enthusiasts and their 4 legged friends. As you can see, it’s a staple in my gear spread:

Proper Gear Spread

The Palisades design can be broken down into two saddle bags that attach to a modified Webmaster harness that is fully adjustable. The saddle bags can be easily removed from the harness by unclipping its 4 points of connection, giving your dog a rest or a chance to cool down in the hot sun. The modified harness beneath is useful on its own, and I find myself going on short day hikes with Opal without the saddle bags. The Webmaster harness is mainly used to assist dogs up and over a range of obstacles, which makes it a great choice for hiking and mountaineering fans.

Here’s the breakdown of what you get when you purchase the Palisades:

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  • Two saddle bags
  • One Webmaster harness
  • Two 1L plastic water bottles

The handle of the Webmaster harness is one of my favorite features; it is extremely helpful when scrambling over large rocks and boulders. Opal, a medium sized dog, can sometimes need a little help to scale the bigger rocks safely. I can grab the handle on her back and give her a boost when she needs one. That extra lift from the handle without the weight of the pack makes it possible for the both of us to enjoy some pretty neat places… like Weverton Cliffs on the Appalachian Trail!

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The saddlebags are attached to the harness at 4 points – two clips in the front, and two in the back. Clipping these 4 points is simple at fast, however there are 2 more clips in the center of each saddle bag that prevent them from flopping up and down while your dog is on the go. Unfortunately, these are not quite so simple or fast to put in place. I find it hard to actually get my fingers in place and clip the two ends together when I can’t see them, and there is no “click” or lock motion to alert me that I’ve actually clipped them together. Annoying as this is, these clips are minor and do not detract from the overall quality of the pack. I hope in the future, that Ruffwear can improve the mini clips on the saddlebags by making them more accessible and easy to use. Perhaps velcro instead of clips?

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Once attached at all 4 points, I can make use of each of the multiple pockets in each saddle bag to organize our gear.

This is the right saddle bag:

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The topmost pockets on each saddle bag are relatively small. I can fit a leash in one easily, but not much else.

Here is the open main compartment with water bottle inside:

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This is were Opal carries her water, food, snacks, and whatever else we need for that particular trip.

The final pocket, the lowest one, is where the load compression system is housed. I use the compression system to cinch down on the main compartment to reduce bulk, much like a compression sack.

The 2 water bladders that come with the Palisades are a nice addition, especially when it comes to balancing the saddle bags. If I find that one bag is heavier than the other and I cannot adjust the items inside to rectify it, I fill or empty the water bladders to make up the difference.  Also, on particularly hot days, it is comforting to know that between the 2 of us, we have 5L of water available to drink. The plastic of the bladders seems a little flimsy, and although I have yet to have a real issue with them, I am worried that they will spring a leak. Make sure the lids are completely screwed down or else your dog will end up with a wet back!

Opal seems comfortable and happy while wearing the Palisades pack, stomping along and investigating the trail as we go. It does not chafe her as other packs have in the past, and sits squarely on her back without leaning to one side or the other. She seems at ease when carrying her maximum recommended weight due to the even distribution, and moves easily up hills, over rocks, and across small streams. The grey daisy chain can sometimes snag on loose branches and plants, but usually that is a minor inconvenience. It can be a major issue if you have to pull out pieces of poison ivy!

I only ran into one such issue with the Palisades so far, and it wasn’t a big deal. A branch wedged itself beneath the saddlebag but overtop of the Webmaster, and became stuck.

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I’m sure Opal would have been able to wiggle out of this situation on her own, but it would have been a little tricky. Thankfully, we are always together and I was able to get her out of this tangle! Once out, she went on to punish the offending branch and turn it into her very own walking stick before we continued on.

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So, here’s the final breakdown.

The Pros:

  • The bag is detachable from the main harness
  • The Webmaster harness by itself is a useful tool for aiding your dog
  • 4 Points of of attachment for stability of the saddlebags
  • Multiple ways to customize fit to various shapes of dogs
  • Two 1.0L water bladders so your pooch can carry his own water
  • Multiple pockets for organization and weight distribution
  • The bag cleans very easily on the go (just rinse with water and keep going!)

The Cons:

  • The grey daisy chain that lines the saddle bags can get snagged sometimes
  • The mini clips can be difficult to use
  • It can take some readjusting to get the fit just right, and until then, the pack may lean to one side
  • Despite the attachment points and careful adjustment, the saddle bags can slide forward on your dog’s shoulders if traveling downhill
  • The plastic used to make the water bladders feels flimsy

Opal’s Verdict:

The Palisades pack is a hardcore piece of equipment for the true canine explorer. Not only is it durable, it is also comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, especially since the saddle bags can be removed from the main harness. The harness itself is a useful tool on its own, and I use it frequently on our trips. There are minor design flaws, but overall they are outweighed by the utility and durability of the overall pack. Compared to other packs we have used in the past, the Palisades is our current favorite for extended and multi-day trips!

Sometimes the best can be the most expensive, but with the Palisades you are paying for unrivaled quality. A must have for those who like to get lost in the woods!

4.5/5 Stars

Happy hiking!

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Opal Visits Weverton Cliffs

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“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks”

– JOHN MUIR

A Preview of Adventures to Come

Hey everyone! Here’s a little taste of what is coming up next for Opal and I in what I’m calling “The Summer of Adventure!”

  • June 24th will kick off our Appalachian Trail Adventure in Virginia and head due north along the trail up through Pennsylvania. We’ll be hammocking each night in an ENO Doublenest to camp instead of pitching a tent. We’ve never tried this on an extended hike before, so I’m very excited to check it out! This trip should be a fun challenge for the both of us due to the many elevation changes, scrambling, overall terrain, and the fact that we will be carrying all provisions on our backs.
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  • July 8th we will be heading out to the southwest to explore the Sonoran Desert, the Grand Canyon, and Antelope Canyon if time permits. This trip will be Opal’s first trip to the southwest and will present all kinds of new challenges including the overwhelming heat, varied landscape, and dangerous wildlife. We’ll be tent camping in a comfy Coleman Sundome this time due to the lack of available trees in certain areas. The breath-taking views and natural structures will make it well worth our while on this trip! I have a feeling Opal’s boots will come in mighty handy here…
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  • Late August Opal and I will be driving down the Carolinas for a few days before driving further south to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, also known as the “Land of Trembling Earth”. This is Alligator Country at it’s finest, and this swamp is the largest intact freshwater/blackwater wilderness in the country!
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  • Late August we will be driving down to our home in Florida and return to University. We’ll also check out the lovely Rainbow Springs for some kayaking and snorkeling.. or in Opal’s case, doggie paddling.
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I will be doing some heavy testing of several dog travel items through all of these trips to get a true understanding of their functionality, durability, and overall value. Products will range from packs, to harnesses, to bowls, treats, toys, seat covers and more! Each location is so vastly different from the last; I think that all of these locations together will help to provide a well rounded test to each product.

Also, I’ve added a second GoPro to my camera equipment in the hopes of capturing some action shots and better photos. Between the Hero2 and the new Hero3+ Silver, I should get some great shots!

Are there any canine products in particular you’d like to be reviewed? Let us know!

Happy Travels!