Ruffwear Singletrak Pack Review

Our friends at Ruffwear were kind enough to send Opal and I another product to test out on our most recent venture out in Arizona. We had several day-hikes planned in addition to a short multi-day trip beneath the rim of the Grand Canyon, so we needed something light weight but durable that Opal would be comfortable wearing in the heat of the desert. Ruffwear listened to our needs and sent us their sleekest hydration pack – The Singletrak Pack.

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The Singletrak is a low-profile and streamlined pack for day hikes, runs, and maybe overnight trips. It was definitely made with shorter adventures in mind, as is has a 3.2L carrying capacity. 1.2L of that capacity is dedicated to water, leaving the remaining 2L for other things like a leash or poop bags. The Singletrak also has a handle on the back for helping your dog get up and over any obstacles they may encounter, of which I am a huge fan.

My initial impression of the pack when unwrapping it was that the pack was sturdily built with durable fabric, and had a similar fit to the Palisades Pack (review can be found here) also by Ruffwear. There are two straps that clip around the dog’s waist, and a padded chest strap that prevents the pack from sliding backwards while providing comfort. There is a no-nonsense feel to the pack as it only holds the necessities, but it still looks stylish.

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Opal is just about 30lbs, and very trim in the waist. So using Ruffwear’s sizing guidelines, I figured that a size Small would be our best bet. I found the product to be very true to size, so if you’re considering purchasing the Singletrak, make sure you measure your dog first! Getting the fit just right can be a little difficult in the beginning, but with five points of adjustment, you can really get the perfect fit for your individual dog. It took me several minutes and a few adjustments on the go while we were hiking for me to get it just the way I wanted, but once it is adjusted it is great! I never had to re-adjust or “fix” the fit after that, which made putting the pack on and heading out much easier.

The pack fit snuggly on Opal, but I could easily slip my fingers beneath the fabric. It’s sleek design and close fit seem comfortable, and also allow her to remain agile while moving around. Unlike larger packs which have larger saddle bags that can restrict movement, the Singletrak’s minimalist design allows a dog to move as naturally as possible. The pack also does not lean to one side regardless of how weight is distributed between the pockets, which I really appreciate. Opal and I have struggled in the past with the weight balancing issue, so not having to worry about it is one less thing stopping us from having fun on the trail.

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One aspect of the Singletrak that I really enjoyed was the attention to the comfort and ventilation of the dog wearing it. There is a large open section beneath the handle on the back that allows air to cool the dog down. The fabric making up the pack, while durable, is also relatively breathable, and I noticed when I touched it that it was not absorbing too much heat from the desert sun.

Opal and I not only used the Singletrak to carry water and a few snacks, but also as a tether between us on the trail. Using the D-Ring on the back of the pack, I clipped on her leash and was able to keep my hands free to hold my trekking poles while she led the way. I liked this set up more than putting the leash on her collar, because it put less pressure on her neck as we turned. There were more than just a few switchbacks on Bright Angel Trail, so we were both more comfortable this way, and on a multi-day hike, comfort is key!

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Something worth noting is that, depending on where your trip takes you, it is possible that your dog will need more water than the 1.2L that the Singletrak carries. In my situation on the Bright Angel Trail, there were several stops with water spigots where I could replenish her reserve, so this wasn’t too much of a concern, but on more backcountry trips, this could quickly become an issue.

I experimented with the Singletrak by adding the 1L water bladders that come with the Palisades to try and see if I could increase the carrying volume. Unfortunately, the Singletrak just isn’t made to carry more than .6L per pocket; I had to compress the 1L bottles slightly, and as a result they both sprang leaks! Make sure you use the appropriate water bladder with the Singletrak to avoid this situation.

Fortunately, the Singletrak is more accommodating when carrying traditional 16.9 oz bottles of water. Woohoo!

So, the final breakdown goes like this:

The Pros:

  • Multiple ways to customize fit to various shapes of dogs
  • Two BPA free .6L water bladders so your pooch can carry his own water
  • Multiple pockets for organization and weight distribution
  • Sleek design allows for quick and agile movement
  • Light coloration prevents the back from absorbing too much heat from the sun

The Cons:

  • The D-ring on the back of the pack isn’t quite as durable as the D-ring of the Palisades
  • Limited packing space
  • Not compatible with the 1L bladders from Ruffwear

Opal’s Verdict:

The Singletrak is excellent at performing on short hikes, runs, and single day trips where you need to bring nothing but the basics. On our hike down into the depths of the Grand Canyon and back up again, Opal seemed very comfortable carrying her water and didn’t seem to realize she was wearing anything at all. I would absolutely recommend this product to other dog owners! This pack has many applications outside of camping and hiking and would be a versatile addition to your dog’s gear.

4/5 Stars

Happy Camping!

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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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Checklist for Camping With Your Dog

“What should I bring when I want to go camping with my dog?”

Camping and hiking are some of the best ways to appreciate the outdoors. It is an even more enjoyable experience when you bring your best friend with you!

One of the most useful things you can bring on an outdoor adventure with your dog is a backpack of their very own! This gives your buddy a job to do on the trail and frees up some space in your backpack as well. There are many brands of packs for your dog, but I typically see Outward HoundMountainsmith K-9, or Ruffwear out on the trails.

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Depending on your level of experience and what kind of trip you have in mind, any one of these can be the perfect pack for your pooch. Opal and I started with an Outward Hound pack, which is an excellent place to start for casual camping, and later decide to upgrade to the Ruffwear Palisades pack (which I will post a review for later on) when I realized we needed something more heavy duty. The Ruffwear Approach pack is also a good starting point that could also be used on longer trips, although it is not as “heavy duty” as the Palisades. The Mountainsmith K-9 pack is another excellent choice for really roughing it on a more serious trip, and I hope to test it out in the future.

So, besides picking a bag for your dog that suits your experience level and how long you’ll be out in the woods, what do you actually bring to keep Fido happy?

There’s no concrete list, but here’s what I typically pack in Opals’s bag for a multi-day trip:

  • Food – Bring enough food for each day you’ll be away plus an extra day as a “just in case”. Trips can be delayed and things happen, so make sure you have enough to keep your dog fed.
  • Treats – Camping is always more fun with cookies.
  • Water – Depending on what pack you’ve purchased, there may be water bladders that you can fill. However, if the pack did not come with places to store water, you can always add a collapsable water bottle of your own. Worst case scenario, you can always carry water in your bag in the form of traditional water bottles or a Platypus/Camelback. Opal carries 1L of water in her pack that is hers to drink for the day while I carry around 2L. This may be overkill for the casual camper, but I also carry a Sawyer water filter in case I need more water than what I’ve brought.
  • A Travel Bowl – Opal and I have always used our Alcott Adventure Bowl on our trips. It’s lightweight, easy to open up and snap closed, and waterproof – No leaks here. Another bowl worth checking out is the Quencher Cinch Top bowl from Ruffwear; it has drawstrings that can be pulled tight while leaving a portion of food inside. I just purchased one of these, and we’re dying to test out on our next trip.
  • Leash & Nighttime Collar – A leash is a must have – don’t leave home without it. There may be times when your dog should not be off lead, like when you come across other dogs on a trail or if the area is congested. Also, If your dog is a little on the darker side of the color spectrum, a night LED collar can be a lifesaver. Opal and I use a Nite Dawg LED Light-Up Collar for when we’re exploring at night time, and for added visibility, I also clip a SpotLit to her collar where the tags are.
  • Boots/Paw Pad Protection – Depending on where you are heading, it may be too rocky for your dogs feet. Protect your dogs sensitive paw pads with a pair of boots or a product like Musher’s Secret and you’ll be able to enjoy longer adventures. Happy feet, happy dog.
  • Poop Bags – All responsible dog owners know to pick up after their dogs go. Earth Rated poop bags are eco-friendly, bio degradable, and lavender scented!

Dogs should carry no more than 25% of their total body weight in a backpack, so Opal can carry just about 7.5lbs. Start light and easy with your dog in the beginning, and work your way up to that total weight. Keep it fun! While Opal is carrying her essential gear, I carry these items in my own bag typically to keep her from passing her weight limit:

  • Surplus Food – Depending on how long our trip is, I sometimes have to put some of Opal’s food and gear in my bag so hers is not to heavy.
  • Medicine and First Aid – Bring it in the hopes that you never have to actually use it! I bring a roll of self adhering wrap bandage, a little hydrogen peroxide, and a small bottle of Vetericyn to create a protective barrier over a wound. A small jar of Benadryl can also be helpful to combat allergies, bug bites, and general itchiness.
  • A Tick Key – Tick Keys are a tool used to remove ticks from your dog (and you) while on the go. They are easy to clip onto a leash, key ring, or keep in a wallet so you always have one at your disposal. Even though I use a tick preventative with Opal, those creepy crawlers sometimes get a hold anyway. When doing your daily check for ticks, use the tick key to pull ticks off without fuss.
  • Bedding – Think about where your dog will be sleeping. In your tent? In their own? Opal steps in my tent with me on a fleece blanket, or on my chest when we hammock. Have a plan and a place for them to bunk down at night! I find it to be overkill to bring them an actual bed on most camping trips, and a fleece blanket is much easier to carry.
  • Medical Records – I keep scanned PDF versions of Opal’s Rabies vaccination and other pertinent health info on my phone instead of toting around physical copies.

Hopefully this packing list and tips gives you a good place to start planning your adventures. All that’s left to do is to grab your gear and go!

Let us know what your must haves for hiking are, and Happy camping 🙂

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We’ll be running reviews on dog products, dog friendly spaces across the country, hikes, travel tips, and even hosting contests! Be sure to check us out where we started, on Instagram. Right now we are running Opal’s 1st Birthday Contest on Instagram, which has some great prizes from Ruffwear. Check us out on Instagram at OpalTheACD!

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