The Mountain Bike Life

I have to say it: this is without a doubt the best dog pack/harness system I’ve ever used with my little guy. It has tons of room and attachment loops, it fits securely (thanks to an almost ridiculous amount of adjustable straps), it comes with two 1-litre collapsible water bottles, and the harness that the bags mount to is a fantastic piece of equipment on its own.

The harness has six points of connection, and five separately adjustable straps. Belly girth strap at the back, and a combined chest and neck strap at the front mean you can adjust the harness almost endlessly to fit your dog and its loadout.

Note to our readers: My main camera’s SD card suffered a catastrophic compression incident leading up to this post (i.e. I dropped then stepped on it). Check back in a couple days, I will have better quality shots of the harness and pack!

Some of you may recall the earlier review I did on the Canine Equipment pack/harness [click here if you want to read it] – the main problem I had with that is something that the Ruff Wear pack handles excellently: uneven loads shifting the pack to one side of the dog. The Ruff Wear harness uses the slightly-more-complicated-but-so-much-more-secure method of attachment on the front that requires lifting one of the dog’s legs through a loop in the harness. That is, rather than just sliding the harness over the dog’s head then attaching the chest and belly straps, the Palisades pack has a strap connecting the head loop to the chest strap. This means the pack takes about five seconds longer to put on and take off, but also that it won’t shift while your dog is running. It does tend to sag one way or another a bit at a stand-still, but once you guys are moving it centres itself very nicely. The chest-plate also gives you a pretty impressive amount of adjustment, for both neck width and length. I don’t know that the plate really provides any extra protection to the dog, but it definitely makes the harness feel more secure when the dog is leashed. I have read of people using the harness as a hauling-harness (think skijouring or sledding), but I haven’t done it myself (and I expect Ruff Wear would say “No! Don’t do that!” if you asked them) so I don’t want to comment on its potential strength.

A less furry shot of the various straps. I haven’t had any issues yet, but I am a bit worried that Ziggy may wind up with some rubs in his armpits from the unpadded section of the chest straps.
Another issue I’ve had with other packs has been them flapping and flopping about as we go down the trails. Ruff Wear tackles this issue with a handy double-buckle system on the outside of each pack – grab the loose ends and pull to cinch up the packs, then haul on the bright orange string to loosen them when you need to get the packs open (check out the picture below). The cinch straps, in conjunction with fairly tight buckles that hold the bottom of the packs to the belly straps, do a fairly good job of keeping the packs from flopping too much. There is definitely still some movement, but nothing that causes me any concern. 
Loose on left, cinched on right. This pannier has one litre of water, about 12oz of dry food, and a collabsible water bowl in it. The zipper you can see on top opens a pocket that’s really only big enough for bags, maybe some treats.
The mounting system for this harness is pretty decent, as well: rather than each pack buckling individually to the harness, the two packs are connected to each other via mesh webbing, which in turn connects to the harness with two buckles per side. This offers a bit more support for heavier loads (remember! Stay under 30% of your dog’s weight while loading the harnesses, less is better!), as it spreads the weight around. It also means that, in the event of a buckle failure, you won’t come home with a completely useless single pannier.
The underside of one pack. The two buckles on the right are the main connecting points, and the small on visible at the far left of the screen attaches the bottom of the pack to the chest strap.
 An oval cut-out in the mesh allows the harness’s handle, D-Ring, and sewn ring to be accessible, so you don’t lose any functionality with the bags attached. The fact that the secondary connecters on the packs have buckles, rather than just being sewn sections of nylon as many other packs use, means that you can take the panniers off without detaching the harness or leash – great if you hit the rest point and want to let your dog run unloaded for a bit!
The front is facing up. Here, you can see the four main buckles that anchor the packs to the harness, as well as the mesh connecting the packs. Also, check out all the reflective piping. Even on a long-haired dog, it will be visible!
So far, we’ve put about three months of heavy use into the harness and packs. The harness has survived beaches, hikes, bike rides, walks, dog parks, and (perhaps most impressively) Ziggy’s rotten little sister. So far, outside of a few scratches on the buckles and a bit of salt bleaching, the harness is showing no wear. Looking at how it’s built and what it’s been through, I don’t have any concern that I will need to buy a replacement harness anytime in the next few years. The packs haven’t seen quite as much use, since it’s only just getting cool enough for me to not feel awful saddling Zig with extra weight. So far, they’ve made it through a few runs through the field, five bike rides, and a couple hikes. The bags are built with drainage holes, so fording the rivers and streams was never a problem. They have gotten caught a few times on things like fences and trees (Ziggy seems to really enjoy the noise they make as they slide along rough surfaces?), but aren’t showing any signs of failing. The buckles are pretty sturdy, the webbing is tough, and the material is fairly stain-resistant (he’s taken a few accidental cups of coffee to the back, unfortunately). All in all, I’m expecting the whole system to last me quite a while, even with all the stress we are, have been, and will be putting on it. 
The harness itself is fairly well designed – Ziggy seems happy in it, the handle is plenty wide enough to comfortably haul on when I’m helping him up and over things. It is a bit farther back than I would like, though.
The Good: Strong; Light-weight; Well Made; Lots of storage space; Comes with collapsible water bottles; Easy to switch from pack to harness (and vice-versa)
The Bad: Somewhat pricey; Slightly more complex to adjust/put on/take off than other harnesses; Only comes in red packs with grey harnesses
The Down and Dirty: It’s a great pack, and a great harness. Personally, I think it’s worth the money, but keep in mind the majority of the time I spend with my dog out-of-doors is hiking or mountain biking, often in situations where the added space is a major boon. I love it, he loves it, we have no issues to report as of yet (after about 150 hours of use). Plainly put, it does what it claims, and it does it well. As of this moment, I’ve tried six different packs from four different companies, and if you’re looking to bring your dog with you on longer excursions where extra food and water are important (as well as having a comfortable, secure system for on-leash work), this is definitely the best.

Think it sounds good? Check it out on Amazon: Ruffwear Palisades Pack (Affiliate Link)

Rider Profile: Becca
Trail Karma