This past winter, I invested in some more Ruffwear gear for Kaylee. I had previously bought the Track Jacket as a reflective piece for when I let her off-leash, so I wanted to try a few other items made by Ruffwear on a winter backpacking trip in February. Today I’ll be reviewing the Palisades Pack.
When we backpack, it’s important to me that Kaylee “carry her own weight”, as a matter of principle and a matter of safety. Additionally, carrying the pack provides the following fringe benefits:
- It gives her a job and makes her feel important
- It slows her down and she stays closer to me on the trail
Making sure not to pack more than 25% of her actual body weight, she needs to carry her own food, a collapsible bowl, treats, waste bags (for when it’s inappropriate to bury), her own first aid kit, a sleeping bag and pad, and a pack cover to keep everything dry. I wind up carrying the water and a water filter which I use for both of us. At approximately sixty pounds, that means I make sure she isn’t carrying more than fifteen pounds. With three days worth of food, the above fully-packed comes to about eight.
Picking a New Pack
We’ve done quite a bit of walking and hiking with an older REI pack¹ that we previously picked up for about $40, so she’s used to wearing a pack and knows we’re headed to do something exciting when she puts it on. One of the things I didn’t like about her previous pack is that the bags were not detachable. After looking at quite a few different packs online, I settled on the Palisades because I’m familiar with Ruffwear quality, I didn’t have to figure out a different brand’s sizing, and it comes with a durable harness that can be used separately because the saddlebags are detachable.
The list price of the Palisades pack is about $150 new, which is a little steep. I was fortunate to find a gently used pack on Craigslist for about $60. We grew accustomed to the pack on a few walks around the neighborhood before we hiked about 20 miles in the George Washington National Forest in February. Extremely versatile and expandable, it more than accommodated three days worth of her supplies for this trip.
How I Pack It
I place a Thermarest sleeping pad in one saddlebag, her child-size sleeping bag in the other, and then distribute everything else between the two. It’s important to try to get both bags close to the same weight to prevent one side from sagging and constantly unbalancing the harness. This is trickier than it sounds. Before we leave for a trip, I individually pack her meals in ziplock bags. I use a kitchen scale to distribute the meal bags and get most of the way there, and a system of carabiners clipped to the loop straps up top to make final adjustments. As she progresses through treats and kibble along a trip, I make changes to the placement of the carabiners as necessary to keep the bags balanced.
The one thing I don’t like on this pack is the extremely small clips on the harness-facing side of each saddlebag that keep them from flapping as we hike. These are difficult to clip and unclip, especially with an excited dog that just wants to get going already. To improve on this, magnets would be a much more ergonomic solution.
I’m extremely happy with this setup. Kaylee seems to like the backpack as well, because every time I take it out of the closet she’s super excited to put it on and go for a hike. We also have the Hi & Dry Saddlebag Cover, but while it snowed on our trip in February, there wasn’t enough moisture to warrant the hassle. I did test it at home and it seems to fit the pack well enough to do the job. Overall, this backpack has the Mike + Kaylee Seal of Approval.
Next up, I’ll be writing a review of the fleece-line Overcoat and the Aira Waterproof Rain Jacket. Stay tuned!
¹ I no longer have the REI pack. I tried to find the pack online for reference, but it looks like REI doesn’t make it anymore.