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Reviews > Animal Companion Gear > Dog Packs > RUFFWEAR APPROACH PACK > Test Report by Michael Pearl


INITIAL REPORT - May 14, 2017
FIELD REPORT - August 01, 2017
LONG TERM REPORT - October 02, 2017


NAME: Mike Pearl
EMAIL: mikepearl36ATyahooDOTcom
AGE: 43
LOCATION: Hanover, New Hampshire, USA
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 155 lb (70.30 kg)

I have a great appreciation for the outdoors and get out at every opportunity. I am a three-season, learning to be a four-season backpacker and year-round hiker. Currently, my trips are two to three days long as well as an annual week-long trip. I utilize the abundant trail shelters in my locale and pack a backup tarp-tent. I like to cover big distances while still taking in the views. I have lightweight leanings but function and reliability are the priority. I mostly travel woodland mountain terrain but enjoy hiking beautiful trails anywhere.



Manufacturer: Ruffwear
Year of Manufacture: 2017
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: US$79.95
Made in: Vietnam

Tester (Oscar) Dimensions
Length (nose to hip): 33 in (84 cm)
Height (shoulder):
Weight: 50 lb (23 kg)
Girth (widest of chest): 29 in (74 cm)

Sizes Available: XS, S, M & L/XL
Size Tested: M

Listed Weight M: 1.15 lb (0.52 kg)
Measured Weight: 1 lb (0.45 kg)
Listed Capacity M: 14.5 L (885 cu in)
Listed Sizing M: 27-32 in (69-81 cm) measured around widest part of rib cage IMAGE 2

Colors Available: Meadow Green and Orange Poppy
Color Tested: Orange Poppy

- five point adjustment for custom fit and full range of motion
- two leash attachment points, anodized aluminum V-ring and webbing loop
- padded handle and non-slip girth straps to disperse load for comfortable and controlled lifting
- stash pockets and external gear loops
- radial cut, weight-forward saddlebag design to stabilize pack
- harness suspension system provides stability, comfort and fit


The Approach Pack arrived inside a plastic shipping bag. There was one product tag attached. The tag lists model, pack size, features, guarantee, company motto, company contact information and brief sizing information. The materials and construction all look to be of good quality. All stitching is straight and tight with no loose ends. The zippers and buckles and function with ease. The color is bright and very noticeable, not sure if it's fashionable but I feel it's very functional. I like have a visible dog while in the woods.

The underside of the pack, the surface that rest on Oscars back is a semi-rigid padded material. The areas of the straps that contact under Oscars chest and abdomen as well as the front chest are also padded. The handle on the back of the pack is a nice size and easy to grab hold of. There are five loops of fabric on each side of the pack forming attachment points. Each side of the pack has a top flat pocket with a 8.5 in (22 cm) zipper. This pocket measures approximately 9 x 4.5 in (23 x 11 cm). Just below is a much larger pocket measuring about 14 x 6 x 4 in (35 x 15 x 10 cm). There is a line of reflective piping running along the side of each pocket. All four zippers are easy to grab and hold pulls.

The Approach looks like it can hold a good amount of stuff. As I write this I am trying to think of all the things Oscar can carry in the pack. But what I think the challenge will be is balancing the load. Seems an uneven load would not only be uncomfortable but a potential injury concern.


Not much information provided but these three valuable points, from the Ruffwear website and the tag attached to the pack.

It is recommended that dogs carry no more than 25% of their body weight. If a dog is new to packs, start with a light load and work up to heavier weight.

Washing Instructions
- Secure fasteners
- Hand wash
- Mild detergent
- Hang dry

Ruffwear trail tested promise
All of our products are rigorously field tested and we proudly guarantee against defects in materials and craftsmanship.


After about five minutes of inspection by Oscar which pretty much amounted to sniffing he let me put the pack on him. We primarily use an around the chest type harness when out and about. The Approach Pack goes on much the same way so this was easy for both of use. Oscars head goes the front opening of the pack harness, lift right leg through the strap, the strap then clicks into buckle on his left side and last the strap around the waist is buckled. Oscar has never used a pack before so headed out without a load. The only thing in the pack was the packaging it came in. It was just in one side of the pack and provided a little bulk but no real weight.

The chest strap needed to be lengthened to fit and the waist strap needed to be shortened. One short doggy shimmy shake to make those micro adjustments and Oscar was ready to go. I clicked Oscars leash to the aluminum V-ring and we were off. We headed to our local hill about a 2 mi (3.2 km) hike.
On the way to the trail Oscar remained on leash. Neither of us noticed a difference between walking with the pack compared to our usual harness leash combination. Once on the trail Oscar is off leash unless we encounter others dogs and/or people. On this hike we saw neither. Oscar didn't seem to notice the pack at all and hiked his usual pace. This involves running ahead till he's just out of sight and them running back to me. Then he's hanging out doing dog things and running past and ahead of me again. This pattern repeats until we see others or reach the end of the trail. So Oscar usually hikes two or three time the distance I do. I noticed two things about the pack. First Oscar is SO much more visible with the IMAGE 4pack on which is great for checking track of him. This will also be extremely important in the fall during hunting season. Second thing is that Oscar does not realize his extra girth with the pack on. When running by on narrow sections of the trail he bumped me several times with the side of the pack. I can relate to this from my first experiences with a tall pack and ducking under trees. The funny thing is I am on the impact side in both scenarios.

Upon returning home the Approach pack comes off just as easy as going on. Oscar seems pleased and performs his post hike grooming. The first test hike with the Approach pack worked well for both of us.


The Ruffwear Approach Pack is well made of quality materials and construction. It fits Oscar well and he appears to be happy wearing it. It is easy to adjust and take on and off. All parts and features are easy to understand and use. Oscar and I look forward to loading the Approach pack and getting out on the trail.




Day hike Mt Cardigan - Alexandria, New Hampshire
Elevation - 1400 to 2250 ft (427 to 680 m)
Distance and Conditions - 8 mi (13 km) and 65 F (18 C) calm and clear
Pack Weight - 3 lb (1.4 kg)
Day hike Smarts Mountain - Lyme, New Hampshire
Elevation - 1050 to 3238 ft (320 to 990 m)
Distance and Conditions - 8 mi (13 km) and 65 F (18 C) clear and sunny
Pack weight - 5 lb (2.3 kg)

Two day overnight backpack Stratton Mountain - Stratton, Vermont
Elevation - 2300 to 3950 ft (700 to 1200 m)
Distance and Conditions - 13 mi (21 km) and 50 to 70 F (10 - 21 C) partly sunny, muddy and very buggy
Pack weight - 7 lb (3.2 kg)

Two day overnight backpack Mount Chocorua - Albany, New Hampshire
Elevation - 800 to 3500 ft (244 to 1067 m)
Distance and Conditions - 14 mi (22.5 km) and 55 to 80 F (13 to 27 C) sunny, windy and still buggy
Pack weight - 7 lb (3.2 kg)


The Approach Pack has quickly become a much enjoyed gear addition. At least from my point of view it is. It off loads 3 to 5 lb (1.4 to 2.3 kg) of weight from my pack! And it makes getting these items out much easier. I don't have to take off my pack to get Oscar's bowl out for him to get a drink. Plus it has made it much easier to spot him in the woods. As for Oscar's opinion whenever I take the pack out he gets very excited and there's lots of tail wagging and wines of anticipation. He never shies away from pushing his head through the harness, even first thing in the morning on overnight backpacks.

On our first hike I packed Oscar with his collapsible, soft side water bowl, an empty 1 L water bottle, a small bag of dog snack and his bed roll (a fleece blanket). This added up to 3 lb (1.4 kg) a bulkier than heavy load. At the start of the day Oscar did his usual sprint ahead and running back along the trail. He didn't seem to notice the load. A few times on tight switchbacks he would catch the side of the pack on a tree. He would kind of pinball off the tree and continue on. On the way back down the steeper section he noticeably slowed down and seemed more conscience of his steps. I think he started to feel the additional weight he was carrying. But to no ill effect, he was still wags and happy panting back at the car.

The second hike I upped Oscar's pack weight with the addition of water. The 1 L bottle caused an uncorrectable pack imbalance. So we went with two 0.5 L bottles which worked much better. He still carried his bowl and snack. I removed the bed roll and added some bug spray. This increased his load by 2 lb (0.9 kg). He was as happy as usual to hit the trail. But this time did not start off as fast. I think he could feel the weight of the water bounce when he moved too fast. But again a fun hike with water and bug spray breaks much faster and easier with quick access to the Approach Pack.


Our two overnight backpacks increased Oscar's load another 2 lb (0.9 kg) bring his total pack weight to 7 lb (3.2 kg). The addition of two meals and a return of his bedroll completed his two day, one night gear list. Either he learned to pace himself or he felt the weight. On both hikes he jogged ahead but never ran. The other observation was he warmed up and started panting sooner than usual. My take is that the addition weight carried and the insulating quality of the pack caused his temperature to rise quicker and prevent cooling. This didn't stop him from moving every time we did but maybe sent him to his bedroll a little earlier. The Chocorua hike had two steep, rocky exposed sections with some narrow rocks to squeeze through. Oscar couldn't seem to understand why he couldn't get through. He tried three or four times to push, jump and squeeze his way until I managed to lift him through the pinch.

The Approach Pack and Oscar both performed quite well on all outings. Oscar seems to enjoy wearing the pack and I can put it on and take it off of him easy enough. The small buckle under the side bag can be difficult to buckle at times, especially when muddy. Just a fact of being a dog, his belly gets very dirty when hiking. As a result the underside of the Approach gets just as dirty as Oscar does. So, reaching under a full side bag that's fairly muddy makes connecting the small buckle a challenge. We utilize the large pockets for heavy or bulky items. The upper small pockets get bug spray, snacks or small towel. We have not used the gear loops on top. The metal leash ring came in handy several times around other dogs or sketchy exposed sections of trail. On these same exposed areas there were some climbs too big for Oscar to jump up. The handle was very useful in assisting Oscar up these spots.

The Approach Pack remains in very good condition. All zippers and others features continue to function like new. There are no frays, rips or tears even after bumping into trees and rubbing against rough rock. The only evidence of abuse is dog slobber, hair and mud stains. Oh the joy of being a dog!


The Ruffwear Approach Pack has served Oscar and I well during this phase of testing. The pack holds all the gear Oscar needs to come along on an overnight backpack. It fits him well and he seems quite comfortable wearing it. The pack has held up well thus far with mud stains as the only sign of wear. The only two minor downsides discovered are a decreased ability to get through tight spots and an increase in heat retention. But neither of these things are diminishing Oscar's excitement when he sees the pack. We are both looking forward to getting out with the Approach Pack during Long-term testing.



Day hike Mt. Isolation - Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire
Elevation - 2000 to 5100 ft (610 to 1554 m)
Distance and Conditions - 11 mi (18 km) Temperature 75 F (24 C) clear and sunny to gusty 50 mph (80 kph) winds
Pack weight - 5 lbs (2.3 kg)

Overnight backpack Storrs Pond - Hanover, New Hampshire
Elevation - 525 to 400 ft (160 to 120 m)
Distance and Conditions - 10 mi (16 km) Temperature 70 to 40 F (21 to 4 C) calm, cool and clear
Pack Weight - 6 lb (2.7 kg)


Oscar and I made it out together for one more big day hike and a short overnight. We also hiked our local hill many times but I didn't feel it warranted Oscar using the Approach Pack. On both occasions the pack came out Oscar became very excited. I can confidently say he likes wearing the Approach Pack. Oscar was so eager to go it made buckling the pack hard. He recognizes the pack and knows it means we will be out and about longer than usual.

As for the pack itself I have no changes to report. It still functions as well as on day one of use. All parts and materials remain in good condition with no rips, tears or damage. The only sign of wear is discoloration from mud and dirt. I am impressed with how well the Approach Pack has held up. The last day hike again exposed the pack being rubbed against more rock along the trail. Additionally Oscar did some substantial off trail bushwhacking on our overnight hike. He crashed through lots of brush and branches. The pack emerged with some twigs and burrs but unharmed.

Two things did become evident during this test period. I am much more relaxed when Oscar is off leash and wearing the bright orange pack. He's harder to miss now but will not be mistaken for a deer. The other thing is that I would have to be out for maybe four or five days before I come close to filling the Approach Pack. I know the pack volume is based on dog size. However I think an option for two or three pack volumes in the same size would help tailor pack needs.
Oscar claiming shelter space


Oscar and I have really enjoyed testing this pack. It has really changed our hiking experience. Oscar is now a "working" member on our trips when shouldering a pack. This has been great for me by lightening my load and making his easier to access. I think Oscar likes being a "working dog" too. Or maybe it's just all the attention other hikers give him or that he seems to sleep that much harder after a backpack. Either way the Approach Pack has enhanced our backpacking and hiking experience together. And for that reason alone we will continue to use the pack in the future.

This concludes my Long-Term Report. Oscar and I enjoyed testing and will continue to use the Approach Pack 2017. We both would like to thank Ruffwear and for the chance to participate in this test series.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

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