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Reviews > Animal Companion Gear > Dog Packs > Ruffwear Palisades Pack > Owner Review by Kathleen Waters

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June 26, 2012



NAME: Kathleen Waters
EMAIL: kathy at backpackgeartest dot com
AGE: 61
LOCATION: Canon City, Colorado, USA
HEIGHT: 5' 4" (1.60 m)
WEIGHT: 125 lb (56.70 kg)

Living in Colorado and being self-employed, I have ample opportunities to backpack. There are over 700,000 acres/280,000 hectares of public land bordering my 71-acre/29-hectare "backyard" in addition to all the other gorgeous locations which abound in Colorado. Over the past 15 years, my husband John and I have also had the good fortune to hike/snowshoe glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in exotic locations, including New Zealand, Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley. My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. I use a tent (rainfly if needed). Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) excluding food and water.


Manufacturer: Ruffwear, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: US$ 124.95
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight Palisades Pack: 26 oz (737 g)
Measured Weight Harness: 10 oz (283 g)
Colors Available: Red Currant
Color Reviewed: Red Currant
Sizes: Available: Small, Medium & Large/X-Large
Size Reviewed: Medium

Main Features:

* Two Large removable saddlebags
* Separate fully-functional harness
* Two 1 L hydration bladders
Ruffwear Palisades pack
Picture Courtesy of Ruffwear


Simply stated, the Ruffwear Palisades Pack is a backpack for dogs with two separate 1 L hydration bladders, each in their own compartment, and a harness system.

The hydration bladders are stored in two side-by-side removable saddlebags which look like they sound - individual compartments which "hang" on each side of the dog. The saddlebags are constructed of lightweight, sturdy material with a streamlined, close-to-the-body fit. The saddle bags balance over the forward position of the dog's body and feature load compression straps as well.

When the saddlebags are removed via 4 plastic clip-buckles, a mesh-covered harness is revealed. This harness covers the back of the dog and has webbed straps that are also secured with clip-buckles, under the dog's belly just behind the front legs and then just behind the dog's ribs. There is an additional strap which slips over the dog's head and has a "loop" that the dog's right foot slips into to secure the harness in place. The harness has a very sturdy metal loop about 1/3 down the middle where a leash is secured. There is also a hand's-width rigid handle on the harness which can be used to help lift the dog up or to guide the dog in water crossings.

While the main body of the Palisades is red with black trim; the harness is black. High-visibility reflective trim accents both the saddlebags and the harness. Additionally there are external gear loops though even after 6 months, I can't think of any use for them. His fetching stick, perhaps?
Front view of Palisades
Front View of Palisades Harness
Side View of Palisades Pack
Side View of Palisades Pack


Since Dexter arrived on the scene about 22 months ago, we have been taking him with us when the whole family hits the trails. So, for Christmas 2011, Santa brought Dexter his very own backpack. After all, each of us humans has to tote our own gear, why not the dog?

Measuring Dexter to make sure the Palisades harness would fit him was accomplished with as little fuss as wrestling a baby alligator! With the help of some extra hands, I was able to measure his girth which for a dog is around the widest part of his rib cage just behind the front legs. Dexter measures a trim 36" (91 cm) around. This is just on the high side of the medium according to the handy chart below which Ruffwear thoughtfully provides on their website. When the Palisades arrived, we found the size medium to be a perfect fit...
Hiking without pack
Hiking in the Snow without the Saddlebags

Size Chart for Fitting Pack
Chart Courtesy of Ruffwear

To lessen the trauma of this new-fangled gadget, we decided to initially use just the harness without the saddlebag packs on Dexter's daily training walks which are 3 miles (5 km) long through a nearby park.

Dexter is (now 4 years old) a rescued, formerly abused, dog that had spent most of his life on-the-run and then caged in shelters. He can be very shy about new things, but to our surprise, he handled having the harness slipped over his head, his right leg lifted over the chest strap, the two belly straps fastened and then all of the various straps put in place, calmly. My daughter-in-law, Julia, and I quickly were able to adjust the webbings without any difficulty and Dexter was ready to go. A quick clip of his leash into the back top metal ring and we were off.

It was immediately apparent how much better the Ruffwear harness was to use than any other leash/harness combination we had tried. Dexter is a strong dog, both physically and mentally and when he wants to go fast (especially after those interesting squirrels, marmots, picas, etc.) on the trail, he can really "pull". I joke that my left arm is an inch (2.5 cm) longer after any hike with Dexter in the lead. With the Ruffwear Palisades Pack harness, there is more control because of the chest strap and the chest strap is less harsh on Dexter when he needs reining in - no choke-holds.

We continued to use the harness daily for about a month before we progressed to adding the backpacks.

Adding the pack to the Palisades harness requires just four plastic buckles that clip in intuitively, and surprisingly, adding the actual pack to the harness didn't spook Dexter at all. Again, we used the harness/pack combination empty for a couple dozen of Dexter's daily 3 mile (5 km) walks in the park before we added any weight to the packs.

By the time we actually started to use the saddlebags to carry gear, Dexter's response was simply one of excitement - "we're going into the woods!" The additional weight never totaled more than 8 lb (3.6 kg) and varied according to the length of the hike and the weather. Those two factors determined how much water Dexter would be toting - longer and/or hotter treks means more water is needed. Otherwise, the contents of the packs were pretty much the same: booties for rough terrain/ice and/or snow, a collapsible water bowl, some on-the-trail-snacks and on overnights, a couple of small plastic storage bags filled with dry dog food. If the extra weight ever bothered Dexter, he certainly never showed it!

The waterproof zippers on the saddlebags from the start were and continue to be easy to open and haven't yet snagged even when the packs are rather stuffed. AND, even when dunked underwater, the contents of the packs have stayed dry!

Thanks to wide openings, it's no struggle to fill the saddlebags, either. The same thing with the hydration bladders - wide mouth, very similar to my own hydration bladders.

Using the hydration bladder, again, is the same as using a personal one; unfasten the tubing and the water flows from the opening into Dexter's bowl. When the volume in the bladder gets low, a little squeeze releases the remaining water.
Getting Hydrated on the Trail
Getting Hydrated on the Trail
Drinking from Ruffwear Bowl on Trail
I'm a Ruffwear Dog! Matching Pack, Booties & Bowl!

Over the last 6 months, Dexter has put many miles/kilometers on the Ruffwear Palisades Pack, not only on his daily walks, but also on mountains trails both groomed, packed-down dirt and rocky, rough ones, in places like Poudre Canyon, Estes Park, Twin Lakes, Independence Pass, and Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. He's been in snow, light drizzle, clouds and bright sunshine. Temperatures have been anywhere from freezing to 79 F (26 C). As can be seen from the picture in my summary, Dexter has even worn the Palisades in water. He has also tested its durability while rolling in the snow. So far, the Palisades Pack has remained impervious.

The pack has stayed pretty much clean with some vigilance (not letting Dexter roll in mud). With an occasional light brushing and a spot cleaning with a soft brush and a wet rag, we were able to avoid having to wash the pack altogether.

But for the sake of reviewing, I finally decided to try a more thorough cleaning. I started by first securing all the buckles, and then soaked the pack in warm water using a mild tech soap. After swishing it around a bit, I followed the hand washing by rinsing the pack thoroughly with cold water and then hung it up to dry overnight outside. Cleaning the water bladder was the same as my own hydration system bladders, warm soapy water, rinsed thoroughly and then I'd hang them to dry inflated with a bent wire hanger. The bladders are stored with the cap off.


1.) The detachable harness on the Palisades Pack is easy to put on Dexter as well as to remove. Adding the actual pack is just as quick and easy.
2.) Enough room for Dexter's weekend needs on the trail.
3.) Love that the pack is quickly and easily removable when Dexter is taking a break on the trail.
4.) I "think" Dexter finds it comfortable (at least he hasn't complained yet!).


1.) Expensive.
2.) Sometimes the harness will slip a bit when Dexter pulls to the side.


Dexter running in Twin Lakes
Dexter - "This is what I'm talking about!"
Dexter loves to hike and we love having him with us! Now with the Ruffwear Palisades Pack, Dexter can carry his own gear and we know his stuff is all in one place and easily accessible without having to root through our own backpacks. Since water is often one of the heaviest items we tote, it's very nice to not have to carry extra for our best friend and to know he will have a good supply at that.

The harness system is rugged and works simply and securely to keep Dexter in line on the trails as well. I only wish everyone with their pets on trails would use one too.

Goodness knows if and when the harness ever needs to be replaced, it will be replaced with another Ruffwear brand harness.

Oh, wait ... Dexter says he wants a Ruffwear Highlands Bed for his birthday in August. Red, please!

Thank you, Ruffwear, for making such quality products for man's (and woman's) best friend)!

Kathleen (Kathy) Waters

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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