Gear Reviews

Ruffwear Approach Pack

Sometimes people ask me what made me decide to get my dog Atlas. There were many reasons why I wanted a dog in my life and it’s hard to narrow it down to what aspects of having a dog like Atlas appealed to me most. When searching for my beloved companion, I was hoping for a dog that would be physically able to accompany me on hiking and camping adventures. I was hoping for a dog that would enjoy being active and one that was motivated to put paws to earth beside me through our journey in life together. When I found Atlas, I knew that we would be a perfect match and boy was I right. Atlas and I have been on countless trips together into the wild and with each journey I get a little bit more careful about how I select our gear.

Recently I was really interested in getting Atlas a pack that would suit us a little better on longer backpacking trips. Currently Atlas has had around 7 or 8 different kinds of dog backpacks but none of them have quite enough capacity for Atlas to be able to haul ALL of his own gear. I was really excited that Dogs That Hike offered to have us test out the Approach Pack (in Orange Poppy) from Ruffwear as it seemed like it would fit the pack niche that I was looking to fill.

Photo credit: Jenna Hollman @atlastheadventuredog

So you may be thinking: “Jenna, why on earth do you have so many dog backpacks and WHY do you seriously think you need another one?” Well the truth is, most of the backpacks Atlas has tested out really fit into different use categories.  Dog packs come in many different sizes, shapes and fits and serve different purposes on the trail. For example, you wouldn’t use a light day pack or hydration pack if you are heading into the woods for 3 days. With all these things considered, I really do not have a dog backpack that is quite like the Ruffwear Approach Pack. This pack was designed to be a long lasting, high capacity bag that would be ideal for longer trips into the backcountry.

The saddle bags of this pack feature 2 extremely spacious main pockets with 2 smaller pockets in case there are items you would like to keep separate. (Such as stinky poop bags). These saddle bags can truly hold A LOT of stuff. So much stuff in fact, it is important to take very close care as to not overload your dog with too much weight. Ruffwear claims on their website that your dog can carry up to 25% of It’s body weight but I wouldn’t personally put more than 15% max for Atlas (as to not strain his body) I was able to pack several light items into the saddle bags such as his Alcott Sleeping Bag, Hurtta Extreme Warmer, Body Warmer, food and a spare leash which is much more than any of the other packs we have tried in the past. The Ruffwear Approach pack also features external gear loops for hanging  light gear across the outside of the pack or for attaching a sleeping pad such as a Thermarest Z Lite Sol (our go to for backpacking comfort).

Photo credit: Jenna Hollman @atlastheadventuredog

This pack has many padded areas and it somehow still manages to be extremely light which makes for a much more comfortable experience for Atlas when hiking on strenuous trails. This particular style of backpack does not have removable saddle bags which is unfortunately a small set back compared to  other expedition packs on the market. The vertical grab handle on the bag is reinforced well and makes for a great grip when needing to keep your pooch a little closer than normal.

Atlas truly put this thing to the test while derping around the woods and rolling around on the rocky shore of Abraham Lake Alberta. We have been testing it out for about 2 months in various conditions. I have reviewed quite a few items for Dogs that Hike in the past and these are few brands that I can confidently say have nearly perfect execution when it comes to how carefully the items are made. Ruffwear is one of those brands that takes expert level attention when it comes to material selection and construction. Each aspect of this backpack has been carefully sewn and reinforced to give it longevity on the trail. Ruffwear back ups their quality promise with a manufacturer warranty. After several uses these is not a single scratch or tear anywhere on this pack and I’m happy to report it is in the same exact shape as the day I took it out of the box.

Photo credit: Jenna Hollman @atlastheadventuredog

As previously mentioned, Ruffwear has taken care to create a pack that is as light weight as possible. The leash attachment point is made from aluminum to minimize extra unnecessary heft. All buckles are plastic and extremely durable.  All zippers function perfectly and have proven to withstand quite a bit of abuse.  The Orange Poppy colour is very eye-catching and easy to spot among the various greens of summer. The pack also features reflective piping for additional visibility in low light.

One of the most important thing to consider when purchasing a dog backpack comes down to fit. The Approach Pack features a padded neck strap as well as stretchy belly straps to keep the pack from moving around. There are a total of 5 adjustment points throughout the pack. The straps are well placed to avoid chaffing and do not have any dangling bits to irritate your dogs legs while maneuvering on the trail.  It comes in four sizes (and two colours) and Atlas was on the cusp of the small and medium sizes.  While both packs fit him, we went with the medium as it was a slightly better fit and has a higher bag capacity for our longer treks.  As it is a bigger pack, it is a little bit much for a simple walk around the block we will stick to our “day pack” style bags for close to home adventures.

Photo credit: Jenna Hollman @atlastheadventuredog

The pack features a suspension system to keep the bags close to your dogs body. The back of the harness has quite a bit of padding to keep your dog comfortable while hauling weight. I’d like to see more padding on the chest on the harness but luckily the Approach pack pairs well with the Ruffwear Core Cooler and Brush Guard which are easy additions for additional comfort.  

The Ruffwear Approach Pack is a great solution for those that require a higher capacity pack for their adventures. The quality of his backpack is second to none and has proven to be a long lasting and valuable piece of gear in our closet. I plan on taking this bag on many more adventures next summer and I am confident it will hold up for many years to come.

The Approach Pack would work best for: Anyone who is looking for a durable, high capacity dog backpack.

The Approach Pack may not be ideal for: Dogs who are unable to carry the weight of a dog backpack or who fall outside of the sizing availability. Anyone who requires removable saddle bags.

Atlas’s Measurements: Girth 26.5″ / Back Length 25″ / Weight 53 lbs

Ruffwear Approach Pack Size: Medium

Review by: Dogs That Hike Explorer @atlastheadventuredog

Product from: @ruffwear /

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