Boxer mix Missy with the The Ruffwear Approach Pack

Dog Fitness With The Ruffwear Approach Pack – A Review

The Ruffwear Approach Pack is one of my favorite tools to increase doggie exercise sessions!

Hey, I’m Barbara, a former professional dog walker and a sucker for Ruffwear dog backpacks.

Their quality is simply outstanding.

While it’s reflected in their pricing, I’d rather pay a little more for a great dog product that’s going to last me for years rather than repurchasing poor quality products.

Besides the Ruffwear Approach pack, I also have the Ruffwear Commuter pack.

However, that one’s been discontinued, so in this blog post, I’ll tell you all about the Ruffwear Approach Pack.

All you need to know about the Ruffwear Approach Pack

Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn compensation when you click on the links at no additional cost to you.

All You Need To Know About The Ruffwear Approach Pack

Let me preface this by saying that I’ve tried out a couple different dog backpacks, but I wasn’t overly impressed with them.

The ones I’m talking about are the Outward Hound Backpack and a no name one from a larger pet retailer.

Buzz carrying Earthrated Poop Bags on his Dog Backpack
Buzz (left) and Missy (right) with generic dog backpacks

Both weren’t durable at all, and I had to toss them after using them on a daily basis for about 9 months.

Unlike Ruffwear’s sturdy pack, the other doggie backpacks felt somewhat flimsy and cheap. Which, truth be told, they are.

So it’s amazing how much of a difference I already felt after unpacking the Ruffwear Approach Pack and simply holding it!

Ruffwear Approach Pack
Ruffwear Approach Pack Harness
Old pack next to Ruffwear Approach Pack

Features of The Ruffwear Approach Pack

  • Low-light visibility with reflective trim. Perfect for walks in the dark.
  • Sturdy, durable nylon material. This won’t tear easily!
  • Spacious Saddle Bags. They’re perfect for carrying food, treats, water, and poop bags when you’re hiking.
  • Integrated harness. This provides perfect load stability and weight distribution.
  • Padded assistance handle. This makes it easy to hold your dog as needed, or to help them climb in rocky terrain.
  • 2 Leash Attachment Points. You can choose between an aluminum V-ring and a reinforced webbing loop.
  • 4 different sizes. Available in XSmall, Small, Medium and Large/Extra Large.
  • 2 different colors. Available in Blue Dusk & Campfire Orange.
  • $109 price tag. Yup, that’s steep but warranted given its quality!

Missy has the Ruffwear Approach Pack Medium in Campfire Orange.

Just FYI, she’s a 55 lb Boxer mix.

Missy wearing the Ruffwear Approach Pack

Benefits Of The Ruffwear Approach Pack

Dog backpacks in general intensify exercise, burn calories and provide mental stimulation, and the Approach Pack is no exception.

Along those lines, did you know that you can add up to 25% of a dog’s total body weight to her backpack?

This helps:

  • Burn calories
  • Tone her body
  • Build muscle mass

Since the added weight intensifies your dog’s walk or hike, you can also get away with shorter walks during the colder winter months!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t exercise your dogs (and yourself!) during wintertime, but some dogs have a harder time with the cold than others.

My pups, for example, don’t have an insulating undercoat like Huskies or German Shepherds.

So for us, that means shorter outdoors workout sessions when it’s in the 30s and below.

Good to know: You can combine the Ruffwear Cloud Chaser jacket with the Approach Pack on cold or rainy days.

Combining the Ruffwear Cloud Chaser Jacket with the Ruffwear Approach Pack

The Ruffwear Guarantee

Ruffwear guarantees all of their products against defects in materials and craftsmanship (this does not cover normal wear & tear).

Ruffwear has a warranty form on their website where you can let them know about product defects.

Any Cons?

Just one if you have a dog who doesn’t like things pulled over their head – because that’s how this backpack goes on.

Keeping that in mind, you may have to practice putting this particular dog backpack on your pup.

How To Introduce Your Dog To Backpacks

For starters, allow your dog to explore the backpack at their own pace.

Place it on the ground and let them sniff and investigate it before you put it on them.

When your pup shows interest and approaches the backpack, create a positive association by offering treats and praise.

Next, start by placing the empty backpack on your dog’s back for short periods indoors.

Gradually increase the duration to help them get used to the feeling.

If your dog seems uncomfortable or stressed, take a step back and give them more time to adjust. Never force the backpack on them.

Once your dog is comfortable wearing the empty backpack, add a small amount of weight and let them walk around indoors to get them used to the added sensation.

Before any outdoor adventures, attach your pup’s leash to the backpack’s harness and practice walking in a familiar environment to ensure your dog is comfortable.

Continue to praise and reward your dog with treats and verbal encouragement while they wear the backpack. This reinforces the positive experience.

Start with short, easy hikes or walks to allow your dog to adjust to the backpack outdoors.

Pay attention to their comfort level and take breaks as needed.

Missy Working On Her Core Balance While Hiking With Her Rufffwear Approach Pack

Dog Backpack Essentials: What To Put Into The Saddle Bags

Here’s a list of things you can put into the Ruffwear Approach Pack saddle bags:

  1. Water bottles: Keep your dog hydrated during hikes or walks by carrying water in collapsible or lightweight bottles.
  2. Dog food and treats: Pack some dog food and treats to reward your pup or to ensure they have enough sustenance during extended outings.
  3. Dog poop bags: Always clean up after your dog to be a responsible pet owner. Carry dog waste bags to pick up after them during the trip.
  4. Collapsible food and water bowls: Compact, foldable bowls that can be easily packed and set up for your dog to eat and drink.
  5. Dog first aid kit: Include essential items like bandages, antiseptic wipes, gauze, and any necessary medications for emergencies. For example, Pawflex bandages for dogs!
  6. Doggy jacket or sweater: If the weather is chilly or you expect your dog to get wet, bring along a suitable jacket or sweater for them. For example, the Ruffwear Cloud Chaser jacket!
  7. Dog paw protection: Dog booties or dog paw wax can help protect your dog’s paws from hot pavement, rough terrain, or extreme weather conditions.
  8. Leash and collar: Carry an extra leash and collar in case your main ones break.
  9. Dog ID and documents: Keep a copy of your dog’s identification, vaccination records, and any necessary permits if you plan to visit certain areas.
  10. Dog insect repellent: If you’re in an area with ticks, mosquitoes, or other pests, consider bringing insect repellent specifically designed for dogs. For example, Wondercide’s Flea, Tick & Mosquito spray.
  11. Dog toys: Pack a few small, lightweight toys to keep your dog entertained during breaks or downtime.
  12. Dog brush: Especially useful for long-haired breeds, a grooming brush helps keep your dog’s coat clean and tidy during outdoor adventures.
  13. Towel or doggie wipes: Clean off dirt, mud, or debris from your dog’s coat before they hop back into the car or tent.

I always have water, poop bags, treats and a few dog first aid supplies in our Ruffwear Approach Pack.

The Ruffwear Approach Pack Is Great For Training

I’ve come to appreciate dog backpacks for training purposes in distracting environments.

It’s a total game changer and so interesting to watch: As soon as the pack comes on, the pups’ attitude changes.

You can really watch them going into work mode.

I’ve found this particularly helpful with training Missy to walk off-leash without taking off on a little adventure…

Missy is very easily distracted by small, fast moving critters (and leaves blowing in the wind..), and carrying her Ruffwear Approach Pack makes her focus on me a lot more.

Video of Missy walking with the Ruffwear Approach Pack

Ruffwear Approach Pack: Bottom Line

I highly recommend the Ruffwear Approach Pack!

It’s a durable dog backpack that’s great for active dogs of all sizes.

You can fit a lot of stuff into the deep saddle bags. For example, dog toys, poop bags, treats, an extra leash, water bottles, etc.

But remember not to add more than 25% of your pup’s weight!

If your dog doesn’t like having harnesses pulled over their head, you may want to consider a different dog backpack. One option I can recommend is the dog backpack by One Tigris.

Wally on a walk with his dog backpack from One Tigris
My dog Wally with the One Tigris tactical dog backpack

Do you have a favorite dog backpack and/or any Ruffwear accessories?

As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!

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Barbara launched her blog K9sOverCoffee in 2014 and has been feeding her dogs raw dog food since 2015. As a former professional dog walker, she’s passionate about balancing species-appropriate exercise with healthy dog nutrition. Barbara is raw dog food nutrition certified from “Dogs Naturally Magazine” and the author of several e-books about minimally processed, balanced raw dog food.


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10 responses to “Dog Fitness With The Ruffwear Approach Pack – A Review”

  1. MilitaryWifeandPugLife Avatar

    So refreshing to see someone review a product without compensation! That gets so old. How can you believe these girls who get paid all the time you know…
    Great review!!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Hehe, thank you ;-)) You’re right, I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more unbiased reviews myself!

  2. joann stancer Avatar
    joann stancer

    Those look like nice comfy packs. I don’t have any packs for my dogs.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      They really are. Well, your gang gets a ton of exercise pheasant hunting 😉

  3. Julie Smith Avatar
    Julie Smith

    That is really interesting how they change their attitude like ok, we are going for a walk now and I need to be focused!! We need good quality for Cocoa. She broke her last harness and we can’t have that happen because she has no fear!!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Exactly. I just recently mentioned the Top Rope Collar to one of my dog walking clients, because their pup manages to break her collars on a regular basis…I’d check out Ruffwear for Miss Cocoa 😉

  4. Diane Silver Avatar

    We were just looking at the Ruffwear travel dog beds! All their products look great!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      They really do, and they look even better up close and personal 😉 Sounds like Rocco might have a travel dog bed coming his way for Christmas…

  5. Lindsay Stordahl Avatar
    Lindsay Stordahl

    I’ve tried dog backpacks from a couple of other brands too and they just did not last like our Ruffwear pack. So I’d have to agree. Even though a pack from Ruffwear might cost a little more than some brands, it is worth it because it will last years! I haven’t really used any of the other gear from the company though. Sounds like they have lots of awesome stuff!

    The Ruffwear pack helped Ace sooo much when he was first learning leash manners. Like you said, it gave him something to focus on other than pulling. And it tired him out!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      HA, yes, and a tired dog is a good dog, especially when they’re still young and energetic!!
      Sounds like we had pretty much the same experience regarding dog packs.

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