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Dog Adventures Gear Review

Ruffwear Front Range Day Pack Review

Ruffwear released some new gear in February 2021 which included the Front Range Day Pack. I’ll be honest, the biggest thing that drew me to this pack was the bright aurora teal color. But there is a lot of great functionality in this new style that makes it a great day pack even if you aren’t in love with the colors.

Like the new Switchbak Harness, the Front Range Day Pack was designed based on the popular Front Range Harness. The Front Range Harness is a padded, everyday harness. Personally, I am not a fan of the Front Range as it is too easy for dog’s to slip/back out of. But the Switchbak and Front Range Day Pack fix this problem by elongating the harness and adding a belly strap that can be secured around your dog’s waist.

For most dogs, their waist is smaller than their chest and they should not be able to back out of these new harnesses with the belly strap well fitted. The belly strap design is very similar to what is used on the Web Master Harness. In fact, both the Switchbak and the Front Range Day Pack are really a combination of the Web Master and Front Range Harnesses with the addition of pockets.

In the photos below, Glia is wearing her blue Web Master in the top left and her Front Range harness in the top right. On the bottom, you can see how the designs of these two harnesses have influenced the harness design of the Switchbak (left) and Front Range Day Pack (right).

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Features of the Front Range Day Pack

The Front Range Day Pack is mostly made from polyester with a closed-cell foam padding. The pack comes in 3 colors: Aurora Teal (pictured in this review), Blue Moon, and Red Clay.

Let’s take a look at the features of the Front Range Day Pack and discuss how they work out on the trail.

Three leash attachment points: aluminum V-ring on the top of the harness, tow loop at the back of the harness, and a reinforced webbing loop on the chest of the harness.

In the photo below you can see 3 white arrows that point to each of the three leash attachment points. Personally, I almost exclusively use the aluminum V-ring in the center of the top of the harness. This is a traditional leash attachment point for a harness and the V-ring is nice and secure.

The tow loop at the back of the harness can be used if you want your dog to pull when wearing this harness (such as if you were skijoring or bike-joring). And the front loop attachment point is great for the opposite, when you don’t want your dog to pull.

My younger pup, Sasha, benefits from a front clip when out on the trails. We are still working on her impulse control and sometimes after she sees deer or other wildlife, she has a hard time with loose leash walking. She typically hikes in a Flagline Harness. This harness has a similar front loop, and switching the leash from the V-ring to the front loop significantly reduces her pulling.

(Note: the front loop can be considered a training aid, but please don’t let it replace the training needed to help your dog walk on a loose leash. Relying on the front loop to stop pulling can change the way your dog walks and put extra stress on joints while hiking.)

Foam padding, adjustable straps, and 3 buckles

The construction of the Front Range Day Pack has a lot of nice design features, including the following:

  • Foam-padded construction for comfortable wear
  • Five points of adjustment to help the pack fit different sized dogs
  • 3 buckles (one on either side of the dog that clips behind the armpits and a single buckle to secure the belly strap): so your dog does not have to step into this harness. It slides over their head and then you can buckle them in without needing to lift a paw.

Honestly, I don’t know how much of a difference the “padding” makes, but it is well designed. The adjustment points, however, are really important to help this day pack fit different sizes and shapes of dogs. It also allows you to adjust the harness if your dog gains weight or if they need to wear the harness over a sweater in the winter.

Here you can see the padding underneath the packs and the three buckles unbuckled. This underside view also allows visualization of the snaps that you can secure around the straps that buckle behind your dog’s front legs. These snaps help keep the pack from bouncing around on your dog’s sides.

The fact that there are three buckles is also an important point. The first full-body harness that I purchased from Ruffwear was the Web Master. I like the Web Master, but it only has two buckles. This means that Glia has to step one front leg into that harness. This isn’t much of a problem for her, but for dogs with balance issues or arthritis/joint pain, this can be more difficult. It also makes it more difficult to pull the Web Master off. The Front Range Day Pack solves this problem by adding a 3rd buckle. So all you have to do is place the pack over your dog’s head and then you can buckle them in with all four paws on the ground.

Radial Cut Saddlebags with Stretch Mesh Pockets for Organization

  • Radial cut, weight-forward saddlebags to help keep weight over your dog’s shoulders and not on the middle of their back.
  • Stretch mesh pockets inside the pack for organization.

The saddlebags (or panniers) of this pack have a nice streamlined appearance and can fit a good amount of gear (which is discussed in more detail below). And the little mesh pockets are perfect for keeping smaller items (like a roll of dog poop bags) secure during a hike.

Overall, the pack does a good job of staying centered and not pulling too horribly to one side. But it is important to try to balance the weight evenly on both sides of the dog. And it does help if the harness is fitted snuggly when carrying more weight. (Remember, dog’s shouldn’t carry more than 10-15% of their body weight in a pack.)

A padded handle to help lift and assist your dog.

One of my favorite features of this pack is the nice padded handle to lift and assist a dog over challenging terrain. Our first hike in this pack, I used the handle to lift Glia up a sandstone wall just slightly taller than I am. You can check out how the handle works in the video below. The handle on the Front Range Day Pack has the same design as the gray Switchbak Harness featured in the video.

Sizing, Weight, and Capacity

The Front Range Day Pack follows Ruffwear’s standard sizing chart:

SizeGirth
XS17 – 22 in (43 – 56 cm)
S22 – 27 in (56 – 69 cm)
M27 – 32 in (69 – 81 cm)
L/XL32 – 42 in (81 – 107 cm)

Glia has a size 25-26 cm girth (depending on her weight when I measure her). So she wears a size S in Ruffwear harnesses, which is what she is wearing in all of the pictures in this review.

Ruffwear states that the four sizes have weights and capacities as follows:

SizeWeightCapacity
XS0.7 lb (.32 kg)274 in³ (4.5 L)
S.95 lb (.43 kg)488 in³ (8 L)
M1.05 lb (.48 kg)640 in³ (10.5 L)
L/XL1.35 lb (.61 kg)1129 in³ (18.5 L)

I weighed Glia’s size small Front Range Day Pack to confirm and it weighed 0.94 lb when empty. So the above chart seems pretty accurate.

The pack capacity is a big step up from the pockets on the Switchbak harness. For reference, the size S Switchbak harness has a 3L capacity. The 3L capacity is great for carrying along spare dog boots, a small water bowl, or dog poop bags. But is definitely too small for your dog to carry water or bulkier objects.

Although the Front Range Day Pack’s 8L capacity is only a little over half the capacity of Ruffwear’s multi-day backpacking pack (the Palisades) which has a 14L capacity, the Front Range is plenty big enough for Glia for overnight trips. I don’t have her carry more than 10-15% of her body weight, so only 4-5 pounds.

To get an idea of how much gear can fit in the Front Range Day Pack, check out the video below:

In the video above, I fit the following items into Glia’s size small Front Range Day Pack:

I really like that I can fit a small tupperware in the pack that I can then place filled dog poop bags into so Glia can carry her own waste away from the hiking trails.

I also love that it fits her Klymit Moon Dog Bed in one of the panniers. This dog bed is a little bulky but adds a lot of comfort for Glia when we overnight on the trail. And without anything else in the panniers, it also fits 2 standard size water bottles (or a water bottle and small Contigo mug) in each pannier (just be careful on weight when filling with water).

Overall, the Ruffwear Front Range Day Pack can fit a little more than Glia’s size small Groundbird Gear Trekking packs (which is what Glia normally wears on overnight backpacking trips).

When filled the Front Range Day Pack does stick out to the sides a fair amount, and Glia does occasionally catch or scrape the saddlebags against objects. Luckily, so far the pack has been pretty durable. No tears yet after scratching against bushes and being rolled against rocks.

She does a lot of this when wearing harnesses:

Are the Saddlebags (Panniers) Removeable?

Unfortunately no. Honestly, this is the biggest disappointment of the Front Range Day Pack. I understand that the Front Range Day Pack was designed for day hikes. But it is large enough that Glia could easily wear this pack on overnight backpacking trips. And on overnight trips, I really like to remove the saddlebags of a pack, while still leaving Glia in a harness while tied up at camp.

Ruffwear only has one pack with removable saddlebags, the Palisades. But with an impressive 14L capacity in the size small, the Pallisades is just too large of a backpack for Glia to wear for 2-4 night backpacking trips.

Here’s to hoping that Ruffwear will make a smaller pack with removable saddlebags in the future. But for now, we will keep using our Groundbird Gear harness and trekking packs for most of our overnight trips.

Interested in purchasing this pack? You can find Ruffwear’s Front Range Day Pack on Ruffwear.com or at Amazon.com.

I hope this review was helpful. If you have questions that weren’t answered in this review, leave a comment below!

Happy Hiking Everyone!

Kate, Glia, & Sasha

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