Ruffwear just released a new line of dog gear in February 2021. Among the new products is a new harness named the Switchbak. The Switchbak Harness is a full-body, everyday harness with a design based on Ruffwear’s most popular everyday harness, the Front Range.
The Front Range harness was the first Ruffwear harness that I had ever purchased for Glia. But the problem with the Front Range is that without a strap across Glia’s belly, she could slip right out of the Front Range with a little effort. Additionally, the Front Range is not designed to allow a handler to assist their dog up and over objects.
So we switched to the Web Master harness and found what I thought would be our forever favorite dog harness. It was a perfect hiking harness and both Sasha and Glia wore bright blue dusk Web Master harnesses throughout our 3-month national park road trip.
But then, Ruffwear released the Flagline harness. And this lightweight harness slowly replaced Glia’s Web Master on our daily hikes.
So when Ruffwear released a new full-body harness, the Switchbak harness, I knew I had to give this new style a try.
As you read through this blog post, please be aware that I do participate in the Amazon affiliate and Avantlink affiliate programs. As a result, I earn from qualifying purchases.
The Switchbak Harness
The Switchbak harness is Ruffwear’s newest dog harness. The front chest piece segment of this harness is modeled after the padded style of the Front Range harness. However, this harness is markedly different than the Front Range in that it features a belly strap (which adds security and prevents dogs from backing out of the harness), a handle for lifting assistance, and and two zippered pockets for carrying small items.
The Switchbak Harness has the padded comfort of an everyday harness with the bonus functionality of carrying small essentials. The two low-profile zippered pockets have room to stash those day-to-day necessities like pick-up bags, a leash, or some treats.
It features two leash attachment options: a V-ring centered on the back and a reinforced webbing loop at the chest, great for redirecting dogs that pull on leash. Dial in the right fit with high adjustability and a padded belly strap – critical for stable gear carry and when giving a little boost with the low-profile handle. All in all, the Switchbak melds comfort and convenience into a performance harness ready for both town and trail.Ruffwear.com
Since I haven’t used this harness long enough to write a good review for the Switchbak, this post is focused on fit and helping you choose the best Ruffwear full-body harness for your dog.
Let’s start with a quick comparison of the features of the different Ruffwear harnesses.
Ruffwear Full-body Harness Comparison
The Web Master, Flagline, and Switchbak harnesses all feature a V-ring leash attachment on the back of the harness as well as a handle on the back of the harness. The handle can be used to help a dog up and over objects or for additional restraint.
Despite these basic similarities, the harnesses differ in key ways.
The Web Master and Flagline, but not the Switchbak, have a webbing loop at the back of the harness for an additional leash attachment point. The Flagline and the Switchbak both have front clip webbing loops, which is a bonus for owners who are working on loose leash walking with their pups.
The Switchbak is the only harness to feature pockets for carrying small items.
The Web Master has an adjustment point on the strap that runs from the collar area of the harness to the strap that sits behind the dog’s front legs. The Flagline and Switchbak harnesses don’t, as they have solid chest panels that are a fixed length.
The Flagline is the only harness of the three that extends the solid belly panel to connect with the belly strap at the back of the harness. This solid chest/belly combination panel helps with load disbursement when lifting a dog.
The Web Master has two buckles, both on the left side of the dog. This means that your dog needs to step into the space for their right front leg. The Flagline has 4 buckles, two on each side, so the harness just needs to slide over your dog’s head and can then be clipped while all 4 paws remain on the ground. The Switchbak has 3 buckles, but since the belly strap is not connected to the chest panel, your dog can still keep all 4 paws on the floor when buckling into the Switchbak harness.
The Flagline is the most lightweight of the group, with the size small weighing in at 6.4 oz compared to the size small Switcback at 11.7 oz.
Check out the table below for a quick table summary of the above information.
Choosing the Correct Size
All three harness follow the same sizing guidelines and come in sizes XS through L/XL. The Web Master and Flagline also come in a size XXS. Sizing is based on the measurement around your dog’s girth.
Sizes are as follows:
- XXS: 13-17 inch
- XS: 17-22 inch
- S: 22-27 inch
- M: 27-32 inch
- L/XL: 32-42 inch
In the video and images in this post, I am using my dog Glia for demonstration. She weighs about 40 pounds and has a 26-inch girth. So all of the harnesses in my pictures are a size small.
Coverage Style Comparisons
Ruffwear provides helpful images online to give customers a rough idea of how each harness fits. Below are the images for the Web Master, the Flagline, and the Switchback (in that order from left to right).
These diagrams are fairly accurate, but it always helps me to be able to see the different harnesses on an actual dog. So from top to bottom here is Glia wearing her Web Master, Flagline, and Switchbak harnesses.
As you can see, the Flagline gives Glia the most space behind her armpit. But it does not extend as far back on her abdomen compared to the Web Master or Switchbak. As a result, it is possible for Glia to back out of the Flagline harness if I don’t have the last strap well-tightened. In contrast, with Glia’s confirmation, the Web Master and Switchbak are essentially escape-proof.
Trying to figure out how long the harness actually are to better determine how they will fit your dog? For the size small, I got the following rough measurements. Numbers on top are the length of the back panel. Numbers on the bottom are length from the collar area to the back of the first strap behind the front legs.
And here are the harnesses laid on top of each other for another visual comparison. The Switchbak is laid down first, then the Web Master, with the narrow Flagline added last.
All three harnesses have plenty of adjustment room around the neck to help get a good fit to the front of the harness. The photos below show you how the harnesses look on Glia when viewed from the front.
When finding pictures for the front view, I have to be honest that I hade trouble finding a good one of the Web Master. The Web Master tends to slide around from side to side on Glia more than either the Flagline or the Switchbak. It seems that the wider chest panels help keep the harnesses centered.
And of course, a photo comparison of the harnesses wouldn’t be complete without a view from above.
So which harness is right for your dog?
There isn’t a single harness on the market that will be the perfect harness for every dog, but here are my overall thoughts when trying to decide which harness to purchase.
All three of these harnesses will work well as an everyday hiking harness. The Flagline is lightweight and packable. It also doesn’t slide from side to side as much as the Web Master. Additionally, the slim profile doesn’t trap as much heat against a dog. It is my current favorite hiking harness for Glia from spring to fall.
In the winter, I don’t mind the extra weight/thickness of the Web Master. And when it is layered over Glia’s fleece sweaters, it doesn’t slide side to side as much. That being said, I was really impressed with the Switchbak harness on my first hike with it. The Switchbak is just as secure as the Web Master, slides side to side less, and has pockets. So I can foresee myself potentially reaching for the Switchbak instead of the Web Master when temperatures are cold or mild.
So the big questions are:
- How much of an escape artist is your dog? If he or she is an escape artist, choose the Web Master or Switchbak for more security.
- Do you need pockets? Choose the Switchbak.
- How hot will it be? High temperatures, consider the Flagline for a more lightweight option with less body coverage. (Alternatively, you could choose the Web Master with a core cooler.)
That being said, if I could only have one of these harnesses, right now I would choose the Flagline.
I hope the information in this fit comparison is helpful. Feel free to leave any additional questions or comments about fit in the comments section below.