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Dog Adventures Gear Review

Ruffwear Switchbak Harness: The Dog Harness with Pockets!

Ruffwear has come out with a new harness and this one has pockets! The Switchbak Harness was released in February 2021 and is a full-body harness complete with a belly strap, handle, front clip attachment, and padded chest and back panels.

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I have been a big fan of Ruffwear’s previous two full-body harnesses, the Web Master and the Flagline. So I was eager to try out the latest edition to Ruffwear’s harness line-up. And so far, the Switchbak has not disappointed.

Let’s start with the technical specs and then get into my review of how well this harness has worked so far for my 40-pound dog, Glia.

The Switchbak Harness

The Switchbak Harness was created based on the design of Ruffwear’s most popular harness, the Front Range. I personally am not a big fan of the Front Range, as I find it to be too easy for dogs to back out of that harness. But the comfort padding, front clip feature, and overall appearance of the Front Range are great.

The Switchbak harness takes all of the things I like about the Front Range and adds my favorite feature – a belly strap! The addition of a belly strap makes this harness very similar to the Web Master in that it is nearly impossible for a dog to back out of a well-fitted Switchbak harness. (Note: this is slightly dependent on your dog’s body type. If your dog does not have a deep chest and nice abdominal tuck, the harness may be less secure.)

By adding a belly strap, the harness also becomes longer and better for using a handle to lift and assist a dog over difficult terrain. I have found that I really prefer harnesses with handles along the back, especially on step sections of trail.

And then there are the pockets. As a woman, I have a fair share of clothing items without pockets. And let me tell you, the addition of pockets to yoga pants and dresses is amazing. And now I feel similarly about pockets in a dog harness.

These pockets are the perfect size to carry dog-boots, poop bags, a spare leash, or a collapsible dog water bowl.

The pack comes in 3 colors: Granite Gray, Red Sumac, and Blue Moon. You can choose between 4 sizes (XS, S, M, and L/XL). These sizes will fit dogs with 17 to 42 inch chest circumferences.

The size small Switchbak Harness weighs 11.7 oz and has a pack capacity size of 3 liters. I don’t have the other harness sizes on hand to weigh, but the reported capacities are 1.7 L in the XS, 4.3 L in the M, and 7.5 L in the L/XL.

The Switchbak Fit on Glia

I ordered Glia’s Switchbak Harness from Ruffwear.com. It arrived with a couple of other items within a week of ordering.

We tried the harness on Glia in the house first in order to get an idea of the fit. It seemed to fit well, although it felt a little bulky to me, especially compared to her Flagline Harness. That being said, it was very adjustable and fit her securely. I don’t see a way that she could back out of this harness without breaking it.

You can check out our full fit comparison post to see how it fits compared to the Flagline and Web Master. But here is a quick photo comparison of the three Ruffwear harnesses we use.

Out on the trail, the harness performed great. It did shift a little side to side, but not any worse than the Web Master does. And tightening up the straps a little bit will help reduce the shifting of the harness.

The Switchbak Pockets

Let’s take a closer look at the pockets. As stated above, the size S has 3 L of capacity in the pockets. But what does that actually mean in terms of what your dog can carry with this harness?

The main things I carry along on day hikes with Glia are dog poop bags, a water bowl, and dog boots (when needed). So did all of those things fit in the pockets of the Switchbak? Yes!

On the left is the size small Switchbak harness holding two Ruffwear Polar Trex Dog Boots in one side and a collapsible silicone dog bowl and roll of dog poop bags in the other side.

And even with gear inside the pockets, the Switchbak harness keeps a nice low profile on the dog.

Overall Impressions of the Switchbak

PROS:

There is a lot to like about the Switchbak Harness, so I am going to list them for you here.

  • Highly adjustable and secure full-body harness fit.
  • Handle on the back to help assist your dog over rough terrain.
  • Front clip attachment for dogs who pull or need two attachment points.
  • Pockets so your dog can carry their own poop bags (full or empty).

CONS:

I only have a couple negative comments about the Switchbak harness.

Will the harness be too hot in the summer? With the padding and wide back, it could trap a lot of heat. The Web Master has a Core Cooler attachment to help with this, but that addition won’t fit on the Switchbak.

Also, there have been research studies that show that harnesses that cover more of a dog’s body can affect the way they move more. So this bulkier harness may subtly affect stride length and mobility on the trail more than a smaller harness.

And finally, the color options. Come on Ruffwear, I am still waiting for you to release a full-body harness in a fun, bright color that isn’t a standard red or blue. The Switchbak comes in the pretty gray pictured on Glia in addition to a red and a dark blue. But the new Front Range Day Pack comes in teal with purple accents. Why can’t the Switchbak come in teal or purple? It’s a small complaint, but I am still waiting for fun pinks and purples in a harness besides the Front Range.

Overall Great Harness/ Small Dog Pack

After several long hikes with the Switchbak, I am very pleased with this harness. It may almost completely replace Glias Web Master for regular day hikes. It has a similar fit to the Web Master plus the added bonus of the small pack pockets.

Overall, if you are looking for a small day pack/ dog harness that can carry a few small items for you or your pup, this is the perfect product for you!

Looking to purchase the Switchbak harness for your pup? The harness is available on Amazon.com or you can order the harness directly from Ruffwear.com.

Happy Hiking Everyone!

Kate, Glia, and Sasha

P.S. Our YouTube Review is also live.

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