Ruffwear’s Hitch Hiker Leash: “a versatile leash option for hiking and camping”

This spring/summer, Ruffwear came out with some new and updated dog gear. When I looked through the updated catalog, there were 3 products that immediately caught my attention: the new colors of the Flagline harness, the Swamp Cooler harness, and the focus of this blog post – the Hitch Hiker Leash.

*Please be aware that this blog post does contain affiliate links, which means that I may earn money if you purchase one of these products. But I have personally used every object that I recommend across this website and strive to give accurate reviews of various dog gear. Additionally, I purchased all 3 of these Ruffwear items with my own money. This post is not sponsored.

The Hitch Hiker Leash is a waist-worn leash with a few unique features, such as a variable-length, a small waist pouch (mostly intended to hold the extra leash length when not in use), and a “HitchLock” rope adjuster with a brake that allows you to adjust the length of the leash.

When I first saw this product, it reminded me a little of a waist-worn version of Ruffwear’s Knot-a-Hitch system. I had never purchased the Knot-a-Hitch system, as I figured I could rig a tie-out line for my dogs for less than the nearly $80 price tag of the Knot-a-Hitch. But when that rope was combined into a waist-worn leash version, I really wanted to try it out.

And in the interest of really testing it out, I used this leash for the first time on a backpacking trip to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park in Canada. But before we get into my review of the Hitch Hiker Leash, let’s take a look at some of the specs.

Hitch Hiker Leash Specifications

The Hitch-Hiker Leash consists of a waist belt, a small pouch (“fanny pack”), and a 12-foot-long climbing rope-inspired leash. The leash length is controlled by releasing the brake (“HitchLock”) mounted on the waist belt to allow the leash to be pulled forward or backward through the brake controller, which turned out to be a pretty easy and reliable way to adjust leash length.

The entire setup weighs about 8 oz (half of a pound), so it is relatively lightweight. The leash attaches to your dog with Ruffwear’s lockable Crux Clip.

The Hitch Hiker Leash comes in 2 colors, Aurora Teal and Slate Blue. I purchased the Slate Blue color.

How the Hitch Hiker Leash Works for Backpacking

As stated above, I took this leash out for a “test drive” on our 3-day, 2-night backpacking trip at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. I snapped a couple of quick photos of the clean leash in the parking lot before we headed out into the mud and rain.

Then I used the leash hard for the weekend and took the pictures below once we got back home. I did wash the leash (scrubbed it with a brush and dish soap) after taking the product photos below. Most of the mud did come off, which is nice, but before washing you can see which area of the leash touched the ground routinely.

Since many of you will also use the leash in muddy conditions, I didn’t clean the leash before taking photos, figuring it may help to see how dirty the leash got after a weekend of backpacking.

Since I was backpacking, I didn’t wear the waistband around my waist but rather left the waistband area cinched down and simply clipped it around the belt of my backpack. This allowed me to take the leash on and off easily as needed and kept the HitchLock in easy reach while backpacking.

While hiking, I kept the leash length between 4.5 and 6.5 feet in length to avoid getting too tangled up in it. Glia made sure to adequately test the leash by trying to chase after a beaver, rolling around on the ground, going swimming, and getting tangled around trees while attached to the Hitch Hiker Leash. The leash held up well, seemed strong, and was comfortable to grab as needed.

I really enjoyed being able to keep the leash at a shorter length when hiking flat ground, and then being able to extend the leash longer to help us navigate steeper terrain while attached to each other (leashes were required for dogs throughout this park).

The other nice benefit of this leash when backpacking was that both ends of this leash can be clipped around a tree to provide a tie-out while at camp. The waist belt can clip around one tree and the Crux Clip can clip to the leash rope itself to loop around a second tree. Then you can clip a spare leash around the rope line to create a tie-out. (I always backpack with a spare leash, just in case.)

In the picture below, I have Glia’s Ruffwear Flat Out Leash attached to the Hitch Hiker Leash. Glia is sitting on a OneTigris Dog Sleeping Mat and is wearing her Hurtta Expedition Parka.

Pros and Cons of the Hitch Hiker Leash

Overall, I was impressed with the Hitch Hiker Leash and will be bringing it on future hiking adventures.

My favorite features of this leash include the following:

  • The large variation in leash length helps this leash work well in several different situations, while still being more secure and potentially safer than a retractable leash.
  • The leash can be used to create a tie-out at a campsite.

My suggestions for improvement include the following:

  • Ruffwear doesn’t list any information about the strength testing for their leashes. So it is hard to know if this leash will hold up to as much force as a leash like Zouga Dog Gear’s, which are strength tested to 500 pounds of force.
  • This leash essentially has a fanny pack for the extra rope, but it can’t hold much more than the leash. Ideally, if I am going to be wearing a fanny pack/waist pouch, I want it to also be able to hold my phone, keys, dog treats, etc.
  • The colors are beautiful, but the light yellow color shows dirt easily. (It does wash off well though.) The red color may not show as much dirt.

Should you purchase the Hitch Hiker Leash?

Yes! If you are looking for a leash that can work in areas with 6-foot leash regulations, but also extend to give your dog more freedom, this leash is a great option. If you car camp or backpack and want to create a tie-out at your campsites without carrying a bunch of extra rope, this leash is for you.

The Hitch Hiker Leash can be purchased at several locations, including online at Ruffwear, REI, or Amazon.

If you are just looking for a strong basic waist-worn leash without a lot of length variation, I would encourage you to take a look at Zouga’s dog leashes.

Have questions about any of the gear in this post? Or about Sleeping Giant Provincial Park? Ask us in the comments below.


Kate is the writer of Pawsitively Intrepid. She has spent the last 9 years working full-time as a veterinarian, treating dogs and cats. But as of June 2023, she is taking a year to travel with her dog, volunteer, and work on some passion projects.

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