Price: $59.95 (I paid around $30 on sale)
Sizing and colors: XXS (13″-17″ girth) – XL (36″-42″ girth) in gray, purple and orange
Even in SoCal, it gets chilly at night. I try to avoid the little-dog stereotype of big fluffy jackets, but it’s undeniable that as a smaller dog Robin gets cold easily. For his first backpacking trip, I knew a packable but warm jacket would be a necessity, and it also got a lot of use during our winter holiday to Minnesota.
The Climate Changer is made of thin, but dense, good quality fleece with a fully separating zipper closure that runs from the neck to the flank. It has a minimal look but a surprising number of seams, giving it a close, athletic fit that works well alone or under a bulkier jacket. I absolutely hate velcro on dog clothing, so I really like the zipper solution. If your dog is foot shy, be aware that both feet have to be fed into this step-in style jacket.
Two lines of bright reflective piping run along the body of the jacket, and there’s a “Light Loop” at the neck for attaching Ruffwear’s Beacon light or a different clip-on light. The whole thing is edged in a stretchy fabric tape that didn’t feel as durable as the fleece, but has held up well. Overall, it’s a sleek, attractive design that has just enough detailing. The only possible thing to nitpick about the design is the little triangle zipper flap that covers the base of the zipper at the neck. It gets snagged in the zipper when unzipping the jacket, and I’m not sure why it’s there at all.
The Climate Changer in XS weighs about 3.5 oz and packs into one side of Robin’s XXS Approach pack (1L per side) with room to spare, or rolls up to fit through the handle of his Webmaster Pro. I picked gray over orange (for the first time ever) because the orange was a strange, dull shade that didn’t look good on Robin’s fur.
Robin fits an XS like it was made for him. With an 18.5″ girth and ~13″ neck circumference where the jacket hits, he is actually on the low end of the XS size range, so the jacket might be snug on a larger dog, especially one that’s less trim in the belly. Robin has a history of fur breakage so I avoid clothes that are tight-fitting. In general, jackets tend to be short on him, but Ruffwear cuts their clothing long, so the length is ideal and his curly tail doesn’t fold the jacket back.
It’s a tiny bit roomy in the chest, which makes it easier for him to run around and allows for a thin sweater underneath in really cold weather. The leg holes aren’t tight on him, which is good for range of motion, but he does get little worn patches in the fur on the front of his legs when he’s worn this jacket for a long period. Potty clearance is perfect and I love the belly coverage, since his belly fur is pretty sparse. Reviews on Ruffwear’s site are all over the place fit-wise, so apparently we got lucky with Robin’s body type.
I’d heard stories of this jacket keeping dogs warm down to 40 degrees, but they must have more hair than Robin, who gets cold sitting still in just the Climate Changer once temperatures drop below 60. It was right around 55 at night on our backpacking trip; he stayed warm on top of my sleeping bag (in a hammock) for most of the night with just the Climate Changer, but by morning he was chilled. He didn’t stop shivering until he finished breakfast and started moving around more. As an athletic layer in colder temperatures, the jacket was great, however: Robin stayed plenty warm down to around 20 degrees as long as he was moving.
The jacket brushes remarkably clean of dirt and leaves, but it can collect snow inside the chest, probably since the chest and sleeves don’t fit Robin as snugly as they could (the neck creates a good seal). Check frequently for ice balls forming on the inside of the jacket. Since it’s fleece, it collects plenty of hair on the inside but the full coverage is also great for keeping hair out of relatives’ houses during shedding season (if it’s chilly).
Because of the trim fit, this jacket layers well under pretty much anything else, and the zipper closure doesn’t seem bulky under packs or other jackets, nor does it ever unzip itself. It adds coverage to jackets cut with large armholes: Robin stayed plenty warm for nighttime 15 degree walks in the Climate Changer with his Kurgo Loft on top.
Build quality: 5/5
Other than some initial snagging on the triangle zipper cover, and some pilling along the tape that edges the whole jacket, it looks pretty much new. Since the pilling is concentrated in areas that come in contact with other jackets’ velcro closures, I’m blaming it on them and not on routine wear. I’ve washed it four or more times and there’s no visible wear to the fleece.
This jacket has proven to be very versatile: anytime we go hiking in the winter he’s either wearing it or packing it just in case, and it layers well under all of his jackets. I would definitely buy another if this one got lost (I don’t think it’ll wear out anytime soon) and if Ruffwear comes out with brighter colors I might get another one for variety.
Good for: Trim body types, bald chests and bellies, containing shedding hair, a baselayer under a pack or heavier jacket.
Not ideal for: Extreme temperatures as a standalone.
January 2015: updated review to current category format and added some newer photos.