As of: 8/7/2018
We try out a lot of gear, but I’m a minimalist at heart, so I’m always trying to narrow Robin’s gear trunk down to just one favorite in each subcategory! Here are the items we reach for over and over again. Click the links to read in-depth reviews where available, and click the category to see what else we’ve tried in comparison – a different product might even work better for you! This page is updated periodically.
LED Collar: Head-Lites. We’ve tried two no-name light-up collars and the Alcott one, and this is far and away the best. We’ve also tried quite an array of clip on lights (including both iterations of Ruffwear Beacon and the Nite Ize clip-on) and this is really the only light we use. It’s durable, attractive, lightweight and bright, and it’s a legitimate collar in its own right unlike the halo types. For camping trips, Robin wears it full time, and we reach for it often in wintertime.
City collar: For fancy days, we love our Maison Le Lou leather collar (and leash). They weren’t cheap, but after trying several other cheaper leather collars, the justification for the price became clear. Unlike more basic leather collars, which tend to be bulky, made from one thick piece of leather with an unfinished inner surface, Maison is low profile with a smooth lining.
Waterproof collar/leash: Harbor Hound Co – Biothane was a dirty activity only collar for us, until we discovered Harbor Hound. The hardware and designs are clean and classic and Robin’s collars have been mistaken for leather more than once. My husband appreciates that biothane leashes are allowed to touch the ground (unlike most of our our other leashes) since it’s so abrasion resistant.
Backpack/Full-Body Harness: Groundbird Gear. These can be purchased with a detachable pack, or alone, and they’re custom made to your dog’s measurements – not just the usual neck and girth but also waist, end of ribcage girth, etc. The chest plate hits Robin’s sternum perfectly and the harness weighs almost nothing. The lining and fabric are fully breathable and it includes a full belly panel for comfortable lifting. If you’d rather get something off the shelf, the next-best solution is the Ruffwear Webmaster (especially the older gray and red ones, which are more flexible) – we use ours for biking.
Minimal harness: Hurtta Padded. I wasn’t impressed by their previous stiffer webbing, but I LOVE the softer webbing and city-ready colors of the Fall 2017 release. The Padded comes with a grab handle that’s also a good clip spot for carabiner leashes. Size up if your dog is close to the top of the size range, for a lower fit on the chest. The Padded Y is another good option, especially if you’re doing pulling work (or your dog pulls) but it fits a little large on Robin.
2′: For busy streets, eating out, and off-leash hikes. It keeps Robin close, it’s not long enough to tangle on a restaurant patio, and it’s less bulk to clip onto my pack. We use a 2′ biothane Petoji traffic lead because it’s easy to clean.
3.5’ length (I know, so specific, but any longer and I find myself needing another hand to gather up excess): For leashed walks and day trips. We use a 3.5′, 1/2″ Harbor Hound biothane leash.
15′ length: For leash required hikes. We use a 3/8″ biothane long line from Amazon (non-affiliate link).
And for biking we use our Large Ruffwear Roamer – It’s plenty long to give Robin space to go behind the bike in narrow sections, and has a lot of give in case we jerk in opposite directions.
Lightweight jacket/Fleece: Roraima Gear. This is another custom-fit favorite. Robin’s gotten zero chafing from his two Roraima fleeces, they’re bright and adorable, and you can add a lining to improve durability.
Rain/Snowsuit: Hurtta Slush Combat Suit. Robin’s short, so snow can get inside the belly of regular coats. This one keeps him dry. Robin’s fur doesn’t collect snowballs but this coat is also great for preventing that. For a brief outing, or just as a windbreaker, we’ll use our Hurtta Torrent Coat, which is bright and visible on gloomy days but lacks belly coverage for wet weather.
Warm Coat: Hurtta Extreme Warmer. It’s the warmest dog coat commercially available, with full wraparound coverage, a big belly panel, and a heat-reflective lining. Oh, and it has a hilarious hood to cover the ears, which Robin despises.
Life Jacket: Hurtta Life Savior. It’s the lightest, most durable life jacket we’ve tried, with low-bulk foam struts instead of big foam panels. It has full, secure belly support without any stretch, and it’s a bright cheerful color. Find out why your dog needs a life jacket here.
Cooling Coat: Ruffwear Swamp Cooler. We mostly avoid being outside while it’s scorching hot but sometimes it’s unavoidable, and this has the best coverage. We’ve also tried cooling wear from Hurtta (good for reduced-judgment city use), Alcott, Kurgo, and Zippypaws.
Bug Protection: Hurtta Sun and Bug Blocker. I LOVE this thing. When I put it on Robin, the mosquitoes leave him and head for the nearest person (usually me). He looks silly, but it’s also lightweight and breathable for hot weather, and it’s lighter in color than his coat, so it reflects some sun.
Robin Approved: Dogbooties.com. We’ve tried a lot of boots and these are the only ones Robin doesn’t dislike. He acts like a more confident, comfortable version of himself – a stark comparison to most other boots, where he runs around like crazy trying to kick the boots off. They’re also light, packable, and have stretch elastic closures that keep them from falling off. I added suede soles to his first pair for added durability. However, these aren’t good for wet snow (which is all of the snow we get here in SoCal) nor for rain, and they would wear out fast on heavy pavement use. Bigger dogs are much better suited to soled boots, but sole-less sock boots like these are easiest for small dogs to wear.
Snow: We’re still looking for something for this slot.
Bowls: Only two bowls get me the least bit excited. The Guyot Squishy Cup is Robin’s travel bowl – it’s shiny silicone on the inside so it’s a cinch to clean (wipes clean if no water handy) and it’s squishy.. so it’s perfect for mixing dehydrated food without getting my hands dirty. Fabric bowls of all price points leak eventually. For water – we just started using the Kurgo Palm water bottle, a teeny cup and jug in one, and I love the design, form factor, and function for short hikes and outings.
Sleeping bag: Robin’s favorite is an an old-style, flannel lined Alcott sleeping bag that lives in the car. It’s the dog equivalent of that classic rectangular 90’s car camping sleeping bag with the fleece lining. Robin is a dog of comfort and isn’t as excited about packable backpacking sleeping bags like the Hurtta Outback Dreamer. We’ve recently started using the Whyld River sleeping bag which hits the best balance of packability and poof.
What are your favorites? Any items we should definitely try?