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. 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 it’s also a main collar during the wintertime.
City collar: We love our new 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 inside, Maison is low profile with a smooth lining.
Waterproof collar: Petoji. For beach trips, dirty hikes, and even around the house, we prefer coated webbing – it’s lightweight, smooth, wipes clean of pretty much anything nasty, and you can choose your color, width, and length.
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 decided not to keep ours to reduce duplication, but it’s the most adjustable, least escapable commercial harness.
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. 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′ 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.
15′ length: For leash required hikes. We use a 3/8″ biothane long line.
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: Pawtagonia. This is another custom-fit favorite, but this time it’s not more expensive than the next-best commercial option (in this case, the Ruffwear Climate Changer), and it’s way more stylish, with a better fit. Robin’s gotten zero chafing from his fleece, it’s bright and adorable, and it has 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 Jet Stream. We avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day, so we prioritize comfort and range of motion over heavy duty cooling, especially since Robin will barely move in bulky cooling coats. Our runner-up, and recommendation for dogs that need serious cooling power, is the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler. We’ve also tried cooling wear from Hurtta, Alcott, and Zippypaws and these two are the best.
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 than his coat so it reflects some sun.
Dry Trail: 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, ever. 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.
Snow: We’re still looking for something for this slot.
Bowls: I’m terrible about bringing a bowl along. While all the ones we’ve tried have been just fine, I rarely actually bring anything along. Robin drinks out of my palm and I try to position it over a plant so we can give something a little extra water.
Sleeping bag: This is a hard one to pare down. Robin’s favorite is an an old-style, flannel lined Alcott sleeping bag that lives in the car. He’s OK with the new style Alcott, but he doesn’t like the microfiber lining as much. And we have the Hurtta Outback Dreamer in our camping gear pile – it’s much more packable, but it’s not cushy, so Robin doesn’t prefer it for lounging.
What are your favorites? Any items we should definitely try?