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 three light-up collars 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 our main collar during the wintertime.
City collar: Sometimes, dusty trail gear feels out of place for errands or dinner out. We just bought something we’re excited about – we’ll report back!
Waterproof collar: Petoji. For beach trips, dirty hikes, and even around the house, we use coated webbing – it’s lightweight, smooth, wipes clean of pretty much anything your dog could drag it through 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. They’re not as inexpensive as mass-market harnesses, but they are fully worth the price. If you’d rather spend less, the next-best solution is the Ruffwear Webmaster – we decided not to keep ours since the Groundbird Gear is so much more light and comfortable, but it’s the most adjustable commercial harness.
Mid Coverage harness: Hurtta Active, now that I modified it to fit Robin’s narrow frame. Also at that link, a comparison to the similar Ruffwear Front Range (which we found to lack durability and structure, and was an awkward fit on Robin’s back). The Active also comes with an assistance handle, perfect for softening Robin’s landing from a too-tall rock.
Minimal harness: Hurtta Padded. I wasn’t impressed by their previous stiffer webbing, but I LOVE the softer webbing and new colors of the Fall 2017 release. The Padded comes with a grab handle that comes in handy more than you’d expect. I don’t prefer the Padded Ys because they tend to shift, and run large for Robin.
For eating out, and off-leash hikes, I like a really short leash – we have a 2’ Petoji traffic lead that is perfect for outdoor restaurant patios – nothing to tangle around the table legs. For walks and city use, I prefer a 3.5 – 4’ length – enough space for Robin to sniff, without me needing two hands to gather the extra leash. 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.
Raincoat: Hurtta Torrent Coat. Robin’s not too fussy about rain, but the blaze orange helps me keep track of him on a gloomy day, and keeps him cleaner. These coats are not inexpensive but if you can only get one Hurtta jacket, this is the one I’d recommend – and add layers underneath it for cold.
Snow: Hurtta Slush Combat Suit. Robin’s short, so snow gets inside the belly of regular coats. This one keeps him dry, although we’re on the hunt for a good insulation layer to go inside. Robin’s coat doesn’t collect snowballs but this coat is also great for preventing that.
Warm Coat: Hurtta Extreme Warmer. It’s the warmest dog coat 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.
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 Robin’s favorite. 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 for me to pare down. We have an old-style Alcott sleeping bag in the car (Robin’s favorite due to the cozy flannel lining). We have a new-style Alcott in the living room- it’s lighter and has a more durable shell, but Robin 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?