Hurtta America sent over their active harness for us to try out! We tried sizes 16-18″ and 18-24″ in Raven.
Sizing and colors: Five sizes from girth 16-18″ to girth 39-47″, in five colors – hi-viz orange, hi-viz yellow, cherry (pink), raven (black), and juniper (dark grayish blue).
The Active Harness fills a spot in our gear rotation that was previously empty – a lightweight, easy-on harness with enough features for short hikes – particularly a handle to help Robin down from rocks. He likes to climb things but doesn’t always have the best judgment for getting down safely, and he’s gotten scraped up jumping off of big rocks before, so I have a personal rule about always taking him hiking in a harness with an assistance handle.
This harness comes in two styles – the “Dazzle” style in hi-viz orange and yellow, with large reflective areas on the back and chest panels, and the standard style in cherry, raven, and juniper, with three little reflective triangles on the chest and reflective trim around the neck and back. I prefer the clean look of the non-dazzle – I’m all for visibility, but it’s a bit busy for me, although they’d be a great choice if we did a lot of walking at night. I didn’t realize the Active Harness was available in Juniper until after we got the black and I was a little disappointed, but I actually really like black on Robin’s coat – it brightens up his fur.
The large back panel features a sturdy grab handle and an excessively hefty D-ring, and it fastens on each side with a side-release buckle. The Active Harness has a large, wide chest panel and four adjustment points – two sliders at the neck, and two at the girth, all of which are continuous loops with no loose ends to tuck in. The webbing doesn’t have any elastic for give, which would be a nice feature on the girth straps. The harness body is made of a structured, lightly padded material with a smooth outer surface and a tough mesh lining, and all of the edges are finished with seam tape (a personal favorite feature because it stabilizes the edges and keeps the padding from bulging outward through the lining).
I do wish the back panel didn’t have a point at the neck – it hides in Robin’s fur but can be seen in the comparison photo way at the end of this review. Since he’s toward the small end of his harness’s size range, that point is a little too close to his neck and I’d prefer a rounded edge.
At 19″ girth, Robin’s close enough to the line that we tried both the 16-18″ and the 18-24″. The harness is cut wide in the chest and I was concerned that he’d be too narrow for it, being at the low end of the larger size. Comparison photos are below: he just barely fit into the smaller size with the buckles fully extended (you can see in the photo that the straps are too close to his armpit). From the side, the larger size looks like a much better fit- the back panel looks proportional even if the chest panel seems a bit large. From the front, though, it’s clear that the chest panel is too wide for this narrow-chested pup.
We went with the 18-24″ size because the 16-18″ was clearly too small in the back. I contemplated trying to splice the small chest plate and the large back plate, but it didn’t seem prudent. Surprisingly, Robin didn’t experience any chafing from the wide chest panel on his first hike in the harness, but I started to see red marks after our second hike so I ended up cutting down the chest panel and re-attaching the trim.
I do wish that the harness was a bit more padded in the shoulder area. All of the webbing is sturdily sewn through the padding and liner, which compresses the padding and makes the harness stiff in that area; if the webbing were sewn just to the harness’s shell the padding wouldn’t lose loft.
Post-modification, the harness works great for Robin. By design, the handle doesn’t work for lifting (the harness doesn’t support most of the belly), but I can grab it when he’s about to jump to help him land a little more softly, and the still-substantial chest panel distributes the force. I usually clip the leash directly to the handle, because it’s much faster and it’s quieter than clipping to the metal ring.
This harness stays put and doesn’t tilt to the side with the weight or tug of a leash, due to the wrap-style back and the wider chest panel. It stays in place so well that I’m surprised they didn’t offer a front clip option – we don’t use front attachment points, but it’s a commonly desired feature.
Because it’s fairly low profile and the handle is flexible, this harness works great under jackets without requiring major adjustments to the jacket’s fastenings.
Build Quality 5/5
The construction and stitching are flawless, even, and well-finished, above and beyond most dog gear we’ve got. I did my absolute best to sew the trim back perfectly on after cutting down the chest panel, but it’s clear which parts were sewn by Hurtta and which by me!
The D-ring is heavy and tough (I wish it were just a little lighter!) and the handle, back straps and neck straps are thoroughly box-stitched. Robin has scraped up the reflectors a bit, but they’re still plenty bright. The weakest link here is the side-release clips and they’re strong, snappy and easy to clip and release. It’s so well constructed that I almost feel it could be a car safety harness with a few modifications (metal hardware and continuous webbing)- maybe a future Hurtta offering!
I’m a big fan of this harness – I think, as an easy-on harness with a handle, that it fills an empty niche in the dog gear market. It doesn’t replace our heftier harnesses for big hikes because the handle can’t be used for lifting, but it’s been perfect for quick hikes where I want just a little extra control and it’s sleek enough to look great in the city as well (almost too sleek for the trail!). It’s not inexpensive but the form factor and construction are so good that I think it justifies the cost.
Best for: Broad chested dogs, hiking (due to the grab handle), urban use, heavy pullers, carabiner leashes (can be clipped to the giant D-ring or handle).
Not ideal for: Narrow dogs unless they’re not prone to chafing, technical trails where an assistance handle is needed.
It would be remiss to review this harness without comparing it to the similarly-shaped Ruffwear Front Range:
|Category||Hurtta Active||Ruffwear Front Range|
|Robin’s size||17-22″ (XS)||18-24″|
|Leash attachments||Large back D-ring and handle||Front reinforced loop, back aluminum ring (too small for some carabiner leashes)|
|Chest plate||Cut wide – good to distribute pressure from pulling, but wide for narrow-chested dogs||Cut narrow, good for narrow dogs but tends to look small or off-center on bigger/broad chested dogs|
|Back plate||Large. Cut wide to hug body and extend down sides. Pointed shape behind neck, lightly padded.||Small. Cut narrow across shoulder blades. Semicircle cutout behind neck, heavily padded.|
|Padding||Same thickness, but less firm||Same thickness, but firmer|
|Reflectors||Piping on neck and back at webbing attachment points, additional reflective triangles on chest||Piping on chest, neck, and back at webbing attachment points|
|Webbing||Sturdy- thicker and harder to adjust but stays put absolutely. Does not have elastic at girth to add give. Sewn on closed loops so no loose ends.||Thinner, sometimes slips but easy to readjust. Has elastic at girth for give. Loose ends (slides are not sewn on closed loops) allows for more range of adjustment but flap around|
|Buckles||Very sturdy||Very sturdy|
|Lining||Open smooth mesh (traps sand)||Tightly woven mesh (attracts hair)|
|Extras||ID tag pocket|
|Construction||Excellent. Sturdy stitching, clean lines and nice detailing. Heavier materials. Padding is sewn through (reduces padding on withers). Sleek modern look.||Very good. Materials hold up well but lack of seam tape around edge means padding/lining bulges outward on edges and gets worn. Scrunches up over time in the back and belly.|
|Colors||Black, pink, gray-blue, orange, yellow||Gray, pink, teal, orange|
|Sizes||5 sizes from 16-18″ to 39-47″ girth.||5 sizes from 13-17″ to 32-42″|
Which one? For very small dogs, or for a front clip, Ruffwear is the only option. For very large dogs, Hurtta is the only option. Otherwise, I’d recommend choosing based on the dog’s chest width, with the caveat that thicker/longer-haired dogs won’t be as subject to chafing because their hair pads the harness. Even though Robin’s very narrow, we use the Hurtta Active harness (with modified chest plate) much more frequently because of the handle, and because our new carabiner leash gets jammed in the Ruffwear attachment point. In general, I prefer the look of the Active Harness- as much as I like bright colors, the larger back plate looks a lot more proportional on Robin and the lining on our Front Range is bulging around the padding, making it look out of shape.