Sizing and colors: 6 sizes, XXS – XXL, in Granite.
I don’t consider myself a trainer (Robin’s lucky if I’m carrying treats) but I thought the Trainer’s Vest might be a good backpack alternative for quick sunset hikes – it’s got plenty of pockets for snacks, treats, and a leash. Turns out, I actually use it for quite a variety of things, especially as the weather cools down – I’ve even worn it out to dinner twice! I’m the type of person who’d rather carry things by hand than bring a bag or purse along, so I’ve made great use of the pockets, and I think it’s really classy looking.
The vest is hefty, constructed of a thick, tough nylon shell (Hurtta calls the color “Granite”; it’s a soft black) with a mesh lining, and bungee adjusters at the waist, collar, and hood. The arm holes and pocket openings are all trimmed out with stretch gray edging stamped with subtle “HURTTA” text. Because it has so many pockets, most of the vest is two or three layers thick, and it’s definitely better suited for cooler weather. It also features an unlined, waterproof roll-up hood that snaps inside its warm high collar, and is so low profile that I didn’t realize it was there until I read the product specs.
There are eight pockets:
- Two front non-zippered pockets (for your hands or quickly accessible items)
- Two front zippered pockets, positioned on top of the hand pockets, one of which has a removable, waterproof liner for sticky treats.
- Two zippered chest pockets
- One non-zippered chest pocket, located behind the left zippered pocket with diagonal opening (I didn’t even notice this one til I started writing this list, but it’s perfect for my phone because it won’t fall out if I lean over. (The desirability of keeping the phone over my heart is a different story.)
- One gigantic lower back pocket, open on both sides (perfect for a frisbee or leash or maybe a water bottle, but too open for anything valuable like a lens)
There are also two black rings (a round ring on the back, and a D ring on the right side) for clipping leashes/bowls/other items, and the vest came with a small carabiner on the left side which I removed for more subtlety. There’s a poop bag dispenser opening on the right chest pocket, but it’s not at all obvious between the matching color and the folds of the vest in motion.
Everything about the design is really great except for this: reflectivity is surprisingly minimal. The inner edges of the two chest pockets feature reflective piping, and part of the decorative left shoulder print is reflective – that’s it. The gray trim glows a bit in light, though it’s not actually reflective. It surprises me that Hurtta didn’t trim out the pockets and armholes with reflective piping – the thin piping they do on their harnesses would look and work great.
I just realized when starting this review that it’s a unisex size – all the Hurtta vest marketing photos I’ve seen show it on women, so I didn’t even think of that. Even so, the Trainer’s Vest runs GIGANTIC, and I barely squeaked into the smallest size (XXS). I’ll provide my measurements – I’m a 34″ chest, 38″ hip and 28″ waist. I typically wear a small in unisex clothing and I’m a size four (long) in women’s shirts and dresses. The smallest Trainer’s Vest size available, XXS, specifies a 36″ chest and 40″ hip, so it’s a bit big on me, but I don’t think it’s quite 36/40 – maybe 35/39. The waist adjuster helps some; it doesn’t do much looks-wise, but it does help the vest feel a bit more snug. The structured material makes the boxier fit works just fine, but if you’re any smaller than me, the vest probably won’t fit unless you plan to wear it over a bulky coat.
Hurtta provides the length for the vests and I wish it were a couple inches longer to be more proportional to the relaxed fit, but it’s not a bad length. I have a long torso so I’m just pleased that it’s not short. Since Hurtta has a precedent of offering an obscene number of sizes to get the perfect fit for your dog, I’d love to see them come out with a women’s version with a nipped-in waist and darts, and keep this as the men’s version.
Here’s Hurtta’s size chart for the Trainer’s Vest (it excludes the XXS size, but they do carry it):
The vest is so incredibly handy. I love the combination of zippered and unzippered pockets, perfect for keeping hands separate from keys and treats, and really appreciate the choice of zippers over Velcro (scratchy and snags collars, leashes and hands). I’ve never used all the pockets at once, but I like having flexibility, and the chest pockets are great for filters and lens caps – things I want to keep clean and away from other items. I appreciate being able to remove and wash the treat liner even though we don’t use smelly treats, although ideally, the liner would have its own zipper to fully enclose the treats. As it is, the liner starts about an inch inside of the pocket, so there’s some space for your hot dogs or soft treats to touch the vest’s pocket or the zipper. Even so, I’ve never seen a better solution on the market, so just use some care when filling the pocket to keep the vest clean.
I’ve used the vest on the beach (to hold Robin’s RexSpecs, leash, and my phone and lens caps), and for insulation after an unintended dunking, on the trail (leash, treats, phone, jacket for Robin, even bear spray in the back pocket), for errands, and to go out to dinner twice (outside dog-friendly patio). It’s sleek enough to pass in public and it’s quite warm – too warm for warm weather, and for hiking with a pack on except early in the morning. I love having a backup hood, and the hood’s bungee helps to keep it in place – the first time as I unrolled it, I was like “too bad they didn’t put a bungee on the hood, I’m sure they didn’t but that would be really useful” and it HAD ONE! They thought of everything.
The shell is textured and tends to hold onto dust and pick up Robin footprints, but it’s worth it for the durability. It comes mostly clean with a good shaking – I haven’t needed to wash anything but the treat pocket so far despite a beach trip, several hikes and numerous errands.
Build Quality: 5/5
The vest is seriously hefty – unlike Hurtta’s dog coats, it’s not particularly lightweight, but it’s not terribly heavy and it feels really tough. As with all our newer Hurtta products, I have only good things to say about the construction: the stitching is even, loose ends are finished, and all of the trim, pockets, and details are sewn on evenly and symmetrically. The weakest link is the stretch trim, which has started to get a tiny bit fuzzy on the edges in a couple spots. I’d prefer to see contrast nylon trim instead, for more durability, but the stretch trim does create a snugger fit. To help prolong the trim’s lifespan, be cautious when putting rough or Velcro items into the pockets, and trim any pills with pointed scissors rather than pulling them off.
I really like the Trainer’s Vest – it’s a durable, practical solution with tons of pockets that somehow still manages to be cute and pretty subtle. The pocket design is smart and versatile, and the only real giveaways that you’re wearing a training vest are the poop bag dispenser (which is barely noticeable when it’s on) and the rings, which could be cut off if you know you won’t use them. With that kind of price tag, make sure the vest makes sense for your lifestyle- if I’d only wanted to use it for hiking, I would have been less satisfied because it’s too hot to wear on warm days or under a pack. But for chillier climates, light hikes, and other outings of all sorts, it’s perfect.
Best for: Cool weather, light rain, training, outings, purse replacement, hiking, people my size or larger
Not ideal for: Warm weather, people smaller than me