We’re Trail Testers for @dogsthathike! We get a quarterly box of goodies to test out, and we report back with what’s great and what isn’t.
Price: Unfortunately, the CragDogDesigns shop is closed right now, and I can’t find the price.
Sizing and colors: CragDogDesigns leashes are made of recycled rope, so the available colors (and likely, rope thicknesses/textures) are subject to inventory. Our slip lead is in the color Fantasia.
For a dog that’s rarely on leash, Robin has quite a leash collection, including THREE climbing rope leashes: Wild Hound Outfitters Neon Green, Wolfpack Supply Islander 10′, and this CragDogDesigns Fantasia Slip (see below for comparison photo). We happened to choose leashes that are all quite different, despite their common material:
- Wild Hound has a stainless bolt snap, Wolfpack has a climbing-rated carabiner, and CragDogDesigns is a slip.
- Wild Hound is held together by stainless steel clamps underneath a rubber sheath; Wolfpack is knotted together, and CragDogDesigns is sewn.
- Wild Hound and CragDogDesigns are both “recycled” but Wild Hound ropes are remnants from the end of the spool, while CragDogDesigns are actually used, broken-in ropes with a past life.
- Wild Hound rope is the most structured, while CragDogDesigns is the softest and has the most drape. The sheaths of Wild Hound and Woflpack feel about the same in texture.
The CragDogDesigns slip lead constructed of a length of rope, folded and sewn on one end to make a 7″ handle, and folded and sewn on the other end to hold a sturdy ring in place, through which the leash is fed to make the loop. It features leather sheaths over the stitching and a snug leather stopper that can be adjusted to keep the leash from slipping open. The actual leash length including handle ends up being right around 4′ with Robin’s 12″ neck size. While it does feel shorter than the average leash, slip leads should always be short to keep your dog close by, since there’s an inherent danger in having a leash that tightens with pulling.
The Fantasia rope is very soft and drapey. Climbing ropes, especially recycled ones, can vary a lot, but this is by far the softest of our three ropes. It’s almost cottony to the touch, which is nice when I have it draped around my neck, and gentle on Robin’s historically delicate neck fur. I’m a huge fan of the fact that this is recycled rope – it’s more eco friendly, it puts an ample resource to a good use and it’s intriguing that our leash had a previous life – sort of the same feeling I get from having a rescue dog! There’s plenty of life left in a used climbing rope at the dog leash working level and it’s nice not to have to break in the rope.
As listed in the comparisons above, we’ve tried rope leashes with three different fastening methods – stitching, stainless steel clamps, and knots. Sewing is definitely the lightest and least bulky of the three, but it’s also potentially the least reliable. Knots are used in climbing, so we know the rope can handle a ton of force with the right knot; and while I don’t know the rating on Wildhound’s stainless steel clamps, I’d trust them over most stitching. Knowing that, I chose a slip lead since I won’t be testing its strength vs Robin’s trachea. One thing to note is that the core of the rope has been stripped out at the ring end to reduce bulk, something that CragDogDesigns only appears to do on their slip leads, which is OK; the core of the rope provides most of the strength, but strength isn’t a major concern with a slip.
I mention all this strength information not because I do a lot of technical climbing or hoisting (I don’t), nor because I think Robin’s strong enough to break reasonably sturdy stitching (he isn’t) but because rope leash makers in general tend to use the rope’s dynamic properties, strength, and durability as selling points, which grates me a little when not all of the pieces in the system are as reliable. All in all, I’m totally satisfied with the sturdiness of the CragDogDesigns slip lead, but I think these are important considerations if choosing a standard lead for a stronger dog or dangerous trails.
My only gripe with this leash is the leather sheathing that covers the stitching on each end. I think I remember the listing saying that CragDogDesigns uses leather scraps for the leashes, but if leather, they’re on the stiff, plasticky side. A softer leather sheath would upgrade the feel of the leash and would meld better with the supple rope, rather than floating on top. It would also be more flexible at both connection points, one of which is around the dog’s neck. I’m hoping that it will soften up with more time! However, this material does work well for the stopper that keeps the leash from opening up by itself – it’s stiff, so it stays in place and has enough structure to block the ring.
Because climbing rope is designed to be lightweight, the leash is substantial, but not heavy for Robin despite its diameter, and this particular rope is very soft, making it more comfortable for a small neck than a stiffer rope would be. I love how short it is; it’s a one-handed leash whereas a 6′ leash is more of a two-handed leash when Robin’s heeling, and it’s not cumbersome when draped around my neck or stuffed in a pack.
I probably wouldn’t recommend it for necks too much smaller than Robin’s (12″) due to the relatively stiff leather connection point around the neck. The leash diameter and sturdy ring might overall be a little much for smaller dogs as well. However, I definitely like having a thicker rope like this one for a slip lead, as it somewhat distributes the pressure on the neck.
Note: Slip leads should only be used if your dog has good leash manners and knows how to walk on a loose leash, or you risk damaging the trachea.
On the trail, the CragDogDesigns slip lead is the easiest solution when I know Robin will be on and off leash frequently- when we see an approaching dog, it’s much faster to slip it over his head than to grab hold of his leash ring and attach a snap lead. The weight of the two ends is relatively balanced compared to snap leashes and especially our carabiner leash, so it stays in place draped around my neck. It’s also great when he’s wearing a coat, because I don’t have to fumble for his harness ring through the coat opening. However, I wouldn’t use this leash if he were going to be on leash for an entire hike, since it’s short and he wouldn’t get much chance to roam, and I would skip it for a scrambly hike (where he does a lot of jumping and wouldn’t have enough slack) or a very steep drop-off (harness and carabiner leash, please).
This is also my favorite grab and go leash for errands. Since Robin doesn’t generally wear a collar at home, I sometimes forget to put one on when we head out for a quick errand, and this lead works much better than our usual makeshift slip leads. It’s super quick when we’re getting into and out of the car for a string of errands. I also don’t hesitate to drop it on the ground when we’re sitting at an outdoor restaurant or let him drag it a bit in a clear snag-free area, since I know the sheath is designed to hold up to cliff faces.
The CragDogDesigns slip lead has become a favorite in our household for light hikes, park trips and errands – it’s short, soft and lightweight and it’s super easy to slip on and off, even when we forget a collar or he’s wearing a complicated coat. Highly recommended for any dog that knows how to keep a loose leash.
Best for: Quick trips, errands, non-technical hiking, on-and-off leash, dog park trips, general use for polite walkers
Not ideal for: Poor loose leash walkers, steep/dangerous trails (noose effect), boulder hopping/scrambling (more length needed to jump), unsupervised use