Wilderdog Rope Leash

Wilderdog¬†(formerly Wolfpack Supply) sent over a 10′ climbing rope carabiner leash for us to try¬†after Sparky¬†gave us¬†a big scare wandering over the edge of Baden Powell late last summer. I wanted something super tough and overbuilt to keep Robin safe on steep¬†drop-offs and more technical trails.¬†

Price: $24- 39 depending on clip type, size and length

Sizing and colors: 10′ length in¬†3/8″ rope, or 5′ length in either¬†5/16″ or¬†3/8″; currently in 8 different patterns including one reflective rope

Robin’s a bit of a thrill junkie. He loves to look over edges, walk along ridgelines and tear down narrow curvy trails. A couple times he’s taken off down the slope¬†and returned after a minute or two. He’s never slipped and usually¬†seems to have good judgment, but he still scares me sometimes! After we watched Sparky of @sparkythechimix¬†decide to take a stroll down the slope¬†of Baden Powell at a spot with ~850′ exposure, I wanted a leash I could rely on to keep Robin safe.

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During the year (oops) that we’ve been testing this leash, we’ve also aquired two other rope leashes – a Crag Dog Designs slip, and a Wild Hound Outfitters high visibility leash. They each have their own best application:

  • Wilderdog is best for “big” hikes, especially with minor hoisting or scrambling. It’s the longest and the only one with strong knot construction.
  • Crag Dog Designs is a short length, perfect for neighborhood walks, or to keep in the car for oops moments when we forgot a collar.
  • Wild Hound is best for hikes where I want a structured leash that can be looped cross-body to stay out of the way.

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Construction: 5/5

I chose the 10′ Big¬†Carabiner leash in Islander. The Big Carabiner leashes¬†are designed for bigger dogs than Robin, with a hefty screw-lock carabiner and 3/8″ rope, but I wanted a long length to give me the option of clipping it around my waist or letting Robin¬†find his own path when scrambling.¬†The Wilderdog leash is very simple; it’s a 10′ total finished¬†length with an overhand loop tied on¬†each end – one for a handle, and one for the carabiner. I’m not a climber, but a bit of research suggests that these knots¬†are similar in strength to the figure-eight knots typically used to tie-in to a climbing harness. Note – previously available small dog leashes only have a knot at the handle end, which reduces bulk and weight but isn’t as strong since the other end is fastened using a different method. Currently available thinner quick clip leashes are knotted at both ends.

The rope tails on each end are sealed to prevent fraying and wrapped with a branded sheath. It’s a clean way of dealing with the ends and the sheath hasn’t budged since we started using the leash.

The Big Carabiner leashes come with a Metolius Bravo screw-lock climbing carabiner (1.53 oz,¬†3.6″ x 2.2″ per Metolius). While it’s unlikely that a dog would generate enough force to snap standard leash hardware, I’ve personally broken a few swivel clips in other applications and Robin’s broken an accessory carabiner, so for any type of hoisting or dangerous scramble I believe in erring on the side of caution. I like knowing that there’s no weak link in the system, and the visible knots on the Wilderdog leash makes it clear that we’re not relying on¬†hidden stitching. I do wish the carabiners were twist-lock style, as the screw lock tends to slowly close itself unless jammed down.

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Fit: 3/5

I knew it going in, but this IS a big leash – not really because of the length nor the carabiner, but just because the rope is so heavy it tends to drag. For that reason, we don’t reach for it very often – when packing for a small hike, it’s overkill and when packing for a big hike, it sounds heavy. I do really like the 10′ length for a leashed hike – it’s plenty of slack for Robin to sniff around, even when I have it looped around my waist and clipped.

I didn’t actually¬†mind the Bravo carabiner’s size or weight too much (it was always clipped to his harness), but I switched it out with a Metolius Mini wiregate (0.81oz 3.0″ x 1.9″) largely because I found the screw gate annoying. While the Mini is definitely smaller and lighter, it looks disproportionate and also rotates around freely, so it sometimes gets cross-loaded. It would work great secured with an o-ring, the way that quickdraw carabiners are held in place.¬†Depending on the type of collar/harness you use, be aware that the nose of the carabiner may or may not fit – we’ve found that it’s no problem on Hurtta harnesses, which have a big ring, but it jams up in Ruffwear V-Rings and in the small D rings on Robin’s collars.

The biggest problem for us was the actual bulk of the rope – it’s heavy, and with Robin being a wanderer, not a puller, and relatively close to the ground, it spends a lot of time dragging in the dirt. Fortunately the rope is strong and handles abrasion well (looks new after a year of this), but it requires extra attention to keep track of that much rope. I’d like to see the 10′ length offered in the 5/16″ rope.

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Function: 4/5 

The Big Carabiner leash has been multifunctional for us – handheld for full range sniffing, or waist worn for hands free. It’s been my leash of choice for leashed pack hikes, for park trips where ordinances require a leash but I want him to run a little bit, and for any kind of hoisting – like when we hoisted him up a mine structure to explore an old mine bore. For anything on a standard trail, it feels like overkill and we usually go with a shorter and lighter leash.

The long length makes it possible to quickly knot the Wilderdog leash into a two-dog leash. Around camp, we hooked one end to Moonie and one to Robin, and let Robin manage Moonie’s wandering. While hiking, I tied a knot in the middle and had a perfect double leash.

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Value: 4/5

These leashes seem expensive for a length of rope plus a carabiner, but when I looked into making one for myself, I was shocked that a climbing rope is $80-$100 on the low end. Granted, there’s much more length in a climbing rope but I wouldn’t want 7 identical rope leashes so the better value is meaningless.

There are plenty of other rope leashes on the market, but if you’re really looking for STRONG, Wilderdog is the only one I’ve seen with visible knots on both ends. With their design, you can see every element of the system rather than relying on hidden stitching or clasps. It’s also the only true climbing rope leash I’ve seen with a reflective option, which is great for night and road safety.

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Overall: 4/5

Wilderdog leashes are the best I’ve seen on the market for applications where real strength is needed. With multiple color options (including reflective), two diameters and two lengths, there’s a good fit for every dog – just don’t go for the 10′ with a small dog if you’re not willing to manage all the slack!

It’s been a quiet, close-to-home summer so the Wilderdog hasn’t been in too much use ¬†but before our next climbing/hoisting adventure, we’re planning to downsize our leash to a 5′ reflective and substitute in a real carabiner, since the overall bulk of the 10′ has been a barrier to use.

Best for: hiking, technical hikes, scrambling, strong/large dogs, active dogs

Not ideal for: Small dogs, casual use (choose a shorter length or lighter rope)

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