Note: You will void your warranty by modifying the pack. This method may not work on new Approach models, since the bags are sewn into the harness material rather than being sewn on top. Tear apart your gear at your own risk!
The purpose of this mod was to keep the harness looking “stock” as much as possible, so that it could be used alone, while still securely attaching the saddlebags when needed. This method may be more suitable for smaller dogs and smaller loads, although I’ve provided a few suggestions for larger dog modifications below. To see my Approach Mod 1.0, click here.
1. Detach the bags from the harness. For details, see my Step 1 instructions in Approach Mod 1.0. (I purchased a separate, different-sized Webmaster harness for this mod version, since Robin’s an XS harness but the XS bags are way too big for him.)
2. Cut out a bridge to support the two packs. Without the zippers of my previous mod, I knew the packs needed support along their entire length. Plasticized mesh like the type used in collapsible crates was a good, low-stretch, lightweight option. I determined how far apart I wanted the packs to be, traced a template that left a hole for the handle and leash clip, and cut it out. I trimmed mine in durable nylon bias tape for a clean look.
3. Add metal hook and eyes to anchor the fronts of the packs. This is the most important part of the suspension, after the bridge, because most force against the packs will come from the front (like brushing against a tree trunk). I used sturdy coat hook and eyes, and sewed the loop side to the harness (because it’s flat and low profile) and the eyes to the webbing tabs on the fronts of the packs.
4. Add a rear keeper to loop around the handle. This stabilizes the packs to reduce shifting. Ruffwear harnesses are still fairly prone to shifting, but it keeps the packs from moving independently of the harness. I used a section of rubber promotional wristband (you know you still have one of these in a drawer somewhere), rounded off, inside a nylon sleeve. It worked great because it’s slightly stretchy and springy but still has plenty of structure. It feeds under the handle and snaps on the other side to anchor the back end of the bridge.
5. Add another “flopper stopper” to the underside of the pack. See how I did that in Step 5 of Approach Mod 1.0. You can skip this step, but you’ll have to unclip the belly strap and thread it through the pack each time you put it on.
Overall thoughts: This method worked GREAT for us. The only modification to the Webmaster was the two small metal eyes on the shoulders, which were hidden under Robin’s fur most of the time (and even when visible, were barely noticeable). The suspension held the packs in place with no issues, and was relatively quick and easy to attach and detach.
Ruffwear’s “flopper stoppers”, the annoying little clips on the undersides of the bags that anchor the bags to the girth straps, are doubly annoying when there are two, especially if they get muddy and sandy. If I were redesigning this, I’d consider using a bra-type hook or even an elastic band running under the belly from bag to bag, if I were also using the core cooler or brush guard to protect the belly from chafing. This would be a good idea if using this mod for a big dog- a belly strap would provide extra security to keep the packs in place. I’d also consider another set of hooks and eyes in the back to help anchor the rear of the suspension.