Ruffwear Approach Pack

Do you enjoy taking your favorite four legged friend on hikes? Perhaps Fido is a little more free-spirited while on neighborhood walks. Dogs enjoy putting in a day’s work just like everyone else, and a great way to provide them with that feeling is to strap on the Ruffwear Approach Pack. Dog behavior experts like Cesar Milan have long advocated the use of doggie saddlebags to give canines that sense of purpose and focus that comes with it.

My first impression of the Ruffwear Approach Pack is that of quality. It feels like it’s made every bit as well as my Osprey and is a serious piece of gear. This is definitely not a gimmick or novelty item, it’s made for serious adventuring. I appreciated the multiple compartments that make organizing a breeze and the reflective trim for night excursions. You also have the option of clipping a leash directly onto the pack if you choose; negating the necessity of a collar. Another nice feature is the assistance handle, which comes in handy if you need to help your buddy get up over obstacles on the trail. The pack is fairly light (1.15 lbs for medium) for it’s capacity (12L for medium), though actual weight will vary depending the size of your pet.

Ruffwear Approach Pack

To try out the Approach Pack, I enlisted my 60 lbs Pitbull, Amida, a seasoned vet when it comes to walks and trails. Putting on the Ruffwear Approach Pack is fairly straightforward, and, once you have the straps adjusted, getting your pup into the pack is as easy and familiar as clipping in a regular harness. Prior to a serious hike, I decided to try a practice run around the neighborhood, so I packed a light load and put the pack on Ami. At first, she didn’t really know what to make of the pack, walking in a slow deliberate manner, stopping a few times to check and see if the blue pack was still following her. By the time we got around the block, she paid it no attention and threw herself into work mode. There definitely was a marked improvement in focus. Even squirrels weren’t as much of an interest!

For our second outing with the pack, I chose a local dog friendly trail, and I loaded the pack with a couple of water bottles, a collapsable bowl, doggy bags, some treats and a toy, and we still had room for more. One thing to keep in mind when packing is to maintain an even distribution of weight between the two sides of the pack, otherwise the pack can start to tilt. You should also pay attention to the total weight of the pack, as Ruffwear recommends that your dog shouldn’t carry more than 25% of their bodyweight.

When we reached the trailhead, I noticed that there was heavier traffic than normal due to a coinciding holiday – normally this would make me a little apprehensive because Amida is very friendly, and there are still a lot of people who pass judgement on her breed, which can make for some uncomfortable situations. However, with the pack on, people kept commenting on how ‘cute’ she looked and how we both had backpacks, etc. The Approach seemed to let everyone know that she was just there to enjoy her hike like everyone else. The pack handled the weight well and moved with her on the hike, never becoming any kind of hinderance.

Ruffwear Approach Pack

I also received the ‘Hi & Dry’ rain cover, and, while there was no rain, I put it on the pack and gave it a drenching with the garden hose. It did the job and kept the contents dry, despite my giving it the equivalent of a torrential downpour. The cover can also be used to increase the visibility of the pack thanks to its bright yellow color.

Bottom Line:

Throughout the testing period, I put the pack though its paces, both on the trail and in an urban setting. It has held up fantastically and has swiftly become Amida’s favorite possession, evidenced by her excitement at the mere touching of the Approach Pack. I recommend it completely and believe it’s well worth every penny of it’s $79.95 retail price. It comes in Blue or Orange and five sizes to fit just about any breed. So, go get your pup a pack and hit those trails!

Tech Specs:

MSRP: $79.95

Colors: Blue and Orange

Sizes: XXS-L/XL

Capacity: 2L-16L (Depending on size)

Ruffwear Approach Pack











  • Quality construction - very durable
  • Reflective trim helps with visibility in the streets
  • Can replace the need for a separate collar or harness
  • Can improve canine focus
  • Frees up space in owner's backpack


  • May take your dog a few practice walks to get used to wearing

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