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Owner Review - Palisades Pack II, revised and updated

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  • jdsclr
    Editors - this review has had the date reformatted and an update paragraph added after the summary, but is otherwise unchanged. Drew Owner Review: Ruff Wear
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 1, 2006
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      Editors - this review has had the date reformatted and an update
      paragraph added after the summary, but is otherwise unchanged.

      Drew

      Owner Review: Ruff Wear Palisades Pack II
      Name: Drew Smith
      Age: 49
      Gender: M
      Height: 5' 10"/178 cm
      Weight: 170 lb/ 77 kg
      Email address: regansmith at earthlink dot net
      City, State, Country: Boulder, CO USA
      Date: July 15, 2006

      Backpacking Background
      I started backpacking in 1968 as a Boy Scout, using Army Surplus gear
      and carrying a hatchet to chop wood for cookfires. Most of my packing
      has taken place in the Sierras and the Colorado Rockies, with forays
      to other mountain ranges around the West, hiking solo about half the
      time. I like to fly fish, eat well, and be dry and comfortable, so
      I've typically carried packs of 40-50 lbs (18-23 kg), but I have begun
      trimming back the weight as my legs get older and less resilient. I'm
      a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to gear – I still prefer a
      frame pack, and wouldn't be caught dead with a GPS.

      Product information
      Manufacturer: Ruff Wear
      Model: Palisades Pack II
      Size: Large (small and medium available)
      MSRP: $94.95
      Year: 2006
      URL: http://www.ruffwear.com/
      Listed weight: not given
      Weight as delivered: 2 lb 9 oz (1.2 kg)

      Product description
      This pack comes in four parts: the harness, the saddlebags, and two
      2-gallon (8 L) mylar water bladders. The harness is a 5-point system
      going around the head, through the front legs, around the chest and
      around the belly. It is adjusted by sliding loops on all straps,
      which are closed by quick-release buckles. The straps have fleece
      sleeves for padding. The top of the harness is mesh, with several
      opening to increase ventilation. It has a handle for assisting the
      dog, and a leash loop. The saddlebags are elliptically-shaped, with
      side pouches that will hold a leash or other small items, and which
      cover the compression straps. There is also a top pouch on each bag
      for very small items such as treats. The inner walls of the bag hold
      the water bladder against the dog's body in a compartment separate
      from the main pouch. Although the bladders are capable of holding 2
      gallons (8 L) each, the recommended maximum is 1 gallon (4 L). The
      saddlebags are made of heavy-duty ballistic nylon, and have a total
      capacity of 1430 cubic inches (23.4 L). They are attached by two
      quick-release buckles on the shoulders, and one on the back, which
      also has a hook-and-loop tab for initial attachment. The water
      bladders are accessed by zippered openings at the backs of the bags,
      and have "wine-box" type flexible spigots.

      Field information
      This pack was tested on two day hikes in the foothills near
      Boulder, and on a 4 day hike on the Colorado Trail between Bailey and
      Kenosha Pass. These hikes are in mountainous, mostly dry terrain,
      with elevations between 5500 – 10900 feet (1600 – 3300 m), all on
      developed and well-maintained trails. There were no rock scrambles or
      significant stream crossings, and the trails were dry. Mid-day
      temperatures were warm, 80-90 F (26-32 C).

      My dog Baloo is a working breed – a Newfoundland – and I see no reason
      he should not work while I'm hiking. After all, he lounges around the
      house all day while I work. I wanted a dog pack that would allow me
      to load him up, and would perform for him as a backpack would for me,
      allowing heavy loads to be carried comfortably and securely on
      multi-day trips. Another concern was water – Newfoundlands have long,
      thick coats that are great for repelling blizzards, but which put them
      at risk for overheating. He would need a lot of water to drink on the
      trail, and it has been a drought year again in Colorado, so I couldn't
      count on frequent streams for a cool-down. With its large capacity
      and integral water storage, the Ruff Wear Palisades Pack II seemed to
      be a good fit for our needs.
      The pack consists of saddlebags secured by quick-release buckles to a
      spiderweb harness. Fitting the harness is the first order of
      business, and the most important. The idea is to get the weight
      centered over the dog's shoulders, without interfering with his gait.
      The Ruff Wear harness is a bit confusing to fit initially, with
      numerous straps and slide buckles. All of these need to be tweaked
      and adjusted numerous times to get the right fit. It's a bit of a
      pain, and not worth it to just carry the dog's leash and some treats
      for a day hike. However, since I use my dog as pack stock, all the
      adjustments allow a perfect, secure, balanced, comfortable fit, making
      the extra fuss worthwhile. Once adjusted, of course, I was done, and
      only needed to get the harness on and off. It took a couple of days
      on the trail until I was satisfied I had the best fit possible.
      Putting the harness on requires a bit of work – put one front leg
      through, then the head (Newfs have huge heads, other dogs should be
      easier), then buckle under the chest, then under the belly. This
      isn't something I'd want to do at every rest stop – but there's no
      need, as the harness is light, breathable and comfortable. I left the
      harness on Baloo until the day's hiking was done, and he never showed
      any discomfort or even awareness that it was on.
      Once the harness is on, mounting the saddlebags is easy, assuming the
      dog is well-trained enough to hold for 10 seconds. A hook-and-loop
      patch at the back keeps the bags from slipping while they are being
      secured with one quick-release buckle at each shoulder, and one at the
      back. The buckling system is not as easy as using hook-and-loop
      fasteners, but the pack cannot come loose when the dog snags it on a
      branch. The bottoms of the bags are not secured to the harness,
      allowing them to swing somewhat free of the dog's body. At first this
      was a concern for me – Newfs have a peculiar rolling bear-like gait,
      and I thought the unattached bottoms would increase the pack's
      swaying. Instead, the opposite was true – the bag hangs straight as
      the dog's body sways away from it.
      Balancing the load is always the big problem with dog packs, and Ruff
      Wear has come up with a truly ingenious solution. The integral water
      bladders can be used as ballast to trim the loads and get a perfectly
      balanced pack. The water spigots are accessed by a zipper in the pack
      rear, allowing water to be drained from the heavy side while the pack
      is on. Thus the drill is to saddle up, walk a while, and if the pack
      starts to tip one way, it can be rebalanced in a few seconds without
      any repacking. Very nice.
      The bladders are also a godsend when walking in dry country, as we
      were. The total capacity of each bladder is about 8 L, but this would
      fill them up like spheres, leaving no room to pack anything else. The
      recommended max is 4 L each, and this sounds about right. Faced with
      a dry camp and a 6 mile (10 km) waterless stretch the next morning, I
      put about 3 L of water into each of the bladders at our last water
      stop. The pack was able to easily accommodate this, along with about
      15 lbs (7 kg) of gear and dog food. Baloo was not altogether happy
      about this, but he was very happy to be able to drink deeply the next
      day during a 1000 ft (300 m) ascent in full sun.
      A key consideration is the dog's comfort and well-being. I inspected
      Baloo's chest, belly and shoulders every day for signs of pinching or
      chafing but happily found none. The only problem I had was that his
      chest fur tended to get knotted up in the front buckles, but I
      attribute this to the fact that it is very long fine fur, and not to
      any defect in design.
      I have some doubts about the robustness of the bladders. They are
      essentially two Mylar squares that have apparently been heat-sealed
      together to make a seam. They didn't leak, but I worry that in a
      couple of years they might. Also, the fact that they are opaque foil
      rather than clear plastic makes cleaning problematic. It won't be
      possible to tell if there is any mold growing inside.
      I can't offer any opinion as to performance in wet weather, as we have
      not had much in Colorado this year. Newfoundlands love to swim, and
      so I never put any water-sensitive gear in the dog pack. Given its
      nylon construction, I would expect the pack to be water-resistant, but
      by no means water-proof.

      Summary
      After a 4 day, 30 mile (48 km) trip in hot, dry weather, I was very
      pleased with this pack, as I expected to be, given its price. The
      pack is well-made, and I expect it to last for many years and for many
      trips. The design is truly outstanding, and is obviously the product
      of much thought and experience, and many revisions. The only
      improvements I can think of are to make the zippers two-way, and to
      use clear plastic for the bladders. This is a serious pack for serious
      dog-packing, one that will allow a hardy canine to carry his or her
      share and then some.

      Update September 1, 2006
      I have been on several more day hikes and another 4 day segment of the
      Colorado Trail since the original review was written, and have two
      additional observations. One, after over a hundred trail miles, the
      pack shows no signs of wear, despite numerous scrapings against trees
      and rocks. The zippers and water bladders also are in excellent
      condition. Two, the pack has been through several rainstorms, and a
      couple of swims. The contents stayed dry through the rain – although
      none of these storms lasted more than 40 minutes – but got soaked when
      Baloo sneaked off for a swim.

      Pictures

      Harness side view – his fur obscures the neck straps. These come
      around to form a Y, the stem then goes between his legs to connect to
      the chest strap.


      Harness top view – note assist handle, leash loop and rear buckle.
      The front buckles are on each shoulder, but are obscured by fur.

      Pack front view


      Pack rear view – note water spigot

      The pack rides high, a good feature for water crossings

      Baloo's mobility seemed unimpaired by the pack

      The Mylar water bladder

      Let's hit the trail!
    • rayestrella1
      ... Hi Drew, You are good to go. You may as well put the correct (todays) date on it when you upload, but I will leave it up to you. Ray
      Message 2 of 2 , Sep 5, 2006
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        --- In BackpackGearTest@yahoogroups.com, "jdsclr" <regansmith@...>
        wrote:
        >
        > Editors - this review has had the date reformatted and an update
        > paragraph added after the summary, but is otherwise unchanged.

        Hi Drew,

        You are good to go. You may as well put the correct (todays) date on it
        when you upload, but I will leave it up to you.

        Ray
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