Owner Review - Palisades Pack II, revised and updated
- Editors - this review has had the date reformatted and an update
paragraph added after the summary, but is otherwise unchanged.
Owner Review: Ruff Wear Palisades Pack II
Name: Drew Smith
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
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.
Manufacturer: Ruff Wear
Model: Palisades Pack II
Size: Large (small and medium available)
Listed weight: not given
Weight as delivered: 2 lb 9 oz (1.2 kg)
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.
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.
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.
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!
- --- In BackpackGearTest@yahoogroups.com, "jdsclr" <regansmith@...>
> Editors - this review has had the date reformatted and an update
> paragraph added after the summary, but is otherwise unchanged.
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.