Monday, May 9, 2016

Product Review: Ruffwear Doubleback Harness

Ruffwear's Doubleback Harness is literally the dog-lifting harness to end all harnesses. Often purchased as a mobility aid, this thing is actually built for hoisting your dog up cliffs. "Strong, safe, and secure" are understatements. Modeled after serious human climbing harnesses, it features doubleback fasteners, secure attachment points, and is strength rated to 2,000 lbs of force. The Doubleback Harness is available in four sizes to fit dogs with chests 17-42" around.
Strength-rated climbing safety harness for dogs
Photo by Erin Koski

secure rappelling dog harness
Photo by Erin Koski
Let me start by saying that this harness is way to big for Brisbane. It's a L/XL, for dogs with chests 32-42" around, on my 26" dog. It's actually covering his bits so he would definitely pee all over it. Ruffwear's fitting video specifically states that the bottom pad on the harness should not go further back than the ribcage. Brisbane would wear a size small Doubleback harness, we happen to have this one because I snagged it on ebay for $45, listed as a Front Range.

The specialized Doubleback differs from other harnesses in a number of different ways. First, there's no leash ring at all. I'm assuming this is to prevent climbing accidents. The small tie-in loops at the front and back of the harness work decently with a regular leash, and Ruffwear's Knot-a-Leash has a big carabiner that works beautifully with the main handle. I think the lack of leash ring really drives home the point that this is a purpose-built piece of gear and not just a redesigned walking harness.

The doubleback fasteners are another climbing safety feature that a lot of people complain about when they purchase this for other uses. Plastic buckles have no place on a strength-rated harness, and the last thing you want halfway up a rock face is anything quick-release. Instead, the straps must be carefully laced through the buckles in a specific pattern for maximum security.
belaying absailing harness for dogs
Photo by Erin Koski

The rear leg loops are the most obvious unique feature on this harness. These attach with the same doubleback fasteners, and can be stowed in a little pouch at the rear of the back plate when not in use. There is a handle that sits on top of the hips and allows for two-handed lifts that support the entire spine.

Ruffwear released a new 2016 updated version of the Doubleback harness earlier this year. Ours is the older style. The main difference is that the top and bottom pads on the newer harness enclose most of the straps that are sewn on top on the older style. The updated version also got rid of the red stabilizer pads on the rear leg loops, making the whole rear assembly significantly less bulky.

Pros: Strongest and most secure dog harness on the market. Actually escape-proof. The only purpose-built climbing harness for dogs. Allows for a comfortable lift that supports the entire spine.

Cons: Basically everything that counts as a con has either been fixed in the 2016 version or is related to off-label use of the Doubleback harness. The super-secure buckles mean the harness takes longer to put on than one with quick-release buckles. The back leg loop assembly on my harness is a bit bulky, but has been slimmed down in the new version along with the entire design.

Bottom Line: Even in a way-too-big Doubleback, Brisbane is totally cool with being lifted. I think the Help 'Em Up makes a better mobility harness, but this is definitely the safest piece of gear for adventuring.

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