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Devin Scannell

Hiking and Backpacking

Backpacking with your Dog: Pack List

by on June 21, 2017
Backpacking Pack List

Try to name a better backpacking companion than your dog. Go ahead, I’ll wait. I mean your dog won’t complain if you smell. They won’t constantly talk about how they’re craving a pizza. They don’t mind getting dirty and five-second rule? Make it 10!

But seriously, dogs make great trail partners. They love the sights, smells, and exercise. They’re pretty low maintenance but if you’ve never done an overnight trip with your dog, you might find it a little intimidating. Below you’ll find a pack list and tips to make it easier.

Even if you’re a seasoned pro, be sure to read through the considerations at the bottom for thoughts and tips on getting on the trail for overnight trips.

Dog Backpacking Pack List

Optional Gear

  • Pack Cover
  • Collar Light – For nighttime visibility
  • Toy – We love a fetch toy as most of our backcountry adventures are around lakes and rivers
  • Long Line for Camp – We use a custom length paracord with a carabiner at each end for parks that require dogs be on a leash at all times.
  • Jacket – The temperature for when you would use a dog coat depends on your dog and the weather. For example, short-haired breeds may become cold at warmer temperatures than long haired dogs with undercoats. We always pack one – lighter jackets in summer and heavier in spring and fall.
  • Raincoat – This will be dependent on expected weather, temperatures, and your dog’s tolerance of wet and cold. We always pack one.

Considerations and Tips

  • Pack weight – At most your dog should carry about 10-15% of their weight. Don’t forget to include the weight of the empty pack. If your dog is older or in less than ideal shape, go with a lighter pack. Never weight a dog who isn’t fully grown. Consult your vet if you are in doubt.
  • Extra Food – Your dog will need more energy on the trail. Consider carrying larger portions for each meal.
  • Boots – Boots don’t necessarily need to be worn the whole time. Outside of rough terrain like volcanic rock, many dogs are fine without the extra protection. We always bring boots though if feet do become irritated or injured. I’ve seen something like a small stick cause my dog a limp when stuck in the pad and we needed to use a boot on that foot for the trip.
  • Sleeping Outside – While there definitely dogs that prefer to sleep outside in the dirt, most don’t. Most will want to be close to their humans, in the tent, out of the bugs. And, let’s face it, the last thing you want is your dog running off after a rabid raccoon in the middle of the night. Our dogs always crash in the tent with us.
  • First night in a tent? – If your dog has never slept in a tent (or a hammock or rode in a canoe), don’t make your backcountry trip a testing ground. Even if it is in the backyard, do a test run to be sure they are comfortable in the tent.
  • Bears – Backpacking with dogs in bear country has been a point of concern for many. However, if you are educated in bear safety (making noise on the trail, safely storing all foods and toiletries, bringing none of those items in your tent, etc.) and you apply those same principles to your dog and their food, your dog won’t present any increased risk in bear country.

For more tips and thoughts, read our post  A Crash Course in Backpacking with Dogs

Product Reviews

Review of Ruffwear Evaporative Cooling Gear

by on June 14, 2017
Ruffwear Cooling Gear

For many of us, Summer is an exciting season that opens up all sorts of new adventuring opportunities.  However, many dogs don’t share our excitement for warmer weather.  Bella slows her pace down significantly in the heat, and she oftentimes requires several hours of napping following a warm excursion that has zapped her energy.  While we still avoid taking her out with us during the hottest parts of the day, sometimes even mornings and evenings in the summer seem to be too much for her to handle in the intense Colorado sun.  

If your dog also wilts in the heat, you might consider a cooling product to keep him or her on top of her game, even when the mercury rises. In the past, we’ve used Ruffwear’s Swamp Cooler for adventures in the heat.  However, we’ve found it can be too bulky when using a harness or backpack.  We oftentimes found ourselves faced with one major issue:  do we have Bella wear a pack so she can bring her own water and carry her poop bags?  Or use the cooling vest to keep her temperature in control (forcing us to carry water for her).

We were pleased to see that Ruffwear recently came out with a couple of new cooling products to help remedy our hot weather conundrum:  enter the Core Cooler, Jet Stream vest, and updated Swamp Cooler.

How does Ruffwear Evaporative Cooling Gear work?

Ruffwear Jet StreamDogs can’t sweat like we do, and rely on panting and a few sweat glands in their paw pads to cool off.  All of these products by Ruffwear use evaporative cooling to help your dog regulate his or her temperature.  Picture those time’s you’ve soaked a buff or bandana to keep cool on a hike …it’s the same concept. As the water evaporates off of the cooling product, it helps your dog stay cool in the heat.Ruffwear Evaporative Cooling Gear

In the following sections, we will share our experiences with each cooling product by Ruffwear. To get started, you might want to check out this comparison chart by Ruffwear to see the differences in price and function yourself.

The Core Cooler

Ruffwear Core Cooler

If you are familiar with Ruffwear’s Brush Guard, this is the same exact design, yet made out of a cooling material. The Core Cooler attaches to Ruffwear backpacks and Web Master harnesses using hook and loop closures. We’ve found that this product works great with the Single Track Pack for day adventures such as mountain biking, trail running, or hiking. This is also is great for backpacking in warm areas, such as in desert/canyon areas.  We first used this on a warm, 12-mile trail run with the Single Track Pack in the foothills, and it definitely helped keep Bella cool in the Colorado sun. We loved that she could still carry her own water and poop bags.  As an added bonus, the Core Cooler helps to support your dog if he or she needs to be lifted by a harness or pack and also helps to properly distribute a weight load from a pack.

 The only challenge we’ve found with this product is that it is difficult to “recharge” since you have to figure out a way to splash water on your dog’s underbelly if your dog doesn’t have access to a stream to wade into. Also, double check that the Core Cooler doesn’t interfere with the fit your dog’s backpack or harness straps.  We don’t have any issues with this but have heard of people who haven’t been able to make the fit work.

Overall, if your dog typically wears a Web Master Harness or Ruffwear backpack in warm weather, then this would be a good option for you.  If you don’t currently use the Web Master harness or Ruffwear brand packs with your dog, then check the next two options below!  

View the Ruffwear Core Cooler at Backcountry K-9

The Jet Stream

Ruffwear Jet StreamWe love the Jet Stream because it works well for fast-paced adventures such as trail running and mountain biking.  It’s less bulky than the Swamp Cooler and has a much more athletic fit to allow your dog to be more agile. We’ve always commented the Swamp Cooler was a little awkward on trail runs, and it occasionally got hung up brush.  On one run, Bella actually pulled her Swamp Cooler off over her head when running in the woods. The Jet Stream is much more form-fitting and sleek.  Also, this product is sleek enough to fit under harnesses and backpacks, even those that aren’t made by the Ruffwear brand. We’ve used it under harnesses when running in our neighborhood with no problems.

The top of this vest is a spandex material, which dries out quicker than the three-layer cooling material below, but we found that the top of the Swamp Cooler dried out quickly during fast activities anyway, so in our opinion, this reduces unnecessary bulk and fabric that wasn’t always functional when moving quickly.

The Jet Stream is a little tricky to zip up on your dog if your hands and/or the zipper is wet, but really it wasn’t that big of a deal to us.  If you are primarily looking to get a cooling product for slower paced activities such as walks, attending events with your dog, etc., then we suggest checking out the last option below.  While we love the Jet Stream, it’s not as full coverage as the Swamp Cooler, and Bella’s lower back and hindquarters still heat up in the sun.

View the Ruffwear Jet Stream at Backcountry K-9

The Swamp Cooler

Ruffwear Swamp CoolerRuffwear has recently updated the Swamp Cooler to have a port for a leash on the back when used over a harness. We have the old model without this feature and think that this port would make a huge difference in improving the versatility of this product.  

There is no doubt that the Swamp Cooler is the most effective in cooling your dog, as it has the most coverage and the most cooling fabric. However, this also makes it the most expensive option. It’s a little bulky for fast-paced activities and doesn’t fit well under backpacks.  

We think the Swamp Cooler is great for the most extreme heat if you have a dog that is extremely sensitive to heat and the sun (such as an all black dog that needs more coverage), or for slower paced activities such as walking going on shorter hikes.

View the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler at Backcountry K-9


Ruffwear Jet StreamRuffwear’s new cooling products have made it possible to find the perfect cooling aid your dog, no matter which activities you and your dog prefer to take on.  The only adventures we sometimes hesitate to take these products on are those with the possibility for lots of abrasions, such as horseback riding or bushwhacking on some fly fishing excursions. That being said, Bella’s Ruffwear cooling gear has held up well after many miles (and in the case of her Swamp Cooler, years) of use.  

It’s worth noting that if you are going for a long trek in a dry area without a water source, you will probably need to “recharge” your dog’s cooling product at some point with a spray of water from a water bottle, so plan on packing a little extra.  Usually, this isn’t an issue for us in Colorado until the early fall, when streams and other water sources tend to dry up.

While the light coloration of the cooling fabric does attract dirt and stains, it rinses out easily with the spray of a garden hose. If the cooling fabric becomes extremely dirty or smelly, we toss it in the washing machine and then air dry it…it comes out like new.

If your dog struggles in the heat, then we highly suggest you give these products a shot!  It has definitely made a big difference to Bella’s stoke level for summer adventures.

Update – June 16, 2017

We had a couple good questions around a dog’s core temperature with and without the cooling products. Although it would be really cool (no pun intended), we don’t own any type of thermal imaging technology. Our review was based more on observation (energy levels and touch).

However, an image from Ruffwear below shows some temperature differences for a single dog in one set of conditions. The “one set of conditions” is important to note here. The effect of the evaporative cooling gear will differ based on all the things you’d expect – the dog, temperature, humidity levels, wind, elevation, and cloud cover.

For example –

  • humidity – the evaporative cooling gear is going to excel in low humidity. Just like your own sweat in low humidity, it will evaporate faster drawing heat away from the body faster. This is not to say this gear won’t work in high humidity though.
  • cloud cover – certain gear, namely the Swamp Cooler, has more coverage to act like a parasol. It’s going to shade and reflect some of the sunlight. This would vary with cloud cover and elevation.

We love those cooling products and they work for us. We encourage you to try them but, of course, be mindful. Watch your dog. If it’s hot, watch for signs of overheating and dehydration (hyperventilation, excessive panting, dry gums), just like you would with your human hiking partners.

Ruffwear Evaporative Cooling Gear


View Cooling Gear at Backcountry K-9

Product Reviews

Ruffwear Front Range Leash Review

by on June 2, 2017
Ruffwear Front Range Leash

Having owned a shop dedicated to selling dog gear for over a decade, my dogs have been spoiled, to say the least. They’ve patiently tried dozens of collars, leashes, backpacks, coats – the list goes on. In the end, we have a core set of gear that works well for us, for the activities we do most often. The Ruffwear Front Range Leash recently made the cut!

The Front Range Dog Leash

I’d describe the Ruffwear Front Range Leash as an ultralight leash. At ¾” wide and 5ft long, it weighs about 3 oz! The length is good for walks and the padded handle is comfortable where other light/narrow leashes may cut into your hand if your dog is a puller.

Ruffwear Front Range Leash Crux ClipThe new Crux Clip is strong, crazy light and you can operate it easily with one hand; not to mention it just looks really cool (click the image for a larger view).

The Front Range Leash has an accessory loop for a poop bag holder and a traffic handle for quick restraint. And, if your dog is into fashion, the leash comes in six colors to perfectly match the newest Ruffwear Front Range Harness.

The price point for the leash is $19.99. It’s pretty much what I would expect for a piece of quality gear backed by Ruffwear.

Best Uses of the Front Range Leash

Ruffwear Front Range LeashFor me, the Front Range Leash has earned the coveted spot in the truck door map pocket. It may sound insignificant but from April through October we spend a lot of time moving the dogs in and out of the truck where leash laws are strict. The leash is so light and takes up little space, it’s the perfect fit. I’ve also taken to using it for regular weekend morning walks around the campground. It barely feels like anything in your hand but remains comfortable when my big dogs excitedly tug.

Ruffwear Front Range LeashYou might find the leash a good fit for stops at the dog park or as a backup leash when off-leash hiking or running. Again, it’s so light and small, it takes up hardly any room in a pocket or pack.

Despite its compact size, the Front Range dog leash is strong; I have no reservations using the leash with small or big dogs.


I wouldn’t consider this the best fit for on-leash hiking or running – in most cases, you’ll be better served with a longer leash that can clip around the waist.

Check out the Ruffwear Front Range Leash

Product Reviews

Ruffwear Quick Draw Leash Review

by on May 15, 2017
Ruffwear Quick Draw Leash

We’re highlighting relatively inexpensive and simple products this season that we think will make your experience as you get out on the trails with your dog this spring just that much more enjoyable. We decided to change it up this month and bring you a dual review with perspectives by both Jason (Backcountry K-9 founder) and Devin (content and social media) on the Ruffwear Quick Draw Leash.

The Quick Draw leash is a short leash that you clip to your dog’s collar, then wrap and securely around your dog’s neck with a hook-and-loop closure.  The leash is stored during activity in this fashion but is easily converted back to an already-attached-to-your-dog leash simply by pulling on the red tab at your dog’s neck. 

Why did you initially decide to try out the Quick Draw Leash?

Ruffwear Quick Draw LeashJason: We spend our summers at our camper in a private campground exploring the adjacent Kettle Moraine state forest and nearby state parks. All allow dogs – our favorite state park has a dedicated dog beach on Lake Michigan – but all also have strict leash laws. When we’re in and out of the truck and on our way to the beach, the Quick Draw was an obvious choice to make sure I always had leashed control of two big excited labs.

Devin: In the past, I’ve used a small, elasticized leash that I wrap around my waist when I run with Bella in off-leash areas. Where we live in Boulder, CO, there is a great off-leash program that allows us to let Bella run free on some of our favorite trails.  However, the program still requires that owners have leashes at all times in case of unexpected issues (wildlife, trail closures, livestock, trailhead parking lots, road crossings, etc…). The small leash worked great for a while until Bella stretched it so much by pulling that the length didn’t work to fit around my waist correctly anymore.  I decided to give the Quick Draw leash a try because I liked the fact that Bella could easily carry it for me, and that I could skip the step of always having to fumble with a clip while trying to regain control of Bella on a run.

What do you think about the design of the Quick Draw Leash?

Jason: I love it; it’s painless to use. The new style Crux clip is easy to clip and is very light. It adjusts to fit a wide range of neck sizes and with the Velcro closure, it lays pretty nice over my dogs’ collars. Both the clip and the Velcro closure are one-hand operable – key for me when I’m trying to get control over two kids and two excited dogs.

Devin: It’s really easy to use, and I especially like how the end you pull when you want to turn it into a leash is red and has an easy-to-grab pull tab.  Sometimes, the part that clips to the collar is a little awkward if it isn’t laying flat when you attach the hook-and-loop part, but once the leash is properly adjusted for your dog’s neck, it helps it to sit right.  So far the velcro has held up well, and there’s a traffic handle-type loop that helps hold the leash securely when needed.

Where/How do you use the Quick Draw Leash the most?

Ruffwear Quick Draw LeashJason: By far we use the Ruffwear Quick Draw leash most when transferring in and out of the truck. Sometimes it’s just to hop out and clip on another leash – like the Ruffwear Roamer if we’re at the beach – but it allows for easy, quick control for two dogs who are hyper focused on whatever fun thing is about to happen.

Devin:  So far we’ve used the Quick Draw Leash on every single off-leash trail run and hike we’ve been on since we purchased it. This would also be a great purchase for use at a dog park or when camping:  basically, anywhere you’d appreciate a leash instantaneously appeAaring on your dog when he or she is loose. It’s so small and lightweight, it’s even small enough that it fits in my purse just as easily as my trail running pack.

Anything else you want to add about the Quick Draw Leash?

Jason: The Quick Draw is meant for convenient, quick control. It’s definitely not meant to take a long walk. By design, it’s short and there is no real handle for you. Also, it may not work great for small dogs, especially if you are tall.

Devin:  It’s important to understand that this leash isn’t designed for long walks or extended use on an epic adventure.  Its short length would be pretty restrictive after more than 15 minutes or so of use.  Also, when using the leash around traffic, I’ve found it’s very important to hold the leash at the gray loop, rather than just gripping the red tab.  Your dog can jerk the leash out of your hand since there is no designated handle in order to save on bulk and weight.

Who would you recommend the Quick Draw Leash to?

Ruffwear Quick Draw LeashJason: The Quick Draw is pretty versatile and fits a wide range of scenarios – quick control at the dog park, control in and out of the car where there are leash laws or dangers like traffic, and quick control when you’re off-leash hiking or running.

Devin: I would recommend the Ruffwear Quick Draw to anyone who does any activity with their dog.  It’s simple, small, and at a retail price of $19.95, it’s as affordable as a collar. This product would be a great buy for someone with multiple dogs (even two collars are affordable), and would also make a great gift for virtually any active dog owner!  This product has become one of the most-used items in Bella’s gear closet.

Check out the Ruffwear Quick Draw Leash

Product Reviews

A Review of the Turdlebag Dog Poop Bag Carrier

by on March 20, 2017
Turdlebag Dog Poop Bag Carrier

It’s not secret that Bell is a gear hound.  From horseback riding to SUPing, trail running, snowboarding, backpacking, fly fishing and skijoring, Bella has activity-specific gear that tends to rotate through storage and an active coat-closet phase by the door, depending on the season.  Even her collars and leashes have become pretty specialized.  We can now say that Bella has one sole piece of gear with a permanent place by the front door that we take on every single adventure:  The Turdlebag Dog Poop Bag Carrier.  

Turdlebag Dog Poop Bag CarrierThe Turdlebag is a small, wax-lined canvas bag that holds a full poop bag, eliminating the gross-factor by a significant amount.  Instead of only a thin plastic bag, you now have a sturdy, tear-proof, not-so-stinky canvas bag to hold or attach to a leash or pack that allows you to continue your adventures without worry.  This discrete item essentially looks like a small stuff sack with a roll-top, with a few extra features specific to dog owners.  Whether preventing a backcountry poop bag gear explosion or keeping your hands free to shake with your neighbors as you walk the block, the poop bag will help eliminate odors and make the responsible side of dog ownership a much more pleasant experience.


Seemingly small and simple, you might not expect such an item to be so life-changing. Why do we love this item? Because Bella poops, no matter where we go. Ok, maybe this is an unsavory topic to discuss, but as a dog owner, you know that there is no getting around it. Dog waste contaminates beautiful areas. Even on low-populated trails and wilderness areas, we know that leaving Bella’s poo behind can have an impact on the health of the surrounding ecosystem, as well as the experience of others walking out on the trail. Who wants to be out hiking, only to walk by dozens of poop bags left on the trail? Packing out dog poop is the responsible thing to do (occasionally. on backpacking trips we bury dog waste according to human standards and regulations for the area).  Dog poop is also one of the main reasons that trails become closed to dogs, and nordic ski resorts that allow skijoring are especially sensitive to dog waste.

The Need (#PoopProblems)

Turdlebag Dog Poop Bag CarrierThere’s no question that we’ve handled hundreds of pounds of Bella’s excrement while adventuring. While most dog owners *mostly* get used to the reality of handling dog poop bags, stuffing a full bag into the side of your pack on a hot day is pretty nauseating. I’ve been on hot trail runs where I nearly lost my lunch on a summit due to a sudden waft from a steamy, stashed bag.  To help solve this problem, Bella has a Ruffwear Single Track Pack for trail running, in which she carries her own bags. However, it takes a delicate maneuver to tuck all corners into the sleek pack, and then you’d better cross your fingers and toes while you hope that the bag doesn’t catch in the zipper.  

Even after a successfully loaded poop bag stash, it’s oftentimes miles before we find a trash can, and frequently trailheads are not be equipped with trash removal services (yep, that poop is now riding along in the car with us back home). We’ve perfected the technique of carefully shutting the tied end of the bag in the trunk so that the loaded end is outside the car for the drive.  Now I say perfected, except that one time last weekend when I miscalculated how much room I had on the tied end, and the bag…well…exploded.  I’ve also had nightmares of falling on my pack while snowboarding or setting it down too roughly, causing a loaded bag stashed in an outside pocket of my own pack to burst or rip. So far, luckily, this particular nightmare has been unfounded.

Whether you’ve had these same experiences, or simply understand the daily struggle of carrying a fully loaded bag in your hands while out walking through the neighborhood, you definitely need the Turdlebag. Admit it…as a dog owner, handling your dog’s poop has become part of your lifestyle.

What Makes the Turdlebag Worth It

The Turdlebag is simple, yet has some really nicely thought-out features.  At one point last summer, I actually considered buying a very small dry sack to serve the same purpose of the Turdlebag.  However, I’m glad I held out for the following reasons:

  • Sturdy, canvas-like material “protects” the bag from ripping or getting excessively squashed, literally offering an extra layer to your peace of mind.
  • Handy snaps make hand-held leash attachment easy, and can also help you attach the bag to backpacks, running belts, etc…
  • A little strap on the bottom acts as a “shake out” handle, allowing for hands-free disposal of the bag inside.
  • Lined canvas and a roll-top design to helps to block smells and keep out rain/snow.  According to the company, the bag is currently 80% smell proof, and they are now working on a 100% scent-proof design.
  • A separate, small external pocket dispenses a small roll of bags.
  • Machine washable (air dry).
  • The company 100% stands by their products and has a simple return policy.
  • If you have two dogs or frequently dog sit, one bag can hold up to 4 full bags from two 35lb or so dogs.


  • We’ve so far only tested the bag in cooler winter temperatures, so it’s hard for us to accurately report how well the smell is controlled in heat.  However, we’ve ridden with a full Turdlebag in the car for several hours in the trunk, and didn’t notice any smell.  
  • The Turdlebag is suggested for dogs up to 90lbs. Bella is 60lbs. While we’ve only needed to stash one bag at a time, there’s plenty of room for one or even two more at her size.
  • The bag is a little bulky for ultralight backpacking or trail running.  In the future, an additional design option without the external front dispenser might help cut down on bulk for minimalists. However, we were able to fit a full bag in one side of Bella’s Single Track pack. Two loaded bags inside the Turdlebag probably wouldn’t work.
  • The Turdlebag retails for $20. It might be difficult wrapping your mind around a $20 bag for dog poop but trust us….It’s worth it. I’d definitely pay someone else $20 to clean the exploded poop bag off my car last weekend, or run with bags of Bella’s poo for 10 miles through the foothills of Boulder if I could.

Turdlebag Dog Poop Bag CarrierDetails aside, it’s amazing how much more pleasant it is dealing with poop bags with the Turdlebag.  Mentally, you really do forget that you are holding a bag of your dog’s excrement, and it seriously cuts down on the smell when compared to a waste bag alone.  If you are going to get one article of gear for your dog this spring, in our opinion it should be the Turdlebag. It doesn’t matter what activities you do with your dog… this product will make everything better.  Because let’s be honest….as a dog owner, there’s a lot more poop in your future!

Check out Turdlebag


Pet Insurance for Active Dogs

by on February 28, 2017
Pet Insurance

Pet insurance.  You’ve thought about it.  You tried justifying it.  But you can’t trust it…or can you?

Unfortunately, many of us have heard horror stories of pet insurance companies providing nothing but a headache.  From adventuring with Bella on trail runs, horseback rides, skijoring, and everything in between, we knew it could be worth at least researching the costs, benefits, and risks of pet insurance.

How often do you take your dog on hikes and into areas where injury risk is higher?  With a little planning and preparation, it should be no problem bringing your dog with you to most places you would normally go outside.  Just as with humans, something unexpected can certainly happen while you’re out adventuring with your canine companion.  Pet insurance should definitely be something you’d want to consider for your own dog, and we’re here to tell you what we’ve learned from our experience!

Pet InsuranceAfter suffering a mysterious lower-back injury in November 2016 during one of our trail runs, Bella was clearly in some pain. To this day, we still don’t know what happened.  She jumped out of the car with stiff front legs, a sure sign (per our Veterinarian neighbor) that a lower-back injury could be a reality.  In the end, what Bella had turned out to be a soft tissue injury to her iliopsoas muscle (the groin).  After an initial visit to the vet, some pain and inflammatory meds, and three visits to a specialist for laser-therapy sessions, we paid about $250 out of pocket.  The rest, about $305, was paid back to us through her insurance provider.  Having this insurance really eased our fears of having to empty pockets, and helped us ensure that Bella was getting the best treatment possible.  

Let’s face it:  if you love your dog as much as we do, you’ll pretty much do anything to get them back to normal – even if it means emptying your pockets.  With pet insurance, you hope that whatever the issue may be, most of your vet bills will be paid for, right?  Not always.  There’s a lot of things that we learned about pet insurance from Bella’s injury, so let’s walk through a few of them:

  1. Pre-existing Conditions:
    Most pet insurance providers will not cover treatments/therapies/bills for anything that they determine to be a pre-existing condition or an injury that existed before your policy began.  This means that when you purchase insurance for your dog, it’s meant to cover them if something traumatic happens during an adventure.
  2. Deductible:
    Just like human insurance, you can choose your deductible.  We chose a $200 deductible, which meant that before anything was paid for by the provider, we had to meet that dollar amount and pay out of pocket.  After that point, the provider will determine if the treatments moving forward are covered.  Make sure you do your research when considering what you want to pay for a deductible.  If our deductible had been higher ($500), most of the treatment wouldn’t have been paid for. Of course, the lower the deductible you choose, the higher your premium will be.   So be sure to weigh the pros and cons of deductible options.
  3. Coverage & Reimbursement:
    We have Bella covered for up to $10,000.  The next level down was $5,000, and we know how quickly medical bills can get out of hand.  You’ll also get to choose the reimbursement percentage.  For us, we felt that 90% would be a good choice if we wanted to see some money back in our pockets.  Our insurance provider made it clear that treatments by licensed veterinarians were covered up to 90% in our policy, and any treatments by a “specialist” (but not a licensed vet) would be covered 80%. So, we got more money back if we made sure that any alternative therapies such as cold laser therapy were performed by a veterinarian, not simply someone who labeled themselves as a homeopathic specialist.  We ended up taking Bella to a licensed vet that specialized in injury rehabilitation, and our claims were still covered 90%. When doing your research, we’d highly recommend that you look for a provider that covers “alternative therapies” – this can include laser, acupuncture, water, and massage therapy.

Our preferred pet insurance provider

We chose PetPlan for Bella’s insurance. Why?

  • A quick turnaround for payments. We had a check in our hands within 14 business days after our claims were received.
  • Fantastic customer service!  They are quick to respond and very knowledgeable.  
  • No additional charge for alternative therapy coverage (acupuncture, laser therapy).  Some other providers we researched required an additional monthly fee just to add alternative therapies to your plan.

After our initial research in 2016, we decided that they were the best choice for us.  Happy with the results, we went back to renew the policy a few weeks ago, only to find out that their previous underwriter had decided to leave the pet insurance industry.  To our dismay, prices had gone up.  Our first reaction was to start researching other insurance providers.  After receiving a few quotes, we discovered that PetPlan was still the cheapest out of the top three we researched, and still covered alternative therapies.  We also discovered that the reason coverage prices went up was because PetPlan required that their new underwriter continued to cover clients that were being treated previously.  What does that tell us?  They care!  Now that we’ve seen how the process works and know we can trust PetPlan, we’ve decided to enroll again with them for 2017 (although we hope not to use it).

Here’s a breakdown of costs and coverage for our two years with PetPlan so far:


  • Total cost:  $335
  • Coverage:  up to $10,000
  • Deductible:  $200
  • Reimbursement:  90%


  • Total cost:  $364
  • Coverage:  up to $10,000
  • Deductible:  $650
  • Reimbursement:  90%

From November until early January, we really focused on giving Bella the rest she needed.  This was particularly hard on the days when she seemed totally normal. Instead of a trail run through the mountains, we opted for a casual walk through the neighborhood.  We also kept her on leash right after her injury, simply to prevent her from running and re-activating the injury.  We also learned as much as we could (through vet recommendations and online articles) about how to help Bella recover, aside from simple rest.  This included twice-daily stretches and massages, hot/cold compresses, and a daily glucosamine supplement. While this time period was stressful and the recovery was much longer than we anticipated, pet insurance gave us the peace of mind that we were giving the Bella the best recovery experience possible.  

As always, do lots of research when you’re making a decision for something as important as pet insurance. Not only do you want the best for your pup, you also want to make sure you’re supporting a company that truly believes in doing the right thing.  Here’s to a happy, healthy, and adventurous 2017!

Product Reviews

A Review of the EzyDog Drive Harness

by on January 28, 2017
EzyDog Drive Harness

There’s no doubt about it:  dogs are becoming valued as family members more than ever before. In our family, Bella rides with us to the trails, on extended road trips, to the brewery, to the Ranch in the summer, and even to the office to work with Pat nearly every day. Needless to say, she spends a lot of time riding in cars.  Usually, Bella has the back seat to herself in our cars and is not restrained in any way. Recently, EzyDog sent us their new Drive Harness to try out, which is a crash tested dog car harness.  The EzyDog Drive Harness made us rethink the way we travel with Bella.  Most people don’t have a lot of experience with crash-rated harnesses for dogs, so we thought we’d share our initial questions and concerns on using a car harness for Bella, paired with our actual research and experiences.

Why a dog car harness?

We did some research to better answer this question.  Many states are beginning to implement laws regarding proper restraints for dogs riding in vehicles.  While this is great news for the safety of our pets, the laws are in reality being put into place to protect the lives of humans.  Dogs that travel in the laps of drivers, ride in front seats or otherwise steal the attention of their owners can be significant distractions while on the road.  Additionally, in the event of a collision, even a small, 10lb dog when unrestrained can cause serious bodily harm or even fatal injuries to people riding in the car.  

Of course, if you are here you also probably think of your dog’s own safety.  Proper restraints can help protect or even save the life of your dog in the event of a crash and may prevent a frightened fido from running away after a fender bender. Other vehicle hazards for your pup include open windows of moving vehicles, front seat airbags, and riding in the bed of a truck. There’s a lot of great information out there, so if you are interested in specific canine accident statistics or regulations in your state, we suggest doing a little research of your own!

What makes a crash-tested harness different from a regular harness?

EzyDog Drive HarnessA crash tested dog harness, as the name implies, has been put through rigorous crash-testing scenarios to ensure that it meets safety standards to protect your dog and human occupants in the event of an accident.  A car safety harness is designed to be strong enough to withstand high impact forces and is specifically designed to fit your dog to limit injury caused by the harness itself.  Everyday harnesses are not designed for either of these purposes, and should not be used with the intention of protecting your dog, or yourself, in the event of a crash. Not only could an everyday-harnesses easily snap under the impact of a crash, straps not meant for serious forces could cause physical harm to your dog.

Will my dog hate it?

While Bella was a little confused over why we were restraining her in the car at first, she got used to the EzyDog Drive Harness after two or three uses. It helped that we got her used to a few short trips with the EzyDog Drive Harness before asking her to be patient with a longer drive. On extended trips, we gave her a few extra stretch breaks than usual.  Most dogs we know tend to associate getting in the car as a gateway to something fun and enjoyable, so we found that the harness after time really just becomes a small yet necessary annoyance to your dog in order to get to something way more exciting.

We also tried out the EzyDog CLICK Adjustable Car Restraint, which clicks into a car’s seatbelt and then clips to the dog’s harness. This method of restraint allows for more movement and may be a viable option if you discover that your dog simply cannot tolerate full restraint.  However, this method may not adequately protect your dog in the event of a crash and is really only designed to minimize driver distraction.  Furthermore, if your dog accidentally has a strap tangled under a leg, a crash in this situation could cause a very serious injury.  The EzyDog Harness, when used without a longer restraint attachment, allowed for Bella to comfortably sit up and lay down, but as the lap belt tightens this seems to restricts her movement incrementally more and more as the ride goes on.

EzyDog Click RestraintBasically, the higher the level of restraint, the less freedom for your dog… but the level of safety for your dog AND the human occupants of the car increases significantly.   These are factors to consider when deciding on the best method of restraint for your dog when riding in the car. We are still on the fence as to which method we ourselves prefer but may alternate between both depending on the type of trip we are on.  We may also explore the slightly different EzyDog Seat Belt Restraint, which seems like a common ground between the two.  

Bottom line….the harness used with only a seat belt as a restraint method is by far the safest way to go.

What is special about the EzyDog Drive Harness?

While we are new to using safety harnesses with Bella, there were a lot of features on the EzyDog Drive Harness that stood out to us as uniquely noteworthy.  First of all, after you initially adjust the harness to properly fit your dog, you can use the Mag-Lok Instant Fit closure system to easily put the harness on and off. We LOVED this design. Additionally, we found EzyDog’s instructional video (below the product description) very helpful in making sure we were adjusting the harness properly. Like most dog gear, it took us a few uses to really fine tune the fitting. In a couple of instances, I wasn’t paying attention and put the harness on with one side twisted inside out, and I didn’t realize it until we were a few miles down the road. This was my error but was something we thought potential users should be aware of.

The harness itself is designed as a wide and substantially padded vest, to cushion your dog and help prevent injury from the straps themselves. We loved the overall sturdy feel of the harness, and the design integrates seat belt straps which cross over the dog’s chest. Sturdy safety buckles remind you if you forget to double back the adjustable webbing by displaying the words WARNING on the portion of the hardware that shouldn’t be visible after the straps are properly secured.

Additional features that we appreciated were the velcro straps that keep extra webbing out of the way after adjusting the fit for Bella, as well as the two rings that come together as a singular attachment point for a leash or other car restraint.  

While the Ezy Dog Drive harness is not cheap and retails at $99, the quality of both the materials and design is obvious.  To us, this is a clear case of “you get what you pay for.”  In our opinion, if you are truly interested in investing in the safety of your dog while riding in the car, then this is a great product for both you and your dog!

Product Reviews

Meet Stunt Puppy Reflective Gear for Dogs

by on December 4, 2016
Stunt Puppy Go Dog Glo High Viz Vest

If you’ve seen our Colorado Canine Instagram account, then you’ve no doubt noticed Bella’s blaze orange Stunt Puppy Go Dog Glo collar in photos ranging from backcountry snowshoeing treks, horseback rides, and fly fishing excursions. We oftentimes reach for Bella’s Go Dog Glo collar because of it’s rugged yet simple, high-quality construction. The plain fact that Bella’s collar has now come out of two seasons of rides at the Ranch looking good as new and in perfect working order is a minor miracle (I have pairs of leather riding boots and work gloves that don’t survive seasons up there). As a bonus, Stunt Puppy’s products are designed and made right here in the good old US of A, and most of their materials are sourced in the United States as well.

Stunt Puppy Reflective GearWhen we heard that BackcountryK9’s retail shop was closing, as BackcountryK9 ambassadors we started to think…what brands would we want to keep working with? Stunt Puppy was right at the top of our list, for many of the reasons we listed above (also because they are cool yet not pretentious, create sleekly designed products with no unnecessary frills, and have recently come out with several new and innovative running products for dogs). We were thrilled when we discovered that we would be able to keep our relationship with Stunt Puppy through BackcountryK9’s new face on the blogging scene. We’ve since been able to test out some of Stunt Puppy’s latest and greatest products this fall.

Speaking of fall, if you love the outdoors, then there’s a good chance you’ve been rearranging your daily routines recently due to the rapidly decreasing daylight hours. If you’re a runner or dedicated walker, you are probably starting to squeeze in your miles in the dark here and there. For us, once the time change hits, most of our weekday runs are cold, snowy, and in the pitch-dark. While benefits include peaceful workouts devoid of crowds, nighttime safety can be an issue when running in the dark for a variety of reasons including car traffic, bicycle traffic, and wildlife. We run with Bella in a few different nighttime leashed vs. non-leashed scenarios, and thought we would highlight our experiences with the reflective Stunt Puppy gear we’ve tried so far.

Stunt Runner Leash
The amazing Stunt Runner Leash, in our opinion, is best suited for road running vs. trail/mountain running, based on the length it stretches. Running with a dog on-leash while running up and down technical mountain trails is a pretty specialized and slightly hazardous skill, which we’ve found works best with a long combination waist-worn and hand controlled lead. However, an uber long leash is obnoxious and unnecessary for running on roads and wide/non-technical trails. And really, we don’t typically run on trails like that in the dark, anyway (at least not always on purpose). The Stunt Runner is probably overall the most versatile and rugged running leash we have used to date.

What we love:

  • Super reflective
  • Rugged, high-quality materials and buckles.
  • Easy to use, great length for running on roads/wide trails.
  • The human waist-worn portion doesn’t twist and is comfortable to wear.
  • Multi-purpose hands-free running and walking leash.
  • The Stunt Runner leash offers the perfect amount of stretch to absorb shock, yet not so stretchy that you feel as though you don’t have control around other dogs, squirrels, crowds, etc… The traffic handle is a great feature to use when loading and unloading from the car.
  • A few times, I forgot to wear high-visibility colors/reflective materials myself, but the bright orange color we have combined with the reflective features helped me light up on our runs, too, due to the reflective waist-worn feature.

Maybe not for you if:

  • You are looking for a super long, lightweight leash for very technical trail running. The length isn’t ideal for long sections on narrow single-track, and it’s a bit heavy and bulky to fit in a trail running pack.
  • Multiple people of a wide range of sizes in your household really want to use the waist-worn feature. It’s not difficult to adjust, but might not be convenient to do so often. Pat and I can use the same waist length, so it’s not really an issue for us.

Go Dog Glo Harness

Stunt Puppy Go Dog Glo HarnessWhat we love:

  • The design of the Stunt Puppy Go Dog Glo harness tightens up as your dog pulls. At first, we were worried this would be too harsh for Bella since we’ve never used martingale style collars with her. However, the tightening feature is very subtle yet supportive, almost like a hug. This feature also keeps the harness from slipping over your dog’s head if he or she resists walking forward/pulls backward.
  • With the built-in 3M reflectors, this harness looks like it glows from within, and is impossible to miss when lit up by car headlights or your own headlamp, even from a good distance away.

Maybe not for you if:

  • You want to tie your dog out in a harness unsupervised. Because this harness has a martingale tightening action, it is not recommended for tie out. But that’s all we’ve got.

Keep in mind:

  • Side note, we’ve seen this harness in person in both blue and red. The red is really more of a dusty pink shade, so if you aren’t into pink, we suggest going with the blue color instead.
  • Bella was smack in between a medium and large size harness. Because her shoulders are so broad, a large worked much better for her.

Go Dog Glo High Visibility Vest

Stunt Puppy Go Dog Glo High Visibility VestWhat we love:

  • Holy reflection, Batman! You can see the Stunt Puppy Go Dog Glo High Visibility Vest from a mile away (well at least up to 500 ft down the road to be exact!).
  • We tested out a newer model with super cool, spiderweb-like reflective design that rivals the look of the slickest new running shoe and running apparel patterns.
  • Ideal for running near traffic, also for when your dog is running/walking off leash and you are using a headlamp. Our first use of this vest was during our stay at a retired fire tower in Wyoming. When we finally had a break in the rain and lounged around the campfire, and also when we let her out at night, it was a breeze to find her in the dark with a quick sweep of a headlamp. This is a great item for camping in addition to running and walking!
  • Again, high-quality construction and thoughtful, rugged design. If I had a human child, I would probably want him/her to wear this for safety at night (disclaimer: don’t really try this with human children. Ok?).

Maybe not for you if…

  • You don’t need a reflective vest for your dog? Other than that, the only detail I can think to mention is that this product currently only comes in fluorescent yellow. If you are looking for a vest for hunting season in your area, you might consider seeking out standard blaze orange colors to warn hunters of your dog’s presence.

The bottom line: The shortened days of Fall and Winter are the perfect time to invest in reflective, high-visibility gear if you stay active with your dog all year long. Investing in reflective gear truly is investing in the safety and well-being of your best adventure companion. Added bonus? Stunt Puppy’s products are designed and made in the USA, are constructed with the same materials used in climbing and rescue gear. Just because the days are getting shorter, doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice outdoor time with your dog!

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