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The Scoop: Top Winter Gear from the Ruffwear Pack

If you want straightforward, no-bones-about-it advice on dog gear, ask our trusted employees, the Ruffwear Pack. They’ve got paws-on experience with all our solutions. They extensively test each piece before it is released, and they are conversant in all things dog gear.

We were curious what the Pack would recommend as top winter dog gear, so we sniffed around and started asking questions. This article will give you the questions and bare-bone answers from the Pack, so you can confidently go nose-to-nose with the toughest winter conditions.

Two dogs in Vert jackets and Polar Trex boots shred the winter slopes.

Q: Which One Piece of Winter Gear Would You Recommend to a Friend?

A: The Vert™

The popularity of this dog coat stood out as a dominant choice among the Ruffwear Pack. The Vert™, which Product Line Manager Cristina Stavro wants for herself, in a human fit, got the most mentions overall when it came to winter essentials.

Q: You’re heading out for a snowy escapade for a few hours with your doggo. What are the three gear pieces you cannot leave home without?”

A: Dog Boots, dog jacket, a litter of other essentials

We were interested where the pack would lead us with this prompt, and because it was an open-ended question, we were sent many directions. However, there were a few key themes that kept turning up. 

An Australian Shepherd wears the Polar Trex in the snow.

First, dog boots were listed as must-haves and though the winter-specific Polar Trex™ were mentioned most often, other boots were nipping at their heels. If you don’t have dog boots or know where to start, this is a great article about gearing up and protecting the paws.

Everyone recommended bringing a winter dog jacket, but preferences on which jacket ran the gamut, from Furness™ to Cloud Chaser™ to Vert™.

Then there was a litter of other ideas for gear on a snowy escape:

A dog licks their chops on a basecamp bed in the trunk of their adventure van.

Q: The Essentials: Which dog gear gets the most use during the winter?

A: For those who want streamlined gear in the house, we asked the pack to point us to the one piece of gear they use time and again. All responses involved jackets.

More than half of the responses pointed to The Furness™, our ultra-warm, parka style coat. Others championed lightweight Cloud Chaser™ and stylish Vert™, and both of these stood out as pack favorites when the winter rain or snow begins to fall.

Q: What do you pack when the weather is unpredictable? How do you flow with the changing conditions without overpacking on the gear?

A: The pack has sage advice about preparing for the elements, especially when the forecast is questionable and cold is certain.

Here are some of the thoughts they shared:

“I choose a moderate to short trail so that if conditions turn on a dime, it's not a far trek to my car. I also like to carry a daypack with essential items and leave room to stuff away any layers that need to be shed.”

“Multiple light layers and one good waterproof shell.”

“Stick to the most needed [piece of gear]. If there is potential it will be cold I will bring the Powder Hound™ dog jacket instead of the lightweight Cloud Chaser™ and take more time to switch the jacket on and off, depending on temperature and movement.”

“The biggest reason I love the Switchbak™ harness in the winter is because it fits four Polar Trex™ boots in the pockets (2 in each), so if the snow temperature or texture becomes a problem for my dog's feet, I will always be prepared with her boots. The pockets of that harness, even with the boots, still have a low profile and don't impede on her flow. I also plan our outings so that I know with confidence how many minutes/hours from the car we are at any given moment, in case the weather really changes and the jacket I chose for her to wear is not enough anymore.”

A dog wears a Furness Jacket in the snow as night falls. The humans wear head lamps.

Q: What’s your favorite activity with your dog in winter weather? What would you share with someone new to winter adventures?

A: From games to sports, the Pack is eager about winter activity.

Here are some soundbites:

“Playing "Find It." I bury a toy in the snow and have my dog find it.”

“I enjoy snowshoeing, and I think this is a great activity for someone new to winter adventures…Want to feel the burn when you adventure? Choose a hilly snowshoe trail and your thighs will be on fire! Plus, your pup is sure to have fun chasing snowballs down the trail.”

“Cross country skiing is our go-to. I’d recommend doing your research in advance to learn everything needed around dog friendly areas, leash requirements, trail etiquette, etc.”

“Hiking through the woods with my dog.”

“A lot of dogs in a lot of snow conditions can get by just fine with an application of musher's secret on their paw pads, but that will wear off over time so having a pair or two of boots in your pocket can be a real adventure saver. It is ZERO fun for anyone when a dog's feet get too cold, too full of snowballs, or torn up by abrasive snow and ice.”

Two dogs and two humans hike through the woods in the snow. They are wearing head lamps.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to tell people shopping and fretting over which winter gear to pick?

A: As we expected, the Pack has your back. Here are their recommendations for those of you trying to find your place among the winter gear options. 

Here’s what they said.

Most people find themselves debating between winter apparel for their pup because they can't decide what's more important–insulation or waterproofness. I say if you're unsure, go with the Vert™. It's the best of both worlds and my personal favorite. Waterproof and insulated, this vest-style jacket can be worn standalone or layered over a form-fitting item from our line.”

“Consider your dog’s fur type, and the most likely weather you are to encounter. If that answer widely varies, you may need more than one option just like [humans] have.”

“I have a short-haired dog and a warm jacket makes all the difference in the world.”

“Try to be practical. What activity will you and your dog be doing the most of and how hard does your dog like to go? Their typical level of exertion will determine what warming layer they might need/respond to best. My dog goes so hard while we cross-country ski together that the Cloud Chaser™  jacket is the perfect midweight layer with some weather resistance for her. The Powder Hound™ and Quinzee™ jackets are too warm for her on those types of skis. However, if we did more long backcountry skis with a lot of rest breaks throughout, then a warmer layer like the Powder Hound™, Quinzee™, or even Furness™ would be a good option for her.”

A dog wears the Cloud Chaser with their human, skiing.