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A Winter Gear List for your Adventure Dog

11.01.18

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A Winter Gear List for your Adventure Dog

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Who else remembers the innocuous day they finally had the epiphany: “I’m ready for a dog.” Cautionary articles and friends like to remind us of things like, “Dogs are a lot of responsibility,” “You’ll experience a serious lifestyle shift,” and “They’re pretty expensive.” But those that already have a four-legged adventure buddy of their own will tell you that the responsibility and expense are worth the infinite return of a dog’s love and companionship. Dogs and humans have been adventuring outside together since before the history books were around to document it, and we’ve been outfitting them in gear that helps them thrive—consider the Iditarod! 

These days, advancements in dog-specific adventure gear is awe-inspiring. In an ever-growing industry, there are far more options, and the gear is lighter, more durable, and often available at a better price point than the gear we’ve seen in the past. The short story: Not every dog needs a winter sleeping pad or a $100 winter coat—it’s up to you to make the best judgment call based on your dog’s capability and the details of your planned route and activity. But if your furry companion is a pit bull, a vizsla, or some other breed that’s characterized by their short hair and thin coat, it should certainly be a consideration for you depending on where you’re adventuring.

Below we’ve comprised a list of our top-rated dog adventure gear for cold weather—mind you, the must-have gear list for any excursion goes far beyond this (water bowl, first aid, nutrient-rich food, a good leash, etc). For a more thorough explanation of why these items are important and what else you might include in your pack, peruse Winter Essentials for your Adventure Dog. Happy snow-romping! 

Paw wax

Around the proverbial office water cooler, the topic of the necessity of paw wax is hotly debated. On one hand, there are those who assert that they serve to soften natural calluses and eventually lead to more lacerations. On the other, you have the crew that argues paw wax is an excellent stand-in for dogs that hate booties. But no one argues with those that need paw wax to help keep small snowballs from forming between the toes of their long-haired dog. We judged this category mainly on the product’s ability to prevent the snowballs.

  • Musher’s Secret Wax: This wax wins hands down. Not only is it all natural and highly moisturizing, it actually helps your dog’s traction, protects paws from hot and freezing surfaces, and doesn’t stain floors or carpets. Winning. ($12.75/60g)
  • Bodhi Dog Paw Balm: If Musher’s wins in performance, Bodhi wins in the organic department. It’s USDA approved and made with certified organic ingredients, making it unquestioningly safe to use. While it does protect paws from cool and hot surfaces, it won’t perform quite as well in snow. That said, it’s excellent for healing other dry spots too like noses and elbows. ($14.99/55g)
  • Four Paws Dog Paw Guard: At a slightly better price point, this wax has better healing properties with Lanolin. It doesn’t stand up to Musher’s when it comes to snowballs, but it helps them keep traction on slippery surfaces. ($9.77/49g)

Boots

The short truth: Not very many dogs need booties. But if the paw wax doesn’t work and your pup still gets between-the-toes snowballs or you’re planning to be covering long, icy miles, booties can be a serious day saver. Pro tip: Get your furry pal used to them in the house and around the neighborhood before you embark—some dogs need serious bribing to even consider wearing them.

  • Ruffwear Grip Tex: In this category, Ruffwear takes the cake with the only pair we could find with a truly non-slip vibram sole and superior warmth (again, this might be total overkill for your dog so don’t purchase these on this feature alone). Note that they are significantly more expensive than the other two. ($74.95)
  • Original All-weather Muttlucks: The main feature elevating this pair to second place is the soft cuff. Many other booties have a tendency to rub on ankles. Though these aren’t the best for extremely slippery or wet excursions, they perform well in both hot and cold climates. ($44)
  • Healers Urban Walkers: Like the Muttlucks, they work well on both hot and cold adventures, but they aren’t ideal for extremely slippery or wet conditions. They’re admittedly pretty good looking, but note that they’re only sold in pairs because some dogs have smaller hind paws than forepaws. ($29.50/pair)

Warm portable dog bed

Around here, we’re of the conviction that winter camping is totally underrated…especially sites with amazing snowshoeing or ski touring (or sledding!) access. Granted, your backpack may be significantly heavier than it otherwise might be for a warm-weather overnight, but it’s still totally worth it. Your dog will need some extras as well! These options make it easy to pack it up and hit the snowy trail.

  • Ruffwear Highlands Backpacking Bed: Warm, lightweight, super durable, and it fits in a stuff sack! 'Nuff said. ($59.95) It pairs well with their Highlands Pad ($29.95) for extra warmth.
  • Chuckit! Travel Dog Bed: It packs down quite a bit smaller than the Ruffwear option, though it’s not nearly as warm. Consider pairing this with their Highlands Pad to do the trick snow camping, but it won’t protect your dog from frigid temperatures if they dip too low. ($19.39)
  • Noblecamper 2-in-1 Dog Bed and Sleeping Bag: Headed out on a serious excursion with a seriously well-prepared pup? This is your best bet. And the price point reflects that. It’s highly compressible, super warm, and water resistant. ($159.00)

Winter coats

As we mentioned above, when the weather really starts to cool down, this marks the difference between a long, fun excursion and one that’s cut short with a shivering pup. Trust us, your short-hair or small dog will thank you for getting her a winter coat, even if she resists wearing it at first. Bribery helps.

  • WeatherBeeta 300D Deluxe Reflective Parka: From yorkies to great danes, there’s a size that will fit. Not only will it keep your pup warm and dry, it has hind leg loops so it won’t ride up, and it effectively retains heat. ($32.51)
  • Hurtta Pet Collection Summit Parka: With a variety of colors and a fully-adjustable fit (plus excellent insulation), the Summit Parka is also an option, albeit a more expensive one. ($73.33)
  • Ruffwear Powder Hound Jacket: No straps here—which is a huge plus for dogs that have experienced rubbing with other options. The super stretchy, quick-drying fabric is a huge selling point for some, and they sell some compatible “base layers” for dogs that are prone to chill. ($89.95)

Beacons

There are plenty of high-end dog GPS pet trackers out there (most are aimed primarily at hunters and trackers), and they can be useful during long winter excursions when your pup is off-leash. While your dog should never be out of your sight or out of your control, it can help lend peace of mind in situations that pose a potential risk of exposure if your dog were to wander off. The caveat: never put a beacon on your dog during situations in which humans are wearing beacons for avalanche precautions. Never risk saving a dog’s life over a human’s life. 

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