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Ruffwear Trail Runner Vest

Check out our long-term review of this lightweight vest. We put it to the test with over 6,000km of bikepacking and moderate trail running. Is it fit for your next dogpacking adventure? Find out here.


The Ruffwear Trail Runner Dog Running Vest is a comfortable, low-profile, lightweight vest designed for trail running with your dog. The low-profile stretchy pockets are for carrying water flasks. We tested  this vest both while trail running and over thousands of kilometers of bikepacking. The fabric is soft and lightweight. Our only concerns were that the lightweight material meant that placing something firm in the pockets might be uncomfortable for your dog, and it has a large surface area which may reduce a dog’s ability to keep cool. The mesh started tearing after very high mileage, however for the amount of moderate mileage the average dog packer will do, the Trail Runner Vest is a great option for a harness or vest for hiking, running or biking with your dog. It’s still River’s go-to harness for bikepacking and running.

Product Specs

$90 USD
Polyester air mesh
Additional items included with purchase
Two soft water flasks

Pros and Cons

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Moderately durable (see comment after heavy use)
  • Low-profile
  • Available in several sizes
  • Can be modified to use as bikepacking harness



  • Large surface area (to keep your dog cool you may need to keep the vest wet on hot days)
  • Soft stretchy pockets are directly over dog’s ribcage (be mindful that something firm is not poking against chest)
  • Neck region cannot be adjusted; only chest region
  • Leash attachment loop is well-placed for running (its intent) but too far back for bikepacking (see our mod)
  • Lightweight mesh material reduces the vest’s durability

Testing conditions

This a is long-term review after using these vests for over 6,000km of bikepacking (Mira) and one year of moderate bikepacking and trail running (River). Mira’s use including completing and setting a world record as the first dog packer to finish the Tour Divide, a mountain bike race from Banff, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico.

We acknowledge that Ruffwear designed this vest specifically for trail running and that bikepacking as an off-label use. However, as we are dog packers, we enjoy testing gear under various activities and reporting back on their relative performance. It is rare that an item can only be used for one activity, and we enjoy the value we get from a versatile piece of gear.

Our impressions

Unboxing and fit

Mira tested the Medium and River’s size was an XS. Our initial impression upon unboxing the vests were that they were both soft and malleable with a minimalistic design. A drawback of this lightweight design, however, is that the neck region cannot be adjusted, the only area for adjustment is around the chest,.where the straps and buckles are located. Overall the fit for both dogs was good, having used Ruffwear’s online sizing guide prior to our purchase.

Both vests appear to fit comfortably, and we did not notice any rubbing or areas of wear between the vest and their skin. The low-profile stretchy pockets come with a couple of soft water flasks. Since the vest material is minimal and there is no padding between the pockets and the dog, you should be careful not to put anything firm in the pockets since the item will press agains your dog’s ribcage. Likewise, be mindful that the spout of the water flasks are not pointing inward toward your dog.

Trail running and bikepacking suitability

River and I have logged many miles with this vest in the trails of Southwestern Ontario. It’s comfortable, sleek, and, despite limited adjustment capability, it does not bounce around when she runs, which is a big plus from the standpoint of the dog’s enjoyment and reducing the potential for rubbing and skin abrasions. The leash attachment loops works well, and we used it in conjunction with the long version of the Ruffwear Roamer leash.

When it comes to bikepacking, we help lower the dogs to the ground when they hop out of their basket. Hence we require a vest that is comfortable, durable, supports the dog well and has a leash attachment point located roughly over the dog’s centre of gravity.

In the case of the Trail Runner Vest, it is comfortable and supportive but the attachment point is too far back. So we modified the vests by adding a more-forward-located leash loop with 3mm cordage on River’s vest and sewn-on handle on Mira’s vest. This worked very well for us. Again, this vest is not designed for lowering dogs out of a bicycle, but it did the job very well.

We added a leash attachment point over River’s centre of gravity

Another aspect related to comfort is that this is a vest with a high surface area covering much of the dogs chest area, compared to a harness such as the Julius-k9 IDC. In cold weather this was a benefit, but in the heat the vest likely reduce’s the dog’s ability to cool them selves off by convection. So we made a point of keeping the vest wet (by pouring water on it as needed, and/or placing wet microfibre rags in the pockets). This helped cool off the dogs.


As a dogpacker logging moderate miles on the trail, and on the bike, River and I would say the durability of this vest, considering the minimalistic mesh material, is very good. After a year of moderate use, there are signs of wear but no failure of any point of River’s vest.

Mira’s vest, on the other hand, developed tearing of the mesh along her sternum after approximately 6,000 km of bikepacking, and was replaced with a Julius-k9 harness (the latter which in John’s experience lasts for many years of bikepacking). For a lightweight vest that was designed for trail running, that’s pretty good mileage out of the Trail Runner Vest.

The small pocket is great for storing a GPS locator such as an AitTag
Mira’s vest after approx 6,000 km of bikepacking
The point of failure of Mira’s vest was the mesh located over her sternum. This was after 6,000 km.

Concluding impressions

Overall, we’re very pleased with how comfortable and lightweight this vest is. It’s still the primary harness that I use for trail running and bikepacking with River. I suspect the material will fail at some point, but that is reasonable when it is mesh. With a caveat of the hot weather, we would rate the Ruffwear Trail Runner Vest as ‘excellent’ for trail running and ‘pretty good’ (some modification required) for bikepacking.

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