Friday, October 16, 2015

Gear Review: Web Master Pro

Let's face it, my dogs often have better gear than I do.  Backcountry K-9 sent them a brand new Ruffwear Web Master Pro for testing at about the same time I bought my new pack on Ebay.  Don't get me wrong, I love my new pack, but it doesn't get the number compliments the harness garners.  For nearly two months and 30 miles, Ty has been torturing it and this is what we came up with.

The Web Master Pro is based off the same chassis as Ruffwear's popular Web Master with some working dog-specific features.  Being that it was designed for canine SAR teams and Ruffwear worked closely with avalanche rescue organizations for its design, it has several additional, professional features like:
  • Large, glove-friendly assist handle
  • Plastic buckles of the Web Master have been replaced with all metal hardware
  • Slim pockets with weatherproof zippers and mesh organizers for a very small amount of essentials
On top of all of that, it has the details that make the original Web Master one of the most commonly imitated designs such as:
  • Five points of adjustment
  • Ergonomic design
  • Padded waist strap with Velcro to keep it in place
  • Elastic end points on straps
  • Reflective piping and a place for my contact info on the interior for safety

All the dogs (TybTangs and each foster who ever hit the trail with us) have worn the Web Master
extensively.  Needless to say, it is a favorite piece of gear and very durable.  Being that the Pro is a beefed up version, you can guess how I feel about it!  My favorite feature is the oversized handle.  It is great for quick grabs and assists and I anticipate it will really come in handy over the next few months when I have my massive gloves on.  

The all metal hardware is one of the key features that makes this a professional harness.  There is zero need for adjustments during our hikes.  The doubleback lacing is incredibly safe and reliable.  This is not to say I don't trust the plastic quick-release buckles on the original but when lifting is a crucial element of a dangerous job, I would definitely want the metal buckles.  It may take a moment longer to put on but it stays fitted throughout the excursion.  The convenience factor of quickly removing the harness is lost, but it's worth the added safety for those who need it.

All metal hardware = no buckles.
As with the other harnesses, excess straps tuck into the pad cover.
The ends are dipped in plastic to facilitate threading through the buckles.
The final difference between the Pro and the Web Master is the pockets.  They are the smallest in the Ruffwear lineup and meant, as stated in the product description, for essentials such as identification.  I think they're an excellent feature and I love the mesh organizers inside to keep items in place, maintaining even distribution and making small items easy to locate.  With our primary activity being hiking, it's great to still have a little bit of storage on the days I want someone in a harness but don't want him/her carrying weight.

Slimline pockets don't hold much more than gloves but are
still convenient without impeding motion or balance
For example, Our most recent hike took us up Glen Boulder in Pinkham Notch.  I knew the trail would be steep and thought it would be good to have Tango in a harness in case he needed some minor assistance.  Tango rarely wears a pack anymore.  Not only did he end up needing assistance to ascend a landing as high as my collarbone but on the way down, I needed to take my gloves off while we were on a rock slab that was too steep to set my pack down and where I really felt I needed both hands.  He was standing beside me, just begging to help out.  Although a small instance, it highlights the convenience of pockets.  When Ty wears it, I like to stuff it with items that, if needed, are easily accessible such as dog boots and other first aid items.  As I prepare for a crazy-cold hike this weekend, I know Ty will be in the Pro so I can activate a couple of hand warmers for her, as I doubt she will want a coat until we reach the bitter cold summit!

I have really enjoyed testing the Web Master Pro and irritating Ty with unnecessary lifts.  (Her indignation is priceless.)  The harness is well thought out and heavily focused on function and safety.  Some convenience factors are lost but for good reason.  All aspects of the harness have held up well to Ty's abuse but I have one minor concern.  After her third mostly wooded hike in the Pro (finishing appx. 23 miles), I noticed a few very tiny thread pulls towards the front of the pack from contact with bark and rocks.  My concern is that the pack material may wear a little fast for a SAR dog who is potentially going into conditions similar to what Ty chooses to venture through.  That being said, Ty is rough. Really rough.  Most of her gear has bark-colored streaks and chunks of reflective piping missing.  And in all honesty, those packs are a little fuzzy towards the shoulders but only once did fuzz become a hole, and a microscopic one at that.  Also, Ruffwear advertises it is easy to sew patches to this one, so if I sew (err, have it sewed - domestic goddess, I am not) her AMC 4,000 Footer patch to that spot, problem solved.

I thought I had the dog's pack needs covered but the Web Master Pro has quickly become their most used piece.  It's versatile enough that I can put Tango in it primarily as a harness or Ty can wear it as a tiny pack, perhaps the dog equivalent to a fanny pack. I can see where the input of the rescue teams Ruffwear worked with was utilized and suspect this pack will be popular with their target audience.  However, based on our experience, I see it fitting others' needs as well.

Check out the product at Backcountry K-9 here.

10-18-15 Additions
Yesterday, Ty wore the Pro on a 10 mile round trip hike to Mt Carrigain and it allowed for some more insights on the harness.

  • It was the first time we were in conditions that tested the weatherproof zippers and they proved their necessity.
  • The flailing excess straps were a minor irritant to me, although Ty seemed to ignore them.  I imagine this has only happened when Ty wears the Pro because she has such a tiny waist.  I found a strap adjuster floating in the bottom of my pack that worked well to correct the issue!


  1. Thank you for this review. My question is regarding the small size of the storage. Is it large enough to hold a bag of dog waste? Can it fit a collapsible water bottle/bag? My short-legged Glen of Imaal is going to try this out. We have big dogs on short legs, so this size could be just the right size if we can fit a few things in the pouches.

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  2. Hi Cathy! I'm so sorry; I thought I would get some sort of notifications when my posts received comments. Did you end up purchasing the Web Master Pro? It will definitely fit a full roll of bags but probably not a water bowl, due to its circumference.

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