Thursday, December 12, 2019

Gear Review: Groundbird Gear Harness

We recently made another addition to our niche gear collection - Tango has a new Groundbird Gear harness!  

Groundbird Gear is a cottage shop specializing in tailor-made dog packs + harnesses and now camping quilts.  They're especially popular for long distance hiker pups and dogs who don't fit the "traditional" sizes.

While Tango is still kicking trail butt for a 12 year old, he's getting a little gimpy in the back end and prone to taking the less-than-easiest route when it comes to obstacles.  He's generally fine on his own but with our rugged New England terrain, there's times when I want to support him up or down a trail hazard rather than watch him do the 'shaky-legs finish' after landing a jump.  So I choose our hikes carefully and bring the old man. And a Solvit hip support harness, Pack-a-Paw rescue harness, and an assortment of pain relievers.  People wonder why my pack is stuffed to the gills!   

With that context, it was clearly time to put health & safety over his disapproval for "clothing."  I decided to talk to Marie at Groundbird Gear about their tailor-made harness as an alternative to linking our existing Web Master Pro and hip harness together.  Fast forward a few weeks because we know how that conversation ended!

The harness fits so perfectly, it's like the GB team came up to New Hampshire and took the measurements themselves.  I swear they looked at my numbers & the photos I sent and knew exactly how they should've read! 

And the ultimate approval: Tango doesn't try to bow out of the way when I approach him to get dressed.  He moves freely in any situation and appears confident when receiving support, even when it's a quick, unexpected grab because he made a questionable choice like hopping onto a slippery boulder (making me super glad we made the investment - the fact that it's so comfortable and easy to put on means he's in it more than he would be in another brand, increasing the chances I have the ability to assist him).  We're in the wrong season to test how he does with it in hot and/or humid weather but it should be far more comfortable than his other gear, even the lightweight hi-viz vest, being only 7oz of breathable fabric.

The benefits of a custom GB harness (over our experience with other harnesses):
- super breathable (Tango is pretty heat-sensitive for an Arkansas native)
- buckle clips all around - most convenient for both of us when dressing and undressing
- unrivaled fit, i.e. shoulder straps that don't inhibit shoulder motion & belly pad straps that don't ride up on armpits.  I'm fortunate that Ruffwear fits both of my dogs pretty well but this harness is next level.
- two handles - perpendicular, rather than the parallel style I like from Ruffwear, but well-suited to our needs

That narrow chest strap tho!
Special features for Tango:
- extra narrow chest strap with added flex for the dog that has no "gap"
- a longer body to accommodate the primary support function of the harness
- wide belly pad for extra comfortable support
- D-ring at the back to connect a hip harness

I also splurged on upgrading to the Help 'em Up hip lift harness to complement the GB since it's Tango's lower back that I'm most focused on protecting.  The Solvit works just fine but is heavier and a little clunkier overall.  He doesn't wear it often but I think it should fit as comfortably as the rest of his gear.  I've also added a short rope attachment so that I can continue to provide assistance when I can't be immediately behind him.  Right now it's just something I had laying around that happens to work really well but I may MacGyver a new lead soon.  

Comfortable in motion and at rest
With the Help'em Up hip lift harness
A final note on the GB harness: Groundbird Gear was exceedingly pleasant to work with.  I had so many questions, over-thought every little aspect, and took weeks to order after initiating the conversation.  Marie was patient, helpful, and showed how well she knows her craft from start to finish of the project. 

Now to the trails! 

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