Ruffwear Palisades Review

I tested the Ruffwear Palisades dog backpack and this is my verdict.

July 06, 2023
If you purchase a product from one of our links below, we may earn a percentage from one of our affiliate partners. This does not impact how we review products. Read more about our review process and affiliate partners.

The Ruffwear Palisades is one of the best-known dog packs for multi-day backpacking trips and thru-hikes. Its large capacity and removable saddlebags are a few of the features that make it popular among those who go the distance. If you want a more streamlined design, though, you may want to look elsewhere.

Product Overview

Ruffwear Palisades

ruffwear palisades

✅ Ample storage

✅ Lots of pockets

✅ Removable saddlebags

✅ Adjustability


❌ Lacking harness buckles

❌ Unwieldy

❌ Easy to overload


  • Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Volume: Small-12.5 liters, Medium-unknown/no data available, Large/X-Large-24 liters
  • Material: 150 denier ripstop polyester
  • Sizing: Small, Medium, Large/X-Large
  • Number of Pockets: 6
  • Number of Straps: 2
  • Leash Attachment?: Yes, two
  • Handle?: Yes
  • Dog Tester’s Weight: 75 pounds
  • Dog Tester’s Size: Medium pack

The Ruffwear Palisades is a superb choice for dogs who are physically capable of carrying bulky gear on multi-day backpacking trips or thru-hikes. It is best for dogs that have been conditioned to carry a higher weight, basecamp trips where the dog will only be carrying a large amount of gear for a shorter distance, or owners who want removable panniers.

The Palisades has the most features out of any pack I have used with my dog, and the detachable saddlebags were easy to use. Some of the features were a bit much, such as the included water bladders, and the large capacity of the panniers are easy to overload, potentially causing injury due to weight or bulk. That said, there were several adjustability options included to help with this, which was appreciated.

For other dog backpack reviews, read our post on the best dog backpacks.

Performance Test Results

ruffwear palisades performance score graph

How We Tested:

My dog, Prima, and I tested out the Ruffwear Palisades while hiking in the Bisti Badlands of New Mexico. The Badlands lack any established trails, and those who venture a few miles or more from the trailhead will find winding washes and blasted hills. The Palisades pack was also tested out on some road walks and in spring conditions in southern Colorado.

hiker and dog wearing ruffwear palisades in camp

Weight: 7/10

The Ruffwear Palisades is, without a doubt, one of the heaviest backpacking dog packs on the market. However, this is unsurprising given that the main use is multi-day backpacking trips and that this pack comes with all of the bells and whistles. Larger saddlebags, more adjustment points, and removable panniers are all features that contribute to that higher weight which are not found in most of its competitors. The flip side is that the weight of the pack itself is included in base weight calculations, so a higher pack weight will mean that the dog won’t be able to carry as much gear.

dog wearing ruffwear palisades bag

The Ruffwear Palisades weighs 1.2 pounds, one of the heaviest backpacking dog packs on the market.

Price: 6/10

Similar to weight, the Ruffwear Palisades is also one of the most expensive dog packs available, with the exception of one or two customizable cottage brands. Again features not found on most other packs can likely be attributed to being on the high end of the spectrum. As the pack is well made, the price is justified for what you get.

close-up ruffwear palisades

You can purchase the Palisades for $159.95 in several retailers.

Storage and Capacity: 7/10

Storage and capacity are the bread and butter of the Ruffwear Palisades. One of the main features that set this pack apart from other options is the increased storage through six different pockets. There is a large main pocket, a side pocket that includes the adjustment straps, and an inner pocket close to the body of the dog with the water bladders. The amount of storage is actually a bit overwhelming: there were a few times when I couldn’t find what I was looking for due to all of the pockets.

While the incredible amount of volume this pack includes can be great, especially for those making shorter mileage trips to a base camp, I find that the size of the saddlebags and the capacity is a bit too much for most hikers. The huge pockets make it very easy to overload a dog, as most dogs should only be carrying 10-15% of their body weight, with a few stockier breeds being capable of 25%. The other downside is that the panniers stick way out to the side of the dog due to their size, which has the potential to cause injuries if you are not careful.

ruffwear palisades bag capacity

The volume capacity of the Ruffwear Palisades is from 12.5 to 24 liters.

Comfort: 8/10

Considering the large size of this pack, the Palisades has several features that help to make it more comfortable, which were evident when testing out the pack with my dog. Like the Ruffwear Approach, the harness portion of this pack is highly padded with ventilation channels running between the padding. There is also some light padding on the straps, which can be moved around.

I did not see any signs of chafe or discomfort, even after hiking with it on a warm day. With that said, I did notice a change in the gait or movement of my dog while wearing this pack. Because the saddlebags are large and stick out quite a distance from the body, she was more likely to pace or have a funny lope as the saddlebags flopped around.

ruffwear palisades straps

Design and Features: 9/10

As with most Ruffwear products, the Palisades pack has many features to aid in a smoother backpacking experience. Those features include six outer pockets, adjustment straps for the saddlebags, two water bladders, loops to hook gear to, reflective trim, a light attachment point, a padded handle, two leash attachment points, flopper stopper saddlebag stabilizers, and saddlebags that detach from the harness.

I found the removable saddlebags to be one of the most useful and unique features, as it makes it easier to give the dog a break during backpacking trips. This is especially true given the harness only buckles on from one side, requiring the dog to step through the other to put it on. The removable panniers save time and effort. The padded handle was another great feature of this pack. It felt comfortable in my hand while holding my dog to let other hikers pass or to give my hiking partner time to move through a narrower section before the dog went through.

ruffwear palisades removable saddlebags

Detaching the removable saddlebags of Ruffwear Palisades.

There were a few features that were less helpful, the main one being the two 1-liter bladders that were included. I have generally heard from thru hiker veterinarians, and sports medicine professionals that having a dog carry water is not the best idea due to the likelihood of injury from sloshing. Water is also one of the heaviest things a hiker can carry, coming in at two pounds per liter. That means that the pack and two full liters would weigh over five pounds without any other gear, which would be 10% of a 50-pound dog’s body weight.

The plus side is that the bladders are malleable, meaning that extra air can be squeezed out to minimize sloshing for those that want or need to use them on shorter sections or base camp hikes. All in all, the Palisades has more features than almost any other pack I have seen or tried out. Most of the features are useful for the intended purpose of multi-day backpacking trips, but I would caution users to be careful when using water bladders.


The Palisades pack includes a lot of features that make backpacking easier.

Adjustability: 8/10

In my tests, I found the Palisades to have several different adjustment options, which were helpful in keeping the pack from being too unwieldy. The straps on the harness portion are all adjustable to fit different sizes, although I did find these straps a bit difficult to lengthen and shorten. The pack itself has adjustment points inside the outermost and innermost pockets. The innermost pocket allows you to modify the height of the saddlebags. The outermost pocket has a complex-looking set of adjusters to help compress the panniers so that they are closer to the body when not in use.

One area that is lacking when it comes to adjustability is the number of harness buckles. The Palisades only has harness buckles on the dog’s left side which means they must step through the harness on the right side to put it on. This gets to be rather tiresome when taking the harness on and off every day.


The Ruffwear Palisades has many adjustment options to fit different sizes.

Waterproofing/Resistance: 6/10

During testing, the Palisades pack was somewhat water resistant but would eventually wet out at the zipper closure first before becoming damp on the inside fabric. In a light rain or mist, the inside pockets would likely stay dry, but a torrential downpour, hours of moisture, or stream crossings will result in a pack that has wetted out. At one time, Ruffwear sold pack covers for the Palisades; however, that is no longer the case. Instead, users may consider using zip lock bags to keep gear dry.

The biggest downside will be that the pack will become heavier when wet and may be more likely to cause chafing. Compared to other packs on the market, the Palisades is not particularly water resistant. There are other options that will stay dry longer, and due to the substantial amount of fabric, the consequences of becoming waterlogged are more significant with this pack.

waterproofing ruffwear palisades

I waterproof-tested the Ruffwear Palisades and found that it’s not particularly water-resistant.

Durability: 8/10

While using the Palisades in the Bisti Badlands, my dog frequently scraped against rocks and scraggly bushes while maneuvering through narrow washes. Even though the pack got caught on several good branches, there were no visible punctures in the fabric after the trip. Likewise, Prima had to squeeze through a few narrow openings in the mud and rocks, but I could not find any visible scrapes or signs of use on the pack. This is unsurprising, given that the pack is made of ripstop nylon. This is often the fabric of choice for anything that will deal with significant abrasion or sharp objects.

The weakest point, like most dog packs, will be the buckles and zippers. The buckles on this pack are well protected by fabric, and the zippers are well-made but could wear out over time from dirt. Overall, this pack is a match for most other packs on the market.

dog wearing ruffwear palisades

Shop here

Bailey Bremner photo

About Bailey Bremner

Bailey (aka "PseudoSloth") is a Colorado based thru hiker and adventurer. She has thru-hiked several thousand miles including the Continental Divide Trail, Great Divide Trail, Pinhoti Trail, and several self made routes among others.

About Greenbelly

After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.

Stoveless Backpacking Meals
  • 650-Calorie Fuel
  • No Cooking
  • No Cleaning