A Lineage of Performance Jackets for Dogs
When our founder, Patrick Kruse, started experimenting with dog jackets back in 1998, there were already winter warmth options on the market. However, the options left much to be desired. “They were often knit, frumpy sweaters. As soon as a dog ran through the brambles, they’d shred.”
Kruse formed the Ruffwear pack and hired his first employees in the High Desert community of Bend, Oregon where dogs run amongst scraggly shrubs like manzanita, juniper and rabbitbrush. There are extreme conditions in the nearby Cascade Mountain Range, and occasionally in town too, where the dense snowpack and winters can be long. With confidence from the success of Ruffwear’s bowl and dog pack solutions, Kruse set about to create a winter jacket for dogs that could withstand the elements and extend the outdoor play time.
Twenty-five years after that first jacket attempt, Ruffwear is still trekking ahead with winter gear, but also glancing back at the performance and design history of our winter coats. In this article, we’ll explore three customer favorites: The Vert™, The Furness™, and The Overcoat Fuse™ with historic and modern contexts provided by Ruffwear Founder, Patrick Kruse, and Product Line Manager, Cristina Stavro.
An Overcoat Fuse™ in Evergreen, from Fall 2022.
1. The Overcoat Fuse™
Imagine how much faster you can get out the door for play time with an eager pup if your dog harness and dog jacket are incorporated into one piece of gear. Creating that solution was one part of the impetus for the Overcoat Fuse™. The other part was based on customer feedback of the original Overcoat™ design. It turns out customers were clipping their dog leashes into the light loop, which is not a strength-rated attachment point. So the goal with the Overcoat Fuse™ was to meet the customers where they were, and to provide the strength and reliability of our harnesses, including two leash attachment points, right in the jacket.
To appreciate the design and evolution of The Overcoat Fuse™—in addition to its function as an easy-on, plug-and-play pup coat—it helps to know a touch of the history behind it. For history hounds, there’s a detailed write-up of The Overcoat Fuse™ origins on our blog.
Patrick Kruse, Ruffwear's founder, working on an early version of the Overcoat Fuse™ in the R+D room.
The predecessor to this coat was the first Ruffwear jacket, which was designed in 1998. While at first it resembled a horse jacket in construction and material, over time the silhouette, materials and hardware have evolved.
It is now a vest-style jacket for cool weather and light precipitation—the piece of gear for those days when it’s not below freezing but passing rain is expected. There are handy pockets for treat or trail supplies and just like the Front Range™ Harness, there is an airplane-grade-aluminum V-ring centered on the dog's back, and a reinforced front clip webbing at the dog’s chest to help redirect dogs who pull on leash.
“If you think of today's Overcoat Fuse™,” says Kruse, “It's yesterday's Overcoat™, but it's fused with our Front Range™ Harness. We built a harness into the coat so you no longer have to layer a coat over a harness. You simply put your coat on, and you have a leash attachment point, and away you go.”
The Vert™ in Aurora Teal and Campfire Orange, from Fall 2021.
2. The Vert™
On its surface, The Vert™ is a good looking dog coat but there’s more to it than meets the eye. It is a vest-style or clamshell silhouette , where the chest panel comes between the front legs and two clips on either side hold the coat in place. That makes it easy on, easy off. “The cool thing about the Vert™,” says Stavro, “Is that it's the jacket that [gives] a lot of Ruffwear employees jacket envy...If they could have the human version of it, it would be amazing!”
Below that head-turning exterior is intentional design and material construction. The components include rip-stop nylon, which is highly durable, and does what it sounds like: protects the exterior from major rips, which is crucial for dogs who zip into the forest and parks full of energy. In addition, the rip-stop nylon is rated at 10,000 millimeter waterproof protection. “That’s pretty stinking good—comparable to high-end human winter coats,” says Stavro. “You’re not getting water through that.” Underneath the nylon exterior is a quick-drying, recycled polyester fill and a soft liner. Kruse sums it up, “That just makes for a super insulated coat.”
The Vert ™'s shell fabric is windproof, waterproof, and breathable.
The stylish looks on this coat are attributed to the silhouette and the drape of the coat, and that form is due to years of pattern evolution, which is still on-going. “[The Vert™] has a full cut so it wraps a little bit more fully around the rump of the dog for added warmth and coverage from rain and snow. This is something that we're really refining because most of our coats [are tapered] as they come down to the waist or the back end of the dog. And it's a challenge to get the pattern to work and to fit…[because] dogs come in all kinds of different sizes and shapes. And so, trying to dial the pattern and fit in and to make it work for the majority of dogs that are out there is an opportunity.”
Ruffwear was the first company to introduce dog sizing akin to human sizing charts, with size measurements. Prior to this, dog gear sizing was based on breed and weight. As evidenced in the Vert™, the right size can lead to a performance and tail wagging fit.
The Furness™ Jacket in Red Sumac, from Fall 2022.
3. The Furness™
The Furness™ is Ruffwear’s warmest jacket. Similar to a coat that humans pull out on the coldest days of the year, the priority of The Furness™ is warmth. If you’re familiar with the quilted, puffy jackets for humans that are compared to sleeping bags because of their length and coverage, then yeah, the Furness™ is the doggy equivalent. It’s a parka style with a relaxed fit that provides high coverage on neck, back, belly, hips and thighs. This jacket performs well in extreme cold and wintry conditions.
The Furness™ is based on the second coat Ruffwear ever made, called CloudChaser™, which was the first soft shell jacket created for dogs. “The benefit of the soft shell is that it stays low profile; it's close to the skin. It moves with you…it's got a four-way stretch. It's breathable; it's waterproof; and it has a brushed fleece on the inside and a nylon shell on the outside,” says Kruse. “It ticks all the boxes for me.”
“That soft shell fabric is akin to Gore Tex,” Kruse explains, “in that it allows water vapor to travel out, but does not let water in. “Why would that be important?” Kruse asks rhetorically. “The reason is that no matter what we do, dogs are going to get a little moisture under their coats. And so that moisture is allowed to evaporate off of the dog. When it is raining out, or the dogs are getting splashed by a waterfall, or running through the brambles and the dew is coming off, that technical fabric is going to keep them dry.”
Kruse also notes the stretch, knit nylon on the chest is the same kind used in bike tights. “It's super durable. You can sit on decomposed granite or a gnarly bench and the material just holds up. It's a durable material.”
Zooming out to the big idea behind the jacket, Stavro says, “The Furness™ is basically about increasing the insulated space.” A major design innovation that came via the Furness™ is StormSleeves™, which are constructed in a funnel-like shape, providing a double layer of fabric with no hem. This sleeve design prevents chafing and snowballs, common winter problems, and provides warmth to the dog’s legs and arms. Additionally, the stretchy fabric used on the StormSleeves™ encourages dogs to use their full range of motion and sustain their natural stride.
To further the warmth factor, The Furness™ is packed with 250 grams of post-consumer recycled polyester insulation, including on the chest and belly, and two cinch-points, one at the neck and one cinch at the belly to capture core heat while sealing out the cold. More thoughtful features include the weather-guarded ¾-length zipper, strategically located on the side rather than the top of the dog, where the snow, and icy rain typically lands.
Permission to Plan and Permission to Fail
Now that you know more about three iconic Ruffwear jackets and why they perform well, which one will you take on your next winter outing? If you check the weather and you’re undecided, that’s normal. Kruse, a self-described gear hog offers some encouragement, “You're never going to get it exactly right. You may bring a raincoat and then it's foggy out. I think you just make a plan, and every time you go out you learn something new. That's really where all of our different apparel items came from.” As an example, Kruse points to dog boots: there used to be one specific function, now Ruffwear makes four very different boot styles for different terrain, snow and weather conditions.
“I want to give people permission and the confidence to go out there with a little bit of preparation, but know that you'll never get it right every time, all the time,” he says. “And so, give yourself permission to fail and adapt, and then come back from that experience and consider, how would I do that differently next time?”
It is this problem-solving and pioneering spirit that is behind all of Ruffwear’s innovative designs. “We want to solve a problem for ourselves as well as the consumer, and sometimes that's just making it easier to get out the door,” says Stavro. “Ultimately, that means more dogs and humans exploring together in the outdoors.”