Ruffwear kindly got a Web Master Pro Harness in my hands a couple of weeks ago, and in that short time it has promoted itself to be my harness of choice when on the mountains and hills of Lakeland.
Firstly they warned me that this was a professional harness and it was engineered for that application, they then suggested their other products may suit what I need. Whilst nodding politely I knew I had other ideas for this, after all what is good for search and rescue teams the world over, may just be the product I need when the terrain is more mountainous. Personally I'd rather trust Denver's safety to something that routinely gets tested in that type of environment than not. The kind of use I'm talking about would be conventional hill walking but with the odd foray on an arête or clambering through a chimney where the odd lift is needed, nothing too technical just what you would encounter when you start to take on some very basic scrambling routes. Think Striding Edge, Helvellyn, Jack's Rake on Pavey Ark or Carn Mor Dearg on the way to Ben Nevis, that kind of thing. For those of you not familiar with these routes I assure you these are at the lowest end of crazy (and quite frankly not in that category at all depending on your experience) and well within most people's and dog's grasp.
So the harness comes in a smart red currant colour, further emphasising it's emergency service focus. Two pockets on the side have rubberised zip closing, . they aren't huge in capacity but enough storage for some essentials and there are two leash connectors on the top front and back. Proudly centred in the middle is a decent sized handle which a gloved hand could manage as needed. The red colour is offset by grey fabric and webbing on the straps. The whole harness also has reflective features throughout. Apart from the rear leash connector all buckles and connectors are metal giving an industrial and hard wearing feel. This is a harness designed to take some knocks and that extends to the tough fabric they use too. For all that it doesn't declare itself waterproof I'm sure it will perform well in foul conditions, just stick whatever is in the pockets in a small dry bag is my advice. On the whole the harness is well padded and has nice overall feel to it, so whilst Im not personally going to wear one soon, it seems much better than perhaps everyone's quite uncomfortable experience of wearing a climbing harness when the occasion arises. Denver merrily wears this and he's never complained about it once, but his English is still in a formative stage.
Ruffwear provide this in XS, S, M, L/XL. The test unit I got was the small, which according to the size charts is fine for Denver, however as he is at the top end of small I have ordered him a medium as I feel that size up will help, especially in the situations where the handle is used to carry him.
The unit adjusts on three points at the front, and once fitted you don't need to touch those again. To finally fit the harness on the dog's body, two straps, each with a belly belt, hang loosely on the left side, these straps then need to be secured on the metal sliders on the right hand side, working much like a human climbing harness. What this does mean is that these need to strapped up manually each time, not a great overhead but a little bit more of a faff than having a couple of buckles at a pre-set size. Given the proposed use of this product manual adjustment isn't a hardship as it allows the fit to be a tight as is needed for the challenge ahead, so if a lot of lifting is needed close it tight, if not, leaving it a little looser may help dog's comfort - you can soon judge what is appropriate.
As I gave away above, I have used my own real money to buy one of these so The Web Master Pro certainly gets my recommendation. Also, if you haven't got that heads for heights or exposure, don't worry, this harness did great in general use and it meant I was easily able offer Denver a boost over ladder stiles, he seemed to enjoy the ride. Also now I have listed those walks above, I have given the game away about where I will be taking him next year, good job he doesn't have access to the Internet!
All opinions my own