When you select a jacket for your dog, think of the conditions you are going out in, and the type of dog you have. Are they normally cold? Do you only need rain/snow protection (some dogs ball up), perhaps you have a summer dog like Whiskey! Are they going to be on a long hike, in wet snow? deep snow? or playing rough with other dogs?
I find wet snow is much more difficult to protect against as it sticks to the top of alot of jackets and then melts into the jacket instead of just falling off like dryer colder snow. Wet snow also then refreezes and becomes ice causing even more problems. In this case, find a jacket that has a smooth surface so the snow falls off quicker. If warmth is the only issue, then focus on the thickness of the jacket and what areas it covers. Perhaps you use a harness and need to make sure there are openings in the jacket?
Hurtta Extreme Warmer– best for- dogs with thicker fur, harnesses, dogs that need ear protection (doesn’t stay on a fast moving dog), thicker dogs, size down if between sizes, no velcro
Hurtta Expedition Parka– best for- dogs that have shorter fur, slimmer dogs, size down if between sizes, no velcro
Voyagers k9– best for- wet snow, rough play, velcro only, does not fully cover chest but thicker fleece than chillydogs. The most Waterproof winter jacket we have.
Chillydogs.ca – best for- best fit for Whiskey, velcro and clips so it won’t come off even if your puppy tries! Full tummy coverage, fleece is slightly thinner then k9voyagers.
Hurtta Extreme Overalls– The newest warmest “jacket” with legs that we have tried. Fully adjustable points and ankle tighteners. Can be hard to put on a moving dog and the legs can get tangled into the jacket if you are doing extreme activities (bushwacking/technical climbing) but most activities and range is fine. Snow does stick to the cuffs and and ice over.
K9topcoat Waterproof Bodysuit– The best and warmest underlayer (or solo layer) we have tried. Whiskey has actually panted in this which is SO rare. Perfect underneath a traditional jacket. Doesn’t collect or gather snow and is waterproof (be careful about ripping with playing dogs or sharp bushes) code WHISKEY15
If it gets colder, I would first add boots (dogs lose alot of heat from their paws). Whiskey will lift her paws when she needs boots (she looks uncomfortable, shivering, tail tucked, and lifts one paw after another). After boots are added, think about a fleece layer, or a body-suit underneath. Perhaps a snow suit option. We haven’t tried all the brands yet! Lastly, if it’s very windy (or sunny) Rexspec googles are great. I tend to keep this in my bag until it’s needed (the training to wear these is higher than boots).
No matter what we’ve tried, nothing has been perfect. Velcro on the feet balls up in snow and gets stuck into the teeth causing it to fall off eventually. Boots that fit dogs with fur (ie thicker ankles) don’t do well with dogs with skinny hairless legs. The leg holes end up collecting snow that becomes ice and can be painful if not cleaned up. If the boots are too thin, they can become wet and frozen which doesn’t help. Thick boots rub the ankles, and doesn’t allow the dog to feel the ground. Also no boots give the same grip as a dog’s own paws and claws while climbing obstacles (I assume most people aren’t scrambling rocks in sub-zero conditions but this is a problem for us). There’s a longer blogpost about boots here, but these are what I use
Hurtta– comfortable, no rubs, holes in the joints after a season’s hard use, must wrap and tuck the strap tightly inside itself to stay put, still comes off after an hour or so
Canine Equipment Ultimate Trail Boots- comfortable, haven’t tested fully, velcro strap can come off, lightest bootie set (I put this in my bag as a “just in case”)
Backcountry Paws– dog gaiters DO NOT COME OFF (won’t lose boots), boots are attached to gaiters, can be an ordeal to put on if multiple dogs, velcro straps can come loose, so you still have to strap really tightly and keep an eye on the velcro, in deep snow can collect inside the leg holes and then the gaiters are useless (do not use in fresh deep snow), offers more protection then just boots
Muttluks– only good for short periods of calm walking, fabric isn’t waterproof and freezes into ice, paws get wet, good for protection against salt in the city, strap will not stay on long
Voyagers K9– higher with two straps, fleece so fabric isn’t waterproof outside of the bottom section, can collect snow inside and freeze, not good in wet snow conditions, can be used for shorter periods of time, dryer snow, inside the home, straps don’t have a tightening device
Goggles are pretty specialized. In most conditions you won’t ever need them. Outside of hunting in bush where their eyes can be damaged, and dogs that already have eye damage, winter use is limited to very windy days, very cold days (yes they really do provide protection from cold) and also long snowy hikes in bright sunshine (eyes can be damaged and sunblind with frequent exposure and will show as they age, Whiskey’s now got many black spots building around her eyes). They take specialized training to use so please think of them as a process, not a quick gimick.
If we are stopped for awhile or camping, there’s some options that might help-
Dog mat- Klymit now makes blow up dog beds that separates your dog from the cold ground (like human mats).
Dog sleeping bags– Whyld River (Discount code: WHISKEY10 ) makes a really thick synthetic insulated sleeping bag. Sometimes I bring just the bottom layer for rest stops on longer hikes (I end up sitting on it, because Whiskey prefers a warm lap)
Extra down jacket- For multi-use bring an extra down jacket or blanket that anyone can use. I lay it out for Whiskey to sit on if needed.
Crampons/Microspikes- I prefer to use microspikes when the start of a hike isn’t snowy or needing the spikes, and if a hike is fully in snow/ice, then I prefer crampons (the type for hiking, not ice climbing). Crampons do not ball up but are alot more aggressive, they also do bot break as easily as the stretchy microspikes but I would not want to use them over rock or trails not fully covered in snow. My preferred brand is Hillsound
Snowshoes– only needed with lots of fresh powder, otherwise use crampons/microspikes. They can be cumbersome and unnecessary on a packed trail, if hiking proper incline, get snowshoes with metal spikes that go along the sides, not just the teeth under the toes (MSRs)
Hiking poles with baskets– Hiking poles that have the ability to take on and take off snow baskets are great! I prefer black diamond poles so far.
Gaiters– gaiters prevent snow from entering your boots should you be post-holing. They aren’t needed if you are only sticking to well trekked out trails and won’t be going into deeper snow, however if there is a chance you might, better be safe! I prefer Hillsound
Boots- Ankle high boots with a solid support and thickness to keep you warm. Boots are super personal so make sure yours is comfortable with winter socks
Socks/Clothes- I prefer merino wool! It keeps you warm even when wet which is so useful if you’re sweating in sub zero temperatures. Select socks with more than 75% merino and carry an extra pair if you might be doing any river crossings.
Headlamp– in Canada winter hiking means less daylight and the likelyhood of heading back in the dark (or starting in the dark). It’s always good practice to bring a headlamp with extra batteries (cold batteries drain faster) that are NOT rechargeable (those drain much faster), or a charger for usb headlamps.
Extras- Gloves, mittens, hats, neck gaiters, down jackets, and a good shell are all important. There’s more than enough options for these but bring more than you think you might need. Your friend might!