I own a rambunctious Black Lab who even at 12, still acts like a puppy. He loves people a little too much and strange dogs unfortunately not as much, so I leash him on trails where I’m likely to encounter lots of other people and dogs. Years ago when I started trail running and hiking with my crazy Jake dog, I struggled to find a leash that worked. Handheld leashes were clumsy and inconvenient and most of the stretch webbing leashes I tried broke after only a few outings. Most just aren’t made to be stretched to the max by an 85-lb dog!
One day I walked into a local pet store and while perusing, saw the Ruffwear Roamer™ leash—a stretchable, adjustable leash worn around your waist. I was already intrigued enough to buy it but hesitated with the $35 price tag. As I looked it over an employee immediately came over to me and couldn’t stop praising it. “If you’re even thinking about it you should get it! I run with my dog and that leash has been amazing.” Alright, the employee’s glowing review convinced me. Sold!
I figured two things would happen: 1) its accordion-like stretch would last all of 2-3 outings like usual or 2) hooking my crazy dog to a leash tied around my waist would kill me.
I would have never guessed my $35 would be so well spent. Exactly four years later that very same leash is still going strong and although Jake and I have had a handful of funny trail skits over the years, I’m happy to say that neither of us have ended up with major injuries. I’d call that a win!
The salesman was right, the Ruffwear Roamer really is amazing! Even if you’re not frequently on the trail with your dog or have reservations about having your dog tied to your waist, the Roamer is a must buy for any dog owner. It’s ingenious design, ruggedness, and versatility quickly turned it into one of the best pieces of gear I can’t live without!
So what makes this leash so special? Design!
It’s made of tough nylon stretch webbing which makes it easy to clean and incredibly durable. At one end is a waist belt that adjusts from approximately 14” – 42” and at the other, a sturdy Talon Clip™ for securely attaching to your dog’s collar.
The best part of the Roamer is the traffic handle, an extra loop at the end of the leash near the Talon Clip that allows you to pull your dog right next to you for complete control.
The Roamer comes in two sizes; the smaller adjusting from about 5 to 7-8 feet, and the larger from about 7 to 11-12 feet. The measurements depend on just how far you stretch it. I actually own the smaller Roamer and find that despite Jake being a larger dog, it gives him space to stay ahead of me without me tripping over him. I opted for the smaller Roamer just to keep the slack in check.
The Roamer’s waist strap is lightly padded, making for a comfortable fit around the waist without pinching or chafing. The padding also gives the waist belt a bit of tack to stay in place. One of my biggest pet peeves is a waist belt that rides up, ugh! I wear the Roamer low around my hips and have never once had trouble with it moving. I love that it stays put!
The stretch webbing does a great job of shock absorbing and helps keep jerking to a minimum if your dog pushes the boundaries. Even if my dog gives me a tug, wearing the leash around my waist gives me a good center of gravity and stability to resist. Granted, if you have a dog that really lunges and bolts, you might want to do some training before wearing this leash!
Over the years I’ve come up with a lot of ways to use this leash. It’s been great at campgrounds since I can easily adjust the waist belt to loop around a tree (even pretty big ones!) or cinch down around a picnic table leg. I’ve even flipped it around a few times, clipping the Talon Hook onto tent stakes and wires and looping the waist belt through Jake’s collar. In the city I can leash him to just about anything! The Roamer easily tucks into a backpack as well for those areas where leashes aren’t needed.
I really love the traffic handle feature of the Roamer when I’m out for walks. It makes it easy to let Jake roam, yet quickly pull him in when crossing streets or passing others. The location of the handle sits at a perfect height to simply reach down, grab it, and keep Jake right next to me.
What impresses me most about the Roamer is how darn tough it is! My crazy Jake dog is incredibly rough on gear. He’s a strong, athletic, 85-lb dog who acts like a bull in a china shop. This leash has been frozen solid with ice, hung up between sharp rocks, and drug through mud, muck, swamps, rivers, and just about every other gross thing I can imagine.
Jake has lunged to the end of it more times than I can count. One time I was so tired driving home from a backpacking trip that I accidentally slammed it into my tailgate. I think I drove for a good hour, a piece of it flapping outside my Jeep while I kept thinking “wow, WHAT is that noise!?” Oops!
Even more impressive is that no matter what kind of nasty stuff has gotten into it, it always cleans up with just a little soap and water and sometimes a deodorant spritz. I hang dry it and the next day, it’s good as new!
Though the webbing has stretched a tad over the years, mine is still working just as well as the day I bought it, which is pretty incredible. I wish I knew how many trail miles were on my Roamer, but believe me, it’s been more than adequately broken in!
If you want your dog to have more space, you might consider the longer length Roamer. I chose the smaller size to keep slack in check when running. My Jake dog is a puller and when we run together, he tends to be out front. I usually joke that he’s running me rather than the other way around!
The smaller size Roamer does a perfect job of keeping him close, but giving me enough space that I’m not tripping on him. As he’s getting older we run less frequently than we used to and when he slows down, I can easily tuck any leash slack into a backpack or even double-wrap it around my waist.
I’ve been lucky that Jake isn’t the type of dog who bolts, so for us, it didn’t take much training to be able to use the Roamer. That said, we’ve definitely had some funny stories over the years. Once while hiking with a friend he forgot my dog was tied to me and threw a stick. “Jake, fetch!” he yelled. I’m sure you can imagine what happened next.
Luckily Jake quickly realized we were still attached, but not before I took a pretty good digger down the trail. It’s amazing how fast a big dog can accelerate from 0 to 60! It’s also amazing the Roamer survived that incident, not to mention me!
It’s been amazing to hit the trails with Jake on leash, totally hands free. I can’t imagine going anywhere without the Roamer. I’ve been so impressed with a number of Ruffwear products that I made them one of my recommended affiliates. All of their products come with a trail tested promise that guarantees all of their gear against defects in materials and craftsmanship. Ruffwear is headquartered in Bend, OR and was recently named one of Outside’s Best Places to Work.
Want to buy one?
The Ruffwear Roamer retails for $34.95 on the Ruffwear website and comes in a variety of colors. Consider checking out some of Ruffwear’s other gear as well, they make fantastic stuff for outdoor dogs!
Appreciate the review? Consider purchasing through my affiliate links above at no cost to you. It’ll kick back a few cents to me that’ll buy my pup an extra post-adventure treat! Happy trails! 🐾
Disclaimer: I believe in doing good in the world and purchase my gear from companies who feel the same. I’m not paid to support any of the companies or products I review. Unless otherwise stated, all the gear on this site has been purchased, tested, scuffed up, and loved by me!