It’s always exciting to see an idea, become a project, and then a finished product. It is particularly so for us at Spotter Up, because we started the very same way, and the hard work, dedication and challenges of keeping any idea a viable and productive while not always noticed, is always respected by those who have the same level of intensity.
We have been communicating and watching Duo-Gear from almost their first social media post. What sparked my interest in particular, is the focus. The company focuses on cold-nosed, loyal creatures, and their humans. I said perfect in the title, because this is exactly the case. As an awesome K9 trainer taught me a long time ago, there are no imperfect dogs – only humans. Duo-Gear focuses on the relationship of the two species, and some equipment which goes along with it. You can read a cool story about the company’s startup here
Duo-Gear may not be for everyone. It may not be for your average gear head someone who poses with their Malinois for ratings. It is however, for those who commit time to their canine partners, and is focused on making that experience and interaction as good for them, as it can be.
Raj at Duo-Gear sent us two of their premier products. The Eclipse Adventure Dog Harness and Hoplite Bag. The reason for the two products in the lineup, as explained on the site is simple. Anyone who has been taken on a true adventure beyond a neighborhood walk by their four legged friend, wants a way to connect to them and a way to carry some essential gear. As a former medic and one who pushed for K9 tactical medical curriculum, it warms my heart to see the company encourages accessibility of a first aid kit not just for the handler, but also the dog. The Eclipse harness accomplishes the cohesion element of the adventure, and the Hoplite’ the accessibility to essential kit.
One of the goals addressed in the product design aspect of Duo-Gear – and I should note that everything is designed in-house by founders Raj and Gio, is to eliminate the issues they have seen in K9 products. This is based on their own experience and care for their canine partners, and the focus on the dog’s well being is evident and cannot be overstated.
While going off leash whenever possible, I also prefer using a harness versus a collar for most adventures. I believe overall the connection is easier on the dog because there is no pull on the neck, control is more positive when needed, it allows to attach tactical or basic items, and often places the dog in that work mode. For them of-course, it has to be all play, but may indicate a different kind of purposeful play. With larger therapy and working K9s, the handle on the harness is also useful beyond esthetics. On more than one occasion I asked my partner to come up and give me a pull.
One issue I have seen in using a harness, and often a working dog harness, is the lack of overall comfort for the K9. Much like us, every dog is different, and it is difficult to address their comfort uniformity especially when working for an extended period. Part of the reason this is an issue with working harnesses is their multi-purpose intent. For that reason, Duo-Gear shifted their focus to the dog.
The comfort of Eclipse harness is enhance through a particular “V” design, which focuses on support in the girth area, and eliminates unnecessary material elsewhere. The mil-spec webbing straps are also uniquely sewn over the padded portions of the material. Overall, this eliminates pinch points, hot spots, and allows for an awesome range of motion. This is probably the most essential when going on extended hikes, and doing more than just walking. My partner is larger framed, and has happily swam, climbed, ran, and layed down in the Eclipse. No dog will ever complain. While some may demonstrate a degraded performance, they will keep going. As a handler or a caring human, it is on us to recognize when these become issues. Laying down seems like an easy down time task, but when the harness is already a marginal fit, wet, and the dog is tired, will cause additional issues instead of much needed R&R.
These are non-issues with the Duo-Gear Eclipse. Another key feature is the amount of adjustment the harness allows. Often a specific size limits the user to a couple inches either way. But when environmental conditions change, food intake varies and the K9 gets cooler or warmer, this is a very limited option. I have noticed this with my partner in particular, especially when we can’t get outside or for a trip regularly. The Eclipse eliminates this issue, allowing for ample room to loosen or tighten the harness.
The sizing of the harness is spot on. The shoulder straps fit over the top of the shoulder and do not impede movement, the chest pad sits perfectly and offer protection with the perfect amount of padding and tough external nylon. The later is also key when going over rocks or brush. The last thing you want is to have your partner snagged or cut while on a trip, and while every inch of him can not be covered, the essential area coverage is a must.
I absolutely love the O-ring on top of the harness, versus any other option often seen in a harness. This leash/lead attachment point, and the manner in which it is sewn can make or break the adventure for the human. Having a ring instead of any other type of attachment allows for the lead to pivot completely and from any angle, offer a perfect degree of control without artificially increasing the pull, and eliminates snagging and the need to constantly stop and adjust.
Rounding out the list of features on the Duo-Gear Eclipse are the tough ITW buckles, and a sturdy top handle with hook and loop. My pup was easily responsive when I used the handle, and I had no doubt that it would withstand the stress I put on it.
The Hoplite Bag serves the purpose of carrying essential gear on extended trips with your furr ball. I agree with the designers, in that it is very practical to have a bag dedicated to your K9. The Hoplite eliminates packing and repacking of your own ruck, allows itself to be combined with a larger pack for applicable missions, and is the perfect size for what is needed. I absolutely love the slick, minimalist appearance of the Hoplite. But despite the cover, the book offers perfect features, without overwhelming “tactical” or tacit-cool. If the high end materials and quality of the Hoplite seem slightly familiar, its because its built by no other than our buds at First Spear. Yes, USA made!
Simple and functional rows of MOLLE, useful compression cinch straps which contour the whole bag including allowing for attachment on the bottom, strong carry handle, and tough zipper pulls and zipper covers, are actually beyond what all inline with the tough nature of Duo-Gear. Again, the last thing I want when on a track or at elevation is to lose the kit necessary for my partner. So what exactly are the “necessities”?
When adventure combines common sense and mission essentials for a grab-and-go approach, the initial thing is as stressed above – a first aid kit. The field care for a K9 is not much different than for a human, but if you are truly committed to their welfare, I would suggest either checking with your veterinarian, taking a course, or buying a book which focuses on their first aid and ditch medicine. Key principles are bleeding control, recognizing hypothermia and overheating, splinting and airway. Another great resource, and one which loves public exposure, is your local public safety agency K9 unit. They are versed in above principles, and would probably be more than happy to share. There are several books out there, and we would be happy to recommend a couple, but as stated – the basics remain the same. I carry tourniquet, hemostatic gauze, regular gauze, soft splint, hydration, and a decompression needle.
Aside from the emergency field care, the basics we carry are treats, toys, soft water bowl, spare leash or collar, paracord, and light source. While the bags intentions are K9 essential, protection of them is our responsibility. Additional items may be an emergency/reflective blanket, inflatable pillow or bed, and your favorite Woobie. Given the slick appearance of the pack, I comfortable held 25 or so pounds of gear, including a handgun, spare magazines, blade, and food. The reinforced bottom of the pack, outer face, and adjustable padded shoulder straps made the use of this pack as comfortable and enjoyable for me over hours ling hike, as the Eclipse harness was for my partner. The mesh back panel of the pack worked great for venting moisture, and providing enough padding without being overbearing.
The interior of the pack is entirely customizable. A fully opening main compartment exposes a MOLLE panel over the entire back section, and an interior mesh access to the outer pocket. The later is also accessible from the outside via a large zipper. Again, the potential tactical applications of this are not lost on the end-user. The cinch straps can be routed through the outer loops on the front of the pack, or disconnected from the “G” hooks on the sides.
But, what always impresses me with any company, and particularly a young USA venue, is not just the products themselves. Duo-Gear offer unconditional support through product guarantee, blogging on their site, maintenance advice, and additional products which team up perfectly. One such item, and the next on my purchase list, is Duo MPC system. This is a wearable panel, which allow you to attach your K9 partner to you. This is a unique and useful option on the market, and allows for tactical egress, first aid evacuation, and simple relief when your partner gets tired. Again, be a good human, and recognize their needs before the need arises.
I have to mention and thank Duo Gear, for a simple act which had absolutely no bearing on this review. Last year we started working with a local non-profit called Dogs 2Dog Tags. This amazing group rescues shelter dogs, trains them. and pairs them with veterans who need them. Its life saving at its core. Duo Gear has donated an Eclipse harness to be used for the next therapy and assistance K9. Aside from a truly enjoyable project, it is awesome when good people do so much good, and our team at Spotter Up is honored to call them friends.
I received this product as a courtesy from the manufacturer via Spotter Up so I could test it and give my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give this product a good review. All opinions are my own and are based off my personal experience with the product.
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