For Ruffwear founder Patrick Kruse, exploring the outdoors has been a way of life since the beginning, whether by foot, bike, flying machine, or boat. And he has always searched for ways to include his canine sidekicks in all of his adventures.
Today, the performance dog gear company Patrick launched from his garage, Ruffwear, is present around the globe. Throughout our journey, we’ve remained true to our passion for enhancing and inspiring exploration for outdoor adventurers and their human companions.
Patrick is born into a pack
This Kruse family photo is taken three years before Patrick is born. Yet these two dogs, Olin and Rexie, are important family members that Patrick experiences from an early age. Dogs continue to be integral family members, instilling in Patrick a deep appreciation of the bonds four-legged friends have in our lives.
A sign of things to come…
From a young age, Patrick and his family hike and backpack in the Sierras. Patrick wants to bring his dog Marriah along, so at age 12 he heads to an Army Navy surplus store searching for a solution. He finds some bags, which he sews together with his mom’s machine to create his first dog pack.
A different path
Following his wanderlust, Patrick passes his GED at 16, heads for the Caribbean, and crews on a 72-foot ketch, Taormina. From diving on tropical reefs to experiencing communities in turmoil, Patrick gains a broader world perspective. Living before the mast also requires ingenuity, and Patrick takes on mechanical repairs, woodworking and sewing, inspiring Ruffwear’s belief in being creative and building goods to last.
Feeling drawn again to mountains and rivers, Patrick returns to California. Leaning on skills gained in the Caribbean, he launches his own business, Mariner Marine Works. It teaches him the value of being responsive to customer needs, which leads to Ruffwear’s customer-centric outlook.
Passion meets profession
From mountain biking to windsurfing, Patrick’s passions take him outside. On a Green River trip, friends and family introduce him to whitewater kayaking, and Patrick recognizes that fabrics and techniques from other outdoor gear could make for better kayaking equipment. He sees a need and strives to solve it by starting another business: Salamander Paddle Gear.
During a day mountain biking in California’s Los Padres National Forest, Patrick observes his friend struggling to give her dog a drink using a plastic bag. Inspiration and need again converge. If fabric can keep water out, why can’t it keep water in? Days later, he creates a prototype collapsible bowl. It’s the beginning of the third endeavor: Ruffwear.
A star is born and a logo created
An abandoned junkyard dog found in downtown LA becomes the inspiration for the Ruffwear logo. Ursula teaches her guardian, Patrick’s friend Lynne, about responsibility, commitment and unconditional love. Ursula’s story is the inspiration for Ruffwear’s belief in partnering with organizations that support effective adoption campaigns.
Customers lap it up
Patrick brings 15 Ruffwear bowls to the Outdoor Retailer Show and places them on a table in the Salamander Paddle Gear booth. The bowls intrigue many, including an LL Bean buyer who orders 8,000. Ruffwear puts a new product category on the map — outdoor dog gear. This approach of bringing dog gear to the outdoor market further nurtures Ruffwear’s spirit of innovation and devotion to following our own path.
Learning by doing
Working from his garage, Patrick scrambles to keep up with demand for Ruffwear’s bowl. Industry players like Title Nine and Outside magazine feature Ruffwear, and Patrick does everything from designing products to making sales to fulfilling orders. This learning-by-doing approach allows him to scale up the business while continuing to be Ruffwear’s sole employee.
Road trippin' and product research
Patrick hits the road to explore and to connect with customers at shows, events and festivals, logging 40,000 miles in the first year with his canine sidekick Otis. Through listening and observing, new product ideas are conceived, setting a standard for Ruffwear’s customer-driven product design.
Growing the pack
Patrick moves to Bend, Oregon, drawn by the area’s combination of mountains, rivers and desert. It’s an ideal place for an outdoor lifestyle and to grow an outdoor business. Patrick hires his first employees. Continuing its course of business unusual, Ruffwear reinvests its profits to grow sustainably rather than take on debt. This approach provides the freedom to take chances while focusing on passion and purpose.
Supporting working dogs
After the catastrophic events of 9/11, a journalist asks a rescue worker what they need most and the answer is “dog boots.” By coordinating with customers, FedEx and Search & Rescue, Ruffwear helps ensure the much-needed supplies make it to the search teams. While Ruffwear has helped working dogs in the past, this event cements the commitment to supporting the needs of working dogs and their handlers.
Supporting wild places
Committed to the need to protect wild places where dogs and people play, Ruffwear joins The Conservation Alliance, offering an annual contribution and holding special event sales, with all proceeds going to the organization’s mission to protect public lands. The Ruffwear pack also volunteers in The Conservation Alliance’s Backyard Collective, rolling up obsolete fence, removing invasive weeds and performing other restoration work in the field.
Buried alive and digging it
Patrick attends the Wasatch Backcountry Rescue Dog School at Alta, Utah, to learn the needs of avalanche dogs and their handlers. In the following years, Ruffwear becomes the avalanche dog uniform supplier of choice for U.S. ski resorts and international teams. Ruffwear’s product development team participates at the school to this day, where they lend a hand, get buried in the snow and gain valuable product insights and feedback. It’s part of Ruffwear’s core value of designing for function.
Sniffing for science
Ruffwear partners with Conservation Canines, a nonprofit that rescues hard-to-home dogs and applies their high energy and skills to sniff out scat for scientific research and resource management. The feedback gained from these hardworking dogs drives home valuable insights about designing gear from a dog’s perspective while contributing to preserving our natural resources.
Dog’s best friend
Stemming from Ruffwear’s belief in supporting effective adoption efforts, Ruffwear joins forces with Best Friends Animal Society to launch the Ruff Adventure Dog Adoption Program. Ruffwear funds the adoption and travel fees to connect outdoor adventurers with active human companions, and lives are forever changed.
Connections built to last
What started as a one-man shop has grown into 38 dedicated pack members who work hard and play hard, together. Ruffwear has twice been named one of Outside magazine’s 100 Best Places to Work, and our products are found in 53 countries. We’re dog-devoted, outdoor-oriented people who love what we do — and it shows.
The journey continues
Through a sustainable approach to growing our business, Ruffwear is honored to be able to give $50,000 to The Conservation Alliance to preserve and protect the places where we live and play. We continue striving to put our best paw forward, building performance dog gear to enhance and inspire exploration for outdoor adventurers and their human companions.
In This Together
Working dogs and their human partners have been part of Ruffwear’s heart and soul since the beginning. In 2019, we focused on the needs of working dogs and their handlers by creating the UniFly™ Guide Dog Harness. We learned that having a vision doesn’t mean being able to see with your eyes.
Working like a dog... from home
Covid-19 made 2020 a year of learning to navigate uncharted waters. It was important to have all of us in the proverbial raft together to navigate the unknown rapids of a global pandemic. Deepening relationships while working remotely, keeping us all together, was the right choice. Not only did we not flip the raft, but we had to build a bigger one to accommodate 18 new pack members.
Navigating the ever-changing river
The new year brought new challenges for the Ruffwear Pack. Our growing team came together to respond to supply chain challenges and the shifting pandemic landscape. Our sustainability focus deepened to include achieving 100% renewable electricity for our U.S. operations. Ruffwear was nominated as one of REI’s 2020 Vendor Partners of the Year. And in December, we honored Will Blount, Ruffwear President of 20 years, as he stepped away to pursue his next adventure.