Dog Gear Review: Hurtta Sun & Bug Blocker

Xena’s biggest enemy is the heat. We love the sunny Southern California weather but that heat can get brutal on Xena. Her black fur absorbs that heat and retains it for a very long time. Even in the low 60s, without shade Xena gets too hot and she looks for shades. So it’s my responsibility to make sure she doesn’t get overheated when we hike.

A couple months ago we received a sample of Sun & Bug Blocker from Hurtta North America for trail testing. They wanted to see how it does on a black dog. Our long-time followers already know that we can’t live without Ruffwear Swamp Cooler. I am always interested in trying out cooling gear for Xena. We were happy to put it to the test right away.

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Product Specs

  • Size:  12S – 24M (click here to see how to measure correctly)
  • Color:  Beige
  • Retail price:  $55
  • Full suit (no zippers or straps)

Design – 4.5/5

Here is the material information directly from the Hurtta website:

Archroma Sanitized®

  • Permethrin-based durable and safe protection for dogs.

  • Keeps mosquitoes, ticks and horseflies from landing; reduces stings and bites

  • Accepted by Oeko-Tex Standard 100, Class I-IV.

  • The finishing retains efficiency even after a hundred washes.

  • Dermatologically tested.

  • Treated with Archroma Rayosan® which provides UPF 40+

Now, my observations:

  • Easy to pack compactly (a carrying pouch included) and store in my pack without any additional weight
  • Extremely light, soft, breathable and smooth. Once Xena had it on, she had more energy and was noticeably feeling more comfortable in the sun.
  • There are 3 drawstrings for adjustable fitting:  one on the back, second one at the base of the neck and the last one on the hoody.
  • Easier to dress than undress
  • Comfortable to wear

Function – 4.5/5

Archroma Sanitized® material is very light and breathable. I love the loose hoody design. It covers her entire head! She didn’t mind at all when I pulled it all the way up to protect her from the sun. I think she liked getting the sun blocked. She was not even fazed a little bit. She happily kept on hiking.

It was easier to dress than undress. It fits snug in the chest so it was a bit of effort to pull her first front leg out. It’s not hard but it’s not easy. She didn’t run away from me when I tried to put it on her again after the first time so I know she didn’t hate it. This probably isn’t an issue for a pup with a narrow chest.

We tested the suit in Warner Springs, CA during a weekend trip. Surprisingly there were many mosquitoes. Huge mosquitoes! I assumed probably many ticks were there too considering the amount of tall grasses along the trails. She didn’t get one bite nor I noticed any of them landing on her. Insect/bug test passed by us.

She had no problem going potty in this. That’s always a good thing. 😉

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Quality – 5/5

It’s made with high quality material and the stitching is flawlessly as I would expect from Hurtta products. I wash it in a front load washing machine in a gentle cycle and air-dry it. The suit comes out of the washer like new and it’s easy to care for. 

Fashion and Fit – 4/5

To get the right size, you need to measure the neck, chest and the back length. Xena’s wearing the size 18M and it fits perfectly. We didn’t need it but if you need to adjust the fitting, there are 3 drawstrings:  one on the back, second one at the base of the neck and the last one on the hoody.

Xena seemed to be comfortable in the suit too. I didn’t notice any chafing and her movement wasn’t restricted in anyway

Now, let’s talk about the fashion. I have a few nicknames for it. Mummy suit, space suit, bee keeper suit, to name a few. I think all doggie full suits are funny when it’s on. I find it entertaining. Haha. But this isn’t about looking fashionable but protecting your pup from the sun and the nasty annoying bugs and insects so it has to cover most part of the body.

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Overall – 4.5/5

Hurtta Sun & Bug Blocker is a high quality performance full suit that is light and airy to keep the dog cool yet protected from the sun’s harmful rays and annoying (and could be dangerous) bugs such as mosquitoes, ticks and horseflies. It is suitable for all fur-types but I think it looks better on the dogs with shorter fur. It’s great for dogs who get overheated easily due to their dark fur or dogs without hair who needs extra protection. Skin cancer is very common in dogs. If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, it’s something to think about as well…

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Xoxo

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Limitations

“Limitations tend to be illusions or self created barriers.” ― Steven Redhead

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Even though you can’t tell from this picture, I am sitting on a boulder that is about 9 feet tall and the boulders in the front are even taller. If you don’t know me, I have a fear of heights. It’s gotten worse over the years actually. I don’t like that I have this phobia. As you can imagine it gets in the way sometimes and limits me on the trails.

This photo was taken from the Castle Rock hike over the weekend. At Castle Rock, if you want a nice view of the lake you have to climb the boulders. I pushed myself to climb up the boulders to a point where I am scared but not panicking. I really wanted to go further to the boulders in front of me. I heard myself saying, you can do it! Just keep walking! But I couldn’t move one more step from here. As it always does, as I stopped moving and started listening to my inner voices fighting with each other on top of this boulder, the fear grew quickly and it immobilized me instantly. I felt the panic coming on. I sat and took a deep breath. I was scared but I didn’t want to go down right away. I resisted my wanting to go down to the ground where I’d feel safe. I didn’t want my fear to win again. Xena eventually found her way up and stood next to me. She looked uncomfortable with the heights too. Could that be my doing? I turned to her and said, ‘Well, we did it, Xena. I am ready to go down now.’ With that, Xena hurried down.

Do you have a phobia that gets in your way when you are doing things you love? If so, what are you doing to overcome it?

Xo

Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada

Valley of Fire State Park is 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas off Interstate 15.

Unlike the day before, I took my time in the morning. I even ordered a room service. I wasn’t going to be having a real meal until dinner so I savored it.

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The bacon stare

Valley of Fire Hwy was peaceful. Make sure you have plenty of gas before getting on this highway though. As soon as we entered in to the park, I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed even with my high expectation. I drove to the visitor center to use the restroom and to finalize the plan for the day.

When I walked out of the restroom, there was a crowd gathered east of the visitor center. A herd of bighorn sheep was slowly migrating! They were beautiful. I got Xena out of the car, put the leash on and grabbed the camera as fast as I could and walked over to that side. Of course, Xena wanted to stop and sniff and pee after being in the car for an hour. By the time we made to that side, the herd had moved on and they were too far for me to get a good photo for you guys.

One man got unnecessarily close to the animals. I understand he wants a great photo but what if someone did that to you and your family? The herd blended in so well with the background. They are in the center of the photo. Hopefully, you can see them.

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I decided to check out the trails on Mouse’s Tank Rd first then see. But first, we explored the interesting rock formations surrounding the visitor center and took some fun pictures.

From the visitor center, I took Mouse’s Tank Rd then began our adventure.

I did not expect the trails to be that much different from each other since they are on the same side of the park. I figured we would check out a couple of them then move on to another part of the park. Well, we spent all day on this one road and we had a blast!! All these hikes are easy to follow and short in distance (less than 2 miles).

First Hike:  Petroglyph Canyon Trail (a.k.a. Mouse’s Tank Trail)

  • Out and back
  • Terrain:  Sandy
  • Big picnic area with additional parking across from the trailhead
  • Difficulty:  Easy (kid-friendly)

We shared the trail with a senior hiking tour group. I guessed they were in their 70s and older. So awesome! They had a guide who explained the history of the place and pointed out petroglyphs along the trail.

Valley of Fire State Park contains ancient, petrified trees and petroglyphs dating back to 2,500 years. It really is a geologic wonderland! If you love geology and natural history like me, you would love Valley of Fire!

 

Next Hike:  Rainbow Vista & Fire Canyon Lookout

  • Out and back
  • Terrain:  Sandy/rocky
  • Difficulty:  Moderate
  • Rainbow Vista:  A panoramic view of multi-colored sandstone.

Although it’s a short hike and mostly flat, I rated this hike moderate just because of the last bit of steep climbing to the Rainbow Vista. Like the name, Rainbow Vista was very colorful. According to the sign, we were looking at 150 million years of time since the dinosaurs walked on earth. This untouched colorful wilderness was an amazing view to take in.

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Fire Canyon Lookout trail requires a bit of scrambling and rock climbing but it’s very doable. We climbed up to one of the rocks with a great view point and had a lunch break.

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Click here for video

 

Next Hike:  Fire Wave

  • Out and back
  • Terrain:  Dirt/sandy/rock
  • Difficulty:  Easy (kid-friendly)

Fire Wave is a must see when you visit. When you google “Valley of Fire images”, most of the pictures you see are from here. There is no steep incline or decline to mention. Just watch your steps as the rocks can be slippery with loose sand. Take your time and enjoy the stunning view.

Click here for video

 

Final Hike:  White Dome

  • Loop
  • Terrain:  Sandy/dirt/rocky
  • Difficulty:  Moderate
  • There is a small picnic area with benches near the parking lot.

This is the last stop on Mouse Tank Road and I think it was my favorite. The sandy trail began at the end of the cul de sac with a short ascent. The ascent of the hill was rewarded by an extensive view of what was ahead. Many people, who were not comfortable with hiking, enjoyed the views from here and turned around. We hiked down to the canyon.

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Looking back up

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Click here for video

 

Valley of Fire was what I expected and more!!! Not only bright red Aztec sandstone nestled in gray and tan limestone mountains is eye catching but it’s from the Jurassic period. How cool is that! I was sad that I only had one day to explore. These photos don’t do it justice so head over to our Facebook Page for more videos!

Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  2.20.17
  • Daily-use fee:  $10/vehicle for non-Nevada residents
  • There are two campgrounds and all campsites are first come, first served with fee
  • Pets are not allowed in the visitor center

Never Stop Exploring

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Red Rock Canyon in Nevada

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is 17 miles west of Las Vegas.

I made a PB&J sandwich for lunch from the room then packed our food for the day as I planned on spending all day at Red Rock Canyon. I picked up a soy latte from Starbucks at the hotel on my way out. I could have eaten my breakfast in the room I guess but I was too eager to start the day.

When we entered the Conservation Area, I let Xena out of the car for a quick photo. At first she was happy but that changed quickly when we heard shotguns. There must have been a shooting range very close by. Xena could not get back in the car fast enough.

Red Rock Canyon is managed by the Bureau of Land Management as part of its National Landscape Conservation System and it accepts the America the Beautiful annual pass. Although all the trails were open, the ranger warned me about the soft condition of the trails due to the recent rain storm. The park had to close midday the day before due to the heavy rain and strong wind.

I planned only one day for the Red Rock so I picked a couple trails to get a taste of the park. It was overcast and the temperature was in the upper 50s. As long as the wind doesn’t pick up more, it was a great condition for hikes.

Hike #1:  Moenkopi Loop

  • Total distance:  2.1 miles
  • Elevation gain:  149 ft (starting elevation:  3,698 ft)

Park at the visitor center. This easy 2-mile round trip hike is kid-friendly, educational and a great way to see the entire park. If you like natural history and geology like me, you will enjoy this little hike. The trailhead is at the west of the visitor center at the end of the 911 Memorial.

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When the trail splits, we went straight and did the loop clockwise. But you can go to either direction since it’s a loop. There will be signs to guide you and the trail is wide open. What a view, right?

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Is it lunch time yet?

Hike #2:  White Rock

  • Total distance:  6.7 miles
  • Elevation gain:  963 ft (starting elevation:  4,529 ft)

I planned on checking out the Calico Tank Trail on our way to White Rock trail but the parking area was packed and overflowing to the Scenic Loop Drive. There is no better Jamie repellent than the crowd. 😉 So I kept on driving and reached the White Rock lower parking lot off the Scenic Drive. You know how sometimes unexpected detours happen and make the hike better than if your plan wasn’t interrupted? That didn’t happened on that day. I parked further than I needed to and missed a critical turn so we ended up walking on the Scenic Loop Drive 2nd half of the hike. I saw parked cars at the lower parking lot and assumed that the upper parking lot near the trailhead was full so I parked at the lower parking. Wrong. This parking area was for people who just wanted to stop and take photos and move on to the next viewpoint spot. It does have a great view.

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We began our hike on White Rock Mountain Rd. I planned on doing the White Rock out and back but I saw the sign for White Rock Loop 6 miles at the trailhead. Instantly, I decided to do the loop. Who doesn’t like a loop, right? I followed the sign for Keystone Thrust and White Rock Loop. If you want to do this clockwise, look for a trailhead to the west of the information board.

The trail was busy in the beginning with tourists but after we passed the split to the Keystone Thrust, we were alone and it felt remote. The trail began on an incline. There was no steep incline or decline to mention though. I loved the rugged sandstone of Red Rock Canyon.

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We would go for like 30 minutes and see no one. I don’t need to see people for hours or even days but as soon as I don’t have the cell phone reception, I feel uneasy. Yes, I am one of those people who get anxious when my cell phone battery level drops below 65%. When I started to wonder if we were still on the trail, someone would come from the other direction.

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The terrain became more rocky and there were many big cacti along the trail.

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After this hike, I had to remove 4 half inch long cactus thorns from the top of her paws with a tweezer. 🤕 First I tried it with my fingers and it kept cutting off. The tweezer pulled those stinkers out with no problem.

At the La Madre Spring trail junction, we turn left. In hindsight, I should’ve turned us around and returned to the trailhead (out and back) at this point because the best part of this hike was over for us. La Madre Spring trail had more traffic and Xena did not like the gravel road. It was hard for her to walk. I felt bad for her.

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We left the La Madre Spring Wilderness and got on Rocky Gap Road. Walking on the pavement and looking out for oncoming traffic isn’t hiking! Long story short, I missed a trail that we were supposed to pick up after the Willow Spring Picnic area. I looked around but didn’t see it. I should have created a route on mapmyhike.com and loaded to my phone. I thought there would be signs. So we ended up walking back to the car via roads, Rocky Gap Road then Scenic Loop Drive. At least Scenic Loop Drive is one way road and I only had to watch out for the oncoming traffic. I saw some people walking on Rocky Gap Road but no one was as lost as we were to walk on Scenic Loop Drive. LOL. Sigh..

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I was going to stay at the park until the sunset but that didn’t happen. When we got back to the car around 3:30 pm, we were cold, thirsty and tired. After sharing a coconut water and some snacks, Xena wanted to go in the car. While I was loading the car, she was already dozing off.

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I thought to plan better for the next day. I was really excited about visiting Valley of Fire State Park and didn’t want to cut that trip short.

Red Rock Canyon is beautiful! Next time, I will definitely plan a longer trip to explore the parts of the park we didn’t get to see on this trip. Already can’t wait! For videos from this day, go to our Facebook page!

Good to Know:

Never stop exploring! Xo

Dog Gear Review: Hurtta Torrent Raincoat

In Southern California, the rainy season is from November to February. But we’ve been in a drought condition for so long, I forgot what it was like to have a rainy season. We had lots of greens on the trails this winter, dried up waterfalls in the L.A. area are flowing again, wildflowers are blooming early and in more places, spring time is more beautiful than ever this year.

Our friends at Hurtta North America sent us a Torrent Coat to test in the fall. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to test the jacket to its capacity based on the weather history. Oh boy, I was in for a surprise! We had such a good wet season this winter and we just might be out of the long-lasted drought condition after 5-6 years! During these wet months, we got to test our jacket often on the trail and off the trail. In other parts of the country, the rainy season is just about to begin so I think it is a good time to share the review of the product with our readers.

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Product Specs

  • Size:  8-35″ (click here to see how to measure)
  • Color:  Raven, Cherry & Hi-Viz Orange (select sizes)
  • Retail price:  $75

Design – 4/5

  • Waterproof and breathable Houndtex® coating
  • Quick to line-dry in an airy space
  • Perfect for long- and soft-haired dogs
  • Adjustable chest strap
  • High protective collar
  • High-quality 3M reflectors for safety
  • Easy to dress

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Function – 3.5/5

The material is light and smooth. It has been laminated with a waterproof and breathable Houndtex® membrane. Even during a storm, it kept Xena dry. I like its high collar and that it covers her entire back and chest keeping her dry and warm. The material is very similar to my windbreaker.

It is easy to dress using two buckles. The leg loops kept the jacket in place without restricting her movement. 3M reflectors and the bright pink color were great to keep Xena visible at all times. Adjustable chest strap worked as expected.

It is supposedly made from soundless material but that wasn’t the case. Although I did not find it loud or annoying and has not impact on her movement, the material makes a light whoosh sound when Xena walks. It’s the material rubbing against each other.

My biggest complaint is the tail snap. When it was closed underneath the tail, for whatever reason, Xena had to go #2 every. single. time. Not surprisingly, the poo got on it. Ew! I heard from others that they had the same issue. After using it for couple times with the same result, I gave up and never used that feature again. I just snapped it over her tail and flipped it over on her back or let it cover her tail.

Quality – 5/5

It’s made with high quality material and the stitching is flawlessly as I would expect from Hurtta products. I wash it in a front load washing machine in a gentle cycle and air-dry it. The coat comes out of the washer like new and it’s easy to care for. 

Fashion and Fit – 5/5

Love the look and fit! The vibrant pink looks stunning against Xena’s black fur. To get the right size, you need to measure the neck, chest and the back length. The adjustable chest strap is easy to use and great to get the perfect fit. Xena seems to be comfortable in the coat.

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Overall – 4.4/5

Hurtta Torrent Coat is a high quality performance jacket that is durable for the trails yet very comfortable for the daily walks. It protects your dog from the rain and the wind and keeps her dry and warm. It is suitable for all fur-types. Now only if Hurtta would just fix that tail snap..

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Beek’s Place via Black Star Canyon

Would you believe me if I told you that these pups hiked 17 miles together in one day?

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L to R:  Trooper @trooperandmoe, Xena, Gin @miffydoggy, Jack and River @jen_dux

Our friend Kristine invited us to a pack hike to Black Star Canyon. I’ve been wanting to check it out for a while but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to or would be able to hike 8 miles to the Beek’s Place and back, making 16 miles in total. I packed for 16 miles anyway but decided to play by ear depending on the trail condition and our physical and mental condition on the day of.

We met 3 ladies and their pups at the trailhead. We did a quick round of introduction before we began the hike. One of the pups (who is not in the group photo) wasn’t good with other dogs so the pup stayed on a leash and the pair hiked behind us. The trail began on a paved road but after a quarter mile or so, it turned to dirt. At the 2.54 mile marker, we came to the Black Star Falls trail junction.

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The trail to the waterfalls is unmaintained and has poison oak along the trail. The group decided to hike to the top of the waterfalls instead. On the way, Kristine took the group to this open meadow off the trail. You can’t see it from the fire road because it’s on a higher ground. This place was like The Sound of Music! ..except for the crazy wind. Look at those ears! Haha!

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Messy ears, I don’t care!

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After we let the dogs run around for a little bit, we got back on the fire road again. The side trail to the top of the falls wasn’t far from there. Although it’s unmarked, the long path descending through this open field will be hard to miss on your right. Here is the trail from the opposite direction.

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My GPS said 4.97 miles. Since we took a little detour, I would guess it is probably at around 4.7 miles. Most likely, you will see other people. From here to the top of the waterfalls is 0.17 miles.

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After the detour, we unanimously agreed to hike to the Beek’s Place. Everyone was feeling good. All the dogs got along very well. Xena was super happy on this hike. She smiled up at me many times. The Spring-like weather in January was enjoyed by all.

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The fire road gains 2,468 feet in elevation over a stretch of 8 miles so it has a gradual ascent. The easy terrain pretty much remains all the way to the top. However, the fire road is exposed and there is no shade so I wouldn’t recommend this hike with dogs during hot weather. We only ran in to a few bikers that day but I hear there are many speedy bikers on this trail so look out for them.

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From this gate, Beek’s Place is practically just around the corner.

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We were greeted by a 360-degree view at the top and we could see the snow cap on the Mt Baldy. But I was disappointed to find shattered glass bottles everywhere near the ruins of Beek’s Place. Please remember to leave no trace.

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We took a lunch break here then took a group photo before we headed back. When we were ready, we went back down the way we came up. We enjoyed ourselves on that day very much. Sunshine, waterfalls and laughter but most of all, the beginning of new friendship.

Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  1.14.17
  • Distance:  17 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain:  2,468 feet (752.25m)
  • Duration:  7 hours 40 minutes including breaks
  • Difficulty Rating:  Difficult
  • No restroom
  • Best time:  Winter, Spring and Fall

Not all group photos are graceful

Happy Hiking!