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Ruffwear Headwater Collar

photo: Ruffwear Headwater Collar dog collar

This is a nice waterproof collar for your active outdoor dog. If you are looking for a collar that will not get stinky, or stay wet, this may be the solution for you. In this review, I will address the Headwater Collar, as well as the companion waterproof leash.

Note, the current model has a metal buckle. We were given a collar for each dog, and a leash, by, to test and review.


  • Waterproof
  • Dries quickly
  • No stink
  • Sturdy


  • A bit pricey
  • New buckle takes some getting used to


Our dogs are active outdoor dogs...busy year-round in all conditions, be it snow, rain, mud, or heat. Inevitably, whether we are skijoring in wet snow, or paddling a lake, our dogs will get wet. And a wet dog means a wet collar...and our experience with nylon webbing collars is that they stay wet, and stinky, for a long time.

When I learned that Backcountry K9 was providing us with two Ruffwear Headwater Waterproof Collars, and a Headwater Waterproof Leash, I felt confident that we would be able to give this gear a good workout and make a fair appraisal. Well, we have done so, and report that we really like these collars and leash, and that they will continue to be used with our dogs.

First, the leash. The Ruffwear Headwater Leash is available in colors to match the collars, so your dog can have style along with function! The leash is 4 feet  long, and 3/4 inch wide ( 20mm), so it is compact, easy to loop around your waist or shoulders when not in use, and is lightweight, yet strong.

The webbing of the leash is coated with a waterproof material, so it is easy to wipe off mud or grime.  The attachment clip is the Talon Clip we have used on other Ruffwear gear, and have found it secure, and easy to use with only one hand.


The hand loop on the leash is large enough to easily use with mid-weight gloves. Adjacent to the hand loop is an accessory loop, where you can stuff a few poop bags, or clip on a treat bag or small light. The webbing does have a decorative trim, which is reflective for low-light conditions.

This leash is a good option for a lightweight, easy to use leash. Its length keeps your dog close and under control. We have found it easy to keep clean, and handy to carry along with us on our travels.

The Headwater Collar:  When I first examined the collar, I noted that it has a metal buckle (the aluminum Crux buckle), unlike previous versions of this collar, and our existing collars, which have the plastic snap-in buckles. This buckle is based on a buckle used with horse equipment, and seems stronger, and more secure than the standard plastic buckles.

I did have to figure out how to secure the collar strap to this buckle. The prong at first glance appears to be “backwards.” However, by feeding the collar through the buckle from the long length of collar (as opposed to the end of the webbing )you can easily situate the prong into the appropriate sizing hole. Once secured, you can pull on the collar, and see that the buckle actually snugs up when pulled, offering added security should you need to grab onto the dog by the collar.

The collar may appear stiff, as the webbing is coated with a waterproof material. However, it sits nicely on the dogs, lies flat, and they accept the collar without any issues. I have tested the size 20-23“,and  17-20” collars; both are 1 inch wide.

The Ruffwear sizing appears generous; there are five sizing hole options on the collar. Using the Ruffwear sizing chart, we have the correct size collar for each of our dogs, and are using the smallest hole position.


The collar is very securely stitched, and there is a nice decorative reflective trim along the length of the collar. It is available in four bright colors, which match the color schemes of the Headwater Leash. There is a designated tag attachment hole on the Crux buckle, as well as a silicone “tag silencer”. 

The leash attachment is an aluminum D-ring, and the excess collar webbing also fits nice and flat under this ring. Be sure that the tag attachment hole is at the bottom of the buckle when on your dog, otherwise, the dog’s tags will not hang freely.

Our dogs have gotten the collars wet, snowy, and muddy. The collar can be easily wiped off, or left to dry naturally. The collar seems to dry very quickly (quicker than the dogs do), and it has passed the “sniff test”, in that there is no odor even after heavy use. One of the dog’s metal tags left some black rub-off on the collar, but a quick wipe with a sponge, and it was all cleaned up.


I think that this is a fine collar, for active outdoor dogs, who love to get fully integrated into their environment. To me, durability and function are the most important factors when selecting dog gear, but the nice touches in this collar design allow me to confidently recommend the Headwater Collar.


Source: tested or reviewed it for the manufacturer (Kept it)

The author of this review is a brand ambassador for retailer Backcountry K-9.

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Price MSRP: $29.95
Historic Range: $10.00-$29.95
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