This review was made possible by the brilliant people at Sporty Paws Ltd. This is not a paid review, but without their help and support, such an involved and long-term test would not have been possible.
Musher is not a brand I’d heard of until recently, but one I expect to remain on the scene for years to come. There’s not a huge amount of information about the Musher brand available online, but what we do know; is that they are a European sleddog sport equipment manufacturer based out of Transylvania, Romania. [Insert Dracula-esque joke at your own discretion.]
We’ve been temporarily gifted two of their signature style harness to test; the Amundsen and the Seppala.
The Test Parameters
The test parameters were pretty simple, these two harnesses replaced my normal go-to Non Stop Freemotion harnesses for my two most competent running dogs.
The test ran from February to May, covering the end of the 2017-18 mushing season, and a lot of pretty vile weather. Mud as far as the eye can see for much of the time, so we’ve properly tested; not only performance, but durability and in general what they are like to live with.
Having had to put them through washing cycles and regular maintenance, we’ve drummed up a real near to worse-cast-scenario test for these harnesses.
The Amundsen Harness
As evident from the image above, the Amundsen harness is striking in design. At first it’s a little difficult to determine what exactly it’s intended for. It is a full-bore sled dog harness. Not a weight-pull or Pulka-style kit as some of it’s design cues suggest.
The Amundsen is a what I’d call a seriously open-back harness. It’s quite hard to explain in a few words, but it is a power-hungry harness, benefiting sprinting over endurance for sure.
My review of the Amundsen will have to be a little skewed. The harness did not fit my dogs especially well. By all measurement accounts, we had the right size – any smaller would’ve restricted airways, and well…they don’t go any larger.
The Amundsen appears to be designed around a dog that has a larger body or a smaller neck, comparatively. Every element of it’s design suggests this is intended for a purpose-bred hound.
This is a harness for your Eurohounds and Greysters (or whatever fandangled crossbreed you’re claiming today), there’s no doubt about it. For those with more traditionally shaped sleddy breeds, I’d advise to steer clear. Whilst it is a brilliant harness, it has a clear use-case in mind, and is not an all-rounder.
How’s it feel in use?
The Amundsen provides a power transfer from dog-to-bike like I’ve never experienced. I still can’t quite believe how much difference a harness can allow a dog to put down so much more power.
For what a guestimate is worth, it’s feels like an increase in torque, in the realm of 15-20%. Which I appreciate, is huge. Note; I said feels like. I doubt it is. And that type of power increase isn’t sustainable, but it is there as an initial shock to the senses.
This all sounds very promising, but for dogs who aren’t always going hell-for-leather, the design causes a practical issue. It just doesn’t sit well under an enduring trot or gallop.
The squiffy nature of the harness when not under load, can appear to cause minor discomfort for the dog during recoup portions of a run. I don’t suspect that there’s any actual pain, but rather than manor in which the harness can move around the body causes an unnecessary distraction.
I think it’s fairly evident by this point whether this harness is a good choice for your dog; if they’re an unadulterated puller for the whole hog, then great, go for it, and reap those rewards. But if they aren’t, it’s likely not to be of any benefit, and potentially a hindrance.
The open-back nature also leads to another potential problem, this is by far one of the easiest harnesses to back-out of I’ve ever used. This isn’t a fault as such, it’s by the very nature that makes it brilliant for some dogs, also makes it less ideal for others. And it’s just something I feel uncertain purchases should be very aware of.
The Seppala Harness
In the sled-dog harness world, there’s hundreds of x-backs, hundreds of multi-sport harnesses, and what feels like another several hundred of things in between. So, we probably didn’t need another, right? Wrong.
The Seppala is more x-back than anything, but it’s an x-back with the design and material tech from more modern multi-sport style offerings.
The front-end of this, and the end many would consider the most important, is very much multi-sport style in it’s approach. From a design perspective, I believe this superior to any other I’ve seen. There’s something about the angles of the shoulder and neck straps, along with the luscious padding running down the chest plate that really make this a stand-out piece.
Unlike the Amundsen, the Seppala is absolutely in tune with traditional sleddy breed body shapes. The sizing is also quite interesting, easily fitting two of my dogs well, that in their Non Stops are definitely different sizes.
How’s it feel in use?
The Seppala provides a super familiar feel, to both x-back and multisport harness users – yet simultaneously injecting a degree of quality rarely found in this sport.
There’s a lot less to say about this harness, and that’s not a bad thing. There are much fewer nuances and caveats, it is an out-and-out top of the category contender.
I’m not saying that my Non-Stop Freemotion harness are going up for sale on Mushers Exchange tomorrow, far from it. But this test model isn’t going back either, it is now a solid and now my go-to harness for my girly.
Will I transition all dogs to this new wonderharness? That is a decision I will make after another season; if the impressive lack of wear and tear continues, there’s a good chance it’ll be a yes. I have undoubtedly damaged my Non-Stop harnesses in some way within a few months, but those parts are simple and cheap to replace, not having to shell out another £50+ each time something goes wrong.
The Seppala harnes does not have any replaceable portions, but in all honesty, I don’t think it needs to. I anticipate this lasting exceptionally well.
Every aspect of these spanking new harnesses have already been laid out bare for all to see, and I am genuinely very impressed. Other manufacturers take note; the benchmark has changed.