In 1996 while thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa adopted a German Shepard mix in Tennessee that had been following fellow hikers for weeks, he named him Erwin after the town he had found him in. That dog walked with Whitney from Tennessee to Maine and such began his love of long distance hiking with dogs. During the 90’s, gear options for the pup were limited and often way too heavy for their needs. Whitney was forced to create his own items and experiment with various techniques. For the next two hiking seasons he worked as a Ridge Runner patrolling the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania, it was there that he first learned and adopted UL techniques, like trading in the tent for a tarp, going stoveless, and reducing his pack weight down to 14lbs. Whitney even made the switch to sneakers during those two seasons, at the time a new and ground breaking idea.
LaRuffa also had the pleasure of getting to hike with Erwin those two summers. Those three seasons and close to 5,000 trail miles taught him a lot about what works and what doesn’t when trying to push big miles with your dog and also how to reduce or eliminate conflicts with un-dog friendly hikers and dog owners.
17 years later Whitney is still at it hiking long distances with his loyal companion. While he might have a different dog, they have figured out an Ultra Light approach that allows them to consistently hike long days of 20+ miles, climb snow covered volcanoes, or romp through the deep snow of winter with either snowshoes or skis.
Karluk is his lab-mix who he adopted from the Oregon Humane Society in 2008 after losing his longtime hiking partner Erwin. Following two years of extensive training, an AKC good citizen certification, and numerous hikes in the PNW, Karluk and Whitney are now also brand Ambassador’s for Ruffwear Dog Gear.
By reducing pack weight to 9-12lbs depending on the season, LaRuff is able to help carry more food for Karluk with less stress put on both their bodies during hikes.
Karluk and Whitney also give presentations to various groups on backpacking with dogs, where they not only cover topics such as Leave No Trace, but also Ultra Light Gear techniques that can help make the experience more enjoyable for both.
Whitney has thru-hiked: Appalachian Trail, John Muir Trail, Wonderland Trail, Timberline Trail and sections of the PCT in OR and WA.
Home: Portland, OR
Outdoor Organization Involvement: Board Member at American Long Distance Hiking Association | Planning Committee at PCT Days 2013 | Trail Maintainer Volunteer at Pacific Crest Trail Association | Master at Leave No Trace
Favorite Training Grounds: Forest Park, Portland, OR- 3,000′ acre forested park 10 minutes from home with a good variety of grade accompanied by steep hikes and rolling trails. The vast trail network has numerous loop options.
Columbia River Gorge, OR & WA-The gorge is great for training every hike starts the same way straight up the gorge wall from the river. Being a close 45 minutes from home this area is a go-to during the weekends and long summer afternoons
Mt Hood National Forest, OR-With an 11,000′ volcano in your backyard this area is the home of winter activities like skiing, skijoring, and snowshoe winter trips. In the summer we go here for quick overnights to escape the heat.
Loowit Trail and Mt St Helens Summit-GPNF, WA
Mt Adams-A Round the Mountain Hike-GPNF, WA
Timberline Trail-MT Hood, OR
Tahoe Rim Trail
PCT Section Trout Lake to White Pass, WA