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Wolf Republic’s founders had just adopted their first pup, Ralphie, when they were gifted a dog backpack. “I just thought it was the coolest idea ever,” says Brittney Richards. As avid hikers and overall outdoorsy people, the couple loved the thought of their new trail buddy carrying a pack of his own.
Unfortunately, the bag didn’t last very long, so they started canvassing the market. What they found was a slew of generic options in goofy designs with overly bright colors and far too many paw-print patterns. Nevertheless, they bought another one because this wasn’t about fashion; it was a means of including Ralphie in their adventuring. “It fell apart after two weeks,” Richards remembers.
Despite that experience, the Richards couldn’t shake their enthusiasm for the pack and began considering making one of their own — an idea that came to them, naturally, while on a hike. “We were talking and designing it in our heads as we were hiking. So, we made our first prototype.”
Proud of what they had created, the pair posted a picture of the bag on Instagram and Wolf Republic was born. “It went crazy. We had no followers on Instagram at the time, maybe a couple of thousand, and we got over 30,000 likes on the post and we were like okay — this is a hit,” recalls Richards.
That was in 2018. Today, Wolf Republic has upwards of 45,000 followers on the platform and that prototype would go on to become the brand’s signature item: The Ranger Pack. Richards credits some of Wolf Republic’s speedy growth to her and her partner’s professional backgrounds in marketing. But, more than anything, the brand’s success is thanks to the quality and practicality of their pet adventure gear.
“The main thing we’re always looking to do is make sure the product is as strong, safe, and as durable as possible — while also balancing design,” she says, adding that they only develop products that they themselves would use. Since the Ranger Pack’s debut, Wolf Republic has expanded to leashes, collars, camping bowls, and sturdy rope toys — all inspired by Ralphie. “We design everything for him,” Richards admits. “We kind of selfishly make them for ourselves and our hiking trips!”
Wolf Republic also understands the need for longevity. “We really don’t like waste. I don’t want you to have to buy something new every year. We’re non-seasonal, non-collection. So we really want these items to be timeless and to stand up to wear and everyday activities. That’s really our top priority,” she adds.
It’s hard to imagine a better time for a brand like Wolf Republic to come along. Following the pandemic and its associated lockdowns, many people have reevaluated their appreciation of the great outdoors — as activities like hiking and camping are seemingly as popular as ever. It’s a trend that has not gone unnoticed by longtime nature advocates like the Richards.
“Obviously, people have been getting outdoors for a long time, but I think it’s becoming bigger overall and the pandemic definitely adds fuel to that fire,” Richards says. But she wants whoever is willing to enjoy the euphoria of fresh air. In fact, recommitting to getting off the couch was a major reason behind her and her husband adopting Ralphie in the first place.
“For us, when we got a Ralphie, instead of spending time sitting on the couch and watching movies or whatever, we’d be like, ‘He has to go for a walk, or...should take him for a hike?’ We had this obligation to make sure he was getting everything he needed in his life. And in turn, he got us outside and we realized we were really a lot happier with our lives,” she says.
Richards has some advice for pet parents who are curious about embracing their wild side, too. Of course, preparation is key. She suggests packing plenty of water, a collapsible bowl for your dog to drink it out of, and poop bags for when, ahem, nature calls. But equally important is finding a group of people to share the experience with.
“I think our community of adventure dogs online is so inspiring. They just reach out to each other and go on hikes and things like that. So I think you can find some people that are doing it already, join them and take it slow. Start with an easy hike and work your way up.”
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Sean Zucker is a writer whose work has been featured in Points In Case, The Daily Drunk, Posty, and WellWell. He has an adopted Pit Bull named Banshee whose work has been featured on the kitchen floor and has behavioral issues rival his own.