Gear, and why it matters

Matt Wilson


We all know those guys and gals on SAR, that have all the “Gucci” gear. Team Wendy helmet and chest rig, high-speed climbing harness, Crye precision pants, Arc’teryx rescue pack, just to name a few. We also know the operators that run gear that is put together as they grabbed it out of the “mystery SAR box” with mismatched gear from 90’s backpacks, taped together on their last leg, hiking boots with shoe goo on them, etc. Both of these, being on each side of the spectrum of gear, in my own opinion, are just fine, with most SAR operators being in the middle. Anyone on SAR knows what it’s like to have the backpack you have used for years, with the sweat stains and salt lines that get bigger every SAR season. Boots that are so comfortable because you have worn them on every inch of trail in our county, and the climbing harness that has saved your life multiple times. Gear is gear, from the Gucci to the retro. It’s all about what you trust and what you want to run on a mission. The gear doesn’t make the SAR operator, but the operator does make the gear. But what we all know to be true on SAR, your gear is an extension of you when on a mission.

The same goes for a dog…

Your K9 that you have put in so much time training, so much time on the leash, whether you are air scenting or trailing on the path of the unknown. You put so much time into the work to save lives, but then put a cheap harness you see that looks cool on Amazon, on your K9, on your partner. 

(Now, I should preface this with a little bit about me. Yes, I work for Ray Allen Manufacturing, and we are the world leader in making professional K9 gear. With that being said, buy my gear. Just kidding…. Kinda.)

Some companies make great K9 gear, from us, to Modern Icon, K9 Storm, and Hortons, to name a few. As a SAR operator, gear was an extension of myself. It made missions easier, but more importantly, it has saved my life and the lives of the injured. You don’t want to be over the edge, trying to rescue a “cliffed” out climber, and in the back of your mind, you are thinking, “I hope this climbing harness I bought off Amazon doesn’t give way.” The gear you put on your dog should be the same. Putting the right gear on your partner can only help on your missions. Harnesses with a great chest plate, so the K9 can put their chest into the search. A solid and long line so you can follow and navigate the terrain for your partner as they search. But most importantly, knowing that the gear is not going to fail you on a mission. If you have confidence in your training, you should have the same confidence in your gear; this goes for human and K9.

There is a saying that goes double in SAR for me: “buy once, cry once.” Do your research, and find out where your gear for you and your partner is being made. Ask questions like, “Does that handle on the harness look big enough that I can get under with gloves on?” (This goes double for Avy Dogs!) “Do the people building your harness, collar, and leashes know WHY they are building it?” Ask these questions, get the gear you want, and go out and save lives.

Born Colorado Springs Colorado. First got into dog training at 16 at petsmart. Realized there was more to training than that. Left, and started my own business, Ethos k9. Shortly after I also started working at Ray Allen. I am the social media manager, one of 3 product inventors and designers, government contractor and more. Done a couple movie jobs with k9s. I sold my training company in 2020 and joined SAR in Colorado in 2020. Hobbies include, drawing, movies, dogs, talking smack, cigars, making cool stuff, sewing, and music

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