Dog Gear: Groundbird Gear Trekking Pack

A few weeks ago, Marie (AKA Bobwhite) over at Groundbird Gear asked if Pickle and I would take a look at the custom dog packs she’s been making. I’m always on the lookout for new and potentially better dog gear, so I agreed immediately.

Since the Groundbird Gear pack harnesses are custom made to fit your dog, I had to submit a series of measurements so that Marie could start building Pickle’s pack. This process was explained quite well on the GBG website, and went painlessly (except for getting Pickle to sit still for two minutes). You then have several choices for the harness color. At the time of publishing, 5 colors were available for the harnesses.

For the pack itself (which is removable from the harness), you have the choice between two different models: the roll-top Trekking Pack and the zippered Weekend Pack. Because I had never seen a roll-top dog pack before, I opted for the Trekking Pack. I was given the option to choose between Regular (8″x 9″x 3.5″) and Large (9″ x 11″ x 4″) bags. Customers are able to choose their own color combinations (up to 3 colors per pack), or pick from a series of pre-selected combinations. Since hunting season was approaching, I chose “The Dreamsicle”, which is a mostly blaze orange pack with white accents.

Since these packs are made to order, there was a bit of a wait (2 weeks) for the pack. Lead times like this are the norm for most cottage industry gear makers, so this didn’t take me by surprise and definitely shouldn’t deter you from ordering from small companies like this. The lead times are also posted on the GBG website, so you can’t say you weren’t warned!

When the pack arrived, I was pretty excited. I immediately cornered Pickle and put the harness on him. Instead of the harness just having straps that go around the body, the GBG harness has fabric both above and below the dog. I liked that right away because Pickle is prone to chafing under his pack straps. This also meant that there were no loose webbing ends that could work their way loose and end up dangling under the dog. The fit was pretty much perfect. The adjustments on the four straps that connected the top and bottom of the harness were right in the middle, leaving just enough room for moderate weight gain/loss. The straps on either side of his neck also fit, but had to tightened down all the way. Since Marie nailed the rest of the sizing, I’m going to assume that Pickle wiggled when I measured him and threw things off.

One day, Pickle and I had some free time, so we headed to our local stretch of the AT near Hamburg, PA. I filled Pickle’s new GBG pack with his typical 2-day backpacking gear and food. We hiked 8.7 miles to the Pinnacle and Pulpit Rock vistas. Pickle seemed comfortable in the pack, and there was no sign of chafing after the hike. The pack did show a few minor scratches, but  otherwise it held up very well to Pickle’s rough-and-tumble hiking style.

We got another chance to test the Trekking Pack the following week. Pickle and I headed out to the Allegheny Front Trail in central PA for a 2-day, 42-mile hike. Pickle carried the same load listed above. The pack performed well for us again. It earned a few more superficial battle scars, but nothing serious. It’s still too early to seriously comment on the durability of this pack, but it seems good so far. After two long days, Pickle still seemed comfortable in the pack and suffered no chafing.

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The pack and harness work together flawlessly. It’s lightweight, seems comfortable (Pickle didn’t complain!), and easy to use. Even though it worked well in the field, I feel that the zipper wasn’t really necessary to augment the roll-top. The roll-top would have functioned well without it, and would have been a fraction of an ounce lighter. The leash attachment point on the harness was a bit big and clunky. It did work perfectly well, but something smaller and lighter would be better.

As with most dog packs, it is important to keep the weight balanced on each side, but it seems that the volume of the items is also important with the GBG pack’s roll top. Tightening the roll top to different degrees on the two saddlebags can pull the pack down unevenly to one side. Even though it looked off-kilter, I don’t think that it had any bearing on the dog’s comfort.

Overall, I like the Groundbird Gear Trekking pack a lot, and think that the roll-top closure has a lot of potential. I’ll report back here if any issues arise, but so-far-so-good. I think it is going to become Pickle’s new go-to pack!

Disclaimer: I received this pack from the manufacturer for the purposes of testing at no cost to me. Groundbird Gear had no editorial input over this review, and all opinions stated here are my own.

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Pet Gear: Stunt Runner Leash

My dog Pickle is typically pretty darn good when he hikes off-leash, as he sticks to the trail and doesn’t molest other hikers or wildlife. However, there are times when local rules, trail conditions, or other factors may require me to leash him. Since these are rare occurrences for me, I had made a very lightweight DIY leash out of an old collar, some paracord, and a light carabiner. While light, this (and just about every other leash I’ve ever tried) is annoying to use while hiking with trekking poles. If the dog tugs, you could end up swinging that pole wildly. An erratic turn could get your pole tangled in the leash. It’s always bugged me. Enter the Stunt Runner Leash by Stunt Puppy.

This hands-free leash was designed for runners, but I thought it would work just as well for hiking and backpacking. The leash is made up of two parts: An adjustable waist belt and a stretchy, flexible connector. The manufacturer states that the adjustable waist belt fits people with waists from 26″-42″. I wear size 36 jeans. Judging by the remaining slack, there is still plenty of adjustment to get to 42″.

Waist belt with several inches of adjustment remaining.

Waist belt with several inches of adjustment remaining.

The stretchy connector stretches from 35″-51″ depending on how hard your dog tugs on it. At it’s longest (4.25 feet), it more than conforms to the 6-foot leash rule in many parks and municipalities. This stretch also acts as a bit of shock absorption. At the end of the connector nearest the dog’s collar, there is a section of doubled-over webbing that serves as a handle. This is useful in case you need to get close control over your pet.

Hand grip for close control.

Hand grip for close control.

At 7.7 ounces, this is significantly heavier than the DIY leash that Pickle normally carries, but I thought the benefits might “outweigh” the weight penalty in Pickle’s pack. Adding this leash will not overload him in any way, so I thought I would bring it along for a little testing in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

I didn’t actually have to use this leash too much, but it did work well when I did. When I hike fast or run, Pickle keeps pace with me, so the leash worked perfectly. When I stopped, he wanted to roam around and pull me, so I ended up having to put a hand on the leash anyway. One night at a very busy campsite, I did use it to tie him to a tree beneath my hammock, so he wouldn’t go “visiting”. It worked OK for that, too.

All in all, I think I will continue using this leash for a while, at least when space in Pickle’s pack isn’t at a premium. I’ll update this review if I discover something I particularly like or dislike about it in the future.

 

Disclaimer: I purchased this item at full price with my own money. I was not asked to write this review. All opinions stated here are my own.