Small Business Saturday Gift Guide

  
I’m a little late to the game this year, but I wanted to remind you all that today is Small Business Saturday and encourage you to support small businesses. To help you along, I thought I’d highlight some of my favorites.

Hiking and Camping Gear

  • Gossamer Gear makes great ultralight backpacks, shelters, and trekking poles. My personal favorites are the Kumo and Type 2 backpacks.
  • ZPacks specializes in all things cuben fiber: Shelters, packs, rain gear, and accessories. I love their stuff sacks anad dry bags. 
  • Warbonnet Outdoors makes high quality backpacking hammocks and accessories. Their Traveler hammock and Yeti Underquilt have worked great for me!
  • Dutchware Gear creates innovative hardware and accessories for your hammock and tarp. You won’t realize how badly you needed their stuff until you try it!

Apparel

  • Purple Rain Adventure Skirts makes high quality hiking skirts. If you’re gonna go hiking, you better be comfortable. I never hit the trail without mine! 
  • Hiker Trash makes T-shirts, hats, and other accessories for the hiker trash inside all of us. Fun designs you should check out. 

Dog Gear

  • TurboPUP produces high quality meal replacement bars for you dog. Never fumble with ziploc bags of kibble again. Just  grab some bars, and you’re set for your hike or road trip. 
  • Groundbird Gear makes lightweight backpacks that are custom fit to YOUR dog. They’re built by an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker who focuses on making functional packs without the excess stuff you won’t need.

Disclaimer: I am currently a TurboPUP Brand Ambassador, and was previously a Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador. I have also done gear testing for Groundbird Gear and Purple Rain Adventure Skirts. None of these companies have asked to be listed here, and they had no preview nor editorial control of this post. All opinions contained here are my own.

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Dog Gear: The Groundbird Gear Trekking Pack “2.0”

Pickle in his GBG Trekking pack.

Pickle in his GBG Trekking pack.

Groundbird Gear‘s Marie “Bobwhite” Sellenrick was nice enough to send me an updated version of her Trekking Pack for dogs. I’d previously reviewed one of her earlier models, which quickly became Pickle’s backpack of choice, so I was excited to see what she did with the feedback she got from me and other testers. Since my last review, GBG has begun offering the Trekking Pack’s saddle bags in a size “Small”, instead of just “Regular” and “Large”. Because variety is the spice of life and Pickle’s current pack was a “Regular”, I asked for the new test pack to be “Small”.

Pickle in his GBG Trekking pack.

Pickle in his GBG Trekking pack.

The custom harness from Pickle’s previous GBG pack still fits perfectly, so Bobwhite made a pack to fit on that platform. After the customary 2-3 weeks of lead time (fairly standard in the Cottage Industry), the pack arrived. Pickle and I took it out for testing that very same day.

Top of harness.

Top of harness.

Underside of harness

Underside of harness

The very best improvement on this new version of the Trekking Pack is on the roll-top closure. GBG ditched the zippers on the saddlebags and went with a simpler hook-and-loop (AKA Velcro) closure. Since the bags would be rolled and clipped closed anyway, I always felt that the zipper on the earlier packs was overkill. It seems that my not-so-gentle complaining was heard, and this new closure is exactly what I hoped it would be! The change saves some weight, and even makes the roll-top function better. Without the chunky zipper in there. I think it rolls flatter and looks much nicer when the pack is closed.

One side of the GBG Trekking Pack, unrolled.

One side of the GBG Trekking Pack, unrolled.

Another nice addition was the optional shock cord attachment system, which can be used to fasten a sleeping pad or other small item to the outside of the pack. This was a surprise item that Marie added on for me, and I think it’s a good idea.

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The shock cord attachment system

I’m glad I ordered the small pack! The pack fit 8 TurboPUP bars (2 days worth of food for Pickle), a leash, and dog booties quite nicely. This means it would be perfect for summer weekend trips, when we won’t need the extra pack volume for Pickle’s coat.

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Overhead view of the GBG Trekking pack with the bags rolled closed.

All in all, this pack is a nice improvement on an already good dog pack. The changes listed above, as well as improved stitching and quality of construction, make for a beautiful and functional piece of gear. Coming in at 6.8oz on my scales (without the harness), this pack is about as ultralight as it gets.  If you’re in the market for a dog pack, the Groundbird Gear Trekking Pack is definitely worth a serious look. It’s price competitive with the big brands, chafe-free, and custom made by hands that care.

Disclaimer: I received this pack from Groundbird Gear for free, but I was not obligated to write this review. All opinions stated herein are my own, and GBG had no editorial control over this post.

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.