Feature Choices
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  • One-piece harness: I found that the large velcro patches on the two-piece models were awkward to remove and put stress on the dog while I peeled the pack away.  It was easier for me to simply unclip the belly strap buckle(s) and slip the pack over the dog's head. I also found it more difficult to reposition the pack on the velcro without getting it cockeyed, and the velcro is prone to getting clogged with gunk while the dog is running around with just the harness. Finally, the two-piece bags tend to flop more because the bottoms aren't secured to the harness.   BUT, this design is very popular, and there's obviously a reason for that - people must like the flexibility.
  • One belly strap: I was compelled by the argument that the forward belly strap can rub and chafe the dog. There is a great deal of movement around the shoulder and elbow area, and the skin in the armpits is thin and unprotected with fur. If I had a bigger, bulkier dog carrying a heavier load, I might opt for two belly straps.
  • Solid saddle: I have concerns about the load distribution characteristics of the pure strap saddles.  Granite Gear gets around this with their solid padded mesh back piece. I think the loose mesh is likely to be weaker over time. I opted for either a dense mesh or solid fabric back because I don't think it will really affect the dog's cooling that much.
  • Horizontal compression straps: I definitely wanted compression straps. If the dog is carrying a small but heavy load, these help to keep the contents from flopping around. I prefer the horizontal straps for one simple reason: I don't want to have to undo the straps to get into the bag. I'm also mildly concerned about hang-ups with the vertical straps, but the keepers undoubtedly reduce the problem.
  • Medium capacity: I limited my capacity to the 800-1150 cubic inch range; this will allow her to carry what I want, with minimal risk of overload. I also wanted to limit the bag weight to 2 lbs, since you have to consider the bag weight in the overall load capacity. Again, if I had a bigger, bulkier dog, the weight wouldn't matter as much, and neither would the shape and profile because the bags would ride higher on the dog's sides.
  • Good ergonomics: I wanted a contoured back, angled bags, and a low to medium profile. Because my dog is skinny, the bags hang lower so the high-profile and rectangular bags encumber the dog more both when walking and when lying down. Ideally I wanted an adjustable saddle because her back is narrower than average.
  • Other Features: I wanted a lashing mechanism so she can carry her crate pad, but it wasn't essential because I can easily add it myself. I wanted brushguards because I think the bag will last longer. Padding under the buckles is essential, but I decided that I didn't need it on the bags or the straps because she has medium length fur. This might be more important for a short-haired dog. Reflective trim is nice, but I didn't consider it essential. They all seem to have storm flaps, and I can easily add zipper tabs if they aren't there. Taped seams are also nice, but if the fabric is properly heat-seared, it is not likely to ravel.

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Last updated 11/07/2010

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