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Backpack and pet lounge: Casual Canine Ultimate Backpack Carrier

As is so often the case, I owe this one to a reader. Heike wrote and asked if I’d seen a carrier on overstock.com that she was considering, and I told her no, and I likely wouldn’t pursue it because Chloe’s roughly twice as large as the Chihuahua pictured in the carrier’s photo. However, I liked how the side of her carrier expanded in the same way the Smart Space carrier does, and I was still gazing at it when I noticed an ad in the sidebar for another expanding carrier — and it was holding a Westie (like Chloe, a larger small dog).

Photo by Tops Pet Products

Now that I’m looking at a REALLY BIG version of the picture, I’m no longer convinced that’s a Westie. Never mind — I think a Westie could fit, and Chloe certainly does, so no harm, no foul. [Photo by Tops Pet Products]

Since it’s a backpack, the Casual Canine Ultimate Backpack Carrier has a whole different purpose in life than the carrier Heike originally pointed me to, but I’ve had only mixed success with the dog backpacks I’ve purchased, so I was thrilled to see it. (The Creature Leisure Carry Den XT is a quality item, but has a structural beam that will clobber your lower back on a long walk; and the Timbuk2 Muttmover, also a quality item, is just a hair too small for Chloe.)

Long story short, I bought the Casual Canine backpack, loved it, and now Heike’s got her finger hovering over the order button too. I liked it so much that I bought a second one to give away. Remember how I said I’d be offering special giveaways to Dog Jaunt newsletter subscribers? This will be the first one, to celebrate the newsletter launch. Hurry and subscribe, using one of the newsletter/subscribe buttons or this link, and then keep an eye on your in-box over the next couple of weeks.

The backpack, under the microscope

With both of its gussets zipped closed, the backpack measures 16.5″ long (about 1.5″ of which is a side pocket), 11″ wide (at the base, tapering to about 8″ wide at dog shoulder-height and 4.5″ wide at the very top of the backpack), and 17″ tall. It weighs 2.36 lbs. It’s made of a sturdy nylon twill, in navy and robin’s egg blue. Completely zipped closed, the ventilation comes from the mesh entry door on one side, and a set of 8 huge grommets (located in the robin’s-egg-blue vertical panels).

A stiff board with soft fleece on one side gives the backpack a fairly solid and stable floor, and provides a little (a very little) softness. There is a tether sewn in, but it can be tucked under the board “floor,” if you prefer it to be out of chewing range.

Unzipping the first gusset adds another 2″ to the carrier’s width, from base to top of bag, and about half of that is mesh, so the ventilation is increased too. We will be keeping this gusset permanently unzipped, because a dog Chloe’s size requires it. I’d say that a dog 10 lbs. or under wouldn’t need it, but Chloe, at 13 lbs., does. The label says that the backpack will hold a pet up to 22 lbs., but I’d guess that 15-18 lbs. would be a more likely upper limit.

Here’s Chloe, getting a (gentle) push:

Our cat Otto looks on as I encourage Chloe to enter the bag, not just stand in the door and eat the treat I tossed in

And here she is, fully inside:

She looks a little put-upon, but that’s because she has to bend her head down a bit to see out the door — I promise you, she fit comfortably in the backpack

Here’s the carrier on my back with Chloe inside:

Still looking put-upon, and yet I am unconcerned

As Heike points out, “What I like about the backpack (beside the big expand-a-space) is the fact that the ventilation screens are on the sides, so nobody can ‘mess’ with your dog behind your back so to speak. But the munchkins can still look out and see what’s going on.”

And then here’s what happens when the second gusset is unzipped — the front of the backpack folds down to create a substantial mesh tent your pup can lounge in:

Chloe is passionately devoted to her Pet Ego Pet Dome (now discontinued in the large size I prefer), and, fully extended, the Casual Canine backpack offers her a similar experience. The enclosure is 23″ long (including the basic backpack), about 8.5″ wide (extension only — as you can see in the picture, Chloe keeps most of her body in the main backpack area, then sprawls her chest and head into the extension area), and a variety of heights (from about 6″ at the lowest up to the full 17″ of the basic backpack area).

Chloe was perfectly comfortable in the backpack-as-tent, and even when I finally unzipped the entry door, she chose to remain inside:

Chloe, zonked out — you can see her nose tucked into the front left corner of the mesh tent

Another view from the side — she only woke up and left the bag when I headed downstairs and she recalled that her treats are also downstairs, and mightn’t those things be related?

The backpack is very comfortable, and I look forward to using it for visits to farmer’s markets. I also plan to bring it on longish short hikes, so that I can carry Chloe if and when she decides her dogs are barking. It’ll do a fine job of carrying my own basic hiking gear (jacket, snack, water, emergency supplies), and I’ll also pack a light day pack like this Flash 18 pack from REI, so that when Chloe goes into the backpack, my gear can go out, and onto my husband’s back. It would also carry Chloe on my back while I was biking, though I wish (as I did with the Muttmover) that it came in a light, sun-reflecting color. It does have plenty of ventilation, but on a sunny day, keep part of your mind on your dog and check to make sure she’s hydrated and not heating up too much.

The lounge feature would work at work, or at a cafรฉ, if you wanted your pup to be secure without fussing with a leash. Like I say, Chloe finds this kind of soft crate comforting, so it’s easy for me to come up with scenarios where it’d be useful.

Please note that this carrier would not work as an in-cabin carrier except for a very small dog: The back, which would become the floor when you tipped the carrier to go under your seat, does have a certain amount of waterproofing but no padding, so you’d have to bring along a separate pad for the back — and only a small dog would work, because the bag tends to collapse towards its back (there’s no way to keep the middle ventilation gusset propped up).

One last picture to show you the side of the backpack opposite the entry door:

The side pocket is a substantial 6″ x 9″ x 1.5″, and has a mesh outer pocket that could hold a small water bottle

I bought my backpacks at overstock.com for $76.99, but the carrier is currently available at a slightly lower price on Amazon (and at a significantly higher price through Brookstone).

Amazon link: Casual Canine Ultimate Backpack Carrier

29 comments

  • Kristina

    We have subscribed! They’ve just added the “citibikes” to nyc and I’ve been looking for a way to travel with Kara! Good find. We’ll wait to see if we are lucky!

  • Monica McLaughlin

    That looks like a Westie to me in the first picture. It may be a very small one.

  • Linda Hobbs

    Mary-Alice,

    I just received the backpack and absolutely love it. Our little gal, Jazzie, is a 13.6 lb, 15 L (neck to tail), 12H (feet to neck) Cavalier/Bichon blend. There is plenty of room for her and the extra lounging space is wonderful at outside cafes. I wanted to share, though, that it is available directly from http://www.petedge.com for $49.99! Hope that helps.

    Linda

  • Absolutely helps! I love the lower price, and Pet Edge isn’t a place I’ve ordered from before, so it’s very helpful to know that the purchasing experience was a good one. And I love it that it works for you and your Jazzie — yay!!! Thanks, Linda!

  • No, I’m afraid it wouldn’t — take a look at the second to last paragraph (beginning “Please note…”) to see more details about why it’s not a good choice for an in-cabin carrier.

  • Tamsyn

    Hello there! I was so ecstatic to find your post about this particular model pet backpack (and more generally, your website with all the product reviews and travel tips). My husband and I are actually cat parents who take our two boys camping, hiking, night-walking and on road trips with us — but there’s a huge dearth of information out there geared to pet owners who love to travel with their cats (the vast majority is geared and marketed toward dogs — but maybe with all the surprised remarks we get when people stop us while walking our cats, we’ll eventually help to change that ๐Ÿ™‚ ). So it’s that much more difficult to find information that we can contextualize to help us find products we need.

    We had found this backpack online by hunting around and using various search terms, but the descriptions were always insufficient, with poor photos and never enough qualified details to make me feel comfortable investing in it, especially without being able to touch or handle first. Your post with its helpful photos (of all the backpack’s angles and feature too!) and deep context was exactly what I needed to convince me to give this backpack a try.

    We have a mesh pet tent that we bring when we camp with the kitties, and they are trained to special harnesses designed for cat anatomy (that I had to order from England!!) — but we needed something we could use for longer hikes when the kitties might start getting antsy, or for hot days when we couldn’t safely secure them in a vehicle while visiting a town, grabbing breakfast while on holiday, etc.

    Based on your helpful review, we purchased the Casual Canine Ultimate Backpack and it arrived a few days ago. After a brief period of positive treat reinforcement, we enticed both kitties to go inside (one at a time — it certainly wouldn’t work for two!), and I think it will work wonderfully. I like that it’s designed more for actual backpack portage in mind — rather than as a crossover roller carrier with straps for shorter stints on the back. With the rods for the telescoping handles and extra weight of roller feet, those seem like they’d be uncomfortable for what we want to do, which isn’t airplane travel so much as camping and nature experiences.

    This backpack is definitely the closest we’ve discovered online to the sort of true backpack designed for a human to wear while tromping around with a pet inside. My husband and I both agreed, though, that it would have been nice if the makers added a waist support strap to help take some of the strain off the shoulders, as well as more padding on the shoulder straps. After a long hike or hilly hike, we imagine that our shoulder will get pretty tired! Still and all, this is a nice, discreet design that we think will also let us sneak our kitties into cafes and coffeeshops more unobtrusively when we’re ordering, and will allow them to comfortably stretch out while we’re outside sipping, or exploring a landmark on one of our hikes that we want to further explore.

    Thanks again for providing such valuable insights — and for the time and effort you put into writing these reviews!

    (I’ve learned of several other leads to explore for our second cat backpack carrier, as we’re going to try a different model for our part-Egyptian Black Mau, who is a verrry long, tall cat. At a minimum of 16 inches in his seated back length (measured along the curve of his back from base of neck to base of tail), e couldn’t quite sit up to his full, alert height in this carrier — though he would still be comfortable enough, and definitely would have plenty of space when seated with the extension unzipped).

    (Btw, I’m going to forward your section on sailing with small dogs to my dad…. He’s looking for information on lifevests for his French poodle that he can use on his new sailboat).

  • What a marvelous comment, Tamsyn โ€” I am now desperate to see pictures of your cats keeping you company on hikes! Please send me some, if you think of it. Iโ€™d love to post them on the blog. And please let me know if the alternatives you try for your Egyptian Mau (WHAT an elegant breed of cat โ€” a new one for me) are pleasing โ€” a good carrier that fits a long tall cat would also, of course, interest Dog Jaunt readers with big small dogs.

  • Josephine

    Hi, may I know which backpack would be better and more comfy for a shih tzu?
    A casual canine ultimate backpack or petego pet @ work backpack? Or other? Prefer backpack as he’s pretty heavy

  • Hi, Josephine! The Shih Tzus I’ve known have been fairly rangy dogs, so I think the PetEgo Pet At Work backpack might be too small (clever though it is). I’d go with the Canine Casual!

  • Josephine

    Hi! Thanks for your prompt response! I’ll give it a try =)
    I’m from Singapore by the way~ will let u know how it goes after I’ve got it ^^

  • Josephine

    Hi! Its me again! I got the backpack today and indeed he can fit it in! though he takes quite a bit of persuasion but i feel my load lightened while carrying him ^^ Especially with him growing heavier again~ haha~ Thanks for the advise! =))

  • Catie Rhodes

    Mary-Alice–after an evening of toting Cosmo (12 pound Pomeranian) around an antique car show in his Sturdi Incognito, I’m looking into backpacks. The Incognito has been great for trips to the vet and the occasional quick run into a store, but I realized it would not work for long period of carrying Cosmo.

    I used the optional clip-on adjustable strap that came with the Incognito. By the end of the evening, that strap digging into my shoulder was unbearable. I didn’t dare try to use the padded purse straps, though, because I knew from experience it would be a constant fight to keep the bag on my shoulder.

    Like Josephine, who commented above, I’m looking at both the Pet Ego Pet at Work System (in the large size) and the Casual Canine Backpack you’ve reviewed here.

    The pluses of the Casual Canine are many. The price is not terribly steep. The appearance is appealing; it looks like a real backpack and might not attract much notice (explained below). The see-through mesh on the side appeals to me because I can see who interacts with Cosmo and how. I also think I’d get more on-the-go use out of the fold out lounge than the PetEgo dome.

    The minuses of the Casual Canine are few. I’m with you on the dark color. Pretty though it is, I wish they made a lighter colored option because it’s hot here in Texas. The second minus is very, very minor. I wish the Casual Canine had more than the one storage pocket.

    The pluses of the Pet At Work backpack by PetEgo make a compelling argument in its favor. The light tan color appeals to me a great deal. I know it would be much cooler than the navy of the Casual Canine. The Pet at Work backpack also has a much larger storage area in the laptop sleeve. I wouldn’t carry my laptop on an outing with Cosmo which would free the space for other stuff. I wonder if the straps on the Pet at Work backpack are more cushioned and higher quality than the ones on the Casual Canine. You’ve owned a PetEgo product before, right? How do you think the straps compare to the Casual Canine?

    The minuses of the Pet at Work backpack are the obvious. The price; it’s more than twice as much as the Casual Canine. I’m unsure about the mesh window looking out the back of the backpack. The window definitely advertises the bag’s contents. Once people know a dog is in there, they have to mess with him. Cosmo likes his privacy. Granted, I could crochet a lacy doodad to decorate the opening. And it may not be as see-through as I fear. I don’t know that I’d use the dome. I can’t see myself removing Cosmo from the Pet At Work backpack, putting him in the dome, and then putting him back in the backpack. However, I might find a great other use for the dome.

    You mentioned above to Josephine that the Casual Canine backpack is larger than the Pet Ego Pet at Work backpack. I’d be interested in hearing more about that. From what I’ve read, the large Pet at Work backpack is 15″ W x 16″ H. You noted the Casual Canine is 16.5″ L, but 1.5″ of that is the storage pocket, so that makes the two backpacks of very similar lengths (or widths). Then, of course, the Casual Canine is taller than the Pet At Work backpack. Did I miss anything on the size comparison?

    (For the record, Cosmo is a little less than 14″ from base of the neck to base of the tail and 11″ from ground to shoulder.)

    I know this will ultimately come down to a judgement call from me. But if you’re willing to weigh in on any of this stuff, I’d love to hear what you have to say. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Love your blog, by the way. I get so much useful information here.

  • Janine

    Hello, Is there a backpack that will hold TWO miniture dogs? actually one is a yorky size, 8 lbs, the other is his brother 14 lbs. they both are Schnorkies. We ride motorcycles and I need one that will hold both. YES I have the back to carry. My husband…no way. This pack LOOKS like it would work but I would prefer a front carry. they would see forward motion easier on them. We have one now but they must stand sort of.Long rides wont be comfortable. I really like these..never seen one before! Thank you,

  • Destiny

    I have a 20 pound cairn terrier mix. We are going on a Roadtrip this summer but will be camping instead if staying in hotels. We do want to explore the towns we visit, but obviously will not leave my dog alone in the car or tent. I want a carrier for him so I can bring him around the not so pet friendly areas. Do you have any links or recommendations for me?

  • Hi, Destiny โ€” I like this backpack a lot. It’s not hugely stealthy, because of the vents and the big grommeted air holes, but the backpack format is convenient. Our main “stealth” bag is the large PetEgo messenger bag (there’s a post about it on the blog). Both bags work for Chloe, who’s currently 13 lbs, but has been as big as 15 lbs. I don’t know how they’d work for a 20 lb. dog โ€” but a Cairn Terrier is a pretty sturdy dog, so perhaps it’s all muscle? Give the messenger bag a try, and let me know what you think.

  • Oooh, Janine, that’s a tough one. Creature Leisure has one, and I think it’d fit both your pups, but it has a bar that runs across your back and that gets really old, really fast. Here’s the link: http://creatureleisure.com/product_info.php?cPath=16&products_id=97 Maybe it’d work better with leathers underneath? The Canine Casual is the biggest soft backpack I know of, and I think it’d be too small for two pups. PetEgo has a front backpack that you’d like, but it would only fit one pup. Could your husband carry the smaller dog in the front pack? If so, here’s the link: http://www.petego.com/products.aspx?catId=26&prodId=211 Alternatively, PetEgo has a whole set-up for folks with motorcycles โ€” how would you feel about this carrier: http://www.petego.com/category/37/Motorbike/product/360/UniversalSportBag or this one: http://www.petego.com/category/26/Carriers/product/220/SportWagonBagBL with the motorcycle mount connection: http://www.petego.com/category/37/Motorbike/product/131/MotorbikeConnectionforCarriers I haven’t used them myself, since we don’t have bikes, but every PetEgo product I’ve bought or seen so far has been good quality and well-designed. Please let me know what you guys end up choosing!

  • Hi, Catie! I’m so sorry it’s taken me this long to respond โ€” I’ve made (yet another) mighty vow not to fall behind on comments ever again. The points you make are all good ones, and I think I’d come out, like you seem to, on the side of trying the Pet At Work pack. I have to thank you for prodding me โ€” I hadn’t realized they’d added a size to the line-up! The larger size seems very comparable to the Casual Canine, and I’ve just ordered one for myself to check out. When I’ve had a chance to carry Chloe around in it for a while, I’ll post a review on the blog.

  • Tamsyn

    Hi Everyone,

    Just thought I’d share some of my experiences using both the Casual Canine and the Pet-At-Work (large) packs with my two cats (one is about 10 pounds, the other is about 12 pounds). I like both packs — but after using both now, my husband and I agree that the Pet-At-Work large size is much higher quality and overall a better design.

    The major downside to the Casual Canine is the fact that there is no real floor support once the pet is inside. The straps are pretty chintzy and don’t allow much by way of adapting for different body types. Yes, they are adjustable — but they sit pretty high on my husband, and they are not padded. With the lack of some slightly more rigid floor support in the pack, we have discovered that it very quickly starts to sag once Minnow cat is inside, and he ends up slipping toward the back end of it. Now, caveat: We carry him around with the extendable trap down unzipped — so he can look around on our walks and hikes, as he prefers this.

    We did come up with a viable workaround, however: We purchased one of those camping backpack frames (the ones that are just a plain frame), and my husband attached the Casual Canine to this, and then wore the camping frame on his back…. This eliminated the problem of the pack crumpling and sagging, and Minnow cat felt much more secure.

    The Pet-At-Work we LOVE. The large size, we have discovered, is of a higher quality than the small Pet-At-Work version (we ordered one by accident, thinking we were getting a second large). The straps are cushy and padded; the adjustment options are wonderful, and it’s perfectly spacious for our larger, long-backed oriental breed Rammie cat. It has lightweight support rods inside that provide better stability, as well as a semi-rigid floor that folds down and is held in place under a notch by the cat’s body weight. It has lots of mesh for ventilation, and two trap doors for entry or feeding, or just letting Rammie pop his head out the top opening to look around while we’re walking. The tan color is also very attractive, and the extra storage is a big plus (we take out the travel crate and leave it at home when we’re walking, so there’s more space for our stuff).

    I think if you’re looking for a pack that can fit two miniature dogs, the Pet-At-Work large will work very well.

    Hope this helps!

    tamsyn

  • Catie Rhodes

    Mary-Alice–Thanks for the reply. I’ll definitely look forward to your review on the Pet At Work.

    Tamsyn–Thank you so much for posting about your experiences with the large Pet at Work. Reading about your experience helps immensely. I love that you got the tan color, which is the same color I’m considering getting. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Vanessa

    I am eagerly awaiting your review of the Large pet-at-work. For some reason, I cannot find the LARGE size…do you have a link for me? thank you!

  • Janine

    thank you for your information on the carriers for motorcycles. ๐Ÿ™‚ we haven’t decided yet, still using the individual carriers with them both on me. they do fine just heavy when walking around…major challenge, potty time for mom lol NOT an easy task. my husband wil probably be able to take the smaller one Fritz and see how he does w/out his brother next to him. I will try to update which one we choose to go with! Thank you again,

  • Hello again, Janine โ€” I’m writing my review of the large Pet At Work carrier (from PetEgo) today, but I think it might work for you. The large size is pretty darned large, and would likely hold your two pups (unlike the Canine Casual), and it’s comfortable over the shoulders (unlike that Creature Leisure one I mentioned). Back to my draft post!

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