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).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:
And here she is, fully inside:
Here’s the carrier on my back with Chloe inside:
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:
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 café, 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:
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