Emergency Sling Pack for Small Dogs – REI Flash 18 Pack Review

If you are going to hike regularly with your small dog, there is inevitably going to be an emergency that requires you carry your dog out of the woods.

Maybe their paw pads get cut or scraped, they have an allergic reaction to something, or they injure a leg.

UPDATED: January 8, 2023

I always carry an “emergency evacuation” dog sling with me in case of emergencies like these.

My choice is the REI Flash 18 Pack.

It doesn’t take up much space in my backpack and the peace of mind is worth the extra weight (it only weights 9.5 ounces anyway).

I first discovered the crucial necessity of the Flash 18 pack when we backpacked to Marmot Pass and had to carry Chester out 6 miles.

After trudging Chester 15 miles up and over a mountain pass, two days in a row, in rocky, hot conditions (probably a little further than we should have under such conditions but lesson learned) his feet had little raw spots on them, Poor guy.

He spent that night and the next morning hobbling around camp like a little old man.

It became clear that he was in no condition to make the 6 mile hike out.

Being all MacGyver-like as I am, I scrounged through my pack and pulled our my REI Flash 18 Pack.

I put a small microfiber towel in the bottom if it and then put Chester in so his head and arms were sticking out of the top of the bag.

I put the pack on backwards so that the backpack was worn on my front. The straps on the flash pack are so thin that I didn’t even feel them under the weight of the larger pack.

I then put on my large backpack with gear on and hiked out.

Chester was 16 lbs at the time. To be honest, it wasn’t totally comfortable carrying 16 lbs of dog on my front. It was a little hard on my back.

My overnight backpack helped balance the weight though and the point is that this pack works great in a pinch. I am not sure what we would have done without it.

Chester, at about 16 inches long, not including tail, fit in it nicely.  

If your dog is much larger than that, it might not work for you.

This pack is soft sided with no structured, stiff backing so it easy to roll up to put in your pack.

The thing actually has uses too like. as a backpack. Go figure.

Once you are at camp you can put your large, overnight backpack in your tent, pull this bag out and stuff enough stuff in it for day hikes.

It also makes a great stuff sack for your clothes.

Note: Don’t use it as your sole pack for day hikes if your purpose of bringing it is as an emergency-dog-carryer-outter. If you have to use it to carry your dog out what will you do with all that stuff that was in the pack?

I only have two complaints about the pack.

One is for the same reason that I like it – its simplicity and lack of support.

The only pockets are a couple of mesh pockets inside. Unfortunately, the only thing they are good for is frustrating you because the crap you are trying to stuff in the pack keeps getting hung up on them.

Also, the pockets are on the side that lies against your back so anything you would put in there – like keys, snacks, wallet, knife – will dig into your back as soon as you put it on.

The lack of structure means that the more weight you put in it, the more it sags down. This can cause it to rub on your backside.  

It’s great as a day pack though as long as you don’t expect to put more than 5 to 8 lbs in it (obviously, your dog may weigh more but emergencies are about getting out alive, not necessarily comfortable).

The second complaint is about the way you open and close the pack.

It has this system, which I suppose is ingenious to someone, where you grab a black tab and pull on the black grip on the nylon cord to cinch it closed.

It doesn’t open the same way though.

To open it you have to stick your finger inside the opening at the top of the pack and pull the opposite direction on a flap of webbing attached to the cord toggle.

It’s easy once you get in the habit but whenever I had the pack to a friend for the first time they always hand it back with this perplexed look.

Overall this pack is great and, at its relatively low-cost, I would recommend that everyone have at least one.

It’s my quick, run-out-the-door, go-to bag for everything from shorter park hikes in town, running errand or carrying a lunch and sweatshirt when we are out sightseeing.

It’s also something I take with us every time I go hiking with my small dogs in case they need a little lift on the way out.

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’m a Dachshund sitter, President of the largest social Dachshund club in Washington State, a dog trainer in training, and I’ve been a Dachshund owner for 20 years. I have over 150,000 hours of experience with the breed. When I’m not working, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.


  1. How ingenuous! You must have a strong back to have been able to carry a 16 pound dog that way…lol. When I looked at the picture, I was thinking that I would have been sore for a week…but anything for our doggies!

  2. You don’t look old enough to have seen that skit in 1993, but I certainly recall watching it and got it right away! 🙂 Im heading to REI right now to pick up one of these though. Thanks for the review!


    1. Thanks. I have never heard of that pack but I will check it out for sure. I always love hearing about new gear!

  3. Hey! I just found your blog, and I love it! I have a 10-week old miniature long-haired dachshund and I am looking forward to hiking with her in Washington this summer! About this doggie-pack. Isn’t it bad for their backs when they are carried like this? They say it’s bad to let your doxie sit up on its hind legs. Therefore, it seems like the position they are in in this backpack would be putting pressure on the discs in their spine. What are your thoughts?

    1. Thanks for reading our blog.

      Yes, you are right. Carrying a Dachshund this way is not ideal. I use this pack for emergencies. An emergency is not planned or ideal….and not something that comes up often. I think occasional use is fine in situatiins like that.

      As an FYI….I have tried several packs for carrying dogs and they all required a long dog to kind of “sit up” like this.

      I will also add, most Doxie back problems are hereditary. You could never allow your Doxie to jump, or never carry them improperly, and still end up with back issues. You never know until it happens though so being conservative is best.

      1. I’m a big SNL fan, but I had to go look that one up Jessica. As long as you don’t tell the police that you put your weinerdog in there, you are probably OK. Very funny.

  4. Good thing the pack I just ordered comes with a daypack because I’m determined to make a hiker out of my Pippa! I think she’ll learn to love it… 🙂

    1. That’s great to hear. I think almost any dog can learn to be a hiker. I have heard it can be more of a challenge with and older dog set in their “lazy” ways but, then again, I’ve seen many who have never hiked take to it right away. Just take it slow and work your way up so it’s always enjoyable for her. Good luck.

  5. I just happened upon your article about how you carried your pup out of a long hike and had to say that the same thing happened to us on a backpacking trip to South Colony Lakes Colorado where it got too cold for our dachshunds to walk and we carried one of them out in a spare REI flash bag! It worked great! Yay for weiners!

    1. Yay for other hiking Dachshunds and having a small pack to save the day! It’s not something I would carry mine in just because but it’s always something that goes in my pack in case of emergency.

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