If you are going to do any regular hiking with your small dog there is inevitably going to be a time where you have to carry them. Maybe their feet get sore, they get tired or they just get lazy. I know. I have been there.
For times like these I am sure to always have my REI Flash 18 Pack with me. It was a life-saver when we hiked to Marmot Pass and had to carry Chester out 6 miles. I had just brought it to use as a stuff sack and extra day pack but it was on that trip that I started to fully appreciate the versatility of this pack.
After trudging Chester 15 miles up and over a mountain pass TWICE in rocky, hot conditions (probably a little further than we should have under such conditions) 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. I had to come up with a solution quick.
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 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. I then put on my large backpack with gear on. The straps on the flash pack are so thin that I didn’t even feel them under the weight of the larger pack.
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 is a piece of gear you can easily throw in your backpack because it doesn’t take up much space. 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? It’s best tucked inside your daypack for emergencies.
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, they 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 though as long as you don’t expect to put more than 5 to 8 lbs in it.
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 loop 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 we go hiking with Chester and Gretel in case they need a little lift on the way out.
This pack is only made by REI. You can purchase it here.
The honest truth: I love REI but do not work for them and they do not compensate me for reviewing their products. This is something I bought years ago and wanted you to know about because it is great.