Seventy-five degrees (Fahrenheit), a cloudless sky, rolling wheat fields in the distance, and Ponderosa pines surrounding me. A picture-perfect day for a summer morning hike on Moscow Mountain, located just outside of Moscow, Idaho on the Palouse, in the panhandle of the Gem State.
It was just my trusty one-year-old Blue-Heeler and Australian Shepherd mix, Maizy, and myself, as we made our way up the winding trail of Moscow Mountain’s West-Twin peak. Our goal was to reach the top, but with an unmarked and unclear trail system on much of the mountain, we weren’t sure if we would find it.
Since the trail system is not managed by any type of park or Forest Service, it was not designed particularly well. In certain areas the original trail-breakers chose to skip switchbacks altogether and just go straight up.
Less mileage, sure, but the steep grade begins to wear on a person after a couple hours, particularly when you’re hauling a backpack with enough water and supplies not only for yourself, but your little dog too.
*Side PSA: If you’re taking your beloved dog hiking, make sure that:
1) They’re physically up for the challenge.
2) You pack enough water for them.
They will not tell you when they need to stop until it’s too late. It’s your responsibility to watch out for them and look for signs of dehydration and overheating. They love the shit out of you, and will literally die for you on the trail if it comes to that.
Of course, as I struggled up the mountain, Maizy ran up ahead, back and forth, looking back impatiently. I could almost hear her telling me to pick up the pace, “Hurry up, slow-ass!”
It was at that moment I thought of something: What if Maizy, teeming with energy, could shoulder a bit of this load?
At that moment, it was decided…I need to get her a hiking pack so she can carry her own shit!
If I got her a pack, not only could I lighten my load a bit so I’ve got more stamina to keep up with her, but we’d be able to move quicker, and cover more ground overall. Not only that, but depending on the hike, and the amount of time we’d be gone, we could take more items if we wanted, namely, more beef jerky and trail mix and other snacks I stuff my face with on hiking trips.
After finishing that Moscow Mountain hike (we made it to the top, and we were both pooped by the time we got there…but boy, the view was worth it), we headed back home and I started doing some research for a dog hiking pack. There were a few things I was looking for in my purchase:
- As always, something economical. I care immensely about my dog and want something of high quality, but not at the expense of getting my electricity shut off.
- A pack as lightweight as possible while remaining strong and durable. Not always an easy combination to find.
- Functional storage space with multi-layered storage options.
- A handle on her back for easy, quick control if needed (a derisive chuckle comes from anyone who’s owned a velociraptor- err, Blue Heeler).
- Something that I feel represents my dog’s breed, as well as myself, where we’re from, and something that will look good on my dog. Being from north Idaho, I wanted something that would represent the ruggedness of our beautiful and wild state.
These were the key things I was looking for in a pack for Maizy, and as I did my research, one product I found online seemed to rise above the rest. The Hoppy Camper dog harness and hiking pack, made by the company OneTigris (whom I had never heard of before this purchase).
At a price of $32.98, it was well within the ballpark of what I was expecting to pay for a quality hiking pack.
On the surface, the OneTigris dog harness checked off all the things that were on my list. It had a good-sized, but not bulky, zipper pocket (saddlebag style) on each side of the pack, along with a small inner zipper pocket within those pockets, to provide layered storage. It also had open-air pockets on the outside of the zipper pockets, with a Velcro strap to secure them.
The straps cinched down to a good snug fit around the front of Maizy’s midsection, as well as a strap that came around her shoulders and sat across her upper chest. That way some of the weight was shifted from her mid-back and spine to her upper back and shoulders, while not sitting so high that it would choke her either.
Also, with Maizy being on the smaller end of the scale for this pack, there was some excess strap once I cinched it down on her. Luckily, I was able to secure the excess strap with a built-in rubber strap/band that could be slid back as far as it needed to be so that Maizy wasn’t tripping over any of the excess strap.
It also featured the top handle I mentioned earlier, which was an important feature for me from a safety perspective. If she were to slip and fall into fast-moving water, or if I needed to restrain her from chasing after an animal in the wild (or any other reason I may need to get a quick and firm grasp without hurting her), the good-sized handle on top provided that option.
On the website it notes that this handle is not intended for lifting or carrying your dog, which obviously is not what I would use it for either. But in an emergency situation, it’s not a bad thing to have the option to use it to get her out of a dangerous situation. According to the website, the handle is designed as a way to hang the pack from a wall hook for storage.
Lastly, the pack was a durable-feeling cotton-canvas material, brown, and featured the rugged look and feel I was going for in a pack.
With that, it was time to put the pack to the test.
The following weekend Maizy and I took a short camping trip near St. Maries, Idaho, where we’d be hiking into Crystal Lake the following morning, a gorgeous high-alpine lake in the mountains to the north of the St. Joe River. We stayed at Sheep Springs campground near one of a couple Crystal Lake Trailheads. It was quiet, private, and sitting upon a ridgetop. The location was just what I was looking for when spending a Friday night in Idaho backcountry.
Saturday morning came around and Maizy and I prepared for the hike. It wasn’t a long hike, a little over three miles, but it was hot, a narrow trail, quite rocky in places, and very steep in others. I wasn’t sure how long we’d stay at the lake once we got there, so I packed some extra water in my backpack.
Luckily, I was able to move several of the other supplies I like to have in my own hiking pack over into Maizy’s pack. I packed a leash for her, a water container, a small backup first aid kit, sanitary wipes, and my extra collapsible pocket knife.
Being able to move some of those things over wasn’t a huge difference in terms of the weight in my own pack, but it was certainly noticeable. I felt lighter, a little faster, and on a longer trip it would have certainly helped with my long-term endurance.
Also, since Maizy isn’t physically used to carrying a pack yet, I didn’t want to overload her on her first time. The more she wears it, and the stronger she gets, the more weight I’ll be able to add.
When I first put the pack on her at home a couple days earlier, being the first time she’d ever worn such a thing, Maizy was understandably a little nervous and uncomfortable. She stared at me with sad eyes, presumably asking why I would force her to wear such a thing, and she walked very gingerly, as if the wrong move may cause the pack to suddenly come to life and attack her.
However, when I put it on her before our hike, she had a little apprehension again at first, but within minutes it was as if it was a part of her fur coat. Running, chasing her Frisbee, and seeming not to be hindered at all.
Given the uneven terrain and portions of the trail that went across massive rock slides, it wasn’t a straight-forward, trot-in-a-straight-line hike for Maizy. It was up, down, and she had to jump over rocks, climb through fairly narrow crevices, and engage her “four-wheel drive” for much of it.
I had worried that the pack may hinder her in some of the stickier places, but as we went along, Maizy continued to pull ahead of me (a quick whistle brings her right back, she’s a pretty good listener) while traversing the rough terrain, and she seemed to hardly notice the pack was even there. It even came in handy in a few spots where there was a jump that was tough for her to make, and I would lift the back of the pack to give her a small boost.
Once we reached the lake Maizy didn’t give me a chance to get the pack off her before making a mad dash to the water and diving in. I called her back in and took the pack off and let her swim around for a while.
If there was one con to this hiking pack, it was the lack of water resistance the material had. Rather than shedding water, it soaked it up, making it a bit heavier, and after a few hours, even in the heat, it was still visibly wet. However, to the credit of OneTigris, nowhere does it claim that the pack is water proof or water resistant, so ultimately, it was on me for not getting the pack off of her before she launched into the water.
In the end, the hike turned out to be incredibly enjoyable, and while the gorgeous scenery of the Crystal Lake Wilderness deserves most of the credit, the OneTigris Hoppy Camper harness and pack certainly played its part in making the hike more enjoyable and easier for myself. I look forward to taking it with us on more of our hiking adventures, testing its capabilities, and seeing how it holds up in the long run.
For this product review I would give this pack a solid 9.5/10 rating, and would highly recommend it to someone else looking for a rugged, quality, versatile, and affordable dog hiking pack.
To hear more from Brent about hiking, the outdoors, and other cool stuff going on in the Pacific Northwest, check out his website and subscribe to his blog!