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Reviews > Animal Companion Gear > Dog Packs > Granite Gear Alpha Dog Pack > Owner Review by Bob Dorenfeld

Granite Gear Alpha Dog Pack
Owner Review By Bob Dorenfeld
January 15, 2014

Tester Bio
Name: Bob Dorenfeld

I'm an active hiker, snowshoer, skier, backpacker, amateur geographer and naturalist. Home base is the Southern Colorado Rockies, where I usually journey from 7000 ft (2100 m) to above treeline, with occasional desert trips to lower altitudes. Six to 12 miles (10 to 20 km) hiking in a day is my norm, including elevation change of as much as 4000 ft (1200 m) in a day. Most of my backpack trips are two or three nights, sometimes longer. Often I hike off-trail on challenging talus, snowfields, or willow brakes, with occasional bouldering.

Email: geartest(at)sageandspruce(dot)net
Age: 55
Location: Salida, Colorado, USA
Gender: M
Height: 5' 6" (1.68 m)
Weight: 135 lb (61 kg)

Product Overview

Manufacturer:    Granite Gear
MSRP:    US$62.95 (size S, M)
                  US$72.95 (size L)
Sizes:  S, M, L
Volume: S: 488 cu in (8 L)
                M: 732 cu in (12 L)
                L:  976 cu in (16 L)
Material: 210D Nylon Cordura
Colors:  Green and Blue (pictured)

 Current pack available
Photo:  Granite Gear
The Granite Gear Alpha Dog Pack is a backpack for dogs, designed to fit the anatomy of most breeds of dog that do well on hikes and have the body strength to carry from about 2-8 lbs (1-3.5 kg) of gear or food.  It comes in three sizes to fit most dogs: Granite Gear's sizing chart recommends size S for dogs with a widest chest girth of 26-29 in (66-74 cm), size M for girth of 29-32 in (74-81 cm), and size L for girth of 32-35 in (81-89 cm).  The pack is constructed of tough Cordura nylon, with polyester fleece lining the bottom of the back section.  Each side compartment is zippered along its length for easy access.  Three adjustable straps along the top widen or narrow the pack to fit the dog's back and chest, and both the front and chest straps have adjustable lengths as well.

Sage's packThis review is for my older model of dog backpack made by Granite Gear in 2007, size S, pictured to the right.  I have compared my pack with the latest model shown above, and while I see several new features not on mine, basic design features are the same or very similar.  Both are constructed of Cordura nylon, and both use the same 3-point harness and strap adjustment regime.  There is the same bag-length zipper for the side compartments, and the fleece-lined back support.  Both also have reflective material and a leash-attachment ring at the top rear.

For the record I'd like to note some of the features available on the new model that mine does not have:  padded front harness, carrying strap at the top, inner pockets inside the main compartments, and a slightly more elongated shape for the side compartments.

Field Performance    

My dog Sage has been worn this backpack on every overnight outing that I've done since 2007, for a total of about 28 backpacks.  A rough estimate of "dog miles" that she's covered while wearing it would be somewhere around 1000 (1600 km).  ("Dog mile" is my own term for that extra length a dog does while off-trail, plus running back-and-forth along the trail.)  We've hiked in dry sunny weather, and in rain and snow.  Sage has waded and swum with the pack on as well.  She is now over eight years old, and is still a very enthusiastic hiker.

Side The backpack can be loaded or empty when I put it on the dog.  The front strap (across her breast) is already clipped together so I slip on the pack like a collar, from her front and over her head. The three straps across her back allow me to fine-tune the distance that the side compartments hang down.  I rarely have to change this adjustment, but during the first couple of wearings I observed how the pack sat while she walked and ran, and raised/lowered the sides until I got a good balance for her.  The fleece on the top panel keeps the pack from rubbing, like a horse blanket.  The chest strap, not easily visible in the photos, runs underneath and behind the dog's front legs.  I usually need to adjust this strap several times during a 3-day trip, because either it's pulled loose during use (not common), or because the load has changed - lighter or less-bulky gear requires a slightly tighter chest strap, a heaver or bulkier load means I'll pull it a bit looser.  Sometimes the bottom of the saddle bags is too close to the ground, especially on rocky terrain.  The front strap has never needed re-adjustment after I found the best length.  I have also never seen any chafing by the unpadded (on my older model) front strap on Sage's fur or skin.  Over time, though, I found that some additional hook-and-loop strapping (not on the original product) helps to keep the loose ends of the straps in place during hiking.

Sage is a medium-sized Border Collie/Labrador mix, weighing about 70 lb (32 kg), and she fits well in the size S, given her slim but muscled build.  I'll pack up to 4 lbs (1.8 kg) of gear and dog food, evenly distributed between the sides.  It's important to keep the weight even, because only a slight difference will cause the pack to tilt to one side or another, making it  awkward for the dog to walk. (She knows when it's not right!)  I've also found it prudent to put anything perishable (such as food) in sealed plastic bags, since Sage loves to wade and cool off in the water.  There are drip holes (grommeted) at the bottom of each compartment, so any water does drain rapidly out.  The nylon dries off quickly, especially in the dry Rocky Mountain air I hike in.  The type of gear I usually pack is, in order of weight, dog food, my food, and any small miscellaneous items that I prefer to have accessible in the dog pack.  Although I never go over 4 lbs (1.8 kg) total, on the final return hike she could carry as little as half that amount, or less.  The maximum weight does keep her from running as fast as usual, but since her endurance is good she takes it in stride and enjoys the hike (plus the dinner and dog treats she knows she'll eventually get to eat!).

Sage usually wears her normal collar with tags when also wearing the backpack, which I like because of the extra jangle the tags make (lets me know where she is), and she doesn't mind wearing both at the same time. 
RearShe's very cooperative for me when I put the backpack on and take it off, and does like to wear it.   I always carry a leash with me when hiking, and I use it when encountering other dogs or people: for that purpose, there's a plastic leash ring at the rear of the top pad, next the the back top strap.  It works well, and in a hurry it's quicker to clip on to than the usual collar ring I'd use when Sage is not wearing the pack.

I can think of several incidents when Sage got hung up on either rocks or branches while wearing the backpack - it's a potential hazard in the bush when a dog wears anything on their body.  But she'll let me know she's stuck with a loud yelp, and usually she frees herself quickly.

There are several reflective areas sewn into the backpack, and that is useful at dark if she's still wearing the pack when I'm setting up a late campsite.night

Final Thoughts    

The Granite Gear Alpha Dog Pack has been an excellent addition to my backpack gear collection these past seven years.  Since Sage accompanies me almost everywhere I hike, she can carry her share of good and gear in comfort.  The pack has seen its share of scrapes and dunkings over the years, but it has proven itself durable and comfortable for Sage hike after hike.

If I ever need to, I'd purchase the same model of pack now made by Granite Gear.  The new features not available on my current pack may prove useful, especially the longer, slimmer side compartments, which may address the occasional problem I've noticed of the bags hanging too close to the ground.  However, they've kept the same overall design, which has worked for me and the dog, and I recommend this dog pack to anyone with an active trail canine companion.

Reviewed By
Bob Dorenfeld
Central Colorado Mountains

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