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Reviews > Animal Companion Gear > Dog Packs > Kelty Chuck Wagon Dog Pack > Owner Review by David Wyman

August 11, 2008


NAME: David Wyman
AGE: 30
LOCATION: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.78 m)
WEIGHT: 175 lb (79.40 kg)

While I've been camping for years, I've only been backpacking for a short time. As a fairly new backpacker, I'm still trying to find the right equipment so I alternate between my tent and hammock. I do quite a number of short trips in the Pennsylvania (PA) state parks (Raccoon Creek and Ohiopyle mostly) and longer trips are usually up in the Allegheny National Forest. My dog almost always comes along on the longer hikes, and my wife and toddler join me on the shorter ones.


NAME: Emma
BREED: Labrador Retriever/Border Collie mix
AGE: 4
GENDER: Female
WEIGHT: 59 lb (27 kg)
GIRTH: 31 in (79 cm)


Manufacturer: Kelty
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: US $50
Listed Weight: 14 oz (400 g)
Measured Weight: 15 oz (425 g)
Other details from Kelty's Product Description:
  * Colors: Red/Black is the only option
  * Dog Weight Range: 35 lb - 65 lb (15.9 kg - 29.5 kg)
  * Dog Girth Range: 22" - 35" (56 cm - 89 cm)
  * Standard Volume: 500 in^3 (8.2 l)
  * Expanded Volume: 620 in^3 (10.2 l)


The pack is made from ripstop nylon and is constructed very well. There are two pouches, one on each side, that are fairly roomy. The pouches are red with the Kelty logo and a bit of reflective tape. Each pouch has a bi-directional zipper running the full length at the top of the pouch allowing it to be opened and closed from either side. There is a zipper that runs along the bottom of each pouch that, when unzipped, allows the pouch to expand and hold even more. It would be nice to be able to remove the pouches from the harness to give the dog a bit of a break on longer hikes or while navigating more unstable and difficult terrain but, unfortunately, the pouches are not detachable.

The pouches are connected on top to a padded, black harness with a large, rugged grab handle securely attached. There is a flimsy (as I later discovered), plastic D-ring on both ends of the handle and attached to one of the rings is a removable bear bell. The pack is very well padded and has a mesh underlayer to make it a bit more breathable.

The harness is very easy to put on the dog. After unclipping one of the straps from the chest attachment point, the dog steps into the harness. Clip the strap back to the chest attachment point, buckle the strap that connects the two pouches underneath the dog, and then tighten the straps until they are snug.

The pack harness consists of three pieces:

  • Two nylon straps lead from the front of the pack, on either side of the dog's head and converge, using adjustable clips, at a padded attachment point at the dog's chest.
  • A nylon strap leads from the chest attachment underneath the dog and ends in a loop.
  • A nylon strap connects both side pouches and runs under the dog, through the loop in the chest strap.
All straps are adjustable and all attachment points are padded. My dog falls somewhere in the middle of the weight and girth ranges suggested by Kelty and, based on where I have the straps adjusted, they seem pretty accurate. The pack fits well on my dog, but I don't think I'd use this pack on a dog that fell toward the smaller side of the measurements (unless the dog was in excellent shape) because, with the pouches expanded, it would seem too large, heavy, and bulky.


This pack has been used quite often over the last two years on trips ranging in length from short day hikes to 3 or 4 day hiking trips. Day hikes have taken it to several PA state parks, including Ohiopyle, Raccoon Creek, and Morraine. Several of the multi-day trips have included portions of the North Country Trail in the Allegheny National Forest. For all of the hikes, weather was always fairly warm, between 50 F (10 C) and 80 F (27 C), sunny, and mostly rain-free.

For shorter trips, the pouches are left unexpanded and a 32 fl oz (946 ml) water bottle is put in each of the pouches. In addition, the left side holds a compressible water dish and a few treats and the right side has a Ziploc bag with food and a few Ziploc bags for waste. On longer trips, I supplement the above items with more Ziploc bags, more food, and an extra-long leash.

Side View of Kelty Chuckwagon
Side view of Kelty Chuckwagon

On short trips, the pack is left on the entire time. The pack is somewhat water resistant, so unless my dog is going to play in a lake or stream, the pack doesn't need to come off. On longer trips, I take the pack off of the dog every time we stop and rest. She seems to be happier if we take a break once every two hours. It also takes her about an hour to get used to having the pack on and until she does, she pauses every 20 minutes or so to try to shake it off. Once acclimated to it, she doesn't seem to mind it.

One thing I noticed is that the first trip with the pack, my dog took much longer to get used to wearing the pack. She tried several times to shake it off until she realized it wasn't going anywhere. Now I've started having her wear it on short walks around town once a week in between trips and she has gotten much more comfortable wearing it, though she still occasionally forgets the added width and bumps into things.

While hiking, the pack will occasionally shift a few inches to one side if the weight in the pouches is not balanced very well. It hasn't shifted forward significantly on any hikes and the straps haven't gotten caught in her fur. The padding also seems to work well and there hasn't been any chafing yet.

Top View of Kelty Chuckwagon
Top View of Kelty Chuckwagon

The pack itself is very well constructed and has lasted through numerous hikes in rough country. It has survived:

  • full immersion when she misjudged the depth and jumped into a few feet of water. She got out quickly so the pack wasn't under very long, but the contents stayed dry. I don't know if longer submersion would have had the same results.
  • getting caught on tree branches - some slight fraying on the front edges of the pouches, but nothing serious.
  • and rolling around in the mud - the mesh holds mud really well but the zippers kept everything out of the pouches.
The only real complaint I have with it is that the D-rings on top are almost worthless. They are not very hefty and are not up to the task of having a leash clipped to them (they don't claim to be leash attachments, but that's the most obvious possible use) which I found out when my dog chased after a small animal and the D-ring snapped. I'm glad my dog listens and came back when called! Now I just leave the leash clipped to her collar and the only thing on the remaining D-ring is the bear bell and occasionally a shirt or bandana that I'm air drying.


  • Very sturdy construction (except the D-rings)
  • Pouches can hold a decent amount
  • Seems comfortable to wear


  • D-rings are not strong at all
  • Not enough reflective tape to be very useful - more would be better while hiking at dusk/dawn
  • A little expensive

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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