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Reviews > Animal Companion Gear > Dog Packs > Wolf Packs Banzai > Owner Review by Amanda Tikkanen

Wolf Packs Banzai
By Amanda Tikkanen
Owner Review
July 01, 2014

Tester Information

Name: Amanda Tikkanen
Email: amanda at uberpest dot com
Age: 32
Location: Southwest Ohio, USA
Gender: F
Height: 5' 4" (1.63 m)
Weight: 159 lb (72.10 kg)

I have been hiking and backpacking since 2000. Always with a dog by my side, my current trail companions Ranger and Halo (both Louisiana Catahoulas) are helping me cover ground in southeast Indiana, southwest Ohio, and northern Kentucky. I've previously tramped around the upper midwest, mostly in lower Michigan and northern Indiana.

My base pack weight runs around 16 lb (7 kg). My goal is to carry as little weight as possible without sacrificing comfort. My trips are typically 10-15 miles (16-24 km) per day, be it day hike, overnight, weekenders, or week-long treks. Lately I've been doing mostly day hikes, squeezing in longer trips as possible.

Product information

Wolf Packs Banzai in use
Wolf Packs Banzai.



Manufacturer: Wolf Packs, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website: WolfPacks, LLC
MSRP: US $79.00

All measurements are for size small

Listed Weight: 16 oz (450 g)
Measured Weight: 15.75 oz (447 g)
Listed dimensions (each panier):13" L x 4.5" W x 6.5" H (33 cm L x 11.4 cm W x 16.5 cm H)
Measured dimensions: 13" L x 4.5" W x 6.5" H (33 cm L x 11.4 cm W x 16.5 cm H)
Listed capacity: 650 cubic inches (10.65 L) total


Other details:
Materials: Cordura nylon (top) with ballistic nylon brush guards.

Description:

The Wolf Packs Banzai is the top-of-the-line pack from WolfPacks, Inc. It consists of two Cordura Plus bags (paniers) that hang from a saddle that is fitted over a dog's shoulders and is secured in place using two 1 in (2.5 cm) straps with side-release plastic buckles. Each of the buckles is padded with polyester fleece. The chest strap crosses the dog's chest at or slightly above the breastbone. The belly strap goes under the dog at approximately the sternum and is fits snugly to the ribcage. The top front of the pack is cut in a curve to fit around the dog's neck.

Each panier is roughly oval in shape with the narrower end near the dog's shoulder to prevent the dog's elbows from rubbing on the pack. Each panier opens and closes using YKK zippers that have 2 wide rubberized pulls, which allows easy access to the panier's contents no matter where they are in the pack. Each panier is overlaid with ballistic nylon, which is zippered to create a pocket on each side. The ballistic nylon covers the bottom and front of the pack. It extends halfway up the paniers on each side and the rear of the pack. This matches the line of the zippers. It does not cover the underside of the pack where it comes in contact with the dog's body.

On the side of the pack, above the zipper for the ballistic nylon, there is a strip of 3M reflective tape for visibility in low-light conditions. There are compression straps‒one per side‒that compress a bulky load and push the weight forward over the dog's shoulders‒the strongest point of a dog's body. The straps are located just below the side pocket zippers. One end is sewn to the front of the pack and the other is secured by a ladderlock on the rear of the pack. On the top of the pack (as worn) there is another small zippered pocket in the saddle as well as two lash patches that allow for securing items such as a sleeping pad, ground cloth, or tarp. These patches are also useful for attaching a bear bell or flashing light.

Ballistic nylon is a thick nylon fabric similar to Cordura and is used in applications such as body armor (both human and canine), motorcycle jackets, and similar applications.

The ballistic nylon is always black while the Cordura comes in many colors. My packs are orange for three reasons. 1 I like colors that make my dogs visible. 2 I really like orange, especially when combined with black. 3. I think it looks good on my dogs.

Ranger and Halo on Springer Mountain

Actual Tester Info

In most of my reports I am the tester. In this case, I'm evaluating the product on behalf of its primary user, my dogs, Ranger and Halo.

For some background on the dogs:

Ranger is a 6-year old male Louisiana Catahoula. He weighs approximately 60 lbs (27 kg) and stands 24" (61 cm) at the shoulder. His measurement at his sternum is 26.5" (67 cm) which is well within the fit range of the small size. The manufacturer recommends the small for dogs who measure 22-30" (56-76 cm) at the sternum.

Halo is a 1-year old female Louisiana Catahoula. She weighs about 50 lbs (22.6 kg) and 21" (53 cm) at the shoulder. Her measurement at her sternum is 25" (63.5 cm) which is also well within the fit range for the small size.

Both dogs have a short, thick coat. Their hair is about 1/2-3/4" (1.3-1.9 cm) long and slightly oily. This is due to the nature of their breed. Both have an athletic build and are in working condition when we're out on the trail.

Some of Ranger's other training includes wild game hunting, weight pull, lure coursing, and conformation. His weight pull training has transferred well to the trail in that he can keep a long line or leash pulled taught behind him and can be guided by voice without too much trouble. Halo has similar training to Ranger, but is still young and needs experience. She has done conformation, some hunting, and should ready to compete in obedience this fall. Their hunting heritage and training has not lent well to being off leash while in a pack, so they stay on leash while on the trail. Their conformation training largely involves holding very still while they are touched all over. This is great because when I'm putting the pack on, taking it off, loading or unloading they need to hold still. If they don't the whole process is frustrating, time consuming, and uncomfortable for me and for them.

Field Use

Since my previous dog packs are too big for my current dogs, I was in the market for something both lightweight and durable. The folks at Wolf Packs are "dog people," that is, they do a great many things with their dogs, so they tailor their products to what they need in the field. I chose the Banzai pack based on the features such as ballistic nylon brush guards and compression straps to help control the load when the pack is on the dog.

In March and April I did a number of day hikes around my home in southeastern Indiana. Most of these were in the 2-4 mile (3.2-6.4 km) range at elevations of 700-1000' (213-305 m) above sea level. For Ranger I started out with water bladders in each side of his pack since he was already accustomed to wearing a pack; he needed the physical conditioning more than anything. For Halo I started with crumpled paper or air packing pillows since she's young and needs to learn manners and that the pack isn't going to eat her. The weight will come later once she's fully grown to prevent damage to her joints and connective tissues. I prefer not to load more than 25% of a dog's total body weight on it as a fully grown adult, and even then it's only at the start of a long trip. For a growing dog I do much less than this.

In late May 2014 I made a long road trip that included, in order:

  • Springer Mountain, GA; Appalachian Trail Approach Trail. 15 mi (24 km) with an elevation gain of approximately 2000' (610 m) gained in total. 2 day overnight trip.
  • Currahee Mountain, GA; Col. Robert Sink Memorial Trail. 6 mi (9.7 km) with an elevation gain of approximately 800' (244 m) gained and 800' (244 m) lost. Day trip.
  • SC/NC; The Foothills Trail. 77 mi (124 km). Several steep climbs. According to the elevation profile it has a total of approximately 8900' (2712 m) of elevation gained and 9400' (2865 m) lost. 7 day trip.


Elevations among these three trails ranged from 1735' (529 m) to 3,780' (1152 m). Total distance on Ranger's pack was about 150 miles (240 km) and Halo's about 120 (190 km). The packs so far were used 15-20 days total.

Ranger carried a 34 oz (1 L) water bladder per side on all trips. On Currahee mountain he carried only water. On Springer he carried my empty Platypus Gravityworks 60 oz (2 L) filter, tent stakes, rain cover for my pack, snacks, a spare shirt of mine, both dogs' food, and a few other small items. On the Foothills Trail he carried all the same items he carried on Springer minus the food, but plus camp trash, my lunch, and a 5' x 7' (1.5 m x 2.1 m) blue woven poly tarp strapped to the top using the lash tabs and secured by a length of nylon rope. On average his pack and contents weighed 8-10 lb (3.6-4.5 kg), which is 13-17% of his total body weight.

On Springer Mountain and the Foothills Trail Halo carried my rain pants, rain jacket, sunblock, bear bagging cord and bags, and an elevation profile for the trail (Foothills Trail only). She did not carry her pack when we hiked Currahee Mountain. On average her pack and contents weighed around 3 lb (1.4 kg), which is about 6% of her total body weight. Again, this is due to her young age. In another year or so I will start adding weight, but in the mean time she is learning to handle the pack and learn trail manners.

Packs in use



Ranger and Halo wearing their packs



The pack material held up well to rain, stream crossings, mud, soot, brush, and rock. There is little noticeable abrasion, which is likely due to the tough ballistic nylon.

Rough terrain
The packs held up to being dragged across rocks.



The dogs experienced no wear to their coats or skin when wearing the pack. On the first day of the Foothills Trail I noticed that their hair was scuffed up a bit over their spines at the back of the pack, but that went away after a day.

On steep uphill climbs the packs did not dig into the dogs' throats or inhibit their breathing in any way. On steep downhills the packs stayed securely in place and didn't slide forward over their heads. Even on very steep angles the packs stayed in place. Here Ranger didn't want to walk in the low spot with Halo and it took some coaxing to convince him that lower was better. The packs did tend to tilt to one side if the load wasn't balanced properly, but this is the nature of dog packs, at least in my experience. I had enough small items in the pack that I was able to adjust on the fly.

Packs in use
The pack didn't shift even on slopes.




The dogs were generally able to navigate tough obstacles in the packs. On the Foothills Trail there was one short section of trail where we had to cross a boulder field. In this section the boulders were 3-6' tall (1-2 m) and the dogs had trouble scrambling up these boulders. This is understandable since I was also unable to do so. I removed their packs and put them back on once we were in a safer spot. Log bridges, sway bridges, rocky paths, steep stairs, downed logs, and narrow paths were no problem for my dogs while they were in their packs.

The dogs were able to sit and lie down comfortably in the packs. They were comfortable enough that at rest stops the dogs could often be found napping in their packs if I didn't remove them. That said, Halo liked to roll on her back for attention. She'd pretend she was stuck and I would have to go right her, even though if I wasn't paying attention she could get up on her own. I do think that if the pack was loaded with more weight she would have actually needed my help to get up. Ranger did not have this problem. Removing packs at rest stops was quick and easy. I would usually release both buckles, but if I wanted to I could release only the belly strap and lift the pack over the dog's head to remove or put back on.

Halo stuck
Halo turned turtle a few times.



Dogs napping in packs
The dogs could nap in their packs.



At one point on the Foothills Trail I picked up Ranger's pack by the nylon rope that I was using to secure the blue poly tarp. This tore through the lash tab. When I got home I contacted Wolf Packs to see about getting it repaired as it wasn't something I could easily do myself. Linda, one of the owners, told me to wash the pack and send it back for repair. The pack washed up quickly in my sink (I used a mild laundry soap, as per her instructions) and let it dry. It took about a day and a half to dry hanging in my bathroom. Once I shipped it out Linda had it fixed the day she received it and had it back in the mail to me the following day. When I got it back I had to look at the inside for the stitch marks from the broken lash tab to remind myself which tab was broken.

Broken lash tab
The lash tab broke, but was replaced.



When I washed my packs the majority of the dirt came out, but there is definitely some that didn't come out and probably won't. I don't mind the look, but I do want to see how this affects the fabric long term as there is still soot or dirt in there that could be abrading the material. While washing I also noticed a couple of spots where the reflective tape got scuffed. It's a tiny spot, about the size of a pencil tip, so the tape still does its job of reflecting light for safety.

So far the zippers haven't jammed. One of the zippers on Ranger's pack came out of alignment, but since it's a self-repairing coil zipper I was able to slide the slider back and forth a bit to fix this.

The capacity seems good for my dogs and my style. Given that Halo is still growing and Ranger likes to get in water, I decided I would carry their food on the Foothills Trail and allow them to take on some of my load in return. Even so, I was able to fit four meals of food in Ranger's pack on Springer, which works out to two days of normal packing. There was plenty of room for more food, so I would feel comfortable taking this out with up to 5 days of food in it if all the dog is carrying is food, water, and possibly their dishes.

Things I Like

  • Durability. The packs held up to significant trail use with minimal wear.
  • Fit. The packs fit my dogs well and are easily adjusted to their frames.
  • Comfort. There is no noticeable wear to the dogs' coats, bellies, chests, or elbows. They showed no signs of discomfort while wearing the packs.
  • Customer service. I shipped my pack to be repaired. It was repaired the day it was received and shipped back to me the next day.

Things I Don't Like

There are surprisingly few things I don't like about this pack.

The inside seams of the pack aren't taped. The pack cloth isn't completely waterproof, so I don't know if it needs to be taped for that reason. I'd prefer taping just to prevent any unraveling of the edges of the woven material. I may tape the seams myself using Tenacious Tape or something similar.

I do wish that, instead of lash tabs, there were daisy chains on the back of the pack. This would allow more options for attaching items than the lash tabs afford. For instance, carabiners could clip dishes to the outside of the pack to dry, and long items such as foam pads could be lashed down in a nose-to-tail direction or across the shoulders, instead of across the shoulders only. I also feel that this would be less likely to tear in the way the plastic patch did on Ranger's pack.

There is also no easy attachment point for a leash. This would be a problem, except the manufacturer offers this explanation for this design: they didn't make the pack with a leash attachment point because a dog is less likely to pull when its leash is attached to a collar than to a pack. Also, the type of harness used on the Banzai is not suited to pulling. While this does make it so that the leash loops under the pack or the dog's armpit, it doesn't seem to bother my dogs at all, so I'm less concerned about it now than I was when I was first using the pack.

Ranger and Halo navigating trail
The dogs' leashes didn't get tangled in their packs.

Summary

Overall I'm pleased with the Wolf Packs Banzai. I enjoy having my dogs on the trail with me and they enjoy having a job while we're there. Making sure they're comfortable in a pack is a high priority and I'm not disappointed in how this fits my dogs. The durability of the pack is much better than I expected given the trail conditions experienced. On top of that, customer support is excellent.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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