Hello! Quite the sabbatical I seem to have taken - 14 months if I dare admit it!
Though I was never as active with this space as I wanted to be, I felt that blogging led to a loss in quality time with the dogs and the backlog that accompanied that sentiment proved too great to write my way out of. In the months since I thought I’d given up, I’ve devoted more effort to both doing more with the pups and working towards achieving my lifestyle goals. It’s made for a busy but rewarding year.
That perspective is part of why I started following an Instagram profile by dog-mom Gretchen about her two pups, Lander and Phoenix. I connected with so many of her posts about hiking with her spirited, pointy-eared problem child and stoically handsome, ever-watchful senior. Come to find out, Gretchen has been working on a wicked cool project: a pack designed for people who hike with their dogs. Being the niche gear hoarder that I am, when she put out the call for an ambassador search, I applied and was blown away when I was invited to the team.
Her company, MuttRuk, recently debuted its first pack, the Phoenix 14. We’ve had ours for about 6 weeks and it’s become my go-to pack for anything from a 45 minute meander to a half day hike. Its versatility means it goes into the woods, down to the beach, and over to the brewery with us. I’ve included a link to their Kickstarter campaign so you can check out all features and specs that come together to keep me organized when I'm out with the dogs. I want to highlight just a few so I can demonstrate how intuitive and convenient they are in detail.
First, if I could put the Phoenix 14’s shoulder straps on all my packs, I would. I love these things and here’s why: my phone is unnecessarily big and on top of that, it lives in thick, a drop-rated case. It doesn’t fit anywhere. Except the Phoenix. The vertical pockets are microfiber lined and incredibly ergonomic; grabbing the phone the second the dogs do something remotely picture-worthy is as intuitive as pressing the shutter button.
Second, more pockets! I’ll admit, I’ve got some pretty sweet hip belt pockets on my bigger Gregory packs. But none are as delightfully ginormous as those on the Phoenix 14.
Hip belt pocket features:
On the right side, there is an exterior pocket specifically for a roll of waste bags. It’s convenient and I think, for passers-by who notice, reinforces a positive impression of dog-owning hikers as conscientious trail users.
On the left side is an integrated daisy chain and carabiner. Options abound with these attachment points. I have been using them to keep Ty’s SportDog collar and a leash at the ready. The ability to switch back and forth management tools and reinforce good behavior more frequently because treats are more readily accessible, has allowed me to better respond - and keep ahead of - her prey drive than while wearing other packs, when I’d either ignore training moments or repeatedly stop to dig something out. The Muttruk way is a much safer and more enjoyable way!
Two noteworthy observations about the attachment points: First, the placement of the chain was well thought out. My husband and I have each used the pack with her collar and remote affixed and simply by moving how far down the chain they’re positioned, neither of us felt any arm movement inhibition despite our different builds. Secondly, the carabiner’s sleeve is sewn to the pocket as well as any premium dog collar and I trust it to bear significant weight.
Removable liners - so use and abuse them without worrying about consequences. Got some messy treats but forgot the pouch? Run out of places to store a used waste bag? Problems solved (they mask scent really well too, FYI!).
Just as promised, extensive detail about only a few of the many features of the Phoenix 14. To continue on about its comfort and durability and dive into the main compartment would require a small book! So why focus on pockets? Because their functionality leads to an enhanced experience and if you’ve ready my other reviews on products such as the Release ‘n’ Run, you’ll understand how much I value gear that supports underserved user needs. Tango would second the on-point functionality, as my function is to keep the trail treats coming and he definitely gets more of them since I’m not as focused on portioning out my supply til the next time I plan to remove my pack. The simple fact that it’s perfectly sized for a broad spectrum of adventures means I take it places I used to bring hardly anything then wished I had a given item, either out of necessity or the dogs’ comfort. I may have very specific reasons why I’m a huge fan of MuttRuk and the Phoenix 14 but the pack is so versatile that anyone who brings their dog along for adventures will reap the benefits of Gretchen’s foresight and innovation!