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Dogpacking Bag Review: Ruffwear Haul Bag vs CAT5 Cyclist Case

Got doggy gear? Read our first impression of two bag options for your furry best friend’s dogpacking gear: the Ruffwear Haul Bag and the CAT5 Cyclist Case.

With dogs comes doggy items. And with dogpacking comes dogpacking gear. When bringing your furry friend along, it’s nice to have everything in one place so you don’t forget or misplace an item. Let’s look at a couple of options for dogpacking bags.

I’ve been keeping River’s belongings in a cycling gear bag made by a company in Ontario called CAT5 Gear. Having used their bags to store my cycling and paddling gear, I decided to try repurposing one as a dogpacking bag.

We recently purchased Ruffwear’s Haul Bag to try it out as well. if you’re considering using a dogpacking bag and wonder what to look for in one, here are our impressions so far of both bags, starting with what I fill them with. (Note: some of the items below have affiliate links.)

What goes in our dogpacking bag?

Rather than having doggy items stored around the house, I now keep all of River’s belongings in the dogpacking bag. As such, it functions as a central hub for all her stuff. I also bring it along for car travel or taking a car to a trail head or water put-in. From this bag I select the items she’ll need for the adventure. Specifically, here’s what goes in it:

There are a couple of obvious uses for a dogpacking bag: 1) as a hub to store all of your dog’s gear and items; 2) as a travel bag for brining the items your dog will need for the current outing.

Let’s see what uses these bags offer.

Dogpacking bag overview

Ruffwear Haul Bag

  • Dimensions: H 32cm (12.5”); L 42cm (16.5”); W 30cm (11.8”)
  • Volume: 37 L
  • Style: duffel-bag with mesh and zippered pockets
  • Features: interior: 1 large compartment, 1 large zippered pocket, 3 small mesh pockets; exterior: 1 medium zippered pocket, 3 small mesh pockets; padded shoulder strap; waterproof material
  • Price: $96.95 CAD; $89.95 USD

The Ruffwear Haul Bag dog travel bag is a large duffel bag designed for bringing your dog’s gear on an adventures or when travelling. I immediately liked its sturdy build and how easy and comfortable it is to carry. While the dimensions differ a bit, its volume is comparable to that of the CAT5 Case so I was confident that River’s gear would all fit.

I wasn’t disappointed. It easily swallowed everything.

What we like about it 👍

  • Large main compartment fits a lot of gear
  • Very comfortable to carry: padded shoulder strap; not too large to be awkward. Would work well as a bag for storing all your dog’s gear and/or as a day-trip bag for brining select items
  • Several additional smaller pockets for smaller items
  • Waterproof outer material which is easy to clean (note: seams are not taped; the bag is not designed to be immersed but will help shed water if rained on)
  • Very durable and well made, like other Ruffwear products
  • Easy to grab-and-go

Areas for improvement 🤔

  • Mesh pockets have only elastic at the top, not a secure closure
  • Only one large compartment
  • No “wet” compartment for keeping wet or sandy items separate
  • No water bottle holder (the exterior mesh pockets will hold a water bottle but are just a bit wide and shallow for that purpose)

CAT5 Cyclist Case

  • Dimensions: H 15”; W 20”; D 7.75”
  • Volume 2000 cubic inches 32.8 L
  • Style: suitcase with mesh lid
  • Features: mesh lid; interior: 2 large compartments, 2 small compartments, 4 small mesh pockets with zipper or Velcro closure; exterior: 2 water bottle holders; gear check list; rugged construction with YKK zipper
  • Price: $79.99 CAD

The CAT5 Cyclist Case has an organized suitcase design with preset compartments which allow terrific organization and layout of gear. This roomy gear bag is designed to be laid flat in your trunk or at a race, rather than carried for long distances. To that end it does a great job.

What we like about it 👍

  • Very useful size – stores a lot without being too large to carry
  • Padded shoulder strap and carry handle
  • Multiple compartments allow categories of gear to be stored together for quick visualization and retrieval
  • Mesh pockets are generous and have a zipper or velcro closure so the contents stay put. The mesh lid helps allow damp items to dry
  • Two water bottle holders are very useful
  • Easy to grab-and-go
  • Well made and durable

Areas for improvement 🤔

  • No “wet” compartment to keep wet or sandy items separate. Mind you, this bag was designed for cycling, not for dogpacking
  • Great functionality out of this bag as a gear station; but less practical to carry on a hike or a day trip

Overall initial impressions

Both bags have their own merits for dogpacking. I personally prefer the Haul Bag’s “swallows everything” duffel style so that’s what I’m now using for River’s gear, but I would have liked (1) a second internal compartment instead of everything (clothes, harnesses, floatation device, goggles) all together in one compartment; and (2) for the mesh pockets (especially the exterior ones) to have a zipper or velcro so I don’t need to worry about items falling out. Other useful additions would be an external water bottle holder at one end of the bag and an external and zippered “wet” compartment at the other end, for wet or sandy items (e.g. towel, wetsuit). Perhaps Ruffwear will consider these for a future iteration.

There’s no question that a dogpacking gear bag is super handy. If you’re looking for a central storage hub for your dog’s items as well as to have in the car, and if you love to be uber-organized, then the CAT5 Cyclist Case would work very well. If you’d instead prefer a bag that’s easy to carry and can serve as a gear storage as well as for bringing along on trips and car adventures, then check out the Ruffwear Haul Bag dog travel bag.

Or just let your dog decide. 🐶🐾💕

If you’ve discovered another great dogpacking bag, let us know in the comments below.

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