Now that we are live on Indiegogo, I thought it would be fun to show you the steps along our journey—the different prototypes we made and the changes we made to each of them.
The prototypes were primarily used to build the right sewing pattern, so the materials used in the prototypes were cheaper “place-holder” materials, and they are also not yet dyed to the correct colors. The finalized pack will use high-quality ultralight materials inspired by the latest tech in the outdoor gear industry.
All our photos feature different versions of our prototypes, so keep in mind they do not show the final version of the pack using those high quality fabrics, webbing, and fasteners.
We have now finalized the prototype, so the next step is to build the pack using the high-quality materials we hand-selected in order to see how they look and work together.
We have come a long way in the last year of prototyping and development. I guess the process started even before that, during COVID lockdown while I waited in the US for my Swiss visa to be approved so I could immigrate to Switzerland and marry my now wife, Peggy.
The idea to start a new K9 outdoor gear company was born in a bout of boredom and uncertainty during those unusual times. I was reflecting on the countless adventures I have shared over the last 12 years with my pup Thunder, and how they were the foundation for the inseparable bond we share. I was suddenly inspired to somehow help others find that same indescribable bond with their dogs. One way I could accomplish that was to make it easier for people to get outside and adventure together with their dogs, and one way I could do that was by making high-quality outdoor K9 gear.
I studied as a parachute rigger for skydiving and BASE jumping, so I had experience with sewing and harness manufacturing, which I leveraged to sew the first two prototypes myself. They were basic, but the process helped me get an idea of planform, profile, and harness sizing.
The next step was to partner with a reliable factory. Finding the right factory turned out to be a tedious, often painstaking process, but eventually we found a great team to work with. We developed a 2 dimensional tech pack to layout measurements and shared that with our factory team.
Using those plans, the factory developed the first prototype:
This first prototype had four primary changes we wanted to make, and 1 or 2 smaller alterations.
The handle was not large enough to be easy to grab. This is an important feature on any K9 backpack/harness. The handle is, after all, a primary safety feature allowing you to grab hold of your pup in case of danger, so we knew we had to add more shape to the handle
The straps along the dog’s shoulders were way too long. It is important that this part of the harness fits properly because if the straps are too long, they will rub on the dogs shoulders causing irritation and also hindering the dog’s movement. Given the large range in dog shapes and sizes, it is important to make these straps as adjustable as possible. On this first prototype, we even had to tape them shorter in order to test the pack.
The side-bags had no depth to them. While we did intentionally design a lower-capacity dog backpack in order to minimize bulk, better manage weight distribution, and prevent over-packing, we also knew we wanted a little more capacity in each side-bag. We requested the factory add a few centimeters of depth to the side-bags to increase carrying capacity ensuring your pup is indeed able to carry all the necessities: a K9 first-aid kit, maybe some water, crushed kibble, treats, collapsable bowls, an easily accessible map or compass, GPS tracker, a leash, or just a few beers for the trail.
The zippers opened the wrong direction. It is important that the zippers close towards the back in case your dog runs through brush and snags a zipper. Opening towards the back instead of closing could result in the pup’s pack opening up unexpectedly, and you could lose some gear.
Otherwise, we were very happy with the shape and design of the pack, and excited to see this passion project slowly taking shape. We even included a mesh liner on the inside of each side-bag to help keep things organized.
The next prototype addressed these issues. Overall, we were happy with both the look and function of the pack. They shaped the handle nicely, making it much easier to grab hold of. They fixed the zipper issue to ensure they close toward the back. They also added some depth to the side-bags, bumping the carrying capacity up to ~6L for the size M pack, and ~7.5L for the size L/XL, which we felt was a good medium between being able to carry the essentials while still keeping a slim enough profile and discouraging overpacking. Still, there were a few things that needed to be addressed:
While they did shorten the straps along the dog’s shoulders, they were still too long for Thunder. This posed a problem because some dogs would need long straps on the shoulders, while other dogs might need them very short depending on size and shape of each dog. Suddenly I had an idea: we could change the adjustment style on these straps and switch it to a technique that allows for maximum adjustability. By using this sewing technique on these straps, we would be able to shorten them to almost nil, or lengthen them the entire length of the strap. I feel this is one of the most important points of adjustment on a dog backpack to ensure a proper fit, so I requested the factory use this method for the next prototype.
We tested this prototype for only a few days when, for some reason, one of the reflective stripes on the sides began to peel off. This was, of course, totally unacceptable. A reflective dog harness or backpack is crucial. I don’t know how many times Thunder has wandered off in the dark becoming almost invisible if it weren’t for a reflective piece of gear. Whether your pup is in the woods or on a busy urban street with cars passing by, visibility is crucial, making reflectiveness a primary safety feature in any pack. In fact, I decided reflectiveness was so important that I decided to make a request to the factory for the next prototype: I asked if they could use reflective tape around the whole outside perimeter of the pack, instead of simply using black tape. They assured me it was indeed possible, and we decided to go that route for the next prototype.
When the next prototype arrived, we were stoked to see that the adjustments we made to the previous version worked just as planned.
This pack had it all: it was now highly reflective after using reflective tape along the whole perimeter of the pack in addition to the two reflective stripes, the straps along the shoulder were maximally adjustable ensuring proper fit for a wide range of dog sizes and shapes, and furthermore, everything looked good.
The factory addressed the peeling reflective stripes issue by instead using a technique where the stripes are actually part of the sewing pattern and built into the fabric of the side-bags rather than simply welded on as they were before when they began to peel.
Our packs have 7 points of adjustability, allowing them to fit the widest range of dog shapes possible for each size pack.
Our first production run will include two sizes. Size M holds ~6L capacity and will fit dogs from about 35 lbs (16 kg) to 60 or 70 lbs (27-32 kg) depending on shape. Size L/XL will fit dogs from 60 or 70 lbs (27-32 kg) up to pony sized Great Danes or St. Bernards (we tested it).
We have had some demand for smaller sizes, so if we find there is enough demand to justify filling the Minimum Order Quantity with the factory, and if we raise enough funds in our Indiegogo campaign, we will also happily offer a size S.
The lash tabs on the sides of our pack allow you to tie a top-pack down, which is a better way to carry lightweight, bulky items like your dog’s coat or sleeping bag. Rolling them up and tying them down across the dogs shoulders keeps the weight and bulk closer to the dog’s median line along the spine, causing less slipping and also centering the weight over the dog’s shoulders where they are strongest. On larger capacity dog backpacks, it is tempting to stuff the dog’s coat or sleeping bag into those overly bulky side bags, but that causes the pack to stick out to the sides, which encourages more slipping due to added leverage and might cause your pup to get stuck in brush.
We are super excited to see this passion project finally coming to fruition. I want to thank you all for your early support. We can’t make the dream come true without you. We genuinely believe in this project because I am convinced, after personal experience, that our fondest memories with our dogs come from exploration and adventure in the outdoors. This backpack helps facilitate that, and in that regard, this project aligns with our values as a new outdoor K9 gear and content company. It is my long-term dream to be able to help more people connect with their pups on a level like Thunder and I have been able to share.
Now we need your help by backing us on Indiegogo, preferably within the first 24 hours of launching. If we are able to meet our goal in the first 24-72 hours, the Indiegogo algorithm will give us a boost. The money raised will go to our first major purchase order, making this dream become a reality and helping us get these awesome dog daypacks on the market, helping more people get outside adventuring with their pups.
Thank you all, and much love from our pack to yours,
Devin, Peggy, & Thunder at DOGPAK