Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Wordy Wednesday: Review Time!

Finally, I get my own blog back! To write about me, and nothing but me! What's that, human? We're going to do a review? That you need to write most of because your opinion will matter to any peoples thinking about buying the thing we're going to review? This is outrageous! Honestly, this is my blog, nobody else's!

That', friends, was the conversation I had with that blog-hogging human of mine just before I started to write this. Now, given that she has the thumbs, and thumbs are necessary for opening and feeding stinky goodness, I am forced to admit the necessity for compromise with her sometimes. In light of this, I have decided that it is permissible for her to review products alongside me. She can write her thoughts at the beginning, and then I'll finish up with the important stuff. I can live with that.

I've been mentioning for some time now the smart new PTU the human got bought for her Birthday. I used it to go on that long, loooooong train journey to Oxford a few weeks ago, but sadly, friends, I'll be using it again tomorrow. The human has to go up there for yet more paperwork related to her job, the new one that is, so again, I get to travel. I'm half pleased by this, and half annoyed too. On the one paw, I do quite like to go adventuring, but on the other, it's such a drag to be stuck in a PTU for any length of time. I thought I'd better get my unbiased review of it up here before I'm forced to use it tomorrow, cuz you can be sure that once I've been in there, I'll have nothing good at all to say about it! Right, here goes. Human first, and then me.

Review: Outward Hound Backpack Carrier

The Outward Hound Backpack Carrier for Cats and Small Dogs
is exactly what you'd think it is by the name. In short, it is a carrier that straps to a human's back, enabling you to carry your pet and still have both hands free for the important tasks of, say, dragging your two ton suitcase full of cat stuff and perhaps a single change of clothes for you which had to be crammed in the very top due to space restrictions. Can you tell I'm bitter?

At first glance, I didn't like this carrier at all. It's made from canvas which feels rather like the stuff used to make those ghastly cheap sports bags that you used to take to physical education at school. Well, I did. It comes flat-packed, and is held together by zips alone. The two end pannels have a reinforced frame, and it is this that gives the bag its shape. Once the zips are done up, you're presented with a rectangle. The bottom has a solid board type pad in there so that the bag doesn't sag in the middle with the weight of your pet, and there's a thinner version of this against the wearer's back, again I presume to make sure the bag doesn't bow. The front of the bag (if you look at it with the backpack straps facing away from you) is pretty soft, but is held quite nicely by the tension on the zips and by a very thin metal bar which passes through the material from one side to the other (i.e, from end to end of the bag). The top, however, has no reinforcement at all, and does sag quite badly. This wouldn't be an inconvenience to most animals, but Tia hates material touching her head, so I found myself constantly having to pull it up for her. The top does have a mesh window in it so that they can see out, but if they don't want things touching their head, they're unlikely to turn their face upwards, as the material would then sag onto it.

The straps themselves are fairly adjustable, but not to the point where a very large person could wear the pack easily, unless it rode very high up on the shoulders. They have a thin padding in them which I thought would be hell on my shoulders, but surprisingly, it holds up remarkably well and is very comfy when worn. Leading from the upper part of the strap and attaching to that thin metal bar I spoke about earlier is an adjustable section of webbing strap. This is supposed to put tension on the carrier as you stand so that the bottom stays horizontal whether you're standing or sitting. However, I found that, not only did the clips let the tension slip as you walked, but when the straps were pulled tight, it also narrowed the carrier's width, due to all of the pressure being taken through that bar, which naturally travelled forward, i.e, closer to the wearer's back, to equalise the pressure. tia didn't seem to mind this though.

The size of the carrier itself is quite small. I wouldn't put a pet of more than about 12lb or so in here. Any bigger and I suspect they'd be squashed and uncomfortable. Tia weighs about9 lb, probably just slightly under, and even at her size, I was reluctant to keep her in there longer than necessary. They have enough room to lie, sit, and probably just about stand, and they can actually turn around in it, but due to the narrow width, this latter is a bit of an effort.

The carrier has a rigid pad in the bottom. This is totally removable, and fixes to the bottom of the carrier with velcro. It is also washable which is ideal if your cat has an accident. However, if they do, chances are that it'll run over the sides of the pat and into the underneath of the bag, so be prepared to scrub in there too. Although it's very good at stopping the bag from sagging under weight, it isn't very comfy, and its surface doesn't provide good purchase for paws. I padded mine out with a puppy pad which has the added bonus of being able to soak up nasty accidents too. Tia seemed to think this was comfy enough for her, and the pads provide extra grip for a pet's feet.

The bag has two straps which are held together by a handle in the middle. This can be used to carry the bag exactly like a holdall. When you do this, it's surprisingly light and easy to hold onto, and even when carried like this, it doesn't sway half as much as plastic carriers do, so your pet will still be comfortable. The Outward Hound is well ventilated, having a mesh pannel at either end, and a mesh window in the top. The top window can be unzipped so that you can put your hand in and give reassurance, and also so that the cat or dog can ride in the carrier with its head outside, looking at the world. The opening is quite large, so if you're going to use this, you need to ensure that the cat or dog is securely fastened to the clip inside the carrier to prevent a wriggling escape through the open window. This is located at the end of another long piece of webbing strap, and will snap securely to a harness or collar. It poses a problem when not in use, as it does swing about quite a lot inside the carrier, but I fed mine through one of the supporting zips so that it was on the outside. It kept it out of the way and didn't compromise the bag's functionality.

The only entrance provided is a side one. This is an arched opening in one end of the carrier that unzips completely. Its top half is the mesh portion, and the bottom is canvas. If your cat goes star-shaped, you're never going to get them into this carrier. You could try putting them through the top window. The opening is big enough, but I must state that this isn't what it's designed for. Tia had to be pushed into this carrier, but she has to be with any with a side opening, so that's not out of the ordinary.

To summarise:
Cons: small size, possible escape ability through top hatch, sagging top pannel, inadequate tension straps, not fully adjustable, side opening only, hard, uncomfortable bottom pad, no ability to secure privacy for the animal as mesh windows cannot be covered, no ability to give food or water, accidents will run into the interior of the bag.
Pros: Versatility, strength (even with tia clawing it, the canvas didn't even scratch, let alone rip), top pannel means easy viewing of pet, integrated restraint clip, flat-packs for storage, ventilation, comfortable straps, ability to carry in two different ways, very light.

As I say, I didn't like this bag when I first got it, but the more I use it, the more I come to appreciate its good points. It does have its bad ones, but it does a good enough job to be acceptable. I'd love to compare this with the Sherpa backpacks, but they're unavailable in the UK. If you need a backpack carrier, this one will do the job reasonably well.

Outward Hound PTU Review by Tia

Before I begin, I need to tell you that I hate PTUs. They're horrible, nasty, confining, stupid, nasty things. Have I said nasty yet? So whatever good points I make about this, it doesn't mean that I like it or wish to go in it more than is absolutely necessary.

This was unlike any PTU I'd ever been in before, and I wasn't sure about it for many, many days. The human bribed me in there with treats, and I got very practiced about darting in, nicking the treat and then hightailing it back out of there before the scary monster that it was could gobble me up. Over time though, I got more confident. it hadn't gobbled me all the other times before, so I gradually got slower and slower until I'd happily stand in there until the human was finished handing out the yummies. Initially, she zipped me up and took me for only short walks round the house where I let her live, and that, while not fun, was Ok. It's a different way of being carried. You're much higher up for one thing, and for another, you don't bump and sway half as much as before, cuz you're held quite snugly against the human's back. The one thing I didn't like about this was that I couldn't see my human when she was carrying me. I'm big on this. I never like letting her out of my sight, and I do get quite upset when she disappears on me, but I could still hear her voice.

As the human mentioned, I don't like things touching my head. The bit at the top rested there, no matter what way I twisted and turned, and at first, that's zactly what i did. I used my claws to try and dig my way out, but the PTU was too strong for me. I jumped, but the soft thing only bonked me on the head. Even when we got on the train, I still did my impression of a break-dancer as I tried to find an escape route. Even the mesh, the thinnest and most likely part to provide my escape, wasn't giving in to my attack. Eventually I gave up, ahem, I mean I rested for a while before launchinc my next assault.

This PTU is too small for my liking. Instead of stretching in a full-length sprawl for a quick bit of shut-eye, I had to do it in a tight ball. I couldn't jump as high as I wanted to, and even if I'd wanted them, there wouldn't have been much room for ping pong balls, mr mousey and my tuna. I made the humen pack them in the suitcase instead.

The PTU also smelled funny. The human had to leave it out for days to get the new, factory stink out, and the old familiar house stink in. It's still not completely gone though.

The human put the cat pad (I refuse to call it puppy pad) in the bottom, and with this in there, I found it adequate enough for my bones to rest on. It has lots of windows, so when we were walking down the platform, lots of peoples got to admire me. They see me easier cuz I'm high up and can be viewed from three different angles. They enjoyed talking to me and I enjoyed singing my best opera to them which, thanks to the mesh, they could hear very, very clearly. I could also survey my new domain from any angle I chose to. That's gotta be a bonus! There was plenty to watch as we travelled, and I have to admit, it got quite interesting at times! It's good to have this mesh up, cuz peoples can get close without actually touching me. I like it this way.

So that's all I have to say about it. It's as stinky as any PTU, and will be even more stinky soon cuz I'll be forced to go in it again! I hate tomorrow already! I'll like it when I get to Dogman's but right now, I hate it! Please note that I am taking requests for my programme of songs tomorrow. Get 'em in early, folks.

1 comment:

Old Kitty said...

Thanks for these amazing reviews!!! I cannot image Charlie carried around in such a backpack but that's just Charlie!!

Awwww good luck with your trip to Dogman!! I seriously cannot see this backpack for kitties but so long as you are both as happy as you can be with this type of transport then, why not?

Memory from Cats is a pretty good song!! Take care