Friday, January 24, 2014

The Bag Lady speaks

Anyone who has known me longer than five minutes knows I am a bag lady. I know I am not alone. Many of my dog training sisters share my condition. It's not fatal but it is chronic.

I am on the eternal quest for the perfect training gear bag. In a world filled with the strife of lousy glove turns, defiantly crooked finishes and stealth possums (topic for another day), having a nice bag to store and transport training gear seems like such a simple thing.

But it isn’t.

Believe me. I know these things. My friends know these things. They look at me with narrowed eyes and say suspiciously, “Is that another new bag?”

Um, yes. Yes, it is. Oh look - a unicorn!

On the surface, obedience training is very straight forward. All you need is a dog, a collar and a leash. And a toy. And some treats. And a dumbbell, gloves, scent articles, targets, dowels, long-lines, another dumbbell cuz you lost the first one, another set of scent articles, buckle collar, slip collar, pinch collar, tab, water bowl, potty bags, a brush, a towel, foot spray, bug spray, sun screen, a little fan, pens, pencils, a metronome, more gloves because your dog ate the first set, Benadryl, Advil, Rescue Remedy, tissues, band-aids, nail clippers, lip balm, knee brace, ankle brace, training journal and tranquilizers.

Well. Anyway. It makes life a lot easier if you can have all your training stuff in one place, so you’re not constantly having to stop a training session to go back to the house or the car to rummage around to find whatever it is you need. And there’s only so much you can jam in your pockets. I trend toward the minimalist side when it comes to training. I don’t need, want or use a lot of gadgets. I think more than half the stuff in my gear bag is for ME, not my dog.

Still, the search for a good gear bag is not to be undertaken lightly. Some people are happy to throw their gear in a plastic bag from the grocery store. Others of us are more . . . discriminating.

Looking back at the number of gear bags I’ve had in past years, I realized I am over-qualified to do a product review series. This is all LL Bean’s fault. When I was showing my shelties, I bought a gear bag from LL Bean. It was nearly perfect in size and pocket configuration. I hauled that bag all over six states for 10 years. It went to training classes. It went to obedience trials. It went to agility trials. It went camping. It saw Jess’s U-UD and Connor’s OTCh. Before the Belgians appeared on it the scene, it wore out. And LL Bean didn’t make that style any more. So I started shopping for a new bag. And I never quit.

Every year my club holds a garage sale at our spring obedience trials. Club members can sell gently used training items and a portion of the proceeds go to the club. Every year, I purge my collection of gear bags and sell the ones that aren’t making the cut. This allows me to keep shopping.

My friends give me a hard time about the frequency with which I change bags. But I notice they’re the first ones in line when I put stuff out on the garage tables in the spring. I call them my enablers.

For the purposes of these reviews, I’m going to stick with bags that are still commercially available from major manufacturers. And of course I’d love to hear from readers about your favorite bags.

My inaugural review is going to be of the Deluxe Gear Bag from Doggone Good ( This is often considered the Cadillac of gear bags and with good reason. It’s durable and beautifully made, with all sorts of interior and exterior pockets. I’m not going to parrot back the info from the website, you can go read it yourself.

The Deluxe Gear Bag from
The thing is big. It measures 21 inches long by 14 inches wide and 12.5 inches high. That’s nearly two feet long and more than one foot wide. This bag walks a fine line between being a gear bag and being luggage. In fact, the website points out that it makes a great airline carry on.

The exterior fabric is heavy cordura and it is available in black, red, blue and purple, with a new rose pink currently available in limited numbers. I have a black one. Can’t go wrong with basic black. Team Phoenix colors are black and blue. Yes. For a reason. But I admit to going a little gaga over the new rose pink when I saw it but refrained from rushing out to order another one.

Phoenix demonstrates some of the finer qualities of this bag.

This bag is wonderful in that it truly offers a place for everything. There are zippered pockets, elasticized pockets, mesh pockets, credit card slot pockets, Velro pockets and an insulated pocket. If you are un-organized with this bag, there is something wrong with you. You can conceivably carry everything in this bag that you would ever need to train your dog. If you have a small dog, you could carry him in there, too.

The very features that make it such an awesome bag create their own set of problems. I tend to expand to fill available space. This means if you give me a bag that is two feet long by one foot wide, I’m going to find things to put in all of that space. The result is a bag that holds everything but the kitchen sink and weighs approximately 37 pounds when fully loaded. This is not a problem if you are built like an Amazon or do competitive weight-lifting. I am not. Fully loaded with everything I deem “necessary,” this bag will send me to the chiropractor in short order.

In addition to carrying all your junk, it also stands up to dogs who have obsessive "four feet in a box" behaviors.
It’s a wonderful bag but 75 percent of the time, it’s just too much. This year I’m considering using it as a suitcase for overnight road trips. I wish they would make a downsized “junior” version.

The thing I love the most about it: the big mesh pocket on one end to stuff stinky slobbery dog toys into.

The thing I disliked the most about it: the insulated “cooler” pocket on the front. If you carry dog treats or people food that truly needs to be kept cold, you’ll want to add cold packs and that adds even more to the overall weight of the bag. Groaning and clutching your back when you lift a bag off the floor may be an indication you’re taking too much stuff.

Does this bag make my butt look big?
Pros: gorgeous colors; sturdy, quality construction that is built to last; holds its shape when open (doesn’t collapse into a puddle of limp fabric); light-colored interior so things don’t disappear “into the dark”; price is very realistic for what you get; many storage and organizing options.

Cons: bulky, encourages over-loading, too easy to end up carrying the kitchen sink. If you’re a “gotta have all my gear all the time” trainer and don’t mind schlepping all your stuff around like a pack mule, this would be the bag for you.


  1. Thank you so much! I didn't realize until I read your review how many pockets and slots the Deluxe bag has. I just saw the "mesh pocket" at the end and thought if I had it, people might think *I* thought I might actually have the need for articles some day, and then they would shake their heads and tsk tsk and quietly have me committed. So I got the Tote bag, the next size down. If you don't have one to review (how could THAT happen?), you can review mine. It IS in the new, limited-edition, lovely rose pink color, but now I have realized that my rapid delivery bait bag is NOT, so I must have a new one of those. So you may also need to address serial shopping, because I know I am not your only acquaintance with that habit!

  2. Wow! That is an awesome bag. If I hadn't just ordered a new tote bag from LLBean (with Eli's name on it), I would jump on it. hmm..... maybe I'll still jump on it : ) Can't have too many bags!

  3. I have this bag, it is big, so big I don't usually use it. Was just packing it for a seminar tomorrow. I was considering getting the smaller Tote bag so a review of it would be great!