The site has lots of great options, with the different portrait types split by gender. Counts, Colonels, Dukes and Heiresses, oh my! I perused the sample photos and decided on the “The Ambassador“, mostly because there were a lot of cat examples in the sample photos, so I had an idea of how it would turn out. I thought Penny would look particularly dashing in this simple choice.
It’s pretty simple: you upload a photo, select the size, and then move on to checkout. Unfortunately, you can’t see a mock up of the finished item. You just have to hope that it looks okay. Frankly for the prices they’re asking – $60 – $100, I wish they could email you a proof of the item. I mean, Minted does it.
I’ve catsat Penny a few times back when Michelle was living in SF, but I didn’t have any great photos of him. So I scrolled back through Michelle’s Instagram feed, ohhhhh about 5 years or so.
I screenshot this photo, which follows the suggested Crown & Paw guidelines of having the animal facing either to the left or right, looking away from the camera. There were a few other photos that I wanted to use, but the photo guide said that the animal’s entire head had to be visible. The photo I originally wanted showed his beautiful orange markings well, but it cut out half his ear. Damn.
So choosing and uploading was fun. Then the experience got complicated.
I entered Michelle’s shipping information, and my billing information. Three times I tried to checkout. Three times I got a screen with an infinite spinner of death 0_0. Eventually I had to close out the browser tab each time. I started to get worried, did I just buy three cat portraits????
Two days later on May 27th I shot Crown & Paw support an email. In these screenshots I’ve removed names & order numbers, and replaced our addresses with fakes that still illustrate the issue.
OK, it didn’t go through, confirmed that on the 28.
I tried again to purchase the portrait, with the same spinner of death plaguing me on checkout. Finally, I tried something different. I went through checkout paying via my Paypal account instead. It worked! Yay!
I got a confirmation email and thought nothing of it. It wasn’t until about a week later that I decided to check on the status of the item via a link sent in my confirmation email. There was an unidentified problem, so I looked back again at my confirmation email. The shipping address and the billing address were both addressed to Michelle, using an address that was a mash-up of both of our addresses!!!! It had her full name and Portland street address, and my San Francisco city, state and postal code. What??? Come on, this e-commerce system is buggy.
I sent another email to customer service on June 6.
I got an instantaneous auto-reply from a dog customer service bot.
Ummm, that’s really cute, but let’s talk to a human about this. Also, I’m not Michelle. Sigh.
Ok, I realize now looking back at this that maybe the person did not understand. They never say in the email THAT THEY ARE CHANGING IT TO THE CORRECT ADDRESS. I thought that it was clear what was going on from my initial correction email, but it was not, as you will soon see.
The next day I went to check the order screen again, and it said that my order was printing and shipping! I would receive a shipping notification soon. Ok I thought, they must have fixed the address issue. Cool.
I checked in again 9 days later on June 17, and shit, the addresses under shipping and billing are still the incorrect nonexistent address. I write back again:
The next day at 1:34pm I get an email that my order is on the way!
One minute later at 1:35 I get a delivery update:
Also at 1:35 a second delivery update:
At 1:37 I get an email response to my email from the previous day.
Goddamn it. This is annoying. Also, I’m not Michelle. I write back:
At this point I am a bit flustered and angry. My friend’s birthday has come and gone by several days. Based on the timing, Crown & Paw are within their delivery estimates, but this extra BS adds several days to get the present to her.
I call UPS, argue with them about the mixup, then take a Lyft to UPS pickup, argue there, and finally get the package. Wednesday morning I relabel the package and mail it via USPS. I receive an email response to my previous email expressing disappointment.
Damn it, I’m not Michelle. I’m Tracy, ugh. So this email is basically like hey, it was picked up. “I hope everythings good now.”
NO KATHLEEN EVERYTHING IS NOT GOOD NOW.
Maybe I’m spoiled by Amazon or Wayfair, but how about saying a real sorry for the mixup, not “our apologies for the inconvenience.” That phrasing is a non-apology apology. Hate that.
How about some empathy? Around the same time, I lost my Ally debit card. I called Ally, and the customer service rep was sorry that I lost my card, but he was gonna get me another one right away. I almost did a double take when I heard that – what, good customer service? It still exists?
Oh, and also, Crown & Paw, how about offering solutions to FIX the problem??? Jeeez. If this were Wayfair, they would have already printed that portrait out again and sent it express to my friend’s house. Is $80 really worth pissing someone off?
I fire back:
They write back a whopper, once again confusing the issue.
Let’s look at the circled part closer…
Once your item is with the courier we no longer have a control over it and we can only base as well the whereabouts of your package through the tracking information that is provided as well with the courier. I also see here that the courier was also making sure they deliver it to the address that was provided. So I think initially Michelle should have address this package to your address instead of her’s to avoid certain issue like this to happen or delays to happen.
Michelle should have addressed the package that was a surprise present that I bought for HER to MY address in San Francisco, instead of hers in Portland, so that this would not have happened? WTF. That makes no sense.
At this point I’m laughing hard. I realize that I’m never going to get the real apology that I want, nor am I going to get any sort of reimbursement for my time and shipping costs. This person just doesn’t get it. And they’re still blaming me for this mixup. I write back:
Did you see the little dig at the end? Just some advice, double check your info.
FUCKKKKKK YOUUUUUUU CROWN AND PAW.
EAT A DICK.
I FUCKING HATE YOU.
Anyways, that’s what I’ve spent the past few weeks doing. Moving, and emailing Crown & Paw to correct what was most likely a database error. To be honest, I’m really really shocked that they didn’t offer me ANYTHING to make this experience better, no promo code, no comped order, nada. They just kept writing me sassy clueless emails where they blame me for their fuck up.
After showing all my friends and having a good laugh, we’ve decided that based on the reading comprehension, Crown & Paw must outsource their customer service to somewhere where English is not the primary language. Also it’s been suggested that perhaps it’s not “Kathleen” responding to me each time, but a different rep. That would explain the lack of context and the cluelessness about the situation. But who knows, who cares. I’m done with this company.
Oh, and before I end this review, the actual product is great. My friend Michelle is very happy. Penny was not amused.
I will scream to the heavens however that no one I know should use this service, just on principle. God forbid there are any errors with your order, even if they’re not your fault. This company does not care. There are so many other pet portrait options, just google “royal pet portrait.” Here’s some on Etsy, here’s some place called Renaissance Pet.
I’ve read far too many superlative sponsored blogger/travel mag posts for the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L travel backpack & the CabinZero ultra light cabin bag. I thought I’d add my own ‘non-travel blogger’ commentary since I don’t quite agree with review titles such as ‘Is the Allpa the ultimate backpack for adventuring travelers?’ and ‘A Carry on traveller’s dream bag by CabinZero.’ Once I got started, I realized that I have bought a LOT of bags since May. Might as well review them all!
I’ll be covering the following bags, with the most time spent on Cotopaxi & CabinZero, and maybe a few paragraphs each on the others:
Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Backpack
Cotopaxi Batac 16L Packable Daypack
OnePlus Travel Backpack
LeSportsac Large Weekender Classic
Marc Jacobs Nomad Crossbody
Banana Republic Ashbury Crossbody
CabinZero Classic 36L Ultra Light Cabin Bag
Friends of mine know that I have a weak spot for travel. And bags. So.. travel bags… well I’m helpless. I lust after backpacks, duffels and suitcases of all types. It doesn’t matter how impractical or expensive they may be, I get a little dreamy imagining using the bag on my meager 15 days of PTO/year.
In April I bought Ryan a Tortuga Air travel backpack for his birthday (by request). It’s a discontinued model from a few years back, but it was available on Amazon at the time.
I’m wary of crowdfunding campaigns, mostly because it takes forever to get your stuff. The Allpa didn’t seem totally right for me (looked too unstructured, needed more pockets), but I went ahead and bought it anyways since I was curious. Well, I’ve taken it on two trips now (New Jersey in July, and I just got back from Morocco), so I think I’ve used it enough to give a thoughtful opinion on the pack.
There are actually a lot of pros. When I received the bag, I was impressed with how well made and sturdy the bag was. Usually my first test of a backpack is to check the zippers. The zippers were huge, which was a plus for me.
Other nice features included 4 padded handles on each side of the bag, for easy carrying. The diagonal webbing on each of the 4 corners of the front of the bag is strong enough to use to pull/carry the bag (um not that it’s supposed to be used that way… just sayin’). Most of the zippers are lockable, and they also have a theft proof webbing sewn across the openings, which is super simple in design, but will slow down any thieves on public transport.
There was a separate zippered compartment for laptops & iPads, which is kind of a must have for quick travel through airport security. There was also another zipper on the other side of the pack lengthwise, which allows you to quickly grab things from inside the main compartment without unzipping the whole clamshell.
Not a super light bag, but a reasonable weight 3.7 lbs
Design looks less ‘backpacker-y’
Clamshell opening, like a suitcase (not necessarily a pro for me, but something a lot of people look for in a travel backpack)
Perfect size for airline carry on (even fits under the Vueling Airlines seats) – 20″ x 12″ x 8″, or 51 x 30 x 20 cm (well within the usual max carry on limit of 55 x 40 x 20)
Includes a rain cover
You can hide the straps and hip belt, making it easier to stuff into overhead bins or tight spaces.
For the quality of the bag, the price is right. Cotopaxi also recently sent me a recall notice for my bag, claiming that the TPU coating was incorrect. I’m about to send it back for a replacement, which is awesome. They seem like a really legit company.
Fits a ton!
On to the CONS
To be fair, most of my cons I saw coming.
Problem #1: STRUCTURE
Cotopaxi said that they created their pack to be sleek on the outside with no protruding straps or other features so that the bag wouldn’t get snagged on anything. The bag is also fairly formless so that you can stuff it to the max, and then cram the bag into all sorts of spaces. This is good for flexibility I guess, but it naturally leads to my biggest complaint: with no compression straps, this bag is super floppy. It needs more structure.
The interior of the bottom half of the clamshell includes straps to tie down your items, but it’s really the front of the pack that is the problem. The easily accessible pocket is on the top of the front clamshell (where you might keep your keys, wallet, passport, drink, etc), and it goes halfway down the front. It’s quite large – my brown leather bag pictured above fully packed could fit in this area. Unfortunately if you put a lot of stuff in the top pocket, you will need to pack things in the bottom of the front clamshell, otherwise, the top sags in and the weight distribution is terrible and uncomfortable. The bag really encourages you to pack it to the max, which is annoying. For most trips, I just don’t pack enough to warrant using this bag.
Another small con – the zippers are large and chunky (yay), but there is a noticeable space between them (boo). Not a huge problem if you use your raincover when it rains, but if you don’t have it on you, your bag could let water in.
From the side you can sort of see how the straps make the back panel of the bag lumpy. Also I threaded a compression strap through the back panel to tighten things up a little.
One bigger annoyance was that hiding the shoulder and hip straps was not totally smooth. It lead to a lumpy back panel.
Personal wish – I wish there were a built in water bottle holder! Cotopaxi sells an accessories kit that includes a water bottle holder that attaches to the outside of the bag, but I don’t really like the look of it. It’s been nearly 4 or 5 months since I bought the bag, I am still waiting for my accessories kit from Indiegogo, so no comment on how well the attachment actually works.
Big downside of the suitcase/clamshell design – It can be tricky to access items on the go. You really have to be strategic about where you place things, and make sure that you zip the internal zippers so that you can reach them when you have your hand stuffed in the middle of the two halves. In general this suitcase like design worked ok for me, but there were several times that I had to place my bag down on the floor and open the entire clamshell to find things/put things back. Awkward.
The biggest con of this bag for me is personal fit- this bag is not for short or skinny people. When I tried to use the hip belt, the back of the bag sagged and rode on my butt, which was incredibly uncomfortable. When I pulled the shoulder straps as tight as possible, I couldn’t use the hip belt. To keep them out of the way, I tried hiding them in the back panel, but it was lumpy and uncomfortable. The torso was just too long for me (I’m Five two with a 16″ torso).
I also had my friend Jill try the bag, and she was too skinny to use the hip belt on the very tightest setting! It seems to work okay for Ryan, which is no surprise, it was probably built for someone of a more average height/size.
Oh, another thing about the hip belt. The zipper (the blue line in the pic below) … I’m not sure what that pocket was for, since the opening was so tight. Maybe you could slip a key in there? A card? Certainly not a passport or a keychain, or even a chapstick. Seems like a waste. Making this pocket more 3 dimensional like the Tortuga Outbreaker would have been a more functional choice.
After about two weeks of travel with this bag, I can say that if you’re smart about your packing, you can get around the problems I mentioned above. Don’t put super heavy stuff on the top front of the clamshell and don’t put lighter things on the bottom of the front clamshell. I bought a luggage strap off of Amazon and used it to compress the empty space. It’s not perfect, but it helps a bit. Know where you put your items so you don’t look like an idiot rummaging through your splayed open bag on the side of the street (ahem..).
My review sounds slightly negative, but I mean you can’t compromise on fit. I may sell this bag, we’ll see. In general this bag has way more pros than cons, and carries a ton of stuff gracefully.
Verdict: Buy if you’re not skinny or short
Cotopaxi Batac 16L
The Allpa was sold to me in a bundle with the Batac 16L, which they were marketing as their ‘stowable daypack.’ You can’t choose the color of your pack, the line is ‘del dia’, which means that the Cotopaxi sewers in the Phillipines have creative control. They use whatever fabric they like to make you a bright and crazy looking bag. I had been interested in getting an REI Flash pack, and this bag design seemed quite similar.
Quick take: I LOVE THIS PACK. It was totally unexpected. It is an obnoxiously ugly bag and doesn’t have as many pockets as I’d like, but geez I love it. It has double water bottle holders! The straps are super comfortable, despite being so thin. The ripstop fabric makes the bag light as air yet sturdy. This bag can actually handle my beast of a work laptop, but it’s really more suited for the beach and light hikes. It’s quite water resistant, handling a downpour in New Jersey easily. If I didn’t want to use a crossbody bag in Morocco, I would have taken this bag. The only con I can say about this bag is that the inside phone pocket is sewn in sideways, which doesn’t work for me. My damn phone just falls out.
Let’s be clear, this bag is not the backpack from the heavens, as described by The Verge. However, it is a nice little work backpack. I’ve been using it since July, and it has so many pockets! I think they said 12 pockets. Twelve!!!
Cons: The bag material varies by color, and the grey’s fabric doesn’t feel great. The rectangular body of the bag is very stiff. There is lots of foam padding, which gives the bag a boxy shape that isn’t really compressible. The shoulder straps are not very comfortable either. Also the zippers have a hard time going around the corners, they get stuck quite often. The water bottle pockets on both sides lie flat, so when you put a bottle in, it eats into the interior space of the bag.
Basically this bag is like a more rigid version of the Timbuk2 Parkside backpack, which is one of my all time favorite work backpacks (also good for travel, as I took it to Myanmar). I’d suggest that you get that bag instead. It’s cheaper, lighter, and a more flexible bag.
Verdict: Skip it
LeSportsac Large Weekender
I was looking for a lighter replacement for my Kate Spade Saturday Weekender bag, which has gotten a bit gunky from ~5+ years of on and off use. LeSportsac duffels are pretty popular, and I used to give women carrying these side-eye because they’re pricey for what they are. But my aunts have given me LeSportsac cosmetic cases that are now going on 15+ years strong, so I took a chance and bought a used red and tan large classic weekender off of the resale site Poshmark for about 30 bucks.
This bag is so simple, but so good. It’s LIGHT, and has 4 pockets around the outside. There is no inside pocket on this version, but there is one on the more expensive ‘CR weekender’ model. The shoulder strap is actually very comfortable. Overall the bag is moderately waterproof.
Another major plus of buying one of these bags is the cute prints. LeSportsac actually has an archive of their prints, it goes pretty far back! The bag that I got is from 2005, and it includes a little key that locks the zippers shut. I don’t think that’s a feature of the modern bags. Recommended prints: Rifle Paper Company’s Rosa print & any of the Nintendo bags.
The only con that I can think of is that this bag is very expensive for what amounts to a nylon bag, but hey just buy one on eBay, and problem solved.
Verdict: The hype is real. Buy one used, they last forever.
Marc Jacobs Nomad crossbody
I considered using this bag as a travel day bag, but really I bought it for regular Fall use. This bag is from a few seasons ago, and I was lucky to score a brand new one off of the resale site Tradesy for less than half the original price. Buying purses secondhand is the best, since handbag lovers baby their bags, and are fickle, meaning they tend to sell off their bags when they are bored with them.
The bag comes in two sizes, I chose the larger. It holds more than I thought – a wallet, snacks, a can of coconut water, a book, phone, iPad, light cardigan, etc. If you have a DSLR, no it’s not going to hold that, but in general, perfect for a day of sightseeing. While this bag is a crossbody, I think it also would work pretty well in a variety of situations. It’s not too casual.
Cons: This bag is heavy. It could be too much for all day. Not sure if it’s my bag, but the hardware sometimes squeaks, which is grating. The saddle bag construction means you have to pull open the entire front flap to get at your stuff. Also, the zippered front flap itself is a pocket, but mostly useless and awkward. It’s a good hiding spot for flatter items.
Verdict: Cute, but not the best for travel
Banana Republic Ashbury convertible crossbody
When I originally bought this bag ten years ago, the salesperson mentioned that the collection’s designer came from Coach. Can you see the influence? Maybe in the hardware and thick tanned leather, but I dunno.
I ended up loving this bag to death. I then sent it off to a pleasant afterlife with Jill. While looking at travel bags, I remembered this bag, and decided that I needed it in my life again. So after a quick search of eBay, it was mine for $40. Needless to say, when Jill saw me again in Morocco with this bag in tow, she was confused, but delighted. She knew it was a great bag too.
Converts between shoulder bag & crossbody
Beautiful thick leather that is also quite tough, preventing a slash and run theft
Outside pockets are big enough for the plus size iPhone, S’well water bottles & sangria!
Interior holds a lot, has 3 pockets and a key holder
Only real con… with all the leather, this bag is heavy. With the thicker shoulder strap, it’s more manageable than the Marc Jacobs bag.
Verdict: Buy it if you can find it 😀
CabinZero Classic 36L Ultra Light Cabin Bag
Okay, last but not least – I stumbled across this bag when doing some online carry on backpack “research”. Basically I was shopping. Because I love bags.
It didn’t take much googling before I ran into CabinZero. CabinZero has mounted a fierce travel blogger campaign over the past few years, so there’s lots of positive reviews out there.
I really love the travel philosophy behind this brand. I mean, I don’t think I’ve checked a bag in 10 years, and backpack all the way! Looks wise, I thought the bags were kind of cute in a basic way.
They happened to sell them in the Barcelona airport (where I had a layover), so I bought one on a whim. I folded it up, and it easily fit in one of my Allpa compartments.
CabinZero’s flagship bag is the 44L, but when I tried it on, it looked utterly ridiculous on me. Since I already have a hard time filling my 35L Allpa I was torn between the 28L & the 36L, but they had the 36 in green, so I went with that. It looks smaller than the Allpa, but surprise surprise, it fit all my stuff! I think we can all agree however that the packing shown below is something of a hot mess.
The bag will fit strict international airline carry on standards. The 36L even fits Spirit Airline’s personal item dimensions.
They are simple and light bags. This one was about a pound and a half? The lightness is super helpful for international flights with low carry on weight limits of 5-10kg (11-22 lb).
The inside is fully lined in a contrasting color, a nice touch.
The zippers are also super sturdy and feel smooth to zip.
You can use the smaller versions as daypacks at your destination. You won’t feel like you stick out so much compared to wearing the Allpa or a hiking style backpack.
The bag has a panel opening, meaning quick and easy access.
They include a special international tracking tag from a company called Okoban so that you can find your bag if it is lost. I’m including this as a Pro, but to be honest, it relies on the person who finds the bag to have internet access, be able to read English, and to WANT to return the bag to you, so uh… it’s kind of worthless, really. I don’t think you would get your bag back any easier than including your email on a luggage tag, or writing your info on the side of the bag in Sharpie.
I still want a water bottle holder…
A waist & sternum strap would be nice. These are included on the military version, which only comes in the 44L size.
Back padding could be more robust (it is on the military version…)
The bag includes 2 handles, one on the top and one on the left side. The handles have a cushioned strap which is nice, but it seems a little extra for the day to day. I think the Allpa does carry handles way better, and there’s 4!
The air mesh straps remind me of my Topo Rover backpack. They are not smooth against the skin, and make slightly crunchy sounds when you press down on them. These straps are comfortable during regular wear, but the annoying thing is that when I wear straps like these with a tank top, the straps are scratchy, dig into my shoulders, and my skin can bruise – I get ugly red bruises all over my chest and shoulders. That is a major con for me, but your mileage may vary. Just don’t wear tank tops.
Like the Allpa, this bag is meant for maximum space and flexibility, meaning that this bag is mostly a large floppy rectangle. The bag has compression straps, but if you look at photos of this bag online in use, the bag is either completely stuffed square, or it’s flop city. Why the hell do I keep buying these floppy ass bags? When will I learn? Where is my dream bag?
There are 3 pockets, one on the front and 2 on the back of the front panel. Meh, not enough pockets.
The laptop section is not padded, which keeps things light, but offers minimal protection. It’s also hell to get your laptop out at security.
The inside is one big cavern. You’re going to need to use packing cubes.
This bag’s shape and general features reminds me of my Kelty Captain backpack, which is super durable, has more pockets and organization, much comfier straps, has chest/waist straps, and also is ‘cabin-sized’ (but unfortunately much smaller). It’s such a great backpack. I have packed it as my ‘go bag’ in case of earthquake, but normally I use it once a week for grocery shopping.
I was not totally in love with the CabinZero when I bought it, nor when I inspected it further after getting home from the airport. I would have returned it under normal circumstances, but I couldn’t since I bought it in Barcelona, and the salesclerk ripped the tags off – rude!
I’ve gotten the chance to use this bag on a couple of dogsitting trips (2-5 days) & as a work backpack. The bag has grown on me a little. The comfort is better than I’d predicted based on the straps, and the compression straps really make it doable as a daypack. I can see this as being a good no brainer bag for people who pack too much. I will probably use this bag as a weekend trip bag, and use the Allpa for trips where I’m packing more or heavier.
Verdict: Buy it if floppy bags don’t piss you off.
Anyways, I hope this post has been helpful. I’m still on the hunt for the ‘perfect travel backpack.’ Looking at the Minaal Carry On 2.0 (sleek looking and so many pockets, but too pricy and travel specific), Osprey Fairview (fair price, they have XS packs, rave reviews from everyone, but kind of ugly, and the laptop section is the front of the bag and not flush against the back, which is stupid), Gregory Border 35 (looks kind of like a Minaal copycat for a cheaper price- love Gregory bags but I know them mostly as a hiking pack company) and the Tortuga Outbreaker 35 (also rave reviews, but geez it’s expensive AND ugly too).
Casual and chic? Work appropriate? Sounds like a dare! Let’s buy it!
And here it is on regular old me, worn to work in a casual agency environment. It’s San Francisco, so of course I’m wearing tights and boots.
I picked this dress up for fun in the last J Crew final sale. The allover seahorse print was just too charming, but like many others I was not prepared for the thinness of the material. I was too nervous about the sheerness of the cotton (with or without slip!) to wear it as a dress, so a skirt fixed the situation. Still love the dress, but not sure about other modest ways to rework this piece.
Yeah, I’m still daydreaming about luggage. We all have to have hobbies. Clockwise, from the top.
This Po Campo bag is a really great copycat version of the Kate Spade Saturday Weekender that I wanted. The leather is unfortunately “vegan” (PFTT BULLSHIT ITS PVC JUST CALL IT THAT) but it’s only 95 bucks and looks like it would double quite nicely as a gym bag since it has elastic straps for a yoga mat. Here’s a lovely review of the bag from a cute blogger with 180 style from me :).
Here’s the Kate Spade version for comparison. Love that green. 150$
More Kate Spade. Vintage inspired trunk wheeled luggage. Since we’re dreaming here. In real life that is 700 bucks and that makes me sad. The little pink Ni Hao luggage tag is cheerful at only 6 bucks. Sold.
A simple and sturdy duffle from LL Bean Signature. 60$
So of course I’m not a convert for duffles, but the other day I saw my boss’s Filson bag. I guess duffle bags aren’t so bad if they look like that. Unfortunately Filson bags, like most beautiful things are PRICEY- 250+++. That’s not right!
If I get the Kate Spade Weekender, which I might, I’m going to write a review because there are basically no non-sponsored reviews/photos of the bag online. Did anybody anywhere ever buy this bag? What the heck. It’s infuriating.