What is the first thing you think when you see a dog wearing a backpack? You may say to yourself, “That dog has a purpose.” You might simply appreciate how cool the dog looks. Perhaps you associate dog backpacks automatically with service, boating, or hiking.
The best dog backpack for hiking will go beyond aesthetics. Dog hiking backpacks have several benefits such as helping you carry gear and giving your pet extra exercise, mental stimulation, and a sense of purpose.
Quick Picks: The 6 Top-Rated Dog Backpacks for Hiking
Last update on 2023-09-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
In a hurry? Then check out our best pick above or keep reading for product reviews and buying guide!
Best Dog Backpacks for Hiking – 6 Reviews
Most Comfortable Dog Backpack for Hiking
The OneTigris is a cotton and nylon canvas bag weighing under two pounds. High-density cotton provides superb comfort and softness for your dog while the nylon mesh undersides minimize damage to your dog’s coat.
Other features of the OneTigris include two main compartments on either side with handy semi-open pockets, durable dual-way zippers, and front and rear leash attachments. The design is durable and the storage capacity is considerable.
With an eye for quality, the OneTigris has extra stitching at all stress points. There is a lift handle that also has reinforced stitch work. Your dog’s comfort is a top priority, and the canvas bag has an extra strap to prevent slippage.
- Nylon mesh increase breathability
- Soft material
- Durable bag
- Extra chest strap to prevent sliding
- Durable hardware with stainless steel D rings and hardy dual-way zippers
- Has a lift handle but cautions against using it
- Straps sometimes not as durable as you would expect
Most Trendy Dog Backpack for Hiking
Offering one of the most customizable and stylish options, the Outward Hound comes in three different models and fits many body types. The Daypak is a simple design that resembles a two-pouch fanny pack, while the Urban Denver gives the appearance of a sophisticated leather carryall. In between is the Crest Stone with bright colors and utility for heavy-duty hiking.
All the Outward Hounds offer a lightweight design with mesh webbing to increase comfort. The Denver Urban has mesh on top, and the others feature an entire webbed harness.
The Outward Hound emphasizes security with extra straps and ergonomic handles.
- Brightly colored
- Multiple styles
- Reflective piping
- Easy-care, breathable material
- Some dogs do not like a strap passing between their front legs
Best Overall Dog Backpack for Hiking
A unique feature of the Ruffwear Approach Dog Pack is its five-point adjustment integration system on the harness, offering a near-custom fit. It also has pockets to stash extra items as well as zippered compartments.
Support is of paramount importance with the Ruffwear after comfort. The material, 420-denier ripstop nylon, is lightweight and cool. Straps act like struts to support the lift handle, which has padding for your comfort.
The Ruffwear addresses visibility concerns with bright coloring, reflective piping, and built in light loop where you can attach Ruffwear’s beacon light (sold separately). Finally, the Ruffwear dog backpack has multiple reinforced leash attachments.
- Aluminum steel V-rings with an extra loop to reinforce leash attachments
- Durable and comfortable nylon material
- Five-way adjustment on harness
- Multiple options for night vision including reflective piping and light loop
- Weight-forward saddle bags – Extra stability
- Somewhat expensive
- Beacon light is sold separately
Most Versatile Dog Pack for Hiking
Like the most efficient backpacks, the Kurgo canine hiking bag is two-sided with zippered pouches and an integrated harness. There are rear and front leash attachments for your convenience. A padded lift handle has reinforcements for restraint or assisting your dog over particularly rough spots of a trail.
The two saddlebags on the Kurgo are spacious to accommodate an abundance of accessories and supplies. Mesh lines the inside of the harness to help the circulation of cool air.
- D-ring leash attachments double as bottle openers
- Reflective stripes on bag
- Multiple color choices
- Adjustment straps on saddle bags
- Chest pad
- Limited sizes
- An ideal fit is hard to achieve with the straps
Best Dual Purpose Harness and Dog Backpack
You can use the Go Fresh 2-in-1 as a harness or as a hiking canine backpack. Removal of the pouches is via a quick-release snap. The padded harness is a vest style, and the materials are polyester and mesh fabric.
Zippers divide two compartments into separate sections. The hiking bag also features a miniature for your dog’s water bottle. It is breathable, water resistant, and stands up against tearing.
You can expect stylish and attractive from the Go Fresh hiking bag. A yellow strip stands out against the gray backdrop and is reflective to enhance visibility in the dark.
The Go Fresh dog hiking bag comes with a flexible lift handle that makes it easy on your hand and enables you to utilize a variety of grips. You hook the leash to a durable stainless steel D-ring attachment.
- Reflective safety patch instead of a strip
- Oversized pockets
- Water Bottle holder/anchor
- Padded stand-alone harness
- Poor location and function of middle strap
- Adjustments on the harness do not stay constant on long walks
Best Adjustable Dog Backpack
The Smartelf backpack is similar to the Go Fresh in that you can break it down into a fully functional vest harness. A D-ring of stainless steel alloy provides a durable and secure leash attachment.
The Smartelf hiking dog pack emphasizes security. Buckles provide adjustment for comfort but also ensure the most secure load distribution. Manufacturers took additional care to create strength at the stress points, especially around the rubber lift handle.
You will notice your Smartelf dog backpack has multiple trims that are reflective. Materials of the bag include notably tough Oxford mesh. Two side pockets on each side provide ample storage space.
- Four compartments
- Durable and breathable Oxford mesh
- Rubber lift handle – Secure grip
- Large buckles
- Runs small in size
Best Dog Backpacks for Hiking – Buying Guide
What Is a Dog Backpack?
A canine backpack is similar to any that you would use for school or carrying camping gear, for example. We focus on using a dog backpack on hiking, but you can use it anywhere that you need your dog to carry supplies. For example, daily walks, boat trips, and search and rescue activities can all accommodate a canine backpack.
Although they come in a few different styles, backpacks for dogs distribute a load across the back and shoulders. Straps secure the weight-carrying portion. The straps usually cross behind the front legs and around the sternum or upper abdomen and the front of the chest.
Why Use a Backpack on Your Dog?
Backpacks are vital on hikes because they enable your dog to help carry his own supplies. For long hikes, you can pack water, treats, and dog food. You can also stuff the bag with extra leashes, booties, toys, and clothing for harsh conditions.
Often, when you put equipment on your dog, he becomes aware that he has a job. Your dog will associate his backpack with additional self-importance and attentiveness, especially if you are diligent with his training. Dogs in work mode tend to be on their best behavior and have increased focus.
You likely associate a canine backpack with physical labor. While a backpack will undoubtedly increase the intensity of exercise for your dog, it also provides all-important mental stimulation.
Carrying a backpack is not a natural activity your dog will take for granted as you might. It forces your pet to think about something other than just walking across uneven terrain. Working breeds, especially, thrive with the multitasking that resembles the kind of thinking their ancestors regularly practiced with herding, sledding, or search and rescue.
Things you should consider packing are as follows:
- Dog bowls – Try collapsible
- Food and treats
- First-aid supplies
- Extra leashes
- Dog clothing – Remember bags dog packs will keep your dog warmer than usual
- Waste bags
What Should You Look for in a Dog Hiking Backpack?
Your main concern when you choose a backpack for your dog should be comfort and safety.
- Size – Make sure you custom fit to your dog. Do not give in to the temptation to go by weight or breed alone.
- Straps – Should be adjustable. Ensure you eliminate points of potential chafing.
- Weight – Search for lightweight materials and a bag without too much bulk.
- Load distribution – Even the displacement of a packed bag makes it more efficient and comfortable to carry.
Other considerations for a canine backpack are visibility and care. A brightly-colored pack will make it easier to locate your dog if you two become separated. You may want a reflective backpack for nighttime hiking. Many backbacks have reflective surfaces on them. The Ruffwear goes a step further, giving you the option of an illuminated attachment.
Lightweight materials like nylon can be durable, comfortable, cool, waterproof, and easy to clean all at the same time. Look for sturdy metal hardware for your leash attachments and zippers that will prove long-lasting and functional.
The Outwear Hound is very appealing, but may not be able to withstand arduous hiking like the support structures of the Onetigris can. Match your dog’s backpack with what will best suit your hiking goals for your canine companion.
Related: Best Dog Harnesses for Hiking
How Much Weight Should Your Dog Carry?
Most dogs who can hike can also carry a backpack. How much your pet can safely carry will depend on a few factors such as age, physical conditioning, size, and training.
Growing puppies should not carry weights for the same reasons they should not engage in jumping or other rigorous exercises under your urging.
Excess weight can strain your puppy and potentially injure muscles, bones, and growth plates before physical maturity. However, you can begin training your pup by equipping him with an empty, well-fitted backpack.
Consult with your veterinarian, but most hiking is probably going to also be beyond the scope of what your pup should do. Carrying weight and hiking most of the time will correspond closely and should not begin before nine to 24 months of age. The larger your dog, the longer it takes him to become full-grown and able to take on loaded backpacks and arduous hikes.
Only you and your vet can determine what kind of physical condition your dog is in.
Many dogs will see a decline in their stamina and amount of weight they can carry seven or eight years of age and beyond. If your dog is in excellent shape and has hiked regularly most of his life, he may carry a backpack well after ten years old. A giant breed dog like a Great Dane, may slow down as early as five or six years old.
Problems like a slipped disc or elbow and hip dysplasia can shorten his backpacking. Paradoxically, high activity and regular outings carrying a backpack can extend your dog’s backpack carrying days.
Dogs who are no longer able to carry weight can still move around with an empty backpack as they did when they were puppies. You will reinforce your pet’s sense of his important role on your hikes.
How Much Weight?
In most cases, a dog in his prime can carry 10% of his body weight. If just getting back into shape, start at 8% of his weight, while other dogs can comfortably carry 12%.
If you take your dog hiking every weekend and exercise him religiously over an hour a day, he may be able to backpack up to 25% of his weight. Such dogs carry supplies that would last a few days. They would even be able to carry tents and other overnight gear suitable for the avid hiker.
How Do You Fit Your Dog for a Backpack?
Your dog, similarly to yourself, should carry any weight as high up as possible. Dogs have powerful backs, but the safest weight distribution is at their strongest point near the shoulders. The area of the back near the hips is not designed to carry significant loads.
You can measure your dog from the base of his neck to his tail to get an overall impression. You can then take additional measurements, accounting for where you calculate the backpack should sit. Aim for the backpack to extend no further than the end of his ribcage. The closer you can stay to just past the shoulders the better.
You want your dog’s backpack to sit high enough that it does not impede his movements. Backpacks can interfere with the forelegs or drape down far enough to get trapped under the chest or belly. Measure the deepest part of your dog’s chest, again aiming for a pack that stays in the upper 50% of the body.
You will measure your dog’s girth to get an idea about how long the straps should be. Always choose backpacks with adjustable straps.
A hiking backpack that fits your dog too loose or tight will create sores. A bag that is too tight causes obvious discomfort. However, a loose backpack chafes and throws the load off balance by allowing the weight to shift and slide.
Do Backpacks Torture Your Dog?
Some dog lovers feel backpacks are abusive. It is true a few dogs will never accept wearing a backpack. It is always best not to use any kind of force with your dogs.
Most dogs readily accept wearing a backpack with systematic training and positive reinforcements with rewards. They learn to associate a backpack with fun activities or as part of their job. Many breeds you think of taking hiking have a strong work ethic.
A well-fitted backpack on a properly trained dog is neither abusive nor tortuous.
The Ruffwear Approach Dog Pack is the winner of the roundup with its five-way adjustment system on the harness and special attention to safety, security, and comfort. None of the other canine backpacks matched the level of nighttime visibility nor the degree of customization.
Weight-forward bags and reinforcements at the leash attachments and lift handle cement the Ruffwear dog backpack’s status as the best dog backpack for hiking. We chose the OneTigris Dog Pack as a runner up for its high-quality soft materials and extra focus on the stress points.
We feel dual-purpose backpacks like the Go Fresh and Smartelf compromise slightly on support, security, and comfort.