Hiking with your dog is an immense pleasure and a fulfilling adventure. Dog backpacks are the most important gear to pick since the pack will sit on your dog’s back for hours. A dog pack can’t be too loose, too uncomfortable, or unsafe. There are a few points to check before buying, and we’ve got them listed here for you.
To help you understand what makes a good dog backpack and what doesn’t, I am giving you a handful of focus points that should drive your purchase more than just how good it looks.
Dog Backpack Buying Guide
The look of the dog backpack is secondary, what truly matters is listed just below and this is what I want you to focus on. Your dog will thank you after a few hours of hiking. Whether you go for a few hours or camp overnight, these features matter.
Before we go over what matters, it is important to remember that your dog should not carry a maximum of 25% of its body weight. If your dog is new to dog packs, start out with a lighter load and build up to a more substantial load as both of you get accustomed to carrying the dog backpack.
Sounds silly, right? Well, it’s the most important. Especially with dogs that have very short hair or sensitive skin, you must pick breathable fabric and materials and make sure the buckles are padded so they don’t burn the skin. Ruff Wear and Outward Hound are two brands that have that as a basis on most of their models.
Some edges in a dog backpack can be in prolonged contact with the skin and sometimes provoke small scratches or cuts. Here again, make sure the edges are round or padded to prevent any cutting.
Cleaning must be easy, especially if you go through dirty water, you don’t want bacterias to remain and develop on the dog pack. Instead, choose an easy-to-wash dog pack that can be cleaned quickly with even just clean water (we’re not into deep cleaning, just the minimum to keep infections away.)
Ruffwear offers a great addition to its dog backpacks: a detachable pack from its harness. It’s great when you want to have a break and wish to unload your dog without removing it all. Just take the pack off the dog, leave the harness on so you can gear up within seconds when you are ready to go.
Safety, Durability and Weather Proofing
Depending on where you go hiking or camping, you may face tough elements and rough action. Ponds, rocks, ground, rain, pebbles, and even chewing, can damage the buckles and make your dog backpack unusable. It’s fine if it happens at home, but if you’re camping overnight (or more) and your dog manages to ruin the pack, good luck with the journey home.
The idea here is to pick a dog rucksack that offers great weatherproofing, long-lasting materials, and extra safety buckles. Surprisingly, these features are usually not advertised as such but tactical dog backpacks and big brands have these as a standard again.
Clearly, what I looked into first when I got my dog his backpack was the compartments, pouches & pockets. It’s a reflex and it makes sense because a backpack for humans or for dogs is meant to carry stuff and keep it as well organized as possible. There are two schools when it comes to compartments:
- people who like a lot of (smart) pockets to put each item into its right place
- people who prefer spacious one-room pouches and they can organize the space themselves using their own small bags and zip locks
There is no right or wrong, it’s a simple matter of preferences and habits.
Dogs must absolutely carry the same weight on their left as on their right. You can’t and should never put everything on one side or have one heavier than the other. We’re not at the gram of precision but you get the gist.
The dog’s body must remain balanced throughout the journey and heavy items must be split in order to achieve that perfect balance. By heavy items, I include:
- water and other liquids
- food and treats
- other heavy gears and accessories
If you do not stay careful, you will end up with a dog having back and hip problems resulting in atrocious pain once they get old and incredibly expensive vet bills for surgery. So please, it’s not rocket science, just spread the weight evenly.
Carrying weight and hiking is tiring and you may not find a water fountain every few minutes. If you carry a backpack yourself, make sure you have enough water for both of you, and refill whenever you can.
Dogs can also carry their own water pouch as most top-of-the-range dog backpacks have a specific compartment with the hydration bladder that goes along with it. For very long walks or several-day camping, you definitely want to invest in such a pack anyway.
If the dog backpack you picked doesn’t have this, you can always add two small bottles of water, one on each side, but there is less room for anything else you wanted to bring. Water and food tend to take most of the space available.
Leash Attachment Points
Dog packs with leash attachments can help you secure your fur buddies during hikes. Yes, you want them to walk freely but there are times that you need to leash them especially on difficult tracks. Some dog packs have two leash attachments – one near the shoulder blades and the other one is at the back near the tail.
Before purchasing pet backpacks, make sure that it has a leash attachment point since it’s one of the important features to ensure your dog’s safety and to prevent any accidents.
How to Measure Your Dog Backpack?
Since dogs have different body structures, picking the right size for your dog packs can be complicated. To ensure that you’ll purchase the correct size, you can measure your dog using a measuring tape.
The first is to measure your dog’s neck – from shoulder blades to above the front legs. The second is the dog’s chest – around the belly to the widest part behind the front legs. And for the length, measure from your dog’s chest to the base tail.
Take note that you need to leave at least 2 inches (5 cm) of space between the end of the harness and the base of your dog’s tail.
Top 10 Best Dog Backpacks
Here are our fair and thoroughly researched top 10 best dog backpack reviews for hiking, or simply to go on a few days-long camping trips. Make sure your dog is properly fitted before blaming the quality of a dog pack, it’s often the dog owner that isn’t very good at fitting it well.
1. Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack
— Who is it for? Professional hikers and adventurous dogs who fancy overnight camping.
The approach pack from Ruffler is ideal for day hikes as well as overnight exploration. The great harness provides load stability and weight spread and the pack has handy advantages like stash pockets, coated zippers, and external gear loops. Covered buckles sit in place for convenient, one-handed clipping, and are safeguarded from wear.
Having looked at a lot of packs and backpacks for dogs before picking the Ruffwear as the winner, I noticed it was the priciest but it feels like it will last undoubtedly more than the others. Something like 4 or 5 times more.
The light and sturdy harness underneath the pack itself are wonderful, it truly makes the entire process convenient as you can simply detach the pack and leave the harness on. More than convenience, the padded straps will make sure your dog’s coat and skin both remain intact even after hours of exploration. The spots the harness’ edges and buckles sit do not impede in any way on the dog’s motion and allure.
A lot of hardcore campers I know are using the Ruff Wear Approach Dog Pack have noted how durable it was after several overnight adventures where the dog’s backpack has been scraped along every tree, rock, and wall one could possibly imagine.
The Approach Backpack for Dogs comes in pacific blue or orange, and five sizes ranging from XXS to XL.
2. Outward Hound Kyjen Dog Backpack
— Who is it for? Occasional trails and several-hour explorations.
Outward Hound Backpacks by Kyjen come with spacious saddlebag pockets, mesh pockets, long-lasting zippers, and a harness that quickly adapts to the appropriate fit. Reflective highlights maximize awareness in natural locations.
The detachable backpack takes nearly all the weight off the dog when at rest, and provides quick and easy access to the contents of the rucksack. The fairly sizable pockets have vast pouches as well as zipper closures to hold food, fluids, and other accessories. The pack comes with internal mesh compartments and an elastic water bottle holder for added convenience.
This most awaited dog backpack is fully redesigned from the outdated version, and there’s a wide range of features that really make a difference! This backpack for adventurous dogs is easy to put on and adjust for a comfortable fit.
Much like all Outward Hound equipment, this backpack may be very well-crafted. Manufactured from what to my mind is extremely durable nylon (ie. rock climbing rucksack), this really is positively up to the job of any rough and tumble that can come about while away on hikes. I can’t find any formal info on whether or not this could be machine washable, however, a wet cloth works marvelously.
S, M, L, and XL are the sizes available and pink, orange, green and blue are the colors available.
3. OneTigris MAMMOTH Dog Pack
— Who is it for? Strong and powerful dogs exploring rugged locations.
A lot less to ponder over compared to the two previous dog backpacks, the OneTigris Mammoth dog backpack is playing in a different field. This is made from very heavy-duty materials and meant to be used daily by canine soldiers on some of the most rugged landscapes.
Molle bags are terrific and fasten straightforwardly on the two rail straps making use of the clip belts. An uneven charge could potentially cause the vest to slide, but that is only obvious. Strong and durable engineering and construction however the emphasis has not been put on the padding or sheltering of the buckles.
This makes the OneTigris Dog Pack more suitable for large and strong dogs who won’t fuss over small discomforts. Molle on both sides to attach other accessories such as water bottles, magazine pouches, food snacks, or other supplies. The velcro panel and mesh design inside have been designed for optimal comfort, breathability, and ventilation.
There are three sizes to choose from, Medium, Large, and Extra Large, on top of two colors available (Tan or Black.)
4. Kurgo Dog Saddlebag Backpack
— Who is it for? Hikers who love to trek during the night and go camping for days.
A lightweight and comfortable dog backpack with 2-sided pockets for your pet’s essentials like food, first aid kit, and dog travel bottles. It has an integrated dog harness with a rear-mounted ring where you can attach your pet’s leash – you also use the other D-ring as a bottle opener.
It also has a large padded handle so you can control or guide your dog over obstacles while hiking. The reflective strips on the side increase visibility in the dark so you can still see your dog during evening camping. Kurgo dog backpack has a total of 8 adjustment points for a custom fit to your fur buddies and a saddlebag that can be moved up or down.
It’s available in two sizes – the Baxter size is for dogs 30-85 Pounds, & fits 3. 75L while the Big Baxter size is for dogs 50-110 Pounds & fits 7. 5 lengths in the packs.
5. Himal Outdoors Dog Backpack
— Who is it for? Medium and large dog breeds who love to explore the wilderness.
The Himal dog backpack is made of durable 600D nylon that comes with a comfortable soft mesh lining undersides that offer a cooling and secured feeling to your pets.
You can also adjust the dog vest harness for a proper fit – the adjustable straps can fit dogs with 22-31.5 inch neck size & 29-35.8 inch chest size. This two-sided dog pack has zipped side pouches with enough space to carry your dog’s camping essentials such as food, water, treats, disposal bags, etc. Its exterior pockets have a velcro lock to secure all your belongings.
The sturdy padded handle is well-designed to help your dog cross obstacles like crossing the river, it also features rear-mounted d-rings to hook your dog’s leash.
6. RUFFWEAR, Switchbak Dog Harness
— Who is it for? Short hikes and dogs that can only carry lightweight stuff.
The RUFFWEAR switchbak is a harness and a dog backpack combined together. It features a foam-padded design for comfortable extended wear and has 5 adjustment points for a perfect fit for your fur buddies.
It also has reflective accents and an aluminum V-ring on the back where you can hook your dog’s leash for a chill trek or to the reinforced webbing loop on the chest to help redirect dogs that pull. Compared to other dog backpacks, this one features low-profile pockets to carry small essentials only.
There’s also a padded belly strap that provides stability and comfort while carrying weight and a padded handle to assist your dog during obstacles. Available in four sizes – extra small 17”-22”, small 22”-27”, medium 27”-32”, and large/extra large 32”-42”. For maintenance, you can hand wash this dog pack with mild detergent and air dry.
7. Lifeunion Adjustable Service Dog Supply Backpack
— Who is it for? Perfect for day or weekend adventures even in a very hot weather
One of the best dog backpacks that are made of high-quality 600D double polyester materials that are durable and waterproof. It has adjustable straps to fit perfectly to your dogs and a soft mesh line inside to give a comfortable feeling while wearing.
The sturdy, built-in rubber handle to guide your dog while its storage has enough space to store all your dog’s hiking stuff – it also has abrasion-resistant coated SBS metal zippers to secure your hiking goods. The D-ring leash attachment on top gives extra control to your pets when needed.
Its secure buckle closure that’s made of super-durable PP plastic material ensures that the backpack will stay in place. Each strap features a high-impact Contoured side Quick-Release Buckle for easy securing and adjustments. This dog backpack is made of heavy-duty materials that have a lifetime quality.
8. Titan Escape Proof Dog Harness
— Who is it for? Fur buddies who love hiking, camping, and all-around exploring.
The Tuff Pupper’s titan escape features four large zippered pockets with 3M reflective stitching to provide excellent nighttime visibility and handy storage for your dog’s essentials.
It has mesh dog harness padding that provides an equal load distribution to eliminate any hot spots on your dog’s skin that making it really comfortable to wear. It also has dual attachment points – the front D-ring has no pull design that discourages any heavy pulling while the rare D-ring gives safety and allows you to control your dog’s movement.
The harness is made of heavy-duty materials with rust-proof metal hardware. It’s scratch-resistant and waterproof that’s made of oxford fabric and ballistic nylon webbing that provides strength and durability that still remains comfortable & flexible.
Available in three colors – red, midnight blue, and black with four different sizes – small (Neck: 16-20″ , Chest: 17-21″), medium Medium (Neck: 19-24″ , 21-27″), large Large (Neck: 21-28″ , Chest: 25-32″), and extra large (Neck: 24-33″ , Chest: 29-37″).
9. OneTigris HOPPY CAMPER Doggy Backpack 2.0
— Who is it for? Dog training, hiking, camping, long trail walks, traveling, or everyday use
Featuring an ergonomic design that features two 2L main zipper side compartments with semi-open pockets good for carrying all hiking essentials. It also has front and back D-rings for small add-ons and not for leash attachment.
The saddlebag has rugged dual-way zippers to keep your stuff safe and three adjustable straps for a custom fit. Its high-density cotton canvas provides secure holding for your beloved pet and does not pull their fur.
Its mesh lining optimizes breathability and has upgraded undersides for your dog’s comfort. And let’s not forget about its chic and vintage design that’s very fashionable and unique. This dog pack fits perfectly to medium and large breeds such as Samoyed, Shepherd, Tibetan mastiff, etc.
10. Cesar Millan Dog Backpack
— Who is it for? Big dog harness backpack that’s perfect for restless dogs
These exclusive anxiety dog relief backpacks are perfect for dogs that weigh between 40 lbs to 90 lbs or have a chest girth measurement between 24” to 36”. Perfect for hiking since it’s durable, breathable, and water repellent.
The underside is padded and lined with a breathable mesh so your dogs won’t experience overheating. While the smart straps are made with elasticity to adjust to your dog’s motion. It also has a reflective trim for your dog’s safety during nighttime walks.
It’s equipped with a variety of convenient compartments to carry all your dog’s essentials. This dog pack is also perfect for owners who have limited time to walk and exercise their dogs since it can be weighed down to provide the same benefit of a 1 hour of dog exercise in just 30 minutes.
Top Dog Backpacks: FAQ
We gathered the top frequently asked questions about the best dog backpacks, below are the best answers to your inquiries.
Yes, pet backpacks are designed for your fur buddies to keep them comfortable while wearing them. But overweight backpacks can harm them and cause fatigue. Before placing your dog’s belongings in the backpack, make sure that it has the proper weight that’s right for your dog’s weight.
Usually. Dogs can carry 10% to 25% of their body weight. But this still depends on your dog’s age, fitness level, size, and health condition. To make sure that the backpack is not too heavy, try to place lightweight materials and adjust the straps for a perfect fit for your dog’s pack.
Dog’s should wear backpacks once their joints are fully developed. This is usually around 18 months to 2 years old. Avoid letting your dogs wear packs especially if they are too young so you can avoid any pressure to their undeveloped joints that can lead to serious injury.
When hiking, you can place your dog’s essentials like small canned dog food, treats, foldable water bowls, plastic bags, a first aid kit, medicine, etc. Just ensure that it’s not too heavy for them to carry. If you need to bring other stuff, you can simply place it on your own backpack so your dogs won’t feel exhausted while hiking
You can introduce your dog’s new backpack by letting them smell and inspect it. Once they’re done, you can then strap it on and give them treats to let them know that they’re doing the right thing. If your dog is comfortable with their new packs, you can let them use it with an empty pocket first and try to slowly place stuff for them to adjust their sense of balance and space.
Once you figure out what it is that you want to do with your dog, the choice should be obvious. We’ve listed the best of each category on this post: the Ruffwear for long hikes spreading over two or more days, the Outward Hound for day treks, and the OneTigris that is undoubtedly the best army-like dog vest and pack combo (but it lacks a little padding and comfort.)
Picking the best dog backpack is not that complicated (dog food IS complicated, for example) so just think about what you want to do and go ahead, you won’t regret it!
We’ve reviewed so many other dog toys and supplies, just take your pick:
2 comments on “10 Best Dog Backpacks and Rucksacks For Hiking!”
I own both the Ruffwear Approach and the OneTigris backpacks. The Onetigris looks awesome, but the bags are too small and all differernt sizes – and why 3? . Anything put into the bags has to be light then you have to try to balance the backpack as 2 bags have to go on one side and just 1 on the other. Another major fault is that the bags are held on by buttons so they are not that secure and can come off quite easy.
Ruffwear is a better backpack, but while it is claimed that you shouldnt put more than 25% of the dogs body weight into the backpack, in reality you can forget anything over 5-10%. My dog hated having to carry just %5 as it was heavy on her and she’s a super fit springer spaniel. The reality is, you want something lightweight, I use it to carry 5-6 dog leads and thats all and I wouldnt want to add much more weight than that.
I’ve always heard about these backpacks but never have I seen actual stores or sites that sell/recommend them! Thanks for this list! Will check these out :)