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 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 basic 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 for 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 than 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 it is less room for anything else you wanted to bring. Water and food tend to take most of the space available.
Top 3 Best Dog Backpacks
Here are our fair and thoroughly researched top 3 best dog backpack reviews for hiking, or simply to go on a few days long camping trip. 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 is 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 sizeable 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 theres 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 cant 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 Tactical 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 Tactical Dog Molle Vest 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 be fussed much of 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.)
Last Words On Dog Packs
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: