9 Best Dog Hiking Backpacks: Your Buyer’s Guide (2018)

dog hiking backpack

When your dog is your best friend, it’s only natural that you’d want to take them with you everywhere. This might be as simple as letting them tag along in the car when you go to the store or as needlessly complicated as buying them a seat on an airplane so they can travel to far-off destinations. This is especially true of outdoor adventures.

Hiking day trips or treks to a camping spot make the perfect activity for your dog companion. In some cases, that may be the explicit reason for getting a dog in the first place — having a creature that requires outdoor exercise which in turn inspires your own outdoor exercise. Dog love hiking because it allows them to explore beyond their normal neighborhood, offering all kinds of exotic smells.

Whether the hike is just a few hours or a peak-bagging marathon, outfitting your dog with its own backpack means your pup can share the load wherever you go. While this sort of activity is generally aimed at younger, stronger dogs, just about any dog can carry their own treats, for example. They could also bear your small tools and utensils, first aid supplies, or even just an energy bar or two. The added burden can make it a more rigorous workout, which you may find useful if you have a dog anything like my just-barely-two-year-old husky mix. No amount of running or walking in a given day is ever enough for him, so strapping a pack on him benefits both of us.

To that end, even if your dog is a bona fide firecracker like mine, you’ll want to start slow. Wearing a dog pack is a lot like wearing an especially annoying harness, so if they haven’t mastered that yet, they aren’t ready for a backpack. Once they’ve got that down, you can move onto short hikes with an empty pack, and slowly increase duration and weight until you hit maximum capacity. Be sure to check in with your vet so they can advise you throughout this process.

Keep in mind that having your dog carry even their own supplies will in turn increase the amount of supplies that need to be carried. As it is, hiking will increase your dog’s fuel requirements above a normal day, but so will bearing a load while they do it. In addition to food and treats, you might also have them carry their own footwear or a safety light. For more ideas and guidelines, check out this post from REI. A good general rule is that your dog can carry up to 1/4 of their body weight. Whether your specific dog can achieve this depends on their overall health and the opinion of your vet.

Once you’ve put in the work to prepare your dog to carry a pack on the trail, you’re ready to choose a pack. As with all things pet-related, this requires a balance of good fit, durability, and your aesthetic tastes. The cost on dog backpacks varies from under $20 to nearly $200, though you certainly could spend more if you wanted. Within that price range are several excellent choices that will last several years when used properly.

Most have top handles for guiding your dog through water or impromptu rescues, while others offer more niche features like bottle openers, above-average capacity, or modular construction. All of the options on our list are fundamentally a harness, generally with multiple attachment points, with added saddlebags that range from a simple pocket to multi-day compartments.

For those looking to have their dog pull their own weight on the trail, here are the top ten best dog hiking backpacks available right now:

What Are the Best Dog Hiking Backpacks Available Right Now?

Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Removable bags
  • Water bottles included
  • Even weight distribution
Price: $149.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Multiple adjustment points
  • Padded
  • Top handle
Price: $44.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Four adjustment points
  • Large compartments
  • Paddest chest piece
Price: $45.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Two leash attachment points
  • Light
  • Mesh top vent
Price: $36.83 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Keeps weight forward
  • Well ventilated
  • Reflective stitching
Price: $49.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Removable bags
  • Waterproof
  • Even weight distribution
Price: $73.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Dual leash attachment points
  • Accessory clips
  • Six pockets
Price: $32.98 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Inexpensive
  • Better for smaller dogs
  • Multiple adjustment points
Price: $16.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Inexpensive
  • Light
  • Top handle
Price: $16.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. Ruffwear Palisades Multi-Day Backcountry Pack

    Pros:
    • Saddlebags are removable
    • Load compression helps distribute the weight
    • Two collapsable one liter hydration bottles included
    • Built around the excellent Web Master Harness
    Cons:
    • Pricey
    • Only available in red
    • Though there are two leash attachment points, both are at the back

    On the other hand, if you are headed out for a multi-day adventure, capacity and flexibility are paramount. This Ruffwear option has both in spades. First, this is a rather large pack, so your dog will be able to carry every bit of the maximum 25 percent of their body weight, which will be comfortably distributed thanks to load compression.

    Some of that weight will be in the form of water, as this pack includes two one liter bottles to keep your pup hydrated. If the weight gets to be too much or there’s a tricky pass to navigate, you can either use the top handle or remove the saddlebags for part of the journey. Doing this leaves behind the company’s Web Master Harness (itself a $59.99 value), so you can still safely walk your dog on a leash. This pack is available in three sizes for the following chest girths:

    • Small: 22-27 inches (56-69 cm)
    • Medium: 27-32 inches (69-81 cm)
    • Large/X-Large: 32-42 inches (81-107 cm)

    Ruffwear also offers the Approach pack, which is cheaper, but doesn’t allow you to remove the saddlebags. The one I’ve been using of late with my husky mix is the Singletrak, which focuses on the hydration angle. Two 0.6 liter bottles are included on this otherwise streamlined unit.

    My husky drinks a ton, so I’ve been grateful to have him carry his own water. If you’re planning on taking any of these packs (and your dog, of course) camping, you might also consider grabbing their newly-released Knot-a-Hitch Dog Hitching System to keep them near the campsite.

  2. Kurgo Baxter Dog Backpack

    Pros:
    • Eight adjustment points
    • Padded spine support
    • Top handle
    • Saddlebags are adjustable in relation to the harness
    Cons:
    • Only one leash attachment point (but hey, it doubles as a bottle opener)
    • Saddlebags look as though they should be removable, but are not
    • Too small for the largest dogs
    • Compartments open front-to-back, so zippers may snag and open on bushes

    For a good all-arounder option, consider this model from Kurgo. Available in two sizes (dogs 30-85 pounds or dogs 50-110 pounds), you’ll likely have to spend a little time adjusting this to get it right. There are eight different adjustment points to make sure this process is successful. Once you do have it adjusted, though, the padded spine will help with weight distribution and keep your dog comfortable.

    The smaller size fits 3.75 liters, while the larger fits 7.5 liters and reflective material is integrated throughout the bag for added visibility. Choose between orange and black, Coastal Blue, or Barn Red. Some reviewers noted that the seams started to come apart, but Kurgo’s lifetime warranty should cover issues like that, if you should experience any.

  3. Mountainsmith K-9 Dog Pack

    Pros:
    • Four-point adjustable padded chest harness
    • Independently adjustable rear harness
    • Large pannier-style compartments for ample storage
    • Three sizes
    Cons:
    • Initial adjustment can be tricky with so many straps
    • Some reviewers noted chafing
    • Only one leash attachment point

    This first option was designed with the input of a veterinarian to fit dogs comfortably. It’s made from 210d Junior Ripstop nylon, with seams reinforced with 420d Duramax and high-visibility 3M trim for low-light hiking. Carrying capacity is provided by two fairly large, zippered pannier compartments. Though some reviews note chafing, proper fit should ensure this is relatively infrequent as the straps are padded to prevent it.

    While there’s only one attachment point for a leash, there is a top handle for helping your dog navigate tricky terrain or water hazards. There are three sizes, all available in red or blue, so be sure to measure and follow the sizing guide. Each of them weigh less than 20 ounces when empty. The sizes offer the following capacities:

    • Small: 860 cubic inches (14 liters)
    • Medium: 1460 cubic inches (24 liters)
    • Large: 1860 cubic inches (32 liters)
  4. Outward Hound Denver Urban Lightweight Hiking Backpack

    Pros:
    • Four pockets for stashing gear
    • Two leash attachment points
    • Lightweight
    • Mesh top to keep your dog cool
    Cons:
    • Smaller capacity than some options
    • May be difficult to put on and take off
    • Potentially somewhat unstable if not tightened properly

    If you aren’t going camping or for a multi-day hike, you might not need the capacity of some of the options on this list. This model is specifically aimed at day hikes, with the smaller volume of space offset to some degree by the availability of four separate compartments. Your dog will still be able to carry treats, some water, and a couple of other small essentials. This would be a good option for walks around town, especially because there are two leash attachment points, which you’ll need if your dog is anything like mine.

    Some reviewers complain that it’s difficult to put on and take off, but you’re sure to get the hang of it quickly, especially if you normally use a harness for your dog. Outward Hound also offer the Daypak, which is cheaper but not quite as stylish.

  5. Cesar Millan Dog Backpack

    Pros:
    • Weight-forward design
    • Good air circulation around the top
    • Reflective stitching for better visibility
    • Rests high on the dog for better control
    Cons:
    • Some quality control issues on stitching
    • Only one color available
    • Sizing may run large

    In his books on the subject, which we included in our best dog training books, Cesar Millan suggests that giving your dog a sense of purpose or a job to do can cut down on behavioral issues. Speaking as a dog owner with a challenging pup, I can attest that this is true, at least to some degree.

    It makes sense, then, that there would be a Millan-licensed dog backpack. This seems suited directly to that purpose, being more of a streamlined urban daypack than a multi-day camping pack. Consider using this for training exercises when relatively close to home rather than expecting it to carry a heavy load over a long period of time. The sizing breaks down this way:

  6. Pettom Dog Saddle Backpack

    Pros:
    • Removable saddlebags
    • Waterproof material
    • Load compression system
    • Covered buckles
    Cons:
    • Only one leash attachment point
    • Somewhat tricky buckle placement
    • May run a bit big
    • Heavier than other options

    Billed as the cheap alternative to the Ruffwear Palisades above, this pack also offers removable saddlebags over an integrated, full-coverage harness. The material and zippers are both designed to keep water out of the pack, while the reflective trim increases visibility. Speaking of keeping water out, unlike the Ruffwear, this one does not come with water bottles, so you’ll have to supply your own if you go this route.

    Still, this is a solid option with three size options, all of which have greater capacity than the Kurgo above. Here’s how those break down, all available in either the pictured red or bright green:

    • Small: 22 to 27 inch chest girth, 10 liter capacity
    • Medium: 27 to 32 inch chest girth, 14 liter capacity
    • Large: 32 to 42 inch chest girth, 19 liter capacity
  7. OneTigris Canvas Dog Backpack

    Pros:
    • Cool vintage look
    • Two leash attachment points
    • Six total pockets
    • Additional D rings for clipping items
    Cons:
    • Only one size: 30 to 45 inch chest girth and smaller than 28 inch neck
    • Won’t resist water as well as some other options
    • Saddlebags aren’t removable

    This option follows more along the lines of the Outward Hound above. It’s style first, with the vintage canvas look like old military surplus. Unlike the other options, this isn’t built around a harness, rather a simple series of three straps. There’s also no load-bearing technology in here, so this is better suited to day hikes or walks around town.

    Where this one excels is compartmentalization. There are the two primary pockets, inside which are two zippered interior pockets. On the outside of the main compartments are two Velcro pockets for quick access. Lots of places to stash little things, which should just about do the trick for everyday use.

  8. Petsfit Dog Travel Backpack

    Pros:
    • Inexpensive
    • Three adjustable straps
    • Interior elastic pockets
    • Ideal for small dogs
    Cons:
    • Top handle not for lifting your dog
    • Unlikely to put up with much abuse
    • Only for dogs up to 50 pounds

    If you have a dog on the smaller side but still want to see how they do carrying some weight on a hike, this option would be worth considering. It’s definitely not tough enough to withstand a 70 pound dog running through the muddy woods, but as a streamlined, well secured backpack, this would be good for training exercises or dogs that can’t carry quite as much weight.

    There are three straps — one for the front and two for under the dog — all of which are adjustable. In addition to the zippered primary compartments, there are internal elastic pockets for holding flat or flexible items. At this price, this would also make a decent trial run backpack before graduating your 30ish pound dog to a higher-end model.

  9. Wellver Dog Backpack

    Pros:
    • Inexpensive
    • Very lightweight
    • Relatively modern look
    • Good starter option
    Cons:
    • Not the most rugged option
    • Limited storage space
    • Only one leash attachment point
    • Sizes run small

    For out last pick, here is another cheap and cheerful option that would be equally good for light duty or for training purposes. Like the option above, this model is better suited to smaller dogs, with sizes available for dogs ranging from 11 to 55 pounds. The largest size (X-large, unfortunately unavailable at the time of this writing) would just about work for my blue nose pit, and is perfect for loading him up with pick-up bags and treats for a long walk.

    The mesh construction makes up for being less durable by being very breathable, so a gentle dog should be able to make use of this daily and remain comfortable. The available sizes are:

    • Small: 19 to 21 inch chest girth
    • Medium: 23 to 25 inch chest girth
    • Large: 27 to 31 inch chest girth

Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.

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