CAMPING & HIKING

Best Dog Backpack: Get Moving With Your Pup!

Mark Foster
Written by Mark Foster

Spending time with your dog is so rewarding. They are a lot of fun, and offer you unconditional trust with lots of slobbery love. They bark and keep an eye on things around the house, and are always there for you. For those of you that have a beloved fuzzy-faced companion, and want to get out on the trail with them, take a look for the best dog backpack.

The next time you go on a hike with your dog, why not use their strong body to do some of the schlepping? There are some great options for you if you want your pup to carry some of the load, even if it is just their water bowl and some other canine related odds and ends. There are a variety of packs available, and you are sure to find something that can benefit you both on your next walk.

Dog carrying hiking bag

When you look for a pack for your pup, keep in mind that like people, all dogs bodies are different, and you will need to choose a dog backpack that fits your fuzzy friend.

What your pup needs

The first thing that you need to do is measure your dog. If you are going to choose the right pack, and have a great piece of gear that will serve you both for years, it is so important that the pack fits your dog’s body correctly.

When you are sizing the pack for your dog, there are three measurements that you will need:

  • Length: You can start by taking a tape measure, and record the distance from where your dog’s shoulder blades meet near the spine, to the base of its tail.
  • Girth: Now you will need to measure your dog’s body at its widest point, this will be on its rib cage, right behind the front legs. This measurement is very important, as it determines the maximum volume of the backpack that your dog can carry. There is also usually a positive correlation between the girth of the rib cage and the overall strength of the dog.
  • Width of the Neck: Find the widest part of your dog’s neck, and measure it. This will make sure that the harness at the front of the pack will fit your dog’s body well.

What kind of dog backpack is right for you?

Once you have gotten your dog’s measurements, you need to think about what kind of trekking you are going to be doing with your pet. There are dog backpacks that are made for just about any size dog and any kind of outdoor activity, so take some time and figure out what your needs are. Packs can be split into two types:

Short hike / Exercise

If you are buying a pack for walks that will last a kilometer or two, or just to add some weight to your pet so it gets some extra exercise, there is no need to spend a fortune or buy a pack that has a huge capacity. Your pup can still get a lot out of the pack as well as getting more physical activity.

Dog hiking on grass

They can haul their own water, and maybe a treat for when you guys take a little break at a park bench. In addition to helping work your doggie out, most packs offer a place for you to attach a leash, and this can be really handy as it is a more secure connection than most collars.

Long hike / Overnight

There are also packs made for people who want to take their dogs with them when they backpack, and want them to help out with the extra gear. A mid-size to large dog can actually haul quite a bit of weight, and with the right pack, make a real difference in the load that you have to carry. The more serious packs will have features that will make them a bit tougher, longer lasting and more useful to a serious hiker or camper, and will certainly cost you more up-front to buy.

Features for you and fun for your dog!

When you start to look through all of the features that are available, you might wonder if you are buying a backpack for you or a dog! Many of the better backpacks will the share materials and more advanced features that you might find on a backpack for a person, so just be aware of your needs, and buy what suits you and your pet.

Material

The vast majority of backpacks that you will find for dogs are going to be made from some kind of synthetic material. Though unlike backpacks for humans, you will still find some made from cotton or other natural fibers.

Dog backpack materials

Both materials have their advantages, but most people prefer to buy synthetic, and there is certainly a wider range of options when it comes to packs that are made from synthetic fabric.

Harness Style

There are many ways to fit a bag to a dog’s back, and every pack is going to be just a little bit different. There are two main parts that comprise the mounting system for any harness:

  • Collar or Y-straps: You are going to find one of these two systems on the front end of any backpack for dogs. There are even some systems that are a combination of the two. With a collar, there is a ring of material, usually padded, that goes around your dog’s neck, and then connects to the harness to keep the bag from moving backward as your dog walks.
    With Y-straps, there is a pair of straps than come down from the front of the pack, and meet beneath the neck, where they are integrated into a single strap that then connects to the front torso strap underneath your dog’s body.
  • Torso straps: This part is relatively uniform across all dog backpacks. The main support of the bag is a piece of fabric that rests on your dog’s back, and to keep it from shifting there are one or more straps that descend from the main body of the bag, and are connected underneath your dog’s torso.

It would be impossible to say that there is one system that is better than the other. Also, the form of your dog’s body is going to play a big part in which type of harness system you choose. If you have the ability, it would be ideal to go to a store that sells dog backpacks and try them out.

One other useful feature is that most backpacks have a handle that you can use to grab your dog. This could be very useful to lift your dog up over obstacles, or just in case they are not on a leash, you have a quick way to get control over them if there is a distraction that you do not want them chasing after.

Dogs on hike

Any harness is going to offer a compromise between durability, weight distribution, ease of mounting and adjustability. When you look at harnesses, think about how often you are going to mount the backpack, and how all of the attachments are made.

Also be aware of how it is made to be adjusted, and what kind of system is used. Some designs are sure to be easier to adjust than others. Quality hardware is always going to be easier to deal with and will stay where you put it.

Saddlebags

The saddle bags on the backpack are where you can load all the gear that your dog is going to be carrying. Bags have at least one big compartment on either side of the bag, and many feature other exterior pockets, smaller compartments and mesh bags. Every pack is going to be different in this regard, and you have to decide how you are going to pack up your dog, and what you want them to carry.

One of the most useful features that can be built into a backpack is quick release saddlebags. This is awesome because you can take the pack off of the harness for easier access to the contents, or just to give your pup a break on a longer trek.

Water Resistance

If you plan on taking your dog out for hikes where there are rivers, or on longer treks where rain may be a consideration, looking for a backpack with water-repelling fabric is a great idea. While most packs will not offer protection against submersion in water, most “waterproof” bags would protect against a downpour or some splashing around in a creek. If you have something that you really need to keep dry, it is probably better to carry it yourself, and not trust your dog with it.

Hair Length

One thing that is overlooked when people start looking for a backpack is the length of the dog’s hair. When a dog is carries a backpack they can easily develop abrasions on their skin and even open sores from the friction if they don’t have anything to protect their skin. Clearly this has to be avoided, and there are options for any dog.

Dog resting during hike

For a dog with extremely short hair, one of the only options is to wrap a soft fabric around your dog’s torso before mounting the backpack. In hot, humid conditions this wrap will act as insulation, and may prohibit you from using the backpack in summer months.

If your dog has medium length hair, try mounting the pack and go for a short walk, then inspect their body for any irritation. If they look good, try a longer walk, and perform the same inspection. Your dog is probably not going to complain, even if they are in pain, so you have to be really aware of this risk if your dog has mid length or shorter hair.

There really is a bag for everyone and their dog

There are a lot of options to choose from when it comes to backpacks for dogs, so you are sure to find something that fits your needs. Have a look at some of the great options below, and just keep in mind, that every bag is not made for every size of dog.

Ruffwear: Approach Full-Day Hiking Pack for Dogs

Ruffwear Approach FullDay Hiking PackMaterial: Synthetic

Price: $75-$80

Features: Very efficient weight distribution system, available in wide variety of sizes. High quality nylon construction, reinforced handle with solid steel v-ring for leash attachment.

Reflective piping and bright color for high visibility. Harness and saddlebags integrated, Y-strap with many adjustment points. High quality, non-slip hardware and webbing.

This is a nice all around pack that will give your pup great carrying ability and comfort. It is offered in a wide variety of sizes, though it is only made in a very vibrant orange. This is great for visibility in wooded terrain, and if you go out hiking during hunting season, the orange fabric offers a lot of safety for your pet. It is made from a mix of synthetic fabrics, and overall the build quality is excellent.

Ruffwear is a dog-specific company, and they really do design and test their products extensively. They offer an all-inclusive guarantee against any defects that the backpack may have, and that is always good to see.

This bag would be suitable for just about anything you want to do, from hour long walks to overnight hikes. The saddlebags are not detachable, so you have to take the entire backpack off if you want to lighten up your dog’s load. But the hardware is made to be unlatched with one hand, so that helps if you want to get the pack off of your dog in a hurry.

Check the price on Amazon

Outward Hound: Kyjen Dog Backpack

Outward Hound Kyjen Dog BackpackMaterial: Synthetic / Nylon

Price: $14.50-$78.79

Features: Made from good quality nylon and polyester. Innovative two-part design with detachable saddlebags. Manufactured in bright colors, and with reflective accents. Interior water-bottle pockets, as well as other interior pockets. Available in multiple colors.

This is a great pack if you want to be able to easily remove the saddlebags from the back of your pup with a moment’s notice. The saddlebags and harness are connected with Velcro, so if you want to remove, or attach the saddlebags it is a breeze. The entire package is made from good quality synthetic fabric, and uses a Y-strap harness that is integrated with the back and has a half-collar that is built into the harness.

This model has been outfitted with a water-bottle pocket in the saddlebags, as well as interior pockets to help you organize whatever you are packing. It also includes a handle and ring attachment for a leash, but keep in mind that the saddlebags are attached with Velcro to the harness, so if you have a strong dog it may be able to pull free from the saddlebags.

This is a really nice backpack for you and your dog, and if you want to be able to easily remove the saddlebags in a hurry, it is perfect for you. It is fairly priced, and made from really good materials as well. One downside is that the Y-strap does not have a quick release, so if your dog is nervous about you putting things over their head, this harness system may be problematic.

Check the price on Amazon

OneTigris: Travel, Camping and Hiking Backpack for Medium and Large Dogs

OneTigris Travel Camping Hiking BackpackMaterial: High Density Cotton Canvas

Price: $25-$30

Features: Easy to clean cotton canvas, oversize zippers for ease of use. Vintage design with strong canvas strap and steel D-ring. Collar and harness attachment system. Quick release plastic hardware for attachment to your pup.

This is a great low-cost option if you don’t mind buying cotton canvas. The design of this bag is simple, and with high density cotton canvas construction it is sure to be rugged and last a long time. The downside to using cotton is the lack of water-resistance, but for many people that would not matter.

This bag attaches to your dog with three canvas straps, and uses quick release plastic clips which make it really easy to take this backpack on and off. The manufacturer specifies that the handle on the top of the harness is not for lifting your dog up, but the steel D-ring that is sewn into the backpack is strong enough for a leash.

The backpack itself has two pockets with oversize zippers, and some exterior flap pockets as well. This backpack is only offered in one size, so small dogs are out of luck. All in all this is a great bag for the money, and for day trips or walks in the woods it will be great. The cotton is easy to wash as well, but if you get it wet in the field, don’t expect it to dry as quickly as a synthetic fabric would.

Check the price on Amazon

Columbustore Outdoor Adjustable Large Capacity Dog Backpack

Columbustore Outdoor Dog BackpackMaterial: Ripstop Polyester Type 420 D

Price: $22.59-$26.69

Features: Made from good quality ripstop nylon, and designed with quick release hardware. Available in different sizes, and made with a well-balanced handle for lifting.

This is a simple, well made backpack for your dog. It does not have a lot of really advanced features, but it is made from a good synthetic fabric and has everything you really need in a doggie daypack.

The design is easy to use, and it attaches to your dog with a Y-strap in front and one torso strap in the rear. It is missing a ring for you to use with a leash, but in a pinch, you could use the handle, or attach a carabiner to the handle if you found this to be an ongoing problem.

All of the mounting straps are secured with quick release hardware, so putting this bag on and taking it off is going to be a breeze. There are two large saddlebags, and the overall design of this backpack is very utilitarian and straightforward. The ripstop nylon is easy to clean and very tough, so this pack should serve you and your fuzzy pal for many years.

Check the price on Amazon

Meedory: Dog Backpack for Hiking

Meedory Dog Backpack for HikingMaterial: Synthetic

Price: $20-$23

Features: Easily detachable saddlebags, harness usable on its own. Made from highly visible red nylon. Designed for active dogs, and maximum breathability. Padded handle attached to harness for secure fit.

This backpack is built to be used as both a backpack and harness. The saddlebags are very easy to remove, and are connected to the harness with quick release clips that are made from durable plastic.

The harness is attached to your dog with a collar in front and single strap in the rear. The two saddle bags are large, and have one main zippered pocket, with some more small zippered pockets on the outside for easy access. This model is made in one size – for medium dogs – and is only available in red.

The big feature that this pack offers is the ease of removing the saddlebags, and in many ways it’s like having a harness and a backpack in one. The mounting system may not be right for long haul trekking, but at this price point this backpack offers a lot of value for the money. The durable synthetic fabric should be easy to clean, and it is always nice to see a lifetime warranty when you are shopping for a product that is going to be be subjected to a lot of use.

Check the price on Amazon

Outward Hound: DayPack Dog Backpack

Outward Hound DayPack Dog BackpackMaterial: Synthetic

Price: $13.04-$17.59

Features: Lightweight mesh construction for maximum breathability. Expandable side pockets, bright fabric and reflective accents for visibility. Padded handle for picking up your dog, and steel D-ring for leash attachment.

This is a great light-duty day pack for your dog, the harness is made mostly from a strong synthetic mesh, and it can easily be used for day trips, or just a long walk through the park. The harness uses a collar with a strap that connects to the front torso strap, and there is also a rear strap to ensure a stable fit. All of the mounting hardware is made with quick release buckles, so putting this backpack on will be easy with a little practice.

The saddlebags are connected to the harness, and are expandable to accommodate larger loads if need be. The top of the harness has a sturdy, padded handle, and also a steel D-ring for ease of use with a leash. This is a great value, and if you are looking for a light-duty backpack for your dog, this is a really good option.

Check the price on Amazon

Lifeunion: Saddle Bag Backpack for Dogs

Lifeunion Saddle Bag Backpack DogsMaterial: Nylon

Price: $13.95-$29.95

Features: Water resistant fabric, and reflective parts for increased visibility. Padded collar and two torso straps for secure fit. Two main pockets with extra mesh pockets for added storage.

This is a very simple backpack that has been designed for day tripping with your pup. It connects to their body using a collar and two torso straps, and is mounted with quick release plastic hardware. The harness and saddlebags are connected, and there is a handle on top for you to grab on to if you need it.

This no-frills backpack is available for medium and larger dogs. If you need a simple pack for around town, or a day trip to the woods, this would be a good choice.

Check the price on Amazon

Mountainsmith K-9 Dog Pack

Mountainsmith K-9 Dog PackMaterial: Mixed High-Grade Synthetics

Price: $44.95-$123.50

Features: High-grade nylon construction, 3M reflective tape for added visibility. Ergonomic harness construction and mesh panels for optimal ventilation. Padded Y-harness for ease of wear on long treks.

The Mountainsmith K-9 Dog Pack is a great offering from a veteran outdoor goods manufacturer. Moutainsmith worked with a veterinarian to make this pack comfortable and safe for long-term wear, and designed the harness system especially for rugged use. The padded Y-harness is unique, and is made to prevent any sort of strain or chaffing on the dogs body.

The pack itself is made from a mix of premium nylons, and also has 3M reflective tape applied to maximize visibility. The layout of the saddlebags is simple, and there are two large, zippered pockets for you to use. On the top, there is a well-built padded handle, and steel V-ring for a leash. The rear harness strap attaches via quick release hardware, but the front of the bad will have to go over your pup’s head.

Check the price on Amazon

Kurgo Baxter Dog Backpack

Kurgo Baxter Dog BackpackMaterial: Synthetic

Price: $45.10-$52.95

Features: 8 adjustment points, built from sturdy nylon. Range of colors and two sizes. Thick padded handle and rear-mounted leash ring. Large volume zippered pockets with extra pockets on exterior.

This is a highly adjustable Y-strap based dog backpack that is built for a range of outdoor activities. Its ergonomic fit will helps to evenly distribute the load, and it attaches to your dog with a a Y-strap in front that connects to a single torso strap.

The saddlebags are permanently attached to the harness, but all of the mounting hardware is quick release, so if you need to take this bag off quickly, there should be no problems. Unlike many of the other packs, this model is made in a range of colors, all of which use reflective tape to make sure people can see your dog in low-light conditions.

This is another contender for a long-haul, serious trekking pack that is made from great stuff, and it will carry quite a bit of cargo if you have a medium or large dog. Its adjustability is a big plus, and the lifetime warranty is very reassuring as well.

Check the price on Amazon

Pick a pack and get ready to hit the trail

With all of these options and more, you will have no trouble finding the perfect pack for your pooch. Just remember to start slow, and pay attention to your dog if they have never worn a backpack before.

Saddlebag for dogs

After a little while, you won’t be able to go near it without your pup begging you to put it on them, and go for an adventure. And don’t forget to leave a comment with us down below. We’d love to hear from you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Foster
Mark Foster

Mark Foster loves to push his limits when it comes to survival in the wilderness. He might go for a 30-days adventure without any food or equipment except for a survival kit and a knife. We should mention that his survival kit has 122 items in it, so he know what he is doing. Mark is working on his book to share with the world all his experience gained during those brave adventures.

  • Zoey Hansen

    I had originally thought that this article would be about backpacks that I could wear and stick my Dachshund Marie Antoinette in. But I was actually even more excited to find out that it was for something that you actually harness to your dog. While it wouldn’t work for Marie, it would work for Louis, my boyfriend’s Irish wolfhound, who loves to help out. With some of those large capacity options, I can see that my original goal of finding a backpack to put Marie in was still achieved with this article!

  • Mark Foster

    Hi and glad it worked out! Having dogs around and taking them to camp is quite enjoyable, especially since Louis will be carrying his own doggy backpack. If you still need a backpack to carry Marie in, check out this site. It has a lot of great reviews for the best dog backpacks to carry your dog, so you can choose well: http://dogsaholic.com/lifestyle/backpack-to-carry-dogs.html

  • Misty Reynolds

    I’m really glad I checked our Ruffwear. I read some good reviews and decided on this purchase. Glad I did. Stitching is solid. Material is solid. I like the handle. It does ride forward over the shoulders. The pack is pretty large and I can put quite a few things in there, snacks and keys, etc. I’m very pleased with my purchase.

  • Mark Foster

    Great color, too! I love that I can spot my dog a long way because of the orange hue! We’ve tried the pack with my buddy’s Beagle and so far, no complaint from dog and owner. The whole backpack is so easy to take off in a jiffy – and that’s important for most pet owners. The bag evenly distributes the weight so your furry companion can travel comfortably.

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