Dogs love having a job to do. And what better job is there than spending time outdoors with their person?
Hiking is a wonderful activity for humans and our four-legged friends – both physically and mentally.
And when you know you’re going to be going on a long hike or spending the weekend (or longer) camping, a dog backpack is a great way to have your pup help with carrying the load of supplies.
Along with this job at hand, a backpack harness will keep your furry friend comfortable and secure with multiple adjustment points, sturdy leash attachments, and plenty of storage for treats and water bottles.
But with an overwhelming amount of options, how to you pick the best one for your dog?
Here’s a look at our top 5 best dog backpacks for hiking, along with extra info on what to pack in these workhorses, and how to ensure a good fit.
IN A HURRY?
Gunnar's Favorite Hiking Backpack is the Ruffwear Approach
- 2 Leash Attachment Points
- Padded Handle
- Large Pockets
- Available in 4 Sizes
OneTigris Blaze Tracker
- Metal V-ring Leash Attachment
- Roomy Side Pockets
- Bottom Drainage Hole
- Fits Medium & Large Dogs Best
- Breathable Cooling Mesh Fabric
- Adjustable Straps
- 4 Expandable Pockets
- Available in 3 Sizes
Mountainsmith K-9 Pack
- Tear & Rip Resistant Material
- Adjustable Chest, Back & Belly Harness
- Zippered Side Pockets
- Available in 3 Sizes
- 5 Points of Adjustment for Custom Fit
- Durable & Lightweight
- 2 Detachable & Spacious Saddlebags
- Available in 3 Sizes
As mentioned above, dogs love having a job to do! And carrying their supplies makes them feel useful and happy. It also just helps lighten the load for yourself.
You and your dog need supplies when going on a long and/or overnight hiking journey.
It would be extra tiresome to carry everything on your own back – so why not have your friend help you?
Whether your dog will be able to – and enjoy – carrying a harness backpack is more up to your dog’s temperament and training than his size. There are backpacks to fit all shapes and sizes.
It is best to start with shorter walks and progress to longer hikes to get your pup acquainted with his backpack before trekking on the longer journeys where health and safety will come into play.
You will be able to test out what type of pack works best for your dog and what changes – if any need to be made.
To keep his growing bones healthy, it’s best to keep your pup to shorter treks until he is full-grown, so probably at least 12-18 months of age.
And, be sure to keep your dog’s total pack weight to 10–15% of his weight.
Your dog’s pack should fit snugly, but comfortable as well. This is another reason why going on shorter treks is best until you’re sure you have the right fit and adjustments for your dog.
Either too tight or too loose can cause uncomfortable chaffing and pain for your furry friend. And that won’t make for a happy journey for either of you!
To find the right size, measure your dog’s girth – or the widest part around your dog’s ribcage.
Most brands will have a sizing guide based off this measurement, and detailed manufacturer will tell you if it’s best to size up or down if in between sizes.
Depending on how often you hike, and what your usual hikes look like, it might be best to have multiple packs and harnesses for your journeys.
For just a short trip, maybe you don’t need a pack at all, and just a hiking harness will do.
If you’re going to be gone several hours, then a lighter pack with small pouches to fit a little water, snacks, and doggie bags will suffice.
Or, if you’re going on an overnight camping excursion, then you might look into multi-day packs with space for more gear, including food and water and bowls for both, your dog’s sleeping blanket, booties, etc.
You want to carry the essentials, without going overboard, so a lot will depend on how long your hike will be.
With that said, here’s some of the top items you might want your dog to carry:
Made for adventure from a high-quality brand, this lightweight, streamlined Ruffwear Approach Pack is comfortable and lets your pup efficiently carry a load so you can share more adventures.
The five points of adjustment offer a customized fit and a full range of motion.
And the saddlebags are designed to be stable and form-fitting to create a passive compression system for better load carrying.
For the excellent performance, pack stability, fit, functionality, and the rest of the features it offers, this pack is well worth the money and gets our top nod.
- It is not advisable to use on hot weather
- The buckles are not strength-rated for high-angle rope works
Watch the video below to learn more about the Ruffwear Approach...
The OneTigris BLAZE TRACKER Dog Pack is a lightweight, multi-functional dog backpack ideal for hiking, camping, long trail walks, backpacking trips, traveling or everyday use.
It’s made from water-resistant nylon with a padded underside to offer a durable and comfortable solution for your hiking adventure.
Two main zipper side compartments with hook-and-loop closured pockets are perfect for carrying dog food, a first aid kit, dog toys, doggie bags, etc.
One pocket is even designed with a built-in holder for quick access to waste bags!
- The stitching can get weak from humidity
- The straps can be too long
Watch the video below to learn more about the OneTigris Blaze Tracker dog pack...
This adjustable, light-capacity DayPak is our most cost-efficient choice and offers the security of a harness and the convenience of a small backpack all in one.
It’s perfect for any trailblazing pup that don’t mind carrying a lightweight pack – whether a beginner or a weekend warrior.
And when you’re ready to roll, simply attach your dog’s leash to the sturdy D-ring clip.
- Saddlebag design may take some getting used to at first
The Mountainsmith K-9 is one of the most efficient all-purpose dog packs in the industry.
Designed in close collaboration with a sled dog veterinarian, this pack features an ergonomically tapered torso for accommodating dogs from 25 to 120 pounds.
Its strong metal D-ring makes attaching a leash a breeze when extra control is needed, making this pack equally great for routine walks or long days on the trail.
- Straps need to be tightened often
Watch the video below to learn more about the Mountainsmith's K9 products...
The Ruffwear Palisades is our top choice for high-end dog backpacks when nothing but the absolute best will do!
It comes with all the bells and whistles from a trusted brand.
The Palisades is made for canine companions who were born for the trail and designed for all-day comfort throughout a multi-day hiking/camping trek.
Prepare your furry friend for those extended jaunts through the backcountry with this heavy-duty harness that has four dedicated attachment points for both an even load distribution and superior stability on any outdoor terrain.
- It is the most expensive option on this list
Watch the video below to learn more about the Ruffwear Palisades...
Whether you like short hikes or longer journeys complete with overnight camping, your dog will be happy and safe with his own backpack harness.
Carrying his own supplies will be just the job he needs to truly enjoy the trek with you by his side.
Whatever style or brand you choose, be sure to measure your dog properly to ensure a good fit. Also, when loading the supplies, be sure to distribute the weight evenly to keep your furry friend in balance.
As you can see, Gunnar makes Drew do all the work but heading outdoors with your best friend is never really work! Drew buys the products and Gunnar does the testing so you can rest assured you are reading the most up to date information to make the best decision for your dog's health and well-being!