The 5 Best Dog Backpacks for Hiking

The 5 Best Dog Backpacks for Hiking

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You love exploring the great outdoors and being in the vast wilderness with your best friend at your side. His little paws easily keep up with your stride, and he beams with excitement on his grand adventures with you.

On these long hikes or camping trips, it can be a real drag to carry all of your dog’s things, as well as your own. The solution is to have him carry his own stuff – and maybe some of yours too – with his very own dog backpack.

Dog Hiking Backpack Comparison Table

Name Picture Price Best Feature Our rating Best Price
RUFFWEAR Palisades Dog Pack $$$ Our absolute favorite. Has detachable saddlebags, a water bladder for the dogs, and easy to attach 9.7/10 See Current Price
RUFFWEAR Approach Dog Pack $$ Comfortable fit and is easy to take on and off. Great for the price point 9.4/10 See Current Price
Outward Hound, Lightweight Dog Backpack $ one of the most breathable options, great pricepoint 9.3/10 See Current Price
Mountainsmith K-9 Dog Pack $ Easy adjustable 4 point harness 9.2/10 See Current Price
Kurgo Baxter Backpack for Dogs $ Great storage capacity for a hiking pack 9.2/10 See Current Price

What is a Dog Backpack for Hiking?

The Best Dog Backpack For HikingA dog backpack is a harness or pack that your dog wears to help carry their items. We love to use ours for long hikes and especially during backpacking trips. The backpack is perfect to carry water bowls, treats, dog beds for backpacking,  and any leashes that aren’t currently being worn. These normally have a front chest strap and a strap that wraps around the belly of your dog to stay in place.

One of the unknown benefits that we found is that it helped calm our dog down during hiking. Our normally hyper dog knew that they were “on duty” and stayed closer to use when he was wearing the harness.

How to Use a Dog Backpack

Even though it may seem that using a dog backpack is self explanatory here are a few tips that help make sure you are using it correctly:

  • Start with the straps at their loosest position before putting it on. This is will make it easier to put on and adjust equally
  • Give your dog plenty of treats to let while you are putting this on so that they know it’s a positive experience everytime they get to wear it.
  • Once it is on make sure that the straps aren’t causing a rash or unnecassary wear on your dogs belly or chest
  • Make sure that the weight is evenly distributed betwenn the pockets on each side of the pack. If one side is uneven it will continually fall to that side and can cause injuries in your pooch if stays that way long term.
  • Spray it down with a hose after every handful of uses to get mud, dirt, rocks, or anything else that might have gotten in the pockets or on the straps.

How to Use a Dog Backpack

The Benefits of Using a Dog Backpack for Hiking

A dog backpack will be beneficial to your dog because:

  • His mission is to please you – his owner – and he will love the fact that he has a job to do and is contributing to the pack
  • It helps him to say calm. He has so much energy, but once you strap that backpack on, he is more focused and it prevents him from roaming or bouncing all over the trails
  • He is able to carry his own necessities including his favorite snacks, water bowl, booties, food, and even a canine first aid kit
  • It is a more pleasurable experience for you, as he is easier to control due to the fact that he cannot pull as easily based on where the leashes are attached

An additional benefit for you, is that your dog will be easier to spot when he is wearing a dog backpack. Here are some dog backpacks to consider for your favorite hiking buddy:

At What Age Can you Put a Hiking Backpack on a Dog?

We don’t recommend your dog carrying a backpack with much weight until they are at least 1-year old. The closer to skeletal maturity they are then the less likely they are to have joint problems from carrying a pack.

dog hiking pack

You may have your dog carry a small backpack when you are out for hikes, but it is important to consider if your dog can physically handle wearing one.  I would not recommend putting any backpack on a dog that weighs less than 20 pounds or has delicate body structures.

How Much Weight Can You Put in a Dog Hiking Backpack?

The maximum weight we recommend for a backpack is 20% of the dog’s body weight. So, for example: if your dog weighs 25 pounds then you should not put any more than 5 pounds in his or her backpack.

How to Evenly Pack a Dog Hiking Backpack

The best way to distribute the weight in a dog backpack is to keep the weight equal on each side of their spine. Also, try and place the heavier items that your dog is carrying further forward toward their front shoulders trunk area to better distribute the weight.

For example, you might put extra water and snacks on one side of the back and then on the other side of the spine put the dog’s food for the trip and empty doggie bags.

Can Dogs Run in a Hiking Backpack?

If your dog has a medium to high energy level and you enjoy running with them then it is fine to use a backpack during this activity. However, if your pooch does not regularly run with you or have any underlying joint issues we prefer that they do not carry anything while on the run. Remember, try not to put more than 20% of your dog’s body weight in their hiking pack.

What Kind of Leash Do you Use with a Hiking Backpack?

When your pooch is wearing a backpack they need to be kept on a long leash. With this in mind, we recommend ballistic nylon leashes that can hold up well against abrasion from brush or thorns. We also like the hand’s free leashes that are 6 feet or longer that you can attach to your waist.,

dog with a hiking pack

The nice thing about most hiking backpacks for dogs is that they have a leash attachment on the top of the backpack. This is a comfortable place to attach the leash and still control the dog from getting too far away from you.

What Should You Put it a Dog's Hiking Backpack?

It depends on what you are doing and where you are. We have a dog pack that we like to take with us when we go hiking, camping, and biking because it is so versatile.

If you are just out for a short hike or walk then you should consider putting in water and a snack for your pooch. If they need any medications you can put those in the pack, too.

When we are backpacking with our dogs on long hikes then we make sure we have lots of water and high-energy snacks for them so they stay hydrated and happy during the adventure. We also like to place some portable dog poop bags in their backpacks so that they never get “caught” with their pants down so to speak. We will also put in a zip-lock bag of baby wipes if the dog feels like rolling around in the dirt or mud, we just clean them off right away.

The Best Hiking Packs for Your Dog

Ruffwear Palisades Dog Backpack

Summary: If you believe your dog deserves the best, then consider the Ruffwear Palisades top-of-the-line backpack. It’s comfy and roomy enough to carry all of his food and toys.

He or she will stay cool and hydrated, as the backpack is designed with two collapsible hydration bladders. Its unique design allows you to easily remove saddlebags so your dog can roam free, or on a leash, during rest breaks or while you’re at the campground.

Ruffwear Palisades Hiking Dog Pack

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Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack

Summary: The Ruffwear Approach has form fitting saddlebags allow your dog to carry a full load, while retaining his full range of motion. The adjustable straps make it easy to fit, even the hardest to fit canine.

Your dog will enjoy wearing this backpack whether it’s for a short walk around town or hiking in the mountains for a day. This is hands down one of our favorite packs and my golden retriever has had hers for 5 years with hardly any signs of wear.

Ruffwear Approach Green

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Outward Hound Dog Backpack

Summary: The Outward Hound pack is a great backpack for quick day trips around the city or a 2- to 4-hour hiking trail. Its breathable, lightweight design keeps your furry friend cool and comfortable.

The snug fit allows him to run through the open fields and bushes with ease. It easily holds enough treats and water for him, with room left over for your keys and a snack


Outward Hound Daypack

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Mountain Smith K-9 Dog Backpack

Summary: Whether you and your hiking buddy are off to the mountains or starting that mile-long hike, the Mountain Smith Dog Backpack well-made vet approved, ergonomically shaped backpack will keep your best friend happy and at ease.

He’ll be free to move around because the flexible saddle bags hang naturally from the top portion. The air mesh panels and extra padding under the straps keep your hiking buddy cool and comfortable.

Mountainsmith Hiking Pack

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Kurgo Dog Backpack

Summary: The Kurgo Dog Backpack is a high-quality dog backpack that is designed for a pleasurable experience while walking, hiking mountain trails, or weekend camping trips. It’s made from high quality material and is fully adjustable for the perfect fit. It’s designed to keep your dog comfortable, visible, and safe in a variety of terrains.

Kurgo Hiking Pack

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When choosing the perfect dog backpack for your best friend, keep his size and temperament in mind. You’ll also want to consider what you’ll be using it for, how long you want it to last, and most of all, the comfort and ease of using it. Happy trails with your fur friend!

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