How We Tested Dog Hiking Backpacks

dog backpack for hiking

Where We Test

As with all the products we recommend, we test in the places you’re going to experience them – in the great outdoors. When it comes to dog backpacks, these are tested in every kind of outdoors setting you could expect, from country walks to more technical alpine. All of our gear reviews are created by hikers, for hikers so you know you can trust our recommendations are fit for purpose.

Editor’s note: This article is part of our guide to the best dog backpacks for hiking, be sure to check out the rest of this guide for our top buying tips:

Related content: 20 Best Hiking Dogs to Keep You Company on the Trail

Testing Metrics

Much like human backpacks, there are various different areas that play a key role in a dog backpack and whether it’s fit for purpose. As with everything we recommend, we’re keen to get the balance between comfort, durability, and price. Below we’ve outlined some of the main considerations we made when testing dog backpacks.

Your Dog’s Comfort

Perhaps the most important metric of all of our tests on dog backpacks is the comfort of your dog – as not all backpacks are made equally and some of them are designed more for the human than for the dog themselves. Comfort was tested in terms of wearability – does the backpack impact the dogs fatigue levels and energy? Do any of the straps or fastenings dig into the dog and how much space does the dog have to move when wearing the pack whilst also not creating too much movement. We also considered how the sides or saddlebags filled and distributed the weight and how in turn, this affected to dog’s comfort.

Adjustable Straps

The adjustable straps on a dog’s backpack are incredibly important, as they can be the difference between your dog feeling comfortable or not and also being able to get the pack sitting snuggly without too much movement (especially when the dog is in fast motion). We paid particular attention to how well made and robust the straps were on the dog backpacks we tested, and also how easy they are to adjust. It is entirely possible that whilst out on the trail (and especially on longer, multi day hikes) that you’ll need to adjust the straps, so we looked at how they are to adjust with cold hands or in less than perfect conditions too. The straps are one of the main areas that you will have control of, so this was an important metric to keep in mind.

Handles

Handles on a dog backpack aren’t for picking up your dog (this is not something you should do as a dog backpack isn’t designed for this and won’t hold the weight of your dog) but instead for helping your dog along and keeping more control of them if needed. With this in mind, we compared how strong and rugged each handle was on the packs we tested. We looked for how comfortable the grip was to hold, but also how this impacted the dog when wearing.

Leash Attachment Points

Most dog backpacks will have more than one area where you can attach a leash, and we were looking for which backpacks offered the most comfort for the dog. Leash positioning is very much a unique thing for your dog, as some dogs will prefer one leash style to another, so we were looking for how this was for each backpack we tested and the range and options available. 

Features

The main thing we took into consideration was how comfortable the backpack was for the dog to wear overall, but there were also other features that we found important too. We were looking for how some of these integrated in and how streamlined the design was – as some of the features are more for humans than for the dog itself. Features like built in water holding facilities were always nice, and things like poop bag holders can also make the difference of not having to have those on your pack.

We were also looking within this category at the materials and how the backpack in question made use of breathable fabrics and mesh to help prevent your dog from overheating.

Pockets & Storage Capacity

Pockets and storage capacity on a dog backpack make a big difference to your dog and what it can carry (within weight limits that is). However, the way the pockets are created and positioned makes a big difference to how they feel for your dog and how you are able to distribute the weight cleverly – not all are made equal. Because your dog’s comfort is one of the most important factors, we really looked in detail at this area and we were impressed by how some of the packs we tested made the most of space.

Size & Weight

We tested out a range of different packs intended for a range of different dog sizes, and we looked at how these differed from brand to brand in terms of their sizing. We were looking to see what this allowed the dog in terms of a roomy feel in the pack and also how weighty the backpack was to wear – as this obviously has an impact on your dog’s energy levels and fatigue.

Materials & Durability

When it comes to materials, we were looking at the overall fabric used for the pack, but also how these materials interlinked with various other fixtures and fastenings of the pack. We took into consideration their waterproof nature, and their breathability, as we believe waterproofing is an important metric. We were also looking at how the waterproofing handled over a long rainy hike for example and how your dog’s items would be at the end of this. We also took into consideration how breathable certain fabrics performed on hotter hikes, as to not overheat the dog. With this in mind, the durability was also something we took into consideration too – your dog is likely not going to be as careful with a backpack as you are, so how rugged and built to last it was, was vitally important to our tests and recommendations.

Price

We believe that the price of kit can create enormous barriers in the outdoors, and we don’t believe equipment should cost the earth. With that in mind, we considered the price point of a product and how well it performed against this – after all, your kit is an investment that you should expect to last. We also took into consideration how pricing varied for packs intended for bigger dogs, and if any corners were cut to fit these into a lower price point. Durability and the nature of manufacture were extremely important for us when it came to price and making sure that the packs we recommend would be an investment that will stand the test of time.

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