Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack Review

An intelligent, stream-lined design with lightweight materials makes this an excellent dog backpack that can be comfortably worn for long hikes.

Ruffwear, Approach Dog Backpack, Hiking and Camping Pack with Saddlebags, Campfire Orange, Medium
  • 4 sizes and 5 Adjustment Points
  • Weight-Forward Saddle Bags
  • Stabilisation System

Cons / Reasons to Avoid

  • Expensive
  • Saddlebags Don’t Detach From Harness


The Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack is an excellent dog backpack. It has clearly been designed by people who regularly go hiking with their dogs. The dog’s comfort has been prioritized, with plenty of padding where chafing may occur, a forward weight distribution system to protect the spine, and stream-lined saddlebags that don’t bounce around.

There is plenty of storage with four pockets and extra loops. There are four sizes and five adjustment points, so it can fit any size and shape of dog. It is expensive, but it is made of high-quality, durable materials guaranteed to last a lifetime, meaning you should never need to replace it.

The saddlebags are integrated into the harness and are not detachable. Therefore, if you think you might want to take the backpack off, you will need to carry a separate harness. We think this is one of the best hiking dog backpacks out there at the moment. 


Ruffwear was founded by Patrick Kruse in 1994. He was looking for practical solutions to make hiking more enjoyable for both dogs and their owners. The company’s philosophy is that its products should perform and that ‘performance should be measured by the ability to enhance our outdoor adventures with our dogs’. The Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack is one of their core products, and they regularly update its design and features based on customer feedback.

The Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack is made with high-performance materials, making it light but durable. A lot of thought has gone into the pockets to ensure the weight is carried over your dog’s shoulders to cause no unnecessary strain on the spine. There is also a system to stabilize the bags to ensure they don’t flap around, making them easier for your dog to carry and reducing the chances of them catching on bushes and rocks along the trail. The straps are padded to make sure they don’t rub, and they are fully adjustable to fit all sizes and shapes of dogs.

While the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack is expensive, you get a high-quality, well-designed product. It comes with a lifetime guarantee, and this backpack is made to cope with anything your dog and the trail can throw at it.

Performance Comparison

We have broken down the main features of the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack to make it easier to decide if this is the right backpack for you and your canine hiking companion.

Your Dog’s Comfort

The most important thing is your dog’s comfort. The Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack has padded sleeves on the straps that go around his ribs and belly. The point where the three chest straps meet is also padded.

The main chassis is made from molded foam. This has channels cut into it to make it more flexible. The foam is also perforated; these tiny holes let the air pass through, improving breathability. Breathability is especially important when hiking in a hot climate to make sure your dog is not sweating excessively under the backpack.

The pockets are designed to shift the weight forward over your dog’s shoulders to ensure there is no pressure on the back. They also hold the weight close to your dog’s spine, making it easier to carry.

Adjustable Straps

The Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack has five straps, all of which are adjustable. Two go over the shoulders and meet in the middle of your dog’s chest. This area is padded. A single strap goes down from here between your dog’s legs and attaches to the front girth strap. These straps are made longer by sliding the adjuster towards the point where the three straps meet. The front girth strap goes around your dog’s ribs, and the back girth strap goes around his belly. These two straps have clip-in buckles at the top where they meet the central part of the pack. To tighten these straps, you slide the adjuster away from the buckle. Any excess strap can be tucked into the padded sleeve so it isn’t flapping around when your dog is moving. The straps are designed to stabilize the backpack but not to interfere with your dog’s natural movement. The five points of adjustment make this backpack very adaptable to fit all sizes and shapes of canines.

Materials and Durability

The main frame of the backpack is laminated, molded bonded mesh and perforated foam. The main shell and saddlebags are made of 150-denier polyester, which is extremely lightweight and durable. It is water-resistant, fade-resistant, and easy to clean with a damp sponge. The leash attachment point is made from anodized aluminum. The buckles and strap adjusters are made from rigid plastic.

The Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack is designed to cope with a dog’s adventures walking through the backcountry so it doesn’t tear easily. It comes with a lifetime guarantee because the makers are convinced it will withstand anything your dog will put it through.


A generously sized handle on the top of the pack runs parallel to your dog’s spine. A recent update has added padding to this handle to make it more comfortable to use. Its position to the rear of the pack’s length makes it helpful in giving your dog an extra boost when needed.

Leash Attachment Points

The Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack has two leash attachment points. In front of the handle, there is an aluminum V-ring. At the rear of the handle, there is a reinforced tow webbing loop that a leash can also be attached to.


Ruffwear claims they rigorously field-test all their gear, and they listen to customer feedback. This can be seen in the intelligent features they incorporate into their products, and the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack is no exception.


The backpack is available in two colors – Blue Dusk and Campfire Orange. These bright colors make it easy to locate your dog and ensure that other hikers and hunters will not mistake your pet for a wild animal. On the top of the saddlebags on each side, there is a row of six firmly stitched fabric loops. These can be used to attach any gear you need to access quickly.

The Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack has been designed to make seeing your dog in dark or low-light conditions easy. The handle has an attachment loop for a light at the bottom towards the rear. There are also reflective trims along the top of the saddlebags and where the three straps meet on the chest.


There are four pockets on the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack, two on each side. These are radial-cut to transfer the weight of their contents forward onto your dog’s shoulders. Two vertical stash pockets keep the weight close to your dog’s spine. These are ideal for storing water packs. Then there are two bigger pockets outside the stash pockets. Ruffwear has a ‘flopper-stopper’ system to stabilize the pockets. A cord is attached below the pockets, going through them, and clipping on at the top. This stops the pockets from bouncing and flapping about when your dog is moving.

The weight of the pockets needs to be balanced to stop the backpack listing to one side. This can be fiddly to achieve, especially when some of the contents are used on the trail. Having two water bottles, one on each side, and pouring equal amounts out of both helps with this.

Storage Capacity

This is the storage capacity of the four Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack sizes.

Extra Small

  • 305 cubic inches (5 liters)


  • 610 cubic inches (10 liters)


  • 793 cubic inches (13 liters)

Large/Extra Large

  • 1,281 cubic inches (21 liters)


Your dog should never carry more than 25% of their body weight. When calculating the weight of their load, don’t forget to include the weight of the pack as well as its contents. Get them used to carrying a load slowly. Start with a short walk with an empty backpack and gradually add more weight to the pockets over several days. All dogs are different; just because they can carry it doesn’t mean they must have a full load. Young dogs are still growing, so it is essential not to overload them, and older dogs can have stiff joints. Discussing your plans with your vet might help you judge how heavy a pack to give your dog.

Extra Small

  • 6 oz (0.33 kg)


  • 15 oz (0.43 kg)


  • 1 lb. 1 oz (0.50 kg)

Large/Extra Large

  • 21 oz (0.59 kg)


The Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack comes in four sizes – extra small, small, medium, and large/extra-large. The main measurement to check is your dog’s chest size. The straps are adjustable, so there is a range of five inches. If your dog is between sizes, it is best to order both sizes and see which fits your dog the best. The bigger the size, the longer and deeper the pack, from seventeen inches (forty-three centimeters) long for the smallest size up to twenty-six inches for the biggest size.

Extra Small

  • Chest size – 17 inches (43 cm) – 22 inches (56 cm)
  • Dimensions – 17 inches (43 cm) x 10 inches (25.4 cm) x 1 inches (2.5 cm)


  • Chest size – 22 inches (56 cm) – 27 inches (69 cm)
  • Dimensions – 20 inches (50.8 cm) x 12 inches (30.5 cm) x 1 inches (2.5 cm)


  • Chest size – 27 inches (69 cm) – 32 inches (81 cm)
  • Dimensions – 23 inches (58.4 cm) x 14 inches (35.7 cm) x 1 inches (2.5 cm)

Large/Extra Large

  • Chest size – 32 inches (81 cm) – 42 inches (107 cm)
  • Dimensions – 26 inches (66 cm) x 17 inches (43 cm) x 1.5 inches (3.8 cm)


The price is the only thing anyone dislikes about the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack. It isn’t cheap! You could get four decent rucksacks for yourself for the cost of one of these for your dog. However, this backpack is the top of the range. It is well made from high-quality materials, so it should last your dog’s lifetime. The adjustable straps mean it should fit even if your dog gets bigger.


This is a well-designed dog backpack. The Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack is lightweight and stream-lined with durable, breathable materials. The saddlebags have plenty of room, and design features mean they stay in place and the weight is carried in the best way for your dog. Extra features like bright colors, reflective trim, and gear loops are useful when hiking. While expensive, the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack has a comprehensive guarantee and should last you a lifetime.

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