Top 8 Hiking Dog Backpacks for Adventurous Dogs in 2024

Going for a hike with your canine companion is one of life’s great joys. However, to take care of your dog on the trail, you need to take along gear to ensure you are prepared for every eventuality. A recent innovation in the outdoor equipment market is the dog backpack. Not to be confused with devices that let you carry your pet, dog backpacks are rucksacks for hounds.

Similar to backpacks for humans, the canine versions come in different sizes and shapes. They are typically made from hard-wearing material such as polyester and have straps and buckles that can be adjusted to create a good fit.

Dog backpacks are a fast-growing field, and there are many options available. Some are designed for long, overnight backpacking trips, whereas others are aimed for short walks in a more urban environment. They range from lightweight models to heavy-duty versions. Some have multiple pockets and storage options, while others focus more on looking stylish. As well, your dog’s comfort and safety are important considerations.

To help you decide on the best model for you and your pet’s needs, we have compared and analyzed a wide range of dog backpacks available in 2024.

best hiking dog backpacks

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

Analysis Results of Dog Backpacks

What were some of the key things we found in our analysis of the best dog backpacks on offer in 2024?

Adjustability

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, so no one size will fit every animal. Your dog will also grow and change over the years. You will, therefore, require a backpack that can be adjusted and adapted. Dog backpacks usually have a strap across the front of your dog’s chest and one or two straps around the belly. Generally speaking, the more points of adjustability, the better the fit and the more comfortable your dog will be. Most manufacturers provide sizing charts with guidance as to how to measure correctly. If you are unsure about the right size or your dog is between sizes, it is usually better to get the larger option.

Storage Capacity

When deciding which dog backpack to buy, you need to take time to consider how you will use it and how much storage you will need. You don’t want to overload your dog, but most canines enjoy having a job and feeling useful. While dogs can carry up to 25% of their bodyweight, the usual recommendation is to only load them with 10 – 15%. If you are a regular backpacker who will be taking your dog into the backcountry for several days, you will want plenty of storage with multiple pockets and loops to keep everything organized. On the other hand, if you are using the dog backpack mainly for day hikes or short walks around town, you will require less storage.

Top Dog Backpacks

Here’s our round-up of 8 of the best dog backpacks on the market at the moment:

Best Overall: Ruffwear Approach Pack

Ruffwear, Approach Dog Backpack, Hiking and Camping Pack with Saddlebags, Campfire Orange, Medium

Pros / Reasons to Buy

  • 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, well-designed dog backpack. It’s made from durable, breathable materials, and it is lightweight and shower-proof. It comes in four sizes, and with five adjustment points, it can be adapted to any size and shape of dog. The four pockets give plenty of storage room with additional loops provided. The design of the saddlebags is intelligent, with a forward weight distribution system and features to keep everything streamlined. There are two strong leash attachment points and a handle for assisting your dog if needed. The saddlebags are not removable on this model. The Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack has a high price point, but it has a comprehensive guarantee and is well-made, so it is good value for money.

We rated the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack as the best overall dog backpack, as it can be used in all circumstances. The stabilization system for the saddlebags means that even if you just want to put a couple of things in the pockets for a quick walk, the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack will fit your dog and let him run around happily. If you want to hit the trails into the backcountry for a longer hike, then there is plenty of storage to pack all your dog would need. High-quality, durable materials have been used, with plenty of padding and breathability provided to make sure your dog is comfortable. There’s lots of room to adjust the straps, so as your dog grows and ages, this backpack should still fit. Even though this is an extremely practical dog backpack, it still looks smart. The Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack is a great piece of gear. Read our full review of the Ruffwear Approach Pack here. 

Best for Large Dogs: Mountainsmith K-9 Pack

Mountainsmith K9 Dog Pack, Adjustable Chest and Back Harness Canine Backpack, Saddle Bags with Zippered Pockets for Camping, Travel, Outdoors, Backpacking, Hiking

Pros / Reasons to Buy

  • 8 or 10 Points of Adjustment
  • Large Saddlebags
  • Materials and Open Design Increases Breathability

Cons / Reasons to Avoid

  • Weight is Not Always Over Shoulders
  • Saddlebags Don’t Detach From Harness

The Mountainsmith K-9 Dog Pack is a well-designed, practical backpack designed with a vet’s advice. It comes in three sizes, and the straps have multiple adjustment points for accurate fitting. It is a very easy backpack to put on, even with the skittish of dogs. It especially suits large breeds, and the largest size had extra adjustment points. This dog backpack has a more open design than most, so if you hike mainly in hot climates, this would help to keep your dog cooler. The four pockets are large, easy to access, and shower-proof. The saddlebags are not detachable, and care should be taken when packing them to put the heaviest items at the front to keep the weight over your dog’s shoulders.

This is an excellent dog backpack, especially for long hikes. The saddlebags have plenty of space for all the gear your dog might need. The more open design means your dog is less likely to overheat while still allowing for free movement. The Mountainsmith K-9 Dog Pack is more suited for large dogs, and even the small size may be too big for some animals. Although this dog backpack is ideal for long hikes and backpacking, the saddlebags are not detachable, so a separate harness would be needed if you wanted to give your dog a break. Mountainsmith has made this dog backpack to last, and it comes with a lifetime guarantee. This is a high-quality piece of equipment and one of the best dog backpacks out there. Read our full review of the Mountainsmith K-9 Pack here. 

Best for Extended Hikes: Ruffwear Palisades Pack

Ruffwear, Palisades Dog Backpack, Multi-Day Hiking Pack with Saddlebags and Hydration Bladders, Red Sumac, Medium

Pros / Reasons to Buy

  • 3 Sizes and 5 Points of Adjustment
  • Detachable Saddlebags
  • Stabilisation System

Cons / Reasons to Avoid

  • Expensive
  • For Short Trips, the Large Pockets Are Bigger Than Needed

The Ruffwear Palisades Pack is the ideal choice for extended hikes, offering a versatile and comfortable design that can handle the demands of long journeys. The four pockets provide more than ample space for everything your dog might need. The saddlebags are designed to be stable and well-balanced, with the weight primarily over the shoulders. The saddlebags are detachable, which is a helpful feature, making it easy to relieve your dog when resting or setting up camp. There’s plenty of padding and breathable material to ensure your dog is comfortable. There’s a choice of three sizes, and there are five adjustment points on the straps, so it is easy to fit the backpack accurately to your dog’s size and shape. There are two leash attachment points and a handle for assisting your dog when needed.

If you regularly go backpacking or on multi-night walking trips, this is the dog backpack you need. It is designed for hitting the trail with your dog. The pockets are some of the biggest available, so you can take everything your dog will need, from beds to water. It has been cleverly designed to make sure the saddlebags do not impede or create any discomfort for your dog. The detachable saddlebags mean you can use the main frame as a harness for shorter walks. Ruffwear is the market leader in dog backpacks, and this model is the top of their range. It is well-made and intelligently designed, and it comes with a full guarantee. Whilst the Ruffwear Palisades Pack may be a more expensive option, its features and quality make it an excellent investment for keen hikers and their canine companions. Read our full review of the Ruffwear Palisades Pack here. 

Best Lightweight Option: Outward Hound Daypak Dog Backpack

Outward Hound DayPak Blue Dog Saddleback Backpack, Large

Pros / Reasons to Buy

  • Inexpensive
  • Bright Colours

Cons / Reasons to Avoid

  • No Padding
  • Saddlebags Slip Sideways

Designed for brief strolls around town or daytime excursions at your local park, the Outward Hound Daypak Dog Backpack is an excellent lightweight option for shorter hikes and walks. The pockets are not very large, and they easily slip sideways. Since this dog backpack is not intended to be used for long periods of time, there is little structure and minimal padding. There is a leash attachment point, but it could be stronger. The pockets can be expanded or reduced in size as required. The bright colors and reflective trim are helpful in ensuring your dog is clearly visible. The Outward Hound DayPak is available in three sizes, and there are four straps with three adjustment points.

Whilst the Outward Hound DayPak does not have some of its competitors’ storage or extra features, it is excellent value for money. The low price and lightweight design make it ideal as a starter backpack if you want to see if your dog would be OK wearing one. This is a simple, basic dog backpack, but it is well-made and an excellent budget option. Read our full review of the Outward Hound Daypak here. 

Best Looking: OneTigris Hoppy Camper Rucksack Pack

OneTigris Dog Pack Hound Travel Camping Hiking Backpack Saddle Bag Rucksack for Medium & Large Dog (Ranger Green, Medium)

Pros / Reasons to Buy

  • 2 Adjustable Straps
  • Attractive Design

Cons / Reasons to Avoid

  • Small Pockets
  • Saddlebags Don’t Detach From Harness

If style matters to you, then this is the dog backpack for you! All of the five color choices look good, but we especially liked the classic, vintage look of the brown version. The OneTigris Hoppy Camper Dog Pack is primarily made of canvas, which is both durable and attractive. While the two pockets are smaller than most other dog backpacks, they are big enough to hold the essentials and come with two-way zips for easy access. A nice feature is how all the excess straps can be neatly tidied away. Other features include two leash attachment points, firmly stitched seams, and a handle for assisting your dog.

The OneTigris Hoppy Camper Dog Pack’s smaller pockets show that it isn’t intended for long backpacking hikes into the backcountry. It is ideal for walks in an urban environment and short walks in the countryside, where it will attract many admiring looks. It is well-made from hard-wearing materials with firm stitching, so it will be a long time before it needs replacing. Read our full review of the OneTigris Happy Camper Rucksack Pack here. 

Best for Day Hikes: Kurgo Baxter Dog Saddlebag Backpack

Kurgo Dog Saddlebag Backpack, Back Pack Dog Harness, Hiking Pack for Dogs, Packs for Pets to Wear, Camping & Travel Vest Harness, Reflective, Lightweight, Baxter Pack, For Medium & Large Pets

Pros / Reasons to Buy

  • 8 Points of Adjustment
  • Adjustable Saddle Bags

Cons / Reasons to Avoid

  • Saddlebags Straps Can Slip
  • Pocket Zips Come Open

The Kurgo Baxter Dog Backpack is best suited for day hikes and urban adventures where you may need to carry some of your dog’s gear. Although you could just about fit everything you need for an overnight trip, the four pockets would be very full. The main material is hard-wearing polyester, making it functional and shower-proof. With two sizes and eight straps with eight points of adjustment, the Kurgo Baxter Dog Backpack can be customized to fit a wide range of canine shapes and sizes. While there is plenty of padding in most areas, the buckles do have the potential to rub against sensitive skin if the backpack is not adjusted correctly. There are two leash attachment points and a handle on top for extra control if your dog needs it.

The Kurgo Baxter Dog Backpack is a reliable and functional option for casual hikers who want a comfortable and safe backpack for their canine companions. Falling in the mid-range price point, you get value for money with a practical, durable dog backpack that comes with a lifetime guarantee. The multiple adjustment points make it one of the most adaptable dog backpacks available, meaning you can get a good fit, whatever your dog’s shape. Read our full review of the Kurgo Baxter Dog Saddlebag Backpack here. 

Best Budget Option: Lifeunion Dog Saddlebag

Lifeunion Polyester Dog Saddlebags Pack Hound Travel Camping Hiking Backpack Saddle Bag for Small Medium Large Dogs (Blue,M)

Pros / Reasons to Buy

  • Best Budget Backpack
  • Easy to Put On

Cons / Reasons to Avoid

  • Not Hard-Wearing
  • Saddlebags Not Streamlined

The Life Union Saddlebag is an excellent budget dog backpack. Whilst it is smaller and lacks some of the features of bigger and more expensive dog backpacks, it is practical and makes sure your dog would be comfortable wearing it. The primary material used is polyester, which is water-resistant and durable. There’s a choice of three sizes with five adjustable straps, so it can be adapted and fitted to many different sizes and shapes of dogs. There is a handle on top for assisting your dog when needed, but there is only one leash attachment point at the front. The two pockets are big enough for short hikes, but they don’t have enough room for everything you would need for a long walk or overnight trip. The design of the straps makes it very easy to put on and take off.

If you are looking for a budget dog pack, the Life Union Saddlebag would be an excellent choice. This is an affordable option for dog owners who want a functional backpack without breaking the bank. While unsuitable for heavy loads or extended hikes, this backpack is perfect for casual outings and short walks with your furry friend. Read our full review of the Lifeunion Dog Saddlebag here. 

Best for Backpackers on a Budget: OllyDog Trekker RF Dog Pack

OllyDog Trekker RF Dog Pack, Atlantic, Large

Pros / Reasons to Buy

  • 11 Adjustable Straps
  • Easy to Put On

Cons / Reasons to Avoid

  • Dark Colors
  • Saddlebags Don’t Detach From Harness

The OllyDog Trekker RF Dog Pack offers all the storage you could need. It has two generously sized pockets that can be adjusted to ensure your dog is comfortable and is carrying the weight in the optimum position. There are eleven straps, all of which are adjustable for a good fit, no matter your dog’s size and shape. There is plenty of padding, and care has been taken to place the buckles where they will not rub on sensitive skin. The design of this dog backpack makes it very easy to put on even nervous pets. The two pockets have enough room for everything you might need on a backpacking trip.

This would be an excellent dog backpack for an occasional backpacker who wants plenty of storage for overnight trips but doesn’t want to spend too much. An added appeal for the environment-conscious is that this dog backpack is made entirely from 100% recycled materials. The OllyDog Trekker RF Dog Pack is a well-designed and strongly constructed dog backpack at a reasonable price. Read our full review of the OllyDog Trekker RF Dog Pack here. 

What Features Should You Look for When Buying a Dog Backpack?

You want your dog to enjoy wearing the backpack and for it to be safe and comfortable for him. There are many different designs and styles available, but there are some key features you should look out for.

Your Dog’s Comfort

The most important thing is that your dog is comfortable when wearing the backpack. Things to check are how much padding the backpack has and if the hard plastic of the buckles and adjustment points could rub against your dog’s skin. You also need to look at the design and materials used to ensure the backpack is breathable and won’t cause your dog to overheat, especially in hot climates. Ideally, the saddlebags will be detachable to make it easy to give your dog a break, but this is a feature that only some dog backpacks offer.

best dog hiking backpack

Adjustable Straps

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and their frame will change over time. You, therefore, want a dog backpack with plenty of adjustment points on the straps. Multiple straps are needed to keep the backpack sat correctly on your dog and to stop it moving and sliding when in use. Ideally, there should be at least two straps around your dog’s belly as well as adjustable straps across the front of the chest.

If you have a nervous dog, checking how the dog backpack is fitted would be a good idea. Some require putting the backpack over your dog’s head, and some need you to pass your dog’s paw through the straps. If your pet wouldn’t like this, then you need to look for backpacks with straps that buckle across the front of your dog’s chest.

Materials and Durability

A backpack for a dog needs to be made from practical, hard-wearing materials. The majority of models use polyester as their primary material. This is a good choice as it is easy to clean, waterproof, and doesn’t tear easily. Most muddy marks can be easily wiped or brushed off polyester. If you decide to wash your dog backpack, it is advisable to use cool or cold water and always air dry. If you put polyester in a drier, it will be irretrievably damaged.

It is essential that the materials used and the design do not cause your dog to overheat. Dog backpacks often have mesh sections or perforated foam to ensure this does not happen. Some are designed with a gap between the main frame and the saddlebags to allow more breathability.

Most dog backpacks come with leash attachment points. The ideal material for these would be metal, and they need to be firmly stitched into the frame of the dog backpack.

Most pockets on dog backpacks use zips to hold them closed, although some have Velcro. Zips offer more protection to the pocket’s contents, although if they open from front to back, there is the potential for them to catch on obstacles and accidentally open. You also need to be aware that while the material used may be water-resistant, adding zips and other fastenings means the pockets will not be 100% waterproof. If you are putting anything in a dog backpack that needs to be kept dry, it must be placed in a waterproof bag.

dog backpack for hiking

Handles

Most dog backpacks have a handle on the top of the central frame. This is not for lifting your dog. A backpack does not have the support built in around your dog’s ribs for lifting. The handle is for assisting your dog over obstacles and for controlling it if needed. Ideally, the handle will have some padding to make it more comfortable to use.

Leash Attachment Points

Dog backpacks usually have one or more leash attachment points. They are often on the top of the backpack. You must check that they are strong enough, especially if you have a big dog. Depending on the design of the dog backpack, attaching the leash might pull the saddlebags sideways.

Pockets

Pockets on dog backpacks come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and designs. They are often called saddlebags and usually have one large pocket with a smaller additional pocket. Some saddlebags are big enough to hold everything needed for a backpacking trip, whereas others are smaller and designed for short hikes and walks about town.

The pockets’ design should make carrying a load more manageable for your dog. The majority of the weight should be towards the front so it is over your dog’s shoulders and not pressing on the spine. It is also helpful if the bags are streamlined and close to your dog’s body as this makes them less likely to catch on obstacles when they are running around.

The contents of the saddlebags preferably need to be balanced. If not, the backpack can slip sideways, causing discomfort to your dog. In practical terms, this usually means you have to take two water containers and use some from both each time.

Storage Capacity

The storage capacity of dog backpacks varies widely depending on what they are designed for. The models aimed at backpackers tend to have between 300 cubic inches (5 l) and 1,465 cubic inches (24 l) of storage. The smaller models that are designed for short walks can have as little as 93 cubic inches (1.5 l) storage capacity.

dog backpack

Weight

A dog backpack should be made of lightweight materials. It is essential not to overload your dog, so you must check how heavy the backpack and its contents are. The usual recommended load is between 10 and 15% of your dog’s bodyweight. A dog is capable of carrying up to 25% of its bodyweight, but this could cause strain on joints and reduce the enjoyment of the hike for both of you.

When you first get a dog backpack, you should give it a trial run to see if your dog is comfortable wearing it. Gradually add more weight each time and monitor your dog to check if he is comfortable.

When planning what you will pack in your dog’s backpack, you need to consider that you may end up carrying it instead of your dog! Especially if you are backpacking, you need to include this consideration in your calculations.

Sizes

Choosing a dog backpack involves assessing both the size of the backpack and the size of the dog. Dog backpacks are available in various sizes, from extra small (XS) to extra large (XL), and can fit dogs with weights ranging from 4 to 50 pounds.

Most dog backpacks come in small, medium, and large sizes. If your dog is between sizes, the advice is usually to get the larger size. Most manufacturers have sizing charts with instructions on how to measure your dog. When the backpack is on your dog, you should be able to easily slide two fingers between the straps and your dog’s body.

Price

There is as much variety in the price of dog backpacks as there is in human backpacks! Most high-quality models come with lifetime guarantees to give you confidence. If your dog has never worn a backpack, buying a cheaper option to try out before getting a top-of-the-range model would be sensible.

Other Features

The features you consider essential depend on how you intend to use the backpack.

Most pet owners prefer to have their dog backpacks in bright colors. The bright colors make your dog easier to see when out on a hike. Having reflective stripes or trimming is also helpful for increasing your dog’s visibility at night. However, if you will be mainly using the dog backpack in an urban setting, you might prefer more muted colors.

Some dog backpacks have extra features like pocket stabilization devices or equipment storage loops. You can get dog backpacks with built-in water containers or poop bag dispensers. While having additional features is nice, the most important thing is that the backpack fits your dog well.

dog backpack for dog accessories hiking

Conclusion

A dog backpack can be a fun and valuable addition to walking with your dog. There are a lot of choices available in this fast-growing market. It is essential to look at your intended use and how you will actually be using your dog backpack. Of course, our recommendations and reviews are not a definitive list, but we hope we’ve been able to help you get more clarity when it comes to choosing the best dog backpack for both you and your dog.

FAQ

Why use a dog backpack?

At first, it may seem unfair to burden your dog with a backpack, but it is actually a great idea. There are a number of items that you need to carry for your dog on a hike, and if your pet can transport them, it reduces your load. The dog backpacks are also helpful for walks around town, as you can tuck your dog’s toys and treats into the pockets. You can even add some of your gear, such as sunscreen and tissues, to the pockets.

Is a dog backpack good for your pet?

The majority of dogs enjoy wearing a backpack. Carrying the bits and pieces they need in their saddlebags gives them a job and tends to make them more well-behaved on the trail. Toting a load also helps to tire your dog out, which is great, especially if you have an energetic dog.

What is the best dog backpack for hiking?

For the ultimate hiking experience with your pup, the best dog backpack for hiking is the Ruffwear Palisades Pack. It has lots of storage space and is designed to keep your dog comfortable while carrying a load. Also worth considering are the Ruffwear Approach Pack, Mountainsmith K-9, Kurgo Baxter, and the OllyDog Trekker RF Dog Pack

What is the best dog backpack for short walks and day hikes?

The OneTigris Hoppy Camper Rucksack Pack is a stylish option if you don’t need lots of storage space. Also worth considering are the Outward Hound DayPak and the Life Union Saddlebag, which both have smaller pockets, but they are well-made, practical dog backpacks.

Can dog backpacks be harmful for dogs?

Dog backpacks are generally OK for most breeds, as long as it is the right size, properly ventilated, and the weight isn’t too heavy. Giant breeds and dogs with arthritis should avoid backpacks, and they should not be used for puppies and dogs that are still growing. It is always a good idea to check with your vet whether the backpack you are considering would be suitable for your dog.

How much weight should my dog carry in a hiking backpack?

Your dog is capable of carrying up to 25% of its bodyweight, but it is advisable to keep the load between 10 and 15% of their bodyweight. This is important for their safety and comfort while hiking. Carrying too much weight can cause strain on their joints and muscles, leading to injury or exhaustion. It can also make the hike more difficult and less fun for both you and your dog.

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