If you're a hiker with a dog, chances are you've wanted to bring your furry friend with you. But even if your dog is trained well enough for the trail, you may worry about the extra weight. Fortunately, there are many ways your dog can help, in the form of dog backpacks. However, picking the best dog backpack for hiking isn't an easy task. Dogs may not tell you when something is bothering them, and the last thing you want is your pup to injure itself in the backcountry. So finding the best dog backpack for hiking means paying attention to your dog's needs.
You need to consider how long you'll be on hikes. Do you regularly spend weekends off the grid, or just a couple of hours? How experienced is your dog with hiking, and will it even be able to use the extra capacity for larger bags? If you're like me, your dog is one of your most trusted friends. You should take care of that trust by giving your dog the best hiking experience it can.
The Best Dog Backpack For Hiking Comparison Table
Why Backpack with Your Dog?
Taking your pup hiking with you can be a rewarding experience. You always have a companion on the trail, and it brings the two of you closer together. It also helps keep your dog active. If you don't have a regular place for your dog to run, going on regular hikes can help. These long stretches of exercise do more good than just going to the park. Your dog is out in nature, getting back in touch with its inner wolf. It is exercising in ways that the dog park can't offer. Also, the new experiences, sights, and smells stimulate your dog mentally.
Hiking with your dog also gives it a new level of obedience. Trail hiking is taxing and potentially dangerous. Hiking together gives your dog a way to bond with you. Your dog needs to be ready to listen and return to you at a moment's notice. And hiking with your dog should be a positive experience for you both physically and mentally. Your dog should be a carefree addition to your hike. Part of the way you can ensure this is by picking the best dog backpack for hiking. Your dog can carry its own supplies, and streamline the hiking experience.
Choosing the Best Dog Backpack for Hiking
You want your four-legged friend to be comfortable on the hike. The best dog backpack for hiking should be the right size and, ideally, adjustable so that it fits perfectly. Take your dog out on shorter hikes and walks with the harness beforehand. You'll be able to see any parts of the backpack that are uncomfortable before getting on the trail. A feature to look for on the best dog backpack for hiking is a grab handle. That lets you control your dog if they get into trouble.
Outside Magazine also recommends detachable saddlebags. These let you lighten the load if your furry friend starts to lag. You can also use the backpack as an everyday harness. Slowly get your dog used to the pack. Take them on walks, adding weight gradually. By the time you're giving them a full pack, they'll be ready for the trail. Water and dog treats are a convenient use for the saddlebags. If you're planning on spending more than one day in the backcountry, bring toys and a sleeping mat as well.
Safety considerations for backpacking with your dog
Trail safety for your dog is a combination of training and preparedness. Training will get your dog ready for the unpredictable, while proper preparation covers everything you can expect. In this way, taking your dog on the trail is much like going hiking yourself. Always pack extra water and food for your companion. Bring a towel and collapsible bowls to keep your friend dry and well-fed. They likely need more food than usual -- about one cup extra for every 20 pounds. Adequate preparation will make sure your dog is never lacking when on the trail, and will make the experience better for both of you.
For all the times you can't prepare for, that's when training needs to kick in. Backpacker recommends investing in a puppy class and a basic obedience class to get your dog started. Training can help keep your dog safe in dangerous situations. Make sure your dog will calmly stay at your side when other hikers are passing. You should also be able to recall your dog in case they go after anything or leave your side for too long. Control and limit the periods of curiosity that happen as your dog develops, and use them as learning experiences. A dog on the trail should be as much under your control as it would be on a leash.
How We Reviewed
We narrowed down our selection of the best dog backpack for hiking based on what other hikers preferred. We selected the best dog backpacks from trusted outdoor gear sites. These included REI and Outside magazine. We also took into account reviews from other hikers on sites such as Amazon. By aggregating results from all of these sites, we're able to give you the best selection of dog backpacks on the market. We're sure you'll be able to find the best dog backpack for hiking from those selected here.
How Much Will the Best Dog Backpack for Hiking Cost You?
If you're familiar with hiking, you'll know that gear can be an investment. Fortunately, most of the dog backpacks included here are under the $100 mark. The least expensive dog backpack on our list is about $20, while the most expensive can cost up to $150. Manufacturers tend to make less expensive backpacks with an eye towards day trips. They offer a smaller capacity, and may not have the extra features for longer trips. More expensive packs are for multi-day backcountry hikes. Some include hydration packs, so your dog can carry their own fresh water as well. All of these packs are available on their manufacturer's website, or on Amazon or REI.
FrontPet's Explorer harness is designed to encourage you and your dog to start exploring the outdoors together. It comes equipped with removable saddle bags. You can quickly turn it into a comfortable, durable harness. If you are just going for a walk, and don't need additional space, this can be helpful. The backpack is fully adjustable and only comes in one size. On Amazon, the FrontPet Explorer did not receive the best reviews. Eleven customers rated it an average of 2.8 stars out of 5. Many claimed it had poor construction and fell apart quickly after receiving it. Those that did use their harness said that it adjusted well to all sizes of dogs. The FrontPet Explorer is available for $ to $$.
Kurgo Baxter Dog BackPack
Kurgo's Baxter Dog BackPack comes with a custom fit in mind. While it only has two basic sizes, these sizes fit a variety of dogs. Each Kurgo Baxter comes with eight different points of adjustment. That means your dog will have a pack that fits it perfectly. The harness of the pack has reflective strips for added visibility. It also has unique spine support contours for even more comfort. Amazon customers gave this pack 3.9 stars out of 5. Reviewers liked the toughness, saying even an unwilling 90-pound Rottweiler couldn't do damage to the pack. It is hard to adjust at first, but this also means it does not require regular readjustment. The Kurgo Baxter costs between $ and $$.
The Mountainsmith K-9 comes from 30 years of dog backpack experience. Built with the help of a sled dog veterinarian, the K-9 is sure to give your dog a comfortable fit. Panels which rest against your dog's body are mesh for breathability. The chest harness has four points of adjustable fit, while the back harness can be adjusted independently. The K-9 lets you fit the harness to your dog's comfort. Two hundred Amazon customers reviewed the Mountainsmith K-9 Dog Pack, and rated it 4.4 stars out of 5. Reviewers liked the comfort of the pack, and said it let their dog carry more. One reviewer took their dog on a four-day hike, and was pleased with its overall performance. The Mountainsmith K-9 is available for $ to $$.
OllyDog Trekker RF
The OllyDog Trekker Dog Pack emphasizes comfort for larger dogs. While it only comes in two sizes, it is streamlined and cushioned. Offset buckles help keep from chafing your dog in hotspots. The saddlebags also have reflective piping for added visibility. And, since you're enjoying the outdoors with your pup, you'll be glad to know these are recycled material. The OllyDog Trekker dog pack has no reviews on Amazon, but it does have two four-star reviews on REI. This pack works best on longer hikes. One reviewer said it had enough room for four days of dog food. For the price, this is a large and durable dog pack for large and durable dogs. It is available for $ to $$.
Outward Hound Crest Stone Explore Pack
Outward Hound's Crest Stone Explore is all about coolness and visibility. Its bright green color is eye-catching in both urban and backwoods environments. Compression webbing also makes this dog backpack more balanced. This backpack distributes weight more evenly across your dog, for a more comfortable hike. The Crest Stone Explore pack won the Amazon's Choice award, and it was rated 3.8 stars out of 5 by 46 reviewers. One customer used it regularly, both on hikes and on errands. They did warn that it would list to one side if the weight in the saddlebags is uneven. The Outward Hound Crest Stone Explore is available for $ to $$.
Outward Hound DayPak
The Outward Hound DayPak is one of the least expensive options on this list. That is because it is lightweight and made for day hikes. Outward Hound says it's suitable for everyday errands with your dog so that you can bring treats along even off the trail. The mesh harness is especially breathable for quick jaunts, even on hot days. It comes with four expandable pockets for extra container space. It is available in three adjustable sizes. Over 1,000 Amazon customers rated this dog backpack, giving it a total of 3.9 out of 5 stars. One reviewer liked that it distributed weight across the shoulders rather than the back. Another warned that it wasn't soft enough, but a little DIY cushioning made it suitable for even longer hikes. The Outward Hound DayPak costs between $ and $.
Ruffwear's Approach Pack is for everyday use. It offers a balance of features, spread between comfort and stability. Ruffwear emphasizes the unique cut of the saddlebags, which make for better load carrying. It is lightweight and comes with reflective trim, as well as a light loop for optional visibility. Four sizes with five points of adjustment mean your companion will have the best-fitting harness for them. Three hundred fifty-eight reviewers rated the Ruffwear Approach on Amazon. It earned 4.7 stars out of 5. Reviewers said the pockets are spacious, and the straps are adjustable so that the harness can fit any dog. The Ruffwear Approach dog backpack is $ to $$.
The Palisades by Ruffwear is one of the most durable packs on the list. It gives your dog extra comfort over long distances, which is reflected by its high price. This multi-day pack is the most expensive dog backpack on our list. The saddlebags are detachable, and the harness has two collapsible hydration bladders included. You can stock up on fresh water for your companion when you have it, and keep them hydrated later. It also has a cross-load system that evenly distributes weight. Amazon customers rated the Palisades Dog Pack 4.6 stars out of 5. Most of the reviewers felt positive about this harness but warned that it could chafe. The Palisades is available for an affordable price.
The Singletrak Dog Pack from Ruffwear focuses on keeping your pup hydrated for day hikes. This pack is light and low-profile, while also offering two collapsible water bottles. While it costs a bit more than other day-hike-focused packs, it makes up for it with these added features. The price is a bit more towards the higher end of this list, but that did not deter Amazon customers. They rated it 4.7 stars out of 5. One reviewer put miles on the pack every day. They said it was adjustable, durable, and comfortable for the dog. The Singletrak costs $80 to $100.
Which is the Best Dog Backpack for Hiking?
If you're looking for a new activity with your pup, or want to incorporate your friend into hiking, you may be on the lookout for a dog backpack. As with all hiking gear, the best dog backpack for hiking is the one that suits your needs. Maybe one fits your budget the best, or one gives you all the features you need. It is up to you to find the right balance between cost and features. If I had to choose just one for my dog, I would opt for the Mountainsmith K-9. This one fits all sizes of dogs with an impressive array of customization points.
At the end of your hike, you want your pup to be comfortable while still being able to carry their weight on the hike. If you want to go top-of-the-line, any of the three Ruffwear harnesses here are excellent options. Whether you go for days at a time, or just on day trips, Ruffwear has a well-made backpack for you. But how much you spend on your dog's gear isn't a marker of quality. The best dog backpack for hiking is the one that lets you and your pup have fun together.