There’s nothing better than spending quality time in nature with your dog. They make a fantastic company even for longer hikes and backpacking trips. However, this also means that you need to bring all the gear they need while outdoors. But instead of hauling everything yourself, a backpack for your dog can help you share the load.
Backpacks for dogs are conveniently designed so the dog can carry some of its own gear – food, water, and toys (among other things). The best backpacks for dogs are very comfortable too, so your furry friend will enjoy wearing them. Still, there are plenty of designs available, and you need to find the right one for your dog.
In this article, we will break down all the things you need to know so you can find the best dog backpack for your pet. But first, check out our product list and discover the top-rated dog hiking packs that will allow you and your pup to conquer any trail with ease.
How To Choose A Dog Backpack – Buying Guide
Whether you’re taking your dog on a shorter hiking trip or you plan to conquer a long trail, a dog pack for backpacking will make your pup equipped for anything. When choosing a doggy backpack, make sure that it fits your dog well, it’s comfortable to wear, and that it doesn’t weigh too much.
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Size and Strength of the Dog
The size and strength of your dog will determine the type of backpack that you need to get. Depending on the breed, dogs come in various sizes so it makes sense that not all packs for dogs fit each individual dog. Luckily, most models we talked about come in various dimensions so finding the right fit won’t be hard.
Besides the size, you should also consider the strength of your dog. Some breeds are naturally stronger than others, and young adult dogs can carry more than old dogs. As a general rule of thumb, a full dog day pack should weigh around 20% of the dog’s weight.
To get the right size, make sure you measure your dog before ordering the backpack. You should get the neck and chest diameter (girth) and pick a product based on that number. To make this easier, we have listed the chest diameter for each product we reviewed.
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Fit (Strap Adjustability)
Dog backpacks are usually very adjustable so they can fit your dog well. If you’ve measured the dog and decided that the medium size is right (for example), you will still have to do some fine-tuning when you put it on.
This is why we put a big accent on strap design and adjustability. They should come with plenty of buckles so you can tighten and loosen when needed. Also, most models nowadays come with quick-release buckles that make getting the pack on and off much easier.
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Your pup’s comfort is very important when going on a longer hiking trip. The dog backpack harness needs to fit well, otherwise the dog will get tired faster and might even get hurt. Badly-fitting straps can dig into the skin after a couple of hours of non-stop use.
To eliminate this problem, some products come with EVA padding on the inside surfaces, usually in the shoulder, armpit, and chest areas. Also, make sure that the harness doesn’t have any sharp corners or abrasive edges.
Another thing you need to think about is whether the pup is going to be too hot while wearing the backpack. A model with some nice breathable mesh will allow the air to circulate so your doggy feels comfortable even on a warm sunny day.
Even if the harness is very comfy, the backpack might become heavy after a while. To help take the load off, some backpacks come with removable saddlebags. This way you can take the weight off when making a break, without removing the whole harness.
Balance and Stability
While most dogs are pretty agile, adding the extra weight on their back can throw the dog off its natural balance. To prevent this, you want the dog backpack for hiking to provide stability. For this reason, most models come as a saddlebag design, with equally-sized storage compartments on both sides of the body.
This type of backpack allows you to pack it evenly, so your pup won’t lose balance when walking or running. In relation to this, the best hiking packs for dogs have a snug and tight fit against the body so the pockets won’t move too much.
Functionality (Ease of Use)
The dog day pack you choose needs to be easy to use for both you and your friend. You shouldn’t have any problems putting it on or taking it off, so you can do this while on the go (without wasting too much time).
As for your furry friend, the dog day pack should allow full freedom of movement so they aren’t hindered by it. Some of the hiking backpacks for dogs offer a fully ergonomic design, which is worth looking into.
Depending on the model you pick, the dog saddle bag storage capacity can vary significantly – from 3 liters (small dog models) to well over 14 liters (models for large dogs). Keep in mind that a bigger dog day pack is not always better, because it can weigh too much and cause problems.
Pockets and Compartments
The main purpose of a dog pack for backpacking is to help lighten your load on the trail. This is why packs for dogs must have plenty of pockets and compartments to organize the gear.
The pockets and compartment should be spacious enough to hold your pup’s gear (water, food, toys), but not too large that your pup struggles to carry it. Most models come standard with two zippered side pockets, but some also have additional pockets and compartments inside.
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Along with the basic features we mentioned, extra features will make using the backpack even easier for both you and your pup. Some features that we really like to see include:
- D-rings: attach a leash to the backpack and control the dog
- Grab handles: Safely pick up the dog and move it without hurting it
- Reflective patches: Significantly improve the dog’s visibility in low-light conditions
- Hydration bladders: The pup can conveniently carry its own water
Safety While Wearing
There are a couple of safety points to consider in packs for dogs. First, you want to ensure that the dog day pack can withstand the pull of your dog and, second, that it makes your doggy easily visible so you can find them (or a hunter can recognize they aren’t a game animal).
The best way to ensure that the hiking backpack dog harness is strong enough to withstand the strength of your pup is to look at the stitching, webbing quality, and buckles. A top rated dog hiking pack has strong stitching throughout, but the most important points are the leash attachment ring and the chest area.
Materials and Construction Quality
Since they are designed for outdoor use, dog day packs must be made of very high-quality materials. Dogs are very curious, so there’s a real chance to rip the pack on rocks or branches. This is why the best dog hiking packs always come with a high Denier rating (it shows the strength of the material).
Three of the most common materials used for dog day packs are nylon, polyester, and canvas. Nylon is very tough and often features a good degree of water resistance. Polyester is a good choice if you want something lighter, while canvas is heavy but also the most durable.
When it comes to construction quality, you should pay attention to the stitching, zippers, and buckles. High-quality models have reinforced stitching so they don’t tear easily. And, since zippers and buckles will see a lot of use, they need to be sturdy too.
Durability and Warranty Coverage
As a result of quality materials and construction, the best dog hiking packs can last for many years. The construction should be strong enough to withstand both the outdoors and the pull of your dog. Packs for dogs are not something we buy every day, so it would be really disappointing if the dog day pack rips or tears on the first hike.
In addition, the best dog hiking packs should come with warranties to cover any potential problems. Still, not all dog saddle bags offer the same level of coverage – some come with a very short and limited warranty that applies only to manufacturer defects. We advise that you check this before buying and see what other users had to say about the quality.
Q: Why does my dog need a backpack?
A dog backpack is a great way to share the load with your pup and have them carry their own gear. It’s a stash for food, water, treats, toys, and anything else the dog might need. You can even delegate some of your own smaller items. The dog will love it as it will give them a purpose on the trip and make it more fun.
Q: Are dog backpacks safe?
Yes, well-made dog backpacks are completely safe to use. The best dog backpack will have an adjustable ergonomic shape so you can find the perfect fit for your dog. Still, keep your dog safe and don't overburden it (it might get injured). Also, very young, very old, and dogs with health issues should not be carrying weight.
Q: Can a dog backpack be used with harnesses?
Usually yes, but it depends on the design of a particular backpack. Most dog day packs can be used over a dog’s harness, making the setup much simpler. Still, we advise that you always read the specs and dog backpack reviews to check if a model is compatible with a harness.
Q: How to clean a dog backpack?
With all the differences in materials and design, there isn’t a universal way to clean every backpack. We advise that you always look at the manufacturer’s instructions. This being said, almost every backpack is safe to spot clean with a sponge and mild detergent. And, depending on the model, some are safe for machine-washing too.
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Q: How much weight can a dog carry?
An average healthy adult dog can carry anywhere between 20 and 25% of its body weight. This depends on the breed too – some can carry even more, while others can’t carry a loaded backpack. Also, keep in mind that the strength diminishes over time, so an old dog won’t be able to carry as much as a younger one.
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One of the great ways to bond with your dog is to spend time outdoors hiking and exploring the trail. When it comes to packing and managing your gear, your pup can be of great assistance and help you carry small items.
Using the tips from our buying guide, you’ll be able to find the best dog backpack that will be both comfortable and durable. With a top rated dog hiking pack, you and your doggy can happily explore the woods and hike the trails with all the gear you need.
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Do you own one of the dog backpacks that made it onto our list? Let us know how it has worked for your outdoor needs in the comments section below.