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Best Backpacks for Dogs: How to Choose and Fit

by | Jan 23, 2022 | BACKPACK / CAMP — General, GEAR | 0 comments

When it comes to finding the right dog backpack, shopping can be a bit confusing. With so many brands, styles, and features you may be finding yourself overwhelmed with decisions. 

As dog owners who love to hike, we’ve been there too. Outfitting your furry friend can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. 

To lend you a helping hand, we rounded up the best backpacks for dogs we could find and created this guide to make choosing a breeze. 

Here’s what’s to come in this article:

Our Favorite Doggy Backpacks:

Best for Large Dogs: Big Baxter Dog Pack

Kurgo Dog Saddlebag Backpack, Back Pack Dog Harness, Hiking Pack for Dogs,...

While many dog hiking packs come in varying sizes, finding one sized to fit your 100-pound dog can be a challenge. Kurgo had this in mind when designing Big Baxter. 

This pack was specifically designed for large dog breeds as it can fit a 50-110 pound dog. It features ergonomic spine support and 8-adjustment points so you can get a proper fit.

If keeping your pooch under control is a concern, you’ll enjoy the large handle for better control. It also has a rear mounted leash attachment which doubles as a bottle opener. 

As a plus, it comes with a lifetime warranty so you can rest assured on your hiking adventure. 

Cool Features:

  • Built for large dogs
  • Large grip handle
  • Ergonomic spine support
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Two extra pockets


  • Extra pocket zippers can snag
  • May not be as durable as expected
  • May cause chafing

Best for Cold Weather: Ruffwear Approach

RUFFWEAR, Approach Dog Backpack, Lightweight Pack for Hiking and Camping,...

If you’re trading in the dog jacket for a canine backpack during the winter months, then consider the Ruffwear Approach. 

The comfy padding and large form-fitting saddlebags will offer more coverage to keep your furry friend warm.

Another benefit of the large saddlebags is you have more room to stash extra winter gear such as paw wax and winter booties. 

What I really appreciate about this pack is the five-point adjustment. This allows you to customize the perfect fit for your dog’s body while maintaining a full range of motion. It also has two leash attachment points. 

Lightweight and durable, this pack was built to perform. However, it does tend to be on the more expensive side.

Cool Features:

  • Good padding and large saddlebags offer more coverage for warmth
  • 5-point adjustment customizes fit
  • Radial cut saddlebags offer free-range of motion
  • Quality construction
  • Lightweight and durable
  • Reflective trim 
  • Paddle handle for easy grip


  • Saddlebags may be too large for smaller animals
  • Saddlebags are not detachable

Best for Hot Weather: Mountainsmith K-9 Dog Pack

Mountainsmith K-9 Pack, Azure Blue, Medium

In the hotter months, you’ll want to outfit your pup with a pack that won’t cause them to overheat. In this case, the Mountainsmith K-9 Dog Pack is a terrific option. 

This model offers good ventilation thanks to the built-in air mesh panels. It also features roomy expandable pockets which I really appreciate considering it allows more space for extra water.

It’s built from ripstop nylon so you won’t have to worry about tears when your dog snags on a branch or brushes up against rocks. 

As a bonus, a Colorado sled dog veterinarian was consulted in the making of the pack to ensure it’s ergonomically correct. 

Cool Features:

  • Air mesh panel for ventilation
  • Tough ripstop nylon material for durability
  • Roomy pockets
  • Leash attachment


  • Pricier than other options
  • Can possibly slide off

Best for Wet Weather: Pettom Dog Saddle Backpack

Pettom Dog Hiking Harness Backpack Pet Adjustable Removable Saddle Bag...

The last thing you want is a pack that’s going to soak through in the rain and weigh down your dog. The Pettom Saddle Backpack for dog is your answer if you’re hiking in wet conditions. 

This one is made out of a waterproof, scratch-resistant oxford polyester and SBS Waterproof reversed coil zipper.

On the underside, there’s sponge padding for extra comfort on long hikes. I also like the fact it has a breathable middle mesh.

Another nice feature is the load compression system which aids in weight distribution while also providing much needed stability when hiking in the rain.

Cool Features:

  • Waterproof material
  • Breathable
  • Sponge padding for extra comfort
  • Even weight distribution
  • Removable saddlebags
  • Reflective trim


  • Pricey
  • Suggested sizing may not fit

Best for Backpacking: Ruffwear Palisades

RUFFWEAR, Palisades Dog Pack, Multi-Day Hiking Backpack with Hydration...

If there were a Rolls Royce of doggie packs, this would be it. This pack has everything you could possibly want, plus it was specifically designed for overnight adventures. 

What I really appreciate about this pack is it features two collapsible 1-liter hydration bladders so you can keep your dog hydrated and cool on longer journeys. 

Since constant strain on your dog’s back is a concern, the saddlebags have a weight forward design with ample room for food storage. They’re also removable so your dog can rest properly along the way.

Some other great features are the four attachment points keeping the removable saddlebags in place, while the customizable five-adjustment points optimize your dog’s range of motion. 

This is one of the best backpacks for dogs and is a bit on the pricey side, but considering all the bells and whistles it’s worth every penny.

Cool Features:

  • Built-in collapsible BPA hydration bladders
  • Removable saddlebags
  • Plenty of food storage
  • Web Master harness frame offers even weight distribution and load stability
  • Two leash attachment points
  • External gear loops


  • Pricey
  • May not be suitable for small dogs

Best Value: Outward Hound Kygen Dog Pack

Outward Hound Kyjen 2498 Dog Backpack, Small, Blue

If money is a concern, then take a look at the Outward Hound Dog Pack. This has all the basics you need and won’t break the bank. 

On the outside, this pack features reflective accents and sports a bright color making it easier to keep an eye on your dog when off-leash. 

The pockets have plenty of storage space so you can stash all your dog’s gear. Take a look inside the pockets and you’ll find a water bottle holder as well as mesh pockets.

I really appreciate the mesh pocket feature as I tend to be one who always loses smaller objects.

If you’re looking for something simple to take on short hikes, then this is an option to consider. For those with an adventurous pup who hikes long distances, I’d look elsewhere. 

Cool Features:

  • Removable sacks
  • Reflective accents and bright colors for easier locating
  • Interior mesh pockets keep smaller items from getting lost in the jumble
  • Quick grab handle for better animal control


  • No leash attachment
  • Poor ventilation
  • Lacks durability
  • Straps aren’t padded
  • Cheaper construction

Choosing Your Dog Pack

So you’ve decided you think Fido needs to carry his own gear? Or maybe you’re not sure, let’s take a look at how to choose the right pack for your pooch.

Dog booties and backpack in woods

Why Even Bother with a Dog Pack

Dog hiking packs are genius. They let your pup pull their own weight while lightening yours. And I bet one look at the pack and your dog will get the same excitement they get when you reach for a leash. 

The positives don’t stop there. Equipping your dog with their own pack is also good exercise, mentally stimulating, therapeutic, and makes life easier for you. 

The problem is, not everyone fits their dog’s hiking pack properly. Even worse, they weigh them down with too much stuff. 

You do want to be mindful of how it fits though as failure to carefully select the right dogpack can lead to complications like balance loss, muscle strain, and even curvature of the spine.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help. We’ll walk you through the process so you two can get out on the trail and romp around until your heart’s content.

Factors to Consider

Unfortunately, no single model works for every dog. When choosing the right pack for your pup, there are a few important key factors you’ll need to keep in mind:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Size
  • Health
  • Energy level

A healthy, energetic dog is more likely to need a durable hiking pack. A small dog who likes to nap needs something lightweight and not too bulky. 

Older dogs, are not as spry as they once were and may be developing health problems, so they may not be able to use a backpack at all. 

Keep in mind what kind of dog you have. Also, keep in mind the hike itself. The main things you’ll need to take into consideration are:

  • Trip length
  • Weather
  • Season
  • Trail terrain

Are you going on a short day hike? Smaller saddle bags will do. Is your hike of choice a multi-day backpacking trip? Consider a more durable pack with good padding, larger pack, and room for hydration. 

Once you take this all into consideration, here are the important things to look for in a doggie hiking pack:


The most disappointing thing to happen is you get your dog all ready to go and the first tree branch she comes across rips her pack! Pups are rough, not to mention roughing it, so you want something durable.

Materials that rip easily should be avoided. Strong, durable, and built to last is your friend here so look for tougher fabrics like ripstop nylon. Materials like cotton are nice for being breathable, but they can tear more easily. 

Storage Space

The whole point of your dog friend carrying their own pack is they can carry what they need so you’ll want adequate storage space. At the very least, the hiking pack should be big enough for water, food, and treats. 

Any other essential items you can add in without weighing them down would be beneficial. 

Dog wearing backpack on trail

Pack Weight

Do you cut down your pack weight as much as possible? You should do the same for your dog and this starts with the pack itself. 

Ease of Loading

Why make life more difficult if you don’t have to? An easy loading pack is your friend, especially when it’s on your best friend who doesn’t want to stay still.

Stick with a pack that won’t frustrate you at the thought of unzipping for treats every time you need one.


This is key. Dog packs may be designed to fit your furry friend, but not all furry friends are made alike. You can’t rely on size alone, so adjustable straps are your answer to making sure the pack fits snugly. 

As always, before loading on the extra pounds, talk to your vet. 

How to Fit Your Dog for a Pack

Fitting a dog for a pack the first time can be confusing.

To begin, you’ll want to figure out what size your dog is. To do so you need to measure the circumference of your dog’s chest at the widest part – this is the girth. The manufacturer’s sizes should correspond to this measurement. 

RUFFWEAR, Approach Dog Backpack, Lightweight Pack for Hiking and Camping,...

Fitting takes a bit more care than that so here’s how I do it:

  1. Loosen the straps
  2. Place the pack on their back
  3. Tighten the widest chest strap first
  4. Tighten other chest straps
  5. Do the two finger strap test

I’m more of a visual person, so here’s a tutorial for you:

Once you hit the trail you should stop to check everything is in place once you get going, especially if it’s the first time, and make adjustments accordingly. 

Features to Look Out For

Here’s where it really gets fun, pack features. Other than manufacturing quality, this is really what differentiates the products.

Whether you’re looking for all the bells and whistles or want something a little more minimal, here’s some features to look for:

  • Removable bags
  • Hydration storage
  • Waterproof material
  • Adequate padding
  • Ventilation
  • Quick grab handle
  • Leash attachment

One dog owner at the Outbound Collective mentions removable bags can be a blessing on the trail if you find yourself crossing a river, hopping over boulders, or your dog is starting to tucker out.

I personally like dog packs with a quick grip handle. Leash or no leash, they really help to keep your dog under control. 

You don’t need the Mercedes-Benz of packs if you only plan on taking Rover on one-mile strolls. On the other hand, if you’re thru-hiking the PCT with your pup, this may be exactly what you need. 

It’s all a matter of what works for you and your dog, and what doesn’t.

How to Load Your Dog’s Pack 

Dog wearing backpack with handle

Like stuffing your own pack, there’s a method to gearing up your pup. 

To start, you need to make sure the pack is comfortable and secure. You should be able to place two fingers snuggly under the straps.

This ensures there’s enough room to prevent any rubbing yet secure enough so it won’t come flying off should they decide to chase after a squirrel.

Next, you want to make sure the gear you pack in won’t load your dog down. All items packed should weigh about 10-12 percent of your dog’s weight

Some breeds can carry up to 25 percent their own weight, but keep in mind the more they carry the faster they’ll tire. 

Lastly, proper weight distribution is key. This will ensure the pack stays in place while eliminating strain on your dog’s back.

What to Load it With

What goes into your dog’s pack is all a matter of what they need and what makes your life easier. 

While this can vary, here’s an idea of some common items your dog can carry:

Take a look at what goes in this dog’s pack:

Basically, anything your dog will need up to 10 percent their body weight can be stashed in their pack.

Know Before You Buy

The best pack is a well-researched pack. By taking into consideration what type of hiking you’re doing, what kind of dog you have, and the features you’re looking for, you can safely gear up your pup and get out on a hike. Happy trails!

Have you taken your dog hiking and if so, did he wear a pack? Let us know in the comments below!

Need More Advice on Gear and Footwear?

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Photo by Clare – The Hiking Adventure. All rights reserved. Product photos via Amazon.

Last update on 2022-02-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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