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Best Dog Backpack: Find the Perfect Pack for Your Canine

Best dog backpack
Sean Nelson
Written by Sean Nelson

Hiking with dogs can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors with your four-legged friend. When backpacking many dogs can help pick up the slack with a backpack of their own. It may sound simple, but picking a backpack for your dog is more difficult than picking one for yourself. If only your pup could talk to you to let you know how they like each pack.

Unfortunately, dogs can’t talk and that means you’ll need a strong understanding of both your dog and the pack before you make a purchase. Overloading your dog or purchasing an Ill-fitting bag can cause serious injury for your pup and ruin your hike. Save yourself and your dog the pain of vet visits and bad hikes by taking the time to shop around and picking the best dog backpack.

Dog backpacks share many similarities with the standard backpack you would carry on the trail, but, obviously, there are some very serious differences. The differences you should focus on are in the strap design and size. When picking a pack for your dog you should make sure the straps fit them properly. More details on that later.

Dog backpacks

Beyond the fit of the backpack, you should be considering the materials used as they will determine things like the weight, waterproof properties, and durability of the bag. While on the topic of durability, make sure you thoroughly examine the structure and stitching. Make sure your dog benefits from plenty of padding. Keep your dog comfortable so you don’t end up carrying them the last few miles.

Can Your Dog Handle A Backpack?

Not all dogs can carry a backpack. Make sure you go to a vet and have your dog examined before considering a pack for them. The vet will be vital in telling you how much your dog can comfortably carry and whether or not they’re fit for more demanding trails. You should keep in mind that many smaller dogs won’t be able to carry packs while dogs that are in the working class will. Size is not the only determining factor.

You should also take some time to consider whether or not your dog is allowed on the trail you plan on hiking. Many trails in national parks and other areas prohibit dogs.

Factors to Consider

Material

When it comes to picking a pack for your dog, there are many materials to consider. You should be looking for lightweight materials with waterproof properties. Make sure the material won’t snag on things when your dog is walking through the brush.

Dog backpacks lightweight material

Lightweight materials like nylon fabrics are very popular and for good reason. Using materials like Cordura Nylon and Kodra Nylon will keep your pack light. There’s a reason even the military is replacing their canvas bags with nylon fibers. You may still find canvas bags on the market, but they are generally much heavier and warmer on your dog’s back. It should be noted that nylon packs can help keep your dog from getting too warm as well.

The nylon fabrics are often coated with some type of waterproofing. Typically this is polyurethane. The coating will keep things dry and keep the pack from absorbing your dog’s sweat. If you have a pack that absorbs your dog’s sweat and then sits on their back for extended periods it can cause rashes and discomfort. Keep your dog safe and your valuables dry with a waterproof pack.

Picking a material will also determine a good portion of the durability of your dog’s bag. Look for strong fabrics that won’t get snagged on brush and tear. Your god is sure to run under and through things so having a bag that can go everywhere without holding them back is important. Your dog won’t be careful not to get caught on things like you are.

pack-for-your-dog

Don’t skimp on your bag’s material. In many cases, a small increase in price will get you a backpack made of a much better material.

Fit & Comfort

Find a pack that fits your dog correctly and they’ll thank you for it… if they could. While dogs can’t tell you in plain English whether a backpack fits them or not, there are ways of telling if the backpack is good for them.

This should go without saying, but make sure you buy a backpack that is specifically designed for dogs. Any small backpack won’t work. Backpacks designed for dogs typically feature a strap that runs over the dog’s neck and around their chest and one or two straps that wrap around the dog’s body to keep it secure. Usually, the straps are connected on the dog’s underside to keep the bag from moving around and rubbing the dog.

pick dog backpack

Make sure you pick a backpack that has breathable materials and has plenty of padding. This will keep your dog comfortable and cool while on the hike.

When picking a size you should make sure to measure your dog, don’t rely on the weight you remember from the vet’s office six months ago. Pick the size that corresponds to your dog’s measurements and tighten the straps so the pack will stay snug without squeezing your dog. Your dog’s comfort should be the most important factor you consider.

Pocket Structure

This is a pretty simple item to consider. Make sure there are pockets for what you need. Check the pockets to make sure they are even and won’t cause the pack to slide off to one side or the other. Also, check the pockets to make sure they don’t stick out too far past the width of your dog’s shoulders. Keep the profile slim to make sure your dog doesn’t get caught in an uncomfortable situation.

Dog backpack pocket structure

Check for things like mesh pockets and pockets that are hidden. Make sure you have enough space in the bag for your dog to carry the things they’ll need over the course of the trip.

Durability & Quality

Check out the design of the backpack you considering to make sure it looks sturdy enough for the trail and will stand up to miles of wear. Use your common sense to make sure the panels are set up so that they won’t fall apart and won’t get caught on things.

An easy eye check you can give your backpack is to consider where the pack will need to have some flexibility. These will be the high-stress areas. Check to make sure the panels do not meet in these areas as they will be more likely to pull apart and cause tears.

You should also look at the quality of the stitching. Check for any loose threads and make sure the stitching is even and professional. Low-quality manufacturing will be evident in a closer inspection. The stitching should also be made from a high strength fiber that will withstand a life on the trail. If you see any loose stitching or thread that could easily tear you should disregard that bag immediately.

Dog backpack Durability and Quality

On top of all that, you should make sure the hardware is durable. Any clasps that keep your dog locked in should be durable enough to withstand the stress of your dog scratching at them and them being used many times. The same is true for any zippers on the bag as well. Don’t skimp on the quality of the backpack just because you won’t be wearing it.

Additional Features

Many backpacks come with nice added bonuses to make them more functional. These features often focus on removing weight or creating crafty ways to carry things like dog bowls. Some common features are collapsible dog bowls and insulated pockets, but make sure you’re on the lookout for any features that could prove valuable for you in the long run.

What if Your Dog is too Small for a Backpack?

If your dog is too small to wear a backpack they might be best suited off the trail, but if you truly insist on taking your dog you should consider a backpack to carry your dog in. These backpacks come in styles that are similar to small crates on your back or baby carriers where their legs poke through. Make sure you pick the right backpack for your pup.

lightweight dog pack

Things to Consider

Weight

Carrying a dog on your back all day is sure to weigh you down, make sure you pick a lightweight pack that won’t weigh you down even more. Look for mesh designs and lightweight nylon fabrics to ensure the minimum weight.

Size

This should go without saying, but make sure buy the proper size for your dog. If you buy a size too small your dog faces the potential for rashes and general discomfort. The same can be said for picking a size too large. If you’re unsure, always go slightly on the larger side just to be safe.

Comfort

Comfort goes two ways with this make sure both you and your dog stay comfortable. Pick a pack with plenty of padding on your back and shoulders to keep you from tiring out quickly and calling your hike to an end early.

At the same time, you should make sure the pack has plenty of ventilation through the shoulders and back so that you keep from getting too hot and having sweat build up in those areas. We all know that unpleasant feeling. Your dog will want the same amenities you have. Make sure they have plenty of padding, but also won’t overheat on a warm day.

Top Dog Backpacks Money Can Buy

Mountainsmith K-9 Dog Pack

Weight: About 1 PoundMountainsmith K-9 Dog Pack

Colors: Heritage Red, Azure Blue, Heritage Black

Sizes: Small, Medium, Large (25 lbs to 120+ lbs)

Features: Mesh Panels for Ventilation, Ergonomic Vet Designed Profile, Leash Attachment

Best Use: Warm Hikes

The K-9 Dog Pack from Mountainsmith is a great option for your four-legged friends. This pack features a two-tone design that comes in three colors (red, blue, and black) that are sure to look great on your dog.

The pack is made of a nice nylon fabric that will keep your dog dry and keeps the weight of the pack low. The nylon fabric is a high quality that is sure to stand up to time on the trail. The pack also features a nylon liner to keep your things safe and secure. This pack is great for any dog.

The pack features an ergonomic design that is sure to comfortably fit your dog. In fact, the design was created in coordination with vets to ensure the most comfortable fit for your pup. The sizes are accurately measured and will make sure your dog doesn’t struggle on the trail.

On top of all that, the pack features mesh panels where the pack meets your dog’s body to ensure your dog stays comfortable and cool in the summer sun. The pack attaches with a set of straps that wraps over their shoulders and has multiple adjustment points to get the perfect fit.

The pockets on this pack are removable and zipper closed. They lie on each side of your dog and are surprisingly large. You could easily fit a snack, water, and collapsible bowls for your dogs. On top of that, you’ll have plenty of room for other hiking essentials.

This is a great pick for warmer climates. Your dog will thank you for the high airflow design.

Check the price on Amazon

Kurgo Baxter Dog Backpack

Weight: About 1 PoundKurgo Baxter Dog Backpack

Colors: Barn Red, Black & Orange, Costal Blue, Ink Blue & Electric Green, Purple & Grey, Sea Glass

Sizes: Baxter (30 – 85 Pounds) & Big Baxter (50 – 110 Pounds)

Features: Lifetime Warranty, Adjustable Bags, Reflective Trim

Best Use: Temperate Hikes

The Baxter Dog Backpack from Kurgo is a great pick for people in more temperate climates. The pack comes in a wide variety of colors and is sure to please even the pickiest dog owners. Many packs seem focused towards male colors, but with the Baxter Dog Backpack, you can get a color that is sure to show that your dog is a girl.

The bag also features reflective trim that will keep your dog safe in the dark. Cars are sure to see your pup just as easily as you will with a flashlight. This is a great pack for dog owners that are serious about their hikes.

The pack is highly adjustable and features a design that will contour to your dog’s body perfectly. The pack does wrap around and make more contact with your dog than some other packs. For this reason, we recommend this pack for cooler climates that don’t need crazy ventilation.

This pack also only comes in two sizes which can mean you might not find the perfect size. This is relieved by giving the user multiple adjustment points to tighten the straps properly. The straps also feature an easy attachment method that requires just one clip. This is great for hyper dogs that just can’t wait to get out on the trail.

The pockets on this pack are either 3.75L or 7.5L depending on the size you purchase. You’ll have plenty of room for all of your essentials and more. The pockets zip close and also have D-rings for attaching other necessities if you choose. The placement of the pockets can be adjusted to make your dog more comfortable and create a better hiking experience.

This is a great pack, but make sure the weather in your area is suitable for a warmer backpack.

Check the price on Amazon

Columbustore Outdoor Adjustable Dog Saddle Bag

Weight: About 1 PoundColumbustore Outdoor Adjustable Dog Saddle Bag Large Capacity Dog Backpack

Colors: Blue, Grey, Orange, Red

Sizes: Small, Medium, Large (Up to a 31” Chest)

Features: Reflective Trim, Washable

Best Use: Temperate Hikes

The Adjustable Dog Saddle Bag from Columbustore is a great option for the frugal dog owner. The pack comes in a handful of colors that are sure to please most dog owners. They do not feature any more feminine colors for dog owners with female dogs. All of the color options also feature grey two-tone designs for some added style.

The trim on all of these bags is reflective to keep your pup safe in the dark. You’ll be able to find your dog easily with a flashlight and cars will also have no problems seeing your pup with plenty of time to stop if needed. The pack is also made of a great nylon material. This is a great pack for almost any occasion.

This pack makes a lot of contact with your dog and will be a little bit warmer than packs that are designed specifically for warm climates. Take this into account when determining what days your dog can wear the bag.

The pack attaches easily thanks to a one clip design and gives you plenty of areas to loosen and tighten the bag to make sure your dog is comfortable. The pack does sit a little bit wider than most which should be taken into consideration.

The pockets on this pack are huge. They aren’t adjustable since they run the full length of your dog’s back from up by their spin all the way down their sides. Make sure you have a sound understanding of how much your pup can comfortably carry. Otherwise, you could easily end up in a mess of trouble with this backpack. The pockets also feature waterproof zippers to compliment the waterproof nylon material.

This is a great pick for dogs that like carrying heavy weights and owners who want their dogs to truly contribute.

Check the price on Amazon

Outward Hound DayPak Dog Backpack

Weight: About 1 PoundOutward Hound DayPak Dog Backpack Adjustable Saddlebag Style Dog Accessory

Colors: Blue, Green

Sizes: X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large, XX-Large

Features: Reflective Trim, Expandable Pockets

Best Use: Warm Hikes

The DayPak Dog Backpack Adjustable Saddlebag from Outward Hound is a great option for frugal hikers in warm areas. This pack comes in at an unbeatable price and offers great value. There are only two colors available. Both color options are bright and feature even brighter trim.

The trim is also reflective to keep your dog safe after the sun goes down. The reflective trim will make your dog easy to find with a flashlight and easy to see in headlights if worst comes to worst. This is a great pack for the frugal dog owner.

This pack will keep your dog exceptionally cool on hot days. It features a full mesh back that offers ventilation unmatched by the rest of the packs on our list. The pack is easy to put on your dog and features a one clip design to put it on and take it off quickly. Unfortunately, with the all mesh design, this pack won’t offer your dog much padding. Make sure to keep an eye on your dog to look for any signs of discomfort.

The pockets on this pack are fairly large and expandable depending on how much you plan to bring. If you’re looking for pockets that you can adjust the position of, this isn’t the pack for you. Take some time to review everything you’ll want to bring to make sure it will all fit.

All-in-all this is a great pack for hiking on hot days. Your dog will stay nice and cool with this lightweight pack.

Check the price on Amazon

Vere Gloria Dog Carrier

Weight: About 1 PoundVere Gloria dog backpack

Colors: Red

Sizes: One Size (For Small Dogs)

Features: Extra Padding, Mesh Panels, Front or Back

Best Use: Warm Hikes

This Vere Gloria Dog Carrier is sure to keep your dog comfortable over the course of a hike. This carrier is designed for especially small dogs and your back will thank you for that. The colors are very limited, but the red and black two-tone design look very nice in any situation.

This bag is made from a lightweight nylon material that will keep your dog cool and dry. The same can be said for where the material meets your back. This pack is great for warmer days.

This carrier is reversible. You can carry the dog on your front or back which is nice for a multitude of reasons. Typically it’s more pleasant to carry your dog on the front simply so you can interact with them and they have a better view of the trail around them.

Being able to carry the dog on your back when you get tired will extend your mileage and keep you from wearing down too quickly. The ability to carry your dog on the front will also allow you to carry another bag on your back if you choose to.

Your dog will stay very comfortable in this pack thanks to nice padding and great ventilation. The design is specific to very small lap dogs so it is more exact to their dimensions than many one size carriers. The dog is held in with a zipper and elastic system that can be adjusted to keep them nice and snug without sacrificing any ease of getting them in and out.

You might not be quite as comfortable in this pack as it lacks padding on the straps. This is a great carrier for a hot day.

Check the price on Amazon

Petsfit Comfort Dogs Carriers Backpack

Weight: About 3 PoundPetsfit Comfort Dogs Carriers Backpack For Cat Or Dog

Colors: Black & Orange, Grey & Blue, Grey & Green, Grey & Pink

Sizes: One Size

Features: Extra Padding, Mesh Panels

Best Use: Short Hikes

This Petsfit Comfort Dog Backpack is simply huge. It is made for your dog to sit in like a small crate. This backpack is not suited for long hikes. The pack comes in a great variety of colors that feature a two-tone design. Most of the colors are muted and the grey is especially nice. The gray fabric is actually an oxford linen to add more to the value of this carrier. Don’t expect many frills from this carrier despite its extra-large size and weight.

Your dog will fit comfortably if they are either a puppy or very small. Less than 15 pounds small. Truly, the 15-pound upper limit might be pushing it. It’s easy to tell that this carrier was truly designed for cats. It features a padded floor and great mesh windows to keep your dog comfortable. Your pup will enjoy a nice breeze and great views from this carrier.

The carrier will also be surprisingly comfortable for you. Don’t get me wrong, its heavy enough that it will wear you out, but it has great padding and ventilation to delay the inevitable as much as possible. It also features a strap across your chest to keep it secure.

Overall, this is a great pack, but be careful when you plan on using it.

Check the price on Amazon

YAMAY Dog Cat Pet Carrier Backpack

Weight: About 1 PoundYAMAY Dog Cat Pet Carrier Backpack

Colors: Blue, Green, Pink, Yellow

Sizes: Small, Medium, Large

Features: Extra Padding, Mesh Panels, Pockets

Best Use: Short Hikes

This YAMAY Pet Carrier Backpack is a combination of the other two packs on our list. It features a two-tone design with a great variety of colors to choose from. The colors range from masculine to feminine and are sure to please even the pickiest dog owner. The mesh design also looks especially cool.

This pack is a combination of the other two carriers on our list since it creates something of a cocoon for your dog. They can sit inside and just poke their head out. They may end up getting warm so we would not advise using this carrier on hot days. The bag is reversible and will offer plenty of padding to keep you nice and comfortable as well.

This is a great carrier for casual walks.

Check the price on Amazon

Conclusion

Picking a backpack for your dog can be surprisingly difficult, but hopefully, this list makes things a little bit easier on you. Have you tried any of the canine backpacks on this list? Do you have any you would recommend? Please feel free to comment below!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sean Nelson
Sean Nelson

Sean was backpacking since he was 7. He was born close to the RMNP and his father was a ranger, so life surrounded by mountains and wildlife is a norm for Colorado. He likes to explore, but prefers to stay in USA. In his opinion, there are too many trails and options in US to go abroad.

  • Chad Halco

    I was a little leery at first when I was thinking about getting a dog backpack because I wasn’t sure my pup would want to wear it. Well, I ended up buying the Kurgo Baxter Dog Backpack and haven’t had any problems with him accepting it. Great pack because it has plenty of room and is very durable.

  • Sean Nelson

    Hi there Chad! I’m pleased that you and your furry friend had a great time. Those backpacks are lifesavers! At least, that’s less weight to carry in our own backpacks. Usually, dogs can carry their own water, food, first aid kit and poop bags inside their backpacks. Just as long as you don’t overload their bags, they’ll be fine. 🙂

  • Sean Nelson

    Glad you were able to get your dog the Mountainsmith K-9 Dog Pack. It provides comfort for our pets like no other. It’s also breathable and very affordable.

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