8 Best Dog Backpacks for Hiking in 2022

We tested the best dog backpacks for 2022 and this is how they performed.

Updated on November 22nd, 2022
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We tested the best dog backpacks on the market for 2022. Read on to see how they performed, which are best for you, and get some buying advice.

Note: You may stumble across a few "dog backpacks" that look just like a typical daypack. These packs are not meant to be worn by dogs but instead are designed for carrying your dog, usually a small breed that is light enough to be shouldered by their human owner.

Best Dog Backpacks

The best dog backpacks are:

MODEL Volume PRICE Weight Durability (Denier) Score
1. Mountainsmith K9 5 L (medium) $74.95 19.2 oz 630d Nylon Pu Carbonate 8/10
2. Lifeunion Saddle Bag - $25.95 11.2 oz 600D Double Polyester 8/10
3. Ruffwear Approach 14.5 L (medium) $109.95 18 oz 150D Polyester 8/10
4. Kurgo Baxter 3.75 L $59.95 13.6 oz 300D, 400D 8/10
5. Ruffwear Palisades 17.5 L (medium) $159.95 28 oz 150D Ripstop Polyester 8/10
6. OneTigris HOPPY CAMPER 2.0 4 L $34.99 21.4 oz Canvas 8/10
7. Outward Hound DayPak - $43.99 10.9 oz N/A 8/10
8. Wellver Saddle Bag - $19.99 9.8 oz N/A 8/10

Best Overall Dog Backpack:

MOUNTAINSMITH K9

Price: $74.95

See on MOUNTAINSMITH See on AMAZON
mountainsmith k9 dog backpack

PROS:

✅ Super adjustable fit

✅ Extra durable

CONS:

❌ Heavier than average

KEY SPECS

  • Volume: 5 L (medium)
  • Weight: 19.2 oz (1.2 lbs)
  • Durability (Denier): 630d Nylon Pu Carbonate

The Mountainsmith K9 is our pick for the best overall dog backpack. We found it easy to put on. The pack simply slides over a dog's head and buckles around the chest and legs.

We love how this pack fits and how it is adjustable in almost every direction. The chest strap and side straps fit both small and large dogs. Even the panniers have their own straps to raise or lower each side pannier based on the girth of your dog.

We love that the straps are padded and that the buckles and d-loops don't slip, even under heavy weights. And they have a fabric backing that prevents rubbing against the dog's skin.

This is the most durable pack on our list with a combination of 420D and 630D nylon fabric along with rugged zippers and secure stitching on the handle and leash attachment.

The two large pockets hold up to two liters of water and food, while the smaller slash pockets are ideal for waste bags, treats, or a first aid kit. We found the pack's 5-liter volume to be great for day hikes and short backpacking trips, but it’s not nearly as roomy as the two options we tested from Ruffwear. The weight is heavier compared to the other models we tested.


Best Budget Dog Backpack:

LIFEUNION SADDLE BAG

Price: $26.95

See on AMAZON
lifeunion saddlebag dog backpack

PROS:

✅ Lightweight

✅ Inexpensive

✅ Durable

CONS:

❌ Smaller capacity

KEY SPECS

  • Volume: -
  • Weight: 11.2 oz (0.7 lbs)
  • Durability (Denier): 600D Double Polyester

The Lifeunion Saddle Bag falls in between the lightweight and low-cost Outward Hound DayPak and the rugged Approach pack from Ruffwear. Like the Ruffwear Approach pack, the Lifeunion Saddle Bag has fixed panniers that are sewn into the pack and can't be adjusted. The chest straps are, however, adjustable.

Because of the pannier's triangular shape and size, we were limited in what we could stuff in the pack. Just the essentials, no large bottles of water or big bags of food. The smaller capacity aside, we loved that this was one of the lightest and least expensive packs we tested.

It’s also very durable, constructed with water-resistant 600D double polyester. We liked that the pack and straps are lined with a soft mesh and are well-padded for comfort. Overall, the Lifeunion Saddle bag is our pick for the best budget dog backpack.


Best Large Volume Dog Backpack:

RUFFWEAR APPROACH

Price: $109.95

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ruffwear approach dog backpack

PROS:

✅ Large capacity

✅ Great durability

CONS:

❌ Expensive

KEY SPECS

  • Volume: 14.5 L (medium)
  • Weight: 18 oz (1.13 lbs)
  • Durability (Denier): 150D Polyester

The Ruffwear Approach is the Palisades's little brother. Ideal for a long day hike and backpacking trips, it features a single-piece construction in which the panniers are sewn into the harness frame of the pack. This makes the pack less adjustable. We recommend having your dog try it on before you buy. The rear strap also sits far back on the dog and can get sprayed with urine if not fitted correctly.

Outside of the single-piece construction, we found the Approach's design outstanding: rugged zippers, solid leash attachment, and secure handle. We were able to fit 2 liters of water, a dog bowl, treats, and waste bags in the two large panniers.

The Approach pack is made from durable 420-denier ripstop nylon with a soft liner inside. We especially appreciated the gear loops across the top, which are useful for storing the leash when you are not using it.

It offers a bit less storage than the Ruffwear Palisades, but we think it's a good trade-off as the pack's overall weight is 10 ounces less. The Ruffwear Approach is our pick for the best large-volume dog hiking backpack.


Best Dog Backpack for Day Hikes:

KURGO BAXTER

Price: $59.95

See on AMAZON
kurgo baxter dog backpack

PROS:

✅ Lightweight

✅ Good fit

✅ Durable

CONS:

❌ Expensive for smaller size

KEY SPECS

  • Volume: 3.75 L
  • Weight: 13.6 oz (0.85 lbs)
  • Durability (Denier): 300D, 400D

The Kurgo Baxter is a lightweight pack that excels on day hikes. The 3.75-liter capacity could be used on overnight trips if you’re willing to carry some of your dog’s gear.

We found the Baxter to be a simple dog backpack. The pack has two attachment points for a leash. We found the clip on the front that makes it easy to put on. Just slide the harness over the dog’s head and secure the front buckle.

It has two straps that fit across the chest and secure the backpack to your dog. Each strap is adjustable so you can get a snug fit. Unlike other packs we tested, the straps are not padded and the buckles lay against the dog’s skin. We found this can irritate the skin and cause a hot spot. There also are two loops on the top of the pack for attaching gear. We like that the panniers are adjustable and can be moved up or down to fit a wide range of dogs.

The regular Baxter pack fits dogs between 30 to 85 pounds with 3.75L of storage space, while the larger Big Baxter pack holds up to 7.5L of gear and fits dogs over 50 pounds. Overall, this is our pick for the best dog backpack for day hikes.


The Other Noteworthy Models

Ruffwear Palisades

Price: $159.95

See on RUFFWEAR See on AMAZON
ruffwear approach dog backpack

PROS:

✅ Huge capacity

✅ Comfy

CONS:

❌ Expensive

❌ Heavy

KEY SPECS

  • Volume: 17.5 L (medium)
  • Weight: 28 oz (1.75 lbs)
  • Durability (Denier): 150D Ripstop Polyester

Ruffwear Palisades is the largest volume backpack for dogs on our list. We found it to be a fantastic multi-day dog backpack with removable panniers, a whopping 17.5 liters of storage, and lots of thoughtful design features. Like the two 1-liter collapsible hydration bags. These fit in the saddlebags and most dogs will be able to drink straight out of the bladder.

We like Ruffwear's inclusion of compression straps inside the panniers to keep its contents in place. We would have liked to see a bit more padding come with the front straps. We recommend checking how the bag fits before buying. If the fit is poor your dog may experience some rubbing around its armpits. Ruffwear sells a padded add-on to provide additional protection to the chest and belly areas (called Brush Guard).

We don’t like the price and weight. It’s the heaviest and most expensive on our list. Overall, the Palisades is a great choice if you're looking for a multi-day dog backpack that's roomy, rugged, and adjustable.


OneTigris HOPPY CAMPER 2.0

Price: $34.99

See on AMAZON
onetigris blaze tracker dog backpack

PROS:

✅ Inexpensive

CONS:

❌ Heavy

❌ Made of low-durability cotton

KEY SPECS

  • Volume: 4 L
  • Weight: 21.4 oz (1.34 lbs)
  • Durability (Denier): Canvas

OneTigris Hoppy Camper dog backpack is a reliable dog backpack with a sleek urban design. Made out of cotton canvas, it tips the scale at 21.4oz and is one of the heavier options on our list. We don’t like that cotton isn't as durable and doesn't dry as fast as other fabrics like nylon and polyester. Not a great option on rainy days or if your route involves river crossings.

With 4 liters of storage space, this runs about average compared to other models we tested. We found the handle isn’t durable enough to lift a dog. We recommend getting a more durable option if you expect to need to lift your dog over boulders or other trail obstacles.

We found the fit is average, there are two straps to adjust. One over the belly, the other around the neck. Overall, the Hoppy Camper is a good day-hike backpack for dogs, especially considering the $35 price tag.


Outward Hound DayPak

Price: $43.99

See on AMAZON
outward hound daypak dog backpack

PROS:

✅ Lightweight

CONS:

❌ Small capacity

❌ Not durable

KEY SPECS

  • Volume: -
  • Weight: 10.9 oz (0.68 lbs)
  • Durability (Denier): N/A

As its name implies, the DayPak dog backpack from Outward Hound is designed for a short walk around town or a daytime adventure at your local park. We found it to be best on street walks, parks, and beaches. We found this bag is less durable than most options we tested and we don’t recommend it for rough backcountry terrain.

The standout feature is the breathable mesh body, which keeps your dog cool even when it is hot outside. Each dog saddlebag has zippered pockets to carry the essentials for your dog.

Overall, we found the capacity to be quite small on this pack. The lightweight design makes this one of the lightest dog backpacks we tested. There is a handle to carry your dog and a single D-ring for a leash.


Wellver Saddle Bag

Price: $19.99

See on AMAZON
wellver saddle dog backpack

PROS:

✅ Inexpensive

✅ Lightweight

CONS:

❌ Small capacity

❌ Less adjustable fit

❌ Less durable

KEY SPECS

  • Volume: -
  • Weight: 9.8 oz (0.61 lbs)
  • Durability (Denier): N/A

If you need a backpack for your dog but don't like the rugged outdoorsy look, then the Wellver Saddle Bag is for you. At $20 and 9.8 ounces, it’s the lightest and cheapest on our list. We found it to be a great starter pack for shorter hikes and walks around the town.

It has two dog saddlebags and a well-padded chest strap. We loved the breathable mesh that goes over your dog's back. Ideal for warm-weather hiking.

We found the pack to be longer than most dog backpacks. We recommend being careful with the fit, especially with male dogs. The pack can be too long for smaller dogs and the back strap can fall over a dog's male bits instead of the end of the rib cage.


Key Factors To Consider When Choosing

PRICE

A dog backpack for hiking can range widely in price. The most expensive models have the largest volumes, the most adjustable fit, and are made of premium materials making them extra durable.

Dog backpacks that provide the greatest value:

Most affordable dog backpacks:

Premium dog backpacks (most expensive):

WEIGHT

We recommend under two pounds for a dog backpack. Heavier packs tend to have larger panniers, rugged zippers, and extra straps for adjustment. Look to strike a balance between features and weight. The lighter the pack, the easier it is on the dog. But be sure to get a backpack that's robust enough to handle the supplies your dog needs to carry.

The lightest dog backpacks:

CAPACITY

Dog backpacks come in a variety of sizes to accommodate a walk around town to a multi-day hike. Look for a pack that holds around 15 liters for a multi-day trek and 5 liters for a day trip.

The dog backpacks with the most capacity:

FIT

Fit is a mix of design, load distribution, and adjustability. Some backpacks for dogs are designed for specific dog sizes. The more adjustable the pack’s straps and panniers are the better fit you can achieve and the more versatile the pack is for different dog sizes. Avoid one-piece designs that are less adjustable. Make sure the pack can fit snugly to avoid slipping while your dog is hiking.

Load distribution is important too, look for even weight on each side of your dog’s body. The pack should rest near a dog’s shoulders to avoid strain on its back and rear. Good load distribution and a snug fit will avoid hot spots and chafing (just like packs for people).

The most comfortable dog backpacks have a protective layer of fabric on the buckles that protects from chafing and rubbing.

The best-fitting dog backpacks for small dogs:

The best-fitting dog backpacks for medium dogs:

The best-fitting dog backpacks for large dogs:


Other Things to Consider

How Much Weight Can a Dog Safely Carry on its Back?

How much weight a dog can carry depends on the breed, size, and age of your dog. The target carrying weight for most dogs is 15 percent of the dog's body weight. Some bigger dogs like a Bernese Mountain dog can carry up to 30 percent of their body weight, while smaller dogs like a Pug can carry only 10 percent. Older dogs should carry less than the recommended weight, to avoid stress. Just like with people, you don't want to overburden your dog with too much weight.

Use the calculator below to find out how much weight your dog should carry, gear included:

Dog Pack Weight | Calculator
Your Dog's Weight:
lbs
Ideal pack weight:
up to 0 lbs

Watch your dog for signs of fatigue, limping, licking, or whimpering, and adjust the pack weight as needed. When packing your backpack, allow for extra room in case you need to carry more of your dog’s supplies than expected. Don’t ignore any concerning signs. If you push your dog too hard, you may end up having to carry them out.

old looking dog wearing a backpack

Weatherproofing

WATER-RESISTANT MATERIALS AND ZIPPERS

Most dog backpacks are made with water-resistant nylon or polyester that will keep the pack contents dry under light rain. Look for zippers that are covered by a flap for the best rain protection If heavy rain is expected, a plastic bag or other waterproof liner is recommended.

Speaking of waterproof, you'll also want to look for packs that have straps that fit don't dangle down into a urine stream. 

dog peeing while wearing a dog backpack

Durability

PAY ATTENTION TO THE HANDLE AND LEASH HOOK

Dog backpacks typically are made with durable nylon or polyester with heavy-duty stitching in high-stress areas like the handle and leash hook. Try to test out a pack before you purchase it. Let your dog wear it and try picking him up to see if the handle feel secure and if the straps hold without slipping. You don't want the handle or leash hook to break when you need it the most.

The most durable dog backpacks:

pulling on the handle of a Ruffwear dog pack

Color

BRIGHT COLORS HELP YOU SPOT YOUR DOG EASILY

Choose high-visibility colors like orange and neon green. These colors make it easy to find your dog in case he runs off into the woods or wanders around camp.

eight dog backpacks side by side

Design

IMPORTANT FEATURES

Here are some common design features to look for:

  • Padded Straps: Not all dog backpacks are made the same. There are a handful of features that make or break a pack. If you are going to have your dog carry a heavy load, you should look for a pack with padded straps. Just like a human backpack, padded straps add comfort and prevent chafing.
  • Handle: It's also helpful to have a sturdy handle that allows you to lift your dog over steep terrain. It's so much easier and safer for both you and your dog to use a handle for lifting. Like the straps, some packs have handles that are padded so you can grab your dog without having the strap dig into your hand.
  • Gear Loops: Another useful feature are gear loops. These loops typically are found on the top or along the side of the pack. They are excellent for attaching accessories like waste bags and leashes to the outside of the pack.
black dog wearing blue dog backpack

FAQs

Are dog backpacks good for dogs?

Yes, they are. Dog backpacks are good for dogs because they provide discipline, comfort, and physical training.

  1. Discipline: When wearing a pack, a dog often goes into work mode and takes on the job of carrying its own weight. A dog that believes it is on duty will stay focused during a hike and won't chase after every squirrel it encounters on the trail.
  2. Comfort: Some dogs are comforted by the snug feeling of the pack. It can make a nervous dog feel more secure and helps them stay calm when encountering a stressful situation.
  3. Physical training: A pack also provides the dog with additional exercise. This extra effort will tire out the dog after a hike so he or she will chill at the campsite. It also helps build endurance while training for longer hikes.

Start off easy with shorter hikes and little to no weight in the pack. As your dog gets stronger, you can gradually increase the distance and the weight in the pack. Before you know it, your dog will be a pro at carrying his or her gear.

dog with a backpack laying down


What is the most comfortable backpack for dogs?

We found the most comfortable backpack for dogs is the Mountainsmith K9 backpack.

Hiker holding his dog using the handle on his dog backpack


How do I choose a dog backpack?

To choose a dog backpack look for a snug fit, adjustable saddlebags, and enough capacity for your dog to carry its own supplies.

hiker buckling up a dog backpack

Some photos in this post were taken by Jonathan Davis (@meowhikes)