4 Best Dog Backpacks of 2024 for your Adventurous Pup

Which dog backpack takes the trophy for the top spot?

When it’s time to hit the trails with your pup, the right dog backpack can make all the difference. It’s not just about storing treats and water—the best backpack will fit snugly, allow your dog to move freely, and include safety features for rugged terrain.

dog wearing a backpack and carrying a tennis ball in his mouth

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Despite its high price point and lead time, the quality, craftsmanship, and eco-conscious materials make the Red Paw Packs Ultralight Dog Backpack our #1 pick for best dog backpack.
  • Ensure the dog’s backpack fits comfortably and secure, with adjustable straps and made from breathable materials to avoid overheating during hikes.
  • Pack the essentials like food, water, and first aid, adhere to weight limits (less than 25% of the dog’s weight), and consider the terrain and weather when packing the backpack.
  • Look for dog backpacks with built-in harnesses for added convenience and safety, and choose trendy yet functional designs that include high-visibility features like reflective trims.

Product Ratings

Red Paw Packs Ultralight Dog BackpackWilderdog Dog BackpackRuffwear Approach™ Dog BackpackRuffwear
Palisades™ Dog Backpack
Red Paw Packs UL Dog Backpack

Wilderdog Dog BackpackRuffwear Approach Dog Backpack
Ruffwear Palisades Dog Backpack
Nice to Know
PriceCheck today’s priceCheck today’s priceCheck today’s priceCheck today’s price
WeightS: 9.8 oz, 4L
M: 11.4 oz, 6L
L: 12.9 oz, 8L
S: 9.5 oz, 5L
M: 12.9 oz, 8L
L: 14.5 oz, 12L
XS: 12 oz, 5L
S: 15 oz, 10L
M: 1 lb. 2 oz, 13L
L/XL: 1 lb. 5 oz, 21L
S: 1.75 lb, 14L
M: 1.85 lb, 17.5L
L/XL: 2.15 lb, 24L
Best UseDay hike, OvernightDay hike, OvernightDay hike, OvernightMulti-night backpacking
Overall Score
ProsHigh-quality, eco-friendly handmade pack designed for durability and functionality. Features tear-resistant material, plush padding and reflective visibility, plus three adjustable straps to ensure a perfect fit.Combines aesthetic appeal with practicality, featuring a lightweight design for easy carry, ample storage with accessible pockets, adjustable straps for a custom fit, and durable construction for outdoor adventures.Ample storage with easy-access pockets, a comfortably padded harness suitable for long hikes, equipped with reflective visibility for safety, and featuring a dual leash attachment for versatility, all constructed from durable materials.Snug and adjustable fit, enhanced utility with added water containers, visually appealing design, and durable construction for outdoor adventures.
ConsLong lead times due to custom hand-made production, potentially higher cost compared to off-the-shelf options, and non-removable saddlebags.Fixed saddlebag design limits versatility, challenges in achieving the perfect fit for unique dog shapes or in-between sizes, potential for the pack to shift with uneven loads, and an adjustment period needed for dogs new to wearing gear.Buckles can be tricky to adjust for a precise fit, requires dogs to step into the harness, adding complexity to wear, and the pack’s integrated design does not allow for saddlebag removal, limiting flexibility in use.Challenges with sizing and fit adjustments, issues with component durability, high price point concerns, and limited color options.
Bottom LineAn eco-friendly, handmade pack that shines in quality and functionality, with its tear-resistant material, plush padding, and adjustable straps for a perfect fit, but it comes with the caveats of longer lead times and a higher price point than standard options.Offers a mix of aesthetic appeal and practical functionality, featuring lightweight design, ample storage, and durable materials. However, its fixed saddlebag design and potential fit challenges highlight areas for improvement, particularly for dogs with unique sizes or those new to wearing backpacks.Combines functionality with durability, offering ample storage and comfort for canine adventurers, but its fixed saddlebag design and somewhat cumbersome harness may limit its versatility and ease of use for some.Offers adjustable fit and robust features but faces sizing challenges, durability concerns, and a high price point, impacting its overall practicality and value.
Performance Scores
Red Paw Packs Ultralight Dog Backpack
Wilderdog Dog Backpack
Ruffwear Approach™ Dog Backpack
Palisades™ Dog Backpack
Fit (40%)978
Functionality (20%)10887
Durability (20%)8887
Cost (20%)5866

Red Paw Packs Ultralight Dog Backpack

The Red Paw Packs Ultralight Dog Backpack aims to combine durability, comfort, and eco-friendliness for canine companions on the go.

Pros of the Ultralight Dog Backpack

  • Eco-Friendly Materials: Designed with outdoor adventures in mind, its saddlebags are made from recycled tear-proof UltraGrid 210D ripstop nylon to minimize environmental impact.
  • Durability: Features tear-proof nylon and double-layered reinforcement on the saddlebags for added toughness. Tested by dragging across spiky Joshua Trees and indeed, it did not tear.
  • Comfort: Incorporates mesh padding and foam inside the straps for a dog’s comfort during prolonged use.
  • Visibility and Safety: Hi-Vis reflective trim enhances visibility in low light.
  • Functional Design: Offers two leash clip locations for versatility and KAM snaps for compressing the pack, alongside a fully adjustable chest harness.
  • Storage: The design includes a top stretch pocket for easily accessible storage of leashes or waste bags and two saddlebags.
  • Ease of Stabilization: Despite its comprehensive coverage across a dog’s back, the backpack is easy to stabilize thanks to adjustable straps, ensuring a secure and comfortable fit even during active use.
Source: Fluffillow on YouTube

Cons of the Ultralight Dog Backpack

  • Lead Time: Being a pre-order, custom handmade product, it comes with a 3-month lead time, requiring advance planning.
  • Price Point: As a specialized, hand-made item, it may be priced higher than off-the-shelf options, which could be a consideration for some buyers.
  • Integrated Saddlebags: The saddlebags on this backpack are fixed to the harness, which reduces flexibility for users who favor detachable alternatives.

Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack

Ruffwear, an outdoor dog gear brand from Bend, Oregon, excels in creating adventure-ready gear with a focus on performance and sustainability. Their Approach Dog Backpack, ideal for day hikes and light overnight trips, features lightweight, water-resistant materials and efficient gear organization.

Pros of the Approach Dog Backpack

  • Lightweight Design: This backpack is crafted to be lightweight, aiming to ensure that dogs can comfortably carry their essentials without being burdened by unnecessary weight during their adventures.
  • Efficient Load Distribution: Designed with radial cut saddlebags, the backpack aims to evenly distribute the load across the dog’s shoulders to minimize strain and enhance the walking or hiking experience.
  • Comfort and Ventilation: An update includes a perforated foam chassis, which is intended to increase breathability and flexibility, making it more comfortable for dogs, especially in warmer conditions.
  • Visibility and Safety Features: It features reflective trim to improve visibility in dim conditions and includes a loop for attaching a safety light, which is particularly useful during early morning or late evening outings.
  • Durability: Constructed with a 150 denier polyester shell, it offers a degree of durability and a weather-resistant finish that helps to protect against light moisture.
  • Customizable Fit: The backpack is designed with a three-strap harness system and dual leash attachment points, aiming to provide a secure fit that can be adjusted to accommodate different dog shapes and sizes.
  • Accessory Compatibility: It’s compatible with specific Ruffwear add-ons, like the Brush Guard and Swamp Cooler, for added stability and cooling, potentially enhancing the comfort and safety of your dog during use.
woman carrying 2 dogs by their backpack harnesses up a boulder
Source Ruffwear

Cons of the Approach Dog Backpack

  • Integrated Saddlebags: Unlike models such as the Ruffwear Palisades Backpack, the saddlebags on this backpack are permanently attached to the harness, limiting its versatility for users who might prefer detachable options.
  • Fitting Adjustments Required: Some dogs, particularly those with non-standard body types, may find the fitting process challenging, necessitating initial adjustments to ensure a comfortable and snug fit.
  • Sensitive Weight Distribution: Proper balance is crucial; unevenly distributed loads may cause the backpack to rotate, potentially leading to discomfort or chafing for the dog.
  • Initial Acclimation Needed: Dogs unfamiliar with wearing gear might find the process of getting used to this backpack somewhat daunting, particularly if they are apprehensive about new equipment.

Ruffwear Palisades Dog Backpack

We have mixed reviews on the Ruffwear Palisades Dog Backpack, highlighting both the pack’s strengths and areas for improvement in its design and functionality.

Pros of the Palisades Dog Backpack

  • We appreciate the backpack’s fitting options, with many adjustment features ensuring a snug fit for our dogs.
  • The inclusion of water containers a valuable addition, enhancing the backpack’s utility for outdoor activities.
  • The design and aesthetics are well thought-out and streamlined, and actually looks better than the images online.
Dog with the water bottle in his backpack being filled
Source Ruffwear

Cons of the Palisades Dog Backpack

  • Sizing can be challenging, so make sure to consult the size guide and measure your dog. We had to purchase multiple sizes to find the right fit.
  • Critical components like the buckles failed for a couple of our testers, which obviously affected the backpack’s overall functionality.
  • This pack has a high price, which makes us question the value for money given the backpack’s quality issues.

While we liked the Ruffwear Palisades Dog Backpack for its aesthetic appeal and thoughtful inclusion of features like water bottles, we have hesitations based on sizing inaccuracies, quality concerns with buckles, and the high cost. The product excels in design and intention but may require further refinement in quality and pricing strategy to fully meet user expectations and needs.

Wilderdog Dog Backpack

After testing Wilderdog’s Dog Backpack from Wilderdog, we found it to blend aesthetic appeal with functionality. Crafted to cater to dogs on the move, this backpack emphasizes comfort, convenience, and durability. However, some aspects could be improved to better serve a wider range of dog sizes and shapes.

Pros of the Wilderdog Dog Backpack

  • Lightweight Design: The backpack is structured to minimize additional weight, making it easier for dogs to carry their gear without feeling overburdened.
  • Efficient Gear Organization: It offers ample storage space, with pockets that are both spacious and easily accessible, streamlining gear organization for day trips.
  • Comfort and Fit: Adjustable straps provide a tailored fit for various dog sizes, enhancing comfort and preventing the pack from shifting during movement.
  • Durability: Made with high-quality materials, the backpack withstands the rigors of outdoor adventures, offering a reliable solution for carrying dog essentials.
Dog in a park wearing a dog backpack
Source Wilderdog

Cons of the Wilderdog Dog Backpack

  • Non-Removable Saddlebags: The fixed saddlebag design restricts versatility, as it cannot be detached from the harness for simplified use or cleaning.
  • Fit Challenges: Despite adjustable features, finding the perfect fit can be tricky, especially for dogs with unique body shapes or sizes in between the standard options.
  • Sensitivity to Movement: Although generally stable, the backpack may tilt or shift when loaded unevenly, requiring periodic adjustments to maintain balance.
  • Adjustment Period: Some dogs may need time to acclimate to wearing the backpack, particularly if they’re not accustomed to gear, which might initially limit its use to shorter outings.

In summary, while the Wilderdog backpack impresses with its design and functionality, attention to the fit and comfort for all dog types, as well as the flexibility of use, could enhance its appeal and utility for pet owners seeking adventure-ready gear for their dogs.

Finding the Perfect Fit: Dog Hiking Backpack Essentials

A well-fitting and secure dog backpack is a key factor for a successful hike. Most, if not all, dog backpacks for hiking have built-in harnesses. By reducing the number of gear pieces needed, these backpacks offer convenience, while ensuring a secure fit. Dog backpacks with built-in harnesses typically come with the following:

  • Padded chest straps
  • Reflective aspects
  • Multiple attach points
  • Volume options (i.e. saddlebags or single pack)
  • Adjustable fit

You might ask, how do you achieve a proper backpack fit? Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Start by measuring the circumference of your dog’s neck and chest.
  2. There should be enough space to fit two fingers between the gear and your dog.
  3. But, what if your dog doesn’t fit into standard sizes? No worries!
  4. Look for dog backpacks with adjustable features like EZ Fit Straps.
  5. These are designed to secure an optimal fit, accommodating dogs of various sizes and shapes.

But fit isn’t the only thing you should consider. What about your dog’s comfort during the hike? This is where breathable materials come in. To maintain comfort and prevent your pet from overheating during physical activity, opt for dog backpacks made from breathable materials. Therefore, when shopping for a dog backpack, keep in mind the importance of fit, adjustability, and breathability.

Pack Smart: What to Carry in Your Dog’s Backpack

Essentials Pack List

With the perfect backpack in hand, now comes the task of smart packing. So, what are the essentials to carry in your dog’s backpack? Consider including:

  • A travel-sized first aid kit
  • Waste bags
  • Collapsible bowls
  • Dog food and treats
  • A bed for overnight trips
  • Water bottles to avoid dehydration
  • Camping tent for dogs (light enough for backpacking)

Weight Distribution

Filling your dog’s backpack requires more than just throwing in the essentials. Weight distribution is a crucial aspect to take into account. To ensure comfort and balance during the hike, follow these steps:

  1. Begin with an empty backpack on short walks.
  2. Gradually add weight to the backpack as your dog becomes accustomed to it.
  3. Evenly distribute the weight on both sides of the backpack to maintain balance.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your dog is comfortable and balanced while wearing the backpack during hikes.

You might be tempted to load your dog’s backpack to the brim, but this could lead to discomfort or even injury. The general rule of thumb is that the maximum carrying weight that dogs should have in their backpack is less than 25% of their dog’s body weight.

Packing for Weather

Keep in mind, the terrain and weather should also influence your packing decisions. Depending on these factors, you may need to pack additional gear such as:

  • Boots for rough terrain
  • Dog-safe sunscreen
  • Life jackets for water activities
  • Jackets for cold weather hikes

Make sure to bring your own gear to ensure the safety and comfort of your dog during the adventure. And always remember, assess your dog’s physical condition and capabilities before hiking with a backpack, and consult a veterinarian if there are any health concerns or if you plan to have your dog carry any items.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much weight can a dog carry?

Most dogs can safely carry 10 to 15% of their body weight, including the weight of the pack and its contents, while highly athletic dogs may handle up to 25%.

How to ensure a perfect fit for my dog’s backpack?

To ensure a perfect fit for your dog’s backpack, measure the circumference of your dog’s neck and chest, and make sure there’s enough space to fit two fingers between the gear and your dog. Look for backpacks with adjustable features like EZ Fit Straps.

What are some essentials to pack in my dog’s backpack?

Make sure to pack a travel-sized first aid kit, waste bags, collapsible bowls, dog food and treats, a bed for overnight trips, and water bottles in your dog’s backpack for a safe and enjoyable outing.