I’m sure you’ll agree that a dog backpack must have enough storage, be comfortable, and have easy on/off features.
That was our top criteria for selecting the best dog backpack.
When you’re packed and ready to go, the Ruffwear Approach, is a combination of all these features and was selected the “Best Overall” pick from our editorial team for you and your pup to hit the trail.
Dog Backpack Buying Guide
What is a Dog Backpack?
A dog backpack is exactly what it sounds like. It is a backpack that is specially designed for dogs, so they can carry their own food and water as well as some lighter gear for their owners. There are some safety points to keep in mind when it comes to the amount of weight a dog can safely carry and we’ll delve into that farther below.
There are tons of options on the market for dog backpacks. It can be a real challenge to choose the right one for your dog unless you know what to look for and the considerations to think about. We’ve listed them below.
- How will you be using the backpack? – Are you looking for a pack that will be perfect for day hikes? Or are you planning on regular overnight excursions and campouts? Do you just want to add some weight to your dog’s exercise sessions? Will you be taking the dog on multi-day campouts or just overnights? All of these questions are important because it will form the foundation from which you will choose the pack that fits those needs the best.
- Do You Need a Waterproof Pack? – If you plan on taking the dog out in any and all weather, waterproof packs are going to be what you consider. Not all backpacks are waterproof so be sure to note this when you are researching the different designs and styles. Depending on the dog backpack, if you really like a design, you could get a spray waterproofing spray but it is a good idea to check with the manufacturer to see if there is a problem that doing this could cause with the pack.
- How Large is Your Dog? – Backpacks are not typically recommended for small framed dogs. They are usually best carried by the medium to large dogs so your dog’s size plays a part in the type of bag and the weight that they are safely capable of carrying. Ideally, the backpacks that have saddlebags and that are attached to a sturdy harness frame will provide the best and most comfortable load. All dog backpacks on the market have weight ranges and size ranges, so pay attention to this information when you are researching and don’t get one that your dog will have a hard time carrying.
Measuring Your Dog for a Dog Backpack
It is important that you measure your dog properly when looking for a dog backpack. This will ensure that you get the correct size that will not rub, pinch, or chafe. Below are the steps for properly measuring your dog for its backpack.
- Measure the circumference around the thickest part of the dog’s chest. (Girth –the most important number to get, so make sure it’s accurate)
- Measure around the neck, on the lower part more towards the upper chest area.
- Weight your dog to make sure you know how to gauge how much they can safely carry.
Dog Backpack Features to Consider
All dog backpacks on the market have different features that make them suited for or not suited for your specific needs. Take a look at the different features that dog backpacks commonly have.
- Breathable Back Panel that Provides ventilation – Anyone who has been around horses knows that under a saddle is sweaty. The same rule applies to a dog backpack. Having a breathable back panel that allows for ventilation will improve the sweatiness and help the dog stay more comfortable while wearing it.
- Forward Weight Carrying Design – The strongest part of a dog’s body is his shoulder area. A good dog backpack is designed so the weight is mostly on the shoulder area and not towards the middle of the back or the rear end. A dog can be severely injured by having a pack sit in the middle of their backs or that puts weight on their hindquarters.
- Reflective Trim – This is very important for taking day hikes or even overnights where you and your dog may be walking in low light conditions such as very early in the morning or at dusk and of course at night. The reflective trim will reflect off of any lights, such as headlights and allow your dog to be seen.
- 5 Point Chest and Girth Straps – This will ensure that the dog backpack fits securely and comfortably and stays comfortable during the hikes with no rubbing or chafing. Note that Y designed chest straps will reduce any strain on the dog’s neck and will stabilize the pack better as well.
- Bright Colors – Bright colors are also a visibility feature that is good for overnight excursions, especially if your dog gets separated from you during the walks. The bright colors of the packs will enable hunters and other campers to see the dog and not mistake it for a wild animal. Bright orange is a very popular color for this reason.
- Tough Construction – Look for tough, long lasting material such as rip stop nylon, cotton canvas and other tough material. This will help reduce the chances of the pack getting torn if the dog is traveling through rough terrain.
- Waterproof or Water Resistant – Not all packs are waterproof. If you know ahead of time that you will be traveling with your dog in inclement weather or areas where a lot of water is present, you will want to strongly consider getting a water proof or at the very least, water resistant dog backpack. This will protect your items inside from getting ruined should you have to cross any streams with your dog or you are hiking in the rain.
- Lightweight – The lighter the pack the less it will add to the weight the dog has to carry. Ideally you should look for packs that weigh 1 pound or less. Having a lighter pack will ensure that the dog’s supplies can make up the weight that they can safely carry and not just the pack itself.
- Padded Lift Handle – If you will be hiking and going on excursions in rough rocky terrain, be sure to look for backpacks that have a padded handle designed for helping dogs over obstacles. Not all packs have these lift handles so make sure that the handle is to be used for that purpose. It will state it in the description.
- Removable Saddlebags – This is a great feature that your dog will really appreciate. Being able to remove the saddle bags when you are taking a break with your dog and drinking some water will enable them to go on longer excursions since they will be getting a break from the weight periodically.
- Padded Harness – Padded harness frames reduce the chance of rolling and rubbing sore spots on your dog. You must take extreme care during these hikes that your dog is not being hurt or injured or they will… a) not like to wear the pack anymore once he or she associates it with pain and b) not be able to wear it if he/she gets sores during an excursion.
Basic Dog Backpack Safety
The following tips and guidelines will help you and your dog get the most out of using a dog backpack.
- Never weigh down a dog backpack. A dog should never carry more than 25% of their proper (recommended) body weight. If the dog is overweight, so not add the extra weight; go with what he SHOULD weigh)
- Load the backpack evenly or it will lean to one side and pull on the dog. Uneven weight distribution is very uncomfortable for the dog and can result in injury, sores being rubbed and an overall dislike for the pack by the dog.
- Give your dog breaks during long hikes and excursions. Just like you need breaks, so does your dog, which is why removable saddlebags are so preferable. Be sure to stop for plenty of water breaks if you are hiking on hot days. Your dog can become overheated, dehydrated and suffer heat stroke as well. Take care of him/her as you would yourself when it comes to rest stops and water.
- Keep the pack clean between excursions. This is easily done with a rag and water and will help the pack last much longer.
- Check straps and adjustments often to ensure there are no sore spots being rubbed. Adjustments can loosen and slip. Make sure that the pack is fitting well during the hike and not just at the beginning.
Dog backpacks are a great way to take your dog along with you on day hikes, campouts and overnight excursions without adding to your own backpack load. The dog can carry his own food and water as well as lightweight supplies that can take the weight out of your pack. (As long as they are not carrying more than 25% of their ideal weight, they can carry anything you want them to).
With all of the choices available on the market, you don’t have to worry about knowing how to choose the right one when you use the information you have learned in this guide. Along with the reviews of the top dog backpacks, you have all you need to make an informed decision that will provide you with the dog backpack that will work the best for you and your dog.