Chances are, you clicked this article because you want to go on an adventure with your four-legged pal and you’re looking for a pack your pup can carry that’s full of his own supplies.
When you spend time outdoors, you need to have a supply of food, water, and other equipment you may need. This is the same for your dog. The great thing about a dog backpack or saddle is that you can place your dog’s items inside, or maybe even some of your own small items like your phone and wallet.
Things to consider when choosing a backpack
Before choosing the backpack you think is the cutest or looks the best, there are a few things you need to consider first.
1. Weight and Fit
The very first thing you need to do before getting a dog backpack is to consult your vet first. Most of the time, it will be just fine for your dog to carry a backpack with him – it a lot of cases, even highly beneficial. But getting your vet’s go signal is important, especially if your dog is older or may have some health issues.
The way the backpack should fit is secure but not tight. The pack shouldn’t roll or move around from side to side because this can cause chafing or sores. It is really important for long hikes that you get a light backpack, to begin with (1lb or less), or else your dog will get tired too quickly.
When measuring your dog for the pack, you need to measure three things – their length, the neck, and the girth or chest. When measuring the chest, go to the deepest part of his chest to get the most accurate measurement. You can refer to the image below, which is from Outward Hound.
When loading, or placing items into the bag, a good starting point is 10-12% of your dog’s weight. This means if your dog weighs 50lbs, you can start with a pack that is 5lbs. This depends on other factors, of course, such as breed, fitness level, and energy levels.
Don’t guess the weight of the pack – grab a weighing scale and measure it out so you know for sure. Over time, you can start loading more weight but don’t let your pup care more than 25% of his weight.
Also, remember to load the weight evenly so your dog feels most comfortable. Place most of the weight on your dog’s shoulders. Good backpacks will have a proper design to move more of the weight forward, but always remember not to load too much on the middle of the back. Also, don’t put any weight beyond where his rib cage goes.
The material you choose will largely depend on the weather. But generally, nylon is good because it is tough, lightweight and easy to clean. It is also really good if you’re hiking on rocky areas to get a rip-stop nylon backpack so it won’t tear easily. Try to get a mesh harness if you can for extra ventilation.
Look for bags with padded straps to reduce any pain or discomfort on your dog, as well as a sturdy handle, in case you need to help lift your dog over rough and rocky terrain and other obstacles.
Finally, some extra features in the backpack are great to add more value to your money and make it better to use. Y-designed straps, for example, are great to help stabilize the backpack, as well as reduce the strain on your dog’s neck.
If you can, get a backpack with a removable saddlebag for times when you need to cross the stream, or when you want to give your dog a rest from carrying his things. Having removable saddlebags will make it easier for you to reduce his load without having to take off the entire backpack and harness.
Reflective tape is also good on packs, especially if you’ll be hiking or walking around at night. This will help motorist see your dog in case of low light or rainy conditions.
The same principle applies to the color of the pack – get a bright colored pack so you can easily find him out on the trail. Some dog breeds have strong instincts to chase smaller animals like rabbits. If your dog ends up running around, having a bright colored backpack and even those reflective stripes can help you find him
What To Pack Inside?
Here are some ideas of what you can pack inside:
Getting Your Pup Started
Some dogs will be hesitant at first. They’ll most likely find that new thing on their bag strange, so allow your dog time to get used to it.
Start by letting him get used to it without weight. Make the experience short, and positive by associating the backpack with feeding time, treats, praise, or play – whatever makes your dog happy.
Then, you can gradually increase weight. This isn’t just for comfort, but for safety as well. Keep your walks short first – around 15 minutes. Give him time to build up strength with the backpack. Don’t just buy a backpack, load it up, and expect him to go on a 10-mile hike with you.
Ease him into it, the same way you slowly started increasing the distance and difficulties of your own hikes.
Top 5 best dog backpacks available in the market
#1 Ruffwear Approach Full-Day Hiking Pack
The Ruffwear Approach Backpack is a great pack for your dog that’s made with ultra durable 1680 denier ballistic nylon, with solid stitching on the seams adding for durability.
It comes in five sizes: XX-Small, X-Small, Small, Medium, Large/X-Large, and four bright colors – campfire orange, meadow green, orange poppy, and Pacific blue.
The Ruffwear Approach is a smaller (and cheaper) version of the Ruffwear Palisades, so you get a pretty decent bang for your buck.
The backpack incorporates a “weight-forward” design so most of the load will be put on your dog’s shoulders. It has an integrated harness for leash walking or pulling, and a handle for lifting your dog. It also has a reflective trim so your pup will be visible even in low light conditions.
The girth straps of the pack are adjustable, non-slip and padded to provide extra comfort and security. There are five points of adjustment so you can fit the pack specifically for your pup.
#2 Ruffwear Palisades Multi-Day Backcountry Pack
The Palisades from Ruffwear is what you can call the big brother of the Ruffwear Approach. This is a great pack for serious hikers who want to bring their best bud along on all their adventures.
Just like the Approach, it uses a weight forward design for proper weight distribution. The saddlebags of the Approach are detachable so you can take them out when crossing streams or taking a short rest, without having to take off the entire harness.
The coolest thing about this pack is that it comes with a collapsible hydration bottle so your bud stays hydrated all throughout the hike. The pouches can carry 2 liters of water and food for up to three days, plus the collapsible food and water bowls.
The handles and girth straps are all padded for comfortable lifting for yourself and your pup and it makes use of a four-point attachments system for load stability and proper weight distribution.
The bag comes in three sizes: small, medium, and large/x-large.
#3 Lifeunion 2 in 1 Service Dog Saddlebag
The Lifeunion Backpack is made from a water-resistant nylon and is available in small, medium, and large (their measurements are based on the chest size of your dog). The saddlebags of the pack are removable through a clip, so you can turn the bag into a harness really easily.
The bag has four pockets that can hold water bottles, poop bags, toys, a collapsible dog bowl, first aid supplies, and more. It has a load compression system that distributes the weight properly and ensures stability.
Just remember, a best starting point for how much your dog can carry is 10-12% of their weight, with a maximum of 25% their weight once they are more used to it. The pack is also red for maximum visibility.
#4 OneTigris Cotton Canvas Dog Pack
The dog pack from OneTigris is a rugged looking pack, with an almost vintage feel to it. It is made from a high-density cotton canvas that clings better on your dog without hurting or irritating him.
There are two main side pockets with zippers with a small pouch on top of it. It has pack handles, however, it may not be best used for lifting your dog.
The pack is made for medium to large sized dogs such as an Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed, Shepherd, Tibetan Mastiff, etc. Just check out their size guide to find the right fit for your dog.
#5 Mountainsmith K-9 Dog Pack
Last on our list is the Mountainsmith K-9 Dog pack. It is made from nylon and comes in small, medium and large. The small pack can fit dogs that weigh 25 – 45lbs, the medium fits dogs that weigh 40 – 80lbs, and the large fits 75 – 120lbs. You can refer to their size chart for more details about that.
It has a hauling handle at the top of the pack so you can lift your dog when you need to help him out a bit.
The shape and design of the pack is ergonomically designed and vet approved, so you know the balance will be just right for your pup, and the panels of the pack that rest on your dog’s body are made of mesh for good ventilation.
AND THE WINNER IS…
It’s quite hard to pick which one is the best, since all five do a good job distributing the load for the dog and carrying all the things they need. But I feel the pack that has a little bit of edge is the Ruffwear Palisades. It is a very popular pack that many people use, and very few have any major problems with it.
It can be quite expensive, but it’s for a good cause – your pup! Investing in the best backpack or saddlebag for your dog is important, the same way you would invest in your own backpack! Besides, you’re best friend deserves nothing but the best, am I right?
So, until your next adventure! I’d love to see pictures of your dog and his backpack! Send them over! And happy travels!