How to Choose the Proper Size and Type of Backpack for a Dog’s Hiking Gear?

April 8, 2024

As the growing interest in outdoor activities continues to take the world by storm, more and more dog owners are bringing their furry friends along for the adventure. Hiking, in particular, is a popular choice as it provides ample opportunities for physical exercise and mental stimulation for both the owner and their pet.

However, when it comes to preparing for a hiking trip with your dog, one crucial component must not be overlooked: your dog’s backpack. This crucial piece of equipment not only allows your dog to share the load but also gives them a job to do, increasing their sense of purpose and engagement on the trail. But with so many options available on the market, how do you choose the right one?

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Understanding Your Dog’s Size and Weight

Before you even start to shop, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your dog’s size and weight. This is because the size and weight of the backpack your dog will carry should directly correlate with their own body weight and size. A backpack that is too large or heavy can result in injuries and long-term health issues for your dog, while a backpack that is too small may not be able to contain all the necessary gear.

Begin by weighing your dog and measuring their girth around the widest part of their chest, as most backpacks sizes are determined by girth. For small dogs, a lighter pack is usually the best option, while larger dogs can typically handle a heavier, more robust pack.

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Consider the Type of Hiking You’ll Be Doing

The type of hiking you plan on doing with your dog is another important consideration when choosing a pack. For day hikes, a small backpack with just enough space for water, a bowl, and perhaps a few treats is typically sufficient.

However, if you plan on hitting the trail for multiple days, you’ll need a larger backpack for your dog that can carry more gear, including food, a portable water filter, and maybe even a lightweight blanket for cold nights.

Evaluating Different Brands and Prices

While it can be tempting to go for the cheapest option, it’s essential to remember that quality often correlates with price. High-end brands like Ruffwear, for example, offer durable, well-designed backpacks that are built to withstand the rigors of the trail.

These backpacks may cost more upfront, but they’re likely to last longer and provide more comfort for your dog, making it a worthy investment. That said, there are also plenty of mid-range and budget-friendly options that still offer good quality and functionality, so don’t feel like you have to break the bank to find a suitable pack for your dog.

Checking for Comfort and Durability

When it comes to your dog’s comfort, not all backpacks are created equal. Look for backpacks that have padded straps and a breathable material to help keep your dog cool. The backpack should also have adjustable straps for a custom fit, and it’s a good idea to choose a pack with a handle on top for easy lifting.

As for durability, nylon and polyester are both strong, lightweight materials commonly used in dog backpacks. If your hiking involves rugged, off-trail adventures, look for packs with a ripstop fabric, which resists tearing and fraying.

Assessing the Practicalities

Finally, consider the practical aspects of the backpack. Does it have enough pockets and compartments for all your gear? Are the pockets easy to access on the go? Does it have reflective strips for visibility in low light conditions?

Another useful feature is removable saddlebags, which allow the pack to be quickly lightened or transformed into a simple harness as needed. A top-mounted leash attachment is also a practical feature, as it gives you better control over your dog in tricky trail conditions.

In conclusion, choosing the right backpack for your dog involves careful consideration of your dog’s size and weight, the type of hiking you’ll be doing, the price and brand of the backpack, as well as its comfort, durability, and practical features. With careful consideration and research, you will surely be able to find the perfect pack to make your dog a happy and helpful hiking companion.

Testing Out the Backpack with Your Dog

Before making a final decision on a dog backpack, it’s critical to test it out with your dog. This will allow you to observe whether the backpack is comfortable for your dog and whether it fits well.

To start, introduce the backpack to your dog gradually. Let them sniff it and get used to its presence. Then, try putting it on your dog without any weight and let them walk around with it. Watching their behavior can give you a good idea if they feel comfortable wearing the backpack.

Once your dog appears to be comfortable with the backpack, try adding some weight. It’s recommended that a dog carries no more than 25% of their body weight, so start with a lesser load and gradually increase it to a comfortable level. Walk your dog around the block, then try a short trail. Monitor your dog’s stamina, comfort, and movement.

Common signs of discomfort include changes in gait, reluctance to move, signs of pain, or chafing under the straps. If the backpack is causing your dog discomfort, it may not be the right fit or style for your dog. Several brands, such as Ruffwear Approach, Outward Hound, and Hoppy Camper, offer different styles and sizes to accommodate every dog’s unique shape and size.

Also, keep an eye on how the backpack holds up during the test run since durability is a key factor. A durable dog backpack, typically made from nylon or polyester, should withstand the test and not show signs of wear and tear from just one or a few uses.

Care and Maintenance of the Backpack

Once you’ve found the perfect backpack for your dog, proper care and maintenance are essential to ensure it lasts. Most backpacks can be cleaned with a damp cloth and mild soap. However, some may be machine washable, making cleaning much more straightforward.

After each hike, make sure to empty all pockets and compartments, and shake out any dirt or debris. Check the backpack for any damage such as tears and loose stitches.

Also, inspect the leash attachment and make sure it’s secure. The height and src of the leash attachment can significantly impact your control over your dog, especially in challenging trail conditions. Thus, maintaining its functionality is crucial.

Moreover, store the backpack in a cool, dry place to prevent mold and mildew buildup. Keep it out of direct sunlight to prevent the colors from fading.

Proper care and maintenance of your dog’s backpack will not only extend its life but also ensure that it remains safe and comfortable for your dog.


Choosing the correct backpack for your dog involves understanding your dog’s size, the type of hiking you’ll be doing, and assessing the backpack’s comfort, durability, and practicality. Brands like Ruffwear Approach, Outward Hound, and Hoppy Camper offer high-quality options.

Remember, the key is to find a balance between cost and quality. While higher-end backpacks might cost more upfront, their durability and comfort could make them a worthwhile investment. However, there are also plenty of quality, budget-friendly options available.

Testing the backpack with your dog is crucial to ensure it fits well and is comfortable. Once you’ve chosen the best dog backpack, proper care and maintenance will help ensure it lasts for many hikes. Happy hiking with your furry friend!