What are the best dog backpacks for 2021?
Hiking is a great way to keep you and your dog healthy. You’ll get to enjoy nature and fresh air while burning off some calories. Of course, you’ll have to bring along plenty of supplies, and if you want your dog to carry their own weight, literally and figuratively, a dog backpack is the answer.
They come in two main designs, but saddlebags like the Pettom Dog Hiking Harness Backpack are the best for long-distance treks and carrying a lot of gear. This one, in particular, stands out for its durable construction, large capacity and external loops for attaching extra stuff when needed.
What to know before you buy a dog backpack
Types of packs
You can find dog backpacks in two styles: traditional backpacks and saddlebags. Just like with human models, traditional backpacks sit in the center of a dog’s back. However, due to the anatomy of a dog, these can often lean to one side or the other, which can make a dog feel unbalanced. Because of this, traditional-style dog backpacks are often small and have a single compartment that isn’t designed to be loaded up with a lot of stuff. They are suitable for carrying a few treats, some waste bags and maybe a favorite toy around town or to the park.
If you are setting up your dog with a backpack for hiking, you’ll want to choose saddlebags instead. A saddlebag is a type of backpack carrier that is composed of two separate bags attached by a wide strap that you place over your dog’s back. This design allows for even weight distribution and offers an increased carrying capacity.
Safe weight recommendations
One of the most important things to keep in mind when loading up your dog’s backpack is the total weight, which includes the contents and the pack itself. If you load them up with too much weight, it could potentially cause an injury and, at the very least, tire them out too quickly when hiking.
It is generally considered safe for a dog to carry between 10%-25% of its body weight in a saddlebag-style backpack. The exact amount is dependent on your dog’s breed, physical fitness and energy levels. Just like humans who exercise and work out, dogs can also be trained to safely carry more weight over time. It is best to start out light and slowly work up to higher weights.
Features to look for in a quality dog backpack
You want your dog to be comfortable when carrying their backpack, so you should look for one that includes padding in pressure zones, such as underneath the saddlebags and along the harness. The heavier the load you want your dog to carry, the more padding they will need.
Along with padding, breathable materials can go a long way to ensuring your dog is comfortable. This is especially important if they will be wearing their backpack carrier for hiking long distances in hot climates.
Proper fit is one of the important factors of a dog backpack. They come in sizes to fit small, medium and large dogs, but since no two dogs have the exact same dimensions, adjustability is key. The more adjustable a backpack is, the easier it will be to fit it to your dog perfectly. This will also allow the pack to grow with your dog a bit, whether that be as they mature or if they gain a little weight.
Leash attachment point
Many dog backpack carriers have leash attachment points that allow them to double as harnesses. If choosing one with a leash attachment point, it should be made of sturdy materials so you don’t have to worry about it breaking and your dog potentially getting loose.
The best dog backpack for hiking should include a lift handle on the top of the backpack. This can be useful if you need to help your dog get over a large obstacle. It can also serve as an emergency grab handle if your dog falls into water or some other predicament where they need to be quickly rescued.
If your dog will be hiking or walking at night or in other low-light situations, reflective accents can help keep them safe. They may take the form of reflective trim or patches, both of which increase the chances of motorists seeing them. They can also help you spot your dog if they get loose.
We all know weather is unpredictable, so choosing a model with a water-resistant construction is a smart idea. This ensures the contents aren’t damaged by moisture if you get caught in an unexpected shower or if you want to trek through a shallow stream with your dog.
Removable compartments on a dog backpack serve two functions. They allow you to remove some weight from your dog when navigating tricky terrain or taking a break on your hike, without having to completely remove the entire pack. They also allow the backpack to be used as a basic harness on walks when your dog doesn’t need to be carrying a load.
How much you can expect to spend on a dog backpack
Dog backpacks vary in cost depending on size, features and build materials. The most affordable options start around $15, and premium models often top out at around $85. The majority of people can find a suitable model between $25-$50.
Dog backpack FAQ
Do dogs require training to carry a backpack?
A. Dogs don’t require any special training to carry a backpack, but you should ease them into the experience. To start, get them used to carrying around an empty backpack so they get comfortable wearing it. Then, you can slowly add a little bit of weight. Over time, you can increase the weight as fitness level improves.
What items should I put in my dog’s backpack?
A. What to put in your dog’s backpack is really up to you, but most people usually like to work up to a point where their dog is carrying all of their own supplies. This may include water, treats and any other items they may need on your adventure.
What is the best dog backpack to buy?
Top dog backpack
What you need to know: With large saddlebags and webbing loops for attaching extra gear, the Pettom Backpack is ideal for those who need a lot of carrying capacity.
What you’ll love: Four pockets allow you to keep the contents organized for quick retrieval, and your dog will appreciate the mesh padding that offers comfort and breathability.
What you should consider: It only has a leash attachment point at the back.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top dog backpack for the money
What you need to know: An inexpensive option that is crafted from rugged material, this Outward Hound DayPak backpack should see you and your canine companion through years of adventures.
What you’ll love: The high-visibility colors are great for hiking, and the expandable compartments with water resistance should easily be able to accommodate all of your dog’s supplies.
What you should consider: The side packs are not removable.
Worth checking out
What you need to know: Made from a quality cotton canvas fabric, the Hoppy Camper is both breathable and durable.
What you’ll love: It’s heavily padded for comfort, has two D-ring leash attachment points and has reliable quick-release buckles.
What you should consider: it only comes in two sizes, neither of which are for small dogs.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.