5 Best Dog Backpacks of 2024

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission if purchases are made through those links. This adds no cost to our readers and helps us keep our site up and running. Our reputation is our most important asset, which is why we only provide completely honest and unbiased recommendations.
A dog wearing the Ruffwear Approach backpack in front of a snowy lake and marbled mountain peaks
Ruffwear Approach – Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

There’s nothing like venturing into the backcountry with your best four-legged buddy. But dogs can require quite a bit of extra gear to keep them happy and healthy on the trail. Having your pooch carry their own equipment in a dog backpack will not only take the weight off your back, but it can also give them a fun job to do.

Our K9 companions have hiked over 1,000 miles with us while testing 15 of the best dog backpacks on the market. We’ve narrowed our list down to only the best dog packs to keep you pup’s tail wagging on your next adventure.

For long backpacking trips, rough terrain, and harsh weather, we also recommend adding a set of dog boots to your dog’s gear collection. We also have guides with plenty of tips for backpacking with your dog and hiking with your furry friend in the winter.

Quick Picks for Dog Backpacks

Check out this quick list of our favorites if you’re in a hurry, or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.

Best dog backpack overall: Mountainsmith K9 ($75)

Best large-capacity dog backpack: Ruffwear Approach ($100)

Best value dog backpack: Kurgo Baxter ($60)

Best small-capacity dog backpack: Outward Hound DayPak ($29)

Best budget dog backpack: OneTigris Hoppy Camper 2.0 ($33)

What’s new

We’ve been out adventuring with our pups to test some new dog backpacks against our old favorites. Here’s what’s had their tails wagging:

  • The Mountainsmith K9 dog backpack remains our number one pick for its capacity, secure fit, and durability.

  • The Outward Hound Daypak is our top choice for dayhiking with dogs. The small capacity is perfect for toting little essentials on trail.

Mountainsmith K9

Best dog backpack overall

Price: $75

Weight: 1 lb. 3.2 oz.

Volume (S.M.L): 6 L, 10 L, 18 L

Fits Chest Girth: 20-44 in.

Pros

  • Highly adjustable
  • Well-padded
  • Excellent value
  • Spacious
  • Breathable
  • Fits large & small breeds

Cons

  • A little heavier than others

The Mountainsmith K9 is the most adjustable dog pack on our list. There are six cinch points for dialing in the fit, and you can change the position of the saddlebags to help balance the weight on each side. The parts of the pack that sit against the dog’s body are very well-padded, and they’re made with breathable paneling to keep your dog comfy on warm days. We love the K9 dog backpack because it’s designed with many of the most important details found in human backpacks, and we highly recommend it to anyone wanting to put in serious miles with their pooch.

Ruffwear Approach

Best large-capacity dog backpack

Price: $100

Weight: 1 lb. 2 oz.

Volume (XS, S, M, L/XL): 5 L,10 L, 13 L, 21 L

Fits Chest Girth: 17-42 in.

Pros

  • Spacious
  • Durable
  • Well-padded
  • Fits large & small breeds

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not as adjustable as some
  • Not as breathable as some

The Ruffwear Approach is the most spacious pack on our list, which makes it great for long hauls or dogs that require a lot of extra gear to keep them comfortable. In addition to the roomy saddlebags, the Approach also has outer accessory loops for lashing on additional gear like wet items or a stash bag. The body of the Approach is larger than others, so it isn’t our first choice for petite dogs. That said, larger breeds may find the size to be a little more ergonomic. If you and your dog like to head off into the backcountry for multiple days, the roomy Ruffwear Approach may be the perfect pack for you.

Kurgo Baxter

Best value dog backpack

Price: $60

Weight: 13 oz.

Volume (Baxter, Big Baxter): 3.75 L, 7.5 L

Fits Chest Girth: 17-33 in.

Pros

  • Excellent value
  • Highly adjustable
  • Fits large breeds
  • Breathable
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Too big for small breeds
  • Capacity isn’t ideal for multi-day trips
  • Minimal padding

The sleek Kurgo Baxter is the perfect volume for day hikes or a weekend in the backcountry with your dog. The five points of adjustment and moveable saddlebags make it easy to dial in a custom fit. And since these features usually come at a higher price point, the Baxter is an excellent value. This backpack isn’t the most padded one on our list, so it’s especially important to watch out for hotspots if your dog will be wearing it for prolonged periods. That said, the price can’t be beat if you typically only go on shorter hikes.

Outward Hound DayPak

Best small-capacity dog backpack

Price: $29

Weight: 9.7 oz.

Volume: Not listed, but it’s big enough for day hikes

Fits Chest Girth: 21-32 in.

Pros

  • Good size for small breeds
  • Ultralight
  • Affordable
  • Breathable

Cons

  • Capacity isn’t ideal for multi-day trips
  • Minimal padding

If you have a smaller dog, it can be especially difficult to find a suitable backpack for them. The Outward Hound DayPak fits the smallest chest girth of any backpack on our list, and the saddlebags are lightweight and compact which makes it more manageable for small breeds. Because of the lower capacity and minimal padding, the DayPak isn’t great for multi-day trips. But it’s an affordable option if you need a dog backpack for day hikes and walks around town. And, since it’s ultralight, it also works well for training puppies to wear a pack and for older dogs who can’t carry a lot of weight.

OneTigris Hoppy Camper 2.0

Best budget dog backpack

Price: $33

Weight: 1 lb. 5.4 oz.

Volume: Not listed, but it’s big enough for day hikes

Fits Chest Girth: 21-36 in.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Affordable (usually on sale)
  • Well-padded
  • Stylish

Cons

  • Not as adjustable as some
  • Not ideal for multi-day trips
  • Not as breathable
  • No reflective details
  • Heavier than others

If you want your dog to be the style envy of the trail, check out the OneTigris Hoppy Camper 2.0. The canvas construction gives it a classic rucksack look and makes the Hoppy Camper one of the more durable backpacks on the market. We love having our dog rock this pack on local trails and around town, but the lack of breathability means we typically reserve it for short hikes in cooler weather. The Hoppy Camper is very well-padded, so it’s a great choice for dogs who will need something extra comfy to help them acclimate to wearing a backpack.

– PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

What’s Most Important to You in a Dog Backpack?

PRICE

Large-capacity backpacks with more organizational pockets usually cost more; you’re also likely to pay more for a backpack if your dog is a large breed.

That said, we’ve found some quality options to fit every budget. We’ve tested the more affordable dog backpacks on this list to ensure that they’re durable, comfortable, and safe for your dog.

Best value dog backpacks

Best high-end dog backpack

WEIGHT

It’s important to consider the weight of your dog when picking a backpack for them. Dogs should carry no more than 25% of their body weight, and the weight of the pack itself will account for some of that allowance.

Best ultralight dog backpack

Best lightweight dog backpacks

Best heavy-duty dog backpacks

VOLUME

If you’ll be taking your dog on long backpacking trips, you’ll probably want a backpack with a large capacity so they can carry most of their food and gear. If you’ll just be doing day hikes or walks around town, go with a smaller backpack that can accommodate some treats, water, and bowls.

Most spacious dog backpacks

Best low volume dog backpacks for day hikes

FIT

Make sure to measure your dog before purchasing a backpack for them. Most backpacks are sized by chest girth (measured around the widest part of the chest to the top of the shoulders), and you should consult the manufacturer’s size chart to determine the correct size for your dog. Additionally, we prefer backpacks that have multiple adjustment points for a customized fit.

Best dog backpacks for small breeds

Best dog backpacks for large breeds

Most adjustable dog backpacks

Critical Dog Backpack Considerations

FIT

Getting the right fit on your dog’s backpack is crucial to keeping them happy on the trail. Most dog backpacks are sized by chest girth which is measured from the top of the shoulders around to the broadest part of the chest. Cinch the pack down snug to keep it from moving around, but make sure you can still fit two fingers between the straps and your dog’s body. Keep an eye out for rubbing points while the pack is on, and immediately adjust the straps if you notice your dog showing signs of discomfort.

Outward Hound Daypak – PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)
ONETIGRIS HOPPY CAMPER – PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

HOW MUCH WEIGHT SHOULD YOUR DOG CARRY?

Your dog should carry no more than 25% of their body weight in their backpack, and you should build up to the max weight they’ll be carrying slowly. We like to keep our dog’s load as light and manageable as possible so they can fully enjoy their big adventure. You should also be prepared to carry your dog’s backpack for them if they get tired and need a break.

– PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)
Outward Hound Daypak – PHOTO CREDIT: Casey Handley (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

CONDITIONING

Before your dog dons their new backpack on the trail, get them used to wearing it at home first. Start by letting them sniff it, then slowly try putting it on while offering lots of treats and encouragement to create a positive association with the process. Have your dog wear the backpack for a few minutes a day, then slowly increase the amount of time they wear it until they’re comfortable with the pack on.

– PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)
KURGO BAXTER – PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

TIPS FOR HIKING WITH A DOG

Taking your dog on a hike is a great way to get them some exercise and bonding time. Make sure the experience is safe and fun for both of you by reviewing our Tips for Hiking with a Dog post.

Mountainsmith K9 – PHOTO CREDIT: Casey Handley (CLEVERHIKER.COM)