6 Best Dog Backpacks and Saddle Bags (2017)

These comfortable packs are great for hiking or camping

Dog backpacks have become more common in recent years, as they can give your dog a feeling of purpose and are great for carrying items when hiking. Not all packs are equal though, so it's important to choose the right one. In this article, we've listed six of the best dog backpacks.

Our guide to the best dog backpacks

Backpacks on dogs are certainly cute, but they also give your dog a feeling of purpose - which many dogs love! They can also carry your pup's supplies, provide extra exercise and may even have a calming effect on some dogs.

It's important to only use a pack that's been designed for dogs though. It needs to comfortably sit on your dog's shoulders, while being water-resistant, breathable and highly durable. Regular bags simply aren't up to the job - and can be uncomfortable for your pet.

In this article, I've listed six of the best dog backpacks to help you choose the right option for your pet. But before we get to the best-rated packs, here's a quick summary of what to look for when buying.

Side Note: Need to protect your dog's feet while hiking? Check out our page of the best dog boots.

How to Choose a Dog Saddle Bag or Backpack?

As I mentioned at the start of this article, not all dog backpacks are equal. Even amongst the best backpacks for dogs, the right option depends on what you want to use it for. Here are some of the most important considerations:

  • Purpose. If you're going to ask your dog to wear a pack for long hiking trips, the considerations are different than for short walks. Hiking dog backpacks should be lightweight, made from water resistant material and have padding. They should also be highly durable. Backpacks for shorter walks don't need to be as durable or lightweight, but should still provide a stable and even weight distribution. If you need extra protection from rainy weather, look for a dog raincoat.
  • Weight Distribution. A dog backpack should ergonomically distribute weight over the shoulders rather than the lower back. A "Y" chest strap can help to stabilise the pack on the shoulders without causing additional neck strain. Two shoulder straps, such as those found on human backpacks, do not provide as much stability.
  • Comfort. Even if you don't add much weight to a backpack, it still causes extra pressure on your pup's chest. For this reason, look for a pack that evenly distributes the weight of the pack. Padding is more important for dogs with short hair.
  • Sizing. One of the most important considerations when buying a dog backpack is your canine friend's chest size. While many manufacturers provide sizing guides based on weight, I don't recommend using these on their own. Instead, measure your dog's chest with a tape measure to see which pack fits best.
  • Adjustable. It's vital to get a snug fit, as if the pack moves too much it can be uncomfortable for your pet - and can even cause sores. Dog packs with adjustable straps make it much easier to find the correct fit.
  • Durability. Your dog is likely to run through mud, water, undergrowth and generally give the pack a tough time. For this reason, spending extra on a more durable and higher quality bag is usually a good investment. If you're going to be hiking in areas with sharp rocks or thorns, rip stop material is a good choice.
  • Breathable. Dogs can quickly overheat when wearing any type of clothing, so a breathable design is important. This increases airflow and helps your dog maintain a more comfortable temperature. A breathable design may not be as important in cooler climates though.
  • Water Resistant. A dog saddle bag needs to be suitable for all outdoors weather conditions. Even if it's not fully waterproof, it should at least provide protection from rain and snow.
  • Detachable Pack. Some dog backpacks have a detachable pack. This can be useful when having a break on a hike, as you can get to the dog's supplies without needing to take off the harness. 

Keep in mind that you need to be very careful about how much weight you add to a dog's backpack. Most dogs can start with around 10% of their body weight, but this varies depending on the health, fitness, energy levels and breed of your dog. For this reason, I urge you to talk to your vet about the safety of a backpack for your dog before you start using one.

You should also weigh the pack each time you use it. It's easy to underestimate the amount of weight added - especially for small dogs.​ The weight should be evenly distributed on the left and right.

Additionally, if you add weight to your dog's backpack, make sure you build up walk times slowly. Even adding 10% extra body weight can greatly decrease the length of time a dog can walk without getting tired. Start by taking your dog on short walks with just an empty backpack, then gradually increase the weight and length of time.​

WARNING: You should only give your dog a backpack if you're sure it's safe, which is why you should talk to a vet before buying one. Elderly dogs, those with joint problems (especially neck and back) or those that are very small are not suitable for backpacks. 

6 Best Backpacks for Dogs (2017)

Now you know what makes a great dog pack, here are six of the best options available at the moment. Make sure you read the individual dog backpack reviews to get one that's suitable for your desired purpose.

RankImageNameSuitable for...Number of PocketsPrice RangeView Price
#1Ruffwear ApproachAnything - including travel and hiking trips4$$$View Price
#2Ruffwear PalisadesAnything - including travel and hiking trips6$$$$View Price
#3OneTigris Dog Saddle BagShort walks and city trips4$$View Price
#4Outward Hound DenverShort walks and city trips4$$View Price
#5Kurgo Baxter Dog BackpackHiking in non-demanding environments4$$View Price
#6Outward Hound DaypakHiking in non-demanding environments4$View Price
The Ruffwear Approach is one of the best dog backpacks for hiking

1. Ruffwear Approach Hiking Backpack

My top pick for a dog backpack for hiking and travel is the Ruffwear Approach. It's a stylish pack that's available in several colors and sizes. Most importantly, it provides a balanced and comfortable carry for your dog - so it's great for hiking.

The Approach is built with a "Y" chest strap. This distributes the weight of the backpack across the chest much more effectively than a classic two strap design. It has relatively large pockets and sits up towards the shoulders, which helps prevent back pain.

All the straps are designed to be non-slip and adjustable, so you can get a snug fit to prevent sores or discomfort. Be prepared to spend a bit of time getting the perfect fit for your dog on the first trip though. The top of the pack has a carry handle with excellent load dispersion.

As you would expect from a dog hiking backpack, the Approach is durable and likely to last a long time. It has solid stitching and is made with tough material. Despite the strong construction, it's also relatively lightweight. A bonus is the reflective edges, which make it easier to see your dog when hiking during the evening.

There are two main drawbacks to the Ruffwear Approach. The first is the price. With an RRP of over $80, it's a relatively expensive pack - although I think the durability and design mean it's worth the money. The second is the saddle bags can't be removed from the harness, which would have been a useful feature. I also would have liked some extra padding on the underarm straps, but as long as you don't do them up too tight they shouldn't cause chafing.

The Ruffwear Approach is probably the best dog hiking backpack - at least for single day or overnight trips. Its comfortable design means it's suitable for shorter walks too, although cheaper options may be just as good for this purpose.

Quick Summary: If you're looking for a dog backpack for hiking trips, the Ruffwear Approach is a great choice. It's durable, comfortable for your dog to wear and easy to adjust. I highly recommend it.

  • ​Colors: Orange, Green, Orange Poppy, Blue
  • Sizes Available: X-Small, Small, Medium, Large
  • Price Range: $$$
  • Great for hiking and spacious pockets
  • Adjustable straps
  • Comfortable for your dog to wear
  • Relatively expensive
  • Packs can't be removed from harness
The RuffWear Palisades is pricey - but probably the highest-quality backpack on the market

2. Ruffwear Palisades Dog Pack

If the Ruffwear Approach is a little pricey, the Ruffwear Palisades is downright expensive. If you're looking for the best dog backpack for hiking or long trips though - and don't mind paying extra for it - then it's difficult to beat.

What makes the Palisades worth so much more than other dog packs though? To start with, the saddle bags can be removed from the pack. This is useful when you stop for a break, need to do a water crossing or just want to give your dog a break from a load. It's also a durable pack that's great for tough environments.

Like the Approach, the Palisades has a "Y" front chest strap for better weight distribution. There's a padded handle for carrying your pup over obstacles, along with an aluminium V-ring to attach the leash. As long as you evenly distribute the weight within the packs, your dog will likely find it comfortable to wear.

A handy feature of the Palisades is that it comes with two collapsible bottles. These can each hold up to a litre of water, so can carry enough fluid to avoid dehydration. The zippers also all close towards the back of the dog, which means they won't be pulled open as he moves through bushes or dense undergrowth.

Of course, the biggest downside is the price. There's no getting away from the fact that this is a very expensive dog pack - especially as some of the other models on this list provide similar features for a much lower price. Like the Ruffwear Approach, I would also have liked some extra underarm padding.

Even so, the Ruffwear Palisades is one of the best dog saddle bags on the market. It's highly durable, which is why it's a great choice for hiking, and comfortable to wear for your pet.​

Quick Summary: For those who need a highly durable pack for hiking trips, the Ruffwear Palisades is probably the best choice. It's expensive, but the removable saddlebags and collapsible water bottles are great features. If it's too expensive, or you don't need the removable bags, go for the Approach instead.

  • ​Colors: Red Currant
  • Sizes Available: Small, Medium, Large
  • Price Range: $$$$
  • Very durable and great for hiking
  • Saddle bags can be removed
  • Two collapsible water bottles
  • Very expensive
The OnTigris saddle bag has a vintage design

3. OneTigris Dog Saddle Bag

The only dog saddle bag I recommend that doesn't have a "Y" chest strap is the OneTigris Dog Pack. If you're looking for a pack for relatively short walks - especially if your dog doesn't pull - then it could be a great choice.

It's made of stylish canvas that has a traditional appearance. The fabric is also designed to be comfortable for your pet, while the zippered compartments and additional semi-open pockets provide plenty of storage.

One of the great things about the OneTigris is its durable design. The heavy duty material is sturdy and designed to withstand snags on thorns or sticks.​ This means it's not the lightest dog backpack, but is likely to last a long time.

It's also relatively easy to put on and has a D-Ring to attach to your dog's leash - although this isn't as strong as I would like. The canvas color also means dirt won't show as quickly as other options.

There are several drawbacks though. Due to the design of the OneTigris, the top handle can't be used to lift your dog. ​The pack is also only suitable for medium-large dogs

One of the biggest downsides is the lack of a Y-Shaped chest strap. This probably isn't much of an issue if your dog doesn't pull, but I don't recommend using the OneTigris as a harness. There's the option of putting a separate harness on underneath, but if your pup has a tendency to pull on the leash it's probably worth looking at other options.

Overall, the OneTigris is an excellent dog backpack - especially for a calm dog. It looks great and is highly durable. Plus it's available for considerably less than the Ruffwear backpacks!

Quick Summary: The OneTigris doesn't have a Y-Shaped chest strap, so I don't recommend it for dogs that pull - especially for long hikes. For calmer dogs, or for shorter hikes, it's an excellent pack made from highly durable canvas.

  • ​Colors: Black, Brown, Canvas
  • Sizes Available: Regular
  • Price Range: $$
  • Durable canvas construction
  • Two zipper and two open pockets
  • Easy to put on
  • No "Y" chest strap
  • D-Ring for leash is weakly attached
The Denver has four pockets and an adjustable belly strap

4. Outward Hound Denver

Another stylish dog backpack is the "Denver" from Outward Hound. This bag is not meant for long hikes, but for trips around town or short walks it's a great option that's also relatively cheap.

As the Denver doesn't need to be heavy-duty, it's a relatively lightweight dog pack that looks great. There are adjustable belly straps and a "Y" chest pad, which helps minimise strain across your dog's back.

In terms of durability, I don't think the Denver would withstand hiking in difficult conditions, as it's likely to tear on sharp objects or thorns. The exterior is made from 600 denier polyester, so it's still durable enough for basic use though. The adjustable straps also mean it doesn't move around when your dog's walking, while the mesh upper helps to keep your pet cool.

A difference between the Denver and many other dog backpacks is that the pockets are closed via a buckle rather than a zip. This means they are easy to get to, although the pockets aren't as secure (this is another reason why I don't recommend it for long hikes). There is a zipper compartment within the main pockets though, although these are smaller.

In summary, if you want a simple dog backpack that's great for short walks or trips into the city, then the Outward Hound Denver is a great choice. It's one of the most stylish doggie backpacks I've seen - and, most importantly, it's comfortable for your dog to wear.

Quick Summary: The Outward Hound Denver isn't made for long hikes - but for everyday trips into the city or short walks, it's a great choice. The 600 denier polyester and "Y" chest strap make it comfortable to wear, while the stylish design means it'll look great on your puppy or dog.

  • ​Colors: Brown
  • Sizes Available: Medium, Large
  • Price Range: $$
  • Stylish appearance
  • Great for short trips
  • Comfortable for your dog
  • Not durable enough for hiking
The Kurgo Baxter is easily adjustable and has a padded chest

5. Kurgo Baxter Dog Pack

If you're looking for a pack for hiking but don't want to pay for the Ruffwear models, the Kurgo Baxter could be an alternative to consider. It's an attractive backpack with two saddle bags - and it's cheaper than the Ruffwear backpacks.

It's clear that the Baxter has been made with your dog's comfort in mind. ​The "Y" front belt system and padded spine support help spread the load of the pack across your dog's back, which reduces pressure points and increases comfort.

The Kurgo also has an eight-point adjustable belt system. This allows you to change the strap tightness to fit almost any dog (as long as you buy the right size). There are also reflective strips for extra visibility.

Unlike the Ruffwear Palisades, the Kurgo Baxter doesn't have removable saddle bags. The height of the bags on the pack can be adjusted though, which can help provide the right fit for your dog. Each bag is also relatively large, so you'll have enough room to store water, snacks and other essential items.

There are some drawbacks to the Kurgo Baxter though - which is why it's not higher up this list. One of the biggest is the zippered bags close forwards. This means the zips can get caught and open if your dog is running through undergrowth or even just walking on a narrow trail with plants either side.

It also has issues with durability. The pocket seams, in particular, seem to be prone to tearing.

​Even so, for walking or hiking on open ground it's a decent backpack that's comfortable for your dog to wear. I don't recommend it for long hikes in tough conditions - the Ruffwear packs are a better option for this - but as a cheaper alternative it does a good job.

Quick Summary: The Kurgo Baxter is a comfortable pack for your dog that also provides plenty of space. It's not the most durable backpack, but for hiking on open ground or shorter trips it's one of the best dog backpacks - especially as it's cheaper than the Ruffwear.

  • ​Colors: Red, Orange, Blue, Ink Blue
  • Sizes Available: 30-85lbs, 50-100lbs
  • Price Range: $$
  • 8-point adjustment system
  • Spacious saddle bags
  • Comfortable for your dog
  • Zippers close forward, so can open if caught on plants or twigs
  • Not as durable as other options
The Daypak isn't the most durable but is great for short walks

6. Outward Hound Daypak

For those looking for a cheap dog backpack for single-day walks, the Outward Hound Daypak is probably the best choice. It's not as durable as the Ruffwear or as adjustable as the Kurgo Baxter, but for the price it's a stylish and functional pack.

The Daypak is built with a "Y" chest strap for added comfort. The top is also made with a breathable mesh, which helps to prevent your dog overheating during walks. This means the spine support isn't padded, but for hot weather a breathable design is important. An upside is the pack does a good job of distributing weight onto the shoulders rather than the spine.

There are four expandable pockets, which provide plenty of room for storing treats and other items. There's also a D-Ring leash clip and a top handle.

As the name suggests, the Daypak is designed for day-trips rather than extended hiking trips. It's great for carrying items on walks or even into town, but I would go for a stronger option if you're planning a long hiking trip. Even so, the Daypak isn't a weak product and should last a reasonable length of time.

​To summarise, the Daypak provides great value for money - although it's not meant for long hikes or the most difficult conditions. The low price and stylish design make it an attractive option for short walks or trips into town though.

Quick Summary: One of the best dog backpacks for people on a right budget is the Daypak. It's not as durable as pricier options, but provides a stylish and breathable design for a great price.

  • ​Colors: Blue, Green
  • Sizes Available: Small, Medium, Large
  • Price Range: $
  • 4 expandable bags
  • Stylish design
  • Breathable top section
  • Not as durable as more expensive options

Summary

Buying a dog saddle bag for your canine friend can be a great way to make him feel more important. Many dogs love having a sense of purpose - and not having to carry your pup's treats, water and other items yourself is a bonus! Saddle bags for dogs can also have a calming effect on some dogs.

My top recommendation for a dog backpack for hiking is the excellent Ruffwear Approach. It's a durable pack that provides good weight distribution and is comfortable for your dog. If you just need a pack for trips into town or short walks, the Outward Hound Denver is a great option.​

Do you need help choosing the best dog backpack for your pet? Or does your dog love a backpack that I haven't included? Let me know in the comments!