5 Best Dog Carrier Backpacks for Hiking & Travel (2017)

Take your dog anywhere in these comfy backpacks

A backpack can be a convenient way to carry your dog - but it's vital to get one that's safe and comfortable. In this article, Richard Cross lists five of the best dog carrier backpacks that provide great value for money.

Our guide to the best dog carrier backpacks

Dog carrier backpacks can be great for small dogs - but they need to be designed for your pup. While cute, dogs shouldn't ride in regular backpacks or purses (such as the picture above)

A dog carrier backpack can be a useful purchase if you have a small dog. As the name suggests, these backpacks allow you to carry your dog (either on your front of back) while keeping your hands available. This makes them great for hiking, cycling or just carrying your dog around town.

While many canine companions enjoy going everywhere with their owner, it's vital to buy a carrier backpack that's designed for dogs. Regular backpacks, handbags and purses don't have the features required to make your pup comfortable.

Of course, using a backpack to carry your dog is only recommended for small breeds or a puppy. You wouldn't want to carry a large or even medium-size breed on your back. That's a quick path to back pain! Backpacks to carry small dogs can make travelling a lot easier though - especially if you're hiking long distances, cycling or just have a dog with low stamina.

It's also important to choose a backpack that meets you and your dog's requirements. A high-quality carrier backpack can make transporting your doggie friend quick and convenient. But a low-quality option, or one that doesn't match your requirements, can be uncomfortable for both you and your pet.

For this reason, I've rounded up five of the best dog carrier backpacks available at the moment. These backpacks are designed for a variety of purposes, but all provide a comfortable and safe carry space for your dog. Before we get to the best rated backpacks, however, let's start with a quick summary of what you need to look for...

How to Choose a Backpack to Carry a Dog?

Choosing a dog carrier backpack isn't quite as tricky as a regular dog carrier. You usually don't need to worry about things such as airline approval (although some backpacks double as airline approved carriers). There are still a few things to look for though.

The most important consideration is how you plan to use the backpack. Basic carrier backpacks can be great for walking your dog around town or just visiting friends. Many people also use dog carrier backpacks for hiking or cycling. For these purposes, the backpack must be secure and comfortable to carry for long periods.

Some other important considerations include:

  • Size. It's vital to get a backpack that matches the size of your dog. Too big, and your pet won't feel secure. Too small and he'll be uncomfortable. K9SportSack.com has a useful guide for sizing a carrier backpack. Start by measuring your pet from the floor to his collar when he's in the "begging" position (i.e. sitting back on his haunches). This is how big the interior of the backpack should be - although the side that needs to be this long varies depending on shape. As always, if you're in doubt about the size to get, choose the bigger option.
  • Maximum Weight. Once you've found the right size, you need to get a backpack that can support the weight of your dog. Don't buy a backpack carrier based entirely on its weight though - your dog may be light enough for a carrier but too big to fit in it comfortably.
  • Carrying Position. Some backpacks allow your pet to lie down in an enclosed space, which is great for hiking or long journeys. Others provide the option of sticking his head out of the top. Cheaper backpacks may use a "legs out" design, where the dog's legs are put through holes. These usually aren't as comfortable for the dog, so are less suitable for long journeys. There's also the Ruffit dog carrier, which is a backpack but with a forward facing design.
  • Strap Padding. The heavier your dog or the longer you plan on carrying him, the more important it is to have excellent padding on the straps.
  • Wheels. If you get tired of carrying your dog, it can be useful to have the option of wheeling him instead. Some carrier backpacks have wheels for this reason. If you only want to use wheels and have a small dog, check out our page of the best strollers for small breeds.
  • Ventilation. Dogs can quickly overheat, so ventilation is important. Look for a dog carrier backpack that's made with plenty of breathable mesh.
  • Back or Front Facing. There are both front and back facing carrier backpacks available. Back facing backpacks are probably more common and best for cycling, but some people prefer a front facing dog carrier for walking.

5 Best Dog Backpack Carrier Reviews

If you just want a quick summary of the best dog backpacks carriers, take a look at the table below. For more in-depth reviews of each product, keep reading!

ImageNamePadded Strap?TypePrice RangeView Price
Natuvalle 6-in-1 Pet Carrier BackpackYesBack & Front Facing$$$View Price
Petsfit Comfort Dogs Carrier BackpackYesBack Facing$$$View Price
Pet Gear I-GO2 Plus TravelerYesBack & Front Facing$$$View Price
K&H Pet Products Comfy GoYesBack Facing$$View Price
Cosmos Legs Out Front CarrierNoFront Facing$View Price
The Natuvalle pet carrier is one of the best all-round options

1. Natuvalle 6-in-1 Pet Carrier Backpack

One of the most versatile dog backpack carriers on the market is the Natuvalle 6-in-1. As you probably guessed from the name, it has a variety of different functions - including both front and back facing carrier modes - making it a handy purchase for dogs that travel a lot.

Let's start with the various functions. Aside from being a backpack, it can also be used as a car seat crate, shoulder bag and hand bag carrier. It's also approved for under-seat use on most airlines, according to the manufacturer, which is uncommon for a backpack.

One of the great things about this product is that it also provides resting options for your pet. The interior has ventilation at either end and a fleece bed, so it's comfortable to lay on. There's also a door at the top if your pet prefers to stick his head out. A bonus is the tether, which prevents your dog escaping when you open the door.

There are several other features that indicate a lot of thought has gone into this carrier. ​The zippers have security locks, which helps prevent a doggie escape artist undoing the doors. Reflective security straps come with the carrier and there are seatbelt loops for in-car travel.

So who should by the Natuvalle? In my opinion, it's one of the best backpack carriers if you need a general-purpose option. It's probably not the most comfortable to carry for long periods though - despite the comfortably padded straps - as it has a somewhat awkward shape. But for a mixture of walking, car journeys and air travel, it's a fantastic option.

Quick Summary: The Natuvalle is a versatile carrier that's great for almost any form of travel. It has a spacious interior, along with a number of useful extra features not found on other carriers. If you need a carrier for travelling, this is one of the best options.

  • ​Type: Multiple options
  • Padded Strap: Yes
  • Sizes Available (L x W x H): 16" x 9" x 11.5", 18" x 10" x 12", 21" x 11" x 15"
  • Price Range: $$$
  • Sturdy carrier with a variety of "modes"
  • Airline approved (always check before you fly though)
  • Comfortable to carry
  • Attachment clips can be difficult to remove
The Petsfit Comfort Dogs carrier is a high-quality option that's great for walking or cycling

2. Petsfit Comfort Dogs Carrier Backpack

If you're looking for the best dog carrier backpack for hiking or cycling, the Petsfit Comfort Dogs Carrier is a great choice. It's designed for pets up to 15lbs in weight, and has excellent ventilation to keep your dog cool.

The first thing to note about the PetsFit is that it has thick padding on the straps to make it comfortable to carry. This is essential when hiking. There are also several mesh windows that allow your dog plenty of visibility, while maintaining airflow and a consistent temperature.

To further increase the comfort of the backpack, it comes with a chest and waist strap. These spread the weight of the backpack and reduce the strain on your shoulders. The zipper and fabric are also relatively durable - although I'm not convinced they would withstand determined and aggressive biting.

There are two doors - one at the top and another at the front. The top door can be used if you want to carry your dog with his head out, although you need to make sure the slant is such that it is safe to do so. There's also an attachment point inside for your dog's harness, so make sure you use this if you're leaving the top door open!

​Overall, the Petsfit is an excellent dog carrier - especially if you want to use it for hiking or cycling. It's comfortable for your dog to sit in, has the option of leaving the top door open and provides plenty of ventilation. It would be a bonus if it came with pockets or a carrying handle, but as a backpack carrier it does a great job. I highly recommend it.

Quick Summary: The Petsfit's combination of padding and chest/waist straps make it a comfortable choice for hiking or cycling. Your dog will also enjoy the excellent visibility and ventilation.

  • ​Type: Back-Facing
  • Padded Strap: Yes
  • Sizes Available (L x W x H): 13" x 9.5" x 14.5", 13" x 10.6" x 17.3", 13" x 11" x 17", 13" x 13" x 16"
  • Price Range: $$$
  • Strong and sturdy carrier
  • Four mesh windows for ventilation
  • Padded shoulder straps & chest strap
  • No pockets
  • No handle for carrying as a handbag
The Pet Gear is a comfy backpack with wheels

3. Pet Gear I-GO2 Plus Traveler

Another of the best "all-in-one" dog backpack carriers is the Pet Gear I-GO2 Plus Traveler. The name is a mouthful, but it's an excellent carrier that can be used as a backpack, tote bag, regular carrier and a car seat (although it's not suitable for air travel like the Natuvalle). A bonus is that it comes with wheels, so you can pull your dog along if your shoulders need a rest.

The I-GO2 has a spacious interior - as long as you get the right size for your pet.​ This big size can make it a little awkward to carry as a backpack, but your dog certainly won't be complaining about the extra space! When you want to use it as a roller, there's a telescopic handle so you don't have to lean down to pull it.

To make the carrier more comfortable for your pet, the I-GO2 comes with a removable pad that can be machine washed. There's also a tether so your dog can't escape when you open the door.​

One drawback of the I-GO2 is that it doesn't come with a padded carry handle. Instead, there's just a fabric loop at the back of the bag. This isn't a problem for using it as a backpack or as a roller, but means I don't recommend it if you want to carry it in "tote" style.​

If you're looking for the best dog backpack carrier for travel, but don't need to take your pup on a plane, then the Pet Gear is probably the best option. It's not cheap, but it's a versatile carrier - especially with the wheels. It's too big (especially the height) to recommend for hiking or cycling though.

Quick Summary: For general travel, the I-GO2 is a versatile dog carrier backpack. The wheels are particularly useful. I don't recommend it for hiking or cycling, however, as the bulky size makes it awkward to carry for extended periods.

  • ​Type: Back-Facing
  • Padded Strap: Yes
  • Sizes Available (L x W x H): 16" x 13.5" x 22"
  • Price Range: $$$
  • Spacious interior for your dog
  • Wheels and telescopic handle
  • Good ventilation
  • Bulky size makes it awkward as a backpack
  • No padded handle
K&H Pet Products Comfy Go

4. K&H Pet Products Comfy Go

If you're looking for a small dog carrier backpack that allows your dog to have his head out the top, the K&G Comfy Go is a good choice. It has an internal safety leash, so your dog can't escape while walking, and the floor can be easily removed for cleaning.

The Go has padded shoulder straps, although these probably aren't comfortable enough for extended hikes. A useful feature is that one of the straps has a small pocket for your cell phone. There are also three storage pockets located around the backpack.

A bonus is that the K&H can be collapsed for storage. It also has two entry points for your dog.

A downside to the K&H is that I don't think it's comfortable enough for extended hikes. While the straps have padding, the angle of the bag makes it uncomfortable on the back. As a basic backpack for short trips, however, it's a great choice that provides excellent value for money.

Quick Summary: The K&H is a simple and relatively cheap back facing carrier backpack. For long hiking trips or cycling, I think the Petsfit is the better choice. But if you need a less expensive option that's great for general travel, this is a good option.

  • ​Type: Back-Facing
  • Padded Strap: Yes
  • Sizes Available (L x W x H): 16" x 13.5" x 22"
  • Price Range: $$
  • Adjustable internal leash
  • Several pockets for storage
  • Washable flooring
  • Not the most comfortable dog carrier
The Cosmos is a colourful option

5. Cosmos Legs Out Front Carrier

For short journeys, one of the most stylish front-facing dog carrier backpacks is the Cosmos "Legs Out Front" Bag. As you can see from the photo, it has a bright and colorful design, along with five holes for your dog's legs and tail.

I don't recommend "legs out" carrier for long journeys, as they can become uncomfortable for your pet. For short trips, however, they are a secure way of carrying a small dog (although they work best for short-haired breeds).

There are two adjustable straps, along with an inner collar for the dog. A downside is that the straps aren't padded, so they aren't as comfortable as other options on this list. It can also be more fiddly to put your dog in this type of carrier, as you'll need to zip open the entire backpack before individually putting each legs and tail into it, but once in the Cosmos provides a secure fit.

The key to buying this type of carrier is to get the right size. Make sure you look at all the measurements provided by Cosmos, including front and hind leg firth, leg spacing and length. If you're not sure which to buy, go for the looser option.

If you're looking for a cute way to carry a very small dog or puppy for short periods of time, the Cosmos is a convenient and cheap option.​ It's too restrictive to take your dog on long journeys in it though.

Quick Summary: The Cosmos Legs Out Front is a stylish front-facing dog carrier. It's not suitable for long journeys, as "legs out" carriers are restrictive for your dog and it also doesn't have padded straps. But for short trips of travelling in style, it's a great choice.

  • ​Type: Front-Facing
  • Padded Strap: No
  • Sizes Available (L x W x H): 9.5" x 6", 11" x 7", 12" x 8.2" - check the small, medium and large options for leg spacing and girth before buying
  • Price Range: $
  • Several size options available
  • Stylish design
  • Straps can be adjusted
  • No padding on the straps

Summary

A dog carrier backpack can make travelling with your dog much less difficult. They are simple to use, allow you to use both your hands and provide a secure place for your dog to travel.

If you're looking for the best all-round backpack carrier, the ​Natuvalle is a great choice. It's a sturdy model that's even approved by some airlines for under seat travel. For hiking or cycling, I recommend the Petsfit.

Do you have any questions about choosing the best dog carrier backpack for your pet? Let me know in the comments!