8 Best Dog Backpacks for Hiking 2023 [Harnesses & Carriers]

Last Updated on January 15, 2023

Two dogs wearing backpack harnesses on a hiking and backpacking trip

Our Favorite Dog Backpacks (Harnesses & Carriers) of 2023

 

“This dog needs to get a job,” I think as I look down at my lazy puppy curled up in a puddle of fur. She gets to go with me to all the places and do all the things. Yet, here she lays without a care in the world as I write this piece about the best dog backpacks for hiking in 2023.

Someone has to bring home the bacon, but it’s also time she starts to pull her weight around here. Enough sniffin’ around for free, droolin’ on the upholstery, and playing keep-away with my missing sock. I’m putting my foot down and making her carry her own gear on our next hiking adventure.

I compiled this list for you and your four-legged friend so that you can start putting them to work when you hit the trail. I scoured the interwebs for all the best packs for dogs of all sizes and made sure to add some variety to this list to help you find the perfect fit for you and your dog.

Whether you’re in the market for a harness-style pack for your dog to carry their gear or a carrier-style backpack so you can chauffer your pup on your back, there’s something here for everyone.

This buyer’s guide represents all the top names from brands like Ruffwear, Timbuk2, Mountainsmith, Kurgo, and more. There are options for every budget, as well as some tips and important factors to consider when sifting through the best dog backpacks of 2023.

Table of Contents: Best Dog Backpacks of 2023

Best Harness Backpacks for Dogs to Wear On Hikes

If you take your pup on long thru-hikes or even short grueling ones, you already know that you’ll be packing some extra weight. Between food, water, and toys, this added burden usually falls on your shoulders.

With a top-flight harness-style pack, your dog can porter their own gear. Grab one of the following products to let them share the load and lighten yours. Here are my top picks:

Best All-Around Doggie Pack
Mountainsmith K-9

Mountainsmith K-9 gear hauler

My pick for the best overall dog backpack of 2023 is the K-9 from Mountainsmith. This Colorado company makes the perfect accessory for adventurous dogs and their owners. This rugged backpack is made from materials that can withstand the elements on even the most strenuous hikes.

According to their website, it’s the most “dognomically” correct pack on the market. I’m still scratching my head, trying to figure out what that word means, but I’m sure it has something to do with how comfortable this fit is for your doggo.

Thanks to the padded straps, back panel, and ample storage pockets, you can be assured that your furry companion will enjoy maximum comfort while simultaneously holding a generous amount of essentials.

Reflective accents ensure visibility during early morning or late evening walks. So, whether I’m hitting the trails or just exploring my neighborhood, the Mountainsmith K-9 backpack is the ideal choice for me and my wily furball.

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Best Harness Pack for Multi-Day Backpacking Trips
Ruffwear Palisades

Red Ruffwear Palisades pack for pups

Multi-day trips are no problem with the Palisades from Ruffwear, one of the market’s most well-known and widely-trusted brands. This high-performance, high-volume pack is designed for dogs who love to explore.

The Palisades pack is made from durable materials that are water-resistant and tough enough to withstand the rigors of the outdoors. Its supportive frame features padded straps and a comfortable and adjustable harness, making it barely noticeable to your canine.

I love the added hydration pockets. This allows me to push the limits of how far my dog and I can hike between hydration points. If you, too, are a long-distance hiker, then this pack from Ruffwear is a no-brainer.

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Stylish & Durable Packs for Fashion Forward Pups
Wolf Republic Ranger

Wolf Republic Ranger canvas and leather

Cotton canvas. Leather. Breathable mesh. Am I talking about the newest Louis Vuitton bag?  No, folks. What we’ve got here is the Ranger pack from Wolf Republic. Your fashionista dog will be the belle of the ball with this bag that’s both durable and easy on the eyes.

You’re going to love the functional, classic saddle-bag design. It reminds me of using pack horses in the backcountry. You can turn your dog into quite the mule, too, thanks to four cavernous pockets with enough volume for day hikes or overnighters.

I’d give the Wolf Republic Ranger a shot if you want a great-looking bag. While it’s not the most technical pack on this list, it does have some added features, like a pet-mess bag holder that makes it ideal for short to medium-distance hikes and walks.

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Top Value for Those on a Budget
Kurgo Baxter

Kurgo Baxter lightweight hiking accessory

If it’s an approachable price point you are seeking, look no further. The Kurgo Baxter is a solid budget option for those that want a lightweight yet durable pack that doesn’t break the bank. This is a versatile dog backpack tailor-made for adventure.

Its water-resistant nylon with reflective trim sheds away rainwater while keeping your pup visible in low light. Multiple zippered pockets can store various essentials for short to medium hikes.

As a bonus, you can detach this bag and carry it yourself if your doggo needs a break.

Whether hiking, camping, or exploring the great outdoors, the Kurgo Baxter is a low-cost pack worthy of a long look at for you and your companion.

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Top Lightweight Pack for Pups
Ultimate Direction

Ultimate Direction ultralight harness for canines

Here’s the ultralight solution for owners who count every ounce of their pup’s pack weight. The Ultimate Direction dog vest tips the scales at a minuscule 10.7 oz yet still has two pockets that hold an impressive 8.7 liters of cargo.

If you’re an ultralight hiker, consider how much a low pack weight gives you an advantage on the trail. The same goes for your four-legged pal. Anytime you take a little weight off their back, the better off they’ll be.

The Ultimate Direction pack includes a collapsable water bowl as an added benefit. Be aware that there are more weather-resistant packs on this list, however, so you may need to limit how you use this pack.

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Best Backpack Carriers to Carry Your Dog On Hikes

Let’s say your pup isn’t built for long hikes or rugged terrain. That doesn’t mean they need to be left out. If you want to bring them along on the trail, they’ll need a little help. A capable and comfortable carrier backpack allows you to bring your little yapper along for the ride.

Best Dog Carrier for Hiking With Smaller Pups
Kurgo G-Train

Kurgo G-Train dog carrier

If your dog is smaller than a duffle bag full of cabbages, they’ll need a ticket to ride on the Kurgo G-Train. It’s a beautiful outdoorsy pack built for dogs up to 25 pounds. Now, your pint-size pupper is going to be riding in style.

Not only will your dog look good, but they’ll also be riding on quite the comfortable chariot thanks to its fiberglass frame. What’s even more remarkable is that it looks just like a regular hiking day pack.

The G-Trains’ waterproof and muckproof bottom allows fido’s paws to get messy at the beach or river, with minimal cleanup afterward. For small dogs, I don’t see any downside to this backpack.

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Most Versatile Dog Carrier Pack of 2023
Timbuk2 Muttmover Luxe

Timbuk2 Muttmover Luxe

I have a Shit-Zu Mini Poodle mix, and she is quite a handful. She is clumsy and barks at her own shadow, and she’ll randomly just lay down and give up in the middle of a walk, forcing me to pick her up for the remainder of the jaunt.

I’ve had my eye on this pack from TimBuk2 for a while now — I’ve spent way more time than I’d like to admit researching dog backpacks — and I may just pull the trigger on this pack that can carry dogs up to 20 pounds comfortably.

I’m an active guy who loves taking my dogs with me when I’m out and about. The Timbuk2 Muttmover Luxe is the best solution for me because it’s great for hiking, traveling, and walking around the city. It runs the spectrum of usefulness for me and my pups.

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Best Backpack Carrier for Big Dawgs
K9 Sport Sack Kolossus

K9 Sport Sack Kolossus carrier for large pups

Clifford, the Big Red Dog, likes to get out of the house every once in a while, too. Unfortunately, he’s a shadow of his former self. His old tired body isn’t up to the task anymore, but the good news is you can still get him out on the trail with the K9 Sport Sack Kolossus.

Thanks to a vast carrying capacity (of 80 pounds!), you can lug your chonky pup anywhere you go as long as YOU are up for the task. Supported by comfortable shoulder straps, a tight hip belt, and a chest strap, you’ll be able to carry your XL canine safely and securely with this beast of a pack.

I’d stray away from The Kolossus pack if you have a shorter dog of under 20 inches in length. The reason being: the main pocket, while spacious and perfect for a longer pup, is quite tall. That means your little chub would be swimming in this bag, unable to see out the top, and generally not having a good time.

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Tips for Maximum Dog + Backpack Success

Yellow lab wearing a pack on a hiking trail

Follow these tips for a happy and healthy hike with your pup

 

Don’t put the cart before the horse. A backpack for your dog is useless if you aren’t packing it the right way with the right gear. Here are some practical tips for packing your companions bag on your next outing:

Don’t Overload Your Pup’s Pack

One of dog owners’ most common mistakes is overloading their dogs’ packs. Canines have a hard time regulating their heat when they are under load, which leads to rapid exhaustion and dehydration.

Observe your dog closely when introducing a pack to them for the first time. Add weight incrementally and avoid over-stuffing their bag. Making the backpack a burden to them will teach them to dread wearing it.

Load Pack Weight Evenly

Your dog’s hips work differently than yours do. Having an uneven load can wreak havoc on their joints and hips in quick haste. Make sure you load items as symmetrically as possible, both left and right, and front to back.

Never Make a Dog Carry Your Gear

Are you kidding? Making your dog carry your stuff? Don’t be lazy. Your dog is a member of your family and not a pack animal. Only put your dog’s gear into their pack, please!

Take the Pack on a Test Run Before Longer Trips

Nothing beats snuggling up with a big fur ball in your tent on an overnight trip. Make sure you test your dog’s bag out in town before getting into the wilderness. If the pack isn’t going to work out, it’s better to know before you hit the trail.

Weatherproof the Inside of Your Dog’s Pack

If your bag doesn’t hold up to the rain, don’t fret. I like to use one-gallon Ziplock bags to put my dog’s food and toys in. This way, the pack can get wet, and the contents stay dry. Easy-peasy.

Buy Your Dog Some Protective Booties if their Paws Aren’t Ready

If your dog hasn’t built up calloused and tough pads, you may consider grabbing some protective booties for their dainty little feet. The added weight of a pack may put additional strain on their pads. Having a set of shoes helps them until their paws are ready for the trail.

Factors We Considered When Analyzing Products

Beagle strapped to his owner's back yawning

Dog packs are complex; we’re here to help find you the right one

 

I have dogs, I take them hiking, and I did plenty of research to create this buyer’s guide, so you didn’t have to. I considered the following criteria when reviewing these packs:

Comfort

If an owner is going to take their dog with them on outings, hikes, and long walks, they should always be willing to shoulder the load of what it takes to bring their pup with them. A trip like this means hydration, food, and anything else they may need.

So, if you’re going to have your dog carry any weight, it’s tantamount that you consider their comfort. Again, dogs are not pack animals. If you sense they’re uncomfortable with the added strain, consider carrying the weight yourself.

I only picked bags that are rated as being comfortable by real users.

Storage Volume

A dog’s size will determine how much it can carry, but you would be surprised at how much it can comfortably shoulder. When considering volume, you must first consider what your dog can handle.

After that, you want to consider what your specific needs are. Longer excursions are going to require more cargo space. Use common sense when choosing how much storage volume you need.

Weight

I’m an ultralight junkie. I love the freedom of a minimalist setup. I’m constantly trying to shed ounces from my gear. I can go further, hike longer, and feel better with less weight on my back.

A less-is-more attitude is beneficial not only to humans but also to dogs. The less weight on their back, the better experience they will have. I ranked packs on this list with a heavy hand towards bags, conscious of their footprint.

Weather Resistance

I placed packs on this list that run the gamut of water-shedding capabilities. Consider purchasing a weather-resistant pack depending on your specific needs. I prefer a lightweight pack, so I’m willing to sacrifice waterproofing. I just use a Ziplock bag as a waterproof liner.

One thing to be wary of is what effect a soaking-wet backpack will have on your four-legged pal. Do you like wearing a heavy nylon pack soaked in water? Neither do they.

Durability

Buy once, cry once. That’s what I always say. Buy a quality product that will last you for a long time. You’ll likely have to purchase an inferior product multiple times when durability issues eventually arise.

I took a deep dive into each pack on this list, and products known for wearing down quickly didn’t make the cut.

Price

Buy once, cry once. I just told you that, didn’t I? A sub-par bag will leave you wishing you shelled out a few extra bucks. A quality pack for your pup will last you for years and is a wise purchase in the long run. Investing in your dog is always worth it!

Which Backpack Will Your Pup Wear in 2023?

Small dog wearing a camo hiking backpack looking at a body of water

Big or small, your dog deserves the perfect backpack for your upcoming hike

 

Well, that’s all she wrote. The verdict is in: your pup deserves one of 2023’s best dog backpacks. Which will you pick for you and Fido? The Ruffwear Palisades for multiday trips? The top flight Timbuk2 Muttmover Luxe? The made-in-the-USA Mountainsmith K-9?

The choice is yours. Whether you’re looking for a harness-style pack so your pup can carry their gear or a backpack style so you can carry your dog along for the ride, we hope you were able to pair with the perfect pack for you.

Small dogs, big dogs, and every size in-between deserve to get out of the house for a while. Hopefully, one of the best dog backpacks for hiking of 2023 spoke to you and will help you and your pup to hit the old dusty trail on many future adventures.

Thanks for stopping by!

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