The Best Dog Backpack

Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack

Our Top Pick for 2016: Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack
Read our full review.

See it on Amazon for $79.95*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Too expensive? See our budget pick.

If you’re a dog lover and want to take your pet out on the trails with you, what better accessory to bring than a dog backpack? It’s a convenient device that not only can carry your dog’s supplies, but also helps with training.

We decided to look at the various dog backpacks in the market and come up with the best ones. We researched, we tested, we made lists and charts to create the top three—our gold, silver and bronze picks—along with one budget pick. Our criteria included looking for the best in durability, balance, pocket construction, general options, adjustability and value.

Table of contents

amazon-available
amazon-available
amazon-available
Reflective Accents
Efficient Weight Forward Design
4-point Adjustable Chest Harness
Bright Colors For High Visiblity
Provides Load Stability
Padded Sternum Pad
Convenient Pockets
Padded Assistance Handle
Adjustable Back Harness For Custom Fit
Interior Water Bottle Holder
Trail-ready Details
Two Zippered Pannier Pockets
Mesh Pockets
Sizes Available XXS To XL
Single Haul Handle

*Price at time of publishing and may not reflect current pricing.

#1 Gold pick (Winner): Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack

Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack Gold Pick

View it on Amazon for $79.95*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-gold-winnerOur number one gold choice is the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack. This is a backpack that lives up to its manufacturer’s name “Ruff”-wear. It is a functional and durable pack and any pet will have a great time in it. The backpack is made from water-resistant nylon and the zippers are coated to protect them from water. This is the perfect doggy backpack to put on your pet if it’s raining, if you are camping, or if you are on a trail that runs by a lake or river. In particular, the Ruffwear Approach handles water great. It beads and runs off, so it won’t absorb water and keep your pet uncomfortably wet. If you’re in an inordinate downpour, you can still just wipe off the water. The backpack also has a padded handle at the top so you can help steady your dog if you’re walking a particularly arduous trail. This is a great feature that allows for hours of adventure with your pet. You won’t have to worry about your pet losing their footing and you can easily help them.

The other great thing about the Ruffwear Approach is that the harness on top has a special Web Master construction that makes load distribution even and stable. As long as you fill the pockets evenly, your pet won’t have a problem with balance. Plus, the saddlebag-like design makes it easy for your dog to maneuver through dense paths and water. One of the things we liked most was its 5-point harness design that is completely adjustable for the perfect fit your pet needs. This is an added bonus because when you’re walking your pet through long trails, you want to be sure he or she is comfortable. The harness is very important and having this much adjustability is definitely a huge plus!

The Ruffwear Approach comes with a lot of variety. It is available in five different sizes: xx-small, x-small, small, medium and large/x-large. This assures that you can find it in the perfect size for your dog. The weight of the pack itself runs from xx-small at 11 ½-ounces to the XL at 1-pound and 7-ounces. It comes in two colors: campfire orange and pacific blue. Either color is bright and has reflective strip for nighttime visibility. The backpack has two large padded zip-close pockets—one on each side. We discovered that the pockets are surprisingly deep and they extend out so packing them with your pet’s supplies is easier than ever. There also is a small compartment at the top for additional space. There is a V-ring at the top to use as an attach point for a leash and it is anodized aluminum so it won’t rust with long-term use.

If you’re looking for a pet backpack that comes in at the best value, this definitely is a winner. For the price, it has a lot to offer and avid trail mongers or campers will love it. Not only is it a great product for travel, but its fashionably designed and sturdily constructed. Pricing is on point with its advantages. The cost-to-value is outstanding in that you get a lot for your money with this dog backpack.

The Ruffwear Approach definitely is our number one pick for the best dog backpack in the market. Test it out and you likely are going to love it—and so will your favorite trail-loving companion.

#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): Outward Hound Kyjen Dog Backpack

Outward Hound Kyjen Dog Backpack

View it on Amazon for $78.79*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-silver-winnerThe Outward Hound Kyjen dog backpack is our number two silver pick for best dog backpacks. This is another highly durable pack and will stand up to just about any trail or camping trip you take your pet on. It is made from water-proof nylon and that means it won’t give you any issues with water. It won’t absorb it. It won’t be damaged by it. It won’t shrink because of it. That’s great news if you are an avid trail-lover who isn’t stopped by a little rain. This backpack may be the best accompaniment with your pet and showers. There is a handle at the top of this one, just like the Ruffwear option. It is sturdy and tightly attached to the harness so you won’t have to worry about pulling damaging the connection.

The design of the Kyjen is also saddlebag like. This is a favored design because it helps to even distribute weight on each side of your pet. This helps with balance and adds to the comfort of the piece. It has adjustable straps on the front and back and you can easily tighten or loosen them for the perfect fit. It has 3-point adjustability- one on each side and one in front. You can alter it to fit snug around your dog’s arms and chest. This is going to help if you’re on long trails. You want to be sure your pet is comfortable too. To clean the pack, all you need is water and a towel. Just wipe off dirt, mud or other stains. You can thank the forgiving nylon for this feature and it is a necessary one.

The Kyjen comes in four sizes: small, medium, large and x-large. It’s designed for dogs from 15-pounds to dogs up to 90-pounds. It comes in four different colors: blue, green, yellow and red. Each color is bright and fashionable. They each have nighttime reflective accents for your pet’s protection and safety. The pockets on the Kyjen are different than the Ruffwear Approach. While the latter had pockets that were rounded, reminiscent of an actual saddlebag, the Kyjen’s pockets are squared off. That gives possibly a little more room for items. It has a special holder for a water bottle too. One of the coolest unique features of this dog backpack is that the pack is removable from the harness. That is a convenient addition because you can easily take off the weight at rest stops. When you’re ready to get back on the trail, you can reattach it with the simple Velcro strip that holds it together. You won’t waste any time with the conversion; plus, you can leave the harness on your dog before you put weight in his or her pack to get your pet used to the feel of it. The one drawback of a detachable pack is that there isn’t a ring for attaching the leash. If you need one, you’ll have to put a regular collar and leash on your pet in addition to the backpack.

This is another dog backpack that has a great cost-to-value. The Kyjen has a wide range of useful features that will make your trail runs, camping or walks that much more fun. If you are looking for a good dog backpack, be sure to test this one out on your pet. He or she may find it is just the right fit. Plus, you’ll love all of the convenience features and long-lasting durability. You can easily put this backpack to the test and it most likely will hold up just fine.

#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Mountainsmith K-9 Dog Pack

Mountainsmith K-9 Dog Pack

View it on Amazon for $64.95*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-bronze-awardThe bronze pick for dog backpacks goes to the Mountainsmith K-9 dog pack. This is another awesomely constructed backpack that is going to give lots of use for a long time to come. This one is also made from nylon, which makes sense due to its ability to handle water. It’s another harness that is easily cleaned with water and a rag. What makes this a standout though is the build of the pack. It is ergonomically designed and veterinarian approved. The actual harness has 4 adjustment points to ensure the perfect fit. The chest plate is padded so it won’t cause any sternum discomfort. It also has a back harness that is independently adjustable and an adjustable belly strap. This makes it that much easier to bring snug on your pet. It also has a handle on top to help steady your pet on rocky trails. There is a metal D-ring at the front for ease of attaching a leash. Its strongly reinforced to the body of the backpack and durable enough to keep any pet by your side, even if they tend to pull and strain.

Another unique and handy feature of the Mountainsmith backpack is that its top handle has adjustable straps on it so you can change length for your comfort too. If your pet is particularly small, you can extend the handle so you won’t have to bend down to reach him or her. If your pet is tall and you don’t need the extra extension, you can make it flush with the backpack. This adjustment feature will be particularly handy if you venture on rough trails or through rocky shallow waters.

The Mountainsmith is also offered with good variety. You can order it in heritage red or azure blue. It comes in small, medium and large sizes. It also has the safety reflective trim for safety. Though it has just three sizes, this is where the numerous adjustment points come into play. The construction of the inner harness has enough adjustability to tailor it to any dog’s torso. You can easily work with all the variable straps to see what works best for your pet. The zip pockets are rectangular and puff out for their space. There are two pockets, one on each side and they are very roomy. Their placement is reminiscent of a pannier, the baskets carried commonly by donkeys centuries ago. If it worked them, it should work now! It’s a great way to transport your pet’s things- and maybe a few of yours. You’ll be thankful for the roominess of the pannier once you see how much can actually comfortably fit into it. The actual vest is made of mesh so your pet will always be well ventilated – even in the summer months.

Overall this is a great bronze option for our list of the best dog backpacks. Its cost-to-value is just as good as our top two picks. Plus, it offers a lot for that investment. Though adjustability is what stood out to us, there are also a lot of other advantages to this dog backpack that you and your pet will love.

#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): OneTigris Cotton Canvas Dog Pack

OneTigris Cotton Canvas Dog Pack

View it on Amazon for $29.95*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-cheap-budget-pickOur budget pick for the list of best dog backpacks is the OneTigris Cotton Canvas dog pack. It’s unique and different from the other selections, but it still is a high-quality and durable backpack that deserves some recognition.

First of all, the OneTigris is not made of nylon. Instead it’s made of high-density cotton canvas. Canvas is popular with outdoor use because it is extremely durable in the elements. It’s commonly used for tents, human backpacks and sails. Water won’t compromise canvas at all; plus, if it’s high-density it will hold up even better. OneTigris decided to capitalize on that and create a dog backpack made from it. This unique decision put it at the budget spot on our list. It isn’t as easy to clean as nylon, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be cleaned. You use the same technique—wash with a wet cloth—but you have to allow the canvas drying time. If you go out every day for a long walk that involves water this may not work for you. If you vary your walks though and water isn’t a constant element to fight, it still may be a good option. Plus, the light brown color won’t show dirt as quickly so the material just may be doing you a favor.

The OneTigris backpack has three adjustable straps- one in front around your pet’s chest, one in back around your pet’s belly and one around the neck. You can use these adjustable straps to create the right fit for your dog’s torso. It has a metal D-ring at the front to attach a leash easily and securely.

Because it’s constructed from canvas, it comes in just one color. The OneTigris also comes in one size, which is why the adjustable straps are much needed. This backpack is suggested for dogs in the medium to large size, such as German Shepherds, Tibetan mastiffs, Samoyed or Alaskans. The chest strap can be altered for a 26 ½-inch chest to a 40 ½-inch chest. It’s best to measure your dog’s chest at its largest part to make sure this backpack will fit. Weight distribution is good with this backpack so you can easily load it evenly on each side and it will stay in place. The pockets are boxy and zip up securely. An added feature is that each large side pocket has an inner zippered pocket. It also has an open pocket on the outside of each side. These pockets are mostly for show/design though because they aren’t deep enough or secured enough to put much inside. That’s all right though since the large pockets are deep and can hold the bulk of items you need to bring with for your dog.

Overall its cost-to-value ratio is still high, which is why it made it to our list despite some limitations. If your dog fits the size this can accommodate and you don’t need the backpack every day, this may still work for you. It is stylish and won’t bind or scratch because of the soft canvas.

No, this backpack doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the other backpacks we reviewed. It doesn’t have reflective trim or a fully customizable strap system, yet it still is worth a look. If you want a dog backpack that is still durable, useful and well-made, the OneTigris may be just right.


Pre-purchase considerations

When choosing our list of best pet backpacks, we looked at a variety of important qualities. Durability was number one- we wanted to pick the backpacks that would stand up after repeated use. We assessed the load stability, adjustable straps and cleaning needs. Features like colors, sizes, and pockets were also a priority for us. We wanted as many good features as possible that would bring more value to our readers. Speaking of value, we look at the cost of each item and match it up with the actual quality of the item to ensure we are picking only the best. Here are detailed descriptions of what we look for when reviewing the pet backpacks on the market.

Durability

One of the main considerations we studied with our dog backpacks was durability. We wanted to find the backpacks that would last longer than the rest. Nylon was our first choice, but then one canvas choice made the cut. What they all have in common though is that regardless of the elements, they can all stand up effectively. You won’t have to worry about rain or walking through streams with any of our picks. Your dog will be just fine. Most of them will dry quickly. The exception is our canvas selection may need to be left hanging to dry for a few hours if it gets particularly soaked.

We also looked at the harness and how well it fit various pets. We wanted dog backpacks that were usable for any dog size—tiny, medium, large and extra-large. We also wanted backpacks that were customizable to each pet. Any dog-lover knows that two dogs of the same breed can easily be different sizes. We wanted our best dog backpacks to easily be able to overcome the variation. Although our canvas option is for mid- to large-breeds, it still had a good harnessing system that we thought was worth including on our list.

We looked at load stability and weight distribution also. This was a comfort feature for your pet. We wanted to packs to stay put (thanks to the adjustable strappings) and we wanted the load to be stationary during walks. No one wants a backpack that needs to be readjusted multiple times on a trip. We wanted backpacks that stayed put once they were secured to your pet.

Specs

In terms of the specs we looked for the options. Most of our picks came in different sizes and colors. With the exception of one, pet owners can easily choose what size fits best and what colors are preferred. The latter was more of a fashion decision, but it bears some weight in the pet world. If you have more than one similar-sized pet you can easily purchase different colors to distinguish which backpack belongs to which dog. This helps because you won’t have to readjust your packs every time you want to take your dogs out.

We also looked at the pocket sizes. This was an important element to our assessment because they had to be large enough to accommodate the normal things pet owners bring on long walks with their dogs. Things like water bottles, bags, a pet scoop, treats, etc. all had to be an easy fit. In addition, the pockets had to be secured. We wanted the backpacks that had zippering pockets and the metal on those zippers had to be coated to avoid rusting. Backpacks are built for heavy outdoor use so they have to be able to stand up against the elements easily and with minimum degradation.

Best Value

We also looked at the cost-to-value on each of our dog backpacks. We found a lot of models that were high in cost, but offered little more than the standard in backpacks for pets. These were quickly eliminated from our list. We wanted the backpacks that were priced at reasonable amounts and still offered all the extra features owners want in their pet’s supplies. We didn’t want to compromise in quality just because of a lesser price point.

Part of our job is to hone in on what truly brings value to our products and match them up with the appropriate price. When we find these products, they carry a lot of weight with us. During the review process we give these items the most weight because we know that they are the best decision for our readers. Our goal is to bring the best products directly to them and part of being the best is having a great price that showcases value.

Extras

We also noted the extras. For the most part the top picks shared a lot of the best qualities—durability, adjustability, balance, etc. Still there were a few unique characteristics we liked. The adjustable handle on the Mountainsmith, for example, was a great feature. Not only did it have a comfortable fit for the pet, but it also took the owner into consideration by letting them heighten the straps if needed. We also picked the pet backpacks that were highly adjustable with straps under the chest, under the belly and in front by the sternum. We wanted backpacks that were able to be secured to pets for added comfort.

We also liked the nighttime reflective trim on some of our best products. This is a safety feature that went a long way with our reviewers. And the ability to use a leash directly with the backpack was a handy extra we noted.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

Finding the best dog backpacks was our goal and we truly believe we got it right with these picks. The Ruffwear Approach came in at number one, our gold pick. Overall it was the best we found. Some standout qualities were its color options, size options and construction. The silver pick went to the Kyjen that also offered good variation and quality. Our bronze pick was the Mountainsmith that had some cool adjustable features we really liked. Our final budget pick went to the OneTigris backpack. It stood out because of its design, but still made the list due to its overall style and general toughness.

If you’re itching to go on a walk, hit the trails or visit a campsite with your dog, try out the above backpacks. You’ll find them all to be convenient solutions to carrying your dog’s water, treats and other accessories. Here are a few tips for packing your pooch’s pack:

• Never load a pet’s backpack with more than 25% of his or her weight

• Be sure to load them evenly on each side or they’ll keep on shifting

• A backpack can be used for easily transporting dog items, but it also helps them focus on walking—for unruly pups this is a must

Now that you have the tips, go out and get the pet backpack. You’ll be happy you did when you and your best furry friend are outside enjoying life together.

Discussion and comments

We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?

Do you know of an even better product?

Comment below and help your fellow consumers make the right choice. Over to you!

Resources

  1. Ruffwear Approach Dog Pack. REI.com.
  2. Wes Siler. Adventure Tested: Ruffwear Approach Dog Pack. Gizmodo.com. June 16, 2014.
  3. Jen Gabbard. Kyjen Outward Hound Dog Backpack Review. PuppyLeaks.com. August 6, 2014.
  4. It’s Time Fido Started to Share The Load. BackCountry.com.
  5. Cassie-Leigh Stock. What’s the Deal with Dog Backpacks. Hexdogs.com. April 9, 2013.

Pin It on Pinterest