Best Dog Backpacking Gear: Hit the Trail With Your Pup

Best dog backpacking gear
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

If you like the outdoors and think backpacking is an awesome way to spend a weekend, just think how much better it could be if you could bring your best friend along. Taking dogs along on hiking trips is a great way to give them exercise and time in a stimulating environment.

Not every dog is cut out for the long haul, but if you think your dog would benefit from time on the trail, it is important to know what the best dog backpacking gear is for your pup.

Girl running with dog

The first thing to do before setting out with your dog is to check the regulations of the place you intend to backpack. Some parks and trail systems have restrictions on dogs (i.e., some require that you keep your dog on a leash while others do not allow dogs at all).

So, checking out the rules before you set out can save you disappointment or trouble. It is also important that you are aware of how your dog behaves around other people.

Not everyone is a dog lover, and many folks use hiking trails to find solitude and silence and wouldn’t appreciate a barking dog running around spooking wildlife.

You should also be confident that your dog has the right demeanor to handle coming across people in close proximity; this is something to keep in mind especially if your dog is aggressive toward strangers. Another thing to keep in mind is uses of public land other than hiking.

Outdoor dog harness

If you are hiking in a national forest, for example, there could be hunters in the woods who would not appreciate a loose dog scaring game.

Just as there are guidelines for “Leave No Trace” practices for humans, you should try to abide by these guidelines with your dog, as well. Clean up after your dog. You can bury dog feces in a hole at least 6 inches deep and far away from water holes.

Additionally, you can bring along dog waste bags and dispose of waste in those bags.  Being respectful of others is crucial to having an enjoyable trip! If you choose to have your dog wear a pack, train him or her to do so in a gradual manner.

Before your trip, let your dog wear the pack on walks and gradually add weight until your dog is comfortable carrying a maximum of 25 percent of his or her body weight. The amount of weight that a dog can safely handle varies between breeds. It’s also a good idea to keep in mind the type of terrain you will be crossing and whether your dog will be able to handle that.

Hiking gear for dogs

Your dog should be in good enough physical shape to handle the trail and any potential hazards along the way. Brushing up on pet first aid is a great step to take during trip preparation, as well.

Deciding what gear to bring along for your dog is the next step after making sure your pet will be able to handle whatever the trip might bring. A reliable, comfortable leash and harness are very important since this is no walk around the block. Measure your dog to be sure you have a harness and pack that properly fit him or her.

Food and water are the other essentials. You can purchase collapsible water bowls for your dog that don’t take up much room in your pack. One good way to store dry dog food is in a waterproof dry bag so that it does not get wet and ruined.

Keep in mind that since your dog might be burning more calories than he or she normally would be, you might need to provide more food to account for extra energy burned.

Dog drinking water

In cold or wet weather, some dogs benefit from having an extra coat or dog booties to protect them from rain or harsh ground conditions. Having the right gear and knowledge is a great way to prepare for your backpacking trip with your pup!

Product Reviews


Ruffwear Quinzee Insulated Jacket

Weight: 9 ounces

Dimensions: Comes in sizes XXS through XL; The sizes are measured in chest girth ranging from 13 inches to 42 inches

Special features: Scotchlite reflective trim; packs into an integrated stuff sack; features side release buckles

Best use: Keeps your dog warm for periods of downtime during cold weather activities

The Ruffwear Quinzee insulated jacket is a lightweight jacket to keep your dog comfortable during breaks in outdoor cold-weather activities. It is insulated but not so overly bulky or heavy that it restricts movement.

With side release buckles, the Quinzee is easy to take on and off of your dog, which makes this jacket ideal for breaks between activities when he or she is more likely to be cold.

It also comes with an integrated stuff sack to make it even more portable. One great safety feature of the Quinzee is its reflective trim and light loop where you can attach a safety light. The outer shell is made of recycled polyester, but one thing to keep in mind is that the Quinzee is a soft shell jacket so it won’t hold up well to downpours.

The jacket is long enough to cover the backs of most dogs, not just insulating part of their bodies. The fabric does not reach all the way around to cover the dog’s belly, so that is something to keep in mind if your dog is going to be in thesnow that reaches to his or her belly.

For $80, the Ruffwear Quinzee is a great option for keeping your dog comfortable in colder weather without being bulky and restricting movement.

Related: The Kurgo Loft Dog Jacket is also a lightweight, insulated, long dog jacket. The main difference is that the Kurgo is waterproof.

Check the price on Amazon


Ruffwear - Hi & Dry Saddlebag Cover, Waterproof Dog Pack Protection

Weight: 2.4 ounces

Dimesions: 30 x 14 inches

Special features: Reflective trim; high visibility color

Best use: Keeping your dog’s pack dry during inclement weather; backpacking; hiking

The Ruffwear Hi and Dry Saddlebag cover is designed to fit over the top of the Ruffwear Approach dog pack and the Palisades dog pack, which are both sold separately from the saddlebag cover.

The saddlebag cover is made of a waterproof nylon material and features taped seams and an integrated storage bag for portability and waterproofing.

Keeping the contents of your dog’s saddlebags dry is extremely important if they contain dry dog food, which could be ruined (or at the very least cause a huge mess) if it gets too wet. Like many other Ruffwear products, this saddlebag cover includes reflective trim to improve visibility in low light conditions, and it is a bright yellow color for high visibility during the day.

When taking your dog into the woods, outfitting it in high visibility colors can be an important safety feature both for yourself and other people such as hunters who might be in the woods as well. For $25, adding this saddlebag cover to your gear can save you a lot of misery if you get caught in the rain without a way to protect the contents of your dog’s saddlebags.

Related: The Ruffwear Approach Full-Day Hiking Pack for Dogs is one of the two dog saddlebags that are compatible with the Ruffwear Hi and Dry saddlebag cover.

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Chaco Dog Leash

Weight: 5 ounces

Dimensions: 72 x 1 inches

Special features: Made of polyester jacquard webbing; adjustable handle that fits around hand or waist.

Best use: Running with your dog; backpacking with your dog.

Chaco is known for its durable, outdoorsy sandals that come in many different woven patterns, and now you can match your dog’s leash to your footwear with the Chaco dog leash. The leash is an inch wide and six feet in length, and it is made of polyester jacquard webbing with a reflective thread to make it more visible in low light conditions.

The handle of the leash is adjustable so that you can hold onto it or widen it so that it fits around your waist. This is a great feature because it allows you to walk your dog hands-free, which is especially useful for running with your dog or using hiking poles. The leash has a plastic buckle and a metal clasp, and it is machine washable.

This leash is known for being very durable, which is important for extensive outdoor use. Another great feature of this leash is the shorter handle at the base of the leash, which is useful for when you need to keep your dog closer to you. It comes in several different colors and patterns and can be purchased in conjunction with a Chaco collar.

Related: The Chaco Dog Collar is made of the same material as the Chaco dog leash and can be purchased so that it matches the leash.

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Ruffwear - Front Range All-Day Adventure Harness

Weight: 6.4 ounces

Dimensions: Comes in sizes XXS through XL; The sizes are measured in chest girth ranging from 13 inches to 42 inches

Special features: Padded chest and belly panels; two secure leash attachment points; reflective trim; ID pocket

Best use: Walking dogs for long distances

The Ruffwear Front Range harness for dogs is designed to be comfortable for your dog to wear and easy for you to adjust. Unlike some harnesses, it isn’t just a few straps that fit around your dog’s body.

The Front Range harness has a padded chest panel and a padded belly panel that help to disperse force away from pressure points on your dog’s body.

It has four points of adjustment that allow you to make sure it fits your dog specifically and has two secure leash attachment points. One is on the dog’s back, which is useful for short, easy walks and the other is a reinforced webbing on the dog’s chest. It also has a little pocket for ID storage in case your dog gets away.

Another safety feature is the incorporation of reflective material into the harness to make it easier to see at night. This harness is very sturdy but it is comfortable enough that your dog won’t be uncomfortable wearing it for long periods of time.

This makes it great for backpacking or long hikes so you don’t have to worry about your dog becoming irritated by rubbing, thin pieces of harness. Definitely a must-have piece of hiking gear for dogs.

Related: The Pupteck front range dog harness is another great dog harness that has multiple attachment points and good weight dispersion. One nice feature of this harness is that it has a seat belt attachment for riding in the car.

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Paw Lifestyles bag dispenser

Paw Lifestyles Dog Poop Bag Holder Leash Attachment 1

Weight: 2 ounces

Dimensions: 2.25 inches x 4.25 inches; Fits a standard roll of dog waste bags

Special features: Velcro straps to keep it from bouncing

Best use: Running with your dog; hiking with your dog.

Having along dog poop bags to collect and discard waste is a staple for any responsible dog owner, but now you can do it with less of a hassle with the Paw Lifestyles bag dispenser leash attachment.

The dog poop bag holder has Velcro straps that allow you to attach it to a dog leash or waist running belt so that it won’t bounce around and get in your way.

It has a zipper on the top where you insert new rolls of dog bags and an opening on the side where you remove them from the bag dispenser. While it is made to fit a standard size roll of dog waste bags, there is enough room built in for you to store dog treats, a phone, keys or other essentials. The dispenser is made of nylon in order to protect it from water and snow.

Thanks to its durability, this waste bag dispenser makes a great addition for trail running or backpacking with your dog. It’s so important to clean up waste to keep the environment healthy as well as not ruin access to dog walking areas and trails for others. This small, lightweight waste bag dispenser leaves no excuse for disregarding waste on the trail.

Related: The Mighty Paw dog poop bag holder is similar to the Paw Lifestyle dog poop bag dispenser because it also has Velcro straps and a zipper for easy access.

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H2O4K9 K9 UNIT Insulated Dog Water Bottle

Weight: 11 ounces

Dimensions: 3.2 x 9.8 inches

Special features: BPA free; twist top lid; holds 25 ounces

Best use: Hikes, longer walks

The H2O4K9 water bottle was designed for military and search and rescue canine use, but it works well for anyone who wants to have an on-the-go hydration tool for their dog.

It can hold 25 ounces of water and is made of 304 food grade stainless steel in the core. Stainless steel can be noisy when it hits other objects, so the outside of this bottle is made of a silicone outer shell for insulation and sound dampening.

The twist top lid is designed to do double duty as a water bowl. It has a wide base with a trough to help reduce spilling. When your dog needs a drink, remove the lid and pour water inside, allowing your dog to drink naturally from the lid.

It’s small enough to be easily portable and can be kept in a backpack or purse on walks. For $20, the H2O4K9 water bottle is a useful item to have on hand for longer walks or hikes.

Related: The Gulpy Water Dispenser for Dogs is another water bottle you can purchase, but it is no insulated and does not have a twist off lid.

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Kurgo Collaps-a-Bowl Pet Travel Bowl

Weight: 6.4 ounces

Dimensions: Collapses to 0.875 x 6 inches and expands to 3.5 x 6 inches

Special features: Dishwasher safe; BPA free

Best use: Traveling, camping, road trips or hiking with your dog

The Kurgo Collaps-A-Bowl is great to have on hand for any time your dog is going to be away from his or her water dish for very long.

Because it collapses down to just 0.875 x 6 inches, it is very portable and can be easily stored in a backpack or glove box for when you need to use it. It’s made of BPA free silicone and is dishwasher friendly.

The Collaps-A-Bowl folds down accordion style into a flat disc, but when it is expanded it can hold up to 24 ounces of water. The six inch diameter of the bowl is large enough for most dogs to fit their muzzle into and drink.

One thing to be aware of is that the bowl is not seamless, and the seams are prone to tearing, especially because many dogs love to chew on silicone things. The Collaps-A-Bowl is also dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. As this bowl is only $7, it is worth having on hand for adventures with a thirsty pup.

Related: The INMAKER collapsible dog bowl is also a BPA free, collapsible dog bowl that is similar to the Kurgo. It comes in multiple sizes, and the main difference is that it has a loop for a carabiner so you can attach the water bowl to a pack or to your belt.

Check the price on Amazon


Ruffwear - Palisades Multi-Day Backcountry Pack for Dogs

Weight: Small size is 1.75 pounds; Medium size is 1.85 pounds; Large size is 2.15 pounds

Dimensions: Available in three sizes ranging from 22 to 42 inches in girth. Pack itself is 15 x 10 x 9 inches

Special features: Includes 2 collapsible hydration bottles; Secure leash attachment; four attachment points

Best use: Multi-day backcountry travel with your dog

The Palisades dog pack is one of two packs that are compatible with the Ruffwear saddle bag cover that we included in this review.

Dog packs are great for multi-day backpacking trips with your dog because it allows your dog to carry its food and other necessities instead of those items taking up precious space in your own pack.

One thing to remember is that it is recommended that your dog carries no more than 25 percent of his or her body weight in the pack. The pack itself is lightweight, with the largest size weighing two pounds. The saddlebags that rest on both sides of your dog’s back are quite spacious; the small size capacity is 10 liters while the large size capacity is 19 liters.

Ruffwear incorporated several features into the design of the Palisades pack that make it more comfortable for your dog to wear. The saddlebags are removable, which makes it easy to take them off and allow your dog to run around with more freedom during rest or water breaks.

There is also an incorporated compression system to secure the load to your dog. The harness has four attachment points for improved weight distribution, which is especially important so that one area of the body isn’t undergoing all of the stress of one attachment point.

The Palisades pack also has 2 collapsible water bottles made to fit into the pack so your dog can also carry his or her own water. This pack was thoughtfully designed not only for ease of human use, but great comfort for the dog who will be wearing it.

Related: The Kurgo Baxter Dog Backpack is a less expensive dog pack option that also features saddle bags.

Check the price on Amazon

Let’s go for a hike buddy!

Taking your dog on a backpacking trip can be an excellent way to spend time with your pup and give him or her great exercise. Plus, of course, your dog gets to partake in his or her favorite activity: being with you!

There are some precautions to take to make sure that your dog is ready for a backpacking trip, but once you determine your dog will be able to handle a trip then gear is the next step. Having great gear can make a trip more enjoyable for both of you.

Dog walking in the park

There are lots of innovative dog backpacking gear items available; if you have a favorite that we did not include in this review, please feel free to let us know in the comments!


Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.