A backpack is a great addition to almost any dog’s gear collection. They’re useful for multi-day adventures, day hikes, and walks around town – but with all of the options out there, which backpack should you choose?
Cool Whip and Hercules have been hard at work testing five dog backpacks options to give you real-life reviews of some of the most popular models on the market. Let it be known that Cool Whip protested about some slightly less than others. She’s fairly certain a queen should not have to carry her own luggage. And Hercules liked them all … because he likes everything. I adjusted harnesses, filled saddlebags, readjusted harnesses, chased Cool Whip around to finish clipping her in, zipped and unzipped saddlebags, and eventually compiled their feedback.
Measurements for scale, because pictures can be deceiving, and it may be helpful in determining the appropriate size for your dog:
Alcott’s Adventure Backpack is like the ever-so-perfect messenger bag you use for work that also functions as a fantastic carry-on to fit underneath the plane seat. This pack can carry your dog’s essentials for the day without getting too bulky. Plus, it sneaks in a few extra perks.
The Good Stuff: Four harness buckles on this pack make it easy to suit up your dog. Cool Whip does not like gear going over her head, so this was the ideal setup: two clips at the neck, one under the chest, and one at the side. She didn’t even have to lift a paw for the lower chest strap. Two of the four pockets have bonus features — one large pocket is insulated to keep your dog’s water (or your beverage!) cool, and one small pocket has a metal grommet that serves as an easy-access waste bag dispenser.
Room for Improvement: This backpack does not have an attachment for leashes and is not meant to be used as a harness. You’ll need to use a collar if leashing is required.
The EzyDog Summit Backpack is the new kid on the block, having just launched in June 2018. The harness portion is thoughtfully constructed with two leash points, a mesh top (air flow!), and a wide chest pad for comfort and control. The Summit is customizable with a velcro patch on each saddlebag. EzyDog offers options such as “Adopt Me,” “Diva,” and “Deaf Dog.”
The Good Stuff: The saddlebags are the top feature here. The entire lid of each bag opens up to the outside of the pack, making it effortless to get gear in and out. This also makes it easy to see inside each bag — no more aimlessly fumbling around hoping to magically pull out the correct item. And one less opportunity for your dog to give you the stink eye for slowing things down!
Room for Improvement: Each bag has only one pocket; a second, smaller pocket would be convenient for organization. The second zipper at the top of each bag is a nice thought for a quick grab, but it’s a tad small to be able to efficiently retrieve items.
Planning a multi-day adventure with your big pup? Trying to minimize the amount of extra gear your dog is collecting? This is the backpack for you. Hurtta’s Trail Pack sports the largest saddlebags of the group. Plus, they’re removable so you can go from backpack to harness in a few quick snaps. And since you don’t have to pack a separate harness, you’ll have more room for snacks!
The Good Stuff: The removable bags are an obvious positive, but the harness itself deserves a shout out as well. The flexible material conforms perfectly to your dog without any stiff or thick areas to cause discomfort. The mesh sides help with air flow and the wide chest pad wraps smoothly down the front of your dog. It’s like a cozy hug.
Room for Improvement: The saddlebags may be oversized for some dogs. Size medium fit both Cool Whip and Hercules, but the saddlebags were a bit too bulky for Hercules with his shorter, more compact build. It would be nice to have a way to shrink the capacity of these bags.
Kurgo’s Baxter Dog Backpack is a pleasantly compact adventure system. This pack has multiple fit adjustments, not only for the harness but also for the saddlebags. You can move the bags higher or lower according to the build of your dog, which is a feature unique to this pack.
The Good Stuff: The little details shine bright for the Baxter — easy-to-grab zipper pulls (seriously, they’re awesome!), two conveniently sized pockets, and a bottle opener on the front chest pad. The saddlebags are the perfect size for a day hike. What’s not to love?!
Room for Improvement: The saddle of the harness is pretty stiff, which provides opportunity for discomfort. It may not form to the shape of your dog as easily as the other options. Additionally, short hair collects quite easily in the mesh underside.
You’ll never have to question what this pack can handle. Ruffwear’s Approach Pack is very well constructed and durable. If your dog barrels through the wilderness with little regard for the nice accessories you provide, this is your pack. Hercules pays no attention to what he’s hustling past so his gear receives a solid thrashing from rocks, trees, and cacti. This pack took it all and still looked nice when we got home.
The Good Stuff: The saddlebags are sized and shaped to accommodate enough gear for an overnight without being too excessive for a day hike. The gear loops at the top of each bag are a nice addition. You can tie on those lightweight but awkwardly shaped items such as your dog’s sleeping pad.
Room for Improvement: The material is not breathable and the underside collects short hair like its going out of style. The dimensions of this pack did not work for Cool Whip’s body shape (a narrow but deep chest). The stiff material on top didn’t conform to the dip behind her shoulders, and there was chafing at her “underarms” no matter how the straps were adjusted.
Overall, you can’t go wrong with any of these backpacks, as long as they appropriately fit your dog, so consider the features that matter most to you. Will you be taking long walks in the city? Do you want easy access saddlebags? Will you be backpacking for several nights? Do you need a compact day hiker? Does it have to withstand a lot wear and tear? There is something for everyone out there, even the divas like Cool Whip!
Do you have a pack you’d recommend that wasn’t mentioned above? Let’s us know in the comments!