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savvy shopping

The best dog backpack carriers for hikes, flights, and casual adventures

Updated July 13, 2020

Created By

Coral Drake, Dr. Michele King, DVM
Here are the 7 best options for all types of adventures 
dogs in backpack

it's too easy, 📷 by sean hobson

🔍 How we picked our favorites

  • We started with results — We scoured Instagram for adventure-loving dog owners to ask which backpacks they enjoyed using, and the ones they didn’t. Then we dug through customer reviews and product details.
  • Easy cleanup was a must — We preferred packs made of water-resistant materials that had removable mats and high praise in Amazon and Chewy reviews.
  • We looked for variety — We chose high-quality, user-approved options for serious hikes, biking, casual strolls, and your average picnic in the park.

The essentials

  • Check your dog regularly for rub marks. Check your dog regularly for rub marks. Even if your dog acts unbothered, check to make sure that they are not developing sores.
  • Give your dog plenty of breaks. This is most important in the beginning when they’re learning the ropes.
  • Don’t forget about you. Your comfort is important as well when choosing a backpack pet carrier. Make sure that your selection is comfortable on your shoulders and back.

At a glance: The best dog backpacks

Tips for choosing the right pet backpack carrier for you and your dog

Comfort is just as important for you as it is for your furry friend, especially if you plan to go on hikes several miles long or more. Here are a few things to consider before you make a purchase:

Think about the shoulder and safety straps — Some of the backpacks for larger dogs (20+ lbs) we’ve seen have pretty thin shoulder pads. Even if the backpack does have thicker shoulder pads, it might not be enough for your specific dog or trip. That’s not a big problem though — shoulder strap cushions are a dime a dozen.

Consider extra pouches and storage — You’ll probably want to carry a few supplies on while you travel. Consider the size of your water bottles (👉 check out our favorite doggie bottles), treats, and anything else you’d want to bring along.

Consider how much versatility you need — This is especially important if you have several dogs. Some doggie backpacks can be worn on the front or back. Some even convert into a stroller.

Measure your dog — Before you order a carrier, measure your dog. It sounds obvious, but when you read the reviews, it’s obvious a lot of people forgot to do this. Looking at the review pictures is a great way to find examples of dogs around the same size as yours.

Girl hiking with dog in backpack

getting those views 💯

Doggie backpacking 101: How to do it

A simple packing list for adventures with doggo

Here are a few of the most important items our team never leaves home without:

  • 💦 Water and water bowl for your dog
  • Harness and leash for breaks
  • 🧴 Doggy sunscreen
  • 💊 Allergy medication for dogs with mild allergies and epi-pen for dogs with severe allergies
  • 💩 Diapers and or waterproof liner for incontinent dogs
  • A muzzle for aggressive dogs or dogs who eat things they shouldn’t
  • 🤮 Vomit inducer in case your dog eats something poisonous, like activated charcoal
  • 📱 A cell phone or radio and your dog’s veterinarian’s information
  • 📣 Airhorn and dog mace in case of a dog or animal attack

How often does your dog need a break?

In the beginning, it is a good idea to let them stretch their legs and check for rub marks every half hour. As they get more comfortable, you can extend this time to an hour. Once you and your dog get some experience, you can stretch breaks to a couple of hours at a time.

How do you know when your dog needs to pee?

Most dogs will not need to pee while in the carrier as long as you potty break every couple of hours. Sometimes, though, they get excited. If your dog starts squirming, don’t risk it.

Common hazards on the trail

Carrying smaller dogs in a backpack is much safer on longer hikes and biking adventures. But that doesn’t mean you won’t encounter any hazards. Here are some of the most common challenges to prepare for:

Other dogs

Other dogs can be a serious threat to your pup, especially if you encounter an aggressive or feral dog. Picking your dog up is not the answer. In fact, it can put you both in harm’s way and escalate the situation. Here are the two most important things to remember if you’re attacked by a dog:

Stand your ground — Don’t try to outrun the dog, especially not with a pet on your back. It’s likely the attacking dog will jump up, knock you down, and attack your dog.

Instead of running, stand your ground and don’t break eye contact. If the attacking dog stands its ground too, try backing up very slowly.

Then use an air horn or mace if necessary — Don’t do this until you’re sure that the dog isn’t backing down. If you whip out an airhorn immediately, it might antagonize your attacker before they’ve had a chance to size you up.

Wildlife

Wild animals are unlikely to be a risk to your dog while they’re in the carrier. It’s when you take them out that wildlife can become an issue — especially for dogs with a strong prey drive.

Keep your dog within reach — Keeping your dog within eyesight isn’t enough. Hawks and other predatory birds can take small dogs at a moment’s notice. Dogs with prey drive may take off after a rabbit or squirrel before you have time to react.

Keep your dog on a leash — The best way to keep your dog safe is to keep them attached to you. Use a leash with a harness so that you’ll be able to pull your dog back if necessary.

Pay attention to your dog’s signals — If your dog is hyper-focused on some aspect of the brush where you can’t see anything, pay attention. They may be aware of an animal that you can’t see

Overheating

Carrying your dog helps reduce the risk of overheating, but it’s still a possibility — even outside of the summer months. Remember: Even the most breathable of dog backpack carriers can retain a lot of heat.

Dogs cool themselves by panting and releasing hot moisture from their tongues. That means they can overheat much more quickly in humid climates than drier climates at the same temperature.

Signs your dog is overheating

  • Excessive panting, especially fast, noisy panting
  • Bright red or blue gums
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Seizures or convulsions