What to Put in a Dog Backpack (+ Hiking Safety Tips)

Hitting the dog-friendly hiking trails this summer? Get your pup ready to share the load with their own dog hiking pack! We will tell you everything you need to know about what to put in a dog backpack.

Active dogs and their hike-loving humans can share the load when trekking up the trail in tandem with dog backpacks for hiking. When it comes to carrying gear, who couldn’t use a little help with toting? Your dog will be wiggling with excitement when the two of you finally get your tail on the trail!

doggy backpack for hiking

What To Put in a Dog Backpack For Hiking

Make sure you have these essentials when your pack up your dog’s backpack for hiking:

  • Travel Sized First Aid Kit for dogs
  • Dog poop bags for waste
  • Collapsible bowls for water and food
  • Dog treats and dog food for longer hikes
  • Dog bed for overnight camping trips
  • Water bottles (water bladders can burst)

How To Get Your Dog Comfortable Wearing A Dog Backpack

dog wearing a backpack for dogs outward hound

The best thing dog owners can do to get pups comfortable wearing a doggy backpack is to give them a chance to practice! Let your dog wear their empty backpack a handful of times before hitting the trail with any extra weight in tow.

Start with short walks the first time you strap your dog’s backpack on. Just like introducing dogs to anything new, the best approach is gradual exposure. You don’t want them to start associating dread with putting on their hiking backpack by loading them up on a long hike right away.

For the first few adventures, have your dog start with an empty pack before they start carrying weight on a hike. Once they are ready for a little weight in their hiking pack, make sure the weight is distributed evenly on both sides. Using two water bottles or splitting food into two containers will help keep your furry friend balanced.

Key takeaways:

  • Start slowly with short walks
  • Let your dog test the empty pack first
  • Balance the load once your dog is ready for weight in their pack

Can All Dogs Carry a Doggy Backpack?

dog hiking gear

It’s important to be sure your dog is fit enough and has the energy level (and the girth) to wear and carry a dog backpack, and to go hiking in general. Make sure your dog is healthy enough to hike, and choose reasonable routes for their fitness level.

Larger dogs, like German shepherds, have the mass to carry a pack, whereas small dogs like chihuahuas are really just too small to saddle up. The amount of weight your dog can carry depends on the weight of your dog, their size, fitness level, and their breed.

Conditions like respiratory problems, hip dysplasia, heart issues, or joint issues should be examined by your veterinarian before your fully commit to your dog hiking with a doggy backpack. Of course, we’re all for adventure, but the health and safety of your furriest family member come first.

A check-up is an easy way to screen all dogs, no matter their age, for any possible health issues that might prevent your dog from being your hiking or backpacking buddy.

What To Look For in a Dog Hiking Backpack

dog backpack

The right hiking gear makes a big difference, whether you’re looking for a dog hiking pack for epic backpacking trips with your furry friend or a doggy day pack for your favorite day hikes.

The best dog backpacks like the Outward Hound DayPak have certain features that make them comfortable and functional and have adjustable straps that secure around a dog’s back and a dog’s chest without chafing or pulling at their neck. Straps that adjust also mean your dog’s backpack can be fitted over a vest or jacket for winter hiking adventures!

Here are the features to look for in a hiking pack for your dog:

  • A snug fit
  • Lightweight, breathable material
  • Bright colors to spot your dog on the trail
  • Saddlebag-style pockets
  • Secure zippers
  • Room for water bottles, food, and treats
  • Durability

How Much Weight Can My Dog Carry in A Backpack?

shiba inu wearing a doggy backpack in the woods

Your dog’s weight will help you determine how much they can carry.

As a general rule, your pup’s pack weight should be no more than 25% of your dog’s body weight.

While this rule of thumb is true for most pups, some dog breeds have a different weight limit than others. Not every dog will be able to carry the same amount of gear.

Small dogs may not be able to carry a large pack as large dogs can—their smaller size makes hiking alone enough of a workout. Young dogs (under the age of three) or ‘mature’ and senior dogs (over the age of eight).

Other Hiking Essentials For Dogs

girl hiking with dogs

Dog boots are the ultimate paw protection for winter hiking, rough terrain, icy conditions, or hot pavement that can sometimes be part of the trail.

Dog safe sunscreen because yes, pups can get sunburned too! A dog’s nose is especially prone to sunburn when the weather is extra hot. Prevent your pup from being uncomfortable by applying that SPF when they’re exposed to the sun.

Swimming on the trail or at your destination? Don’t forget a dog life jacket for water safety when swimming boating, or doing SUP with your pup. A well-fitted life vest is the number one way to prevent accidents on the water.

Dog jackets help your four-legged friend retain heat when winter hiking with your dog, or getting an early start when there’s still a chill in the air.

Safety Tips For Hiking With Dogs

gifts for hikers with dogs

An experienced hiker knows that safety always comes first, and the same is true when hiking with your dog—including loading up their doggy pack.

Choosing hiking gear with bright colors and good visibility will make spotting your dog on the trail much easier. The same safety rule of thumb is true for humans when it comes to the color of your hiking gear.

Friendly safety reminders:

  • Do your research and choose a dog-friendly hiking trail
  • Choose a trail with a length and terrain suitable for your dog
  • Follow leash laws and keep your dog under voice command when off leash
  • Keep your pup fueled and hydrated with treats and water
  • Keep your first aid kit up to date
  • Check your dog’s fur for ticks after hiking

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one, Outward Hound may receive a small commission.