6 best dog backpack carriers for hiking and how to choose one

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This is one of my favorite topics 😉 I absolutely love dog backpack carriers. Actually, I like to call them dogpacks, hence the website name.  

Now dog backpack carriers are really a life saver for me. Having a small dog has some huge advantages. And one of them is that I can take him literally anywhere, even where dogs are normally not allowed. How? I just put him in my dogpack and no one will even notice him.

Below you’ll find the criteria how to choose the right model along with a list of my favorite examples.

The dog backpack carriers in this list are specifically chosen for hiking. So I’m only featuring carriers that you can actually carry on your back in order to have your hands free for other things.

If you’re in a hurry, these are the carriers:

Who needs a dog backpack carrier?

In my opinion, every small dog owner needs one! These are the most useful carriers designed for dogs.

Before I knew that something like that even existed, I used bulky bag carriers. I never knew how to properly carry them and I felt like I was hitting Baloo with every step. A really uncomfortable experience for both of us.

In my opinion, there are two kinds of dog owner who will benefit the most from a dog backpack carrier: urban, active people and people with dogs that can’t walk for very long.

Urban, active people

If you live in a city like me and are a very active person, you’ll love to have a dog backpack carrier. Now I can easily cycle with Baloo, take him to the grocery store (he has separation anxiety so leaving him outside the store is no option) or on public transport. Or once I even took him to a wine tasting in his carrier. I just put him underneath the bench and no one even noticed him. And on the picture above we took him on a small boat trip. A big plus is also that he looooves all sorts or carriers. He’s a curler so he loves to curl up in a small space and sleep. Just wonderful.

I think dogpacks are especially handy for urban people with small dogs. Especially if you’re a frequent user of public transport or a cyclist, a dogpack is a must. Even if dogs are not allowed on public transport at all, in most dog backpack carriers your pup’s invisible. Jackpot! What I really like about this solution as well, is that you don’t necessarily need a car to have a dog. A dogpack just makes you be much more flexible. It’s also a must for day trip activities with your small dog.

Dogs that can’t walk for a long time

How the second group of dog owners own dogs that can’t walk for very long. A dog backpack carrier is the perfect solution if you like hiking but your dog just can’t hike with you for the whole day.

It’s also a great solution if you have 2 dogs and one needs significantly more exercise than the other.

Related: How far can a dog hike in a day?

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How to choose the right dog backpack carrier for hiking

There are basically three different kinds of dogpacks with lots of under categories.

There are the closed versions, where your pupper can move around inside the carrier. Then there are the “heads out” versions where your pupper sits inside the dogpack and only sticks his head out. And then there are the “legs free” versions where your dog either has all four legs or just the front legs hanging out.

If you’re looking for the best carrier for hiking, it’s crucial that your dog can comfortably sit or lie in it for an extended period of time.

Btw, if you’re wondering what else to think of when hiking your pooch, make sure to check out my complete guide for hiking with a small dog for beginners.

Let’s look at the different categories:

Closed Carrier

These carriers can just as well be used as normal carriers. They’re also perfect for situations where your dog has to stay in a carrier (e.g. on a flight in cabin or on public transport) or shouldn’t be seen (e.g. grocery store).

They’re closed on all sides and usually have some parts made of mesh material for ventilation purpose and for your pooch to look outside. If your pup is a rather small one, he can easily move around inside this kind of dogpack. Baloo can even stand, he can comfortably sit and lie down. You can usually also open the top and front compartment, clip your dog’s collar to the strap provided for it and then let him stick his head out if he likes.

So these are really the most flexible ones.

“Heads out” carriers

These are very soft carriers with a closed bottom but with a hole on top so that your pooch always has his head sticking out. In these dogpacks, you basically have to seat your pooch inside and he has to remain in that position. On the top part there is an adjustable strap so that your dog can’t jump outside. Here’s an example:

Now, I’m not a huge fan of those…

However, it can be a good solution if you have a very relaxed small pup.

It’s only made for dogs up to about 15 lb (6.8 kg). Also, you should only use it for short distances. Your dog can get very hot inside because he’s having cloth all around himself. Plus, he can’t move but is stuck in this position. What’s very useful about it is that you can easily put it away because it’s very soft.

“Legs free” carriers

These carriers usually basically consist of just a little bit of cloth that you have to put on your dog like some kind of clothing. He’s then sort of hanging in it like a baby.

While they look incredibly cute, I doubt that this position is very comfortable for a dog. So I wouldn’t recommend those. In case you don’t know what they look like, here’s an example:

Another option are the K9 sacks where the bottom is closed and he’s just sticking his head and front paws out. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Top choices

Now that you know which options are available, let’s actually look at the top choices.

Closed carriers

In my opinion, closed carriers are by far the best options. They’re very versatile and make great carriers for hiking but also for other activities, such as cycling, public transport and going to the grocery store.

Petsfit backpack 

The Petsfit backpack is my favorite.

It’s made for small dogs until 15 lb (although I think up to 17.5 lb (about 8 kg) should still be fine).

What I like most about it is that your small dog can sit, turn around or lie down inside the Petsfit backpack. That means a maximum of relaxation possibility. Another big benefit are the mesh parts in front and on top that you can open with a zipper. That way you can have it open if your pup likes fresh air. Or have it closed if he should relax. It also has an inside clip to fix your puppers collar in case you have the dogpack open.

One of the main reasons I like it so much for hiking, is that you can fold it if not in use. That way you can strap it onto your backpack or luggage which makes it really handy.

The only thing that’s lacking is a strap or something like that to keep it together when folded. If you fold it, the upper and bottom part just hang loose so you always have to tie it onto something in order to keep it together. But you can just take any strap to do that yourself.

Prefer Pets

The Prefer Pets dog backpack carrier is airline approved which makes it the perfect traveling companion!

What I really like about it is that you can use it as a backpack but also as a normal bag carrier. That versatility is very useful for traveling and for hiking. Your pup can stretch out and relax, which is also a plus. All mesh sides can be closed by an extra layer in case you want to use it as a normal bag when your pooch isn’t lying inside.

A con is that your dog won’t be able to sit inside because of the airline approved size. Since it has to fit under the seat in front of you in cabin, it can’t be very high. But that makes it easier for your pooch to relax and take a nap while in the dogpack.

Pawfect Pets

Another good solution if you’re looking for a closed dogpack is the Pawfect Pets dog backpack carrier. An advantage this one has over the Petsfit are the pouches on the side where you can put dog treats or other small things away. You can also unzip it and and fold it for storage. The only other difference compared to the Petsfit carrier is its shape on top. While the Petsfit is flat, this one has more like a half triangular shape.

Apollo Walker

The Apollo Walker carrier also makes a great hiking backpack carrier. The big advantage over the Prefer Pets carrier is that your dog can sit and stand in it. Due to its practical design, your dog will have lots of space in it. At 18 inches long x 11 inches wide x 11 inches high (46 cm x 28 cm x 28 cm), it’s one of the biggest dog backpack carriers available, which also makes it a good choice for medium sized dogs.

It’s also collapsible. Plus it has lots of zippers for your dog to comfortably get inside.

“Legs free” carriers

I’m generally not a big fan of the “legs free” carriers. But there are two carriers that can actually be good for hiking with dogs.

K9 Sport Sack Air 

The K9 Sport Sack Air is a very nice dogpack for small, medium sized and even large dogs. So if you have a pooch on the bigger end, this might be the dog backpack carrier for you.

It’s definitely built to sit comfortably on your back. However, I would only recommend to use this backpack for shorter trips. Your dog has to sit in somewhat of an unnatural position inside this backpack. He can’t turn or lie down. So in my opinion, it’s not ideal for a long hiking trip. It can be very helpful, if you just have to carry your dog for some parts of your hiking trip, though.

A big pro is that it’s soft so you can easily put it away in your normal backpack when not in use. Also, you can carry this dogpack with a small pooch in front while you carry your normal backpack on your back.

Another biiig plus is that you can add a storage bag on the outside. This solves the problem of where to put your own backpack indefinitely. But it’s more of a daypack size so for long term traveling, it’s probably not enough.

A con is that this is not the dogpack to sneak your pup in somewhere because he’s clearly visible in it. But you’ll likely get lots of awws and “oh how cute”s on the street.

One thing that customers complained about was that it gets very hot very quickly. This might be a serious concern in summer. Even though the K9 Sport Sack has ventilation, it will get hot very quickly. And having a hot dog against your hot back will probably result in a lot of sweat. So I recommend to only use it during the colder seasons.

Kurgo Dog Carrier Backpack 

The Kurgo Dog Carrier Backpack is one of the newer options. And it’s one of the best carriers that have come out recently!

This backpack tries to combine a normal backpack with a dog carrier.

You can even put some of your own things in the back, like a laptop. If you have a larger dog, it’s probably better to leave all the space to your dog, though.

There are a number of advantages: it looks like an ordinary backpack. So while your dog is walking, you can just use it as that. Plus, it’s actually really spacious. If you have the zipper for your dog’s head open, he can still lie down comfortably. It’s built for dogs up to 25 lb. So it’s definitely also a good choice if you have to carry a medium sized dog for a little bit.

However, it’s probably also getting pretty hot in there in summer since there is no mesh for ventilation.

My choice

Personally, I like the closed carriers best. Your pup can adopt a more natural position, can properly relax and sleep inside. And he’s is mostly invisible. I also like the feature that you can open the top part for your pupper to look outside. Some dogs really like having a view. For Baloo this wouldn’t be a good idea. He’s a bit of a control freak and wouldn’t be able to relax if he saw everything. That’s why I leave it closed. But the good thing is you have the choice.

However, I think the Kurgo Dog Carrier Backpack is also a great option if your dog likes to look outside.

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Which dogpack are you using? Tell me your favorites in the comments down below, maybe we can add some to the list.

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