We talked to a certified dog trainer about how to pick the perfect pack for your pup

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Enjoying the companionship of your favorite four-legged friend away from home doesn’t mean you need to carry the burden of extra water, treats, and poop bags. Whether you’re running errands around town, hitting the trails after work, or setting off on a thru-hiking adventure, outfitting your canine companion with a dog pack can make the experience that much more enjoyable for everyone.

Things to consider

The benefits of using a dog pack extend beyond freeing up space in your own pockets. Karin Chan, certified dog trainer and owner of the Southern California dog daycare and grooming spa, Whiskers N’ Tails, shared some tips with Digital Trends on why and how owners should use dog packs.

“Dog backpacks are an excellent way of adding a level of intensity to your dog’s daily exercise,” Chan told Digital Trends. “If you have a high-energy breed and a busy life, adding a backpack to your normal walk routine can be huge in improving your dog’s physical output.”

Fit and size are key

As far as choosing the right pack, fit is very important for both the owner and the dog.

“You want to look for a backpack that distributes weight evenly across the dogs back and over the shoulders,” Chan added. “The fabric should be thicker rather than thin straps that can become bothersome pressure points. We don’t want the pack to restrict movement, cause hunching, roaching (a dip down the spine), or an off gait (for example, taking tinier steps than usual or stepping really wide).”

Every pack on this list has its own size guide and adjustable straps to help ensure a proper fit. Too small a pack restricts movement, while too big a pack causes uncomfortable shifting and might even slip off. Chan advises letting your dog wear the backpack empty first and on shorter walks, adding “start small and slowly add weight over the span of a few weeks so your dog can build up the muscles and endurance to carry it.”

To help you navigate the sea of available options, we’ve picked out five of our favorite packs capable of suiting a range of doggie lifestyles.

Our pack picks

Outward Hound DayPak

best dog packs for hiking outward hound daypak

This pack wins for being lighter, both in materials and on the wallet than some of its competitors.  The Outward Hound DayPak features four expandable pockets in a saddlebag design. A breathable mesh harness protects your pooch from overheating. At $35, this pack is one of the cheaper options available. It comes in bright colors and has reflective accents to stay visible. It’s lightweight but still packs a lot.

Unfortunately, the straps are not padded and may chafe over time. Some customers have complained about the Velcro on the straps catching on their dogs’ fur. There’s only one leash attachment point, and it’s at the back of the pack.

Amazon

Ruffwear Commuter Pack

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Just released this year, Ruffwear’s latest addition to its line of doggie gear will ensure your pup is properly suited up for Take Your Dog to Work Day 2017. (That’s a real thing, and it’s Friday, June 23.) The Commuter Pack is, “built to perform in both urban and backcountry adventures,” according to Ruffwear. It features a rucksack-inspired design with vintage materials and styling, including durable heathered polyester and sustainably-produced leather trim from Pittards.

This pack utilizes Ruffwear’s best-selling Front Range harness for the chassis and boasts three points of leash attachment, including one on the chest. The adjustable straps are padded, as is the handle at the top of the pack. It has reflective accents on the chest and sides of the pack and many pockets.

All these fine features come at a price, however as this pack sets you back $100, it doesn’t feature a laptop sleeve, and (gasp) it’s not vegan.

Amazon

Mountainsmith K-9 Dog Pack

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This is, by far, the most adjustable pack we’ve found. Mountainsmith consulted a sled dog veterinarian before designing this “dogonomically” correct saddlebag dog pack with a four-point adjustable chest harness and independently adjustable back harness. The company constructed this pack with ultra-rugged Ripstop and Duramax nylon materials including reflective trim and features breathable mesh panels.

It’s worth pointing out the K-9 Dog Pack only boasts one leash attachment point, of which reviewers complain of the buckles on the many adjustable straps breaking too easily.

Amazon

Groundbird Gear Dog Pack System

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If it’s a cost-effect, custom-made dog pack you desire, look no further than Groundbird Gear’s Dog Pack System. Each harness comes tailored to your dog’s specific measurements with the option to attach two different pack designs in a variety of color combinations. The brand allows buyers to choose between a Trekking Roll-top model or the Weekend Zipper Pack, each available in different capacity sizes depending on how much your dog can carry comfortably.

The custom-fit harness also maximizes your dog’s comfort while an elastic belly strap on the pack reduces shifting. Packs are constructed from durable, 400-denier packcloth and have reflective trim. Groundbird Gear offers loads of color combinations, though there does exist a lengthy wait list for orders — in addition to a four to six week delivery time.

Groundbird Gear

OneTigris Tactical Dog Vest

best dog packs for hiking onetigris tactical

This one is for the dog who’s tougher than the rest. The OneTigris tactical vest protects your furbaby’s hide while he or she is crawling under barbed wire fences while the detachable modular pouches offer the utmost in terms of organization. Additionally, it also happens to be the most badass-looking pack of them all.

Three detachable pouches are included and both sides of the vest are covered with Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment for additional attachments such as a magazine clip — or a slew of dog treats, of course. The top of the vest also features a Velcro panel for adding patches of flair, and OneTigris included two leash attachment points and a padded chest strap to prevent chafing. There’s no reflective trim, though the only color options are black, tan, and camo, so these vests are clearly designed to be stealthy rather than shiny.

Amazon

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