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

best dog packs for hiking ruffwear commuter pack 4
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

best dog packs for hiking ruffwear commuter pack

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

best dog packs for hiking mountainsmith k9 pack

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

best dog packs for hiking groundbird gear

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

Emerging Tech

Where are they now? A look back at last year’s Top Tech of CES winners

What happened to the 14 prize-winning products we singled out as the coolest things we saw at last year's CES 2018? Join us as we take a look at what the past 12 months has meant for them.
Emerging Tech

You may soon be able to summon an autonomous wheelchair like an Uber

At CES 2019, autonomous wheelchair company Whill unveiled its vision for a world in which people can summon its wheelchairs by app, in locations such as museums, airports, and city centers.
Emerging Tech

Furrion’s luxurious smart yacht looks like the perfect vessel for a Bond villain

Forget smart watches and the like: when it comes to the biggest smart technology at CES 2019, the literal answer can be nothing other than the 78-foot, high-tech luxury smart yacht, Adonis.
Emerging Tech

Look forward to your morning commute with one of the best ebikes available

A proper ebike is perfect for commuting or a trek along the trailhead, with most offering pedal assistance and a long-range battery. As more brands offer their own take on this innovative way to get around, it's hard to distinguish the…
Outdoors

Here are all the best rain jackets on the market right now

From high-tech, lightweight shells to modern-looking, waterproof trench coats, check out our list of the best rain jackets built to keep you dry and looking stylish in any season.
Emerging Tech

The best solar chargers for your phone, tablet, and other battery-powered gear

Looking for a gizmo that can help you charge your phone while on the go? Here, we've outlined the best solar chargers on the market, whether you're looking to charge your phone once, twice, or three times over.
Emerging Tech

Yamaha’s new app lets you tune your motorcycle with a smartphone

It used to be that if you wanted to tune your motorcycle’s engine and tweak its performance, you needed specialized tools and even more specialized knowledge. Yamaha’s new Power Tuner app changes that.
Outdoors

Drink what nature provides with the best water purifiers

Looking for reliable water purification? Staying hydrated is important, especially when you are hiking or camping far from civilization. Check out our picks of the best water purifiers for your camp, backpack, or pocket.
Outdoors

Snooze soundly anywhere you lay your head with the best sleeping bags

A proper sleeping bag has the ability to make or break a camping or backpacking trip. Here are our picks for the best sleeping bags on the market to help you choose the correct bag for any type of outdoor adventure.
Outdoors

Nike’s Adapt BB shoes let you tighten your laces with an iPhone

The new Nike Adapt BB shoe comes with smartphone connectivity that allows the user to tighten the laces using a smartphone while providing the ability to adjust tension throughout the game.
Deals

REI drops prices on North Face and Columbia during its winter sale

Looking to shop top brands like North Face, Columbia, and more? REI is offering up to 50 percent off during a winter sale so you can save big on new jackets and hoodies. This deal will last until January 22, so take advantage on this huge…
Deals

The 10 best windproof umbrellas to help you weather the storm

The rains have come and they have no mercy. Can your current umbrella handle everything nature can throw at it? Here are 10 of the best windproof umbrella deals available now to help keep you safe and dry.
Outdoors

The best battery packs and power stations for use in the outdoors

If you want to keep your smartphones, tablets, and other devices charged while camping int he backcountry these battery packs and portable power stations are rugged enough to survive while providing plenty of power too.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!