The Ultimate Dog Hiking Harness

Are you looking forward to some outdoor adventure with your furry friend this year? Hiking and camping are twice as fun when you can share them with your best four legged friend! Of course, the right gear makes any trip to the great outdoors better, and it’s no different when it comes to your K9.

In this article, we will be looking at saddlebag style harnesses which allow your dog to carry some of the weight on hikes. Our review also includes some great tips to make sure your next adventure goes off without a hitch.

OUR #1 PICK

The best value for money

EzyDog High Performance Summit Dog Backpack

If you are a serious lover of the outdoors and are looking for a dog hiking vest with all of the bells and whistles, this is our top recommendation. Although it comes in at a hefty price tag, it has plenty of design features, quality materials, and thoughtful ergonomic design. The quality justifies the cost for those that go hiking with their canine companion on a regular basis.


IMAGE

PRODUCT

FEATURES

RATING

EzyDog High Performance Summit Dog Backpack

  • Roomy pockets to stow plenty of trail goodies
  • Durable and lightweight fabrics
  • Reflective for good visibility

Kurgo Baxter Dog Backpack

  • Reasonable pricing for solid quality with lots of features
  • Roomy side pockets for stuffing, with auxiliary pockets for small items
  • Stiff spine for back support

EzyDog Summit Dog Backpack

  • Large storage capacity
  • Wide size range for just about any sized dog
  • Well designed for a balance, distributed load

Outward Hound DayPak for Dogs

  • Excellent price point
  • Great choice for small and medium sized dogs
  • Lightweight design and fabrics

OneTigris Cotton Canvas Dog Backpack

  • Reasonable pricing for very durable gear
  • Back strap for added control
  • Roomy 4 pocket design

How to Pack Your Saddlebag Style Dog Harness for Hiking

If you opt in for a saddlebag style dog harness, then you can let your dog carry some essentials for your hike. Here are a few tips to make sure your first outing is a success:

Balance the Load: The last thing you want is to get halfway to your destination and find that the pack keeps slipping to one side. Not only will this be uncomfortable for your dog, it can cause an injury by throwing her off balance.


Reasonable Limits: The goal should not be to pack the pockets with the heaviest items you can find. Start by adding only very lightweight items such as treats, kibble, or a poncho. Once your dog has some experience with her new gear you can increase the weight with heavier items like sunscreen, water, and keys.


Bag it First: Consider packing your items in a plastic resealable bag before stuffing them in the pocket. This will extend the life of your gear and keep the items waterproof in case your pooch goes for a dip in the creek or you get caught up in a passing shower.


What to Pack in Your Outdoor Dog Harness

Your pooch can help out with the load in lots of ways. While you are planning your hike, here are a few things to consider putting in your pup’s pack:

Food – Most dogs should at least be able to carry the food they will need for an overnight hike. Keep in mind that they will eat significantly more to account for the extra calories they are burning on the trail. And, if you happen to be hiking through bear country, you will want to keep all food and dog treats sealed in your pack in an appropriate bear canister.


Collapsible Pet Bowl – You may take it for granted at home, but on the trail your pup needs a bowl to have a much needed cool drink of water. This one is lightweight and will collapse to fit neatly inside their saddlebag.


Poop Bags – It might seem like you won’t need these in the great outdoors. However, if you are planning a walk in well trafficked areas, or hanging out at a public campground, the expectation is that you will clean up after your dog. If space is limited, just pack a few of these “just in case.”


First Aid Items – Unless you are hitting the trail for a few days, in which case you are probably planning to carry a first aid kit in your pack, you won’t need to carry this entire kit. However, some tape, gauze, antiseptic pads and tweezers weigh almost nothing and will be a nice addition to a doggie day pack.


Medicine – If your pooch takes prescription medicine, it is always good to carry an extra dose. In addition, talk to your vet about the proper dosing of over the counter Benadryl, safe for most dogs in case of a bee sting.  


Doggy Booties – Even if you are not planning on encountering snow or ice, booties can still come in handy on a long hike. It is not unusual for a dog to experience a foot injury, especially if they are new to the trail or if the terrain is rugged. Booties can provide important protection in case of any major cuts on their pads by keeping the wound clean until you can get back to camp for some first aid.


How Much Weight is Safe for My Dog’s Hiking Pack?

The answer to this question depends on a few factors: the size of your dog, her fitness level, and terrain difficulty.

As a general rule, a fit and healthy young dog can carry about 25% of their weight safely. This assumes an actual trail (not jumping through thick brush or climbing steep rocky areas). Older dogs or those in couch potato shape can handle significantly less. Stout breeds in great shape can sometimes handle a little more.

If you are not sure of your canine companion’s fitness level, it is best to do some practice before heading out on a long hike with a pack. And, be prepared to carry the load yourself if it doesn’t work out.


When You Should NOT Use a Dog Harness with Pockets

There are a few cases when you should be especially cautious about using saddlebag style vests for dogs. The first is if the weather is quite warm and humid. These vests cover a wide area of the back which can trap heat right over the core of your pooch. Even breathable fabrics such as mesh won’t help in very warm weather.

Another time this type of gear is a bad idea is for brachycephalic dog breeds. These are those breeds with flat faces such as Pugs and French Bulldogs. These dogs often have restricted airways to begin with. They can easily begin to have serious trouble breathing if they overexert themselves. Adding both weight and heat to their walk is never a good idea. Get a harness just for this type of breed instead.  

Dogs with short legs and long backs such as Dachshunds and Basset Hounds are also not well built for using saddlebag style harnesses.

It is a good idea to pack another, more lightweight harness for your vacation in case the weather just doesn’t permit using a heavier hiking harness for dogs. For example, this durable adventure harness by Chai’s Choice is an excellent option.

Be sure to take the harness off on any rest brakes to give your canine trail companion a chance to rest and cool off between legs of the journey.

Ready to take a look at the best dog hiking harnesses? Let’s dive in!


Best Dog Harness For Hiking

Best All-Around Outdoor Dog Harness

EzyDog High Performance Summit Dog Backpack

Sizing Guide:

Size

Girth

Neck

Weight

Small

24-38”

12-24”

25-70 lbs

Medium

28-4”

16-28”

65-100 lbs

Large

32-50”

20-32”

95+ lbs

If you are a serious lover of the outdoors and are looking for a dog hiking vest with all of the bells and whistles, this is our top recommendation. Although it comes in at a hefty price tag, it has plenty of design features, quality materials, and thoughtful ergonomic design. The quality justifies the cost for those that go hiking with their canine companion on a regular basis.

Let’s start with a look at the quality materials used. A breathable, tear-proof mesh lines the back piece. This helps to wick away moisture and keep the area relatively cool. The zippers are waterproof and durable stitching throughout adds up to a very sturdy build.

The roomy pockets on either side open to a flap which makes them easy to stuff even if you first place your items in a Ziploc bag (a great idea for keeping them waterproofed). The fabric is reflective which also offers some extra safety in lowlight conditions.

In terms of comfort, this adventure dog harness has a padded chest piece to help distribute the weight. The wide back panel does the same, although be careful with this kind of saddlebag design on very hot and humid days as it will trap heat on the trail.

Finally, this harness features 6 adjustment points for the perfect fit and a padded handle so that you can help your canine companion over obstacles or up and down steep terrain. Overall it warrants the “high performance” label and is our top choice for those looking for the best outdoor gear for their pooch.

PROS
  • Roomy pockets to stow plenty of trail goodies
  • Durable and lightweight fabrics
  • Reflective for good visibility
  • 6 adjustment points for a snug fit
  • Wide range of sizes available to fit most dogs
  • Padded handle for quick control or assistance over obstacles
  • Breathable mesh fabric lining for comfort
  • Front and back attachment points
  • Padded chest piece
CONS
  • One of the more expensive options in this category
  • Pockets on the small harness may be a bit too bulky for some small dogs

Runner-Up Dog Hiking Harness with Pockets

Kurgo Baxter Dog Backpack

Sizing Guide:

Breed

Neck

Front Chest Strap

Belly Strap

Weight

Baxter

19-28”

20-38”

20-38”

30-85 lbs

Big Baxter

22-33”

24-39”

22-39”

50-110 lbs

This hiking vest for dogs is made by trusted name in canine gear, Kurgo. There is plenty of room for stuffing in the two side pockets. The smaller version as a 3.75 liter capacity, the larger version has a whopping 7.5 liter capacity. You want to be sure you don’t overload these bags with heavy items as they are big enough to weigh down even stronger dogs.

A bit longer in design than the more sporty ExyDog design featured as our top pick, this hiking harness does include a stiff spine embedded in the backpiece for extra support. It has 5 places to adjust for a great fit, including a chest and a belly strap.

The zippers on the main pockets open wide for easy stuffing and feature a cover flap to keep grit and grime from gumming up the works. Each of the saddlebags also include a small exterior pocket, perfect for keys, medical cards, identification and other odds and ends.

This harness also includes reflective trim for safety. And, it has a back handle in case you need to get quick control over your pup on the trail. Although it does have a breathable mesh lining, the large surface area this vest covers will trap considerable heat on muggy days.

PROS
  • Reasonable pricing for solid quality with lots of features
  • Roomy side pockets for stuffing, with auxiliary pockets for small items
  • Stiff spine for back support
  • Lots of adjustability to make sure the fit is just right
  • Bright blue color and reflective strips for visibility
  • Different sized bags to fit small and large dogs
  • Lightweight materials and strong stitching
  • Chest and belly strap add extra stability
CONS
  • Longer design allows for more stuffing, but will also trap more heat. Take care using this harness in hot weather.

Best Large Capacity Outdoor Dog Backpack

EzyDog Summit Dog Backpack

Size Guide:

Size

Chest

Weight

Volume Per Bag

Small

16-29”

15-40 lbs

250 cu in.

Medium

22-37”

35-70 lbs

400 cu in.

Large

26-45”

65-100 lbs

600 cu in.

X-Large

34-55”

95+lbs

850 cu in.

If you happen to have a large or giant breed dog, and your plan is to have them carry their fair share of the weight on your hike, then this pack for dogs is the way to go.

This heavy duty pouch style dog harness is designed for a comfortable wear on a long hike. The back piece is thickly padded and there is also a padded chest piece that runs the length of the belly for extra stability and weight distribution.

The pockets on either side are very large, although they are perfectly scaled to the size of your dog. The interior pocket is also waterproof, a nice feature for all weather outdoor use. Each pocket also includes a quick access exterior pouch perfect for items you may want to access in a hurry.

The bags are roomy enough that your dog can carry a few days of food. If you are planning an overnight hike and camp with your dog, this is an ideal option.

PROS
  • Large storage capacity
  • Wide size range for just about any sized dog
  • Well designed for a balance, distributed load
  • Reflective strips for good visibility
  • Padded back and chest for extended comfort on long hikes
  • Grab handle and leash attachment point built in
  • Fully adjustable for the right fit
  • Leash caddy for quick access to the lead for control
  • Quick clip messenger style exterior pocket to get your small items with no fuss
CONS
  • Heavy duty padding and large bags will trap a lot of heat – better for use during cooler weather

Best Value Hiking Dog Harness

Outward Hound DayPak for Dogs

Sizing Guide:

Size

Chest

Weight

Small

16-20”

15-30 lbs

Medium

21-27”

30-55 lbs

Large

28-32”

55-85 lbs

For those shopping on a tight budget, this is a great choice. In fact, if you have a small or medium sized pooch, this may be one of the better designed hiking harnesses for you because it is less bulky than the other harnesses we have featured in this review.

One of the downsides of the design is the relatively small capacity of the 4 expandable pockets. However, this dog harness with pockets is ideal for day trips, short hikes, and errands. Keep a few treats or a lunchtime snack handy. And, don’t forget a collapsible water bowl for a quick sip on a warm day.

The straps are adjustable for a good fit all around. It features quick clips so that once you have the right length on the straps, it’s easy to clip on and take off. If you need to help your pint sized pooch over an obstacle, a handy strap along the back will help you do that.

If you have a large dog or are looking for something a little more heavy duty for serious outdoor adventure, this might not be your best bet. However, for trips to the walking trail, this is an excellent, affordable option.

PROS
  • Excellent price point
  • Great choice for small and medium sized dogs
  • Lightweight design and fabrics
  • Mesh lined for breathability
  • 4 expandable pockets
  • D-ring for leash attachment on the back
  • Padded handle for quick control
  • Adjustable straps for a great fit and quick clips for easy on and off
  • Bright lime green color and reflective patch for visibility
CONS
  • Not a great choice if a heavy duty harness is what you are after
  • Not suitable for dogs larger than 85 lbs
  • Limited storage capacity

Best Tactical Style Saddlebag for Dogs

OneTigris Cotton Canvas Dog Backpack

Size Guide:

Size

Neck

Chest

One size

12-26”

30-42”

This tactical style outdoor dog vest is made from tough canvas fabric and military grade webbing. Although it is a bit plain in the looks department, this simple hiking harness for dogs is built to last.

Unfortunately, it is only available in one size, although it will fit most medium to large sized dogs. It can be adjusted along the chest, belly, and neck straps for a snug fit. Quick release buckles make it easy to get on when you are ready to hit the road.

The design, true to form for tactical gear, is deceptively simple yet exceedingly functional. The interior of the pockets is lined and includes an extra zippered compartment perfect for keys, ID tags, or other small valuables. There is also a Velcro closed pocket on the outside for fast access items. 

While it isn’t the right look for everyone, this canvas tactical vest for dogs is the perfect choice for those that like things basic, durable, and dependable.

PROS
  • Reasonable pricing for very durable gear
  • Back strap for added control
  • Roomy 4 pocket design
  • Wide, thick webbing for comfort
  • Cotton fabrics are naturally breathable
CONS
  • Natural canvas color will not add any visibility
  • Limited size range – medium to large dogs only
  • Neck strap is not attached to the chest strap, which could cause it to ride up on some dogs
  • Canvas is a heavy material that can get waterlogged if it gets soaked


Other Dog Harnesses for Outdoor Adventure

If you are planning some camping with your furry friend, sometimes it takes more than one harness to fit the bill in every situation. We wanted to offer our readers a few more options to make every scene of your vacation ready to enjoy with your dog.

Make the most of enjoying the splendor of the great outdoors with your dog, no matter the weather, activities, or time of day!

Best Dog Vest for Swimming

Frisco Dog Life Jacket

Most dogs are natural swimmers who are perfectly capable of holding their own on the lake. However, a few breeds such as some Bully breeds are notoriously poor swimmers due to their dense and muscular bodies. Others get so excited going out to fetch the floating frisbee that they forget to save energy to get back to shore.

Luckily, your furry friend doesn’t have to be left out of a cool dip on a hot day. This dog life jacket by Frisco is the perfect, inexpensive solution!

It comes in a wide range of sizes to fit everyone from toy breeds to the giants. It is easy to adjust for the perfect fit and quick clips make it a cinch to get on and off in a hurry. Plus, two handles on the back make it easy to support your dog if they need a little help making it back on the boat after a dip.


Best Dog Vest for Daytime Visibility on the Trail

SafetyPUP XD Reflective Dog Vest

One of the things you should be aware of before hitting the trail with your dog is that you are sharing the great outdoors with hunters. Unfortunately, many of our canine companions can stray from the trail and can even be mistaken for a hunter’s quarry.

This reflective bright orange vest can be added over or under any dog harness to alert hunters that a beloved pet is moving through the area. The fabric is a durable 300D Oxford fabric that is tear resistant. For low light conditions, the vest includes reflective strips for safety.


Best Dog Harness for Nighttime Visibility When Camping

Noxgear LightHound LED Illuminated & Reflective Dog Harness

What is a camping trip without wiling away the evening hours around the campfire? If you would like to allow your dog off leash, but still have the piece of mind to know where she is, we suggest this LED illuminated harness.

The amount of light this harness produces is pretty impressive. It offers full 360 degree visibility, even from a good distance away. It is easy to charge from any USB device and it can hold a charge for up to 12 hours of use. It also hooks to a leash for a safe and well lit walk.

If you like to let the dog off leash while camping, this is almost a must have dog harness for your outdoor adventures!


Hiking with Your Dog Just Got Better!

Having the right gear with you when you take your canine companion to enjoy the trails makes all the difference in the world! Now your pup can help carry the load. It will lighten your pack while giving your dog an important job.

We hope this article gave you the information you needed to find the right dog harness for hiking for you and your dog. Have some other tips you want to share with our readers about hiking with your canine companion? Feel free to leave us a note in the comment section below!

Sharon Elber (M.S. in Science & Technology) - Professional Dog Trainer

Sharon is a writer and received her M.S. in Science & Technology Studies from Virginia Tech and has worked as a professional dog trainer for over 10 years.

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