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Got a pooch that loves the great outdoors, but can’t keep up? A hands-free dog carrier backpack might be a good choice for your adventures. Dog backpacks are also perfect for bringing along your elderly or disabled pet on outings. These hands-free carriers allow you to move freely while giving your pet a comfortable vantage point to take in the views.
Whether you are looking to bring Fido on a hike, bike ride, a long walk around town, or to an al fresco dinner date, you have a choice of backpacks. From front-facing carriers to durable packs for high impact activities, you can rest assured your dog is enjoying the ride.
In this article, learn about the different types of carrier backpacks available for dogs and find the right fit for your lifestyle.
What is a Dog Carrier Backpack?
A dog carrier backpack, unlike a traditional dog carrier, is specifically designed to carry pets safely on your back (or front), where the animal sits in the bag. Some bags allow the dog to have their head and legs out, while others keep your pup contained.
Hands-free dog carriers provide more mobility for the pet owner when engaged in activities like biking or hiking with dogs. They also offer a great opportunity to bring along your pet on public transportation (like the subway, which only allows dogs that can fit in a bag), or getting through an airport with ease.
Pet carrier backpacks come in different sizes, despite the majority of them catering to small dogs (and cats). Having the freedom to go long distances with your pet on your back is one of the main benefits of a dog carrier backpack. Elderly pets who enjoyed an active lifestyle can still get outside in their golden years with help from being carried in a comfortable and roomy backpack.
When introducing the carrier, Kristen Levine, Pet Living Expert, recommends using treats or positive encouragement. “Associate the carrier with fun and rewards,” she says. “Don’t plan on taking your pet out in the carrier the first day you buy it. Allow your dog the time he needs to get comfortable with it.”
What to Look For in a Dog Carrier Backpack
Comfort, durability and functionality are the three key factors when shopping for a backpack carrier for your dog. See below for an explanation of these factors along with a few others to consider.
Comfort and Support: Similar to what you would look for in a regular backpack, seek out a carrier that has padded shoulder straps, provides proper back support, and distributes the weight with chest and waist belts. Inside, make sure there is a cozy bottom for your dog to relax. More importantly, select a pack that can fit your dog’s weight and size.
“The dog should be able to comfortably turn around and have enough head room and ventilation to not feel trapped,” says Levine. “If it’s too roomy, the pup might get jostled too much inside.”
She also recommends checking on your dog regularly while using it. “Since you wear a backpack on your back, I’d recommend checking on them frequently to make sure they remain comfortable,” says Levine. “You won’t easily be able to see them without removing the backpack.”
Materials: For the right pack, Levine recommends opting for quality materials, durable zippers and closures, a comfortable interior with a sturdy bottom so your dog feels secure sitting in it. It’s also ideal if the interior is washable.
“Look for smooth seam edges inside—nothing sharp or anything that looks like it might be uncomfortable to lean or lay against,” adds Levine.
For active users, a lightweight product with mesh windows will provide tremendous help on hikes, allowing your pet to stay cool while giving you less to carry around.
Functionality: For long hikes or walks, make sure your backpack has adjustable and padded shoulder straps along with chest and waist straps to keep the weight of your dog off your back. If you are hoping to travel by plane with your furry friend, invest in a backpack that can fit under the seat in front of you. A bonus would be a pack that expands or has mesh windows to allow Fido to take in his surroundings while waiting at the gate or during long plane rides.
Roller backpacks give you the option to carry your pet or gently roll him when your shoulders get tired. For dogs that prefer to be held closer or get anxious, a front carrier gives him the comfort and attention he seeks.
Safety: “Safety depends on the quality of the backpack, ventilation and closures, along with your pet’s comfort level to be in one,” says Levine.
Most backpacks come with a tether inside to hook up your dog’s collar or harness to prevent him from escaping. Safety buckles on the zippers also provide extra safety and keep your cargo safe inside.
“If your dog or cat is anxious inside the backpack, they may try to escape, or just be afraid,” warns Levine. “So be sure that your pupper actually enjoys the enclosure!”
How We Ranked Our Top Dog Carrier Backpacks
As an active pet owner who enjoys hiking, camping, and biking, I am a fan of backpacks of all kinds. In putting together this list, I have consulted with pet owners from all across the country, from California to Colorado to Georgia, to find their favorite dog backpack carriers.
I’ve also spent time reading consumer reviews on sites like Amazon and Chewy to find highly-rated packs.
Although I haven’t personally tried any of these packs, speaking with those who have used them gave me the insight I needed to narrow down my list. More importantly, I have selected products that provide great value for the price and those that are readily available to purchase from popular online stores.
Best Dog Carrier Backpack: Overall Winner
Our Pick: PetAmi Deluxe Pet Carrier Backpack
The PetAmi Deluxe Pet Carrier, as the name suggests, is a comfortable and spacious backpack for your dog to relax and even move around. The carrier is firm and comes in 12 colors. It’s best for pets up to 18 lbs. This affordable and quality backpack carrier is ideal for pet owners who want to ensure that their dog is secure and comfortable in the bag for long stretches of time.
- Two access points means it’s easier to get your pet into the carrier.
- Side mesh windows increase airflow and keep your dog cool.
- The front mesh window can be zipped down so your pet can peak his head out for a better view.
- Smooth sherpa-lined bottom provides comfort.
- Backpack straps with padding and chest and waist belts distribute the weight across your back.
- Three exterior pockets are great for storing your pet’s treats and poop bags.
- Safety buckles keep zippers shut, keeping your dog secure inside. The small leash attached to the inside provides additional security if you are dealing with an escape artist.
- Clip-on collapsible travel bowl comes in handy on pit stops.
- Contains an ID slot to showcase your pet’s information.
Things to Consider
- More space for your dog means more bulk on your back.
- The design of it may not be advisable for long hikes. The backpack makes a great choice for everyday use for long walks or commutes.
- It may not maintain its shape, so expect the pack to be weighed down when your pet moves in one direction or another.
- Some reviewers have complained about the hard bottom poking their backs.
Sample Buyer Review: “I love the PetAmi carrier. It’s perfect for our chiweenie when she gets tired of walking. The ventilation is excellent, the ‘floor’ is roomy and comfortable for her to sit up or lie down. There are ample pockets for toting potty bags and snacks. The shoulder straps are very comfortable and can be adjusted to fit both me and my husband – I’m 5’2″, he’s 6’4″,” says Melanie Sue Bowles in Georgia.
Best Large Dog Carrier Backpack
Our Pick: K9 Sport Sack
The K9 Sport Sack is an excellent choice for carrying small, medium, and large dogs on long hikes or bike rides. The lightweight waterproof fabric and mesh foamtek shoulder straps keep this forward-facing pack light and cozy.
The K9 Sport Sack comes in five styles—Trainer, Air, Urban, Air Plus, and Rover. The Rover is the biggest dog backpack carrier on the market, with the ability to carry dogs from 30 to 80 pounds. The pack comes with a chest and padded waist belt for equal weight distribution, and a removable storage bag with a hydro port.
For anxious pets, pet owners can also wear the pack on the front, with the dog facing them.
- Padded and adjustable shoulder straps keep you comfortable.
- Choose from a variety of sizes and colors to match your dog.
- Mesh areas aid in ventilation and visibility.
- Dog can be placed facing forward so you both get the same view.
- Padded back panel for the comfort of the wearer.
- Detachable sun and rain hood.
- Store your pet’s treats and water bottles in the side pockets.
Things to Consider
- Some reviewers have complained about weak zippers.
- Chest strap seems to be a bit higher than other packs, making it a smidge uncomfortable.
- Limited number of pockets on most styles. However, backpacks for larger dogs have more pockets.
Sample Buyer Review: “In his younger years, my dog Harry loved to hit the trail for adventures ranging from 30 minutes to five miles. But lately, old age and some correlated health issues have been holding him back. That’s why I invested in the K9 Sport Sack after failed attempts with other dog backpacks. When I put him on my back, he calmed down almost instantly, and I think it has to do with the build. While other packs had his stomach exposed, the security of a protected belly—and being physically connected to me, his ultimate dream!—made the backpack an instant fit,” says Stephanie Vermillion from Cleveland, who used the K9 Sport Sack Plus 2 in medium size.
Best Small Dog Carrier Backpack
Our Pick: PAWABOO Pet Carrier Backpack
Wear it on the front or the back, the PAWABOO pet carrier backpack is a stylish choice for toting around your toy breeds. The legs and tail-out design is perfect for small dog breeds and allows owners to put the carrier on their pet with ease. The carrier is made from breathable and durable mesh and canvas. The zipper, velcro, and elastic leg openings stretch for your dog’s comfort.
- The backpack also works great for puppies and keeps them contained and out of trouble.
- Comes in 10 color choices.
- Budget friendly.
- Can be worn on the front or back.
Things to Consider
- Lacks padding for shoulder straps and additional straps for back and chest support. However, if you are carrying a little dog, you may not need the extra support.
- Best for short jaunts around town and hikes.
Sample Buyer Review: “We love taking our dog hiking, camping, and just everywhere in general. This carrier is not only great for hiking (to carry him when he gets tired), but it’s also been super useful for taking him around town,” writes one happy customer on Amazon.com.
Most Stylish Dog Carrier Backpack
Our Pick: Khaki Rio Wheeled Dog Carrier
If you’re looking for a dog backpack that is as stylish for you as it is for your pup, the Rio Wheeled Dog Carrier is the way to go. Although it’s available in a variety of colors, textures, and patterns, we think the classic Khaki is a timeless and fashionable pick that will stay current no matter how times change. Not only is this a simple pack to throw on your back, it’s the perfect travel companion due to its detachable roller wheels. Can accommodate pets up to 15 pounds.
- The detachable roller wheels and 2-stop handle make this a great option for airport travel.
- The large mesh screens allow for ventilation and comfort.
- Large front pocket allows you to store pet accessories and treats.
- Interior safety leash allows you to clip to your dog’s collar or harness.
- The backpack straps are also removable, so you can design the bag to fit your needs.
Things to Consider
- While stylish, this isn’t the best pick for long walks or hikes, since the hard bottom part may be uncomfortable for lengthy periods of time.
- Some reviewers have claimed that the backpack straps are on the short side. Take some measurements for the best fit!
Best Dog Carrier Front Backpack
Our Pick: Outward Hound PoochPouch Front Carrier
The Outward Hound front carrier is an excellent choice for carrying small dogs on the front. This lightweight and secure carrier is made with weather resistant fabric and comes with mesh sidings for air flow. The pack comes in three sizes and can fit pets up to 20 pounds. It’s ideal for elderly, disabled, or anxious pets who benefit from the attention and comfort this front backpack provides.
Tod Emko likes using the pouch with his senior dog, Gretta, who gets anxious around other dogs. “When she’s in it, she seems comfortable and has a sense of safety that she doesn’t when she’s on the ground,” he says. “Usually, she gets very defensive when she sees a bigger dog, but when she’s in the pouch she just looks at other dogs without much interest.”
- Mesh windows provide breathability.
- Inner clasp hooks to the collar and keeps the pet secure inside.
- Water resistant nylon fabric provides durability.
Things to Consider
- Smaller dogs that are lengthy may not fit well inside.
- The only pocket is small, so you can’t carry the leash, poop bags or any other supplies.
- Doesn’t come in colors and it may not be the best choice for fashion-conscious pet owners.
Sample Buyer Review: “We love this front pack! It’s surprisingly comfortable; both Tara and I have back pain, but this offered a lot of support, including a helpful lower back strap, and all straps were easily adjustable. When our senior dog quits walking, usually we can’t carry her around for very long because eventually it gets uncomfortable for both human and dog, but we were able to go long distances with Gretta in the pouch,” Tod Emko.
Best Dog Carrier Backpack With Wheels
Our Pick: Pet Gear I-G02 Roller Backpack
The Pet Gear rolling backpack plays several roles—as a backpack, rolling carrier, car seat, and tote. Although it’s slightly higher than other carrier backpacks, its multi-use and quality will more make up for the difference. The pack can support dogs of up to 25 pounds, and is best for trips on public transportation and in the car. The carrier comes in four sizes to fit a variety of small breed dogs.
- Backpack has a telescoping handle just like a suitcase, making it easy to pick it up and carry.
- Expandable sides allow for an extra three inches of space.
- Inner mat can be removed for cleaning.
- Large side storage pouches let you carry pet treats and poop bags.
- Mesh windows provide air circulation.
- Inside tether can be attached to the pet’s harness for safety.
- Thread the seatbelt through the loops on the backpack to secure the carrier on car rides.
- Comes in six color choices.
Things to Consider
- Straps aren’t well padded and the pack doesn’t have chest or hip straps.
- The bottom layer is rather thin and could benefit from a small blanket for more comfort for your companion.
- Be aware that the backpack straps can hang down and get tangled under the wheels when switching from carrying to rolling.
- The handle may be too short for taller individuals.
Sample Buyer Review: “This is an amazing product! It has paid for itself within the first few trips we have taken. Several friends have asked where I bought it and will also be purchasing this. It’s made well. Easy to use with the dog in it. It’s comfortable as a backpack and easy to carry by the handles as well,” says Artemis on Amazon.com.
Best Dog Hiking Backpack Carrier
Our Pick: Petsfit Comfort Dog Carrier
Give your pet a boost while hiking with help from the Petsfit Comfort Dog Carrier. With a generous amount of windows and its zanny green color, this backpack is ideal for hiking and commuting. The carrier can fit pets up to 15 pounds comfortably, and your dog will have enough room to stand up and even more around.
- Inside tether helps keep your pet secure inside.
- Two of the mesh windows fold back, giving your pooch a chance to take in his surroundings.
- Bottom zipper and removable pad allows for easy cleaning.
- Padding along the back and on the straps gives added comfort for the human.
- The chest and waist buckles take some of the weight off of your back.
- The carrier is collapsible to fold flat for storage.
Things to Consider
- Zippers don’t have safety buckles and it may not be the best choice for canine escape artists.
- Some reviewers have expressed concern over the strength of the nylon zipper at the bottom.
- Carrier does not have pockets
- Minimal color choices.
Sample Buyer Review: “A regular airline type bag was not really working for Milou, my active Havachon Puppy. The backpack type we decided to get ended up being perfect for him. He can stand or sit in the bag and look out and be part of all that happens around him. The minute we place the bag by the door he gets in there and is ready to go! The inside metal hook is ideal to secure him inside. The bag is also great for the back seat of the car,” says Yves Gentil in Colorado.
Best Dog Backpack Carrier for Biking
Our Pick: Ytonet Dog Backpack
This fairly large Ytonet Dog Backpack for dogs up to 18 pounds is optimal for your biking needs. With dual openings and plenty of mesh windows, your pet will love hanging out on your back during the bike ride.
- Foldable back cushion comes in handy on longer rides.
- Use the side compartments for your pet’s essentials.
- Two entrances allow for ease of use.
- Sturdy design means no sagging and distractions.
- Top cover can be rolled up for more ventilation.
- Bottom zipper has a lock, ensuring your furry friend won’t escape.
- Inside pad is comfortable and removable.
- Adjustable shoulder straps have thick padding for added comfort.
Things to Consider
- Depending on the person’s height, the backpack could sit uncomfortable on the small of the back.
- Zippers can get caught.
- There is no place to tuck away the top flap when unzipped.
Sample Buyer Review: “I have tried a front bike basket, a front pack, and a sling for taking my dog with me on my bike rides. Although these worked, they did not make me feel secure that my dog was comfortable and safe. This backpack? This thing is great! It puts a little pressure on my lower back and shoulders, as one would expect a backpack to do, but my little dog must be super comfortable in it because he lays down and doesn’t wiggle around like he did in the others. There is plenty of ventilation, and he seems to be well shaded from the Florida sun (we do go early in the morning). It is very well made and sturdy, sits upright when I set it down, and is easy to put back on with my dog inside (he’s about 5 pounds). I highly recommend this backpack,” says Linda Doneghy on Amazon.com.
Featured Image Credit: Stephanie Vermillion
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