Why Use a Dog Backpack?

We are excited to be introducing our first DOGPAK product—the Moab Lite dog daypack. It is the first waterproof, ultralight, and form fitting dog backpack on the market and offers some new features that we believe improve on what is currently offered. Whether you’re new to the trail or a seasoned veteran of wet dogs in a dry tent and skunk blasts at bedtime (not again, Thunder!), we are excited to present a new weapon in the realm of outdoor K9 gear. But before you dive into your next backpacking adventure, we decided to answer some important questions about backpacking with our pups.
  • Why use a dog backpack?

  • Are dog backpacks safe to use?

  • How much weight can my dog carry?

  • Does my dog need to be a certain age to carry a backpack?

  • Can all breeds wear a backpack?

  • Does the size of my dog matter?

In the following series of articles, we answer those questions and more. We will do our best to give you an informative overview of some important considerations to discuss with your veterinarian before you and your pup hit the trail. Take note that while I did consult with three trusted veterinarians to write/validate this article, I myself am not a veterinarian. All of this advice should be triple checked and validated by your own trusted vet.

Part I: Why Use a Dog Backpack?

Dog backpacks offer a range of utility both in and out of the backcountry. Working dogs, service dogs, military, law enforcement, and rescue dogs, and even farm dogs frequently wear backpacks that allow them to transport the supplies needed to do their jobs or to help their human counterparts do theirs. The applications of use vary widely and the list seems to be growing each year. Some common uses for a dog backpack are to carry medicine and medical supplies, camping equipment, snacks and food, extra water, clean-up bags, a leash, a light, and maybe a coat or blanket. Some inventive new uses I have seen lately include scattering seeds across a freshly harrowed farm field or to regenerate forest growth after a wild fire, and using as a pillow to cushion a fall and prevent injury for someone who might have an epileptic episode.

Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy:

My pup Thunder and I discovered another use this winter following his surgery to repair a ruptured CCL (ACL in humans). The K9 physiotherapist sometimes used a backpack to strategically add weight, helping to strengthen his atrophied leg and core muscles, improve balance, and condition his joints. We continue to use a backpack on the trails not only for the convenience they provide but also to deliberately aid in his rehabilitation and muscle growth again.
The DOGPAK Moab Lite daypack was deliberately designed with smaller-capacity side-bags to prevent over-loading your pup. Furthermore, the shape of the bags and fit of the harness center the bulk of the weight distribution over the front shoulder of your pup where a dog is the strongest.

Exercise and Efficiency:

For high-energy dogs, certain seasons, environments, or living conditions can make it particularly challenging to burn off some of their extra energy, which can be necessary for regulating metabolism, caloric intake, behavior, and stress levels. Adding a small amount of weight to a properly fitting backpack can create more of a workout over shorter sessions. High-energy dogs especially rely on proper exercise to help regulate both their mind and their body. If you find yourself in a situation where it is difficult to get your high-energy hound the exercise she needs, a weighted backpack might help, provided it is safe for your dog to use one.
It is important to have a snug fitting pack with slimmer pockets that keep the weight hugged close to your dogs sides, especially if your pup likes to run. The advantage of our Moab Lite daypack is that the slim pockets do just that, and the load can be cinched and adjusted across the spine. Other packs can be bulky which causes the weight to either hang and drag or flop around resulting in uneven weight distribution.

Share the Load:

For avid hikers who know the struggle of carrying those few extra kilos, a backpack for your pup can help save you the added kit. Your dog might be able to carry his or her own water, food, a collapsable bowl, some snacks, clean-up bags, a leash, maybe even their own coat or sleeping bag. You can also use a K9 pack for easy access to snake-bite kits or other first-aid supplies should your pup get bitten or injured. Of course, it is important to exercise caution and not overload your pup, but on a fit, healthy dog, those extra few liters of pack space might save you some strain and even help your pup get a better workout which can be a win-win when done right!
Another advantage of the Moab Lite daypack is, despite its slim fit and light weight, it is still easy to carry bulkier items like a sleeping bag or dog coat. The leather lash-tabs on the sides allow you to tie down a top-pack that runs across your pup’s shoulders. Simply roll up their coat or sleeping bag and lash it down on each side. This also helps with bulk and weight distribution compared to bulkier packs that lack a tie-down option.


A slim daypack, like our Moab Lite daypack, can double as a daily walking harness due to its smaller size, light weight, and breathable foam padding. The added convenience is that you can carry a few supplies with you on your daily walks. A collapsable water bowl, a leash, trail bags, some treats, and your pup’s favorite toy all fit conveniently without adding a concerning amount of weight to the pack. The elastic adjustment bands in the cinch straps ensure a snug fit to keep the pack centered. On chilly or rainy days, you can even bring your pup’s coat. Just roll it up and use the leather tie-down lash tabs on each side to secure the coat as a top pack in case you need it later.

Comfort and Stress Relief:

Backpacks can also help comfort your pup and relieve anxiety—another newer application that has gained more and more popularity lately. We want to be there for our pups and support them emotionally, especially if they suffer from separation anxiety, stress from loud noises, or emotional issues. A lightly weighted pack that “hugs” the dog’s body can provide a sense of comfort to dogs who might otherwise be anxious or nervous. Firework displays, crashing thunder, and car rides can sometimes be stressful for our pups, and just like certain compression blankets, a padded backpack can also be used to help “hug” and calm them down. 

Now that we have covered some practical uses and benefits of using a dog backpack, it is important to discuss how to responsibly use one. Remember that it is important to slowly and positively introduce your pup to wearing the backpack and to give them time to learn how to move with it (remember The 4 Key Principles of Training Your Dog). Otherwise, you could accidentally create a lifelong aversion to this potentially useful tool. 

Be sure to check out our article about the important safety considerations of using a dog backpack! Part II: Are backpacks safe for dogs?
Thank you for reading, and as always, feel free to reach out with any questions!
We’ll see you on the trail. 

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