Nothing is quite like backpacking with man’s best friend, hitting the rugged trails and even camping under the stars together. Dogs are surprisingly hardy creatures and many love the outdoors, going so far as to be able to carry several items in their own packs!
We’ve got the details for you on figuring out exactly how much weight a dog can carry, if any, and the kind of stuff your pooch can pack on the trails for an optimum adventure experience you two will enjoy!
How Much Weight Can a Dog Carry, Anyway?
The worst thing you can do to your furry friend is overburden them on the trail. Hiking in general will take a lot of your dogs energy, and hiking under heavy weight will sap it even faster, leaving your dog tired, achy and dehydrated. A good rule to follow is packing no more than 25-30% of your dogs total body weight. For example, if you’ve got a 60lbs, dog, his pack shouldn’t weigh more than 15 pounds. If you’ve got a petite terrier weighing in at 20lbs, don’t give him more than 5 pounds to carry.
Some dogs are built to be able to haul more than this, but it depends on physical condition, breed and stamina. If you have a dog who is older or in poor physical condition, give the dog as little weight as possible.
Your dog will also go farther faster with a proper pack featuring even weight distribution, like the top-notch, heavy-duty multi-day traveler Palisades pack from Ruffwear. The saddlebags help balance out the weight and distribute it nicely so your dog doesn’t struggle on the trail.
Some Breeds Have More Fun
We don’t mean to make it about pedigree, but the truth is there are some dog breeds that are born for the trails and have the endurance and stamina to shoulder a pack. Some dogs will just plain struggle, or even develop health concerns and we know that’s just not worth it to risk.
While your boxer or pitbull terrier might be strong enough to carry a pack stuffed to the brim, their short snouts and limited endurance might make the whole experience difficult. Likewise, breeds that are prone to hip problems (also boxers, and some retrievers) or a dog with a similar pre-existing condition should absolutely not be carrying any weight.
Some breeds that can handle extended hikes and packs with ease are long-snouted and outdoor dogs. You also have to factor in the length and thickness of their coat before sending your dog on a trail, however.
Your Bernese Mountain Dog or your Siberian Husky is sure-footed, strong and has multi-day endurance that will probably put you to shame. However, you should only backpack with him in cooler climates, since he will rapidly overheat in the heart of summer!
Some other breeds that excel on the trails while hauling their own food and water are Australian Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers and Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Make sure you gauge your dog’s physical condition and stamina before taking them on particularly long or strenuous hikes, and always be ready to adjust!
A great place to test out backpacking is around your home for a few hours or on short walks to see if any changes need to be made.
What Should My Pal Pack?
When coming along for a hike or trip, your furry friend can usually haul his own goods with ease. Food, water, and booties for cold weather can easily fit in the saddlebags of a pack, as well as other odds and ends that are on the lighter side.
Having your dog help shoulder the load can free up valuable space in your pack, as long as you keep in mind size, weight and packing what is absolutely essential. Most packs also include hydration packs, which are collapsible water bottles that you can easily break down and store after your pup works through them.
Ruffwear has a great Singletrak Low-Profile Hydration Pack here.
Speaking of Food, How Much Does My Dog Need?
This is a hugely important question! The rule of thumb is, when you take your dog backpacking with you on a hike he’s expending valuable energy and calories both by hiking with you and shouldering that extra weight.
Most vets recommend that you double the amount of food that you usually give your dog in one day. If you’re on a day trek, this shouldn’t be too crazy to store in his pack.
However, if you’re travelling overnight you’ll probably have to carry some of his food as well. Trust us, he’ll need it!