The 8 Best Dog Backpack Carriers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed
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Find options for tiny, small, and medium dogs, plus carriers for hiking and air travel
Don't you wish you could take your dog everywhere you go? While large dogs can navigate many outings on a leash, small and medium-sized pups may require a bag — but it comes with perks. On one hand, smaller dogs can get tired more quickly, or they may not be able to traverse trails as safely as their larger counterparts, so a dog backpack carrier or shoulder bag can give them the reprieve they need. On the other, having a shoulder bag or dog backpack carrier can often allow your pup into places where you wouldn’t likely see a large dog, such as retail stores and boutiques. It can also allow your dog to travel more comfortably with you, whether on a bike, bus, or through the airport.
All this to say: Dog backpack carriers are growing more popular by the minute — no, really: There are over 800 million views of the topic on TikTok alone. While some people may be searching the tag for a quick serotonin boost (because is there anything cuter than catching a glimpse of a pup in a pack?), others are likely searching for high-quality dog backpack carriers for their own four-legged companion. Because of this, we set out to uncover the best dog backpack carriers on the market.
We started by rounding up the 14 best-selling dog backpack carriers to test for ourselves. Then, we evaluated them in five key categories, including overall performance, comfort, quality, and value. Those that didn’t perform well got nixed from our list, leaving us with eight top picks.
Ahead, uncover the best dog backpack carriers of 2023.
Best for Tiny Dogs: JESPET Pet Backpack Carrier
Doubles as a regular carrier when laid on its side
Extra pockets for easily accessible treats
Adjustable, padded straps for comfortable wear
It’s slightly larger, making it a bit cumbersome to carry
We loved the JESPET & GOOPAWS Pet Backpack for tiny dogs (ie: those weighing under 10 pounds, ideally, though it says it can accommodate those up to 16 pounds). Made of scratch-resistant fabric with mesh panels and a fleece-lined inner pad, this backpack is designed to be comfortable to wear, as well as cozy for your pup to sit in. Unlike traditional backpacks, this dog backpack carrier features a thick plastic mat (complete with a removable, machine-washable cover) in the bottom, so it maintains its shape beneath your pet’s weight.
One of the key highlights of this dog backpack carrier is the fact that it doubles as a travel crate. When upright, the backpack is spacious enough for small dogs to sit comfortably; while laid on its side, they can lie down and nap. While this makes it a bit more cumbersome to carry, it's worth it for this feature.
As far as key attributes go, this dog backpack carrier has three zipper openings: a main top opening, a mesh window opening on the top opening, and a mesh window opening on the front of the backpack, which serves as a top opening when laid on its side. What’s more, the backpack features pockets on each side to store poop bags, treats, or any other items you’d like readily on hand. Additionally, it has a security waist strap to ensure the backpack is as sturdy as possible on your back. Lastly, when the plastic bottom liner is removed, the backpack can fold flat for easy storage.
Price at time of publish: $49.99
Size: 13 x 12 x 17 in. | Material: Scratch-resistant material (not specified) and fleece | Colors: Blue and gray
Best for Small Dogs: Kurgo Nomad Carrier Backpack
It can be worn as a backpack or used as a handheld carrier
It looks like a trendy colorful backpack
It has extra storage for personal items
It features an interior safety tether
The straps are on the thinner side
While many dog backpack carriers look a bit dated (read: unstylish), the Kurgo Nomad Backpack has a squared silhouette similar to a Fjällräven backpack, complete with a zippered front compartment, two side pockets, and reinforced top handles, so you can carry the bag as easily on your back as you can in the crook of your arm. What makes the silhouette especially dog-friendly is the interior tether clip and large vented panels on either side to ensure ample airflow. Additionally, the bottom of the backpack has a thick, waterproof base lined with a removable, machine-washable pad to ensure longevity, stability, and mess-free wear.
Something that sets this backpack apart is its wearer-friendly design. Unlike many dog backpack carriers (and carriers in general), this one has plenty of space for storing wallets, keys, phones, and more. There’s even an interior padded tablet sleeve (though, if your pup’s a chewer, you may want to steer clear of using it).
Price at time of publish: $89.95
Size: 11.25 x 7.5 x 15 in. | Material: Nylon | Colors: Red and blue
Best for Medium Dogs: K9 Sport Sack Air Dog Carrier
Designed to let dogs ride piggyback
Made with durable, high-quality materials
Has a removable compartment for personal items
Our anxious dog remained calm when carried in this bag
Mimics dog clothes thanks to armhole design, which may not be tolerated by all pups
It’s on the pricier side
If you’re someone who loves to hike or ride bikes, the K9 Sport Sack Air is an especially great option. Designed with armholes, the top-rated backpack lets dogs ride piggyback, facing forward, while on the go. Once your pup is strapped in, you can go on your way, or you can clip on the removable backpack compartment to store water, treats, toys, waste bags, and more.
From a wear perspective, this dog backpack carrier has adjustable padded straps and a padded back for comfortable wear.
As unique as the design of this backpack is, it’s worth mentioning that if your dog doesn’t like to wear clothes or sit upright, it may not be the best choice. Since it requires your dog’s front legs to be stuck through the back of the pack, and because it’s meant to be tightened around their body for ample support, it may feel too constricting for some (even though it’s specifically designed to not feel that way).
That said, one of our testers found that her anxious, older dog had no issue. Her dog has joint issues, so it was a bit of a struggle to get him inside, but once inside, it was very spacious, and he fit comfortably. Getting inside didn't make him anxious, and he remained calm while in transit.
At over $100, this carrier is on the pricier side, but we found that its impressive storage, adjustable design, and the fact that it’s sold in four sizes makes it well worth checking out.
Price at time of publish: $102.55
Size: XS (9"L x 8"W x 15"H); S (10"L x 8"W x 17"H); M (11"L x 9"W x 19"H); L (12"L x 10"W x 22"H) | Material: Polyester and nylon | Colors: 4
Best Design: Apollo Walker Pet Carrier Backpack
It’s super affordable
There’s an expandable option
It maintains its shape
It folds flat for easy storing
It doesn’t have additional storage
With 5-star ratings across the board, the Apollo Walker Pet Carrier Backpack is among the top four silhouettes that we tested — which may be shocking considering just how affordable it is.
Best used for running errands, the dog backpack carrier features a spacious, squared-off silhouette accented with four wide mesh panels that can be zipped open or closed. Where the panels on the sides of the backpack only open from the top down, there are two front panels (a top and a bottom) that zip open individually. This design allows pets to easily look out no matter which way they’re sitting or lying down in the backpack.
While so many openings might seem like cause for concern, since this pack is equipped with a connected safety tether, you can rest easy knowing your pup is safe and secure on your back, or if you place the carrier on the floor.
From a wearer’s perspective, the pack features thick padded straps, chest and waist belts, and a padded back, all of which add to a cozier, more stable design. And since it folds down flat, it won’t take up precious storage space when not in use.
Price at time of publish: $39.98
Size: 12.6 x 11.4 x 16.8 in. | Material: Polycast | Colors: 6 (including black, pink, and pale blue)
Best for Hiking: Kurgo G-Train Dog Carrier Backpack
It doubles as a standard carrier
It features a mesh window for their viewing pleasure
Plenty of added space for pet and human belongings
The waist straps may not hit comfortably depending on your height
Love the idea of an ultra-secure, particularly hike-friendly dog backpack carrier but want your pup to be able to face backwards for a more comfortable ride? The Kurgo G-Train Dog Carrier Backpack is a fan-favorite pick that we found to perform especially well.
Designed to look a lot like your traditional hiking backpack, this carrier features thick padded straps, a padded back, hip and sternum straps for added balance and security, a reinforced, waterproof bottom, and stretchy mesh water bottle pockets on both sides. On the inside, it even features a padded laptop sleeve.
Focusing on pup-friendly features, the pack has a roll-up mesh window that they can pop their head out of, an interior swivel tether to keep them safe and sound, and a padded cover in the base for added comfort.
Oh, and did we mention that it can be used as a backpack, as well as a traditional carrier? When laid on its side, the backpack can be carried by the sturdy handle on the front of the pack. To make it even more convenient, the back of the pack has compartments that the straps can tuck into, so they won’t get in your way.
While we admit that this dog backpack carrier is a bit of a splurge, we found that the quality is hard to beat, especially for folks looking to take their pup on rugged outdoor adventures.
Price at time of publish: $144.95
Size: 13 x 10 x 21 in. | Material: Polyester | Colors: Red, black, teal, navy
Related:The 7 Best Dog GPS Trackers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed
Best Airline-Approved: Mr. Peanut's Aspen Series Airline Approved Backpack Pet Carrier
It can be worn as a backpack or laid flat as a carrier
It fits comfortably under an airline seat
It has water bottle storage, as well as three additional pockets
It has a removable, machine-washable fleece pad for added comfort
It’s highly ventilated
It’s only sold in gray
It could be more balanced
Hoping for your pup to be your personal item on an upcoming flight? The Mr. Peanut’s Aspen Series Airline Approved Backpack Pet Carrier is a great choice. The dual-use silhouette works as a convenient backpack dog carrier, as well as a lay-flat enclosed pet bed — which, BTW, fits smoothly beneath the seat in front of you.
Since one of the biggest concerns about flying with pets is ventilation, you’ll be glad to know that this dog backpack carrier features mesh paneling along the sides and front of the bag to ensure your pup can breathe easily. Additionally, the pack is designed with their comfort in mind. In addition to having a fleece bottom, the back interior of the pack is lined with a velour material that makes quite a cozy bed when used as a flat carrier.
Our only complaints about this bag are the balance and front zipper. Since the pack doesn’t have a chest strap, we found that when carrying small-to-medium–sized pups, if they moved, it would pull our shoulders forward. Additionally, if pups are quite active, then it can be difficult to zip the front panel closed.
Still, considering it fits within most airline guidelines and is particularly cozy for pups, it’s still an A+ choice in our book.
Price at time of publish: $99
Size: 14"L x 9"W x 18"H | Material: Nylon | Colors: Gray
Related:The 9 Best Airline-Approved Pet Carriers of 2023 for In-Cabin and Cargo Hold
Best Sling: YUDODO Reflective Pet Sling Carrier
It can be worn on the front of your body, like a fanny pack
It may keep your pup calmer thanks to the close proximity
It’s sold in three sizes and bright and neutral colors
It’s made with breathable mesh so your pup won’t overheat
It only works for small dogs weighing 14 pounds or less
Only has a phone pocket
If you love the fanny pack trend and wish you could wear your pup on your chest for hands-free enjoyment, you’ll be thrilled to know that with the YUDODO Reflective Pet Dog Sling Carrier, you can (so long as you have a small dog weighing less than 14 pounds).
The messenger-style pack, which earned 5-star ratings across the board and is one of our top three tested picks, is designed to be worn across the front of your body to let your pup nestle on your stomach/chest. The added benefit here is that the close contact might just keep them calmer on the go, as most dogs find heartbeats to be soothing (hence why puppy toys with heartbeats exist).
While this sling is fully enclosed with just your pup’s head poking out, since it’s made of sturdy-yet-well-ventilated mesh, it’s quite breathable. Additionally, thanks to its design, your pup will be able to comfortably lay down, as opposed to sitting up for hours on end (depending on where you wear it).
Two things to keep in mind, though, are that it only has a slip phone pocket and since it places most of the weight on one shoulder, you may feel your pup’s weight faster than if you were to wear a classic backpack. Still, the fact that it lets you keep a direct eye on your little one while shopping, pushing a stroller, or going for a walk makes it a must-have in our minds.
Price at time of publish: $18.99+
Size: 15”L x 3.9”W x 7.8”H+ | Material: PU Leather and Mesh | Colors: 14
Best Splurge: Love Thy Beast Black Nylon Canvas Backpack
Equipped with an interior security leash
Front pocket storage, plus carabiner loops for added opportunity
It has a sleek silhouette
It’s an undeniable splurge
It’s not super spacious
Most dog backpack carriers look like such, in that they’re not the most stylish accessories to tout around on your back. With that in mind, if style is of the utmost importance to you, the Love Thy Beast Nylon Canvas Backpack Carrier, which is said to work for pups up to 25 pounds, is worth considering.
With a business-casual design that looks a lot like a traditional work backpack, the carrier is much sleeker than your average dog carrier. That said, we found that it doesn’t have a ton of perks beyond that. Sure, it has a large front zip pocket and side slip pockets, but the rest of the pack is dedicated to the pup. While that’s the case, though, the front of the bag is totally opaque, so they’ll only be able to see out the sides.
Do we think that the bag is high quality? Absolutely. Is it comfortable to wear? With a padded nylon back and plush adjustable straps, yes. In fact, one of our editors has this bag and loves it. (She puts a blanket in the bottom and lets her Chihuahua snuggle up in it.) Only you can decide if it’s worth the splurge, though.
Price at time of publish: $200
Size: 18 x 14 x 6 in. | Material: Nylon canvas | Colors: Black
Things to Consider Before Buying a Dog Backpack Carrier
Size and Weight Capacity
When shopping for a backpack dog carrier, it's important to consider several factors to ensure the safety and comfort of your dog, says veterinary technician Taylor Wilkinson, Operations Coordinator for The Vets.
“Choose a carrier that fits your dog's size and weight and is sturdy enough to support their weight,” Wilkinson says. When considering the different dog backpack carrier sizes, think about how your pet likes to travel. Do they prefer to sit up or lie down? Knowing this can help you pick the ideal design. From there, make sure the size is appropriate (your pup should always be comfortable) and check to make sure your dog is well within the weight limits.
Comfort and ventilation
“Look for a carrier that is well-padded and has good ventilation to keep your dog comfortable and cool,” Wilkinson says. This is especially important since dogs don’t sweat. Prioritizing air flow will ensure your pup isn’t panting like crazy within its pack. The Apollo Walker Carrier has amble ventilation in the front, top, and sides of the carrier, as well as roll-down features.
Since most dog backpack carriers are worn on the back, Wilkinson emphasizes the importance of security straps and closures. Many dogs know how to use their nose to wiggle a zipper open, while some are even willing to jump out altogether. By tethering them in place and opting for a pack with reinforced zippers, you’ll be able to prevent potential accidents or escapes.
Straps for yourself can also be helpful. Depending on the size of your dog, you may want chest and waist straps to help stabilize their weight on your back. This will help minimize strain on your shoulders and the chance of toppling backward with them in tow.
How We Tested
To determine the best dog backpack carriers, we started with the 14 top-rated packs on the market. We tested them for three weeks by taking our dogs on walks, subway commutes, and plane rides. First, we evaluated the backpack carrier right out of the box and inspected it for flaws or clever features. Then we placed our dogs in the backpacks and took note of how easy or difficult that process was. We went on multiple walks of at least 15 minutes a piece and noted how our dog reacted to the backpack. We also recorded our comfort level while carrying the dog. At the end of three weeks, we rated each dog backpack on overall performance, comfort, quality, and value. In doing so, we narrowed it down to the eight best dog backpack carriers of 2023.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are dog backpack carriers safe for dogs?
Yes. “Dog backpack carriers can be safe if used properly and if the carrier is of good quality and the appropriate size for the dog,” Wilkinson says. “However, it's important to note that not all dogs are comfortable being carried in backpack carriers, and some may become stressed or anxious."
How long can a dog stay in a backpack carrier?
It depends on your dog’s size, energy, and anxiety levels, as well as the ventilation of the carrier itself. “In general, it's recommended to limit the time a dog spends in a backpack carrier to 30 minutes to an hour at a time, with breaks in between,” Wilkinson says. “It's important to monitor your dog's behavior and signs of distress or discomfort, such as panting or trying to escape, and remove the backpack if necessary. It's also important to avoid leaving your dog unattended in the carrier for extended periods, especially in hot or cold weather."
Do dogs like to be in a backpack carrier?
It’s subjective. “Not all dogs like being in a backpack carrier, as it can be a new and unfamiliar experience for them,” Wilkinson says. “Some dogs may feel stressed, anxious, or uncomfortable being confined in a carrier, while others may feel more secure and enjoy the close physical contact with their owner.” To help your dog become more comfortable with their carrier, try treating them every time they go near it, offering more treats when they step inside. Doing so will help them associate the backpack with a rewarding experience.
Why Trust PEOPLE?
Rebecca Norris is a freelance writer, specializing in the beauty and lifestyle space. She is a George Mason University graduate, earning a B.A. in Media: Production, Consumption, and Critique, along with a minor in Electronic Journalism. For this article, she consulted our in-depth testing insights where we evaluated each bag on its overall performance, comfort, quality, and value while using the backpack carriers for three weeks. Norris also spoke with veterinary technician Taylor Wilkinson, Operations Coordinator for The Vets, to find out what to look for in an ideal dog backpack carrier.
What Is PEOPLE Tested?
We created the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval to help you find the very best products for your life. We use our unique methodology to test products in three labs across the country and with our network of home testers to determine their effectiveness, durability, ease of use, and so much more. Based on the results, we rate and recommend products so you can find the right one for your needs.
But we don’t stop there: We also regularly re-review the categories in which we’ve awarded the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval — because the best product of today might not be the best of tomorrow. And by the way, companies can never buy our recommendation: Their products must earn it, fair and square.
In short, PEOPLE Tested provides recommendations you can trust — every day, every purchase.
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