Whether your dog is a seasoned trekker or new to hiking, a harness with the right fit is crucial. They take the pressure off your dog’s neck that can result from pulling at a leash. But there are other valuable features worth considering for your pet. For example, if your dog pulls, look for a leash clip on the chest, which will redirect your dog's tugging sideways, back toward you. Or, if you want your dog to share the load, consider a backpack harness, or one with a pocket.
Here are the best dog harnesses for hiking, with options for any type of dog, according to experts and our in-depth research.
Ruffwear Web Master Dog Harness with Handle
Rugged, padded material
Five points of adjustment
No front clip for leash
Durable and rugged, the Ruffwear Web Master Dog Harness is our top all-around choice for most dogs. It has padded chest and belly straps, plus five points of adjustment for a secure fit. The leash attachment point is an aluminum V-ring on the back of the harness. The fabric is sturdy and there’s a label inside where you can put your dog’s information, in case he or she accidentally ventures off without you.
The harness includes a built-in, padded handle so you can lift your pup over obstacles on the trail, or into and out of a vehicle. The Web Master comes in three colors and there’s reflective trim for safety. According to Ruffwear, this harness is preferred by many service dog handlers, avalanche rescue dog programs, as well as owners of dogs that have lost a leg.
Ruffwear is also the brand of choice for Katherine Aromaa, owner and head trainer at Cooper’s Dog Training in Portland, Oregon.
“I have found that their backpacks and harnesses are always well-made, durable, and comfortable for the dogs. They also have so many different options,” Aromaa says. “I think a harness or backpack harness is a great idea to go hiking with dogs. You may need to grab onto something if they start to slip or any other precarious situation arises.”
Size(s): Xx-small, x-small, small, medium, large/x-large | Colors: Red currant, blue dusk, twilight gray | Material: Polyester ripstop
Blue-9 Balance Harness
Six spots for adjustment
Buckle-on neck loop
Lightweight, not bulky
Some dogs don’t like the bulk that comes with traditional hiking harnesses. Depending on their body type or how they move, your dog might feel restricted, or the extra material could cause chafing. The Blue-9 Balance Harness is a simple strap harness with six points of adjustment, plus rings on the front or the back to attach a leash. The straps stay out of the way and offer a smooth range of motion. There’s even a buckle neck loop for dogs that don’t like having things pulled over their heads. The Blue-9 Balance Harness comes in five sizes and nine colors.
This is the harness most often recommended by Rachel Callery, certified professional dog trainer and owner of Unleash ATL Dog Training in Atlanta.
“It’s the best in terms of taking your dog’s anatomy and movement into consideration (no straps in places they shouldn’t be) and provides a comfortable, minimalist fit,” Callery says. “It’s not the style that many people are looking for in a hiking harness, as it lacks the padding and extra storage—but this is exactly what makes it so comfortable in my opinion!”
Size(s): X-small, small, medium, medium/large, large | Color(s): Black, blue, camo, hot pink, orange, purple, red, sky blue, hunter green | Main material: Nylon
Ruffwear Front Range Dog Harness
Two spots for leash attachment
Lots of color choices
Pocket for ID tags
No lift handle
Like other Ruffwear gear, the Front Range harness is durable and looks great. It’s well padded and has tough construction, including substantial buckles, heavy stitching, and sturdy fabric. It’s a little more basic than some of the other models, but it still has four spots where you can make fit adjustments and there are two places (front and back) to attach a leash.
There’s no lift handle on this harness, but because it has a lower profile and less material, it can be just as useful on neighborhood streets as it is on wilderness trails. There’s a cool little pocket on the neck where you can tuck in your dog’s ID tags to keep them from jingling or getting snagged on anything. The harness comes in five sizes and eight colors.
Size(s): Xx-small, x-small, small, medium, large/x-large | Color(s): Aurora teal, blue moon, campfire orange, twilight gray, hibiscus pink, huckleberry blue, red sumac, tumalo teal | Main material: Polyester ripstop
Best for Medium and Large Dogs
Kurgo Journey Air Dog Harness
Four adjustment points
Can be difficult to adjust neck area
This handsome harness fits dogs up to about 110 pounds. The Kurgo Journey Air is made of a sturdy ripstop fabric, and is both padded and reflective. For smaller dogs (or strong owners of big dogs), there’s a back handle for lift assistance. There are also four adjustment points, and the harness snaps on and off easily with strong plastic buckles. Aluminum hook leash attachments can be found in both the back and on the front, for if your dog is a puller (front attachments redirect a dog's pulling to the sides, back toward you). There’s a mesh lining in the chest plate for breathability, but the harness is relatively lightweight overall. The Kurgo Journey Air comes in six colors and five sizes.
It's worth noting: the fabric loops on the front are design elements, and so shouldn't be used as leash attachment points.
Size(s): X-small, small, medium, large, x-large | Color(s): Blue, red, black, orange, violet, coral | Main material: Ripstop fabric
Best for Small Dogs
Gooby Pioneer Dog Harness
Double fasteners around the chest
The front leash attachment is fabric, not metal
Tiny dogs want to go hiking too. Harnesses for small pups can be difficult to find, but this Gooby version is just for them—it comes in four sizes, and the largest only fits dogs up to 35 pounds. Made of padded neoprene for protection and comfort, the harness is adjustable around the neck and chest. The Gooby Pioneer Dog Harness fastens around the chest, using double fasteners with both Velcro and plastic clips for extra security. Even with this fail-safe design, the harness is still easy to slip on and off. Leash attachment points are located on both the front and back, plus there's a handle for easy lifting.
In addition to the four available sizes, the Gooby Pioneer Dog Harness also comes in five different colors.
Size(s): Small, medium, large, x-large (up to 35 pounds) | Color(s): Blue, gray, red, sand, turquoise | Main material: Neoprene
Best Budget Backpack
Outward Hound DayPak Dog Saddleback Backpack
Four storage compartments
Not very heavy duty
The DayPak from Outward Hound is a good starter backpack for puppy-packing newbies who want to give their dog the opportunity to share the load. Made with breathable mesh, the DayPak Dog Saddleback Backpack is lightweight, but still has four areas for storage, built into two roomy saddlebags that distribute weight evenly on each side. Adjustable straps ensure a secure fit.
In addition to the D-ring leash attachment on the back, the backpack also includes a handle so you can lift your pup out of any jams. While it's not very heavy duty, and probably not large enough for multi-day camping trips, the DayPak still has plenty of space for poop bags, treats and other day hike basics.
The Outward Hound DayPak comes in two bright colors for high visibility.
Size(s): Small/medium, medium, large, large/xlarge | Color(s): Blue, green | Main material: Nylon
Best Heavy Duty
Ruffwear Approach Dog Pack
Five points of adjustment
Only available in one color
If you and your dog are seriously outdoorsy and ready to carry a lot of gear, this is the pack for the experienced canine hiker. Since carrying a load requires a good fit, the integrated harness has five points of adjustment for optimal load-bearing balance. While roomy, the saddlebags are low-profile, holding close to your pet’s body to allow for a wide range of motion without flopping around.
The 420 denier nylon ripstop fabric is ultra durable and designed for low-light visibility, including reflective trim and an attachment point for a light. Accordingly, the Ruffwear Approach Dog Pack only comes in one color—bright orange—to ensure it's easy to spot.
Even if the Approach Dog Pack has more room in its saddlebags, Ruffwear recommends against loading your pup with more than 25% of his or her body weight, so it's worth being mindful against overloading.
Size(s): X-small, small, medium, large/x-large | Color(s): Orange poppy | Main material: Nylon ripstop
Best with Pocket
Kurgo Stash n’ Dash Dog Harness
Convenient storage pouch
Four adjustment points and two leash clips
Only available in one color
This handy harness from Kurgo has two cool features: a pocket for stashing small items and foldability. The snap-close pouch on the back can hold small trail necessities like poop bags or treats. There’s even a carabiner inside to secure clip-on items, should you want to entrust your dog with your car keys. The Kurgo Stash n' Dash Harness also folds up into its own pouch, with the carabiner doubling as a clip for you to attach the harness to your own backpack or belt loop.
The lightweight Stash n' Dash Harness has four points of adjustment, plus leash attachment points on both the back and the front. There's also a layer of mesh fabric for added comfort and breathability. Available only in black, the Kurgo Stash n' Dash includes reflective trim for added nighttime safety.
Size(s): X-small, small, medium, large, x-large | Color(s): Black | Main material: Ripstop fabric
Serious outdoorsy types love Ruffwear, and their Web Master Harness is a great overall choice. Not only is it rugged, but it's also well-padded and adjustable in five places for a secure fit. If your dog is irritated by bulky harnesses, the Blue-9 Balance is a simple strap harness alternative that offers a smooth range of motion and won’t cause chafing.
What to Look for in a Hiking Harness
A Correct and Adjustable Fit
Harnesses and backpacks encircle your dog around the chest and girth, laying against the back and belly with straps or fabric between the legs. Because all that extra gear can mean chafing and irritation, it’s important that you get a good fit. Measure your dog as directed by the harness manufacturer and stick to its sizing guide in choosing a harness that will best fit your dog. Since fit is so important, it's often worthwhile to email or chat for tips regarding your dog's specific body type. Narrow-chested dogs need different gear than broad-chested ones, for example.
“When choosing a harness for hiking with your dog, make sure that your harness does not impede the natural movement of your dog’s shoulders and forelimbs,” says Rachel Callery, certified professional dog trainer and owner of Unleash ATL Dog Training in Atlanta. “It’s also important that the harness doesn’t sit closely underneath the armpits as it is a sensitive spot that chafes easily.”
Leash Connection Points
Some harnesses only have a clip on the back where you can attach your leash. But if your dog tends to pull, you might want a harness with a clip on the front too. Front clipping your leash can discourage some dogs from pulling so much.
Some harnesses are combination backpacks, so your dog can tote some water, food or poop bags out into the wilderness with you. If you want help carrying gear, consider a backpack or a harness with a storage compartment. Just be sure to load up your dog gradually over a few hikes, so they can get used to carrying weight, and never burden your dog with more than a quarter of their body weight in gear.
Is it unsafe to take my dog hiking with just a leash and collar?
It’s less safe to hike with just a leash and collar, says Callery.
“Flat collars offer only a very small area of contact, which sits directly on one of the most sensitive and delicate areas of a dog’s body (the neck and trachea area),” Callery says. “In case of emergency or unforeseen falls or stumbles, a harness would offer more safety, with the pressure being spread across multiple points of contact.”
Are backpack harnesses comfortable for dogs?
Some owners like using backpack harnesses because it lets pets tote some of their supplies, like poop bags and treats. If you use a backpack, be sure to get your dog accustomed to it before you hit the trails, first by hiking with the backpack empty, then slowly adding weight over subsequent hikes.
“Just a recommendation, don’t put your cell phone or any electronics into the dog’s backpack,” says Katherine Aromaa, owner and head trainer at Cooper’s Dog Training in Portland, Oregon. “They may just go for a swim."
Callery, on the other hand, isn’t a fan of dog backpacks.
“I think that a backpack harness could potentially be comfortable for a dog, but I do not prefer them,” she says. “They change your dog’s weight distribution, which could inhibit natural movement and make injuries more likely.”
Why Trust The Spruce?
Mary Jo DiLonardo has been writing about pets and animals for several decades. She has a rescue dog and has fostered more than three dozen dogs and puppies. Pet health and safety is very important to DiLonardo and she’s always researching the latest products to keep the dogs in her care healthy and safe.
For this roundup we consulted with several trainers and many dog owners who regularly take their dogs hiking. We interviewed Rachel Callery, certified professional dog trainer and owner of Unleash ATL Dog Training in Atlanta, and Katherine Aromaa, owner and head trainer at Cooper’s Dog Training in Portland, Oregon. We looked at harnesses for comfort, durability, and added features. We received some harness samples and purchased others over the years, testing them for this story.