How to Choose the Best Hiking Vest for Your Dog

The autumn season is the perfect season for hiking, especially with your dog. This season, you have decided to give your pup a “job” by trying out some different hiking vests for dogs. On some longer hikes, or even the over-nighters, you feel it is time he pulls some of his own weight and carry his food. But on those shorter day hikes, a lighter hiking vest will do the job.

The vet said he has the green light to carry the weight in the vest… he is young enough, has no issues with his hips or joints, his lungs are healthy, and his back is strong like an ox. Checking with the vet is important before having him wear the vest because for his long term health, you don’t want to cause any injuries or progress any existing injuries to your furry friend. The vet also passed on a helpful list for choosing the right hiking vest for your dog.

 How to Fit Your Dog for a Hiking Vest

  • Measure the circumference of your dog’s chest. (A good resource is a How To Measure video on the blog page.)
  • Put the hiking vest on the middle of your dog’s back. Most hiking vests for dogs and packs have straps going around the chest and around the belly area. Be sure not to tighten the straps so tight the dog has trouble breathing, or too loose it may slip off.
  • Watch for places where the straps may rub a raw spot. Compare it to wearing your new running shoes for the first time and a blister appears on your heel.
  • If your dog is unfamiliar with wearing a hiking vest, have him first wear the vest or pack around the house. Add weight a small amount at a time paying close attention how he adjusts to the weight. This is a new garment for him, like your new day pack or back pack.

When it seems your dog is comfortable with his new gear, and you are ready to head out to the trail, be sure to check for regulations with the local law enforcement regarding hiking with your dog on the trail. No dogs are allowed on ANY trail in the US National Park system.

Short Hikes

A short hike is one considered a “day hike” or a hike where you and your dog are not packing a tent and gear to spend the night.

  • A light weight vest with mobile hydration and room enough to hold a few items should suffice. There are hiking vests for dogs that you can soak in water to keep him cool on those hot days on the trail.

Multi-Day Hikes or a Back Packing Trip

These hikes require more gear, food, and water for both you and your dog. A hiking vest or pack with extra room and extra padding is needed for these longer hikes. Look for these features in a heavier duty vest or pack:

  • Dividers to keep food and water separate from other gear
  • Areas to put a collapsible food dish, cold pack, and first aid kit
  • A top handle on the vest or pack for you to hold on to if fording a creek or river

A trick you can use to keep your pup hydrated is to add Pedialyte to his water. Also remember to have either your dog or yourself pack a water filter for all hikes. Dogs are susceptible to giardia protozoa. This condition is no fun for your dog’s digestive system, especially out on the trail.   When packing for your hike, be sure not to over pack for the amount of weight your dog can safely carry. A good rule of thumb is most dogs can carry 25% of body weight, but some larger, stronger breeds can carry up to 35%-40% of body weight.

Other Types of Hiking Vests for Dogs

  • Waterproof – If your hiking adventure brings a good amount of rain or snow, you may want to consider a waterproof vest.
  • Reflective – If you will be hitting the trail at night, a reflective vest will keep your dog in your vision. These vests are also great for sports like night running or bike riding.

As we go into cooler weather, warmer packs are available. For a great selection on vests, packs and jackets for your canine outdoor adventurer, check out

Go and enjoy the beauty of the seasons with friends, family and Fido too!    



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