Staff Picks: The Best Hiking Gear for Dogs of 2021

Our four-legged testers set paw to trail to bring you their favorite products for outdoorsy pups.

Raider the heeler wears the Ruffwear Approach Pack on a mountain bike ride in Boulder, Colorado.

You have good gear—why shouldn’t your best friend? Whether you’re in the market for a new leash or your fluffer’s first pack, find the perfect addition to Fido’s kit among these 15 staff picks.

 

Staff Picks

Find our quick recommendations here or read on for the full breakdown of our favorite doggie gear.

 

Looking to upgrade your pooch’s necklace? Look no further. These collars from Wolfgang Man & Beast are constructed with abrasion-resistant polyester (and pull-tested at 800 pounds, which seems excessive, but neat). The massive buckle is easy to operate with one hand, and the single D-ring is great for clipping licenses and a leash. Each size has up to 8 inches of play via the easy sliding adjustment.

 

Front Range Dog Harness

Ruffwear Front Range Dog Harness

Best Harness

$39.95 from REI Co-op
  • Fits: 17-22 in. (extra small), 22-27 in. (small), 27-32 in. (medium), 32-42 in. (large/extra large)
  • Material(s): 300-denier ripstop polyester/closed-cell foam/knit polyester mesh lining/polyester webbing/engineered nylon webbing/acetal/aluminum
  • Weight: 4 oz. (extra small), 5.3 oz. (small), 5.8 oz. (medium), 6.4 oz. (large/extra large)

Do you prefer harnesses? The venerable Ruffwear Front Range is light and airy enough for everyday wear and also burly enough for backcountry adventures. It’s made of ridiculously tough, 300-denier ripstop polyester (mine has survived everything from ski edges to teething puppies with nary a snag) and is padded with plush, closed-cell foam for all-day comfort. It has two leash-attachment points on the back and chest and comes in enough colors to satisfy the pickiest of hoomans.

 

Speaking of leashes: This 6-footer from Ruffwear can be worn around your waist—perfect for hands-free trail running, backpacking or hiking. A lengthy bungee section absorbs shock and gives your pal some give, and the talon-style clip is easy to thumb on the move. A clever loop along the handle is great for stashing pick-up bags.

 

About the size of half a table-tennis ball, this basic key chain from Nite Ize is perfect for nighttime walks or hanging out at camp. Clip it to your dog’s collar via a mini carabiner, and squeeze the housing to turn it on or double press for the rave flash mode. You can adjust it to one of six colors or let it automatically cycle through the rainbow in disco mode. Nite Ize claims 20 hours of burn time on the two included lithium batteries.

 

Stuff this collapsible bowl from Ruffwear into your pocket, the pick-up bag loop of your leash or the tiniest crevice in your pack so you’re always ready to give Snoopy a water break or trailside snack. The Quencher comes in a couple of sizes—the medium holds a liter, the large 2.5 liters—and weighs next to nothing. A wide base and rigid rim help keep it upright on uneven terrain, even when multiple puppers plunge their snouts inside.

 

Approach Dog Pack

Ruffwear Approach Dog Pack

Best Day Pack

$79.95 from REI Co-op
  • Fits chest: 22-27 in. (small), 27-32 in. (medium), 32-42 in. (large/extra large)
  • Gear capacity: 12.5 L (small), 14.5 L (medium), 24 L (large/extra large)
  • Number of pockets: 4
  • Material(s): 420-denier ripstop nylon
  • Weight: 1 lb. 1 oz. (small), 1 lb. 2 oz. (medium), 1 lb. 5 oz. (large/extra large)

If you subscribe to the everyone-carries-their-share mentality, get your floof on board with a modest load in the versatile Ruffwear Approach dog pack. The saddlebags are fixed to the harness, which has a convenient grab handle (should your little mountain goat need a lift up a tall boulder or into the car) and a strong aluminum D-ring for connecting a leash. My dog carries his own water and first-aid kit on either side, plus a lightweight PackTowl and his food. He is also responsible for carrying out his own poop.

 

Palisades Dog Pack

Ruffwear Palisades Dog Pack

Best Overnight Pack

$149.95 from REI Co-op
  • Fits chest: 22-27 in. (small), 27-32 in. (medium), 32-42 in. (large/extra large)
  • Gear capacity: 12.5 L (small), 17.5 L (medium), 24 L (large/extra large)
  • Number of pockets: 6
  • Material(s): 420-denier nylon ripstop/closed-cell foam/nylon webbing
  • Weight: 1 lb. 12 oz. (small), 1 lb. 13.6 oz. (medium), 2 lbs. 2.4 oz. (large/extra large)

Have a four-legged backpacking buddy? Go with something more voluminous like the Ruffwear Palisades dog pack for overnight pursuits. It uses a two-part system: The saddlebags, which are big enough to accomodate a sleep system, connect to an included harness, so it’s all but impossible to Titanic the load with uneven packing. Pockets on each side swallow smaller sundries, and the pack comes with two collapsible water reservoirs. (Tips: Never pack the Ten Essentials in your dog’s pack, and try not to load it up to more than 25 percent of the dog’s body weight.)

 

Vert Jacket

Ruffwear Vert Jacket

Best Jacket

$84.95 from REI Co-op
  • Material(s): Nylon/polyester/plastic
  • Fits chest: 17-22 in. (extra small), 22-27 in. (small), 27-32 in. (medium), 32-36 in. (large), 36-42 in. (extra large)
  • Weight: 5 oz.

This waterproof layer from Ruffwear gets daily use in my household come fall. Not only does it protect my dog from precip, but a touch of recycled fill (120 grams) insulates him in cooler temps. The 70-denier nylon shell shrugs off mud, brambles and other debris, and a high-viz top panel (either bright blue or orange) with reflective accents on the sides and collar helps me to keep eyes on him, too. Plus: Dogs in jackets are really stinking cute.

 

Help protect your dog’s peepers from debris, sunshine, glare and haters with Rex Specs. A multi-point connection system loops under the dog’s muzzle and behind its ears for a secure, bounce-free fit. The lenses, which are changeable (each pair comes with clear and dark options), are spherical for a wide field of vision. My pup pawed his doggie goggles at first but came to associate them with impending adventure and now places them as an offering at my feet when he’s itching to get sendy—transition your dog into the goggle life slowly and patiently.

 

Shield your pooch’s paws from granite, spiky desert floor, snow, ice, melt chemicals and more with the Ruffwear Grip Trex booties. They slide on easily with a hook-and-loop closure and boast a tacky Vibram outsole that’s on par with what’s likely on your own shoes. There’s a learning curve for the first-time wearer, but it tends to result in a funny video, so keep your phone handy. Note: The Grip Trex are sold in pairs because your dog’s front and back paws may be different sizes.

 

Leave No Trace applies to fur friends, too. Luckily, there are all sorts of biodegradable baggie options, so you don’t have to use plastic. These Earth Friendly Pick-Up Bags from Cycle Dog are plant-based, but just as good at removing presents from the trail as their non-compostable counterparts. Each box contains six rolls of a dozen baggies.

 

If you’re the sort of person who hooks your doggo up with gear that often costs more than your own, then you’ll probably cry, “Take my money!” at this next bit: For every bag of nibbles sold, GivePet donates enough yummies for 10 shelter pups. The treats are small-batch, grain-free, protein-rich and fish-smelly.

 

There’s no right way to get your buddy ready for an adventure, but one way to make it easier for yourself is to have a “go bag” ready. Any small luggage will do, but I like these modular packing cubes from REI Co-op. Keep a spare leash, a first-aid kit, a bowl, enough kibble for a few meals and a water bottle inside, along with whatever accoutrements are unique to your doggo (chew toys, bones, tennis balls, training treats, meds, etc.). The Expandable Packing Cubes stand on their own and have handles for grabbing on the go.

 

Camp Blanket

REI Co-op Camp Blanket

Best Blanket

Starting at $79.95 from REI Co-op
  • Material(s): Pertex
  • Dimensions: 70 x 54 in. (one-person), 82 x 88 in. (two-person)
  • Insulation type: Synthetic
  • Packed size: 7 x 9 in. (one-person), 8 x 16.5 in. (two-person)
  • Weight: 1 lb. 6 oz. (one-person), 2 lbs. 13 oz. (two-person)

Dirty dogs aren’t great tentmates. Whether you’re picnicking, watching a Little League game or taking a trailside snack break, having an established outdoor, dog-friendly blanket can make life comfier and cleaner. This packable throw from REI Co-op has synthetic fill to insulate from the cold ground, plus a Pertex nylon shell with a DWR finish for shedding dirt, light precip and dog hair. (You could even keep the Camp Blanket in your Expandable Packing Cube for maximum convenience.)

 

OK, who lives to serve whom in this relationship? Cart your king or queen around in style with the Burley Tail Wagon, a two-wheeled trailer that hitches to your bike so all members of the family get to enjoy the outdoors. The cockpit has mesh windows on all sides, plus a rollaway cover for weatherproofing or letting your pal feel the wind in her face. Note: The weight capacity is 75 pounds.


Article by Maren Horjus. Maren is an at-large editor for REI’s Expert Advice and Uncommon Path, presently chasing powder and a humidity-free lifestyle with her rescue pup, Raider (sorry, not on Instagram), in Boulder, Colorado. She worked as an editor at Backpacker magazine for six years and wrote some books before joining the squad. She and Raider think winter camping is underrated. REI members since 2012.