Best Dog Hiking Harnesses: Safety Essentials For Canine Adventuring!

Collars & Harnesses


Kayla Fratt


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Just you and your dog, exploring the mountains or forests together.

You take in the sights, he takes in all the musky scents. You both share in the sounds, the whole experience of being out there together. What could be more refreshing for a woman and her best friend?

Hiking with your dog is a great way to get much-needed exercise and stress relief, all while bonding with your canine pal. It’s one of my absolute favorite pastimes with my own dog, Barley.

But getting the right gear in order is also necessary. Before you drift off into a daydream about the mountains of Washington or the forests of Maine, let’s talk about the best dog hiking harnesses out there.

One Brand Dominates the Marketplace

As you’ll no doubt notice below, seven of the nine dog hiking harnesses we recommend below are made by the same manufacturer: Ruffwear.

We typically like to provide owners with recommendations that include a wide range of brands, but no other harness is as dedicated to hiking hounds as Ruffwear is.

Best Dog Hiking Harness for Backpacking/Long Treks
Most Affordable Dog Hiking Harness
Best Dog Hiking Harness for Rock Climbers
Best Dog Hiking Harness for Backpacking/Long Treks
Most Affordable Dog Hiking Harness
Best Dog Hiking Harness for Rock Climbers

The Best Dog Hiking Harnesses on the Market

best hiking harnesses for dogs

Spoiler alert: there’s one brand that leads the rest when it comes to outdoor dog gear. Ruffwear makes three of the best dog hiking harnesses out there, and I rarely see a reason to experiment with other brands.

That said, there are some other dog hiking harnesses out there that are worth a shot! We went ahead and listed those three Ruffwear harnesses first, but don’t skip checking out the others.

1. Ruffwear Front Range Dog Harness

Best Dog Hiking Harness for Casual Trail-Trekking
Ruffwear Front Range Dog Harness

A study, all-purpose harness that’s great for everyday use or hitting the trails.

Buy on Amazon

About: If you’re looking for a harness that’s perfect for daily use and the occasional hike, the Ruffwear Front Range Harness is a great pick. Its padded straps keep your canine cozy, whether he’s enjoying a 30-minute walk or taking on an overnight trip to the trails.

This durable harness for dogs has reinforced webbing, two leash attachment options, and four adjustment points to fit your canine’s contours like a glove.


  • Reflective material trim 
  • Front and back leash attachment points
  • Included ID tag pocket 
  • Features 4 adjustable straps with buckles 
  • Broad range of sizes and colors


  • This flexible harness works well for everyday use and “off-road” adventures
  • The harness is easy to adjust and provides a snug, secure fit on a range of pooch body types
  • Padded straps provide comfort without adding too much bulk


  • This harness lacks a control handle 
  • Some pet parents wish the neck opening was adjustable
Front-Clip Harnesses vs. Back-clip Harnesses

One of the most common mistakes people make while harness shopping is selecting one with a leash attachment point that just doesn’t work with their needs.

A front-clip harness features a leash attachment point on your dog’s chest, making it a good fit for dogs who pull. That said, the style is not a great choice for puppies who may chomp at the leash or for hiking, where it’s a major trip and snag hazard.

A back-clip harness features an attachment point on your dog’s back, sometimes at the shoulders and other times at the waist. These are better suited for hiking, as they aren’t as likely to catch a passing branch or trip your pup.

To get the best of both worlds, opt for a harness with dual attachment points, if possible.

2. Ruffwear Flagline Dog Harness

Best Dog Hiking Harness for Serious Trail-Trekking
Ruffwear Flagline Dog Harness

A lightweight harness made from premium materials and equipped with multiple attachment points and a sturdy lift-and-assist handle.

Buy on Amazon

About: The Ruffwear Flagline Dog Harness has all the necessary bells and whistles for serious trail trekkers. With a lift-and-assist handle, three leash attachment points, and a debris-resistant liner, this harness for hiking is great for off-road hounds.

Notably, this harness has six(!) adjustment points, which means you’ll be able to achieve a better fit than you would with most other harnesses on the market, suiting most barkin’ body types. 


  • Made from debris-resistant fabric
  • Comes with a padded lift handle 
  • Reflective trim included for visibility
  • Features 6 harness adjustment points 
  • Lightweight design won’t weigh your canine companion down


  • Debris-resistant design helps keep this harness clean 
  • Back handle is super sturdy and easy to grab at a moment’s notice 
  • Multiple leash attachment points are helpful for pullers 
  • Fit allows for a comfortable range of motion


  • This harness doesn’t provide a lot of padding 
  • It’ll take a little longer to put this harness on than some others

3. Ruffwear Doubleback Harness

Best Dog Hiking Harness for Rock Climbers
Ruffwear Doubleback Harness

A belay-ready dog harness designed to keep your dog safe and secure while rock climbing (and it also works great for normal hikes).

Buy on Amazon

About: Do you want to go rock climbing with your best buddy? If so, you’ll need something like this Ruffwear Doubleback Harness, complete with a safety-tested belay system for your climbin’ furry companion. 

The harness is built with sturdy aluminum buckles to support your dog’s body weight and leg loops for extra stability while your dog is getting a lift. There are also seven adjustment points for a super secure fit. 


  • Comes with a built-in belay system
  • Features a sturdy back lift handle 
  • Includes 7 adjustment points 
  • Made with built-in leg loops with aluminum buckles  
  • Strength-rated for up to 2,000 pounds 


  • Owners appreciated the durability and quality of this harness and felt safe using the harness on outdoor adventures 
  • A couple of owners found it useful for supporting elderly or handicapped dogs 
  • This harness makes it easy to securely lift your pooch when he needs assistance


  • It lacks any reflective strips or other added visibility materials for low-light conditions
  • It’s one of the pricier harness options 

4. Ruffwear Switchback Harness

Best Dog Hiking Harness for Backpacking/Long Treks
Ruffwear Switchback Harness

A comfy, padded harness featuring a low-profile storage pocket that’s perfect for long hikes with your hound.

Buy on Amazon

About: If you enjoy setting out on day-long hikes with your doggo, this Ruffwear Switchback Harness might be an ideal pick. The harness is padded for extra comfort and features a low-profile pocket for waste bags, treats, or small hiking gear. 

It also has a back handle in case your dog needs extra assistance. With two leash attachment options, this versatile harness for hiking is built for most adventures, big or small.


  • Includes a padded back handle 
  • Built with front and back leash attachment points 
  • Lightly padded chest plate provides additional comfort 
  • Low profile carrying pocket included
  • Comes with 5 adjustment points 


  • Zippered pocket adds just enough storage space for hound hiking gear without tacking on bulk
  • Pups seemed comfortable wearing this harness for long periods of time, making it great for an overnight trip or multi-day trips
  • Owners found the back handle comfortable and sturdy 


  • Some owners reported armpit chafing for breeds with short hair 
  • A couple of pet parents felt like their dogs were in between the range of sizes, presenting fit challenges

5. Ruffwear All-Day Hiking Pack

Best High-Capacity Dog Hiking Harness
Ruffwear All-Day Hiking Pack

A generously sized hiking harness-pack combo with plenty of room for treats, waste bags, and water.

Buy on Amazon

About: Is your dog unstoppable on the trails? Do you enjoy heading out on extensive all-day hikes or multi-day trips through the woods? This Ruffwear All-Day Hiking Pack might be a perfect fit for your canine companion. 

With a saddlebag-style design, this hiking pack for your adventure buddy can hold food, water bottles, treats, and waste bags, with room to spare. The harness has two leash attachment points and a back handle for any lifting needs while hitting the trails.


  • Saddle bag style pockets
  • Reflective detailing provides plenty of visibility 
  • Comes with 5 adjustment points 
  • Features a single, back-positioned leash attachment
  • Form-fitting design 


  • This harness might be a great pick for high-energy dogs who are willing to help carry some of their own gear
  • Pocket capacity holds a generous amount of treats and snacks for longer hikes
  • Most dogs adjusted to the fit of this harness fairly quickly


  • You’ll have to be careful to avoid weighing down your woofer with too much gear 
  • You still need to balance the weight of the pockets to keep your canine comfortable 

6. Ruffwear Hi & Light Harness

Best Lightweight Dog Hiking Harness
Ruffwear Hi & Light Harness

A durable harness with a minimalistic, lightweight design that provides comfort and complete range of motion.

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About: The Ruffwear Hi & Light Harness is a lightweight harness for dogs that’s great for trail treks during the warmer months. This harness’ low profile design also helps protect it from chewers and lowers the risk of your pup’s harness getting stuck on something while adventuring. 

This harness features a back-positioned leash attachment and a helpful handle for tricky trail spots. 


  • Minimalistic cut for comfort with padded straps
  • Comes with a single, back-positioned leash attachment
  • 4 adjustment points
  • Small stash pocket for ID tags included 
  • Made with a debris-resistant liner 


  • This lightweight harness is perfect for warmer months
  • Low profile design minimizes the risk of your pooch chewing on it while in use
  • This harness didn’t cause armpit chafing for pups 


  • Only one leash attachment point is included
  • A couple of owners found this harness ran a bit small for long and lanky breeds
Is a Step-in Harness a good fit for your dog?

Some harnesses can be a real headache to get on your dog, especially if he has a blocky head or floppy ears that feel the squeeze with over-the-head styles. A good alternative is a step-in harness that only requires your dog’s legs to slip into two holes before you fasten it at his back.

A step-in design harness is a good choice for big-headed barkers and getting your dog suited up fast, but it’s not a good match for pups who dislike having their legs handled. Senior sniffers and those who struggle to stand for long may also be incompatible with the step-in design of these harnesses.

7. Belpro Support Harness

Most Affordable Dog Hiking Harness
Belpro Support Harness

A high-quality yet affordable hiking harness that comes with a back handle for maximum canine control.

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About: Need a harness that will fare well on the trail without breaking the bank? The Belpro Support Harness makes a compelling case with a back handle, five adjustment points, and low profile design.

This harness also has reflective detailing, making your dog more visible when setting out on an adventure or taking a stroll around the neighborhood. 


  • Made with breathable mesh fabric
  • Provides 5 points of adjustment
  • Reflective design helps keep your dog visible
  • Back handle provides additional canine control
  • Features a single, back-positioned leash attachment 


  • It’s just a really affordable harness that’ll get the job done
  • This harness fit a variety of breeds well
  • Some owners reported that this harness was relatively escape-proof 


  • Comes with only one leash attachment point 
  • Some dogs managed to wiggle free of this harness

8. Ruffwear Joring System

Best Dog Hiking Harness for Skiiers and Mountain Bikers
Ruffwear Joring System

A complete canine joring system that’s perfect for skiing, skateboarding, or biking with your dog.

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About: Are you hoping to go skiing, biking, or even skateboarding with your furry bff? Consider opting for the complete Ruffwear Joring System. This kit comes with a hip belt for humans, an adjustable lightweight dog harness, and a shock-absorbing leash for all your canine adventures. 

The included hip belt has a water bottle pocket and small zippered pocket to carry treats or snacks while you’re out exploring. 


  • A complete joring system with a harness, hip belt, and leash
  • Hip belt has a water bottle holder and pocket
  • Slip-over harness design
  • Reflective detailing around the trim
  • Quick release buckles 


  • This system gives you everything you need to set out skiing or biking with your best buddy
  • Owners felt safe adventuring with this set up
  • This system was equally comfortable for dogs and humans 


  • Expensive if you don’t need this much flexibility 
  • Only includes a back-positioned leash attachment 

9. Outward Hound Dog Backpack

Most Affordable Dog Hiking Harness with Pockets
Outward Hound Dog Backpack

An affordable dog backpack-and-harness combo that’s built for light hiking.

Buy on Amazon Buy on Chewy

About: If you’re seeking a harness for occasional, casual hiking, this dog backpack from Outward Hound is certainly worth considering. The harness features saddle-bag-style pockets– two of which are expandable pockets–along with a back-positioned lift handle for those times your canine needs extra assistance.

It’s also relatively inexpensive compared to other dog hiking harnesses on the market – especially those with pockets.


  • Saddle-bag-style zippered pockets
  • Breathable mesh fabric used in the construction 
  • Made with a single, back-positioned leash attachment point
  • Comes with a padded back handle 
  • Features 2 adjustable straps 


  • This backpack provides plenty of storage with four saddlebags, two being expandable pockets
  • The price tag is very attractive
  • Dogs seemed comfortable with this backpack harness, even during longer hikes


  • Not available in sizes suitable for small dogs 
  • This harness has fewer adjustment points than most options, which can be an issue for dogs with a broad chest or other unique shapes
watch your pup’s pack weight!

Your pup’s pack weight matters whether he’s a lumbering Labrador retriever or a tiny terrier. Too heavy of a pack is obviously uncomfortable for your canine to carry, but a pack with poorly distributed weight can be just as much of a pain, leading to an unnatural gait or strap chafing.

Never overpack your pupper with gear, and skip packing him up entirely if he’s getting gray in the muzzle or has mobility challenges.

What Makes the Best Dog Hiking Harnesses?

which hiking harness for my dog

The criteria for a fantastic hiking harness are a bit different than the criteria for the best training harness or no-pull harness. While many harnesses can go from “front country” to “back country” with ease, there are some extra considerations for hiking harnesses.

When I’m looking at hiking harnesses for dogs, I always keep in mind:

Freedom of movement. While this really matters for all harnesses, it’s extra important that a hiking harness lets your dog fully extend his stride. Many no-pull harnesses, for example, really restrict your dog’s shoulder movement. This is not a good idea for hiking!

Comfort. Avoid any harnesses for hiking that rub in your dog’s armpits or other sensitive areas, and look for padded straps whenever possible. Again, this should be a given for all harnesses – but it’s really key to a good hiking harness in particular.

Bright colors. I’m not just a lover of all things bright (I am). Bright colors are a good idea for hiking harnesses in case the unthinkable happens and you lose your dog. Even though I’ve never totally lost Barley while hiking, I’ve often been grateful for his bright red harness when I’m straining to pick his silhouette out among dark rocks.

hiking harness for your doggo

Sarah Stremming, a professional trainer and owner of The Cognitive Canine, lost her dog Felix while hiking around Christmas of 2017. They managed to locate Felix (on a cliff, using a drone) thanks to his bright orange hiking harness. Her dog survived relatively unscathed, all thanks to her dog’s bright, eye-catching harness. Listen to the episode Finding Felix to hear the whole riveting story.

Reflective detailing. Similar to bright coloring, reflective harnesses for hiking are a great idea for use in low-light conditions. These make your pup much easier to see, potentially saving his life (and yours!) if a motorist passes by.

Snug fit. A baggy harness with extra material, while seemingly comfortable, can easily get snagged on brambles while hiking.Find a harness that is snug for your furry companion, or you might end up pulling all sorts of sticks out of his harness at the end of a hike! Worse, a loose harness can get caught on bigger logs and trap your dog.

Appropriate for your dog’s build. The “perfect” dog hiking harness arguably doesn’t exist since what is comfortable and snug for a deep-chested Labrador retriever almost certainly won’t be comfortable and snug for a stocky bulldog with a broad chest and muscled shoulders. Pick a harness that fits your dog.

Weight-bearing handles. Not everyone needs these, but a weight-bearing handle on the back of your dog’s harness is really helpful for rock-scrambling in Colorado or crossing streams in Tennessee. You probably shouldn’t carry your dog by a handle, but it’s helpful for giving your dog a boost across obstacles! Make sure it’s strong enough for your dog’s body weight!

Before You Hit the Trails: Other Things to Consider

bright dog harness

Aside from the criteria for a good hiking harness, there are some other things to keep in mind when prepping for your dog’s trailhead debut.

Training: An Absolute Must if Your Dog will be Off-Leash

Personally, I generally prefer to take Barley to areas where off-leash hiking is legal and safe. This isn’t for everyone (or everyone’s dog). Barley and I have spent a long time working on his off-leash obedience and his recall (ability to come when called) around elk, bears, snakes, mountain bikes, and other trailside hazards.

Even when he’s off-leash, I have him hike in a brightly colored harness and have his leash handy – he never hikes “naked!”

There are plenty of reasons not to hike with your dog off-leash: Dogs with high prey drive and independent dogs can be extra difficult to train to be obedient off-leash. Many areas have strict leash laws in order to keep wildlife and other visitors safe. Many reactive or fearful dogs hate being approached by other dogs, and your off-leash dog is a problem for them.

Having your dog off-leash is always risky. No matter how much training you do, your dog could still blow you off and jump into a river to go swimming, chase a bear down the path, or bolt across the path of an unexpected ATV.

If you’re willing to accept the risks of off-leash hiking (and put in the training legwork to make it safe), there are lots of benefits. Off-leash time is hugely relaxing for dogs since most modern dogs almost never get to choose where to go and what to sniff.

Many stress- and anxiety-related behaviors dramatically decrease with regular free time in nature. The exercise and mental decompression are far better than on-leash walks or jogs in the city. Many dogs seem to be more tired (and relaxed) after hiking than after endless urban exercise.

That said, you can get most of the benefits of off-leash hiking if you hike with your dog on a 30- or 50-foot-long line. This is the safest option until your dog’s training is rock solid.

Use Long Lines and Waist Leashes Until You’d Bet $100 on Your Dog’s Training

dog long leash

Start hiking with your dog on a long line until you’d bet $100 that your dog will come running back to you around wildlife and other dogs. Your dog’s ability to listen in a quiet backyard or tennis court is not helpful if you run into a bear on the trail!

A long line or bungee waist leash is generally the most comfortable way to comply with leash laws and keep your dog safe until his training is up to par.

Bells and Lights Keep Your Off-Leash Dog Safer

No matter how good your dog’s recall is, you’ll still want to utilize every tool at your disposal to keep your dog safe when hiking.

As I noted earlier, brightly-colored harnesses are a must and can help you keep track of your pooch in the thicket.

I also recommend always hiking with a light (for you) and a bell (for your dog). My secret is purchasing a few cat collar bells and putting them onto a micro-sized carabiner, which is then attached to Barley’s harness when he goes off-leash. The waterproof light is attached to the carabiner as well.

The bell allows you to hear your dog as he crashes around the underbrush and may act as a bonus “bear bell” when you’re in bear country. The final benefit to the bells is that it helps keep your dog from surprising other hikers, as they can hear your pooch coming if you overtake them on the trail.

The waterproof light comes into play anytime that it’s a bit dim outside – don’t wait until it’s pitch black outside to turn it on. The main point of the light is to allow me to keep an eye on Barley if he’s ahead of me on the trail. Even with the light, don’t trust a collar light to keep your dog safe around roads – I always make sure to put Barley on a leash if we’re within a quarter mile or so of the road.

Consider a GPS Collar if You’re on the Trail a Lot

I personally don’t use a GPS collar with Barley because we’re often out of cell service or outside of Bluetooth range (which many of the GPS collar options rely on).

Even the Garmin Astro, the best backcountry satellite option out there (it works without cell service or Bluetooth connection), doesn’t work outside of the U.S.

However, if you’re in an area that will work with one of the three options above (cell service, Bluetooth, or satellite) and hike a lot, consider getting one of these gadgets. After Sarah Stremming’s ordeal with Felix, she purchased the Garmin Astros for her dogs. When I return to the U.S., that’s the collar I will purchase for Barley.

GPS collars like the Garmin Astro help you locate your dog if the unthinkable happens and you lose your dog on a hike. While hopefully you never need it, you’ll sure be happy you opted for one in a worst case scenario situation.

A Quick Note on E-Collars for Off-Leash Hiking

hiking with dog

It’s quite common in the U.S. to work with hunting dogs and other dogs that are often off-leash using e-collars (also known as shock collars, electronic collars, stimulation collars, and several other names).

That’s not the case everywhere in the world — in fact, Britain just outlawed e-collars, following the lead of Denmark, Norway, Scotland, Wales, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Quebec, and parts of Australia.

I fully admit that when properly used, e-collars can be a great tool for communicating with dogs in specific instances. That said, I have never recommended an e-collar to a client. In the hands of most non-professional trainers, e-collars are just too challenging to use well.

The shocks, vibrations, citronella sprays, or other corrections that a shock collar delivers are quite difficult to use to teach your dog to come when called without causing other side effects.

Many dogs trained using shock collars display significant behavioral fallout even if the training is effective. The dogs were noted to be more stressed in a 2014 study, as measured by body language, such as calming signals and their salivary and urinary cortisol levels (cortisol is a hormone that indicates stress). The same study found that dogs trained with an e-collar were no more responsive than dogs trained using other methods, such as reward-based boundary training.

In short, I strongly recommend against the use of e-collars for improving off-leash reliability for your dog. The collars are stressful for your dog and are no more effective than other training methods. Teach your dog to listen to you by “paying him” with food instead!

On the note of gear you probably don’t need, I generally don’t think most dogs need to wear booties while hiking. Most dogs that are moderately active and not on ultra-sharp footing will get by just fine on their own paws. That said, Barley wears booties if we’re crossing sharp scree fields high in the mountains of Colorado or if his paws seem tender at all that day.

As you’re preparing to take your dog hiking, keep these extra products in mind. As I said, I personally hike with Barley in a bright harness, a bell, and a light. Until you’re really confident with your dog’s training, rely on a leash to keep your dog safe. After that, a GPS collar of some sort is a great idea.

You do have a rescue harness in your pack, right?

Ever consider what would happen if your doggo suffered an injury on the trail and wasn’t able to walk back? Could you really carry him in your arms for miles?

Don’t worry — there’s an easy solution to this kind of scenario.

It’s called a rescue harness. Basically, it’s a light and compact sling-style harness you use to strap your dog to your body. You can then carry your dog in hands-free fashion back to safety.

Check our our complete guide to the best dog rescue harnesses and ensure you’re ready to avoid potential disasters.

Best Dog Hiking Harnesses: FAQ

Hiking harness FAQ

Still have a few lingering questions about the best hiking harnesses for dogs? We’ve got you covered! Check out some of the most common questions owners have below.

Is a collar better than a harness for hiking?

Either option can work, though harnesses tend to provide more value. For example, some harnesses give you multiple connection points to choose between, whereas collars do not.

Additionally, many of the best dog hiking harnesses have handles that give you better control over your canine. Some also feature pouches, which can contain food, water, or other supplies.

How do I stop my dog from pulling on hikes?

Essentially, you’ll do so the same way you would during normal walks — you simply need to teach your dog to walk on a loose leash.

Alternatively, you can use a no-pull harness or collar.

How do I protect my dog’s paws on hikes?

Most dogs will be fine walking on dirt or mulched trails without booties. However, if you are hiking on sharp rocks, hot surfaces, or across ice, you may want to invest in a pair of dog booties.

Should you pick up dog poop while hiking?

Yes, though many owners do not. All of the same concerns with dog poop in suburban and urban areas applies to backcountry trails. Poop is not only an eye sore (and stinky), but it can also transmit disease.

Where do you put dog poop when hiking?

You should collect the canine caca in a dog poop bag and then carry it to the next trashcan you encounter. Trashcans may be few and far between on trails, but most trailhead parking lots will have several. You may want to simply hang the poop bag from the back of your pack if possible.

Whatever you do, do NOT throw the bag in the forest. Even biodegradable dog poop bags will take a long time to break down.


The bottom line is that a great hiking harness should fit your dog well, stand up to intense use, and be visible to the human eye at a distance. Depending on what fits your dog well, there are hundreds of harnesses that can fit the bill. However, we think the ones we detailed here are solid picks.

Did we miss out on your favorite hiking harness? Promote them below, and we might get them into the next article on dog hiking harnesses!

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Written by

Kayla Fratt

Kayla Fratt is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant through IAABC and works as a conservation detection dog trainer.

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  1. Camping Avatar

    I’m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I encounter a
    blog that’s equally educative and amusing, and without a doubt,
    you’ve hit the nail on the head. The problem is an issue that
    not enough folks are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy
    I found this during my search for something relating to this.

  2. Camping Avatar

    I’m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I encounter a
    blog that’s equally educative and amusing, and without a doubt,
    you’ve hit the nail on the head. The problem is an issue that
    not enough folks are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy
    I found this during my search for something relating to this.