Have you ever worried that your dog would suffer an injury while you’re out on the trail, miles from nowhere?
How would you get Fluffy back to your car if she sprained an ankle or tore a ligament while exploring the great outdoors?
It’s a troubling notion — especially if you have a big pooch.
Fortunately, there is a solution: Just carry a rescue harness for dogs with you while hiking or camping with your pet!
These special dog harnesses are specifically designed to help you get your canine back to civilization if she’s unable to walk on her own. In fact, they’re commonly used by search-and-rescue teams to help save stranded pooches.
Below, we’ll share some of our top rescue dog harness picks, followed by our favorite ideas for rescue harness uses!
Top Picks for Dog Rescue Harnesses
There are quite a few rescue harnesses to choose from, and you’ll want to make a selection based on your intended use, your dog’s specific needs, and your budget, among other things.
Here are some of our favorites to consider:
1. Rock N Rescue Dog Harness
About: The Rock N Rescue Dog Harness is a durable rescue sling that’ll help hoist your hound out of just about any situation.
A US-made rescue harness that's made from tear-resistant nylon, comes with its own carrying case, and available in sizes suitable for most dogs.
- Available in Bright Orange for supreme visibility and Black to keep a low profile
- Available in small, medium, and large sizes (and all are the same price)
- It has 4 hooks on top to accommodate 4 removable straps for easy lifting.
- Comes with a storage bag for easy packing
- It’s made from sturdy 1000-denier material
- Sturdy buckle connectors keep your pooch secure during transport
- Made from durable, wear-resistant nylon
- Easy to pack with the included storage bag and removable straps
- Designed for professional S&R teams and made in the USA
- It’s pretty pricey
- It is no longer available in Pink, which some owners liked
2. Singing Rock Laika Dog Harness
About: If you’re looking for an easy-on, easy-off emergency harness, the Singing Rock Laika Dog Harness is a great choice. Designed with helicopter rescues in mind, this harness is more than suitable for a variety of emergency scenarios.
Designed to support dogs being lifted into helicopters, this Czech-made harness is durable and easy to put on your dog.
- Its bright orange coloring is ideal for outdoor adventures.
- The harness is one size fits all, but adjustable straps on the top and front allow you to tailor the fit to your dog’s body.
- Velcro is used on top to secure the harness with solid material and no adjustment points on the underside, adding both comfort and safety.
- Very easy to put on or take off your dog
- Though not US made, we like that it is made in Europe as opposed to China
- The bright orange color is great for high visibility
- Owners report that it is very well-made
- We’d prefer if it came in distinct sizes, rather than being one-size-fits-all
- Fits really big dogs too snuggly; really small dogs may slip out the back
- The manufacturer doesn’t provide a ton of info about the product
3. Airlift by Fido Pro – Emergency Dog Carrying Harness
About: Characterized as one of the best dog products in 2020 by Outside Magazine, the Airlift by Fido Pro – Emergency Dog Carrying Harness is a great choice for serious outdoor enthusiasts who like to bring Rover along.
A lightweight, trail-tested, US-made rescue harness that is available for less than any other rescue harness we've found.
- Available in medium, large, or extra-large sizes for dogs ranging from 20 to 150 pounds
- Fido Pro offers a helpful how-to video to assist you with measurements
- Can be used to carry your dog on your back or with handles over her back
- Sold with a convenient packing bag and is easy to fold up for transportation
- Made in Colorado
- Owners rave about the versatility of this rescue sling
- Easy to pack, store, and carry on the trail
- Trail-tested and pup-approved
- There were some comfort complaints from owners
- Features little to no padding for the dog
4. Mountain Dogware Black Rescue Harness
About: If you’d prefer a rescue dog carrier that’s made by a small, US-based company, you’ll definitely want to check out the Mountain Dogware Pack-a-Paw Rescue Harness — a uniquely-engineered option that will work wonderfully if you run into trouble with your pet.
This made-in-the-USA harness is affordable, durable and weighs less than any other rescue harness we've found on the market.
- Available in medium for 30- to 60-pound dogs and the large for dogs weighing up to 140 pounds
- It includes a carrying bag for easy storage and transport
- Comes with the harness for your dog and 2 straps for your shoulders
- Backed by the manufacturer’s lifetime guarantee
- Made in the USA
- Specifically designed for use in rugged terrain
- Easy to strap on your back
- Both sizes fit dogs of fairly different sizes, eliminating some sizing problems
- We wish the manufacturer provided more detailed instructions (and perhaps a diagram)
- The strap buckles may slide just a bit
Mountain Dogware was kind enough to send us a Pack-a-Paw Rescue Harness to try, so I wanted to share our thoughts and experiences.
Overall, I really liked it!
The Pack-a-Paw arrived tucked inside the included stuff sack, along with some instructions and basic manufacturer literature (excuse the color of the photos — this thing is BRIGHT orange, and it gave my phone fits).
It’s a pretty simple rescue harness, so it didn’t take me long to figure out how to load my doggo and get it rigged up. That said, I would have appreciated a diagram of some sort, as the instructions weren’t super elaborate.
To start, you have your dog put a leg through each of the four holes, and then you lift up the sides.
From there, you thread the straps through the built-in buckles, side them over your shoulders, and stand up. It isn’t exactly easy to stand up with a 90-pound dog strapped to you, but it wasn’t especially difficult either (and it was certainly much easier to do so with this harness than with some other models).Once standing, I was actually a bit surprised at how well it fit and supported my dog’s weight. The straps are adjustable too — you just tug on the free ends to cinch them up tighter on your shoulders.
You can wear the harness on the front of your body if you prefer, but I found that wearing it on my back was much more comfortable with my dog. It’d probably be easier to carry a small or medium-sized dog on your chest, but as always, YMMV.
The only thing I didn’t love about the harness involved the straps. The buckles impart friction on the straps to keep them from slipping while you’re wearing the harness. But I found that they would still slide a bit.
So, I’d probably knot the free ends of the straps to keep them in place.
That small issue aside, I really liked the Mountain Dogware Pack-a-Paw. It is small, lightweight, and well-built, and it was easy to put on my dog. For that matter, it was comfy to wear, and it made it reasonably easy to carry my pooch.
Were she to suffer an injury on the trail, I could definitely use this to help get her home. It’d still be tiring to haul such a big four-footer across miles and miles of rugged terrain, but I definitely could do so with this harness.
And there’s one more thing to keep in mind: Simplicity is crucial with rescue harnesses.
If you ever find yourself having to use one, you’re going to have a sick or injured pup on your hands and a long hike ahead of you. You’ll likely be a bit frazzled, and this is not the kind of time in which you’ll want to deal with an overly complicated harness.
I really liked the step-in design, and I think my dog tolerated it pretty well (I wouldn’t go as far as to say she “liked” it, but that’s not really the point — hopefully, she’ll never have to ride in it again).
Irritated puppy is irritated.
Do I recommend it? You betcha.
It’s already found a permanent spot in my pack.
5. BackTrak Dog Evacuation Kit
About: Ruffwear — one of the world’s leading harness manufacturers — has thrown their hat in the rescue-harness ring with the BackTrack Dog Evacuation Kit. Featuring a different design than most other rescue harnesses, the BackTrack Evac Kit can be worn on your chest or back, which provides additional flexibility for carrying your four-footer.
A lightweight and flexible rescue harness, which can be worn in two different ways and packs into its own built-in stuff sack.
- Can be worn on your chest or your back
- Comes with a self-contained stuff sack for packing and storage
- Connection straps are color coded
- Available in small (0.99 pounds), medium (1.1 pounds), and large (1.21 pounds)
- Includes a safety muzzle
- We like that you can wear it in front or in back
- It’s the only rescue harness we know of that comes with a muzzle
- It packs into its own built-in stuff sack, which is convenient
- It’s not very comfortable for dogs or humans
- Despite the color-coded straps, it’s quite complicated and tricky to rig up
- The included muzzle isn’t a bad idea, but basket-style muzzles are safer
Ruffwear was kind enough to send us the BackTrak, so we tried it out with some of our pups.
It arrived already tucked away neatly in its built-in stuff sack.
And here it is unfolded. You can see the color-coded straps and buckles, as well as the included muzzle.
There’s a bit of set-up involved in using this harness.
You need to start by putting it on yourself and cinching up the straps to achieve a good fit. After doing that, you can take it back off and put it on your dog. Once your dog is wearing it, you can sorta climb back into it yourself.
From there, you just stand up and start hiking out of the wilderness.
In theory, anyway.
As it turns out, I wasn’t a huge fan of the BackTrak.
I felt like the straps were overly complicated, despite the color coding. I actually got pretty frustrated while trying to get my pupper harnessed-up.
And this was before gravity entered the chat.
I’m in decent shape, never skip leg day (OK, usually don’t skip leg day), and hike more than 1,000 miles a year. But I found it pretty difficult to get my pooch up off the ground. And once I did manage to, it was really hard to walk around.
I tried it both ways, but neither worked very well.
I felt like the harness fit on my chest and back when it was empty, but once it was loaded with a dog, it seemed to ride really low. The straps also kept trying to slide off my shoulders while wearing my coat.
I was able to kind of shuffle around with it, but I couldn’t just walk normally. It would undoubtedly help me get an injured pup off the trail, but it wouldn’t be easy. I’d likely need to stop and rest pretty often.
My experience aside, I don’t really think my dog liked it much better. She accepted that this was happening, but she just wished it would be over (as you can undoubtedly tell by her expression in the photos above).
I clearly didn’t like the harness, but maybe I was an outlier.
So, because we wanted to be sure we were fair in our assessment, I sent it off to K9 of Mine CEO Megan Marrs to try with her pooch Remy.
Meg didn’t love it, but she liked it a lot more than I did.
Remy is a bit smaller than my gals (he’s about 60 pounds), so maybe that helped.
In fact, if you look at Ruffwear’s marketing photos, most of the dogs appear to be in the medium-sized range as opposed to big ‘ol puppers like mine.
It’s also possible that Meg just achieved a better fit — it looks to me like the harness pulled down farther on my torso than it did for her. But I’m not sure how much higher I could have worn it and still managed to get the girls off the ground; I’d have needed to get my chest/back even lower to the ground when trying to lift them.
Ultimately, we came away thinking that the BackTrak would make it easier to get an injured dog safely out of the backcountry. But that doesn’t mean it would be easy.
We absolutely love that you can let your dog ride on front or in back — if nothing else, that would provide a nice way to alternate the muscle groups you’re using on a long trek. We also love that it packs down into its own compartment and is pretty light.
But it is probably best-suited for small or medium dogs.
Situations in Which a Rescue Harness May Help
Rescue harnesses are valuable in a variety of situations and circumstances. A few of the situations in which a rescue harness may be a huge help include:
1. Hiking or Camping Trips
For the adventurous types who spend many weekends hiking with their pup, a rescue dog harness is an essential piece of equipment. If your dog ends up with an injury and needs to be transported over a long distance, you’ll be grateful for the help from a harness.
If you’re a frequent hiker, also make sure to check out our guides to the best dog hiking harnesses as well as the top tents for camping with dogs!
2. Escaping Fires
Nobody wants to think about a house fire or other disaster potentially harming our furbabies, but it’s best to be prepared beforehand, just in case. A dog rescue harness could be a huge help if you need to get your pooch out of your home quickly.
Plus, it’ll give you peace of mind just to have it on hand.
3. Helping an Injured Dog Get Around
From natural aging to injury, some dogs need help standing, walking, and getting around.
Rescue dog harnesses are a popular choice among owners whose pets need a lift every now and then. While lift harnesses are ideal for these occasions, a rescue harness will get the job done in a pinch.
4. Search & Rescue Professionals
Search and rescue professionals are clearly among those who should have rescue harnesses for dogs.
Hopefully, the municipality or organization you work for already has an assortment of them at the ready, but if not, be sure to speak with your supervisor and encourage him or her to outfit your unit with these potentially dog-life-saving tools.
Other Important Safety Equipment for Outdoor Adventuring Doggos
Outdoor adventures with your canine require plenty of packing and planning. It’s best to be a good boy or girl scout and come prepared, especially when your pooch is involved.
Don’t forget to pack these essential items for your next excursion:
- Bring along a dog-tailored first aid kit, just in case your pup encounters a minor injury.
- You should always have your dog securely leashed or tethered when you’re not in an enclosed area, but accidents happen and it’s easy for a dog to get lost in the woods. That’s why it’s always a good idea to use a dog GPS tracker to help you keep tabs on your dog if you get separated.
- Long walks in the woods mean jagged rocks, precarious plants, and unpleasant insects. A set of dog booties will help keep your pup’s paws safe.
- While it may seem warm and sunny during the day, temperatures can take a tumble at night — bring along a sweater or coat for your dog, just in case.
- Help keep your canine hydrated with a dog-friendly water bottle — many are specifically tailored to help your dog get a good gulp when he’s away from his typical water bowl.
I ran into a situation a while back in which a rescue harness would have been extremely helpful.
I actually have two doggos: Willow, the Pyr in the photos above, and J.B., a little Rottie.
The rescue harness we tested was a large, which was suitable for Willow, but technically too large for J.B.
So, to be fair to the brand, I only included the photos and experiences involved with Willow above.
At any rate, J.B. and I were walking at a local park one day, when an off-leash dog ran up and immediately attacked her.
I managed to get the dogs separated fairly quickly, but J.B. was bitten on the front leg in the process.
She seemed fine (if frazzled), so we left that park and headed to a different trail to complete her daily exercise and enrichment routine. This trail was a fairly remote, out-and-back style trail in the middle of a national forest.
Admittedly, I probably should have been more cautious about embarking on another hike after the fight, but again, she seemed fine physically. Also, I really wanted to give us both the chance to decompress a bit after the altercation.
Well, about a mile into the hike, she began limping. I looked at her leg, and it’d begun swelling. Badly.
I immediately turned around and started bringing her back. Everything turned out fine, we made it back to the car, dropped by the vet and picked up some antibiotics and pain meds. She was back to normal in no time.
But this experience did make me realize the importance of carrying a rescue harness during hikes. I could have carried her, but it wouldn’t have been fun, easy, or quick — I’d certainly have needed to stop and rest several times.
If we’d been 5 miles deep on a trail somewhere, it could have been a very big problem.
From fun outdoor adventures to actual rescues, the rescue harness is an essential piece of equipment to have on hand. Does your canine have her own rescue harness? What do you use it for?
Let us know in the comments!
July 10, 2021
We’re any of these actually tested in the field by the author or just “web reviewed” with Amazon links?
How did they perform when you tested each one with your dog?
July 12, 2021
Hey there, S.L.
We did not perform hands-on testing of these devices (thankfully!), but we thoroughly researched each and collected information from a variety of sources to help owners select the best one for their situation.