Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack Review

Tom’s Review of the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack:

We have a Norwegian Elkhound named Freya that loves to spend time with us in the outdoors. She has a ton more energy than both my wife and I have combined so we decided we should get her a dog backpack so she can start carrying her own weight while on longer hikes. This way I don’t have to carry all of her gear and she uses more of her endless energy.

Purchase the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack on Amazon

Ruffwear Approach


When looking for a dog backpack there were many options. We decided on the Ruffwear Approach for the following reasons.

  1. There is a handle on the top of the backpack that allows us to help our dog over obstacles. This was by far the biggest reason we got the backpack because our dog is too quick to catch unless there is something to grab onto. She also hates being picked up in the air and fights me whenever I try to lift her. With the backpack, she is easy to catch and she doesn’t mind if I lift her completely off the ground to help her over an obstacle.
  2. Comfortable harness system for the dog to carry the pack.
  3. The Approach holds the weight of the pack over the shoulders of the dog, which is where the dog is the strongest. This also helps your dog avoid hip dysplasia.
  4. The pack is attached to the harness. A lot of people have said this is a negative thing but for me it was very important. Our dog spends a lot of time off leash when we are hiking and she runs through all sorts of stuff. If the pack could come off, I’d be worried she would lose it.
  5. I’ve noticed our dog is much better on hikes when she is wearing the backpack with a few pounds in it. I’m not sure if she no longer has energy to misbehave or if she enjoys her new found role of responsibility in carrying her own water, but she stays much closer to us and is less likely to wander around causing problems.
  6. The pack still allows us access to her collar so we can keep her on leash rather than attaching the leash to the backpack.

Purchase the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack on Amazon

Dog Backpack Review

There are a few things about the backpack that I don’t really care for:

  1. The backpack is not waterproof so we need to be careful what we put in her pack and what we carry in ours. Since she is always hitting into trees, rocks and even our legs we need to be careful nothing breakable goes in the pack either.
  2. My dog gets much hotter when she is wearing the pack. We have a winter dog so she is always hot unless it is below freezing, but I need to keep a closer eye on her when she is wearing the pack for signs of heat exhaustion. We also need to be sure the weather is going to be cool enough for her to carry the backpack.
  3. We have probably put about 100 miles or so on this backpack and it is starting to show major signs of wear. I doubt we will get another 100 miles out of the pack. I am not sure if that is due to the material the pack is made out of or our dog’s inability to learn how wide the pack is from her body. We also have taken her through some serious terrain (slot canyons, overgrown trails, deserts and mountains) so that could lead to the backpack wearing faster than normal.
  4. I can’t say my dog enjoys having the backpack put on. I don’t think she hates the pack, I think she just hates that she now has to carry something and will be warmer. She always sits around and pouts when we are still at home after I’ve put the pack on her. However once we get to the trailhead she seems to hardly notice the backpack.
  5. The saddle setup makes it a little difficult to keep the weight evenly distributed. Every time we stop to let our dog take a drink, we have to pull out both water bottles from her pack and make sure we give her about the same amount from each so the pack doesn’t end up lopsided. This is a problem with all saddle type backpacks.

Purchase the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack on Amazon

Reviews of Dog Backpack

Overall, we are very pleased with the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack. When our current one wears out we will definitely get a new one to replace it (I think that is a good sign for a product). The backpack does come in 5 sizes, so be sure to get the right size for your dog. Dogs should not carry more than 25% of their body weight and really, I think they should work up to that, just as you would train for a backpacking trip.

Let us know what you think of the Ruffwear Approach or how your dog carries their gear on hikes. Also, don’t forget to sign up for the Travel Tom’s Newsletter by submitting your e-mail in the bar above.