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Streamlined and durable, the Ruffwear Singletrack is our favorite dog backpack for hiking adventures in the South. Two water bottles, a large carrying handle, four zippered pockets and a great fit make this our dog pack of choice.

Jake is our four-legged hiking buddy on our adventures throughout the South: he’s unquenchably inquisitive, energetic, and loves a good hike or camping trip. He’s a labrador retriever rescue, and his energy is seemingly unlimited: he’ll bound down the trail, pulling on the leash, always eager to get around the bend to reach the next thing to sniff. Several years ago, we researched the best trail-worthy dog backpacks and tried a few out on the trail for size. And after some time on the trail, we settled on our favorite: the streamlined but functional Ruffwear Singletrak dog pack.

Top dog backpacks: the Ruffwear Singletrak is streamlined in design and includes four pockets and two water bottles, perfect for day hikes in the South

Why a hike with a dog backpack?

Before purchasing the Singletrak, we kept Jake’s water bottle and collapsible dog dish in our backpacks. But after asking our trainer for some advice on slowing Jake down on the trail, she recommended a dog backpack, not so much for the weight of the pack, but to give him a ‘job’ to do on the trail. And we love to hike with hydration packs: we love the convenience of sipping from our Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir without stopping to dig our water bottles out of our backpacks. So a dog hiking pack seemed to be a great idea, as a place to store Jake’s water and dish, and a ‘job’ to help keep him focused on the trail.

Our trail-tested Ruffwear dog backpack review

Since our needs were simple, we weren’t for Jake to carry much, other than some water and and his ultralight Ruffwear Bivy Bowl. The Singletrak is a perfect fit: it’s thoughtfully designed, durable, fits Jake perfectly, and it doesn’t shift when he’s on the move. The pack is well padded, and its adjustment system fits snug, so it doesn’t cause chafing or rub marks, even on a long hike.

Our favorite dog backpack: the Ruffwear Singletrak features a snug-fitting harness that prevents chafing and rubbing, even on long hikes and backpacking adventures

The Singletrak’s design is very streamlined and low-profile, a feature that scored high for us. Many of our favorite trails are single-track, carved into the side of a ridge or tunneling through dense vegetation on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia or chasing our favorite waterfalls near Asheville, NC. The backpack contours close to Jake’s body, still offering plenty of room to store water, a snack, and a dog dish without the bulk of most other dog packs. And looks great, too.

The backpack includes two half-liter hydration bottles which stow easily in the pack’s four pockets. Each side of the pack has a larger pocket for the hydration bottles and a smaller pocket for small gear. The hydration bottles have pop-up squirt tops, making it easy to fill Jake’s water bowl evenly from both at the same time; for the best fit, we keep the pack’s weight balanced and empty the water bottles evenly.

Ruffwear Singletrak review: our favorite dog backpack includes a large carrying handle, four pockets, and two water bottles for easy canine hydration on the trail

Adjusting the Singletrak is easy: the belly and chest straps are padded for comfort, and they snugly keep the pack from sliding when Jake is bounding down the trail. Snap-on fasteners make it add or remove the pack once it’s adjusted.

The backpack includes a large, easy-grip handle on the top of the pack, perfect for helping Jake scramble over large rocks or fallen trees on the trail. The pack has a leash attachment loop, too, for easy leash clip-in. To help control Jake’s energy, we added a carabiner clip to the Singletrak, paired with our favorite Slackline Leash, and attach the leash to the handle on the backpack. This helps prevent tangles on the trail and the leash getting caught between his legs and adds a bit of extra control when his energy bursts. (SQUIRREL!!!)

Our favorite dog backpack, the Ruffwear Singletrak features an easy-clip leash loop and a large carrying handle for help in scrambling over large rocks and fallen trees when we're hiking or trail running

We’ve hiked hundreds of miles in this pack, and it’s still looking new. The pack’s shell material dries fast and cleans easily, perfect for our water-loving dog that enjoys an occasional mud puddle.

Ruffwear Singletrak dog backpack: review wrap-up

There’s not much that we don’t love about this dog pack. The backpack seems comfortable: Jake doesn’t seem to notice he’s wearing it. If he becomes hot or tired, the pack is small enough to clip to our own backpacks with a carabiner for the rest of the hike. And keeping Jake hydrated on the trail is easy with this pack. It’ll be with us for many adventures to come.

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Eric Champlin

Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails, and Trailful, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures and top Southern-worthy outdoor gear. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.