The Best Harness for Hiking with Your Dog

Dogs make the best hiking companions. Their zest for adventure, companionship, and willingness to go wherever you go is inspiring. My dogs inspire me to get out and explore the beauty of the world around me. If you enjoy hiking with your dog, then you may be on the lookout for the best harness for hiking with your dog.

For those who are not wanting to read an entire blog post and are just looking for a recommendation, the Ruffwear Flagline Harness is my pick for the best overall hiking harness for dogs.

↓↓ Best Hiking Harness for Dogs ↓↓

For those ready to purchase a harness without reading more, you can purchase the Ruffwear Flagline harness at several online retailers. You can find the Flagline Harness for sale at the links below. (All 3 links are affiliate links and I will earn with qualifying purchases. I am an Amazon and Avantlink -Ruffwear & REI- affiliate.)

Alright, now for those of you who actually want to read a little more about what to look for in a dog hiking harness, discover some of the other hiking harnesses currently on the marker, delve into a brief overview of how the Flagline compares to other harnesses on the market, and discuss why I chose the Flagline as the best hiking harness… then you’re in luck. The rest of this blog post is for you.

Important Features of a Hiking Harness

While harnesses designed for hiking can also work great as an everyday harness, there are a few important features that set harnesses designed for hiking apart from the everyday dog harness on the shelves of every pet store.

Full Body Harnesses with a Belly Strap

If you are choosing a harness for hiking adventures, I highly recommend choosing a full-body harness. For the purposes of my blog posts, a full-body harness just means a harness with 3 “straps” – one around the collar area, one behind the armpits of the dog, and one around the dog’s waist.

A lot of classic harnesses only have straps around the collar area and behind the armpits. But adding a third strap around the waist makes a harness a lot more secure and allows weight to be more evenly distributed when lifting or assisting the dog.

For example, ever try to pull a dog out of a river with a classic harness? Often, it’s a gamble on whether you will get your dog onto the shoreline before they slide out of their harness. A full-body harness, when adjusted and fit correctly, prevents your dog from slipping out of the harness backward.

If you are curious about the fit of differences of some full-body harnesses, you can read my post comparison post “Full Body Harnesses Fit Comparison for Ruffwear’s Switchbak, Flagline, and Web Master” or you can head over to Robin Ventures website to see a comparison of the Flagline, Web Master, Hurrta’s Trail Harness, and Ground Bird Gear’s Harness.

I will also discuss these harnesses briefly at the end of this blog post. But because of the safety concerns that can occur if a dog slips out of his or her harness on the trail (like sliding back when being lifted or slipping out of the harness and running if startled), all harnesses that are included in this post are full-body (3 strap) harnesses.

Handle to help Lift and Assist Dog over Difficult Terrain

In addition to being a full-body harness, every good hiking harness should have an easy-to-grab handle that you can use to assist your dog over rough terrain. I don’t use the handle on Glia’s harnesses often, but it can really come in handy.

Glia has fallen into a river with a steep bank before. The handle made it easy to pull her out.

Additionally, I will bring Glia along on terrain that requires a short scramble or ascent or descent of a short ladder. By holding the handle on Glia’s hiking harnesses, I can make sure she ascends easily and descends slowly to help prevent injury.

The video below shows the handles on some of Ruffwear’s harnesses in action.

Secure Leash Attachment Points

Whether your dog typically hikes on leash or off-leash, there will be times when every dog needs to be attached to a leash. As a result, it is important for a hiking harness to have sturdy and durable leash attachment points.

Rugged and Easily Washable

A hiking harness will be exposed to dirt, mud, snow, burrs, branches, and more during its lifetime. It needs to hold up to abrasion from trees and bushes and be easy to throw in the washing machine in between hikes. Bonus points for a quick-drying harness.

Adjustable Fit

When choosing a harness for your dog, it is important to pick a harness that you can adjust to fit your dog well. You want a hiking harness to fit nicely along your dog’s torso and waist. Not tight and not baggy, like a good pair of pants. Choosing a harness with multiple points of adjustment can help you get a good fit from the harness.

Multiple points of adjustment also help the harness fit over sweaters in the winter. They also help keep the harness fitting well if your dog gains or loses weight.

Allows Full Range of Motion

A final item to consider when choosing the best harness for your dog is to ensure that whatever harness you choose allows for a full range of motion of your dog’s shoulder joint. Just like wearing a tight or poorly fitted jacket can reduce your ability to fully use your arms, a harness that is right near or over the shoulder joint can restrict the movement of your dog’s front legs.

Dog’s carry about 60% of their body weight in their front legs, so it is important that they can use their front legs naturally even while wearing a harness.

Even a properly fitted harness can cause restriction in forelimb extension. There are several studies on this, but this one by M Pilar Lafuente, Laura Provis, Emily Anne Schmalz is a nice one. So the goal is to fit the harness a well as possible to reduce the impact wearing a harness has on your dog. If there is restriction across the shoulder joint, you will restrict your dog further.

Below you can see Glia in her Switchbak harness on the left and in her Flagline on the right. In these photos, the Switchbak is well adjusted to give her shoulder room to move, while the Flagline needs to be tightened around her neck to keep the strap further away from her shoulder joint. (Shoulder joint is the white circled area in the pictures below.)

In the next photo, you can see Glia in motion in her Switchbak harness. You can see that her shoulder joint extends up to just touch the harness neck strap. Ideally, this strap would sit just a little further from her shoulder joint to help allow full range of motion.

For more information on how a harness’s fit affects a dog’s gait, check out the information in my blog post “3 Tips for Choosing the Best Harness for Your Dog’s Next Adventure.”

Best Dog Hiking Harnesses in 2021/2022

There are a lot of dog harnesses to choose from these days. But the following harnesses are all worth a look.

If you know of another full-body harness on the market that would be a good option for hiking with your dog, please let us know. I am always looking to add more options to my blog posts.

Why the Flagline is my favorite dog hiking harness

All of the harnesses listed above are good harnesses. And they each have their pros and cons. But for general everyday hiking, the Flagline is my go-to harness for both of my dogs.

The Flagline is more breathable and lighter weight than the Ruffwear Web Master or the Ruffwear Switchbak, making it better for year round use.

Although before I had the Flagline, I used the Web Master for year-round hiking, now I typically leave my dog’s Web Master adjusted to fit over her sweaters in the winter. And I use the Switchbak in cooler weather when I want Glia to be able to carry her own poop bags out of the woods. You’ve got to love those pockets.

But since Glia is a black dog and can overheat easily in the summer heat, I like her to wear the lightest harness for summer hiking. So for the majority of our big hiking season, we use the Flagline.

Below is a quick comparison of the three Ruffwear hiking harnesses.

Moving on to comparing the Flagline to some of the other harnesses on my list, the Flagline harness is very similar to the Groundbird Gear Harness. Personally, I like the single-handle parallel to the dog’s spine on the Flagline more than the two handles perpendicular to the dogs spine of the Groundbird Gear Harness. But, the Groundbird Gear Trekking pack system is hands down the best dog backpacking system on the market.

And since I haven’t personally tried the Haqihana or Alpha Pak harnesses yet, I can’t tell you if they are better or worse than the Flagline. I like the idea of the Haqihana as it is a simple, minimal contact harness that shouldn’t affect a dog’s normal body movement much. But the Haqihana doesn’t have a handle.

As for the Alpha Pak harness, it looks a lot like the Ruffwear Web Master, just in more fun colors.

So that makes the Flagline Harness the best all-around, everyday dog hiking harness currently on the market.

You can purchase the Flagline harness at any of the online retailers below:


Kate is the writer of Pawsitively Intrepid. She has spent the last 9 years working full-time as a veterinarian, treating dogs and cats. But as of June 2023, she is taking a year to travel with her dog, volunteer, and work on some passion projects.

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