Last Updated on 27/08/2023
Which is the Best Dog Leash for Hiking?
The best dog leashes for hiking may differ depending on your breed and how well-trained your dog is. Climbing rope dog leads are the strongest, which makes them very safe for hiking rough trails. Extendable dog leashes for hiking allow untrained dogs to run around while still being kept under control. Hands-free dog leashes are perfect for hiking as you still have both hands free for balance and support.
There is nothing quite like seeing your dog running through the wilderness, enjoying itself in its natural environment, but sometimes you need to keep your dog under close control. This list of the best dog leashes for hiking will hopefully give you some ideas for lightweight, compact, and durable designs.
Hiking with your dog is a fantastic way to spend any day of the week, and I cannot think of anything else I would rather be doing right now. Some breeds of dogs are better suited to hiking than others, so always do some research into your dog’s abilities or ask a vet about suitable distances. A comfortable collar or dog harness is also key to giving your dog the best experience while hiking.
If you already have a decent 6-foot leash or Flexi-lead you are comfortable using for hiking, then there is no need to change it. If you want a leash specifically for outdoor pursuits or if you are in need of a replacement, then check out these top 10 best dog leashes for hiking for the most reliable and safe options.
10 Best Leashes for Hiking with Dogs
- WEIGHT: 5.6 oz / 160 g
- LENGTH: 5 ft / 1.5 m
- MATERIAL: Kernmantle Polypropylene climbing rope, Screw-gate carabiner
The Ruffwear Knot-a-Leash is a tough and secure leash inspired by climbers that is suitable for all medium to XXL sized dogs. If the rope is strong enough to abseil off a cliff then it should just about be strong enough for the largest Great Dane or strongest Husky. The screwgate carabiner keeps in theme with the climbing rope dog leash but also means you can reliably secure your dog without the worry of escape.
This is not only the best dog leash for hiking, but it is also the best leash for everyday dog walking full stop. It is very secure for big dogs and not too heavy for smaller dogs, and it is our go-to leash when out on a hike with the dogs.
RuffWear Ridgeline Leash
- WEIGHT: 1.7 oz / 48 g
- LENGTH: 2.5 – 4.25 ft / 0.75 – 1.3 m
- MATERIAL: Ruffwear’s Wavelength™ 15 mm stretch webbing
The Ruffwear Ridgeline Leash is a minimalist and lightweight option for keeping your dog at heel while hiking. Ruffwear’s Wavelength™ stretchy webbing absorbs shock and allows your dog those precious extra milliseconds to sniff the grass before they have to come back to heel. Perfect for keeping in your pocket while your dog stretches its legs across the fields and then putting them back on while passing through lands of livestock or nesting birds.
The Ridgeline Leash is our 2nd place winner of the best dog leash for hiking awards. The features that make this a good leash for adventures in the mountains are its flex, solid attachment clip, and comfortable handle. Highly recommended for big dogs that pull.
Mendota Slip Lead
- WEIGHT: 6.3 oz / 180 g
- LENGTH: 6 ft / 1.8 m
- MATERIAL: Waterproof polypropylene rope, oil-tanned leather
The Mendota Slip Lead is a fast and easy all-in-one for dogs who don’t wear a collar. They require skill and experience to use for training purposes, but if your dog does not pull, then you might find this leash perfect for hiking. Always go for a thicker slip lead of about 1/2″ as opposed to a thinner one where possible, as they perform better and are more comfortable to use.
The Mendota Slip Lead is something I always keep in the car as a spare. It came in handy when I found an abandoned dog on the highway and I have used it on hikes many times. The slip lead is super easy to quickly slip over your dog’s head when approaching livestock, traffic, or other dogs and then take off just as fast. Bright-colored dog leads are the best for hikers. Just in case you drop it is easy to find.
*Side note – I recommend always using a collar with an identification tag while hiking as well as having your pet microchipped beforehand.
Flexi Giant Tape Leash
- WEIGHT: 15.4 oz / 436 g (medium 26 ft)
- LENGTH: 26 ft / 8 m
- MATERIAL: Nylon webbing, tough plastic housing
The Flexi Giant Tape Leash is super long and comes in 4 different sizes for different breeds/weights of dogs and is ideal for dogs that you can’t trust off-leash. The retractable style leash allows your dog lots of freedom to roam without you constantly having to pick up the slack line. The webbed tape is incredibly robust, and the buttons are all well-defined for ease of use and better control.
Flexi leashes don’t offer as much control as a simple rope leash, but they are great for certain types of dogs. If your dog doesn’t come back when you call, then this allows you to be real them in for training. If you want the length of a training leash without the hassle, then definitely check this one out.
Primal Pet Gear 2 Handle Leash
- WEIGHT: 6.4 oz / 181 g
- LENGTH: 1 ft or 8 ft / 0.3 m – 2.4 m
- MATERIAL: HD stitched nylon
The Primal Pet Gear dual handle dog leash offers more control than maybe any other dog walking leash on this list. One padded handle at the end of the leash (8 ft) and another one close to the clip (1 ft) allow you to go from casual walking to up-close control in an instant. The double-handle design may not be necessary for some people, but if you worry about your dog’s behavior, then the more control you have, the better.
The Primal Pet Gear Dual Handle Leash is awesome for fast and reliable dog control at two separate lengths. If you need to keep your dog close to your heel, you simply take hold of the second handle, which now gives you twice the grip. As soon as your dog is ok to gain more slack, you just let go with your second hand and keep walking – genius.
RuffWear Slackline Leash
- WEIGHT: 4.8 oz / 136 g
- LENGTH: 3.5 – 6 ft / 1.1 – 1.8 m
- MATERIAL: Tubelok webbing, Talon Clip™ attachment
The Ruffwear Slackline Leash is an adjustable-length dog leash that can be worn around your waist hands-free or held in one hand like a regular leash. The adjustability is great for going from relaxed walks to bustling country towns with traffic and lots going on. The padded handle is super comfortable for long walks, and the adjustable clip allows you to tie your dog to a post while you nip into a shop or have a pub lunch.
The Ruffwear Slackline lead is the best dog leash for jogging and trail hiking, hands-free. The adjustable handle is super comfy to hold with a padded handle but quickly converts into a waist belt whenever you want. A great design that makes sense for hikers with dogs that want a multi-function leash.
Flexi Vario Tape Leash
- WEIGHT: 16 oz / 455 g (medium 16 ft)
- LENGTH: 16 ft / 5 m (also available in a large 26 ft option)
- MATERIAL: Nylon webbing, tough plastic housing
The Flexi Vario Tape extendable is a user-friendly leash that is compact and customizable. The intuitive design allows you to easily put on the brakes with an ergonomic soft grip handle. There are some interesting add-ons, such as an LED side light, soft stop extension, led flashing extension, and poo bag/treat box, which sits snugly under the grip. It may come across as high-tech, but the Vario series is very reliable, and trail tested.
This is a better retractable leash for small dogs than the Flexi Giant Tape Leash and is probably better for hiking as it is smaller and more lightweight.
Chai’s Choice Reflective Adventure Leash
- WEIGHT: 6.4 oz / 180 g
- LENGTH: 6.5 ft / 1.8 m
- MATERIAL: Padded nylon webbed mesh with 3M reflective strips
Chai’s Choice Reflective Adventure Leash is bright, lightweight, and comfortable for dog and owner on hikes. The 3M Scotchlite reflective material makes sure you can be seen in the dark, and the bright orange color means it is easy to find if you drop it on the trail. The webbed mesh is extremely strong and dries out fast if it gets wet. Available in two different sizes and five colors in the link below.
Suppose you are the type of person who has lost their dog’s leash on a hike more than once. Then a bright orange color is what you need. The fact that it has reflective strips as well means you could even find it in the dark. Great for night walking as you are highly visible to cars, and it helps to keep your dog safe.
Mexvell Leash with Unbreakable Carabiner
- WEIGHT: 5.6 oz / 160 g
- LENGTH: 6 ft / 1.8 m
- MATERIAL: 100% Pure woven nylon
The Mexvell Dog Leash with an unbreakable carabiner is designed to stay securely attached to your dog’s collar until it is time to take it off, and not before. The tough woven nylon is built for heavy-duty use with big dogs, but because it is so lightweight, it works just as well for small dogs. A reinforced handle provides a comfortable grip, and so this dog leash is ideal for walking strong dogs in the mountains.
Leash Boss Long Trainer Leash
- WEIGHT: 8.8 oz / 250 g
- LENGTH: 15 ft / 4.5 m (also available in 20 ft, 30 ft, and 50 ft)
- MATERIAL: High-quality USA woven nylon
The Leashboss Long Trainer is a tough and durable training lead that allows your dog plenty of freedom but still has lots of handler control. Although the leash is quite bulky, it rolls up nicely with a fastener strap and only weighs .25 kg. Ideal for training hikes when you are teaching a new dog the rules, and there is no better leash to use at campsites.
Types of Hiking Dog Leash
There are a few standard options to choose from, and they have their use, so pick which works best for you.
Standard Dog Leash
Typically 6 feet long with a comfortable handle and strong clip/carabiner attachment made from nylon or leather. standard dog leashes are often cheap and don’t last very long, but for the most part, they are fine. Read our guide further down on what you can look for.
Training leashes are ideal for hiking and camping because they allow your dog the freedom to roam at camp. The downside is they are quite bulky and can get easily tangled on hikes. They are generally made from tough nylon webbing and can range from 3 meters to almost 30 meters. Not only are they an essential puppy training tool, but they come in handy all the time when you have a dog.
Slip leashes may be considered harsh by some but are very effective training tools for dogs that pull – if used correctly. For well-behaved dogs who don’t wear a collar, then a slip leash is a fast and easy way to hike with your dog. Some knowledge or training is required to use these correctly but once mastered, you can teach any dog not to pull with some well-timed tugs and commands.
While Flexi-leashes don’t offer hardly any control, they are great for well-behaved dogs and are something I use a lot. For hiking, I recommend only the solid webbed kind and not the thin cordage kind. The reason for this is that you have a lack of control and run the risk of getting some serious rope burn if you accidentally grab the cord.
Stretchy or elasticated leashes offer comfort to both the dog and owner by reducing the ability to jolt one another. The resistance in a stretchy leash may help tire your dog out faster than normal as they are now battling the forces of physics as well as your muscles. These stretchy dog leashes can be ok for hiking, but the lack of control means your dog should be fairly well-mannered.
Hands-Free Leashes will work great for small dogs and well-trained medium-sized dogs but may not be ideal for hiking adventures. If you still value the hands-free option, then why not add a climbing carabiner to any regular leash handle to attach to your belt or backpack? These leashes are great for joggers, and they can work well for hiking too. Be wary of doing this with big dogs for obvious reasons.
Choosing the Best Dog Leash for Hiking
For trails with other people/dogs/wildlife/farm stock on them, I would recommend a standard 6-foot long leash nine times out of ten. They are possibly the most reliable type of dog leash for hiking and give you lots of hand control in close quarters.
The handle or grip of a dog leash should be comfortable and not dig into your hand if your dog pulls. Padded handles are the best and often feature some kind of spongy material that feels soft and forgiving. The worst type of dog leash handle for hiking is a thin one that is neither comfortable nor secure.
The length of dog leash you use when walking depends on your own preference as well as the type of dog and how well-trained it is. Puppies and dog’s being trained benefit from longer leashes that allow them to roam a little while always being under control. Dogs that are well-behaved or well-trained will be better with a short leash that can be easily taken off and stored in your pocket when not needed.
The bigger and stronger breed of dog you have, the stronger your leash needs to be when trekking. This is especially true for dogs that pull but are not irrelevant for even the most well-behaved dog. On the other hand, you might have a small dog that likes to chew its leash, in which case you’ll want something durable just so they last more than a few months.
Perhaps the most important feature of any dog leash is the attachment clip and how secure it is. The simple snap closure you see on standard dog ropes is perfectly fine, so long as the spring doesn’t break. The most secure type of dog leash clip is the screwgate carabiner that operates with a thing and screw mechanism for double safety.
How heavy a dog leash is matters only if you have a small dog that would literally be weighed down by a big carabiner or burley climbing rope. It can make a difference to your pack weight if you are counting grams, and a light leash is better for carrying in your pocket, but we feel like the weight is the last priority, if at all.
6 Tips for Hiking with Older Dogs
Hiking with your dog can and should be an enjoyable experience for both owner and hound. As dogs get older, like people, they slow down and can’t run like they used to. This doesn’t mean they ever want to miss the chance of an adventure, and so there are more than a few ways to still include them.
- Sticking to your dog’s pace – I don’t mean stopping for 5 minutes to thoroughly investigate every marking post or rabbit warren. Just understand that your dog cannot go as fast as it used to – don’t get frustrated; instead, use the extra time you have to take in the scenery and smell the roses.
- Avoid hiking in the full heat of the day – Some breeds of dogs cannot regulate their heat very well; check the weather forecast, do your research, or speak to a vet before any long walks. Try not to hike during the mid-day heat, and monitor your dog for heat exhaustion if it is hot.
- Plan hikes with lots of water sources – Always have plenty of water at hand for regular doggy pit stops, or even better – plan a hike that follows or crosses streams along the way. Cooling down is just as important as staying hydrated, but cold water can also help reduce stiffness after the walk.
- Shorter loops instead of big hikes – Circling a lake or the base of a mountain can make excellent routes for older dogs and avoids steep gradients, which your dog doesn’t find as easy as they used to.
- Allow for plenty of recovery time – Taking the time to let your dog catch its breath back is important but it is even more important to allow your older dogs to recover after a long hike. This can often take a few days, so don’t expect them to run marathons every day like they used to.
- Check for ticks when you get home – This goes for dogs of all ages, and it is also a good idea to check their paws as well as their ears for grass seeds and sticky buds.
Things You Need for Hiking with Your Dog
You don’t need to pack much extra stuff when hiking with your dog, but here are some of the essentials.
- Reliable Dog Leash – You don’t necessarily need the very best dog leashes for hiking, but they should be strength tested with a quality fastener.
- Dog Collar / Harness – Check out our guide to the best dog collar for hiking.
- Water and Bowl – Check out the Ruffwear Bivy Dog Bowl for a portable dog bowl.
- Food and Treats – A bag of biscuits, some treats, and an ultra special reward for the end of the day.
- Poo Bags – These little dispensers can hold up to 50 bags and will dangle from the leash handle or on your backpack for fast access.
- First Aid Kit – Check this out, Adventure Medical Kits make a specialist dogs series.
If you are thinking of spending a night or more in the wild, then take a look at our guide on what to take when camping with dogs
How Long Should a Dog Leash Be for Hiking?
Depending on your height and the size of your dog, a 3 – 6 foot leash is a good length to keep your dog under control on a trail. If you can rarely let your dog off-leash, then using an extendable leash gives them some freedom to explore scents and burn a bit of energy. There are no state or federal laws on how long a dog leash should be for hiking, so just use one that is comfortable for you and your dog.
Are Retractable Leashes Good for Hiking?
Retractable leashes are great for hiking with dogs who cannot be let off the leash. You can keep your dog close by when there are other dogs, people, traffic, etc, around, and then when it is safe to do so, let them have the full length of the extendable line. Some people may tell you that retractable leashes don’t give you any control, which is partially true, but if you are sensible about it, extendable leads are a fantastic tool for hiking with dogs.
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