Best Dog Leashes for Hiking and Several to Avoid!

Looking to hike or backpack with your pup and wondering what the best leash is?! You’ve come to the right spot with this list of the top 3 best dog leashes, several to avoid and reasons why.

woman smiling and hiking with black dog on leash
Practicing what I preach! You’ll rarely see me without this brown leather leash. (Note: this post contains affiliate links where I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! Thank you!)

As an avid New England hiker who only wants to go if my dog can come too, I understand the need to want your best friend out there with you! 🥾🐶

I’ve been hiking with my dogs for 2 decades now and my most recent dog, Captain, has been the one who’s benefited the most as my hiking habit and knowledge, have only increased over the years. (Click here for more of our story and a post I wrote on how to start hiking with your dog!)

So, you’re here because you want to share the joy of hiking with your pup and create a bond as you do. And though he/she can’t say it, they want to go too! There’s nothing better than a quiet dog in the back seat or sleeping at home after a multi-mile hike.

But you need it to be a positive experience for both of you otherwise you won’t want to do it again..

And when it comes to choosing a leash, the thing you will hold in your hand for several hours – you want to be comfortable & you must make the right choice here..

The best leash for hiking is one that will not easily slip out of your hands and will not require you to think or press buttons if you have to react quickly.

This is why my overall top leash recommendation is below: (if you don’t have time to read the whole article!)

✔️ 2 year warranty
✔️ “Amazon’s Choice”🥇 in leashes
✔️ Firm, NO-SLIP grip
✔️ Comfortable, soft feel in hand
✔️ Water-resistant

You want a leash that allows you to walk confidently and almost forget that you’re holding it in your hand. (Of course, some dogs are pullers but that’s a training issue and is different than the goal of this article. Investing in training for your dog is probably the best $$ you could ever spend though.)

So let’s get to the best leashes for hiking with your dog:

When talking about the “best leash” out there it’s not possible to have more than a few choices. When it comes to safety and comfort there’s not much room for error.

I offered my all-time favorite leash choice above and further below present 2 other options.

You’ll see in this table why there are some leashes for hiking that I will never recommend.

Types & Materials of Dog Leashes: 

Leash Type:ProsWhy I don’t recommend…
LeatherFirm no-slip grip, durable, water-resistantI have nothing bad to say about leather leashes except if your puppy likes to chew things – don’t leave it unattended!😋
RopeFun colors, durableEver heard of rope burn? Ouch! I’ve gotten unexpectedly pulled by my dogs while holding a rope leash. You can hardly hang on. I would not recommend even if the loop is a different material as there are times when you will need to grab the leash part.
NylonLightweightSmells after being wet, slips right out of hands, gets & stays dirty, frays. Also can burn like rope.
BungeeAllows for some giveBulky, does not pack well in backpack
RetractableAdjustable range & lengthEver had a dog owner trying to control their huge dog attached to one of these? It’s scary. Buttons need to be pressed in the right way. Heavy, bulky, easily tangled & parts can fail. Overall do not recommend retractable leashes.
Hands Free (Waist Loop)Look, ma, no hands!Lots of moving parts, pulling, heavy, bulky system. What if your big dog lunges in a different direction?!
BiothaneSimilar feel as leather, dries fast, no mildew smellCan be slippery when wet

Dog Leash Lengths & Trail Scenarios: 

Commonly, dog leashes will be most useful (and adhere to some National Park regulations) at 6 feet in length. However, there is quite a large range of lengths and widths to choose from, with lengths running anywhere from 3 to 50+ feet, and widths from 1/2 in to full inch.

The most common and most useful dog hiking leash length is 6 feet. But when Captain was a puppy I would use a 15ft leash to train him so he was able to sniff and explore while under my control. This is when we would work on recall.

Here are my top 3 choices for different scenarios:

My Top 3 Leashes for Hiking

✔️ 2 year warranty
✔️ “Amazon’s Choice”🥇 in leashes
✔️ Firm, NO-SLIP grip
✔️ Comfortable, soft feel in hand
✔️ Water-resistant

J & J Supplies Biothane Leash
✔️ PVC coating is waterproof
✔️ Easy to clean & wipe
✔️ “Amazon’s Choice” 🥇rating
✔️ No odor (unlike nylon)

Hands-Free Dog Leash with Pouch
✔️ Removable pouch for keys, treats
✔️ 2 handles along leash part

✔️ 2 bungee shock absorbers
✔️ Adjustable belt 27 – 48 inches

✔️ Almost 11,000 5 ⭐️ reviews

✔️ “Amazon’s Choice” 🥇 in Hands Free leashes

woman and black dog smiling on a sunrise hike in new hampshire, woman holding brown leather leash
Captain and I on a sunrise hike in New Hampshire! ⛰

So that’s it hiking friends!

The number one goal here is to keep you, your dog, and others safe when on the trails and for you to be comfortable.

If you’re not comfortable holding the leash, or you have to press buttons or pray it doesn’t break when reacting quickly or if your dog lunges and you get a rope burn – none of those things will make for a positive experience that’ll keep you coming back.

So that’s what’s reflected in my choices above.

It’s not about having the prettiest leash or a cool brand you see advertised on Instagram. But a fun, positive experience for you and your dog to climb mountains together and truly, make memories that you’ll cherish forever. 🐶💞

I wish you and your dog so much luck on the trail and as an experienced hiker with dogs, I am here for any questions! Feel free to comment below or you can send me a message.

Happy trails!

What kind of leash is best for hiking?

The best kind of leash for hiking is one that’s lightweight, wateresistant, durable, and allows for a firm grip which is why I recommend the 6 foot leather leash above all else.

How long should a hiking leash be?

Commonly, dog leashes will be most useful (and adhere to some National Park regulations) at 6 feet in length.

Which leashes are not good for hiking with your dog?

Retractable leashes that require buttons to be pressed are too complicated and bulky for hiking. Nylon leashes are also not great because they are not water resistant and develop an odor after being wet. The best leash linked in this article is a 6 foot leather leash that is water resistant and allows for a firm grip.

Do I have to have my dog on leash for hiking?

This depends where you’re hiking. If at a National Park with lots of people and wildlife, then yes. Each park will have its own regulations. If you’re in a more remote area with not a lot of people on the trail you may be able to let your dog off for short periods of time. This also depends on how well your dog is trained with their recall.

Looking for more recommendations for hiking with your dog?! Check out my post all about how to get started hiking with your pup and how I raised Captain to love the trails. 🐶 🥾

woman hiking with black dog puppy

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