The 6 Best Running Backpacks

If you head out for a jog today and see 5 other runners, chances are one of those people will be wearing a backpack.

Running backpacks has seriously grown in popularity, for a number of reasons. In this article, we’ll be diving into those factors.

Here’s what we’ll be focusing on in this guide:

  • Why Do Runners Wear Backpacks?
  • What To Look For In A Running Backpack?
  • The 6 Best Running Backpacks
  • How Quality Gear Can Boost Your Practice

Let’s dive into the role that can be played by the running backpack.

best running backpacks visual

Why Do Runners Wear Backpacks?

Setting out on a run with a bag on your back may seem a little counter-intuitive. After all, surely backpacks weigh you down and restrict your ability to be as lightweight as possible?

However, they are getting more popular for a reason.

#1. Commuting

Many people use running backpacks on their daily commute.

In major cities like London or New York, transport infrastructure is seriously overwhelmed during rush hour, which can last for more than two hours.

For many people, running to and from work is a solution. It’s an easy way to save time and money while also getting in your daily exercise.

However, you need a way to store a change of clothes and other work bits. That’s where a backpack comes in.

Man running to work with backpack

#2. Storage For Long-Distance Running

Whether you’re an ultramarathon fanatic or a 10k enthusiast, the benefits of long-distance running can be huge.

However, if you’re going a long way, it’s likely you’ll want to take water, clothing, and other gear with you.

This is one of the main advantages of having a running backpack. In cold weather, an extra warm kit can be useful, while when you’re in the heat, it’s important to carry water to stay hydrated.

#3. Fastpacking

This relates to our last point, but it’s worth diving into fastpacking specifically.

An amazing way of experiencing the great outdoors, fastpacking is a blend of distance trail running, hiking, backpacking, and camping.

A good runner’s backpack is essential for this activity. To learn what essentials you need to pack, check out our comprehensive guide to fastpacking here.

Man running in nature with backpack

#4. Larger Capacity Than Running Vests Or Belts

There are other options for storage, such as running vests, belts, or arm pockets.

These can be great for holding things while you run, but ultimately, they don’t provide as much storage space as a backpack can.

What To Look For In A Running Backpack

Okay, you’ve seen how a specialist runners backpack could help you, and decided to make the purchase. What do you need to look for in your running backpack?

#1. Make sure your backpack fits well

It’s no use having a backpack that swings around everywhere because it’s too big for you, or one that’s so small it’s uncomfortable.

You need to make sure your backpack fits well; in other words, it’s as small as possible but capable of fitting all your gear in.

Adjust the straps, and keep it tight, because if it bounces and shifts around, it can get in the way and give you sores and blisters.

#2. Shoulder Straps

Look for broad, padded shoulder straps that are wide enough to distribute weight evenly. These are more likely to feel soft and won’t dig into your flesh.

Backpack straps

#3. Chest Straps

If you’re not careful, running with a heavy backpack can potentially alter your running mechanics and lead to injury.

That’s what makes chest straps that clasp properly super important — they will also stop running backpacks from bouncing around.

Make sure your chest straps are adjustable because being able to move them up and down will increase comfort, particularly for female runners.

The 6 Best Running Backpacks

#1. Salomon Trailblazer 20

Salomon Trailblazer 20

– 20L main volume provides superb storage

– Lightweight and comfortable

The 20-liter main volume of this pack makes it the roomiest of our options.

With stretch side pockets, you won’t struggle when it comes to conveniently storing your gear, whether you’re on a day hike or a short city commute.

The Salomon Trailblazer 20 is super lightweight and comfortable, but it also doesn’t hold back on specialist features.

There’s a padded back system, sturdy belt and shoulder straps, and a comfy harness that adapts to fit your body snugly.

Plus, an elastic sternum strap enables your chest to expand when you’re breathing heavily. Clever, right?

#2. Vibrelli 2L Hydration Backpack

Vibrelli 2L Hydration Backpack

– High-flow bite-valve for easy drinking

– Affordable option

This running backpack is best for shorter runs, with a smaller capacity and not quite as much high-technical features as some other packs on this list.

If your budget isn’t huge, this is a great, affordable option that can carry the basics you need on your runs.

The Vibrelli 2L Hydration Backpack, as the name indicates, is built for hydration.

It’s got a high-flow bite-valve with an ‘Easy-Twist’ mouthpiece that helps water flow fast without leaking. The hydration bladder is made from medical-grade materials and is BPA/PVC-free.

There are multiple pockets and storage options, and it’s feather-light. Overall, we think it offers good value for money.

#3. Inov-8 Race Ultra Pro Vest

Inov-8 Race Ultra Pro Vest

– Built to ensure hydration

– Multi-award winning

A versatile hydration vest with multiple, easy-access storage options, the Inov-8 Race Ultra Pro Vests is one of the best runners’ backpacks there is.

It’s ideal for long-distance racing and endurance running, with lots of storage options for bottles, poles, clothes, and other gear.

A fully-adaptable five-liter plus pack, it also comes with 2 500ml Ultraflasks and a Speedcup (a reusable water cup for races).

Inov-8’s high-tech model is super versatile and can be used for ultra marathons and shorter training runs alike.

#4. Osprey Duro 6

Osprey Duro 6

– High quality option

– Sustainable materials

When it comes to running packs, Osprey definitely knows their stuff.

One of the most trusted brands on the market, they’ve got a wide range of quality backpacks available on their site and in-store. The Duro 6 is arguably the best of the lot.

Best suited to marathon training or longer ultra-marathons, it’s a lightweight, comfortable, body-hugging pack that won’t impair your performance.

Osprey’s latest model comes with improved eco credentials, with blue sign-approved fabrics and no PFC.

This pack also comes with a pair of 500ml soft flasks with useful extension hoses that make taking a sip whilst running super easy.

#5. Under Armour Adult Hustle Pro

Under Armour Adult Hustle Pro

– Breathable, padded back panel

– Water-resistant UA Storm technology

Another affordable option for keen runners, this is a versatile sports rucksack that’s highly rated by sportspeople of all kinds.

Under Armour’s Hustle Pro features water-resistant UA Storm technology to keep your kit dry, and you’ll avoid moisture yourself thanks to its breathable, padded back panel and adjustable HeatGear® shoulder straps.

This pack isn’t quite as roomy or supportive as some other packs on our list.

Still, it contains lots of useful features, from water-resistant technology to sturdy adjustable straps, and side water bottle pockets.

#6. Salomon Advanced Skin 12 Hydration Vest

Salomon Advanced Skin 12 Hydration Vest

– Ensures hydration

– Best for endurance runners

Another Salomon option, this one is the perfect choice for serious endurance runners.

An updated Sensifit and closure system helps this pack fit to your specific body shape, while a 12L volume means there’s plenty of space for carrying water doing long runs.

And when you get thirsty, integrated soft flasks make it super easy to drink.

Fine-tuned for demanding endurance races and runners, the Advanced Skin 12 backpack ensures comfort over long distances and fastpacking adventures.

How Quality Gear Can Boost Your Practice

Whether you’re looking for something to hold some spare clothes and a bottle of water for your short run to work, or something larger to accompany you on fastpacking adventures, there should be something on our list for you.

Running backpacks provide room for storage and hydration without compromising your ability to perform.

Woman running with backpack

If you’re looking to embrace a runner’s backpack in your life, just make sure you keep these tips in mind:

  • Pack your bag tightly and make sure soft items like clothing are against your back, while heavy or hard-edged items are at the bottom and middle of the backpack.
  • Ensure the weight in your pack is centered, rather than being uneven
  • Before using your backpack on long-distance runs, practice having it on shorter runs first
  • Carrying a running backpack will be easier if you strengthen your back muscles by going to the gym or wearing a pack around town or on other walks
  • Recovery is important — once you’ve finished your run, stretch your shoulders properly.

These pointers will help ensure you get the best out of your backpack, while reducing the risk of injury.

Are running injuries something you’re particularly worried about?

Check out our guides to runner’s knee and soft tissue injury recovery for some practical advice on how to avoid and deal with some of the most common running injuries.

Photo of author
Fred is a London-based writer who works for several sport, fitness and wellness sites. He's a keen runner and amateur footballer, who also writes regularly for Jobs In Football and follows his side Norwich City home and away.

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