Top 10 Best Running Backpacks in 2018

It is almost impossible to run with only the clothes on your back and your music player strapped to your arm. Also, your pockets don’t really make the best place to store important items such as house keys. This is why running backs are quite so important to running enthusiasts. They are especially vital to those that like endurance training or prefer to run out in isolated areas. If you like to join competitions, particularly longer marathons, a running backpack really will come in handy. So, how do you choose the best one for you?

The Types of Running Backpacks

First things first, there are several models of backpacks. These are all made for different types of running as well as runners. Here are the most common options:

The Running Bag

These bags are typically larger in size. They resemble the backpacks that you are typically used to and in certain instances, may actually be used for hiking and other activities. The main point about these backpacks is that they come equipped with a larger volume and lots of pockets. You can expect a running bag to be able to hold between 10 and 25 liters, perhaps more. The TETON Sports Oasis 1100 is an excellent example of a slightly larger running bag that is still light enough to run with.

Hydration Packs

As the name suggests, the main purpose of a hydration pack is to ensure that you stay hydrated during you run. Because of this, these packs are usually quite a bit smaller than the running bags. These packs are only as large as the hydration bladders that they house. There are a few small pockets, nonetheless to store smaller items. Hydration packs do have the benefit of having a sip tube that is directly connected to the reservoir in the bag. Hydration packs can be anywhere from 1 to 3 liters in volume.

Waist Backpacks

The easiest way to understand what a waist backpack looks like is to imagine a sleeker version of the fanny pack. Waist packs, as you guessed it, are fixed around your waist with the help of a belt. These come in two different forms. There is the running belt and the hydration belt. Both pelts have small pockets for storage. The hydration belt, however, comes equipped with loops where you can fix water bottles. These can usually hold about one to four bottles of water.

Race Vests

Last but not least, there are the race vests. These are so named because they are worn like regular vests. These type of running bags strike a compromise between running bags and hydration packs. The main thing about race vests is that they are incredibly light so as to not slow you down. Nonetheless, there is enough room to carry several personal items and hydration bladders.

Matching the Running Bag to the Activity

How can you decide which of the above running backpacks are best for you? Well, one of the most important factors that come into play here is the type of running that you do. Let’s take a look at the most common types and see which activity requires which backpack:

Daily Run

Are you not headed too far away from your house or your car? In this case, you are not going to need to take a whole of things with you. At the most, your phone, keys, and perhaps some money is all that you need. In this case, a running belt may be more than enough for the running that you do. If your run is quite long and you cover several miles, then it is a good idea to have a hydration with you instead.

Endurance Running

Are you a little bit more hardcore with your workouts? Do you not only run long distances but also do so in precarious environments such as hills? If endurance running is your preferred method of exercise, you are going to need a bag that is slightly larger. At the same time, you can’t really be bogged down with too much of weight. In this case, hydration packs will be of the most use to you as you will be able to stay hydrated but also have enough of space for a phone or keys.


As you can imagine, a race vest is best if you are taking part in competitions, especially the longer ones. These bags have great support and cling to your body so that you don’t have to worry about them bouncing around. Yet, there is enough of room to fit a hydration bag of varying sizes.

Run Commuting

One activity that is growing in popularity is run commuting. This is when you run to and from work each day. The goal here is to have a bag that can carry a variety of items. At the very least, you are going to need a change of clothes and shoes. However, it is also quite likely that you are going to require enough space for a laptop as well. This is when larger running bags will be quite useful. As an added bonus, there are a number of running bags that have hydration bladders installed within them. This allows you to stay hydrated as you run.

What to Look for in a Running Backpack

Now that you know which type of backpack you may want to head towards, let’s discuss the specific features that you should be looking at with any model:

The Backpack Straps

This is perhaps the most important part of a running backpack and what can make or break a bag. You should always look for straps with a decent thickness (make sure that they are heavy duty but are not large enough to slip off your shoulders). This way, they will not dig into your shoulders as you run. Another thing to pay attention to is the padding so that you will always be comfortable.

Straps play a more important role than just comfort, nonetheless. For instance, one of the advantages that straps offer is stability. The last thing that you want is for your bag to bounce off your back as you run. Here, harness straps will be of the greatest benefit to you. These will make sure that the backpack stays fixed to your body.

If you are using a backpack for a run commuting, you are going to be carrying a heavy load. What you will be looking for here, is lots of support. This can be found in the form of a waist strap. This will ensure that the weight is more evenly distributed. Waist straps are advised if you carry weights greater than six pounds. If you require a lot of support, you should also look for bags that have chest straps. Having the bag secured to several points around your body is going to make your load feel a lot lighter.

Hydration Options

If you are a serious runner, one of the main reasons that you want a running backpack is because you are looking to stay hydrated with minimal fuss. If you are choosing a hydration backpack, make sure to consider all of the components carefully. This includes checking to see how well the sip tube works, whether the bite valves are suitable for you, and whether or not the tube can be secured in some way as you run. You may also look for add-ons such as insulated bladders that help to keep your water at optimal temperature.

As mentioned, some running backpacks have hydration bladders included in the backpacks. These, too, feature sip tubes and bite valves. Therefore, you should give these features a once-over before making a decision. If you are not going to be running very far, then a water bottle holder might suffice instead. You will need to check that the holder not only secures the bottle well but also that you can easily reach the bottle.

Backpack Material

Another thing that runners like to pay attention to is the material that the bags are made from. Now, these can vary quite drastically not just between the types of running backpacks but also between manufacturers.

Choosing the right material can be a bit tricky. The first thing you will have to do is to decide the function that this material will perform. Do you want something that will keep you cool as you run? Are you looking for the lightest option possible? Perhaps durability and toughness is what you are looking for.

If you run in the heat then you don’t want your sweat soaking through or for the pack to make you feel hotter than you already are. The solution to this problem is mesh – and lots of it. It is important to verify that the mesh is high quality and will not tear easily, nonetheless.

There are some backpacks such as the Saucony Speed of Lite Run Pack that is actually made from the same material as parachutes. Not only does it make the pack resistant to tears, this material is also incredibly light. You should be warned that it is going to be quite uncomfortable to carry during warmer months.

If you run in the rain, you are going to require a backpack that is capable of repelling most of the water. Nylon is typically the best material for the job. You should know that water can still seep in through the zipper so you are going to need all-over rain covers to keep the water completely out.

If the purpose of your running bag is to carry as heavy a weight as possible, then nylon will serve the purpose but it is going to need to be much thicker. A bag that is stronger will inevitably be a little heavier than other options.

Storage Pockets

What you intend on carrying in the bag will typically determine how large the pockets need to be and how many there should be as well. For instance, if you are commuting, you will probably need larger pockets as you will need to store bigger items. Recreational runners, on the other hand, will need smaller pockets for keys and perhaps spare change.

Size is not the only thing you should be concerned with. You should also look at the placement of the pockets. This is particularly important if the backpack is tightly secured to your chest and waist. If the pockets are too far away to reach, you will need to stop, unclasp the bag, and then look for what you need. This is why it is a good idea to have smaller pockets that are either close to your chest or that you can easily reach with your arms.

Getting the Right Fit

It is little use in getting the right backpack if it does not fit you properly. To get a good idea where a backpack may rest on your back, you should measure the distance between your lower neck and your waist. You can then compare this is to the length of the backpack. For speed runners, a backpack that is too close to their waist may be a hindrance. You may want to look for ones that rest higher up on your back so that it does not get in the way. Equally as important is to check where the chest and the waist straps rest to make sure that they are not uncomfortable. You should aim to get straps that can easily be adjusted.

The other thing you will need to look at is how your backpack sits when it is slung across your shoulders. In particular, how does it affect your posture? As a rule of thumb, a backpack should accommodate your posture instead of the other way around. This means that you don’t find yourself hunching or shifting your natural position to suit that of the backpack. These can cause back pain later on if you have to wear the bag on a continuous basis.

These are the various points you need to focus on so that you will be able to choose the best running backpack for you.

Top 10 Best Running Backpacks

1 – Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15

Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15, Obsidian, Medium/Large
  • Large front storage for water, phone, maps, glasses or food
  • Sliding rail sternum straps
  • Designated no-bounce laptop pocket with cord storage securely inside
  • MonoRip Mesh is very strong, extremely breathable, non-stretch and hydrophobic
  • High-strength, durable Power Span Stretch Mesh allows you to see inside pocket to view contents

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15:

Reviewers like these things about the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15

  • According to several reviewers, the Ultimate Direction Fastpack backpack provides ample support which keeps them comfortable for overnight hikes.
  • Other users noted that it fits comfortably well on them.
  • Users also commended its spacious space for storing of gears and personal belongings.
  • Other reviewers thought that is pockets and compartments can be accessed quickly.
  • Reviewers thought that the backpack is ultra lightweight.
  • Its pockets are designed to make unloading of items much more manageable.
  • Many users have mentioned that its main compartment can expand to fit a lot of equipment.
  • Other users said that its dual adjustable sternum straps and side straps make the bag more stable and balanced.
  • Several others pointed out that it is also easy to stash certain gears due to its low-profile daisy chain system.
  • Testers felt that its back panel and shoulder strap system prevents users from abrasion and discomfort.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer thought that the backpack rode low on his back.
  • Another reviewer felt that the bag has a tendency to bounce.

2 – Osprey Dyna 6

Osprey Packs Women's Dyna 6 Hydration Pack, Black Opal, WS/M
  • Zippered reservoir sleeve with included hydraulics lt reservoir
  • Vertical zippered harness slash pocket with whistle zipper pull
  • Dual accessible lower side panel stretch mesh pockets
  • Dual extra-large stretch mesh flask/phone/food harness pockets
  • Dual lower stretch mesh food/supplement harness pockets

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Osprey Dyna 6:

Reviewers like these things about the Osprey Dyna 6

  • Most reviewers said that it is an excellent pack for long running.
  • Some of them said that it is the perfect size to fit perfectly on their backs.
  • Many others said that the pack can hold snacks and other gadgets required for running.
  • Some of the reviewers said that the pack is comfortable to wear.
  • A user said that he pack stays firm to his back without flopping or bouncing while running.
  • Another user said that the straps are easy to adjust and the buckles are easy to use.
  • Many are happy to have good organizable pockets to carry all their gadgets and nutrition on the long run.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user said that the only complaint is that the pack becomes uncomfortable when the hydration is fully filled up.
  • Another user said that with the straps adjusted the vest pack chafed a little near his armpits.

3 – Camelbak Solstice

CamelBak Solstice LR 10 100 oz Hydration Pack, Teal/Turquoise
  • The Crux Reservoir delivers 20% more water per sip, with an ergonomic handle for easier refilling, and an on/off lever that makes it easy to prevent leaks.
  • Magnetic Tube Trap keeps your tube secure and accessible when you need it
  • Stabilizing load-bearing hip belts with cargo optimizes a custom fit and keeps essentials close at hand
  • Separate zippered compartment with gear organizer and tool roll.
  • Dual reservoir compression straps cinch the reservoir into the small of your back for a tight, stable fit

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Camelbak Solstice:

Reviewers like these things about the Camelbak Solstice

  • Testers found out that the Camelbak Solstice backpack shifts the load down towards the user’s waist.
  • Others noted that the pack is durable due to the materials used.
  • According to those who used it, the bag is very comfortable to carry.
  • Other testers noted that it features Quick Link System for easy open/close cap.
  • Users also noted that it has a bike tool organizer roll.
  • Other users found that the bag has dual waist belt pockets.
  • Others mentioned that the back panel features a trap door that unzips to give them access to the water supply.
  • Reviewers said that the bag was designed to carry a helmet, armor, multi-tool, CO2 pump and cartridges, spare tube, extra layer, energy bar, phone, keys.
  • Reviewers note that it has an S-shaped harness that curves comfortably around the chest.
  • Other users noticed that it has a slightly shorter back panel for a more ergonomic fit.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A tester discovered that the bag is quite small.
  • A reviewer had issues with compartments of the bag.

4 – Deuter Race

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Deuter Race:

Reviewers like these things about the Deuter Race

  • Reviewers thought that the Deuter Race backpack has valuable pockets which foster better organization.
  • Other users noted that it delivers ventilation due to its back panel.
  • Testers found that its shoulder straps offer support because it conforms to several body types of users.
  • Many of the reviewers commented on its durability as manifested by its robust nylon fabric.
  • Users found the bag to be versatile and accessible.
  • Other reviewers remarked that it was comfortable to wear.
  • Testers noted that the bag might be visible when used at nighttime due to its 3M reflectors and its reflective loop where a safety light may be placed.
  • Testers also found that it has an integrated rain cover which helps keep the bag dry.
  • Many users who used it noted on the bag’s spacious compartments which allow them to store several equipment and belongings including shoes and jacket.
  • A lot of users thought that the pack was easy to carry.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer thought that it does not fit well with him.
  • Another reviewer felt that it has limited color choices.

5 – Camelbak Fourteener 20

CamelBak Fourteener 20 Hydration Pack, Tahoe Blue/Lime Punch
  • The high-performance pack you'll want whether you've set your sights on bagging a peak tackling a steep trail on a hot day
  • Antidote reservoir features: Quick Link system, easy open/close cap, lightweight fill port, Dryer arms, center baffling and low-profile design
  • Features organizer pocket, Quick stash overflow pocket, four point compression straps, sunglasses and media pocket, tool attachment
  • Designed to carry extra layers, food, head lamp, trail maps, trekking poles, ice axe, media, sunglasses
  • Camelbak Got your Bak guarantee: if we build it, we'll Bak it with our lifetime guarantee

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Camelbak Fourteener 20:

Reviewers like these things about the Camelbak Fourteener 20

  • Several users noted that the Camelbak Fourteener backpack is designed with comfort in mind.
  • A reviewer thought that it would be entirely functional when used in alpine hiking and casual outings.
  • Reviewers lauded its ability to remain stable even if used rough terrains.
  • Testers found it easy to hold water reservoirs easily.
  • Users also praised the bag for having several pockets to store things securely.
  • Users also noted that it is easy to clean the reservoir due to its broad mouth feature.
  • Several reviewers have pointed out that the reservoir can be refilled quickly without removing it from the bag.
  • Other reviewers found that it distributes load evenly, providing a comfortable use.
  • Testers noticed that its back panel provides ventilation to the back of the users.
  • Reviewers pointed out that the main compartment can hold several belongings.
  • According to those who have used it, its tool loop and the lash point made it easy for them to attach gears securely.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer thought that getting things from the pockets while the pack is being used is a bit awkward.
  • Another reviewer said that the bladder seam might be too fragile.

6 – Salomon Skin Pro 10

Salomon Skin Pro 10L Backpack Bright Red/Black, One Size
  • Material: 70D nylon ripstop
  • Volume: 10L (610cu in)
  • Support/Suspension: MotionFit Trail
  • Shoulder Straps: SensiFit
  • Waist Belt: yes, SensiFit

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Salomon Skin Pro 10:

Reviewers like these things about the Salomon Skin Pro 10

  • Many users find the side pockets stretchy,secure and able to hold tons of items.
  • A lot of users like its super light weight, they barely know it’s in their back.
  • Other owners love how it rests comfortably on their back with the weight centered and up high.
  • Some were surprised with the amount of gear it can hold.
  • Other runners like how it hugs their body while running, both uphill and downhill.
  • A user recommends this bag to anyone looking for something with more capacity for winter trail running.
  • The one-size fits all approach is greatly appreciated by users as they can dial down the size to their body type.
  • With its snug fit and adjustable straps, users thought it’s a great pack for long races and long training runs.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some users thought it would’ve been better if it comes with water bottles.
  • A woman with large body frame said she had a hard time getting the pack fit her body.

7 – Camelbak KUDU 8

CamelBak K.U.D.U. 8 Crux Reservoir Hydration Pack, Black/Laser Orange, 3 L/100 oz
  • Crux delivers 20% more water per sip, with an ergonomic handle for easy refilling and an on/off lever to prevent leaks.
  • Impact protector back panel absorbs over 94% of impact in a crash
  • External attachment points for carrying a helmet and armor
  • Includes a bike tool organizer roll, Dimensions: 49 x 23.5 x 19.5 cm / 19.3 x 9.3 x 7.7 in; Fits torso: 48-53 cm/19-21 in; Fits waist hips: 66-116 cm/26-46 in
  • Stabilizing load-bearing hip belts with cargo optimizes a custom fit and keeps essentials close at hand

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Camelbak KUDU 8:

Reviewers like these things about the Camelbak KUDU 8

  • Most reviewers love how the Camelbak K.U.D.U. provides lots of storage space for their tools and other riding essentials.
  • Some reviewers praise the large bladder feature, with 3 liters of water capacity.
  • Other reviewers commend the presence of the back protection pad.
  • Some reviewers mentioned that they like the removable feature of the back protecton pad. It provides them a little more room and eliminates a little weight for those trips where it is not necessary.
  • A reviewer said that she was looking for a pack with just a little more room to supplement her bike packing frame bags and this bag worked perfect.
  • Some reviewers liked how they can set the chest strap height for better comfort.
  • Most reviewers were impressed with how the pack fits perfectly.
  • A lot of users agree that it is comfortable to carry on the back.
  • Most users praised the addition of rain cover and the how the straps fit perfectly.
  • A user loved the fact that the pack was built for tall gents and ladies.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer thought that it is almost too big for just short rides.
  • Some users noted that the bag is a bit heavy due to the spine protection.

8 – Osprey Viper 9

Osprey Packs Viper 9 Hydration Pack, Basalt Black
  • Upper side compression straps stabilize the load
  • The blinker light attachment found near the base of the front panel of the pack allows for Quick light attachment for high visibility in the dark
  • An elasticized lid lock helmet attachment system provides storage for your helmet

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Osprey Viper 9:

Reviewers like these things about the Osprey Viper 9

  • Testers said that it is a lightweight and compact bag for biking and also for hiking.
  • They said that the pack is super comfortable with adjustable harness and torso.
  • Some testers said that the pack has great suspension system to distribute the load over their back.
  • Reviewers have also confirmed that the pack is very comfortable to wear and carry.
  • Some buyers said that the 3 litre hydration pack was quiet helpful for biking on long trails.
  • Travellers said that the pack is roomy and has lots of pockets to keep things organized while travelling.
  • A user said that the large reservoir never made the bag feel bulky on his back.
  • Another user said that the stash pocket on the front is quiet helpful to stuff his jacket.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A few said that the pack is heavy with the large hydration pack.
  • A user also said that the bag is pricy.
  • Another user complained that the pack has no rain cover.

9 – Platypus Tokul XC 5.0

Platypus Tokul X.C. 5.0 Hydration Pack, Carbon
  • Internal tool organization with up to 3L of storage
  • Comes with Platypus 3L Big zip hydration reservoir with Magnetic hose retention and multiple hose Routing options
  • Smart storage with 2 pump sleeves, helmet carry and rear commuter light loop
  • Designed to work with a wide range of body types and torso Lengths, the ridge air back panel keeps you cool and comfortable all day long
  • Enough room for the riding essentials, a light layer and a snack

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Platypus Tokul XC 5.0:

Reviewers like these things about the Platypus Tokul XC 5.0

  • Many hikers described this pack as their go-to hiking and trail running water solution.
  • A lot of users were amazed with how incredibly light it is.
  • Others love how the foam back board with large ridges sits off their back comfortably.
  • Many runners agree that the Platypus pouch is super good quality,feels nice and thick, easy to fill, zip and unzip.
  • A parent exclaimed that it’s absolutely the perfect solution for his son’s band and camp practices.
  • Other reviewers observed how light it is to wear even when the reservoir is filled to capacity.
  • One of the features that many users liked is the magnet that holds the hose when not in use.
  • A lot of users also find its ventilation incredible.
  • Perfect fit,ventilation,storage,hydration capacity are cited as the main reasons for choosing this bag.
  • Bikers loved how it easily carries essentials for a 2-3 hour ride, and rides like a shadow on their back.
  • A lot of users are amazed with how it’s completely leak-proof even when they hold it upside down.
  • Many reviewers liked how it’s got enough water capacity for hydration and front pocket for other essentials.
  • A lot of users agree that it’s a high-quality product that does the job at the right price.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Other users thought the mouthpiece is kind of big and chunky.
  • Some finds inserting the bladder a little difficult because its a tight fit.

10 – EVOC FR Trail Blackline

Evoc FR Trail Blackline Protector Hydration Pack - Women's Black, S
  • Material: PU-coated nylon (210D), tarpaulin, P600D PU-coated
  • Volume: 1220 cu in
  • Support/Suspension: LiteShield Protector/Carrying System Air
  • Waist Belt: yes, Airo Flex
  • Hydration Compatible: yes, 3-liter capacity

Here’s what the reviewers think about the EVOC FR Trail Blackline:

Reviewers like these things about the EVOC FR Trail Blackline

  • A reviewer thought that the EVOC FR backpack is comfortable to wear.
  • Users mentioned that it is durable due to its nylon ripstop and polyester material.
  • Reviewers pointed out that its PU coating provides waterproofing to the bag.
  • According to some reviewers, its shoulder straps consist of EVA foam which delivers comfort.
  • Other reviewers thought that the back protector is removable and replaceable.
  • They thought that the bag includes an attachment system for helmet and protection gear.
  • They also noticed that it consists of a separate compartment tool.
  • Some users pointed out that it can accomodate hydration systems up to three liters.
  • Testers noted that it is asn excellent versatile backpack for any application.
  • Several reviewers indicated that bag is practical and functional.
  • A user took notice of its spacious main compartment.
  • Another user recommended the use of the pack for biking, hiking, skiing, and traveling.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer noted that it does not have a drink system.
  • A few other reviewers noted that the shoulder straps tend to loose up while riding.

Selected reviews

Bike Radar reviewed the Camelbak KUDU 8

Its worth reiterating just how quickly the storage is swallowed up with a full bladder and the stiff, flat back protector in place though, so if youre looking to do mega miles in the hills, you may want to look at one of the larger KUDU offerings.

Posted 16 October 2017 by Alex Evans – Read full review

Single Track World reviewed the Camelbak KUDU 8

The KUDU 8 is a well-fitting backpack that happens to have excellent back protection in it too. Because the KUDU 8 is lighter and slimmer though, its even less noticeable to wear while riding. The only real limitation of the KUDU 8 is its storage space, so bear in mind how much gear youll need to carry and whether youll have to upsize to the KUDU 12 or KUDU 18.

Posted 19 October 2016 by Wil Barrett – Read full review

Bike Radar reviewed the Deuter Race

Our spring-anthracite colour was certainly eye-catching, and the pack’s offered in two subtler colours too. If you want a commuting pack to carry a laptop in, this isnt it. But for carrying a change of clothes, hitting the trails for the day or even a marathon race through unknown conditions, the Race EXP Air is a solid choice that will last for years.

Posted 9 October 2013 by David Rome – Read full review

Bike Radar reviewed the Deuter Race

Roomy but fiddly fit meant load carrying was a literal pain in the arse.

Posted 20 June 2007 by BikeRadar – Read full review

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