How to Choose the Best Running Backpack

How to Choose the Best Running Backpack

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?

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Grivel - ( Mountain Runner 12 )

Grivel Mountain Runner


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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.