10 Best Running Backpacks
There was once a time when if you were in the market for a rucksack to wear running you were either a marathoner of a military personnel.
However, it’s a sign of the times that good running rucksacks are in high demand as time pressure mean that we often need to combine our cardio with our commute and run to or from work carrying a shipload of work clothes. All this means that the rucksacks need an ability to hold something that’s fit for purpose, so for a commute, you’re most likely going to need 12L plus, while running and racing will need 10L or less.
The pack must have water storage options and be comfortable, with adjustable strappings to fit the pack tightly to your back while allowing air to circulate. Its versatile fixings are very useful. If you’re going to be using the pack purely for running and racing then pouch pockets is important to think to consider as you don’t want to lose any time taking the pack off to search for performance-boosting snacks.
Extremely importantly, it should be well balanced, no matter how much you’re carrying, so here are the packs that will perform at capacity without throwing you off your strides.
- OMM Phantom 12
This 200g sack customizable and suited for all runners no matter what your build, with chest and hip straps that can be repositioned according to where you want them to cross your body. That means there is almost no slippage or bounce, whether you’re on a relaxed training run or late for work and stepping up the pace. It is well suited to stand up to all kinds of wear, tear and weather so you can carry your load with confidence, even in the pouring rain. There’s also a removable 6mm back pad to provide extra cushioning, which is useful when you take up all of the 12L capacity that the bag provides. There’s also an option to slip in a water storage sac, if you need one. It looks the business too – just be prepared for some, “How was the summit this morning?” comments.
- Ultimate Performance Tarn 1.5L Hydration Pack
Unless you work as a lifeguard and are only packing some Speedos and sun cream for work, this won’t cut it as a commuting option. It will also help keep you well filled with water on the way with a high volume straw that lays along the shoulder strap, and a soft-bite valve for easy drinking. The intelligently placed webbing worked well to keep sweat safely away and under control. Great if you’re looking for some basic ability to do things at a low-priced price.
- Thule Capstone 32L
This is one of the biggest capacity sacks on test, made from ripstop nylon and with 32L of storage so there’s plenty of room for everything from work clothes to personal tech, a laptop can even be fit there in there. The adjustable suspension system is quick and easy to get comfortable with, even when you’re at the upper limits of loading. In fact, the more you get in the bag the more stable it is on the move with the tensioned, mesh back panel working to keep your load in place while allowing a good amount of air circulation. There’s also an option to fit a water holding tank if you need more H2O than the two side water bottle pockets can provide. Good if you’ve got a lot to pack in for your cardio commute.
- Salomon Trail 20
Although it’s tailor-made for some hardcore running, this pack is equally at home if the only thing you need to last through bad times is a city-based commute on foot. It’s not overloaded with sections but everything is exactly where it should be with 20L of storage for the big stuff including a smaller pocket to fit a water storage sac and elasticated pockets. Ripstop material patch-working throughout makes the pack very lightweight and a very intelligent recessed air vent that runs the up-and-down length of the breathable back panel means that, even fully loaded, there was a continuous flow of air as you run. The straps felt secure at all paces and contained more breathable mesh. It also gives you that extra balance and comfort.
- No Label T2
This bag is designed with triathletes in mind as a transition bag, so its job is to sit out in the elements and keep all the kit needed for the next stage bone dry. That’s why it has a 20L capacity with water bottle pouches and a waterproof 500D tarpaulin outer shell, stitched and welded together, so your work kit is guaranteed to stay dry on the way.
- Osprey Duro 15
Here’s a super lightweight vest that you may forget it’s even there. It made from ripstop and nylon stretch mesh, with an impressive 15L carrying capacity that includes a 2.5L water holding area. Well designed, with a double waist strap that also carries two 500ml soft water bottles with their own stiff drinking straws so you’re not going to go thirsty at any point. The sack does well on long runs where you need to travel as light as possible but still carry the fuel needed to keep you going.
- Inov-8 Race Ultra 10 BOA
This 10L nylon bag is squarely aimed at ultra-racers who are more than happy to invest in a serious piece of kit. It’s incredibly comfortable to wear. You can fit the 2L water storage sac to your back so that you end up with a smoothly shaped fit and your water reserve doesn’t slosh around and throw you off your stride. The eye-catching design, like a cross between a parachute and a tortoise shell, means extra motivation to get ahead of the runner in front so you can show it off.
- Gregory Miwok 18
Meant for ultra-hikers, this is also a good option if you want a no-nonsense pack for a short grab-and-go run. Bragging 18L of storage, with good internal and external organization, the weight distribution is good, and the air mesh that covers the harness, hipbelt wicks away sweat and moisture. Also, because the water storage sac is in a separate section, you don’t have to unload all your clothes if you want to top it up for the run home.
- Camelbak Octane 16X
This is a smaller pack, made from injury-resistant nylon, with good stash pockets and an efficient water system, perfect for the ultra or multi stage runner, or if you just want to get some miles in on your lunch break without having to fill your hands with water bottles. By unzipping the back you can also release some extra ability capacity as it expands to offer up to 16L of packing space.
- Adidas NGA Backpack
This pack comes with plenty of holes, but that’s a good thing as the back pad and shoulder straps are such that there’s no problem keeping cool even on the longest of runs on the warmest of days. The fitting together also ups the comfort factor of the pack during use. It comes complete with 2 x 400ml water bottles and an inner pocket for a water storage sac with the top loading main section offering 8L of space for kit.
For its versatility in being able to offer watertight storage for all kinds of runners, from the serious to the seriously late for work, the OMM Ghost 12 takes top honors. What really gives it the edge is the form-fitting strapping that means you don’t have to worry about it interfering with your run.