Best Running Backpacks
Heading for a run, you may just pop on your runners, shorts, and off to the races you go, right? Actually, not so fast. You most likely need to carry your keys, cell phone, water, and perhaps, some money to ensure you are fully prepared for any situation. Aside from strapping these items to you like a pack mule, or shoving everything into pockets where they aren’t secure, how can a runner most easily carry needed items? The answer is simple, invest in a running backpack, and all of your items will be securely stored with minimum bother to you. You might wonder what kind of backpack to get, because when you run, you want to feel as free and uninhibited as possible. And this is a very good question.
There are many runner’s backpacks on the market, and each one offers unique features that could potentially serve you best. Whether you are looking for something that has ample pockets, is lightweight, or has a water bladder, there is bound to be a backpack out there that fits the bill. We sifted through many of the backpacks on the market, did some testing, and boned up on reviews to come up with the best top ten running backpacks for you to choose from. Have a look at our list below including detailed criteria to pros and cons on each product you see which one suits your running needs best. So for your next run you can keep your arms and hands free with your new running backpack.
- Gregory Miwok 18
- Ultimate Direction FKT
- 2 small bottles included
- Many compartments
- Omm Last Drop
- Removable back pads
10 Best Running Backpacks
Gregory Miwok 18
Most of the space found within this backpack is in the large main compartment. There are also three smaller pockets, one directly above the main compartment, and two located on the shoulder straps. Even more storage space can be found by using the expandable stretch pocket located on the outside of the bag.
This bag has a separate compartment within the large area that is made to fit a hydration bladder. This area can be closed off to the rest of the backpack using a zipper. A hydration bladder is not included with the purchase of this bag.
Thick shoulder straps make the bag more comfortable and reduce chafing during runs, while a chest strap and waist belt keep it in place. Padding on the waist belt adds even more comfort and help to keep the weight of the bag off your back.
This backpack is more expensive than most other similar packs.
A comfortable, high quality, and attractive backpack choice for the runner who wants a versatile bag, the Gregory Miwok 18 can accommodate your needs whether your running to school or going for a couple mile trail run. Its quality designed compartments mean you will never lose track of your things, while its handy straps will keep you comfortable.
- Can fit a large amount of gear
- Straps are very comfortable
- Does not come with hydration bladder
Ultimate Direction Jurek FKT
This bag has four compartments where items may be stored. The largest area, located in the back, can accommodate a hydration bladder. A smaller compartment in front of this one has space for food items and a light layer. There are also two small zippered pockets on the waist belt.
Two water bottles come with this backpack. Together these bottles can fit 1.2 liters of water. Although some find them handy, many customers think they get in the way and recommend using the backpack with a hydration bladder instead. A hydration bladder is not included, but the bag is designed to fit one.
Thick shoulder straps make this bag very comfortable, even after miles of running, while thin chest and waist straps keep the bag in place. Like most running vests, this backpack sits high on your back.
This is a specialized, and therefore expensive backpack. Although the price may be much higher than most other running backpacks, it is consistent with what you should expect to pay for a distance running vest.
Customers who use this running vest love it. With its well-designed pockets it can fit more with greater ease than most other versions of this bag. It does have a tendency to run large, but this is an easy problem to solve by simply buying a size smaller than you usually do.
- Well-designed compartments
- Comes in multiple sizes
- Come with two small water bottles
- Tends to run large
- Does not come with hydration bladder
Omm Last Drop
This backpack is perfect for carrying clothes or other similar lightweight, midsized items. The main compartment can be used to either accommodate a hydration bladder or a change of clothes for work or school. There is also a zipped pocket in the top flap of the bag which can fit small items such as your phone, keys, or wallet.
There are mesh pouches on each side of this backpack that can fit a small water bottle. The Omm Last Drop is also compatible with a hydration bladder, however, this item must be purchased separately.
Thick shoulder straps help make this backpack sit more comfortably on your back as you run. There is a chest strap and a waist belt as well. These can all be adjusted to ensure that the backpack firmly stays in place.
This high-quality backpack comes at a great price for what it is. Similarly designed backpacks of equivalent quality tend to cost more.
Across the board, runners who use this backpack love it. It works well for types of running ranging from commuting to trail running due to that fact that parts can be removed and the weight significantly reduced. This is truly an excellent running backpack.
- Great price
- Removable back pads to reduce weight
- Highly water resistant
- Large amount of space
- Does not come with hydration bladder
The North Face Recon
This bag also comes with a life-time warranty.
- Holds any gizmos you may need
- Carries two water bottles
- Great padding
- Waistband and sternum strap
- Durability can be a problem
High Sierra Propel 70 Hydration Pack
The shining point with this pack is that you will stay hydrated on your runs with the 2L water reservoir. This is quite a good amount to have on hand, and it means it can be used for longer runs or a day trip of hiking.
The main storage area is large enough to fit a sweater or anything a bit extra you may need while you are out on that pavement clocking speed. And there is easy access to external storage pockets.
If you are looking for a pack that comes in various colors, has an ample water reservoir, looks sleek, and offers decent storage, this is a safe bet.
- Reasonable price
- Many color options
- 2L water bladder
- Soe find that the straps feel uncomfortable
Most the space in this bag is utilized for water carrying capacity, however, it is still possible to fit the essentials such as your keys, phone, energy bars, and even a lightweight layer. A small inner pocket and three outer pockets, one of which can be zippered shut, are where these items may be accommodated.
This bag comes with a two liter hydration bladder that takes up the majority of the inner compartment. If you feel you need more water than that, it is also possible to carry small water bottles in the pockets located on the straps.
The shoulder straps on this bag are thick and short, keeping the backpack elevated on your back as you run. This provides for greater comfort and mobility. There is also a chest and waist strap on this bag, which when tightened work to keep it snug against your body.
This is an expensive bag, with a price point far above the average one can expect to pay for a running backpack. However, it is a specialized backpack, with a vast amount of design going into it, that makes it ideal for distance runners. The Camelbak Marathoner may be pricy, but to its customer base the price is worth it.
This pack is designed for distance runners. Compact but able to carry all the necessities, the name of the Camelbak Marathoner says it all. If you are looking for a pack for your next half marathon, marathon, or ultra this is the perfect bag for you.
- Streamlined design
- No frills but still fits the basics
Deuter Speed Lite 10
This is a small bag, but it can fit the basics whether that includes snacks and your rain coat or a full change of clothes. The backpack has one large compartment as well as a smaller storage area at the very top.
The two mesh pockets on either side of the bag can each fit a 1 liter water bottle or smaller. There is a compartment inside the back that can carry up to a 2 liter hydration bladder. A hydration bladder is not included with the purchase of this bag.
The wide shoulder straps on the Deuter Speed Lite are made with breathable mesh material that is extremely comfortable. The bag also features a chest strap and removable waist belt.
The price for this backpack is average for what one should expect to spend on a quality running backpack.
The Deuter Speed Lite is an attractive and highly functional backpack. It comes in a variety of eye-catching colors that are sure to turn heads whether you use it on city blocks or deep in the woods. This bag comes highly recommended for an assortment of running styles, although it is most useful for runners who need to carry some equipment or extra belongings with them.
- Comes in a variety of colors
- Very light weight
- Breathable material
- Does not come with hydration bladder
Black Diamond Nitro Pack
This bag comes in a S/M and L size. The S/M can accommodate 20 liters, while the L can carry up to 22. Both bags are designed in exactly the same way, with a large main compartment and two smaller compartments, one above the large one and the other on the waist belt.
On each side of this bag is a pouch that can fit a 1 liter water bottle or smaller. There is also a zippered area inside that main compartment of the backpack that is compatible with a hydration bladder. Unfortunately, a hydration bladder is not included in the purchase of this bag.
The shoulder straps on the Black Diamond Nitro are thick, comfortable, and breathable. A padded waist belt further relieves the tension in your shoulders by placing more of the weight on your glutes. There is also a chest strap, which makes sure that pack stays in place as your run.
This is a very pricey bag. As high quality of a backpack at it is, it is very easy to find one of similar quality and design at a significantly lower price.
This is a great backpack, however it is much more expensive than other similar packs. If the Black Diamond Nitro is in your price range though, it is a great choice for run commuting, trail running, and distance runs alike.
- Large carrying capacity
- Comfortable and light weight fit
- Padded waist belt
- Very expensive
- No hydration bladder included
Draussen Internal Frame Hiking Backpack
While this bag may be 35 liters, it is still highly lightweight for usability. At 2.6 lbs. you'll stay light on your feet and can take this on day or multiple day hiking trips.
- Made from tear-resistant nylon
- 100% customer satisfaction guarentee
- Some find it a touch big for day hikes
Salomon Agile 12 Set Backpack
This bag also features a 4D pole holder, a whistle, and it is reflective to keep you seen on darker trails or with oncoming traffic. For optimal hydration, this backpack provides you with easy access to water bottle storage and a water reservoir compartment.
This bag gets the trick done, and it's lightweight, and packs a mean punch for any runner who looks to hit the trails with a smaller bag size.
- Built for mobility
- Great air-venting system
- Limited carrying capacity
- Questionable quality
Criteria for choosing a running backpack
Consider the type of running you will need your bag for
When evaluating your needs in terms of a running backpack, the most important thing to consider is what exactly you will be using this bag for. While describing each product above, some consideration was given to the type of running each backpack would be best suited for. The running styles for which one may need a bag are long-distance races, shorter solo runs, and run commuting.
Long distance races include anything longer than a marathon. Half-marathons can debatably be included as well, however, these types of organized races typically offer frequent water stations. Although a full marathon and ultra-race will also have some water available to participants, the more mileage the race covers, the less frequent these water stations are. Once one begins running ultras it is likely that they will go many miles before getting to the next fuel area, and so bringing one’s own water and snacks become an imperative. A streamlined backpack that can fit at least 2 liters of water, some energy snacks and gels, and possibly an extra layer, are ideal for these long races. The best style of bag for this purpose are hydration vests, which are designed to carry exactly what one needs and nothing more. This means no unnecessary weight as you run.
Individuals who run recreationally and enjoy clocking upwards of 10 miles on their own, should also carry water with them. Although these runners may be traveling much shorter distances than marathon or ultra runners, they are doing so outside of the parameters of a race, meaning perks like water stations will not be available to them. A backpack with a hydration system is highly recommended as staying hydrated is the number one way to maintain health during a run. Although hydration vests also work great for these runners, really any pack that can carry the proper amount of water will work fine. Since the distance you will be traveling is much shorter than what competitive distance runners travel, carrying a little extra weight is less important, and bags that can fit more than just a light layer and an energy bar may actually work better for your needs. If this is the type of running you are buying a pack for, think carefully about everything you may want to carry before making a purchase.
The final type of runner who needs a backpack is the run commuter. These people use the time it takes to get to work or school to fit a workout in. They need to bring a change of clothes and shoes with them daily, as running clothes are not typically appropriate for work. It is also possible that they will need to bring lunch, books, or their computer. If this is what you need your running bag for, make sure the backpack can hold at least 10 liters worth of gear. If you are a student and need to bring textbooks or your laptop with you daily, be careful to check the dimensions of a backpack before purchasing it. Running backpacks are made to be compact, and many have dimensions slightly too small for the average laptop.
How much water you will need as you run
The primary reason people use a backpack while running to remain hydrated on the go. Even if this is not the main reason you are purchasing a bag, knowing how much water you will need can help you pick the right one. Also, it is important to consider the systems that each bag utilizes to carry and dispense water. Any good running pack will be compatible with a hydration bladder, which is the ideal way to drink as you run since you don’t have to stop moving to drink. However, most running backpacks do not include a hydration bladder with purchase. If it is important to you to buy a new hydration bladder look around and you will be able to find some bags that come with them. In particular, most Camelbak bags include a hydration bladder. Almost all running backpacks also include pockets that are designed to hold 1-liter water bottles, which can be a great option for staying hydrated.
Once you have figured out how you are going to access your water from your bag, you need to decide how much water you need. For long distance runners, 2 liters is the minimum of what should be carried at any time and it’s possible you may want more. Recreational runners and run commuters may be ok with 1 liter or less of water. Consider carefully the routs you will typically be taking, how hot the run may get, and if you will have access to a water fountain before deciding which hydration bladder or water bottle to buy. Then think carefully about whether your chosen backpack will be able to accommodate this system along with whatever else you may need to carry
Q: How do I stop my running backpack from chaffing?
Chafing is one of the most painful things that a runner can deal with, and backpacks are one of the most common items a runner wears that create this problem. Good fit is the best way to stop chafing from occurring since repetitive rubbing is what causes it to happen. Stopping your backpack from making direct contact with your skin also prevents chafing. Unfortunately, this means avoiding running without a shirt, which can be uncomfortable on hot days. Keeping the skin on your back safe is worth a little extra sweat though.
Q: Is water resistance important in a running backpack?
Unlike bike commuting, runners can hop on a bus or grab a taxi if it suddenly starts to pour on their way to work. This makes having a waterproof running backpack less important than in other sports. Still, some water resistance is helpful in keeping your clothes dry, and there are fully waterproof running backpacks on the market although they are few and far between. If you want your bag to be waterproof but don’t like the backpack options you have, a rain cover is a cheap alternative that protects any bag from getting wet.
If you are running in a race and your bag gets wet, it typically is not a huge problem since racers don’t carry much else in their bags besides water. Other concerns are things like your phone, keys, or wallet getting wet, a problem that is easily solved by putting these small items in a ditty bag. Furthermore, always pay attention to the weather before starting a run, as running in the rain is not a pleasant experience. If It can’t be avoided, make sure to bring a raincoat, rain pants, and a rain cover for your bag. Although these items aren’t entirely necessary, having them will make for a more pleasant experience if your racing in a downpour.
Q: What are the most important factors to consider which purchasing a running backpack?
The most important factor when evaluating the fit of a running backpack is how the straps feel. You want the straps to be snug without cutting off circulation, and to distribute the weight of the bag evenly across your body to reduce stress on any one area. The best way to figure out which bags feel good is to try them on. Head to your local outdoor retailer and closely examine the bags you find there. Even if you don’t find the backpack you want, you will leave with a better idea of which brands, sizes, and strap lengths fit you best. You will also gain a better idea of how much weight you can tolerate. Once you figure out which bags fit you well, then you can spend some time looking at the different styles and colors to find one that matches your personality. Remember though, fit is far more important than looks, and even the most stylish bag is useless if it is uncomfortable to wear.
Q: What makes a running backpack different from other bags?
There are tons of backpacks on the market, but most of them cannot be used for running. The most important feature of a running backpack is the ability to stay tightly in place as one runs. Any movement or bouncing on the back will cause irritation and chafing for the runner. It is also important that a running backpack evenly distributes the weight of the bag across the runner’s back, chest, and glutes. Finally, running backpacks should be lightweight and compact, so you will barely be able to notice that it is there. These features combine to make backpacks that offer high mobility while staying perfectly still on the users back.
Q: What is the importance of padded straps?
Padded shoulder and waist straps make running more comfortable, especially when you have to carry a few pounds on your back. Thin straps don’t distribute the weight of your backpack, causing more tension to certain areas, and increasing the possibility of chafing. The larger the straps on your bag is, the more comfortable it will be. Larger straps do add weight to the bag, however, the even distribution of this weight can actually make them feel lighter and more comfortable.
Be picky when choosing a running backpack, since a perfect fit is more important when running than in other sports. As this list demonstrates, there are numerous options on the market, so as long as you take your time, finding your ideal bag is entirely possible. Now that you have read the top ten best running backpacks in the market today you have a better idea which one suits your running needs best. I know from experience that having a great running backpack can make the difference between an enjoyable and miserable run – being able to easily access water and food on a 16-mile loop makes the entire experience feel more possible. The right backpack can actually be the reason you are able to finish at all, so carefully think over your needs before making a purchase.