When it comes to choosing a backpack for running, the options are endless, depending on your need. If it’s a ultramarathon, you’ll want a minimalist vest to carry gels, fluids and snacks. If you’re planning on adding a run commute or two to your weekly mileage, you’ll probably want something more substantial to carry all the essentials.
How to choose the best running backpack:
For more information on choosing the right running bag for you, read our comprehensive guide here. In a nutshell, you’ll want to look at the straps of the bag – you’ll need one with shoulder, chest and waist straps in order to run comfortably. The shoulder straps should be padded and wide enough to distribute weight evenly (thin straps often dig in and rub), the chest strap should be able to be moved up and down (especially important for female runners) and all the straps need to be adjustable.
Secondly, take a look at the capacity of the bag. For commuting 8-12L is normally more than enough room for all your belongings and a good starting point – don’t over pack your bag, the lighter the better.
What are the best running backpacks on the market?
Here are our tried and tested favourites:
Best running backpack for: ultra training
A very light pack that wraps around your torso like a second running top and, with its handy shoulder-strap pockets, allows easy access to gels, bars and water. There’s also space for a bladder and an extra top or jacket in the back zippered pocket. With a 6L capacity there’s not much to this, but if you’re travelling light and long it’s a very fine option.
Best running backpack for: walking commutes
A sturdy pack with plenty of space for daily commute needs: the tablet sleeve was perfect for keeping work documents un-crumpled. However, you need to keep weight to a minimum for on-the-run comfort since the unpadded waist/hip and chest straps are narrow and dig in if you pull them tight to minimise bounce.
Best running backpack for: smaller runners
This one focuses on fit and comfort rather than features. It’s a minimal 8L pack with few flashy attributes but the weight-to-durability ratio is impressive, and our tester found it an extremely comfortable ride with the (moderate) load locked tight against the body. The straps are adjustable, but we reckon this is best suited to those with a slender frame.
Best running backpack for: race day
The is stylish, sleek and good for going fast for short distances, but not much else. The idea here is to keep the weight and dimensions down, and help you to carry essentials without compromising your run. Our tester packed in a spare top, 1L bladder, phone, keys, wallet and a couple of gels. It was so light he forgot he was wearing it. The only gripe was a fiddly chest strap.
Best running backpack for: heading to the gym
This 13L backpack is a good one for hikes, heading to the gym and short run commutes. It's water resistant, has pockets on the harness for gels and removable waistband strap, which is handy on days when you're not running. There's also more than enough pockets to organise the most disorganised runner.
Best running backpack for: simple comfort
Light and compact with a 2L hydration bladder, this hugs the back neatly and has a breathable mesh foam panel to provide comfort and structure. There was minimal sideways rotation, thanks to the chest strap and the side adjusting straps, while the two small expanding pockets were handy and the waterproof coating made it perfect during showers.
Best running backpack for: short run commutes
This is sturdy without being heavy, with a nicely tapered shape that hugs the back. It has one main pocket, a smaller one on top and easy-access mesh storage on the outside, as well as two bottle holders. (It’s bladder-compatible, too). On the run it stays put, thanks to the thin chest and waist straps, but on the downside the stiff shoulder straps rubbed a little.
Best running backpack for: multi-day epics
This is a sizeable piece of kit, with enough compartments, zips and attachment loops to keep even the most methodical packer happy. It’s designed for long, tough events such as the Marathon Des Sables; it’s nicely and logically designed, fits well and is surprisingly light. However, our tester did note a couple of fraying seams after several good runs.
Best running backpack for: those on a budget
It probably won’t last as long as some of the other backpacks on the list, but it’s a good place to start if you’re thinking of trying run commuting for the first time. With reflective details to increase your visibility in low light, this 15L backpack is big enough to carry most of your essentials. Featuring one large main compartment and an open mesh pocket on either side, there’s a chest strap and a waist strap to minimise movement on your run.
Best running backpack for: marathon training
This is almost a very good pack. It’s well designed and there is room to fit in all you need for a long training run alongside the included 1.5L bladder (with its new no-drip, nozzle). But runners who don’t like a high-sitting pack should look elsewhere, and it may take some strap adjustment to ensure a stable fit.
Best running backpack for: a trail marathon
The Jurek here is ultra-running legend Scott Jurek, who does things such as running the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail in 46 days. He designed this 9L pack and his experience is evident, from the high-back design, myriad entry points, array of pockets, clips, bungee holsters, whistles and more. He’s thought of everything and then put it in the right place.
Best running backpack for: trail running essentials
A tiny but mighty 5L pack that’s perfect for those who prize durability. It won’t fit much more than a 500ml bottle, keys, phone and a gel but it emerged unscathed from a couple of mucky forest runs and gave the impression that, come the apocalypse, cockroaches will be wandering around with these on their backs.
Best running backpack for: a secure fit
Despite the name we don’t think this 10L pack is ideally suited for commuting, largely because it won’t fit enough stuff in unless you pack light, owing to the inflexibility of the material used for the main compartment. But that same inflexibility keeps things in place, while the adjustable fit is excellent and the pack clings tightly to your back.