Being Official Magazine Partner for the run2work running movement, our aim over the coming weeks is to help get you one step closer to making the run commute part of your daily life, so up first in a number of articles on run commuting is our guide to choosing the perfect running backpack.
First things first, not ‘any old bag’ will do. That old school bag that you’ve had in the cupboard for years might look like any other backpack, but it’s time to invest in something proper.
And by proper we mean a bag with all the right straps; you’ll need a bag with shoulder, chest and waist straps. The bag must fit securely but be comfortable and distributing the load of the bag through these different straps is how you achieve this.
Strap location and padding are crucial. The main shoulder straps need to be padded (not bulky) and wide to evenly distribute the weight of the bag over your shoulders (see image above). Thins straps dig in and can rub. They also need to be well stitched at their joining point at the top and bottom of the bag (see image below), as this is where most of the stress will be placed.
The straps need to be adjustable in length and feel comfortable when pulled tight enough to secure the bag firmly. If you’re in doubt when trying one out, stuff a jumper/jacket inside the bag and then pull the straps tight. If there’s any hint of discomfort around the neck from rubbing or over the shoulders, try a different bag. Shoulders straps where ventilation has been considered will make a big difference in the summer months too.
The main function of the chest strap is to help take the weight of the bag sitting on the shoulders and spread it evenly across the chest, whilst helping to hold the bag in place. This means that the chest straps need to not only be adjustable across the chest, but also up the length of the shoulder straps so that you can find the optimal tension point; plus for female runners this is key to avoid the strap sitting awkwardly across the chest.
The chest strap is all about tension, most decent straps will have a built in section of elastic (see image above) so that the tension of the strap will adjust with the movement of your chest and remain tight, but not restrictive. You don’t want to have to pull the chest strap too tight to hold the bag in place, that’s the job of the shoulder straps and the waist straps.
With the top of half of the bag now secured, the waist straps deals with the bottom of the bag. Being the heaviest part of the bag, the straps here need to easily extend around the torso and be wide and supportive (see image above), especially on the lower back and hips; you want to feel like you’re able to wrap the waist straps around you like a belt. Again, they need to be adjustable and most brands will have built in pockets here, which are very useful for gels/keys/money/anything else you might need.
When adjusting the bag before a run, your posture is one of the key how the bag should feel on your back; the bag needs to compliment your natural position, don’t adjust your posture to cope with the bag, this can lead to all sorts of issues. Avoiding hunching and rounding the back, keep your shoulders back and your chin up.
The ideal position for the bag, while depending on its weight and how you run, should be on areas used to being load bearing i.e. your shoulders and hips so try and get as snug a fit as possible on these point. Adjust the shoulders straps first, then the waist and then finally the chest.
The smaller the bag the better, but that’s just not plausible when carting around a days worth of clothes and other bits and pieces, so take a look about and see what seems most appropriate to you. Having said that, 20 litres is probably a good starting point for most people with most brands offering up options. Here are five options to consider around that size…
Berghaus Hyper 22 - - http://www.berghaus.com/. £42.
Dimensions (approx.): 51cm (H) x 26cm (W) x 20cm (D)
Weight (approx.): 488g
Salomon Trail 20 - http://www.salomon.com/ - £50
Dimensions (approx): 48cm (H) x 24cm (W) x 18cm (D)
Weight (approx): 425g
Dimensions (approx): 54cm (H) x 26cm (W) x 17cm (D)
Weight (approx): 291g
North Face Angstrom 20 - http://www.thenorthface.co.uk/ - £70
Dimensions (approx): 49cm (H) x 27cm (W) x 16cm (D)
Weight (approx): 709g
Deuter AC Lie 18 - http://www.deutergb.co.uk/ - £55
Dimensions (approx): 53cm (H) x 30cm (W) x 19cm (D)
Weight (approx): 900g