RW Test: Backpacks

Running to work (and home again) can help you maximise your training and keep your regime on track. But you'll need something to carry your keys, phone, shoes - maybe even your laptop.

So we road-tested eight of the latest running backpacks to select the best.

When you choose yours, look for: wide, comfortable straps; a stable fit against the back; solid construction; decent capacity; a structure that holds the contents in place and extra zips and pockets for smaller items.

Test Criteria

Comfort The backpack should be a snug, easy fit that won't rub you raw. And the straps shouldn't dig in.

Stability It shouldn't affect your balance, or hamper your running style, when fully loaded.

Capacity It should contain sufficient space for the fundamentals you'll need during your day.

Extras Does it have a hydration cell, extra pockets and compartments - and how accessible are they?

Berghaus Mach 24

Berghaus Mach 24

Price £55
Capacity 24 litres
Contact www.berghaus.com

The large capacity and internal compression qualities of this pack are its best features. The elasticated bottom half holds the contents in place, but if you need to ram extra stuff in, it expands to accommodate. There are wicking pads on the waist straps and back, and a foam ventilation system down the spine to ward off sweat. However, the shoulder straps struggled to keep the pack from moving about while on the move.

How It Rated

Comfort 6 Stability 5 Capacity 9 Extras 6 OVERALL 6.5

Camelbak Octane 24

Camelbak Octane 24

Price £79.99
Capacity 27 litres
Contact www.zyro.co.uk

This compact pack somehow manages to provide good stability without any discernable support structure. This makes for a pack that offers great support, while keeping its weight down. The interior is surprisingly roomy (its size belies its capacity) and there is meshing across the back, and both shoulder straps. There are two waist zip pockets and the pack can fit a three-litre hydration pack in a special rear compartment.

How It Rated

Comfort 8 Stability 8 Capacity 9 Extras 7 OVERALL 8

Deuter Spectro AC32

Deuter Spectro AC32

Price £100
Capacity 32 litres
Contact www.deutergb.co.uk

The biggest and most-expensive pack on test. The long frame and the weight make it better suited to larger runners, but it will easily accommodate everything you could possibly need for a day's work. A clever mesh frame protruding from the back provides superb support, while allowing air in to circulate. And the contents of the bottom of the pack can be accessed via a zip, so you don't have to rummage down from the top.

How It Rated

Comfort 7 StabilityCapacity 10 Extras 6 OVERALL 8

OMM Adventure Light

OMM Adventure Light

Price £50
Capacity 20 litres
Contact www.theomm.com

The most impressive thing about this pack is its adaptability. It has enough straps and toggles to be able to fold down to a small size if carrying a light load, but its capacity when full is impressive  - and the lightweight chassis down the spine means it stays stable on your back. Designed for mountain running, there are plenty of outer pouches and pockets - and the chest buckle doubles as a whistle in case you get lost.

How It Rated

Comfort 8 Stability 7 Capacity 8 Extras 8 OVERALL 8

Salomon XA 20

Salomon XA 20

Price £50
Capacity 20 litres
Contact www.salomonrunning.com

The mesh pads on the back of this pack were superb at providing sweat-free cushioning, and the compact design kept the kit firmly in place without it moving around. Adjustable chest and waist straps make for a secure fit
and there are five clever pockets that add to storage capacity. Toggles can be used to reduce the size of the pack, and there is also a chamber for a hydration bladder.

How It Rated

Comfort 9 Stability 9 Capacity 7 Extras 9 OVERALL 8.5

Terra Nova Laser Elite

Terra Nova Laser Elite

Price £45
Capacity 20 litres
Contact www.terra-nova.co.uk

Weighing slightly more than a pocket handkerchief, this pack is incredibly tough and durable for its size. The super-thin skin that forms the body of the pack may look feeble, but it comfortably holds a full load of shoes, kit and papers, and can be folded down almost into your pocket. But its minimalist design means there are few extra pockets, and the cushioning against the back is poor if you're carrying heavier objects.

How It Rated

Comfort 6 Stability 6 Capacity 8 Extras 5 OVERALL 7.5

The North Face Gunnison 18

The North Face Gunnison 18

Price £89
Capacity 18 litres
Contact www.thenorthface.com

Rugged, durable and no-nonsense are the best words to describe this pack. Best suited to those who travel light, the capacity is average and the inflexible design mans there's no give in the fabric. However, it clings to the back brilliantly, and barely moves an inch, even when you change direction on a run. It comes with capacity for a hydration pack, but there is only one outer pocket. A good option for fans of no-frills packs.

How It Rated

Comfort 9 Stability 9 Capacity 7 Extras 5 OVERALL 7.5

RaidLight Endurance

RaidLight Endurance - Editor's Choice

Price £54.99
Capacity 10 litres
Contact www.firstascent.co.uk

Don't let the small capacity fool you -  this pack holds plenty of kit. The narrow design means you need to pack carefully, but ensures the weight is evenly distributed and the contents are held firmly in place. The comfortable waist straps and back pads make this pack (almost) a pleasure to wear on a run, and there is an external bottle holder - and plenty of nooks and crannies for smaller items.

How It Rated

Comfort 9 Stability 9 Capacity 7 Extras 10 OVERALL 9