How To Choose A Running Backpack


I once got a cramp in my leg running with a backpack. Cue limping the rest of the way home. Probably not the backpack’s fault, but it was the only time it’s happened, so I’m placing the blame. Besides, it’s damn uncomfortable having an unwieldy backpack slip around and crash into your back while you’re running. Filling a rucksack with rocks and going jogging is great if you’re training for the Roman Legion, but not so good if you’re wanting to go for a run.

There are a lot of reasons to take a backpack with you on your route. Sometimes you just want something to stash your civilian clothes in. Sometimes you want to jog home from work, and need some place to put your work stuff. Plus, heading out to the city park to run is a much better experience when you can bring along some snacks, equipment, etc. Ditto hiking or highway running.

Standard-sized backpacks, however, like to wobble and flop about, even when cinched tightly, which is irritating and uncomfortable. And depending on the weight of the pack, that zooming left and right can even mar your gait.

Instead, go for a running backpack. Lightweight, tight, and well-made, there’s nothing quite like them.


Chest Straps

You’re going to want chest straps. The running blog Run To Work writes that chest straps are “the single most important factor in buying a backpack for [running]. With just the usual pair of arm straps, the bag will jiggle up, down, left, right, back, forth – all over the place. It’s not nice. But if you buy a back with waist straps and chest straps, and all of a sudden the bag begins to hold steady.” These straps also often come with reflective accents and pouches, which can be nice.

But the best chest straps in the world won’t mean anything if the backpack’s too heavy, which brings us to…


Unless you’re doing some serious military training, make sure to get a pack that skews light. Run To Work also stresses to get a small bag, if only to force you not to pack heavy.

Hydration Bladders

It might make you feel like you’re in a scene from Dune, but hydration bladders are convenience itself. The bladders sit in the backpack and connect to a valve that you drink from as you run. No more carrying heavy or slippery water bottles.

Don’t cheap out on these guys, though, as the less expensive ones are prone to leaking, and are harder to clean. These are often sold separately, but running packs should have space for them.

You can also get hydration packs, sometimes called camel backpacks, which have the bladder built right into the backpack.

Pictured: Camelbak Classic, $71

Safety Features

A good running backpack has safety in mind. The chest straps often come with whistles built in, and the pack itself should have reflective elements. The bag should also come with adventure features like map pockets, belts, etc.


Now, let us all drool over these gorgeous things.

Salomon’s XA 10+3 EXP SET M has a clunky name, but it’s light, expandable, and comes with a PVC/BPA-free hydration bladder, hose connector and an additional belt pocket. Clocking in at 13 l and 15 oz, that’s a lot of space for such a little pack.

Sadly one letter away from being the Racer X, the Race X Air, by Deuter, comes in an ocean-silver colourway, and is designed with Deuter’s Microrip Nylon. It has a breathable Air Comfort System that prevents heat build-up and sweating, and comes with a 2 l BPA-free Hydration System. 14 l and 1 lb, 13 oz. Super snazzy. gave the Camelbak Octane 18 a 4 out of 5 star rating, saying, “the Octane is a joy to run in. The inverted Y shape with wings helps support and spread the load, with marginally heavier material than the other packs here, which reduce side-slop when partially loaded.”

The hydration capacity of the Octane’s bladder is a whopping 3 litres, and its belt comes with cargo pockets. This guy is made for triathlons and light hiking, and comes with a ton of room for supplies and equipment. Heavy duty stuff.

Made for biking and running, the Osprey Raptor 10 Daypack is sleek, professional looking and well made. For cyclists, it comes with a helmet clip, reflectors, and a dozen other features, including elasticstretch sternum straps, magnetic sternum buckles, organization sleeves, and blinker light attchment patchs. All great features for runners, too.

The Osprey Raptor 10 sits at 1 lb, 9 oz, has an 8-10 l capacity, with a three l reservoir for hydration bladders and about a gazillion pockets.


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