If your main method of exercise is running, then there are many reasons why you will need a running backpack. Whether you are completing fell runs or country trails and need supplies, or if you are running to work or to the gym, then you will need a running backpack to take important items with you.
A running backpack is very different from a standard backpack (which we would definitely not recommend running for any length of time with!) as they are designed to stay close to your body to avoid any discomfort, they will also be lighter and often smaller, so that they do not hinder your run in any way.
Think about it, if you are running to work then you are going to need a change of clothes and shoes, possibly shower gel and some work documents – how are you going to get these to work with you without a running backpack? Equally, if you are completing more strenuous fell or mountain runs, then you are going to need food and water, possibly a map and different layers of clothing – all of which will fit in the best running backpack!
What Should I Look For In A Running Backpack?
There are some main features that you should be looking for when trying to find the best running backpack for your money. We have gone into detail on these below to help you make the right purchase!
It goes without saying that you are going to want to purchase the lightest running backpack possible, whilst also considering the different features that you are going to need from your bag. A lighter running backpack will reduce how quickly you fatigue whilst out running and will also stop you running in a more hunched position, which could not only reduce your speed but also increase the chance of a sore back at the end of the day!
The weight of running backpacks varies quite considerably depending on the size that you are going for, but also depends on the materials that the bag is made from. We found bags that ranged from 200g all the way to 800g, so be sure to check this and also think about the weight of the things that you are going to be putting in your backpack when you go for your run!
The size of most running backpacks is measured in capacity, to show the amount of things that you can fit into them. Running backpacks that we found ranged massively from 5L to 35L. As you can see, this is a big difference in size – think about exactly what you are going to be taking with you on your run – we would always recommend going for a slightly bigger capacity than you think you will need, but not so big that you are carrying around extra material just for the sake of it!
Many running backpacks will actually be expandable in size, so will offer two sizes and capacities. This is perfect for when you are out running as it means that you can adjust the size of the bag so that it is just big enough for all your belongings, which saves you carrying a bigger backpack than necessary.
Make sure to consider the shape of your running backpack too. Some have a slender but longer design, so that the backpack can sit between your shoulders, reducing the feel of the bag on your back, whereas others will be more blocky in shape so that they sit higher on your back.
Believe it or not, not all running backpacks are waterproof! The reason for this is that some manufacturers have sacrificed the water-repelling abilities in exchange for a lighter, more breathable backpack! It is really down to personal preference as to what you need most from your running backpack, but if there is any chance that you are going to be running in the rain, then we would recommend opting for a backpack with a waterproof membrane, so that it is still breathable, whilst protecting all your precious belongings.
Many running backpacks come with what is known as a “hydration pack”. This is essentially a reusable plastic bag with a spout that will hold water or hydration fluids, to keep you well hydrated whilst you are running. The spout feeds out the harness of the bag so that you don’t have to stop and take the bag off to have a drink, simply put the spout into your mouth and take your sip! These are perfect for anyone that is planning any longer distance runs! Some of the best running backpacks make sure that the hydration pack is insulated, which will keep your water cooler for longer on those hot, summer runs!
Watch out though as some running backpacks require you to purchase the hydration pack separately, which will add to your initial outlay!
The type of harness you opt for really comes down to personal preference. Experts suggest that the more “points” a harness has, the less movement you will feel when you are out running, whilst others say that having front harness straps can feel restrictive and uncomfortable.
The benefits of having a 6-point harness (like is found with many of the best running backpacks) is that it will secure the backpack into place, so that your movement whilst running won’t be inhibited by a moving backpack! This is important, because a backpack that is bouncing up and down whilst you are running will not only be a nuisance but will increase the rate at which you fatigue!
It is also vital to make sure that the straps have been well stitched to the rest of the bag, as this is the part that is going to come under the most strain when you are running!
TOP TIP: Look out for the best running backpacks with elasticated harnesses. These will make the backpack “hug” your arms and body to stop any movement whilst you are running.
There are many different colours and designs that can be found on different running backpacks, so it is really down to your own choice on what you are looking for. Some people would prefer the more neutral black or grey backpacks, but it is worth mentioning that more colourful backpacks will increase your visibility if you are running late at night or up in the hills!
There are some additional features that you will only find on the best running backpacks, so are well worth looking out for!
- Air mesh harness – Look out for harnesses with air mesh, padded straps. This will help to make the harness feel more comfortable and reduce the weight that you can feel through your shoulders. Plus the air mesh material will stop you from getting as hot whilst wearing the backpack.
- Air mesh back panel – Many running backpacks will also have air mesh back panels, this will help to wick away any sweat or moisture whilst you are out running.
- Side Pockets – Some running backpacks come with pockets on the part of the harness that straps around your midriff, these are great for those crucial items that you are going to need (such as a phone or map) as you will be able to pull them out without even stopping!
- Additional pockets – Running backpacks with plenty of pockets will help to keep your belongings organised and secure whilst you are out exercising!
- Safety features – If you are planning on completing fell or mountain runs, or in fact any runs that are off the beaten track, then it may be worth opting for a running backpack with a whistle. Others have reflective strips so that when you are out on the pavements you can be spotted by cars.
- Laptop sleeve – There is the occasional running backpack on the market that will have a sleeve for your laptop, which makes it perfect for if you are running to and from work. These aren’t very common but the sleeves will keep your laptop secure and in place, to avoid any damage whilst running.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do running backpacks sometimes come with helmet pockets?
Quite often branded “running backpacks” can also be used as cyclist backpacks because they will be offering the same features that are needed for both a runner and a cyclist – a lightweight, small backpack. An expandable helmet pocket will allow a cyclist to pack their helmet away if they are cycling to work, so that it is ready for the end of the day when they are coming home again, without it coming into contact with the rest of the belongings in your bag.
Can I wash my running backpack?
Yes! Make sure to put your backpack in a laundry bag (or a pillowcase if you don’t have one) as this will stop the straps from getting trapped and damaging either the bag or your washing machine! Make sure to wash your backpack on a cold wash, using just a small amount of gentle detergent. Then simply allow your bag to dry naturally!