If you’re serious about running, you need the right gear.
You’ve got the expensive running shoes, you’ve got your Fitbit or Apple Watch on your wrist, and you’ve got the matching running clothes. The only thing you’re missing is the perfect backpack, to carry your water and anything else you might need. Now, you can’t just take any old backpack out running with you. If you grab your old college backpack, it’s going to be bouncing around all over the place and completely ruin your rhythm. It can also cause damage to your back and shoulders if you don’t have the right pack.
The backpacks in this list are the best running backpacks money can buy. They spread the weight evenly across your back and provide clever ways of storing your valuables and hydration equipment. The right running backpack is the piece of sports equipment that you really can’t do without.
The Best Running Backpacks
Osprey is one of the big players in the backpack market now. Born in 1974, the Californian manufacturer has always made quality packs, but only in the last decade have they become really popular. If you’ve ever spent time on the backpacking routes of South East Asia or Australia, you’ll have seen thousands of them. The Osprey Raptor 14 is a lightweight sports backpack – perfect for running, cycling, skiing, etc. – with a built-in 3-liter reservoir. It’s actually designed specifically for biking, but that actually makes it better than a lot of the running-specific packs on this list. The reservoir has a hydraulic system that stops the liquid from moving around at high-speeds, letting you keep your running rhythm. It’s super easy to fill up and – like all osprey hydration packs – the materials, zips, and buckles are really high quality. We think it’s the best choice on this list – in terms of both quality and price – but keep reading on to see whether another backpack suits you better.
3 interior pockets
5 exterior pockets
Roll-out tool pouch
- Weight1.9 pounds
The Deuter Speed Lite 20 Athletic Daypack is designed to be streamlined and lightweight. That makes it perfect for any fast-paced endurance sports like running, speed-climbing, or skiing. It also doubles up as a hiking and mountaineering backpack. It’s Deuter’s lightest and most simple backpack (it only weighs 1 pound), which makes it perfect for those of you serious about personal bests. It’s doesn’t come with a hydration system but has a specialized compartment to keep it in, as well as space for wet gear, dry gear, and valuables. Despite its simplicity, it’s got plenty of handy little compartments for stuff like sunglasses, helmets, and water bottles.
Lightweight and streamlined
V-cut for athletic movement
Pockets for wet and dry gear
Loops and pockets for accessories
- Weight13.4 ounces
The Salomon Advanced Skin Backpack is the ultimate in running backpack technology. It’s more a vest than a backpack, because of the way it makes use of the straps for storage space. The greatest thing about this pack is the fact you don’t feel like you’re wearing anything on your back; the weight is spread so evenly, it feels lighter than other packs. The fabric is made to dry quickly, and they’ve really paid attention to the areas where you could chafe. The only downside is that it doesn’t come with a built-in bladder for hydration, but there is a hanging system compatible with a 1.5 liter bladder and space for 2 small flasks (which are included). Like Salomon say: “You don’t carry this backpack, you wear it”. It really is the premium choice if you’re looking for a super high-quality running backpack. If you need a gift for runners, this might be a great choice.
Lightweight & breathable
Hanging system for bladder
2 soft flasks included
- Weight1 pounds
The name CamelBak backpacks are synonymous with sporting backpacks. The inventors of the hydration backpack with a built-in reservoir system, they still have some of the best products on the market. The CamelBak Circuit Hydration Vest is one of them. The Crux system delivers 20% more water per sip than other backpacks, meaning you can stay properly hydrated without having to stop for a drink. The only problem is it doesn’t really have space for anything else. There is a small phone holder, but this backpack is built purely for hydration. If you’re looking for a multi-purpose backpack, this probably isn’t the best choice for you.
1.5 Liter reservoir
Mesh design for ventilation
Secure phone pocket
- Weight12.8 ounces
If you’re looking for a budget running backpack, there’s few better than the TRIWONDER Hydration Pack. It might not have the same technology or high-quality materials as some of the other packs on this list, but at $29.99 you get a lot of backpack for your money. It has a similar vest-type design to the Salomon Advanced Skin Backpackwhich makes it the perfect running tool. You get the option to buy it with 2 water bottles or with a 2L water bladder, or both, giving you the option to tailor the backpack to your requirements. It a surprisingly high-quality product for the price; it’s not going to last as long as a $100 backpack, but if you’re just starting out this pack will tick all the boxes. The waterproof nylon and polyester mesh ismade to be breathable, and it’s got plenty of secure little pockets to carry your belongings or even extra pair of running socks.
Best Value for Money
Comes with 2 bottles or 2L bladder
- Weight8.8 ounces
The Gregory Mountain Products Miwok 18 Liter is another great multi-purpose sports backpack. It doesn’t contain a water bladder or have a vest type design, but has a lot more carrying space than running-specific packs. It’s still designed with a mesh-back for breathability, and it also has stabilizing wings, which make it really steady on the move. It’s similar to the Osprey Raptor 14 but – at half the price – it’s a lot more affordable. It can be used for any number of activities, including running, hiking, mountaineering, biking, and skiing. So put on your running jacket and hit the road!
Multi-purpose sports pack
- ModelMIWOK 18
- Weight1.5 pounds
Most of the packs on this list have been unisex, but the Osprey Dyna 15 Hydration Pack is designed specifically for women. It’s smaller than the Osprey Raptor 14, but still packs in a whole lot of space and functionality. The super-sleek design has a reservoir sleeve that fits the Hydraulics LT Reservoir (included). This well-fitted piece means no water will slosh around when you’re running, keeping the whole backpack balanced. It’s also got space for food supplements, a whistle, and secure pockets for your valuables or supplements for running. It comes in either silver and red or black and blue, making it one of the best-looking packs on this list.
Designed for women
Extra secure pockets
- ModelOsprey Packs
- Weight1.77 pounds
This one’s for the serious runners and distance trail racers out there. Designed specifically for running, the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest 4.0 has got everything you need to keep hydrated and stay on track. The vest design makes it super lightweight and has storage for 2 bottles on the front of the vest. It’s has a custom fitting system meaning you can adjust the pack specifically to your body, to avoid any unwanted movement. It’s a little more expensive than some of the packs on this list, which is why we’d recommend this for competitive or really serious runners. You get the feeling from this pack that the designers have thought of everything. It has a bungee type strapping system on the back, so you can stuff any extra layers in, without having to open the pack or stop running. Be sure to also check out our list of Patagonia backpacks for more great items like this.
Specific for running
Space for 2 water bottles
High-quality, lightweight material
- BrandUltimate Direction
- ModelUltimate Direction
- Weight13.6 ounces
The Nathan VaporAir Hydration Pack Running Vest has everything. It’s a specific running backpack with a vest design. It’s got space for 2 water bottles, as well as a 2L water bladder. It’s made of lightweight, breathable materials. It has secure pockets for valuables. It’s high-quality and designed to stop any bouncing around on the move. It’s got everything. The only slight downside would be the limited space in the pack, but compared to other running-specific packs, it has enough.
2 water bottles + 2L bladder
- Weight15.8 ounces
The last pack in our list is the CamelBakHydroBak Hydration Pack. At around $48.99, it’s nearly half the price of the CamelBak Circuit Hydration Vest, but you still get a lot of bang for your buck. It’s got a 1.5L reservoir which you can sip through CamelBak’s high-quality leak-proof valves. The mesh-material makes it really lightweight and it has a comfortable V-shaped design, allowing it to hug your shoulders as you run. If you had your heart set on a CamelBak, but you’re on a tight budget, this is the pack for you. Our handy Under Armour backpacks guide features more great products like this.
1.5 liter reservoir
- Weight5.3 ounces
Running Backpack Buying Guide & FAQ
How We Chose Our Selection of Running Backpacks?
There’s a lot to consider when you’re looking for the perfect running backpack. It’s not as simple as just chucking on a backpack and going for a run – you need it to be your exercise companion. It has to hug your body, keep you hydrated, stop you overheating, and even make you look good. That’s why we came up with a stringent set of criteria to pick the best 10 running backpacks:
Quality - You want your pack to last. That’s why we only picked backpacks and hydration packs made from high-quality, lasting materials. If you are using it regularly, your pack is going to be faced with a lot of movement, sweat, and bad weather, so it needs to be up to the job.
Brand– There are certain brands in the running backpack industry that you can trust. CamelBakis a pioneer, whilst brands like Ultimate Direction and Osprey are coming up with some excellent new developments. We have only chosen packs from brands you can trust.
Reviews – You can tell a lot from Amazon reviews. Never before has it been easier to determine the real quality of a product, because now you have hundreds of customers telling you! We researched these reviews and made sure these backpacks were loved by the people.
Price – You get what you pay for. If you are really serious about your running pack or hydration backpack, you can spend the money and get the best, but we’ve also tried to include some cheaper (and still awesome) options.
Features to Look for in Running Backpacks
Capacity–This is different for everyone. If you are a casual runner, you might not need to carry a lot with you. Whereas, if you are running up mountains or doing marathons, you might need to take some more equipment. You need to take into consideration your personal requirements. Lay everything you take – or want to take – running on a table and it should give you a good idea of how much space you need. Some packs come with clever storage solutions for phones/wet gear/ valuables/hydration equipment. Most running and hydration packs state their capacity in liters, but don’t get confused if the pack has a water bladder system, as this will also be in liters. For reference, a large bottle of Coca-Cola is 2 liters.
Size–Not to be confused with capacity (how much your bag can carry), size is another thing to consider altogether. Most of the backpacks on this list have systems that stop them from bouncing around when you’re running, but a large bag can still be a nuisance if you aren’t careful. Another thing to consider is how large your back and shoulders are – a backpack might look small in pictures, but if you have a small frame, it could still end up too large. Check the dimensions of the backpack and measure it out with a measuring tape before you buy.
Material– Material is important when it comes to picking the right running backpack. All of the backpacks on this list are made from high-quality, lightweight materials, like nylon and polyester mesh. That means that the overall weight of the pack is kept down, but the materials will last a long time and put up with the inevitable wear and tear that comes with sports.
Design – There are a few different designs available in our Top 10. Again, this is really personal preference and will depend on your specific requirements for a running backpack:
- The classic backpack shape - like the Osprey Raptor 14- gives a lot more capacity than other designs, but doesn’t hug your body as well. Perfect for use in different sports and for runners who need to carry extra gear.
- The vest shape - like the Salomon Advanced Skin Backpack- provides a very tight, comfortable fit that makes you feel like you aren’t wearing a backpack at all. These packs often have clever storage solutions in the front sections, but less capacity in the back.
- The V shape – like the CamelBakHydroBak Hydration Pack – is really exclusive to CamelBak hydration backpacks. They offer limited storage space but are the leaders in hydration technology.
Breathability – The last thing you want on a run is for your backpack to be too hot and cause your body temperature to rise. This can cause a loss in performance and, ultimately, cause you to become dehydrated (which kind of defeats the objective of having a running backpack in the first place). All the backpacks in our Top 10 have breathable fabrics which allow air to reach your body, keeping you cool.
Waterproofness – Your backpack is probably going to encounter a lot of moisture in its lifetime: rain, sweat, spillage from your bottle, or all of the above. That means you need to choose a backpack that is made from a waterproof, or at least water-resistant, material. All of the packs on this list are water-resistant and some of the bags having waterproof compartments for wet gear. This is an especially important consideration if you live somewhere where it rains regularly.
Straps– The quality of a backpack’s straps is a good measure of the overall quality of the product. Osprey have particular high-quality straps and locks, but all the other bags in this list are strong contenders. You need to buy a bag with adjustable straps, so you can tailor the pack to your body shape. This will stop it from moving around when you’re on the move and keep it tight to your body. The Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest has straps that you can adjust at high speeds, so you never have to stop to adjust.
Added Compartments – The chances are, you aren’t going to be carrying anything too bulky when you’re out on a run. That’s why you should look for clever spaces to carry the small and valuable items, like your phone. Most of the backpacks in this top 10 have lots of clever storage solutions.
Rules to Follow When Running with a Pack
Make Sure it Fits–Whatever you do, don’t go out running with a bag that doesn’t fit perfectly. It could really damage your back and cause problems further down the line. Do your research and buy a bag that is suitable for your body size and shape. Then adjust it until it hugs your back and shoulders and the weight is evenly distributed. Most companies will take refunds and provide you with the right size if you get it wrong.
Don’t Go Too Hard, Too Quick– Like with any new running equipment, you shouldn’t test your new bag out on a marathon. Go for a couple of short, easy runs and see how the bag works for you. Then, build up to the longer, more difficult runs. This is especially important if you haven’t run with a backpack before.
Improve Your Back Strength – You are about to start running with a whole new weight on your back. You can train your back to improve its strength and prepare it for this new pressure. Back exercises include barbell deadlifts, wide-grip pull-ups, and rowing machines. It is definitely worth adding some back exercises to your workout regime before running with a backpack. If you don’t work out in the gym, you can build up your back strength by starting with a small load in your pack and gradually increasing the weight.
Take Recovery Seriously – Again, it’s important to remember that your back is taking on a whole new pressure, so you should take the recovery period seriously. Stretch your back down after running and release the pressure built up in your shoulders.
Don’t Compete with a New Pack– If you’re a competitive runner, you really need to test out your new pack. It could affect your performance, or even cause injury if you aren’t careful. Work your new backpack into your training regime and make sure it’s the perfect running partner for you.
Hydration Basics for Trail Running
Staying properly hydrated is the key to a successful and comfortable run. There’s a fine line between underhydration and overhydration, so you need to know how much to drink. Here’s a basic guide on how much to drink before, during, and after a run:
Before: Drink 17 – 20 fluid ounces of water in the 2 hours leading up to your run. If you can, space this amount out over the 2 hours instead of drinking in one go.
During: Drink 5-10 fluid ounces (a couple of large sips) every 15-20 minutes of your run.
After: Drink 17-24 fluid ounces of water for every pound of weight lost during the run. This requires you to weigh yourself before and after the run.
Hydration Bags vs Water Bottles
- Easy to use – The perfect way to stay hydrated without having to open bottles or fish anything out of your bag.
- Easy to store – If you buy a hydration backpack, it’s really easy to store your hydration reservoir and doesn’t get in the way on a run.
- Fast – If you care about your personal best, you don’t want to slow down for anything. Hydration packs provide the perfect way to stay hydrated whilst keeping up your pace.
- Less environmental impact – No need to throw away plastic bottles. Your hydration bag will last for a long time and reduce your carbon footprint.
- Hard to refill –Some hydration packs have been known to be difficult to refill. If you are halfway through a run and want to refill your reservoir you will have to take it out of the bag and open it.
- Easy to damage – Some cheaper models are easy to damage, especially at weak points like joints and connections.
- Maintenance – You need to wash and dry your hydration system after every use, otherwise you will end up with mold in the reservoir and tubes.
- Cheap – You can pick up a water bottle for next to nothing. That can make it a much cheaper option than a hydration bag.
- Easy to dispose of – If you use plastic water bottles, you can dispose of them after every run and save on washing up time. Although make sure you recycle properly!
- Awkward – When you are deep into a long run and your body isn’t working properly anymore, opening up your water bottle can be a real challenge.
- Wasted water – Again, when you’re fatigued it can be easy to spill water. You don’t want to waste your precious water!
Running Backpack FAQ
Q: What is a Running Backpack?
A: A running backpack is a backpack designed specifically for running or trail racing. There are often designed to hug your body more than a normal backpack and have some way of holding water, either in water bottles or a reservoir. Some general sports backpacks – like the Gregory Mountain Products Miwok 18 Liter are suitable for running, even though they are not designed exclusively for the purpose.
Q: Is water resistance important in a Running Backpack?
A: Yes. Whilst running, your backpack could come into contact with lots of different types of moisture – sweat, rain, drinking water – so your pack needs to be made from water-resistant materials.
Q: How to clean your Running Backpack?
A: You can clean it down with water and a cloth and then leave it to dry. Your backpack may start to smell due to sweat. If it does, you can treat it with a sweat-eating bacteria product like Envii Kit Fresh.
Q: Will my shoulders get tired on carrying the pack?
A: You may experience some added fatigue from carrying a backpack, but this will soon go with experience. If the backpack is well-fitted to your body, you shouldn’t experience much-added tiredness.