10 of the best running backpacks in 2021
Whether commuting to work or heading out for a long run on the trails, we’ve got a running backpack for you.
There are plenty of running backpacks out there for runners, whether running to work, hitting up the local trails, or setting off on a long hike it never hurts to be prepared.
Recently, more and people have started run commuting to and from work. This is a great way to save money, squeeze in your training sessions between a hectic schedule, and finally is a great way to either start or end the day.
However, if you decide to run to work you need somewhere to store your work clothes, gear, and essentials such as your wallet. This is where a high-quality running backpack comes in handy – providing you a space to store these essentials without sacrificing on comfort.
This article will highlight the best running backpacks for commuting, trail running, or a casual Saturday afternoon hike.
However, first, let’s discuss a little about running backpacks.
Why do runners wear backpacks?
Runners wear backpacks to safely carry other items while running. For example, if running to work you may pack your work clothes, laptop, water bottle, change of shoes, and shower amenities to clean up at the office.
Likewise, if you’re heading out for a long Sunday run on the trails, you may pack extra fluid, running gels, some emergency food, a waterproof running jacket, and even a change of shoes.
The options are endless, but one thing is clear – a running backpack is a convenient piece of kit every runner should own.
How to find the best running backpack for you:
Choosing the right running backpack for you can be difficult, especially when there’s so many to choose from. However, there is three basic requirements we should consider, these are:
Each of these requirements will now be discussed in more detail.
The capacity of backpacks is measured in litres, with the most common size being anywhere from five to twenty litres in capacity. Often, external straps are implemented into the design of the bag to increase comfort, compressing the contents of the bag and providing a secure fit.
The size of your backpack is dependant on a variety of factors e.g. what are using the bag for? Is it for commuting to work? Running on the fells? Or just something to carry some extra liquid while on the run?
If using to commute to work, chances are you’re going to need a backpack on the larger side. This allows you to comfortably and securely hold any work items such as a laptop, a spare set of clothes for the office, shower amenities, and more.
On the other hand, if you’re just looking for something to carry a few running gels and extra liquid then a running vest may be a better option. We’ve included three of these in our list.
A key defining factor when choosing a backpack for running is your budget. Generally, as with most things you get what you pay for. The more expensive the bag, the higher the quality and the more comfortable it is to wear.
However, you don’t have to fork out big bucks to find a suitable running backpack for you. There are plenty of options out there around the £30 – £80 mark, great if you’re not going to use it all too often.
Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a commuter backpack, perhaps one you’ll also take on the trails and fells, then forking out a little extra cash might not be the worst idea. This should provide more wear & tear, allowing you to get your money’s worth.
Finally, we have purpose, as briefly touched upon already. If you’re looking for a backpack for a one-off run then your best off picking up any old backpack from your local sports direct. However, if you’re looking for one with a little more longevity, perhaps for commuting to work and hitting up the local trails on the weekend, then you should invest in a specialist one from one of the top brands such as Inov-8.
What are the top running backpack brands?
When it comes to running backpacks, there are two main brands that dominate the marketplace: Inov-8 and Salamon. While there are other brands out there such as Karrimor, both Inov-8 and Salamon offer the most up-to-date design, technology, and fit – unrivalled by other competitor backpacks.
So, without further ado here are our top ten running backpacks in 2021:
1. Inov-8 Adventurelite 15 running backpack
- Lightweight & highly durable
- 15-litre compartment
- Hydration compatible
- Zero-bounce fit
The Inov-8 adventurelite 15 is lightweight, highly durable, and utilises a zero-bounce fit. This ensures comfort mile after mile, whether commuting to work or running on uneven and rocky terrain.
Also, the backpack is hydration compatible with a dedicated reservoir sleeve compartment – allowing you to store a 2-litre shapeshifter reservoir.
2. Osprey Daylite plus 20l
- The multi-function interior sleeve is ideal for carrying water bottles, hydration tablets, and other small items
- Front panel pocket is excellent for storing a waterproof jacket and additional layers
- Hip belt, strap and sturdy harness design
- Choice of six different colours
The Osprey Daylite Plus is an excellent piece of kit – it’s ideal for run or cycle commuting to work, with plenty of storage for running essentials, a change of clothes, laptop, and other work belongings.
If you would like to find out more about the Daylite Plus, you can read a more in-depth review by Adventure Pending.
3. Inov-8 all-terrain 15
- Customizable and adjustable fit for all body shapes and sizes
- Roll-top closure
- Multiple hook and loop attachment points for bungee cords, ice axe loops etc.
The Inov-8 all-terrain 15-litre backpack is fully customizable and adjustable to fit all body shapes and sizes. This inclusive backpack contains a roll-top closure for ease of access into the bag, while the multiple hook attachment points allow you to connect items such as axe loops and bungee cords if needs be.
Finally, the easy access hydration pocket ensures a quick re-fill of fluid while saving on space in the main compartment.
4. Karrimor running backpack 15l
- Three-zipped pockets with one large main compartment
- Ventilated shoulder straps
- Elasticated inner sleeve pocket
- Highly reflective design for increased visibility
This Karrimor running backpack is a much more affordable choice compares to others, all without sacrificing on comfort. The large compartment is excellent for storing an extra pair of running shoes, clothes, or other larger items.
Finally, the three-zipped pockets are great for storing essentials such as a map, set of keys, or a few running gels.
5. Inov-8 race elite running vest 10
- One-size easily adjustable design
- 10-litre storage capacity
- Zero-bounce design
- Multiple pockets for easy access to water, running gels, and other essentials
The Inov-8 race elite running vest is the perfect companion for commuting or hitting up the trails. The zero-bounce design ensures a comfortable ride, while the two easily accessible water pockets are conveniently placed to ensure optimal hydration when running.
Whilst the ten-litre may be a little smaller than other running backpacks, there’s still plenty of space to store a change of clothes, extra fluid, or your valuables.
6. Geila hydration backpack
- Choice of six colours
- Multiple compartments to store other essentials including keys, running gels, and a smartphone
- Ultralight yet breathable design
- Adjustable chest strap
A much more basic running hydration backpack, this product is available in a choice of six colours including blue, rose red, and grey.
The multiple compartment design is excellent for separating your essentials, alongside the comfortable and lightweight chest strap to provide extra support throughout your run.
7. Inov-8 all-terrain 35-litre running backpack
- Customisable and adjustable fit for all body shapes and sizes
- Removable lid for lighter running
- Shoulder strap compression to support the upper body
A larger capacity upgrade from the Inov-8 all-terrain 15 is the 35-litre version. With more room for storage, this makes a great backpack for commuters, hikers, or those heading out on those extra-long runs.
Finally, the shoulder strap provides enhanced compression to support the upper body, providing a comfortable run each and every mile. However, this backpack is more suited to walkers than runners, so it is something you may wish to consider before purchasing.
8. Salomon Agile 12 running hydration pack
- Lightweight and comfortable shoulder straps to eliminate chafing and discomfort
- Ideal for carrying poles and other climbing/running gear
- Several large zipped and secure pockets for storing valuables
- 4D reservoir compartment
The Salomon Agile 12 running hydration pack is an all-around great piece of kit for storming the fells or conquering those long runs. Unlike some of the other backpacks on our list, the Salomon 12 is more of a hydration pack, with a built-in 4D reservoir compartment, ideal for consuming fluid while running.
Furthermore, with several large zipped and secure pockets, you are not short on solutions when it comes to storing your valuables or nutritional items. Some runners may prefer a proper backpack, but for those looking for a smaller but equally functional option, the Agile 12 is a great option.
9. Inov-8 race elite running vest
- Easy to adjust
- No-zips for super-fast access
- Easy access to water bottles
- No bounce design
Another Inov-8 product, this running vest also contains their signature no-bounce design to increase comfort throughout your run. Unlike many other running backpacks, this running vest contains no-zips for super-fast access – perfect for grabbing a water bottle or running gel mid-race.
10. Salomon trailblazer 20 running backpack
- Large main compartment for trail shoes, clothing, and other essentials
- Water pouch attachment compartment
- Two mesh side pockets (can store 1.5-litre bottles)
Our final product is the Salomon trail 20 running backpack. With a large water pouch attachment compartment, a further large compartment for essentials, and two mesh side pockets, this backpack makes for the ultimate travel companion whether running to work, heading for a walk, or exploring the local trails.
Finding the right running backpack is like finding the perfect running shoe – it’s entirely individual. While one runner may be looking for a backpack perfect for commuting, another may be after one for long trail runs or races.
However, we can use the aforementioned three key requirements: size, budget, and purpose. Taking these into account allows you to assess your options, whether you’re looking for a daily commuter or a once in a blue moon backpack for hitting up the local fells.
Whatever running backpack you choose, we’re sure you’ll make the right choice. Remember to regularly clean your backpack from any spilt liquids, gels, or food contents to keep it clean and lightweight.
We will now leave you with a backpack FAQ, answering some regularly asked questions when it comes to running backpacks.
What is the best running backpack for commuting?
This is ultimately down to personal preference. However, we recommend a backpack which utilises a no-bounce design, providing enhanced comfort to and from work.
Is it okay to run with a backpack?
Yes! However, if you do choose to run with a backpack we recommend investing in a specialized running one. These are often more lightweight and increase both comfort and support when running.
Why do runners wear backpacks?
Runners wear backpacks for a variety of reasons, however, mainly to carry more gear such as extra fluid, running gels, or valuables when running. Others wear backpacks to carry a change of clothes and other essentials when commuting to and from work.
Matthew is an avid runner, freelance writer, Durham University graduate, and the founder of Running101.