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The Best Running Backpacks For Long Runs Or Commuting

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There are two main types of runner that require a backpack: the commuter and the long-distance runner. The first needs a pack that holds all the gear they require for a day at the office while still being comfortable enough to wear while running. The second needs a lightweight pack to carry the water and food they need to fuel long runs, as well as some basic safety gear if they’re heading for the trails.

While there is some overlap, those two different types of runner require two different types of running backpack, so we’ve picked out the best of each. We’ve also highlighted those which are designed for women.

And if you are looking to start running to work, make sure to check out our tips from five dedicated run commuters. No time? Then we’ll say this at least: make sure you pack spare underwear.

The Best Running Backpacks For Commuting

Stolt Alpha Backpack

(Image credit: Stolt)
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Stolt Alpha Business Backpack

Best for commuters

Specifications

RRP: £149
Capacity: 20L (expands to 25L)

Reasons to buy

+
Large capacity
+
Comfortable even when full
+
Lots of pocket dividers

Reasons to avoid

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Expensive
-
Will be too large for some

This is hands-down the best commuter backpack we’ve tried. It has a large capacity of 20 litres that can be upped to 25 litres if you use the expandable front pocket, which is ideal for shoes. It also has a 15in laptop pocket and a spacious central compartment that can handle everything you need for a day in the office and then some.

Even if you fill all these pockets, we found the backpack still sits comfortably against your back and you can tuck in the various straps so they don’t flap around and annoy you. There are four adjustable straps that you can tighten to eliminate bouncing, and the waist strap has zipped pockets on either side that can take keys, an ID card or a small wallet, although not your phone.

The material has anti-odour properties, so it won’t start to smell even if you’re storing sweaty gear inside. The rucksack is water-repellent and will keep its contents dry in a rain shower, though you might want to duck inside if caught in a downpour.

It’s a popular backpack that is often out of stock, but if that’s the case when you check you can sign up to be notified when it’s available.

Buy from Stolt Running (opens in new tab) 


Vango Lyt 15 running backpack in blue

(Image credit: Vango)
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Vango Lyt 15

Best budget running backpack

Specifications

RRP: £20
Capacity: 15L

Reasons to buy

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Great value
+
Small and comfortable to wear

Reasons to avoid

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No waist strap
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No pockets on straps

This is a terrific little backpack and an absolute steal at £20. The Vango Lyt 15 is just about large enough to take your office essentials, including a small laptop or tablet, and has an outer zipped pocket for the gear you need close at hand. The backpack has no waist strap – there’s only a sternum strap – but given its small size it still sits securely on your upper back when running. There’s also the Lyt 20 if you need a bigger rucksack, but if you load that to the brim, the lack of a secure waist strap might be more apparent. 


Proviz REFLECT360 Running Backpack in the dark with the main back panel illuminated

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Proviz REFLECT360 Running Backpack

Best reflective running backpack

Specifications

RRP: £49.99
Capacity: 10L

Reasons to buy

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Reflective design
+
Chest and waist straps

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the biggest capacity
-
Not the best fit for a petite frame

Throughout the long British winter – and even in the spring and summer if you work long hours – run commuting often means running in the dark. Making yourself as visible as possible on busy city streets is a savvy move and this unisex reflective backpack is your best bet for ensuring you can be seen by drivers and cyclists bearing down on you from behind. Its 10-litre capacity isn’t huge but it’s big enough for work essentials, and there are two zipped pockets on the waist straps for easy access to the things you need most often.


Osprey men's Syncro 12 and women's Sylva 12

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Osprey Syncro/Sylva 12

His and hers rucksacks with a comfortable fit

Specifications

RRP: £110
Capacity: 12L

Reasons to buy

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Gender-specific fit
+
Ventilation system

Reasons to avoid

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No strap pockets

These multisport backpacks aren’t specifically designed for run commuting, but the adjustable strap system and roomy main pocket mean they’ll do a grand job of carrying your gear to and from work without bouncing around too much. The Syncro is the men’s design and the Sylva is the women’s, and there are also five- and 20-litre versions of the rucksacks, so you can pick the size required to accommodate your essentials.

The Syncro and Sylva backpacks are particularly good for commuting in the summer thanks to the ventilation system and open-yoke design, allowing as much air as possible to flow down your back so you avoid (or at least limit) that horribly sweaty feeling that can arise when running with a rucksack.

Buy Syncro 12 from Osprey (opens in new tab) | Buy Sylva 12 from Osprey (opens in new tab) 


Nathan Trail-Mix 12L running backpack in green

(Image credit: Nathan)
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Nathan Trail-Mix 12L

A great backpack for trails and the commute

Specifications

RRP: €124.95 (approx £105)
Capacity: 12L

Reasons to buy

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Large rolltop main pocket
+
Strap pockets
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Hydration bladder compatible 

Reasons to avoid

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Might need more capacity for commute

While this 12-litre rucksack is primarily designed for trail running, it’s also a great commuter option because the rolltop-fastened main compartment is roomy enough for a laptop, a change of clothes and all the other essentials required for a day at work. The straps also have easy-access pockets that are large enough for your phone, wallet, keys and work ID card, and can be tightened quickly so the rucksack sits comfortably against your back for the entirety of your run commute. The rucksack comes with a two-litre bladder, which you’ll probably want to leave at home when commuting, but can be easily slotted back in for a long trail run at the weekend.


The Best Running Backpacks For Long Runs

Evadict 10L Trail Running Bag running backpack

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Evadict 10L Trail Running Bag

An affordable option for ultramarathons

Specifications

RRP: £34.99
Capacity: 10L

Reasons to buy

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Cheaper than most running vests
+
Secure fit with adjustable straps
+
10 pockets to divide up kit

Reasons to avoid

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Will need more capacity for longest events

It’s commonly said that ultramarathons are eating competitions as much as running ones, and this bag is all about giving you easy access to fuel on long runs thanks to the range of pockets on the straps, which can accommodate two 500ml bottles plus several gels or bars. The main 10L compartment has room for all the other important gear you need for long stints on the trails.


Rab Tensor 5L running backpack in orange

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Rab Tensor 5L

A small, lightweight option for running and more

Specifications

RRP: £35
Capacity: 5L

Reasons to buy

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Light and comfortable
+
Stretchy outer pockets increase capacity

Reasons to avoid

-
Small capacity
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No strap pockets

This small, lightweight pack is a great option for a range of activities. It will work well both for run commuters who don’t need to carry much stuff to the office and for trail runners who need a lot of gear for their long runs. The pack has two chest straps to keep it still as you run and along with a large main compartment, it has a small zip pocket on top and stretchy water bottle pouches on the sides. One downside is that the straps themselves don’t have any pockets, so it’s not as easy to access food and water on the run as with some backpacks.


Osprey men's Duro 6 and women's Dyna 6 running backpack

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Osprey Duro / Dyna 6

Terrific running vests with gender-specific fits

Specifications

RRP: £100
Capacity: 6L

Reasons to buy

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Men’s and women’s designs
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Comfortable fit

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

Osprey’s Duro and Dyna running vests come in 1.5L, 6L and 15L sizes – the Dyna vest is designed to fit a female frame and the Duro is the unisex version. We’ve tested the 6L and 15L backpacks in recent years and both are comfortable to wear for long runs and, in the case of the 15L, commuting. The main pockets are supplemented by a stretchy web on the outside into which you can stuff things, and the straps have multiple pockets for easy access while on the move.

Buy Duro from Osprey (opens in new tab) | Buy Dyna from Osprey (opens in new tab) 


Best Running Backpacks For Women

Most unisex running backpacks are designed for men, so it’s hardly surprising women often find them uncomfortable. Perhaps they’re too long in the back, the straps don’t quite sit right, or the weight is carried too high or low. Not to mention that when devising chest straps, many designers seem to forget that women have breasts. Here’s our pick of the best running backpacks for women.


Gregory Maya 22 women's running backpack in blue

(Image credit: Gregory)
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Gregory Maya 22

Best for women

Specifications

RRP: £115
Capacity: 22L

Reasons to buy

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Women-specific design
+
Comfortable, adjustable fit

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

A backpack designed for women is one thing, but we’re all different shapes, so having an adjustable backpack is key to achieving a better fit. Gregory has perfected this with the Maya, which offers a seemingly infinite number of ways to modify the fit, resulting in a backpack that clings to your back like a baby monkey. The bag has a lot of thoughtfully placed pockets, including on the waist strap, but its smartest trick is an easy-access sunglasses clip on the shoulder strap. A hydration pocket can accommodate a bladder and the side pockets fit water bottles too. The 22-litre pack is well suited to a commute, while the 16-litre and 10-litre versions are ideal for trail runs.


The OMM Ultra 15 running backpack for women in blue

(Image credit: OMM)
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The OMM Ultra 15

Best for long trail runs

Specifications

RRP: £65
Capacity: 15L

Reasons to buy

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Large capacity
+
Comfortable even when fully loaded

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the lightest option

Designed for serious training and racing, this technical 16-litre model from Original Mountain Marathon will serve you as well in an ultra at altitude as it will on an urban commute. Padded shoulder and waist belts keep things as comfortable as possible when carrying up to 10kg and, with a single wide-opening zip offering easy access to all the contents, you won’t waste time fumbling for your gloves at the bottom of the bag. There’s an extra zip pocket with a key clip on the waist belt, and angled water bottle pockets at the sides. It’s also compatible with a two-litre hydration bladder.

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.

With contributions from