We pick the most reliable, durable and comfortable backpacks for grand adventures and active commutes
Whether you’re running to work, disappearing into the hills, or just jogging a couple of kilometres to and from the local train station, a spacious, durable running backpack is essential if you’re planning to cart your gear around while getting from A to B.
It pays to choose the right rucksack. If Sunday mornings mean hiking up the nearest hill or jogging through the countryside, then you’ll probably be looking for something that’ll spread the weight evenly, won’t rub or chafe, and that will keep your snacks, water, and extra layers dry. If, on the other hand, you’re travelling into the city five days a week, then you’ll want a bag that’ll also keep your laptop safe and secure against accidental bumps, while minimising any impact on your shoulders, waist or torso.
No matter what your requirements are, this guide will help you find the perfect fit for your lifestyle and budget.
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How to buy the right running backpack for you
What size do I need?
Backpack capacity is measured in litres, and while larger rucksacks above the 50-litre mark are great for backpacking, you won’t want to run with something that big on your back. Most running backpacks range from 5L to 20L in capacity and often use external straps to compress their contents, which helps prevent items from bouncing around as you move.
Before you decide on which backpack is best for you, you should always consider what you want to put inside, and why. Will you need to cart clothes, toiletries, a packed lunch, and a laptop with you to work? Or will you just need to throw in an extra layer or two, a water bottle and some hydration gels? Do you already have a bag that’s too small to fit everything you need? Or perhaps you have an old, bulky rucksack and you want something slimmer and more portable.
What features should I look out for?
Running backpacks can include a lot of different features. While you might only need space for a single water bottle, others require compatibility with hydration bladders for access to larger reserves of water during long walks or runs or waterproof pockets for phones and tablets. Also, if you tend to run when visibility is restricted, such as at night, the reflective strips and materials are essential.
Sternum, chest, and waist straps are essential for comfort and stability, and especially so if you plan to run with heavier loads. The same goes for breathable fabric if you’re planning to embark on an intense run or tend to sweat a lot.
How much should I spend?
The quality of materials, number, and type of compartments and other special features all have an impact on the price you pay. There’s no point shelling out for features you don’t need, however. After all, there’s not much point choosing a backpack with a padded laptop compartment that you’ll never use, or a hydration bladder that will remain empty.
While you can get a perfectly good backpack for around £25, if you want something that will survive harsh conditions and constant use – and which will remain comfortable on longer runs and more technical terrain – it’s well worth spending more.
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The best running backpacks to buy
1. Evadict 10L Trail Running Bag: Best running backpack under £50
Price: £35 | Buy now from Decathlon
This pack offers terrific value to beginner and experienced runners alike. It’s lightweight, has a 10L capacity that’s big enough to bring all the mandatory gear for most ultra and trail races, and it comes with a 1L hydration bladder.
It’s also laden with handy pockets – six on the front to take your snacks and smaller hydration flasks, and four on the back including a main compartment to take the bulk of your gear. There are also loops for your poles, and you can adjust the three straps on the front of the pack to make sure you get a comfortable and secure fit.
Capacity: 10L; Weight: 285g; Hydration bladder compatible?: Yes
2. Stolt Alpha: Best for commuters
Price: £149 | Buy now from Stolt
Given the size and style of the Stolt backpack, which looks just like a regular rucksack and can hold 25-litres of stuff if you use the expandable front pocket, you might assume it would be awful to run with. But you’d be wrong. Even when fully loaded with a laptop (there’s a dedicated sleeve that can take a 15” laptop), change of clothes and everything else you need for a day in the office this is a comfortable rucksack to have on your back, and we’ve tested that to the full with many hour-long run commutes using it.
Four adjustable straps are the key to the comfortable fit, and the waist strap even has handy pockets on the front for your keys and ID card so you’re not faffing around hunting for them when you arrive at your home or office.
The material of the bag has anti-odour properties, so even when carrying sweaty gear in it regularly it won’t start to smell itself, and a water-repellent coating on the outside keeps showers at bay. Stolt also sell accessories to the bag including a garment box that you can use to keep your office gear crease-free while running in.
Capacity: 25L; Weight: 1.2kg; Dimensions: 15 (D) x 28 (W) x 46 (H) cm; Hydration bladder compatible?: No; Additional straps: Sternum, waist
3. Vango Lyt 15: Best budget running backpack
Price: £15 | Buy now from Go Outdoors
This nifty little backpack offers exceptional value as a lightweight, comfortable option for commuting and trail-running. When it comes to the former, you’ll need to be a savvy packer and have a small laptop, but the 15-litre capacity is enough to handle all your essentials for a day in the office. When you’re on the trails, that capacity is more than enough, and the Lyt 15 is also compatible with a hydration bladder.
The Vango Lyt 15 has one main compartment with a separate pocket plus an outer zipped pocket on the back that you can use for quick access to your key items. The small straps don’t have any pockets of their own, and the rucksack doesn’t have a waist strap for extra security, but its small size and light weight means that, in our experience, just having the chest strap was enough to prevent any bouncing on the run.
Capacity: 15L; Weight: 360g; Dimensions: 42 x 24 x 20cm (HWD); Hydration bladder compatible?: Yes; Additional straps: Chest
4. Proviz Reflect360 Running Backpack: Best for nighttime runners
Price: £50 | Buy now from Provizsports
If you’re commuting home in the twilight of winter, or just trying to keep active after dark, then Proviz’s backpack makes sure that you don’t blend into the background. With its 360-degree reflectivity, the Proviz Reflect360 makes it safer to run in the winter months by making you more noticeable to drivers, bikes and other pedestrians. Designed with commuters in mind, the bag also has a generous 10L capacity, with two extra zipped pockets on the waist straps and a chest strap for stability.
Capacity: 10L; Dimensions: 20 (D) x 30 (W) x 51 (H) cm; Hydration bladder compatible?: Yes; Additional straps: Chest, waist
5. OMM Ultra 20: Great for runners and cyclists who need more storage
Price: £75 | Buy now from Wiggle
Originally designed for mountain bikers and racers, the OMM Ultra 20 suits anyone looking for a comfy yet capacious running companion. It’s a great choice for commuters, too, as it manages to provide 20L of storage without the bag being uncomfortably bulky and unmanageable. It’s smartly designed and, as it rests on the hips, remains comfortable even when fully loaded with the EVA padded shoulder harness helping to prevent chafing.
Capacity: 20L; Weight: 375g; Hydration bladder compatible?: Yes; Additional straps: Chest
6. Osprey Duro/Dyna: Best-fitting backpack
Price: From £60 | Buy now from Osprey
The Duro and Dyna backpacks come in three different sizes – 1.5 litre, 6 litre and 15 litre – and have a gender-specific fit, with the Duro being for men and the Dyna for women. Whichever size you opt for, you’re getting an extremely comfortable pack that makes the weight on your back disappear, with adjustable shoulder and chest straps (and a waist strap on the 15 litre) creating a secure fit.
We’ve tested out the 6 litre and 15 litre versions of the pack, and the latter works brilliantly for both commuting and long, relaxed days on the trails. For its part, the 6 litre is great for long events, with easy access to water bottles and snacks in the straps, plus enough storage in the main compartment for essentials like waterproofs.
Capacity: 1.5L-15L; Weight: (Duro 6) 0.3kg; Dimensions: (Duro 6) 13 x 20 x 41cm (DWH); Additional straps: Chest, plus waist on Duro/Dyna 15L
7. IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro 2.0: Best for keeping your office attire uncrumpled
Price: £114 | Buy now from IAMRUNBOX
If your change of clothes always ends up crumpled at the bottom of your rucksack, then the IAMRUNBOX Backpack Lite offers a slick solution. Thanks to its clever, structured design, the box-shaped Backpack Lite is a lightweight option that proves effective at keeping shirts, suits and dresses neatly folded as they travel with you to work. Even if you’re no expert at folding clothes, an instructive guide shows you how to fold different items of clothing to fit the bag, and the interior straps and compartments ensure your clothes won’t budge. Sizable, water-resistant pockets on the waist strap keep your wallet, passport or mobile phone close to hand, and the waist and sternum straps stop it from bouncing around as you run.
Capacity: 12L; Weight: 975g; Dimensions: 37 x 26 x 12cm (HWD); Hydration bladder compatible?: No; Additional straps: Chest, waist
8. Rab Tensor 5L: A versatile lightweight option
Price: £35 | Buy from Rab
The Tensor is the kind of backpack that you’ll end up using for all sorts of activities, and, given its relatively low price and versatility, we almost want to say that every home should have one. It’s a great option for hiking and cycling as well as running, with the main compartment being fairly spacious and the lightweight design being comfortable during any activity.
When it comes to running, the Tensor 5L offers ample storage for long trail runs, and will also work well for commuters who don’t have to carry too much stuff into the office. Along with the main compartment, there are drop-in pouches on the front and a small zip pocket on top that’s handy for easy access to essentials like keys and ID cards. There are no pockets on the straps, though, which makes it a little harder to get to drinks and snacks on the run.
Capacity: 5L; Weight: 0.36kg; Dimensions: 16 x 22 x 40cm (DWH); Additional straps: Chest