When it comes to choosing the best running backpack, the options are endless, depending on your need. If it’s an ultramarathon, you’ll want a lightweight, minimalist pack to carry gels, energy drinks, snacks and waterproofs. If you’re planning to add a run commute or two to your weekly mileage, you’ll want something more substantial in which to lug your laptop and change of clothes.
How to choose the best running backpack:
For more information on choosing the right running bag for you, read our comprehensive guide here. In a nutshell, you’ll want to look at the straps of the bag – you’ll need one with shoulder, chest and waist straps in order to run comfortably. The shoulder straps should be padded and wide enough to distribute weight evenly (thin straps often dig in and rub), the chest strap should be able to be moved up and down (especially important for female runners) and all the straps need to be adjustable.
Secondly, take a look at the capacity of the bag. For commuting, 8-12L is normally more than enough room for all your belongings and a good starting point – don’t overpack your bag, the lighter the better.
Which are the best running backpacks for 2023?
Here are our tried and tested favourites:
Osprey Duro 6
Best for: sustainability
Osprey knows its stuff when it comes to running packs, and the Duro 6 is perfect for marathon training or longer ultras. It’s lightweight, comfortable to run in, hugs your body and comes with a pair of 500ml soft flasks with handy extension hoses so all you have to do is tilt your head down to drink. The latest model has upped its eco credentials and is made with bluesign-approved fabrics and is PFC-free, as well as – like all Osprey products – eligible for Osprey’s free pack repair service.
Shop now, £75, ospreyeurope.com
Salomon Adv Skin 5
Best for: speed
You’ll see this pack on a lot of pro ultra-runners’ backs, and with good reason: it’s so comfortable and snug-fitting you forget it’s there almost instantly. In testing, there was zero bounce so zero risk of chafing, and a deceptive amount of space for your kit that you can cram in like Mary Poppins' bag. The elastic lace-like fastening at the front feels strange at first but soon you realise all bags should do it, as it's secure and quick to undo. It comes with Salomon’s own 500ml flasks, which are longer and thinner than others in order to fit in the front pockets.
Shop now, £109.99, ellis-brigham.com
Camelbak Zephyr 11L
Best for: ultramarathons
This bag is the perfect all-rounder – at 11 litres, it has more than enough space for all your kit for ultramarathons, whatever the distance, but it’s also minimalistic and light enough to chuck on your back for a shorter run if you need to carry some water and a spare jacket. A snug fit and two soft flasks, along with space for running pole holders and reflective details make it perfect for whatever type of run you have planned.
Shop now, £125, camelbak.co.uk
Evadict Trail Running Hydration Bag
Best for: those on a budget
For £35 this is the perfect bag for beginners making their first forays into running bags or packs. With room to hold two 500ml soft flasks on the front of the straps and a roomy 10L of storage space in total, plus a one-litre bladder included you have all you need to go long-distance.
Shop now, £34.99, decathlon.co.uk
Scott Trail RC TR 4
Best for: minimalism
If you’re looking to drop pounds (in the weight sense), this weighs just 90g, so ridiculously light you barely feel it’s there, which is what most of us are looking for in a bag. This is the 4L version, but it also comes in bigger 10L version if you need more space. It's designed for running quickly, so you won’t need to carry much kit but there’s room for plenty on board, plus a pair of front flask-holders. Simple yet effective.
Shop now, £83.37, alpinetrek.co.uk
inov-8 Race Ultra Pro 2in1
Best for: adaptability
Ideal for any runners who may be thinking about taking on a longer race at some point in the future, this inov-8 running bag has a removable 10-litre pocket that you fix onto the back for multi-day adventures. Without the pocket, the race pack is ideal for ultra races or marathon training – it’s lightweight, holds two flasks in the front straps and is so dependable Damian Hall used it during the UTMB.
Shop now, £150, inov8.com
Montane Gecko VP20
Best for: multi-day events
If you’re considering a multi-day race, this is the bag for you. The ‘20’ in the model name refers to the fact it can hold around 20L – more than enough room for multi-day events’ mandatory kit. The heavier weight (325g) reflects this, but the stretchy, wraparound design hugs your body tight so remains comfortable to run in even when rammed with kit.
Proviz Reflect360 Pack
Best for: night-time running
This bag's pluses are the weatherproofing (it’s completely waterproof, down to the zips), the reflectivity – like all Proviz kit it’s exceptionally visible in the dark, which makes it perfect for gloomy winter commutes – the durability and the very acceptable price. It is also hydration pack-compatible. On the minus side, despite the vented rear panel you'll still get a sweaty back, which means it’s not great for very long runs, and the straps tended to pinch a little when they were pulled tight for a snug fit.
Shop now, £49.99, provizsports.com
Camelbak Octane 18
Best for: long adventures
With 16 litres of gear space and 2 litres of water (in the Camelbak bladder provided), the Octane is the perfect companion for longer adventures, whether it’s a multi-day race, an FKT attempt or simply a day’s hike across the Peaks. It’s light on your back, even when stuffed with kit, and has room for soft flasks on the front straps.
Shop now, £115, camelbak.co.uk
inov-8 VentureLite 4L Hydration Pack
Best for: marathon training
For marathon training you need something lightweight, close-fitting and able to carry enough water and spare kit to get you through 3- or 4-hour-long training runs. This ticks all those boxes: it is compact yet big enough to carry 4 litres of kit or 3 litres of fluid, or a combo of both. It's also breathable enough that you never get too hot when wearing it.
Osprey Daylite Plus 20L
Best for: walking commutes
A sturdy pack with plenty of space for daily commute needs: the tablet sleeve is perfect for keeping work documents uncrumpled. However, you need to keep weight to a minimum for on-the-run comfort since the unpadded waist/hip and chest straps are narrow and dig in if you pull them tight to minimise bounce.
Shop now, £44, evanscycles.com
Best for: short runs
A minimal lightweight vest for short runs or races where you’d like to carry some water, snacks and a spare layer or two if the temperature is set to change. Sling it on on your way out the door and you will barely tell it’s on your back. Seven pockets are more than enough to stash gels and whatnot and the rear section can hold 3L and a bladder.
Shop now, £44.95, amazon.co.uk
Best for: run commuting
This is the ideal smarter-looking running pack that will not only safely transport all your essentials to work and back, including your laptop, but will also not look out of place when you're changed into more formal business attire. Scandinavian brand Sandqvist crafts stylish, functional and sustainable accessories, and this is no exception: it's fully waterproof (made with 100% recycled nylon ripstop) with a rolltop fastening to stop water finding its way in. It can also house a hydration pack, and features a removable waist strap.
Shop now, £123, paradeworld.com
Harrier Kinder 10L Race Vest
Best for: medium-to-long runs
Harrier was set up in 2019 to provide hard-wearing, sustainable kit for the trails, importantly at a reasonable price. This 10L vest is ideal if you’re not looking to spend a huge amount on a running bag. It's designed and tested in the Peak District, so you know it’ll see you through the toughest conditions, and fits tight to limit bounce with stretchy pockets to hold your gear securely as well as the ability to carry poles.
Shop now, £59, harrierrunfree.com
Asics Fujitrail Hydration Vest 7L
Best for: pockets
A couple of nifty features make this hydration pack stand out – magnetic clasps on the front ensure you can easily undo the straps in order to take it off. Also, pocket space is ample – if you're the type who likes to stash snacks and gels all over the bag for quick access, this will suit you. It's not the lightest on test here, but in terms of storage, it's up there with the best.
Ultimate Direction Women’s Fastpack 30
Best for: fastpacking
Fastpacking is essentially stuffing overnight essentials such as a sleeping bag and tent into your bag and heading out on an adventure. Ultimate Direction makes a range of packs for runners, and this one is designed specifically for women looking to go fastpacking. It's lightweight and fits tightly without chafing, and with 30-litres' capacity can fit everything including the kitchen sink if you need it.