The 9 Best Running Backpacks of 2021

Keep your runs light with these perfect picks

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A running backpack is a smart and convenient option for carrying your fluids and other running essentials. With so many options, it can be tough to find a backpack that’s right for your needs and budget. If you’re hitting the trails, running to work, or looking for some lightweight racing gear, we’ve got you covered.

Here, the best running backpacks for carrying your gear on the go.

Our Top Picks
The 50-ounce reservoir has plenty of room for your fluid of choice and its twist top and handle allow for easy filling.
It’s large enough to fit everything you need, but compact and form-fitting so it won't weigh you down.
The adjustable straps across the chest ensure a snug, comfortable fit, and the harness pocked lets you store all essentials.
Best for Distance Running:
CamelBak Octane 10 Hydration Pack at Amazon
With a 2-liter reservoir and plenty of storage space, it can carry all you need for your extra-long runs.
With comfortable, adjustable shoulder, waist, and chest straps, this durable, affordable backpack allows for a custom fit.
It features a highly reflective trim and webbing, as well as a removable reflective triangle to help you stand out in the dark.
Best for Run Commuting:
Salomon Trail One at Amazon
With a padded back system, light harness, and a belt construction that disperses the load, it's ideal for run commuting.
It has 11 storage pockets to meet all your needs, and breathable mesh that allows for good ventilation to avoid overheating.
The lightweight, breathable harness and back panel allow for a comfortable fit, whether they’re running, hiking, or biking.

Best Overall: CamelBak HydroBak Hydration Pack 50 oz

CamelBak HydroBak Hydration Pack 50 oz

CamelBak’s HydroBak Hydration Pack provides convenient, hands-free hydration and ample storage, along with the comfort and durability that runners want in a backpack. Whether you’re doing a long run on the roads, hitting the trails, or doing an obstacle course, this affordable and lightweight backpack feels like a second skin when you have it on.

You’ll also stay cool, thanks to exceptional ventilation from the diamond mesh back panel. The 50-ounce reservoir has plenty of room for your fluid of choice and its twist top and handle allow for easy filling. Runners also appreciate the external zippered pocket that can securely hold essentials such as phone, keys, and nutrition. The pack comes in various colors for every style/

Best Lightweight: Fitly Minimalist Running Pack

Fitly Minimalist Running Pack

The Fitly Minimalist Running Pack is so lightweight and comfortable, you’ll almost forget you have it on. Designed with runners’ biomechanics in mind, the pack is made to keep items from bouncing around and allows for easy access to your running essentials.

With multiple compartments and pockets, it’s large enough to fit everything you need, yet compact and form-fitting so you don’t have to worry about feeling weighed down or getting chafed. It’s made from an eco-friendly, water-resistant, and durable fabric and comes in several different sizes and colors.

If you need to carry your phone, energy gels, and other essentials on the run and you don’t like running belts, this lightweight running pack is an ideal choice.

Best for Trail Running: Osprey Packs Duro 1.5L Backpack

Osprey 1.5L

When you’re running on rugged trails, you need a backpack that stays put as you’re traversing, and this Osprey backpack does just that. The adjustable straps across the chest ensure that you get a snug, comfortable fit. Trail runners will also love the zippered harness pocket that’s perfect for easy access to gels and other nutrition, and to stash your phone.

The backpack also comes with a 1.5-liter bladder and a zippered reservoir sleeve, so your fluids are secure. Another handy feature is the magnet on the sipping tube that keeps it in place and makes it easy to grab. The backpack comes in two sizes, so every runner can find their perfect fit.

Best for Distance Running: CamelBak Octane 10 Hydration Pack

CamelBak Octane 10 Hydration Pack

With a 2-liter reservoir and plenty of storage space, this well-designed backpack from CamelBak can carry everything you need for your extra-long runs or marathons. The backpack’s 3D vent mesh provides extra cushioning and plenty of ventilation, allowing for a comfortable, cool fit.

Small pockets can keep your essentials organized, while the stretch overflow pocket is perfect for stashing an extra layer in case the weather changes. If you need more fluid storage, there’s also ample room for an extra bottle.

Best Budget: TETON Sports TrailRunner 2.0 Hydration Pack

TETON Sports TrailRunner 2.0 Hydration Pack

Known for its affordable and well-made running products, TETON Sports delivers with this versatile running backpack at a great price. It features a leakproof 2-liter water bladder, making it a nice choice for distance runners and hikers. The large opening makes it easy to clean and fill with fluids and ice.

Beyond easy access to fluids, the deep mesh pocket provides storage for long run essentials. With comfortable, adjustable shoulder, waist, and chest straps, this durable backpack allows for a custom fit, so you and your running partner can easily take turns wearing it during long runs.

Best for Night Runs: Proviz Unisex Cycling/Running Rucksack

When running at night or in low-light conditions, wearing as much reflective gear as possible can help keep you safe. The High-Viz Backpack from Proviz, a company known for their well-made reflective gear, features a highly reflective trim and webbing, as well as a removable reflective triangle to help you stand out in the dark.

Made with highly water-resistant, durable material, it also features adjustable waist and chest straps, so you can get a secure, comfortable fit. The pack’s honeycomb ventilation system allows for excellent airflow to help keep your back cool.

Other cool, nice-to-have features include multiple zippered, water-proof pockets and side pockets to store wet gear or a water bottle. Available in black or yellow, this backpack is a nice choice for runners, especially for those who run long distances and need to be prepared for changing conditions.

Best for Run Commuting: Salomon Trail One Backpack

If you sometimes run to work, you need a bag that’s sleek and comfortable, but also roomy enough for everything you need for your workday. With a padded back system, light harness, and a belt construction that disperses the load, the Salomon Trail One Backpack is the ideal commuting backpack.

It features plenty of storage space in the main compartment, an external zipped pocket, stretch pockets on the sides, and an internal sleeve for your laptop for extra protection. When you’re done with work for the week, this durable, versatile pack is perfect to take along for a hike on the weekend.

Best High Altitude: Ultimate Mountain Vest 4.0 Hydration Vest

Mountain Vest

Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest is the perfect companion for your trail and mountain running adventures. Exceptionally spacious but also lightweight, it has 11 storage pockets to meet all your needs, including two bottle holsters, a front zippered pocket, a large zippered back storage compartment, as well as side pockets that are easy to access.

The four-way stretch technical fabric moves with you, while the breathable mesh allows for good ventilation to avoid chafing and overheating. Sliding front sternum straps and side compression straps allow for a customized fit, ensuring you can run or hike in comfort.

Best for Kids: CamelBak Kids Mini M.U.L.E. Hydration Backpack

CamelBak Mini M.U.L.E. Kids Hydration Backpack

Young outdoor enthusiasts will love the convenience and comfort of this CamelBak Kids Hydration Backpack. With room for 1.5 liters of water, the pack will help them stay hydrated on the go.

The lightweight, breathable harness and back panel allow for a comfortable fit, whether they’re running, hiking, or biking. Kids can stash essentials, such as an extra layer or snacks, and parents will love the safety features, including reflective strips and an emergency whistle.

What to Look for in a Running Backpack

Design

You need a running backpack designed to fit your needs. Do you carry a phone and gels? What about a house or car key? If so, you should ensure the backpack has a convenient, zipped pocket that securely stores your running essentials.

The backpack should also have adjustable chest straps and mesh shoulder straps to eliminate chafing, shoulder pain, and overheating from the extra weight.

Type

Backpacks on the market range from minimalist to large capacity. If you are using a backpack for short runs (10 miles or less), a smaller backpack without loads of pockets should suffice. For runners training for marathons or ultramarathons, or trail runners who have to bring all their own hydration, a larger backpack that holds more fluids and gear is likely more suitable.

Fit

Make sure the backpack sits high up on your back and can be adjusted to create a tight, comfortable fit. Anything bouncing around will create more work for your body and can cause painful chafing.

FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where should running backpacks sit on your back?

    Your backpack should sit two inches from your shoulders and not lower down on your back. Many runners position the running backpack low on the back, but this can create imbalance as you move and cause you to lean forward, leading to a risk of back pain.

  • Can you injure your back wearing a backpack?

    You can definitely injure your back wearing a backpack. Improper use can cause back or shoulder pain and other musculoskeletal injuries.

    To avoid injury, use and tighten the chest straps and make sure that your backpack doesn't sway from side to side. This can cause chafing and back injury.

  • Will a running backpack slow me down?

    When you carry anything extra, your body must make more of an effort. Additional weight places stress on your joints and muscles. To avoid this, try to lighten the backpack as much as you can and only carry what is necessary. If possible, keep supplemental hydration somewhere else (such as your car) and refill your backpack rather than carrying all your liquid for your entire run.

    Also, keep your shoulder straps tight, which will help minimize shifting of the liquids in your pack. If the contents of your running backpack are moving around, your muscles have to work harder.

  • When should you wear a running backpack?

    Distance runners who are going for long runs, runners in races that don't offer much hydration or no aid stations, races that are self-sustaining, or runners on trails without access to hydration should consider wearing a running backpack. It's a smart way to carry your fluids and running essentials without losing your form.

Why Trust Verywell Fit?

Road Runners Club of America certified running coach and fitness writer Christine Luff has spent years researching, testing, and recommending fitness and athletic products and knows that the right gear can augment performance and allow for comfort.

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2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Toghroli R, Reisy L, Mansourian M, et al. Backpack improper use causes musculoskeletal injuries in adolescents: A systematic reviewJ Educ Health Promot. 2021;10:237. doi:10.4103/jehp.jehp_306_20

  2. Abdelraouf OR, Hamada HA, Selim A, Shendy W, Zakaria H. Effect of backpack shoulder straps length on cervical posture and upper trapezius pressure pain thresholdJ Phys Ther Sci. 2016;28(9):2437-2440. doi:10.1589/jpts.28.2437