The running vest has been revolutionary. In the last five years, the emergence of these running backpacks that fit almost like a running jacket has meant runners can go further, and much more comfortably. They are designed most specifically for mountain and trail running, where you’ll be out for a long time and you may encounter changes in weather. The idea is that you can fit a running head torch, water, snacks, a wind or waterproof, phone and a few other bits and bobs in a backpack that, and this is the key part, doesn’t bounce. The best running packs should fit, as we say, almost like a jacket. Most of the running backpacks and vests out there are around six litres, small, but perfect for runs longer than an hour when you’ll need to carry water
How To Choose a Running Backpack Or Vest
Because these packs are a relatively new development, there is a lot of difference between them. We’ve mentioned the good and bad points of each, but there are several things to bear in mind when buying one. Firstly is, of course, fit. They need to be very snug against the back, move freely with the body and, this may require jumping up and down in the shop, not bounce. You should be able to move your arms without your elbows hitting the pack.
Once you’re happy with the fit, make sure that the fastening is easy to attach. Bear in mind that what may only be a little fiddly when you’re trying it on, will become a more significant issue once when you’re tired and have cold fingers. The less straps the better too – they can flap around in the face on windy days.
Then consider the features. Are the pockets where you need them? There are usually pockets on the vest straps, including for soft water bottles, this is good for quick access but also helps balance the bag when wearing it. Consider what it would be like with full water bottles and a full bag. Hydration bladders and bottles do need some maintenance and will be the part that goes first, so they should be easy to replace if needed. The main opening should be secure, fairly weather-resistant, and easy to access. Again, bear in mind what it would be like if you’re cold and tired.
Once you use your running vest on a run, you’ll soon understand just how great these packs are. Happy running!
Best Running Packs Reviewed
Here’s our gear team’s pick of the best packs for running. Each item has been fully tested by one of our experts, just follow the link at the bottom of each description to read each full review. We’ve picked a mix of well-known and lesser-known running brands here.
Best Overall Running Pack: Salomon Adv Skin 12
Best Budget Running Pack: Harrier Kinder 10L
Best Mountain Racing Pack: Scott Trail RC TR4
Best Fastpacking Pack: Rab Aeon Ultra
- Best Fanny Pack / Bum Bag for Running: Cotopaxi Bataan 3L Waist Pack
I’m Will, the editor of this site, and I conducted the tests to pick the running packs for this round up. I love all kinds of outdoor adventures, but long-distance running has a special kind of appeal to me. I’ve done all kinds of running, from 50-mile ultra races to 500-mile FKTs. I’ve even taken part in a running race against a horse!
How We Chose Them
All of the packs here were fully tested out on trail runs within the UK’s mountains. As you can see from some of the pictures here, we used the packs in places like the Scottish Highlands, the wilds of Wales and in England’s Lake District.
Some of these packs, including the Montane Gecko and Salomon Adv Skin, were used on 50-mile ultras while others, including the Inov-8 Adventure and the OMM Phantom, were used on fastpacking adventures through the mountains.
I fully loaded all of these and thought about their comfort and stability on uphills, downhills and at pace. I looked for packs that were water resistant, breathable and that generally added convenience with useful, well-located pockets and storage options.
Best Overall Running Pack
Salomon Adv Skin 12
Best for: Longer runs
Key attributes: Loads of pockets, very comfortable, cool and sweat-wicking
This is a real all-rounder. Whether you just want something to carry a few snacks and your water or if you’re looking for a pack that can swallow all your mandatory race kit on a mountain ultra, we found this pack to be comfortable to wear with loads both big and small.
We were really impressed by its design during our tests. It fits and feels like a baselayer vest, perfectly conforming to the contours of your torso. And there are loads of useful details, including a removable insulated bladder sleeve, loads and loads of pockets, reflective details and even a little trash bag.
The bungee straps are a bit on the fiddly side and can be difficult to operate with cold or gloves hands, but that’s the only negative we could find with this running pack.
Capacity: 12 litres / height: 400mm / width 190mm / bungee sternum straps / 2 x 500ml soft flasks included / stretch pockets throughout / one large main compartment with bladder sleeve / multiple trekking pole holders / Polyester and Polyamide fabrics.
Selected for our Outdoor 100 23/24. Read our full Salomon Adv Skin 12 review.
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