Best Running Packs 2023 - Outdoors Magic

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Best Running Packs 2023

Backpacks or vests for trail running need to be light, comfortable, stable and roomy enough to stash your kit. Here are the best running options out there

The trail 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 trail 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 in the review 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.

Related: Best trail running socks 
Related: Best trail running shorts

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 backpacks are. Happy running!

Best Running Backpacks 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.

  • Best Overall Running Pack: Montane Gecko VP 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


Best Overall Running Pack

1. Montane Gecko VP 12+

OM tester using the Gecko in wet conditions in Eryri

Price: £110
Weight: 265g
Best for: Distance running, competitive ultra running and FKT chasers
Key attributes: Great pocket capacity, elasticated build, additional flasks

An evolution of the Montane Via range, the Gecko VP 12+ is designed for mountain missions at pace. Runs long enough and wild enough that you need to carry kit and food and drink with you. The 12-litre pack offers plenty of stash space with a large main back pouch, two dump pockets for the two included 500ml soft flasks, two zippered compartments below these – that can also take half-litre bottles – and four stretch mesh pockets.

The body hugging fit moves with the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe and there’s plenty of on-the-fly adjustment potential, thanks to a large velcro front strap and two sternum straps that you can move up and down to find the perfect jiggle-cutting comfort. A front bungee cord can also be used either for volume adjustment or for fastening extra kit, like a waterproof jacket. Plus there are trekking pole attachments, key clips and removable whistle. Polygiene’s permanent antimicrobial odour control treatment helps kill off smelly bacteria for less-frequent washing too.

Full Specifications

12 litre / also in larger 20L and smaller capacity / removable emergency whistle / two height adjustable sternum straps / Polygiene permanent odour control / 4-way 40:30 stretch main body fabric / 2x 500ml Montane UltraFlasks included.

Selected for the 2020/21 Outdoors Magic Outdoor 100 – Read our full Montane Gecko VP 12+ review.



Best Value Running Pack

2. Harrier Kinder 10L

Our tester Holly Burns using the Harrier Kinder in summer conditions in the South Downs

Price: £59
Best for: Orienteering, fell racing
Key attributes: Great value, roomy

New kids on the block Harrier Running are making a name for themselves for producing great running gear at an impressively low price. This is largely thanks to a direct to consumer business model. The Kinder 10L is the largest running pack in their range, and for that reason it’s ideal for longer distances.

The fit is excellent as long as you get the sizing correct, with four sizes ranging from XS–L available to choose from. There isn’t a fancy suspension carrying system, just a section of snug fitting and lightweight material that stretches around your body to keep the main compartment balanced and bounce-free.

The main zipped section is split up into two compartments. One compartment is designed to carry a 1.5 or 2 litre bladder. The second compartment is large and ideal for throwing in wet waterproofs. On the front of the pack, you’ve also got a space for hydration flasks, gels and a map.

All in all the Kinder 10L offers excellent value for more, while not skimping on features, or carrying comfort. If you size up bigger than a large, then there’s also the option to go for the XL–XXL Stanage 10L.

Full Specifications

10 litre / zipped main pocket with hydration sleeve / two soft flask pockets / secure zipped pocket for phone/ DWR treated fabric / XS – L.



Best Fanny Pack for Running

3. Cotopaxi Bataan 3L Fanny Pack

Price: £30
Weight: 113g
Best for: Hiking, trail running
Key attributes: Lightweight, eco-friendly, unique

This small and compact 3-litre bum bag from Cotopaxi, called the Bataan, is particularly likeable. Not just because of those bright and cheerful colours, but also because there’s a great initiative behind them. Each one is essentially made from leftover fabric – the small cuttings from other companies’ larger production runs that would otherwise go straight to landfill. The seamstresses who put them together are also given creative control over the final look, ultimately meaning that no two packs are alike.

But as well as being fun and eco-friendly, they’re also practical, whether for trail runs or day hikes. You get a long main zip, two little mesh pockets on the inside and then a webbing strap with a buckle closure. The fabric is a lightweight yet durable ripstop nylon. It makes storing and quickly accessing items like an OS map very convenient. And even with a map inside, there is still space for a phone, wallet, a couple of snack bars and even an extra windproof layer.

Full Specifications

3 litres / ripstop nylon / side release buckle belt closure / adjustable webbing strap hip belt.



Best Ultra Marathon Pack

4. Scott Trail RC TR4

The Kinabalu on test by our team in North Wales

Price: £80
Weight: 280g
Best for: Single day racing, supported ultras and mountain rounds
Key attributes: Lightweight, minimal, wide padded shoulder straps

Built with the ‘less is more’ mantra in mind, Scott’s Trail RC TR4 trail running vest sports an extremely streamlined design. With a 4-litre capacity, it’s extremely small and lightweight, good for anyone looking to complete a big mountain round, alongside a support team, such as the Welsh 3000s or Bob Graham or chasing single day competitive ultra running events. 

A zippered main compartment on the back makes up the majority of the four litres of storage, though you get the standard hydration flask pockets (with two flasks included) on either shoulder strap, and plenty of energy bar or gel storage sitting in front of these pockets. Either side of the pack is covered in a stretchy mesh fabric that can be used as a pocket to hold a packable waterproof jacket, or even an extremely lightweight insulator, for quick on-the-go access.

It has a body hugging fit with stretch, sweat-wicking fabric, height adjustable sternum and waist straps and excellent shoulder straps, built wide with plenty cushioning underneath for excellent comfort over longer miles.

Full Specifications

4 litre / Zippered rear main pouch / Height adjustable sternum straps /  2x 500ml Scott soft flasks included / Trekking pole attachments / Integrated safety whistle.

Selected for the 2020/21 Outdoors Magic Outdoor 100 – Read our full Scott Trail RC TR4 review.


Best of the Rest


5. OMM Phantom 20L

Giles using the Phantom in Bannau Brycheiniog

Price: £120
Weight: 315g
Best for: Distance running, fastpacking, cycling
Key attributes: Stable, useful pockets

Suited to long-distance running, fastpacking and also cycling, the key feature on the OMM’s Phantom is its carrying harness and its impressive ability to provide a stable carry thanks to its unique suspension system and series of shock absorbers.

It utilises a v-shaped anchor or yoke that sits behind your neck where the two shoulder straps merge together and this gets rid of the problem that normal harnesses have where the full load of the rucksack is taken by each shoulder one at a time when you run. The weight is instead spread out across the anchor point to allow for a slightly more efficient movement of the shoulders.

To prevent the body of the pack from swinging side to side, a shock absorbing cord connects it to either side of the harness on the shoulders, and webbing straps pull in under the arms. All of these can be loosened or tightened for the right fit and feel while on the go.

The harness itself is based on a running vest design with flat and wide straps that follow the contours of your chest, moving with it without any constriction. So essentially you have a running vest on the front, and pack on the back.

Aside from this impressive carrying system, OMM have included a full bottle holder on the right hand shoulder strap and a smaller, stretchier phone/soft water bottle carrying pocket on the left side. Access to the main compartment is via the zip that spans across the top of the pack and there’s one smaller top pocket to keep smaller items such as power gels and a mobile phone.

All-in-all, this is a superb pack for day-long adventures into wild terrain, one that’s clearly made by runners, for runners.

Full Specifications

20 Litre / Also in smaller and larger capacities / 30D nylon / 6mm EVA back padding / 2 stretch mesh front pockets / one zipped top pocket / Compression straps and customisable loops / emergency whistle / 44cm back length.

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2019 – Read our full OMM Phantom review.


6. Montane VIA Fang 5

Price: £110
Weight: 350g
Best for: Trail running
Key attributes: Excellent harness, Polygiene odour control treatment, very comfortable, includes water bottles

The Montane VIA Fang 5 is an example of a backpack where everything just works. There are no superfluous extras, and there’s a clear reason for every element. The reason that it wins the ‘best in test’ however, is the fastening system. There are two straps, one across the chest and another across the belly, and they link with Velcro. Both are very easy to adjust and get just right. The elastication also means they keep tight as your breathing gets heavier. It’s a brilliant, simple system. The ‘Freelight Chassis’ is made from a mesh that is breathable and fast drying. We also love that it is treated with Polygiene, a permanent odour control.

As in all of these packs, there are plenty of pockets, including four stretch mesh pockets on the front of the ‘chassis’, one with a security zip. Two are designed to carry 500ml SoftFlask bottles that the bag comes with. These soft bottles can be compacted down when they’re finished, and you can also squeeze the air out of them so the water doesn’t slosh around. The Fang 5 is compatible with a hydration bladder too.

There are two stash pockets on either side of the pack harness for gels and the like. The main pocket is accessed through a zip, but it lies behind the external compression cord which means you need to undo the cord before you can open it up – a very minor niggle. There’s another smaller zipped pocket on the lower section.

Other features include an underarm pole attachment and another that allows the poles to be attached diagonally across the back. There’s also a whistle and reflective features. Overall, this is an excellent buy.

Full Specifications

5 litre / Polygiene permanent odour control / Front stretch hook and loop lower body adjustment / 2 x Montane SoftFlasks 500ml / 4 pockets on chassis / 2 main compartments / pole attachment.



7. Salomon Agile 6 Set

Price: £75
Weight: 300g
Best for: Trail running, cycling
Key attributes: Water-resistant, lightweight, streamlined, easy access via long main zip.

Salomon was among the first pioneers of the running vest. It’s a company with a deep understanding of trail running – their shoes are excellent. The early vests out of their innovative S/LAB programme were game-changing but not flawless. There were lots of straps and fiddly attachments, and they could flap in your face. Fast-forward a few years and many of these issues have been resolved.

The Agile 6 Set is a slightly simpler running or cycling pack that pairs back a lot of the extras (including the price – it was on offer for £45 when we last checked). It’s a mesh construction that is comfortable and dries quickly. Harness-wise, there are two elasticated straps across the front that clip in. These clips are bigger than they used to be, but I still found them a tad fiddly in the cold. The straps seemed quite long (I chopped a bit off!).

There is one main compartment with a zip that opens all the way around the bag. Not only does this mean that you can open the lot up and easily access what you need, but also the two-way zip means you can just open the bit you want anywhere.

There are mesh pockets on either side for two 500ml soft flask waterbottles that are supplied with the pack. These are positioned so it’s easy to drink from them through a straw without taking them out. A final feature to note is the attachment on the back for storing poles diagonally. This pack comes in 2-, 6- and 12-litre sizes.

Full Specifications

6 litre / 1 main compartment / 3D Air Mesh construction / 100D Nylon Mini Ripstop, Waterproof 500mm / 2 soft flasks.



8. Inov-8 Adventure Lite 15

Price: £80
Weight: 390g
Best for: Distance running, ultra-marathons, fast hiking
Key attributes: Stable, great hydration system, super comfortable.

With a compartment large enough to carry enough kit for a full day’s running or even an extremely lightweight multi-day trip, the Adventure Lite 15 is a great all-rounder. The pack has an impressive range of features that don’t just pigeonhole the pack into the fell running world, and is an extremely stable carry too.

It has two compartments and plenty of pockets, along with a simple yet extremely well ventilated back system. This consists of a padded back panel overlaid with mesh webbing. There is  additional padding in key areas of the shoulder harness for added comfort with a full load.

Full Specifications

15-litre / 70D ripstop nylon plus mesh and stretch panels / Zero Bounce fit / hydration compatible.



9. Montane Trailblazer LT 20L

Some shots from our test trip in the Highlands

Price: £110
Weight: 300g
Best for: fastpacking, mountain running, hiking
Key attributes: very light, comfortable, stable, waterproof

With its 20-litre capacity, this running pack suits day trips in the mountains where you want your essentials with you – your wet weather gear, insulation, your lunch and snacks and map etc. We’ve also found that it can just about serve as an overnight pack for fastpacking, you just need to be prepared to take quite a minimalist approach!

Montane have deployed a bunch of superlight materials here, creating a total weight that’s a meagre 300g. But comfort hasn’t been sacrificed; this pack wraps around your body’s contours really nicely and there’s just enough padding to keep the contents inside from niggling into your back. The silicone coating and ripstop weave both combine to make this surprisingly durable as well. 

The fabric, taped seams and rolltop make this fully waterproof and there are a bunch of nifty pockets and storage options. We particularly liked the front bungee which is what gives this pack that extra capability as one for overnights. 

Our only gripe is that with the bungee, cords and straps, this is a little bit on the fiddly side. Still, if you’re looking for something that’s lightweight but capable and loaded with useful design touches, this would be a good option to go for. 

Full Specifications

20-litre capacity / roll top opening / two chest straps / waist strap / storage bungee / stretch mesh pockets / taped seams / 40 denier siliconised nylon ripstop fabric with TPU coating / underarm pole attachments / hydration bladder compatible.



10. Rab Aeon Ultra

The Aeon Ultra on test by our team in Glen Nevis.

Price: £135
Weight: 700g
Best for: fastpacking, mountain running, hiking
Key attributes: comfortable, large load capacity, stable, highly water resistant

This is a seriously versatile backpack that, while specifically designed for fastpacking or adventure racing, is also excellent for hut-to-hut trekking and day hiking. The 28L model weighs in at 700g, which is lighter than the vast majority of daypacks, making it an appealing proposition to adventure racers. 

We used this on a two-day run taking in the whole of the An Teallach ridgeline in Scotland and it was ideal for transporting all our overnight kit while also keeping it stable and stowed comfortably. 

The wet weather performance is also notable, with its highly water resistant material, roll top closure and taped seams combining to make this capable of keeping out the worst of conditions. It also offers a perforated foam pack system, loads of pockets and a sleeve for a hydration bladder.

Full Specifications

28-litre capacity / 19″, 48CM back length / hydration bladder compatible / walking pole attachment points / stretch side pockets / harness pockets / 50% recycled 70D x 140D nylon fabric / moulded back panel / roll top closure.



11. Dirtbags Upcycled Bum Bag

OM editor Will using the Dirtbags fanny pack

Price: From £23
Weight: 190g
Best for: Climbing, quick jogs, everyday use
Key attributes: Resourceful, progressive, eye-catching

Founded by a small group of passionate Lake District climbers in 2017, the Dirtbags business model is centred around turning stuff that’s destined for landfill into brand new products. Whether that’s a Berghaus jacket that’s been used and abused to the point of no return or fabric cuttings from the factory floor, this bunch will transform whatever they can get their hands on into bum bags, chalk bags, saddle bags, holdalls and more.

Each item they bring in for upcycling is washed, carefully unpicked and cut back into pieces. Toggles, zips, elastic and velcro are put to the side for later and even the scraps are put aside to restitch into things like zip pouches – so just about every single bit of fabric gets used. Of course this means that every single product is unique as well, with no two products the same and some zaney colour combos too.

Full Specifications

Eco-friendly / made from 100% repurposed materials / multiple colour options / not waterproof / specifications for each product are entirely unique.



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