The trail running vest has been revolutionary. In the last five years, the emergence of these running backpacks that fit almost like a 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 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 trail running backpacks 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 Trail 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.
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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.
Related: Best Backpacks For Backpacking
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 Trail Running Backpacks Reviewed
Here’s our gear team’s pick of the best packs for long-distance off-road 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.
- OMM Phantom 20
- Montane Gecko VP 12+
- Montane Via Fang 5 – Best In Test Trail Running Pack
- Salomon Agile 6 Set
- Harrier Kinder 10L
- Cotopaxi Bataan Fanny Pack
- Scott Trail RC TR4
- Inov-8 Adventure Lite
- USWE Nordic 10
OMM Phantom 20L
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.