Best Trail Running Backpacks For 2021 - Outdoors Magic

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Best Trail Running Backpacks For 2021

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 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.

Related: Best Head Torches For Running

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

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.

Get the latest price at:
theomm.com

 

Montane Gecko VP 12+

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.

Get the latest price at:
montane.co.uk

 

BEST BUY: 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.

Get the latest price at:
montane.co.uk

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.

Get the latest price at:
salomon.com

Harrier Kinder 10L

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.

Get the latest price at:
harrierrunfree.co.uk

Cotopaxi Bataan 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.

Get the latest price at:
blackleaf.com

 

Scott Trail RC TR4

Price: £70
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.

Get the latest price at:
Scott-sports.com

 

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.

Get the latest price at:
webtogs.com

 

USWE Nordic 10

Price: £92
Weight: 510g
Best for: Cold-weather trail running, mountain biking, cross-country skiing
Key attributes: Stable, includes anti-freezing hydration system

The USWE Nordic 10 Vest has a secret weapon: its Thermo Cell insulation technology, which stops the drink tube and bite valve from freezing in extreme temperatures. It works by reflecting the user’s body heat, built up during physical activities, via a thin mesh membrane. The rest of the pack is made from a lightweight but durable synthetic with a 3D mesh back.

Thanks to the nifty NDM 4-point harness system, the chest straps expand along with the chest during physical exertion and this allows for a consistently tight and compliant fit. Ergonomically designed, the shoulder straps here deliver an even and smooth distribution of the backpack’s weight. Joining forces with the chest straps to create the 4-point front system, all the straps are connected with a rotatable quick-release that securely holds the entire backpack in place.

There’s a total of seven different pockets here (a lot for a running pack), including stretch mesh on the sides and two handy zipped ones on the chest where you can stash a phone or GPS. Designed for use in winter, when the evenings are longer and darker than in summer, it’s good to see the implementation of visual reflective points on the front and back, as well as an easy and secure attachment for a bike LED-light. This is a functional and very, very comfortable pack to wear for all kinds of high tempo winter sports.

Full Specifications

10-litre / integrated hydration system / NDM race harness / mesh back panel / Thermo Cell insulation shoulder strap / bladder sleeve compression / LED light attachment / visual reflective points: front & back.

Get the latest price at:
USWE-sports.com

 

 

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