10 best running backpacks
Whether it's a quick sprint to the office or a marathon undertaking, keep all the essentials with you in a lightweight rucksack
Choosing the right pack for your ultramarathon is key, and your selection will depend on a number of things. If you’re doing a single stage 50km ultra in the English countryside, you’ll probably be requiring a more minimal vest to store a spare top, some gels, fluids and a couple of plasters. On the other end of the scale is the self sufficient multi day ultra across a desert - here the race organisers will stipulate a long list of mandatories you must carry, and clearly you’ll be after something with a lot more capacity.
A vest offers a more minimal option with storage for a couple of litres of water and storage. Then there is the pack - albeit still with a body hugging ‘vest’ style of construction - a more generous option capable of carrying a lot more gear. In the selection below, we offer up the best options across the full spectrum.
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Ultimate Direction Jurek FKT Vest, £106, Ultimate Direction
A versatile and lightweight option (320g), this pack ticks all the minimalist boxes yet still offers up a generous 11.8L of storage with great comfort and fit. There's a multitude of pockets and pouches on the rear which you can stash a good amount lot of gear into - ideal for mandatory items required for a single stage or overnight ultra. On the front are two good-sized bottle holsters (500ml each) positioned higher up to avoid annoying movement as you run. Plus there's additional stretchy pockets for your iPhone, bars and gels, head torch, buff etc which you can grab without having to stop to access the rear storage. Expandable pockets on the side are a handy extra for a variety of items, and also zippered so you won’t lose anything, there’s pole storage on the rear, and it’s figure hugging stretchy feel ensure a super comfortable and secure fit.
Camelbak Ultra Pro Vest, £44.99, Sportsshoes
With this pack - weighing just 180g - you’ll be set to enjoy a long day’s running in real comfort and be able to store all the gear and supplies you’re likely to need. With a storage capacity of 3.5L, it’s intended for single stage shorter ultras, but you can store up to 2.5L of fluids (two 500ml soft flasks to the front and up to 1.5L bladder in the rear), and with nine pockets in total, you can stash your iPhone, gels, and plenty of extra easy to grab gear easily. It’s constructed of a highly breathable mesh to help minimise any additional heating, and it fits very comfortable and well around the body, with minimal bouncing.
Salomon S Lab Ultra 8 Set, £140, Salomon
This is the ultimate in minimal race gear. At just 137g, this is a close fitting vest that’s featherlight yet being made of an elastic type mesh, pockets can expand easily to accommodate more gear should you be taking part in even a 100 mile event. Yet it’s equally at home when simply stowing a couple of items (say a windproof jacket and a spare waterbottle), and it won’t feel baggy and flap around. You can wear it without a shirt if you wished, there’s plenty of storage to the front including two 500ml soft flask compartments, two other deep expandable pockets, zippered pockets to the side, and a neat adjustable strapping system to the front to ensure a good fit.
Raidlight Responosiv 2018 10L Race Vest, £139.99, My Race Kit
A French running brand focusing on the ultra light, this quality pack stows a great amount of liquid on the front shoulder straps with two 600ml soft flasks (most brands will only take 500ml flasks) which is a neat feature, making refilling at aid stations much quicker. It has one main 10L capacity compartment to the rear (that can accommodate a 1.5L bladder too) an additional stretchy external pouch for extra items, eight pockets in total, and two pole carrying configurations - one across the front offering super ready access and one to rear. It’s constructed from a lightweight and breathable mesh, fits really well, and features two micro adjustable buckles on the sides to really personalise its fit, and it only weighs 245g.
Arc Teryx Norvan 14 Hydration Vest, £165, Arcteryx
Weight 246g, and with a capacity of 12L (plus a 2L bladder partitioned off area), there is a generous amount of storage in this pack - good for the longer runs where you’ll require more gear / supplies. It’s also weather-resistant so you needn’t worry about unforeseen changes in weather, and the main compartment is roll top so super easy to access and more forgiving to stash extra bits in, but can be folded down to secure smaller loads. It’s has pole pockets to on the back sides which are easy access (although you’ll need to remove the pack to get them), four front pockets on the front (two for soft flasks and two for gels etc), and it fits super well and is comfortable and secure whilst running.
Montane Via Dragon 20, £130, Montane
A great backpack with a 20L capacity, although with the roll top it is very accommodating at squeezing in more should you need, and equally can pack down with less. Loads of stretchy pockets around the side and on the front for stuffing in gels, dates, music players, sun cream etc, The water bottle holders (capable of carrying 500ml regular round water bottles) are well placed nice and high, and there’s also a bladder sleeve to the rear should you need more. The waist strap attaches to the front with a stretchy velcro which is really comfy and easily adjusted (but secure too). It also has a special odour fighting treatment so won’t start smelling either. At 350g, for a pack which has this much capacity and this many features, it’s a great option.
OMM Phantom 25CL, £150, Original Mountain Marathon
If you’re after a pack with capacity, this is one of your best bets - it boasts a massive 25L capacity so you should be set for self sufficient multi day marathons. With a 6 point harness system, it fits really well whilst running, and the hip pads and shoulder pads have some really handy (and zippered) pockets for regular use items during your run, such as water bottles, gels, phone etc. It’s worth noting that water bottles aren’t on the front shoulder straps, the hydration system is via a bladder or from pockets to the side. It is made of high quality ripstop fabric so it can take a hammering and should give you good service, it has a brilliant large expandable mesh pocket across the whole of the rear (great for stashing extra quickly accessible gear), and the pack’s removable backpadding doubles up as a camping mat. This is a really high spec high capacity running pack.
Hoka One One F-Light 7L Pack, £106, Hoka One One
A minimal and very lightweight no nonsense vest with 7L of storage, it weighs just 172g, and is constructed of a rip stop material which also affords any stowed gear some protection from rain too. With large velcro straps on the sides, it’s super easy to adjust and have fit your torso very snugly. You can use a 1L bladder in the rear, two 500ml bottles on the front, and there are four other pockets to the front offering sufficient storage. A great pack for those single stage or day races where you require minimal gear and a race light pack.
Inov8 All Terrain Pro Vest 0 - 15, £103.99, Sports Shoes
A really innovative design offering two packs in one. You’ve the option of a minimal race day vest with 8 pockets to stash gels, small gear and two 500ml flasks, and then you can secure on an additional 15L storage compartment to the rear to make it good for training and longer and even overnight races. It’s 187g, so is a lightweight option, and comes armed with numerous compression straps and adjustable body hugging to keep gear and the pack well tethered and minimise any bouncing - it’s really comfortable yet also really durable.
Ultra Aspire 3.0 Hydration Pack, £89.95, Runner Inn
This is a great option in warm weather or when you have an emphasis on hydration for a shorter single stage ultra - it’s minimal, highly breathable and can carry 3.1L of fluids. It comes with two 550ml bottles which are kept in the front pockets, and the storage to the rear is good for a windproof jacket and maybe another item or two. The edges are finished with micro-fiber, helping give a soft and non-abrasive feel against skin and clothing. On the back and to the sides are some good stretchy pockets capable of expanding and carrying gels and gear, and the stretchy sternum chords provide a comfortable and highly adjustable fit and keep it stable whilst running.
Verdict: Best ultra running backpacks
For a short single day ultra, the Salomon and Camelbak are exceptionally well suited. If you’re doing a single stage but longer ultra of around 100km, the Raidlight is and Arc’Teryx offer fantastic options will. If you’re going to be taking part in a longer multi stage race, the OMM and Montane offer large storage yet loads of functionality, comfort and all in a lightweight package. However if you’re not needing something with huge capacity, the best allrounder that’ll serve you well in numerous scenarios is the Ultimate Direction - light, very well built, good and well thought out storage capability, and importbaly very comfortable - this is our top recommend.
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