This article will review the best running backpacks based on price, quality, storage and comfort. If you want to be a self sufficient long distance runner than you might want to consider using a backpack that is specifically designed for running. I have used almost all of the available running backpacks over the last 15 years so this information is not based on product pushing or sales but rather on one Ultrarunners honest opinion.
It is interesting that the major backpack companies do not seem to be major players in the running backpack community. It was not until a 6-7 years ago that Camelbak finally made a running specific backpack. 15 years ago I started trail and Ultrarunning and it was soon obvious that my lame Fuelbelt was not up to the task. At the time my choices were basically Ultimate Direction or Nathan. After much research I decided on the Ultimate Direction Wasp. The Wasp served me well for many years…..and then they changed the design. These days runners have many more choices. Ultimate Direction, Nathan, Orange Mud, Triwonder, Camekbak and Ultraspire to name a few. Of course you can look at some of the usual suspects like Salomon or Osprey but the first 5 I listed have really figured out what runners need (versus hikers).
5th Best Running Backpack
Quality: 5 of 5. Made of sturdy nylon and is machine washable. Don’t leave it out to dry in the sun or it will eventually dry-rot.
Storage: 4 of 5. Designed to carry water bottle, extra layer, nutrition, phone, Gloves, hat, keys. Four exterior slip pockets and one zipper pocket. One interior zipper pocket.
Comfort/Fit: 4 of 5. Features adjustable harness with cargo pockets. The adjustable straps also slide up and down for even more precise fit and comfort.
Price: 3 of 5. $150 on Amazon. However, Camelbak claims to provide a 100% lifetime guarantee (read the fine print)
Scoring 16 out of a possible 20 points the Camelbak won’t let you down, will last for years but may leave your pocket a little lighter.
4th Best Running Backpack
Quality: 4 of 5. Made of 90% nylon and 10% polyester and is machine washable. Don’t leave it out to dry in the sun or it will eventually dry-rot. It is extremely light weight and the material do seem to degrade more quickly than the 100% nylon packs.
Storage: 3 of 5. While it does have easy access front pockets its main cabin does not allow much room for additional clothing such as jacket and gloves. You can squeeze them in there but its a tight fit.
Comfort/Fit: 5 of 5. Features adjustable harness with cargo pockets. The adjustable strap also slide up and down for even more precise fit and comfort. It is so lightweight you forget you are wearing it.
Price: 4.5 of 5. $73.13 on Amazon. However, Camelbak claims to provide a 100% lifetime guarantee (read the fine print)
Scoring a 17 out of possible 20 points the Nathan Hydration Pack is more like a race vest with a 2L bladder than a long distance pack. What it lacks in storage it makes up for in weight and comfort and at a price of $73 is a great choice.
3rd Best Running Backpack
Quality: 5 of 5. This pack seems like it will take a beating and according to Orange Mud “the pack is here for the long haul”.
Storage: 4 of 5. While it does have easy access front pockets its main cabin does not allow much room if the bladder is full. You can squeeze items in there but then the fit is affected.
Comfort/Fit: 5 of 5. Features adjustable harness with 4 front cargo pockets. The key to fit is to cinch down the sides first, then adjust the front per your desire. The front harness has a lot of adjustability while being super stretchy too.
Price: 3.5 of 5. $119.95 on Amazon. However, Camelbak claims to provide a 100% lifetime guarantee (read the fine print)
The Orange Mud is a newcomer to the running backpack industry but their commitment to the sport and clever designs are here to stay. They make other running packs with unique designs at lower price points so CHECK THEM OUT
2nd Best Running Backpack
Quality: 5 of 5. Ultimate Direction has been making quality long distance running packs for a long time. There material and design holds up to the test of time. Machine washable.
Storage: 5 of 5. It has easy access front pockets and its main cabin allows for storage of jackets, gloves etc. The outer mesh rear has a bungee cord design that allows you to cinch down extra gear.
Comfort/Fit: 4 of 5. Features adjustable harness with 4 front cargo pockets. Ultralight and ultra strong Hex Mesh Construction..Hidden side adjustments and two fully adjustable sternum straps provides a customized fit and prevents bouncing.
Price: 4-5 of 5. $65.97 on Amazon.
#1 Running Backpack
Quality: 5 of 5. This pack is new to the game but the construction and materials make it obviously durable. Machine washable.
Storage: 4.5 of 5. It has easy access front HUGE front pockets and its main cabin allows for some extra storage. ou can carry everything you need with the water backpack. Super pocket design that your water bottle, phone, keys, foods can easily stored in the front pack pockets, and bladder or other items can be held in the back one
Comfort/Fit: 5 of 5. Features adjustable harness with 4 front cargo pockets. Ultralight hydration pack with wide and breathable shoulder straps distribute weight effectively, reduces strength consumption. Soft and thin mesh padding of hydration vest for optimal comfort and absorb sweat efficiently. The flexible adjustable straps help race vest hug your body nicely
Price: 5-5 of 5. $49.99 on Amazon. This is the best, lowest price point running backpack I have tried so far. While it does not have the same storage capacity as the Ultimate Direction it is adequate for most peoples running needs.
If you want to try out trail and ultrarunning consider joining the San Diego Dirt Devils or running some of the Dirt Devil Racing Trail Races in San Diego. We offer everything from 5K to Half Marathon Trail Races and a 5k, 10K, 15K, Half Series.
Coach Runco and the Dirt Devils will get you Trailfit and ready for your trail running and racing experience. We offer guided trail runs with local running shops like Milestones, Movin Shoes and Road Runner Sports. We have trained thousands of runners for their first trail races and ultra’s. We have two motto’s. “Leave no one behind” and “Don’t be sorry be prepared”…..oh yea and “Drink beer after running”.