Fitness has now become something we often incorporate into our daily routine and while the best running backpack might not initially seem like an essential, as soon as you start jogging to work or to the gym, suddenly it is.
Then, whether it’s going out for a run first thing in the morning, or hitting the gym during your lunch breaks, a running backpack will allow you to keep your essential belongings about your person as you seamlessly blend work day and workout.
Also, hydration backpacks can be used in areas with arid conditions or by long distance runners. These backpacks house a hydration bladder, a reusable plastic pouch with a spout fed through the bag and the strap so you can easily take some water from it without having to take the backpack off or stop.
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- How to buy the best running backpack for you
- The best running backpacks, in order
- 1. OMM Phantom 12
- 2. Salomon Trail 20 Backpack
- 3. Gregory Miwok 24 Backpack
- 4. Osprey Rev 6 Backpack
- 5. Salomon Skin Pro 10 Set
- 6. Dueter Speed Lite 15
- 7. Nike Commuter
- 8. The North Face Surge 33
- Best Backpacks For Running To Work
- Comparative Packs
- Test Model
- Best for:
- Run commuters who carry larger loads on most run commutes
- One backpack for both a daily run commute pack in the city and for epic runs/races such as the Marathon des Sables!
- Run commuters with shorter torsos
- Sometimes, it rains. We run commuters have to run in rain at times, as Kyle discusses in his classic ‘How to RAIN commute’ post.
- What I Liked
- Pocket distribution/design
- Thoughtful overall design
- What I Didn’t Like
- The location of the closing clip for the main compartment
- Main Compartment and Top Access Pouch
- Back, shoulder straps and waist belt
- Hydration System
- A top-drawer backpack for adventure running AND run commuting!
- Osprey Rev 18 or 24L (see TRC review of this pack)
- Osprey Talon 22L
- Deuter Futura 22L (see TRC review of this pack)
- Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20
- Ultraspire Epic 20L
- Backpacks Made for Running
- Backpacks Versus Vests
- Advice for Run Commuting
- How We Tested
- TRC Review: A detailed review is available on The Run Commuter. Click the logo to view.
- Volume: The internal space within a pack, i.e. the area where you put all your stuff.
- Sternum Strap: The sternum strap (or, chest strap) links the pack’s two shoulder straps, usually buckling between the base of your sternum and the base of your neck. This strap helps to reduce up-and-down bounce.
- Waist Strap: The waist strap secures around your waist and secures the base of the pack to your lower torso, reducing side-to-side motion.
- Load Compression: Compression straps on the main compartment of the pack, either internal or external, that can be used to secure gear within your pack, reducing or eliminating any bounce from carried items.
- Integrated Rain Cover: A protective, and usually highly-visible, waterproof/water-resistant cover hidden away in a small pouch built into the backpack, that can be quickly removed and applied in case of rain to keep your gear dry.
- Padded Laptop Sleeve: A padded area/pocket within the pack made for carrying and protecting laptops or tablets.
- Frame: Internal frame is present or absent.
- Weight: The weight of the pack at the time of purchase without any additions or packed items.
- Ideal Load Range: The amount of weight that the backpack will handle comfortably.
- Hydration Compatible: There are separate hydration areas in the pack and ports for which hydration tubes can exit the pack.
- Women-Specific Option: Backpacks specifically designed to best fit the female body.
- The best running backpacks for commuting
- What to look for in a run-commuting backpack
- Best all-round running backpack for commuting
- Best large running backpack for commuting
- Best running backpack for keeping your clothes crease-free
- Best small running backpacks for commuting
- Best reflective running backpack
- Best budget running backpacks for commuting
- Kalenji 10L Trail Running Bag
How to buy the best running backpack for you
If you have a long commute, then any less than a 12L capacity backpack isn’t going to cut it- especially if you want to carry a laptop. Look out for backpacks with dedicated compartments for all your daily essentials.
If you prefer to run super early or leave the office late at night, reflective detailing will make sure you’re visible in urban environments and waterproofing will protect your gadgets in even the most unpredictable weather.
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Competitive runners should opt for no more than 10L is advisable so that it doesn’t slow you down and allows for ease of movement. Make sure it has an integrated or designated space for a hydration pack, too, for when you need to re-fuel on the go. Here we bring you up to speed with our top 7 backpacks for an easy work out on the go.
The best running backpacks, in order
1. OMM Phantom 12
The featherweight champion for racers and commuters alike
Best for: Everyday use Capacity: 12L Waterproof: Yes Colour: Black & orange
Reasons to buy
+Super lightweight+Accurate fit
Reasons to avoid
-Hydration pack sold separately
The OMM Phantom 12 makes our top spot because of it’s super lightweight feel and expandable capacity, making it by far one of the best running backpacks for everyday use. Whether you’re on your daily commute or running in a race; this backpack will serve you well and you won’t even know it’s there with its incredibly adaptable 6-point harness.
2. Salomon Trail 20 Backpack
A large capacity bag for the city commuter
Best for: Commuting Capacity: 20L Waterproof: No Colours: Red, Black, Blue +High capacity+Affordable -Not waterproof
With a 20L capacity, the Salomon Trail 20 Backpack may sound too big, but it is a comfortable way to pack everything you need for your day. It is not waterproof so we do not recommend it for long outdoor walks but this is one of the best running backpack for commuting through a city because the airmesh straps ensure it doesn’t get too hot.
3. Gregory Miwok 24 Backpack
This is an durable adventure-proof backpack that will take you from the office to hiking in the woods
Best for: Adventure Capacity: 24L Waterproof: YES Colour: Black +Adventure-proof+High capacity -A little pricey
The Gregory Miwok 24 is made from durable 100D Nylon, which makes this the perfect pack for all eventualities. From daily commutes, to airport travel or trail walking; this backpack is designed to withstand frequent and harsh use and will stand the test of time. It has a barely-there feel and an expandable helmet pocket which makes it ideal for cyclists, too.
4. Osprey Rev 6 Backpack
The pack with an integrated hydration pack that will quench your thirst when on the go
Best for: Integrated hydration Capacity: 6L Waterproof: No Colour: Blue +Integrated hydration+Barely-there fit -Small pockets
Small and compact, the Osprey Rev 6 is by far the best running backpack for hydration. We guarantee this will become your trusted companion when running, hiking or cycling an intense trail as the 1.5L bladder allows you to take small sips as and when you need them. If you want a pack that stays still when you move, this is the one to get. Although very small, this backpack boasts lightweight efficiency like no other.
5. Salomon Skin Pro 10 Set
A pocket-filled backpack perfect for hiking
Best for: Hiking Capacity: 10L Waterproof: Yes Colours: Black, Red +Lots of pockets+Attach equipment – A little pricey for 10L
The Salomon Skin Pro 10 Set will be your new best friend if you are a keen hiker. Although not the highest capacity on the list, this bag has something that the others lack – pockets! You won’t be short of places to put things with a carrying system that can hold hiking poles, helmets and any other necessary tools. This running backpack also includes a hydration bladder,whistle and reflective detailing.
6. Dueter Speed Lite 15
The budget backpack for anything from extreme sports to going to the gym
Capacity: 15L Waterproof: No Colour: Grey +Affordable+Extremely light -Plain colours
The Dueter Speed Lite 15 pack is one of the best running backpacks for marathons as it is praised for its weightlessness. It is also ideal for days out and holidays as it has plenty of space for a change of clothes and other belongings as well as the perfect sized pocket for keeping a book safe if you like to read on the go. You’ll also get all your mod-cons including a 2L bladder compartment with hydration hose.
7. Nike Commuter
A sporty but professional looking backpack for the style conscious commuter
Best for: Everyday use Capacity: 15L Waterproof: No Colour: Black +Affordable +Stylish -Not for extreme activity
We absolutely love the Nike Commuter and believe it is one of the best running backpacks for commuting with style. This pack can take you from the gym to work and on your evening run with a look that simple yet stands out from the crowd. The back panel will ensure you don’t get too hot (especially if you’re wearing a suit). The reflective strip makes this bag ideal for running at night time for high-visibility.
8. The North Face Surge 33
Transport your technology with ease with this handy laptop case
Best for: Laptops Capacity: 33L Waterproof: No Colour: Black +Laptop compartment+Large Capacity -Not for activities
Although such a high capacity bag is not ideal for hiking through the forest in the rain, the North Face Surge 33 is ultimately the best running backpack for laptops. So if you’re frequently going on business trips then you need to invest in this bag for the easiest and safest way to carry your laptop. The 26x36cm compartment unzips completely for easy transport through airport security without unloading your entire bag.
Best Backpacks For Running To Work
BEST OVERALL – OMM Ultra 8
A wonderfully straightforward pack best summed up by the two-strap tightening system that provides a close and comfortable fit across all contact points.
Once secure, there’s no bouncing and, with enough room for a change of clothes and a top pocket for storing smaller items, it has everything you need at a very reasonable price.
A front pocket and bottle holder wouldn’t go amiss, although you can attach OMM Go Pods (sold separately).
KitBrix The CityBrix
A leviathan of a bag in terms of storage. Undoubtedly the best feature is the 10L capacity ‘Play’ section, with its tarpaulin lining that creates a water-resistant carrier for all your sodden kit.
Up top, the ‘Work’ section features a labyrinth of pockets and sealed sections, and a main compartment big enough to house a 13ins laptop.
Beware the temptation to overfill the sections, which can create something of a, well, brick on your back.
Salomon Trail 20
Run-commute bags have to strike a tricky balance between being being lightweight yet roomy enough to pack in all your workday essentials. The Salomon Trail 20L achieves this in some style.
The 20L capacity provides ample room for shoes, shirt and trousers, while there’s a zipped pocket for your valuables and a mesh pocket for a water bottle.
It feels comfortable on and doesn’t bounce around too much. As a bonus, it’s just as effective as a roomy race-day bag.
Jim Bag Holdall
Not a traditional running pack, but hear us out, because the Jim Bag isn’t just stylish; it’s impressively practical.
A capacity of 56cm long x 28cm wide x 28cm deep means you can pack about twice as much kit as you could with a standard pack.
The handles double up as shoulder straps, which sit comfortably, and, although not fully waterproof, we found the material did a decent job of repelling all but the worst of the British weather.
BEST ON A BUDGET – dhb Slice 15L Rucksack
A running rucksack should be a reliable and easy-wearing companion, and dhb’s Slice bag is just that.
Featuring a main compartment, a second compartment, an outer drinks pocket and chest and waist straps, it has most areas covered. The 15L model comes in at just under £20, too, making it a great low-budget choice for runners who travel light.
It does suffer in terms of storage space, though, so opt for the 30L option (£26.99) if packing large items.
When I was a young lad, I regularly saw a neighbour of ours running with a rucksack on his back. I asked my Dad what he was doing, and my Dad told me the runner must be either a soldier out training or a madman. I never questioned that analysis. Now it seems that every second runner I see is sporting a backpack and a sense of purpose. Are they all soldiers or madmen? Of course not. They are part of a growing trend: run commuting.
With lives getting busier and busier, many runners have found that running to or from work is a really efficient way to get in the miles, as well as being far more pleasant than cramming yourself on to a tube, train or bus for the overcrowded and airless commute.
And it might even be quicker. For example, if you were aiming for a sub-4-hour marathon, your target race pace would be nine minutes and nine seconds a mile. This means that at a gentle pace of 10 minutes a mile you can cover almost four miles in half the average time people take to commute in London each day. Do that three times a week, and you will be adding almost a half marathon’s worth of mileage to your base training, while avoiding the tube or the bus, and at the same time saving money – a triple win.
Of course, run-commuting is not for everyone – a common objection is that it can be difficult logistically. But actually, with a very small amount of organisation, there are few problems that can’t be overcome.
• It might be obvious, but if you don’t have a shower at work, don’t run to work. Run home. There are a few hardy souls who run both to and from work, but for most of us a one-way commute is enough. Take your running kit to work in the morning, run home, and then on your rest day take the dirty shirts that have piled up in the office, home to be washed. Or simply roll your shirt up and carry it home in your backpack.
• If you do run to work and there is no shower, there are products you can buy that will allow you to freshen up before you start the day – try the Waterless Hair and Body Wash from Halo – and hope you have tolerant colleagues.
• Commute too long? Just get off the train or bus before your stop and run the rest of the way.
• Some run-commuters struggle with carrying the things they need in a back-pack. A neat solution to that is a service called Home Run that offers run-commuters in London the option of having their bag taken home from the office for them.
• As fellwalker and author Alfred Wainwright is reported to have said: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” This is especially true when run-commuting. For everyday use, merino wool clothing is exceptionally resistant to the nasty pong that can hang around polyester, lycra and spandex kit. A good merino wool top will keep you cool in summer and warm in winter, while emitting hardly any whiff . Check out the Ashmei range or Howies, or the Nike Dri-Fit range is also good.
• There will inevitably be rain, so a waterproof jacket that wicks sweat is an essential item. Other useful kit includes a good backpack – the Salomon Agile 12-litre pack is large enough to carry all your essentials (remember to pack valuables such as your phone into a waterproof stuffsack).
Morning runs before you get to work will ensure you arrive at the office feeling awake, alive and more than a little virtuous. And if you choose to run-commute home, it is an opportunity to clear your mind of all the detritus of the day, ensuring you arrive home relaxed and energised. And ready to put your feet up.
There aren’t many places to get ideas about run-commuting, but for tips and ideas on how to make it enjoyable and practical, inspiration from experienced run-commuters and to offer your own pearls of wisdom, check out theruncommute.com. This new website, backed by ashmei, has been set up to help runners the world over discover the benefits of run commuting or help existing fans to share their thoughts and tips with others. There are also some great tips on a blog called Running To Work.
Alternatively, share your suggestions in the comments below. How have you made run-commuting work? Or was it just too difficult to manage?
Simon Freeman blogs at simonfreeman.co.uk
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My commute is 1hr 15 mins, door to door. Not too bad, and certainly a lot better than it would have been if we hadn’t moved. But that’s still 2.5 hours of my day spent travelling, 150 minutes where I’m on the train or in the car.
If I have to travel so far, I might as well do some of it on foot. In fact, it takes almost as long to run from Paddington to work as it does to take the Hammersmith & City line tube there. However, it does mean that I need to
I tested a lot of backpacks for this piece, and put blood (chafe), sweat and tears (post-oncology week) into it too. I hope you find this useful, and I’ll keep adding to it if I find anything better as I continue to run commute.
The best run commute backpack: Gregory Maya 16L Running Backpack
The last one I tried worked the best for me. It’s the women’s specific backpack and I could tell by the fit of the shoulder straps and the fact that I could really cinch in the waist that it had been designed with a women’s figure in mind. I liked that I was able to adjust so many of the steps, and secure it to my body tightly. It didn’t move around like some of the others I tested, therefore I had no issues chafing, even in just a tank top. And although it was a little smaller than some of the others at 16L – they do a 20L version too. Plus a mens option…which I obviously haven’t tried.
This one carries my laptop, shoes, clothes, purse, coffee cup and a small coat. I couldn’t fit my big Tupperware for lunch in it with all my other stuff, however maybe it would all fit in the 20L. I wish they’d put some more reflective pieces on it to avoid having to wear fluoro in the winter but otherwise, no complaints!
At £65, it isn’t cheap but it’s no-where near the cost of some of the others I tried, and I see it as a great investment piece.
The Runner’s Up:
I Am Run Box – I’ve used this running backpack a lot over the years. I love it for carrying my laptop, it holds it securely without feeling like all your stuff is going to damage it. I think this run backpack is probably the most ‘professional’ commuter backpack…it holds a folded shirt and laptop, and comes with a packing guide. I did find the straps rub a little on the back of my neck and it doesn’t fit a huge amount in. Not quite the perfect fit for me but definitely a well deserving runner up.
Osprey Tempest 20– I LOVED this bag….until I didn’t. I ran in it with a jacket on, I used it as my commute rucksack when I wasn’t commuting…and then I ran home on a warm night in a tank top and chafed SO badly that I bled. I literally had to hold the backpack off my back as the chafing started within a mile or so. 4 miles shouldn’t do that much damage. However, if you run in a t-shirt or are looking for more of a hiking/commuting backpack – this might be perfect for you. It’s certainly very well made and comfortable to wear.
DHB Slice Rucksack – this is the most budget of the rucksacks and probably the perfect one if you’re just starting to run commute and haven’t decided if you like it yet! I have the 15L which sometimes feels a little small, however it is packed full of pockets, has a reflective seams and padded seams. My only issue with this bag is that it isn’t waterproof, I ran with my clothes in a plastic bag, just incase! It does come with a rain cover, but I like the idea that if it starts to pour mid-run I don’t have to stop and faff around putting the cover on.
Some of the other’s that I tested:
OMM Ultra 15L Running Backpack – The waist strap was really padded and comfortable on this, however unfortunately the shoulder straps didn’t sit flat on my chest and I couldn’t tie them tight enough. The bag looked so awkward on me and bounced all over the place when I ran. I think this could be comfortable if you have a longer torso but definitely worth trying to see if it suits your body type!
Arc’teryx Arro 22 Urban Commuter Backpack – this one looked so sleek and definitely wouldn’t be embarrassing to turn up at the pub with. It’s also waterproof which is crucial in a city like London…however I just found it too structured. It perhaps needs wearing it to mould to your body or is designed for more of a square/rectangular body shape but I found that the straps didn’t sit well on my shoulders or hips.
Lululemon Run All Day backpack – Looks great however I don’t feel that it functions that well – I struggled to get it on by myself, having to ask my colleagues to help clip me in (quite embarrassing!). For me, the strap around my waist was too thin, I like to carry a lot of the weight there rather than all on my shoulders, and I don’t think the waist strap really worked. Luckily, that strap is removable so it makes a great bag to bring to the gym or for travelling.
Nike Lightweight bag – this bag looks really fancy and very sleek, with plenty of high vis, however it didn’t take any weight around my waist. I did like that it was quite small and therefore could be adjusted easily to fit my body with plenty of pockets for my bank card, phone etc.
The Best Run Commuting Backpack Ever?
So, how does such a hardcore pack work for everyday run commuters who just want to run an hour to work through suburban streets? Brilliantly, that’s how!
OMM Adventure Light 20
Carrying Capacity: 20L, 1220.5 cu. in.
Run commuters who carry larger loads on most run commutes
One backpack for both a daily run commute pack in the city and for epic runs/races such as the Marathon des Sables!
Run commuters with shorter torsos
Sometimes, it rains. We run commuters have to run in rain at times, as Kyle discusses in his classic ‘How to RAIN commute’ post.
What I Liked
Thoughtful overall design
What I Didn’t Like
The location of the closing clip for the main compartment
Main Compartment and Top Access Pouch
Back, shoulder straps and waist belt
A top-drawer backpack for adventure running AND run commuting!
Osprey Rev 18 or 24L (see TRC review of this pack)
Osprey Talon 22L
Deuter Futura 22L (see TRC review of this pack)
Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20
Ultraspire Epic 20L
Running to work or the gym is the ultimate win-win way to rack up extra weekday miles. Not only does run-commuting help you start each day with one big boost of energy, but you also save time you would otherwise spend in traffic—and burn calories instead of fossil fuels. Making it happen on a regular basis just requires a little planning. The first step is finding the right running pack to carry everything you need for the day, like your wallet, phone, and clean clothes to change into.
Take a look at info on five of the top-performing packs below, then scroll down for helpful buying advice plus more in-depth reviews of these and other great options.
Editors’ Choice Iffley Road x Stolt Rucksack, $204.38 iffleyroad.com
Truly looks good enough for the office.
Best Value Proviz Reflect360 Running Backpack provizsports.com $65.00
Safety on a budget.
Lightest Lululemon Surge Run Backpack II lululemon.com $128.00
Tons of space, not weight.
Most Comfortable Norvan 14 Hydration Vest amazon.com $189.00
Most Stable Salomon Skin Pro 15 Set amazon.com $159.95
Feels secure even when loaded down.
Backpacks Made for Running
Running backpacks have come a long way from the battered Jansport you hauled around in school. New packs have ventilation channels to circulate air across your back, and ergonomic harness systems to help you tote your belongings without them bouncing around, messing up your form, or causing injury. When choosing your new running pack, first consider what—and how much—you need to carry.
Most packs are measured by cargo space volume. Smaller packs in the six- to eight-liter range can pack tight to your body so you barely notice them, but seldom have space to haul more than small essentials and a few clothes. Larger packs extend farther from your body, which could offset your center of gravity or just shift too noticeably to be comfortable while you’re running. Packs with 6 to 15 liters of cargo space are generally spacious enough to haul your gear without impeding your mechanics.
If you need to carry a laptop, look for a pack that’s at least 11 inches wide with a minimum 10-liter capacity. Dedicated laptop sleeves secure the added weight by positioning it closest to your body (bladder compartments in hydration vests work well for this, too). Also make sure to choose a pack with a well-designed harness system, which keeps the bag stable and ensures a comfortable fit. Hydration vests are designed to fit close while managing the weight of a one- to two-liter bladder of water plus race essentials. When testing larger packs, we found bags with sternum straps and hip belts worked best—this becomes truer as the weight of the load increases.
Backpacks Versus Vests
We’ve highlighted four backpacks and four vest-pack hybrids, and it’s important to note some of the general pros and cons between the two styles in a run commuting context. While backpacks typically carry more gear, they also tend to come in single, “universal” sizes, and therefore don’t ride as well on the run as vests. If you’re small-framed, you’ll have to really cinch backpack straps down, leaving lots of annoying, dangling straps that need to be tied down or they’ll drive you crazy. All of the vests we’ve chosen ride exceptionally well on the run, and hit the 15- to 20-liter sweet spot for run commuting that’s big enough to carry most of what you’ll need without really hindering your stride.
Advice for Run Commuting
This isn’t a how-to about run commuting, but there are a few things to consider that’ll lighten your load, and make the going a little easier.
- Hygiene: Sounds obvious, but when you run, you sweat. Keep a small toiletry kit with the following products at the office, and you’ll clean up nicely, indeed, even if your workplace isn’t equipped with a shower.
–toothbrush and toothpaste
–highly absorbent, backpacking towel (pack a fresh one Monday, take it home Friday)
- Suits/Dresses: Finally landed that corner office, or at least dressing the part? Sadly, it’s just not practical to haul formal wear on your back, because these clothes take up a lot of space and, frankly, will emerge from your pack a wrinkled mess. It’s best to keep a few options at work to choose from and change into once you arrive.
- Shoes: Assuming your workplace isn’t the kind of place where you can walk around in running shoes, do yourself a favor and leave a pair of dress shoes there for longer stints. They’re simply too heavy and take up too much room in your pack on daily commutes.
- Electronics: Small laptops and tablets fit into most, but not all, of these packs and vests. If you have to haul one of these to and from work, it’ll likely be the heaviest thing you’re carrying, so you’ll want it to be closest to your back (where—bonus—it can keep sweat from seeping through to your clothes). As such, we recommend protecting it with a thin, lightweight and sweat-resistant case or sleeve. If you have a work-specific computer, though, maybe this is just the excuse you need to actually leave it at work. The payoff will be significant weight savings, not to mention better work-life balance. You’re welcome.
- Hydration: We don’t typically carry hydration on run commutes, because 1) water is heavy, 2) it takes up valuable pack space, and 3) in our experience, most run commutes simply aren’t far enough to justify it. So we pull those bladders and flasks out, and save them for weekend long runs. Still, we’ve included what, if any, hydration solution comes with each pack or vest.
How We Tested
Every pack here has been thoroughly evaluated and vetted by our team of test editors. We research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers, and use our own experience wearing and running in these products to determine the best options. The best way to test a running backpack is, well, to run with it. We loaded each pack or vest with typical commuting essentials—a laptop or tablet, shirt, pants, shoes (where possible), keys, a notebook and a pen, a phone, headphones and cash/cards/ID—then pounded our local pavement on runs of 5K to 5 miles at 8:00-8:30 pace. We evaluated test units based on value, fabrics, comfort, looks, and—most important—ability to haul our stuff back-and-forth without bouncing.
What you see here emerged as our top picks for run-commuting packs. Try a few on. See what works for you. And then find a shower near your office.
Related video: Great gym bags for runners.
Iffley Road x Stolt Rucksack
Capacity: 20L (25L with expandable pocket) | Weight: 2 lbs. 7.8 oz. | Hydration Capacity: None
Iffley Road x Stolt Rucksack, $204.38 iffleyroad.com
- Can carry a ton of stuff, including a standard-size laptop and winter-weight clothes
- Transforms into a sharp, business-friendly briefcase
- Heavy and hot to carry
- No reflective hits
This smart collab between two boutique British companies—running brand Iffley Road and backpack builders Stolt—stands apart from the rest in this test for its outstanding business chops. Not only does it boast separate, padded compartments for clothing and office goods (a laptop up to 16 inches, a phone, a notebook, a pen, a planner, etc.), it also transforms into a stylish, understated briefcase once you arrive at work. A third compartment expands capacity by up to five liters, and is perfect for storing shoes or lunch separately. On the outside, the Rucksack has refined touches, like plush back padding, durable 500-denier nylon and all-metal YKK zippers, with tech qualities that won’t set off your coworkers’ nerd alert. Of course, all of that hardware adds ounces, and this is the heaviest pack we tested by a country mile. Despite that, its combination of shoulder, waist, and sternum straps kept everything close and bounce-free on the run—in fact, we were surprised to find it was the most comfortable of the backpacks to run with (though we nearly dislocated a shoulder trying to access the hard-to-reach waist belt pockets). Run done, the straps hide away and the Rucksack becomes a capable, boardroom-ready briefcase.
Proviz Reflect360 Running Backpack
Capacity: 10L | Weight: 1 lb. 0.6 oz. | Hydration Capacity: None
Proviz Reflect360 Running Backpack $65.00 provizsports.com
- Massively reflective
- Highly water-resistant
- Stiff materials, with no stretch
- Low capacity
Run commuting is, generally speaking, reserved for the most dedicated of us. But it gets really hardcore come winter, when you likely have to brave the cold and, perhaps even more daunting from a safety perspective, the dark—sometimes on both ends of the day. When it’s dark outside and the sidewalk ends, being seen becomes a life-or-death matter, and the Reflect360 is there to light you up like a Christmas tree. Safety is, far and away, the priority for this pack—so much so, really, that it dramatically differs from the rest of the packs in our list in its size, materials, and price.
For starters, it sits at the bottom end of the spectrum in terms of size. At 10 liters, it barely fits a tablet (or a very small laptop, but not our 13-inch) along with a rolled-up change of clothes (no shoes), and the rest of our office gear. The materials, from the foam back padding to the reflective edge taping, that make contact with your body feel more rigid and, if the pack was loose, abrasive than the rest we tested—perhaps a function of cheaper materials that account for its very low price. It did stay put for our runs, though, and carried our kit fairly comfortably. The rigid foam made the waist belt a little pokey, but we’d expect that to break in and soften up over time. Where the Reflect360 really shines, though, is its built-in, 360-degree reflectivity. Integrated reflective beads are everywhere—in a huge patch that covers most of the main compartment, of course, but also in large strips on the chest straps and sewn into practically every seam in the bag. In short, it would be hard for a motorist to miss. Other useful features include highly water-resistant 600-denier nylon and waterproof zippers, waist belt zip pockets for easy-access essentials, and a good-sized external pocket where you could stash food or a rain jacket. When safety counts, this is your bag. And, at nearly half the price of every other packs here, it’s won’t put a dent in your wallet.
Lululemon Surge Run II
Capacity: 16L | Weight: 12.5 oz. | Hydration Capacity: None
Lululemon Surge Run Backpack II $128.00 lululemon.com
- Subtle, streetwear-inspired styling
- Lightest backpack in our test felt airy
- Chest strap pockets too small for plus-size phones
- Poorly designed reservoir pocket
- Removable, “clip-on” sternum straps are fiddly compared to classic buckle straps
The first thing you notice about the Surge Run Backpack is just how much it stuffs into such a lightweight package. Where other run-specific packs employ hard structural pieces and thick padding to keep loads safe and stable, this one uses a clever bit of stitchery—wrap-around “wing straps” that cinch loads down and frame some nifty water bottle pockets—to do the work without the added weight. The main compartment is cavernous, as these packs go, and it swallowed our change of clothes and other essentials, leaving plenty of room to spare. A mesh divider pocket held our 13-inch laptop, and a small zipper pocket kept keys, wallet, and watch from getting lost. A third internal pocket, which Lulu put there as a rather impractical water bladder-holder (it would soak through in hot weather, wetting your clothes), makes much more sense as a shoe compartment that keeps street grime off your office duds. Water-repellent fabric and zipper, and safety-minded reflective hits round out the Surge’s commuter chops. We really appreciated how light and relatively airy this pack felt, even when loaded with our full commute kit. Equally impressive, however, was how well it transitions to off-duty service, with a streetwear-inspired understated camouflage pattern and removable sternum straps.
IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro Large
Capacity: 10L | Weight: 2 lbs. 9.1 oz. with shoe bag, 2 lbs. 1.8 oz. alone | Hydration Capacity: None
IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro Large $159.00 amazon.com
- Hard-sided case keeps electronics safe, clothes wrinkle-free
- Sleek and low-profile
- Small with restricted capacity due to the hard sides
- Not enough organizational pockets
Our inclusion of the Backpack Pro comes with both a confession and a caveat. We were first attracted to this pack by its commute-specific design; unusual, hard-sided form factor; and glowing user reviews. But, in truth, we don’t love it in its current form—it’s smaller than we want it to be, lacks organization, and we don’t find it to be all that comfortable (the straps are too hard, and jabbed us more than others tested), despite robust anti-bounce features. That said, after speaking with product designers, we believe the forthcoming Backpack Pro 2.0, due out in February 2020, will address most of our complaints. With that in mind, we’ll talk about our experiences, and explain what will be updated in just a few months. First off, we really liked the clamshell design, and how easy it was to pack the Pro with our 13-inch laptop on the left side (held secure by elastic straps), and our clothes, notebook, etc. zipped into the right side compartment. A clothes folder is included, complete with handy folding directions for crisp collars and perfect pleats.
At only 10 liters, this is tied for the smallest pack we tested, and it felt cramped even compared to our vest options. (The upgrade will increase internal capacity to 12 liters, including room for a 15-inch laptop and organizational pockets for keeping track of smaller bits and bobs.) There wasn’t nearly enough room for shoes, but a ventilated shoe bag ($20; sold separately) strapped to the outside with an elastic shock cord, where it did the job admirably. As mentioned before, comfort was more of an issue that we’d anticipated, with stiff shoulder and waist straps digging into our sides unexpectedly, and excess strap banging against our hands and legs. The 2.0 promises softer straps with better airflow, as well as pockets and loops to corral excess length. Despite our reservations regarding the Backpack Pro, we think it’ll suit a lot of people—and we look forward to big improvements in the near future that should land it easily among our favorites.
Black Diamond Distance 15
Capacity: 15L | Weight: 13.9 oz. | Hydration Capacity: None
Black Diamond Distance 15 $150.00 rei.com
- Durable, water-resistant main compartment
- Lots of chest strap pockets—both zipped and larger stretch options—keep necessities close
- Shock cords clamp down on any load
- Main pocket material doesn’t stretch to hold bigger loads
- Internal mesh sleeve is too narrow to hold a 13-inch laptop
Black Diamond built the Distance 15 to bridge the gap between trail running and alpine climbing. What’s that mean for run commuters in the admittedly tamer environments of city streets and suburban office parks? They have a rugged-ass pack that sheds almost any weather, and it’s built on a true running vest chassis, with body-hugging, pocket-riddled shoulder straps that keep the load right where it belongs. We found its roll-top access (a theme across the vest category) to a single, large compartment is the best design for fitting the maximum amount of gear without wrinkling your clothes. Smaller openings and divided carry options force you to cram your clothes—rolling up shirts and shoving in shoes—in ways that will leave you looking disheveled. We found that the Distance 15 wore super comfortably, and we couldn’t have been happier with its copious harness pockets, which include four oversized, stretchy mesh pockets that easily hold a phablet or a water flask and are secured with elastic shock cords. Not to mention the two zipper pockets are perfect for safely carrying essentials like keys, cash, credit cards, and an ID. The only real drawback we found was that the rigid, abrasion-resistant Dynex body material doesn’t stretch or give at all, meaning that its 15-liter capacity limit is hard and fast; if you try to squeeze anything more in, you’ll end up smushing it.
Arc’teryx Norvan 14
Capacity: 14L | Weight: 9.1 oz. alone, 14.7 oz. with bladder | Hydration Capacity: 2L bladder
Arc’teryx Norvan 14 Hydration Vest $189.00 amazon.com
- Stretchy sternum straps make for easy breathing
- Good chest strap pocket options
- Minimal reflective hits, especially up front
- No space for shoes inside, nowhere to strap them outside
Take a deep breath in the Norvan 14 (something you tend to do while running) and you’ll feel it move with you, stretching and expanding as your lungs fill. Try as we might—ticking off sub-8:00 miles in the laptop- and clothes-stuffed Norvan—we never felt starved for air, or got that constricted feeling that’s common with packs. It all comes down to a lightweight harness system that hugs your torso like an extra layer of clothing, and elastic sternum straps that allow you to breathe while still keeping everything snug. Another roll-top closer with a gaping main compartment, this lightweight vest had space to squeeze in a laptop with all of our clothes and other gear, save for shoes. We appreciated the small interior pocket for keys and valuables, but really loved the chest strap pockets—four of which are made of stretchy mesh (including two big enough for our phone), and two with secure zippers. All said, the Norvan is a dream to wear—it holds plenty, straps down tight when it’s not full, and doesn’t get in the way of running, no matter how hard you’re pushing.
Salomon Skin Pro 15 Set
Capacity: 15L | Weight: 10.5 oz. alone, 12.6 oz. with bladder | Hydration Capacity: 1.5L bladder with insulation sleeve
Salomon Skin Pro 15 Set $159.95 amazon.com
- Main storage is spacious
- Elastic pockets stretch the capacity
- “One-size-fits-all” sizing requires extra pre-use dialing
- No internal organization
- No adjustable compression for less-than-full loads
Though it presents as a pack from the back, the Skin Pro 15 Set was most definitely cast from the mold of a running vest using Salomon’s unique “Sensifit” construction. Most of the pack is made of stretchy, breathable fabrics, which means that it conforms to your body almost like a second skin, moving with you and keeping the pack stable, no matter how much you’ve stuffed into it. And, with its cavernous main compartment—accessed via a nearly full-length, u-shaped zipper—and six super-stretchy pockets on the chest straps, you can stuff quite a bit. We managed to fit our laptop, clothes, notebook, and shoes (these were a bit of squeeze) into the main compartment, though things were a bit disorganized without any internal pockets. We’d have liked to see at least a small zipper pocket for keeping keys and other small items safe and separate. In the end, we just put our keys into the chest strap zipper pocket along with cash, cards, and an ID, where they were safe and—a bonus when we arrived home—easily accessible. The stretch mesh pockets across the front are spacious, and easily swallowed our plus-size smartphone, keeping it secure and stable. We always ran with our full kit crushed into the back, and the Skin Pro performed exactly as you’d hope, keeping everything still and out of the way. Our only lingering concern with this pack, since there aren’t any adjustable compression straps over the load, is that it might not ride so smoothly when not stretched to capacity.
Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15
Capacity: 15L (plus 6L “unsecured”) | Weight: 1 lb. 1.5 oz. | Hydration Capacity: None
Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15 $119.95 amazon.com
- Great access to main pocket
- Plenty of storage for gear and clothes, including shoes
- Rigid back padding feels overbuilt
- Space under laptop hard to reach
You probably could’ve guessed that the Fastpack 15 would be another roll-top pack built on a hydration vest chassis. But this one is different, and you don’t have to look twice to see how—unrolling the back side reveals an almost full-length zipper that opens from the top down, essentially butterflying the pack to reveal, and allow easy access to, its entire contents for smooth packing and fishing out small items. Inside, there’s a designated laptop compartment (unique among the vests), along with a main compartment that easily fit our clothes. Outside, two stretch mesh pockets run the length of the back side, and were big enough to hold our shoes, too. We loved all the pockets on front, including three secure zipper ones for essentials like chap stick, cash, and cards, as well as a stretchy mesh one that could hold a flask or, in our case, that big old smartphone. On the run, the Fastpack stayed put, and rode remarkably well with a full load. Our only niggling complaint is that the rigid foam in back feels overbuilt and doesn’t breathe all that well. Given the size and weight of this vest, a lighter mesh construction would likely perform even better, making this perhaps the best commuter vest on the market.
TRC Review: A detailed review is available on The Run Commuter. Click the logo to view.
Volume: The internal space within a pack, i.e. the area where you put all your stuff.
Waist Strap: The waist strap secures around your waist and secures the base of the pack to your lower torso, reducing side-to-side motion.
Load Compression: Compression straps on the main compartment of the pack, either internal or external, that can be used to secure gear within your pack, reducing or eliminating any bounce from carried items.
Padded Laptop Sleeve: A padded area/pocket within the pack made for carrying and protecting laptops or tablets.
Frame: Internal frame is present or absent.
Weight: The weight of the pack at the time of purchase without any additions or packed items.
Ideal Load Range: The amount of weight that the backpack will handle comfortably.
Hydration Compatible: There are separate hydration areas in the pack and ports for which hydration tubes can exit the pack.
Women-Specific Option: Backpacks specifically designed to best fit the female body.
The best running backpacks for commuting
Running all or part of your commute is one of the best ways to add more exercise to your weekly routine, but the logistics behind a successful runcommute can be tricky. To do it right you’ll need more than motivation, you’ll need a backpack that’s up to the task.
For many people running to and from work won’t take that much longer than alternative methods of transport, especially if you live in or commute into a city, and it’s a brilliant way to relieve stress at the start or end of the working day. That’s especially true when compared with sitting in traffic or standing on a jam-packed train.
To run commute successfully, however, you need the right gear. We’re not talking about shoes and kit, either, because the most important part of a running commuter’s set up is their rucksack. Having the wrong pack strapped to your back can make every run an uncomfortable chore, and even lead to injury.
What to look for in a run-commuting backpack
The right running backpack will have an array of straps you can tighten to ensure it fits close to your body and doesn’t swing or bounce around while you run. It might also be waterproof, if you’re really committed to run commuting, and reflective details are also useful, because come the winter many of your trips to and from the office will be in the dark.
Those who run-commute tend to want a bigger volume than those just ensuring they have the essentials for a Sunday jaunt – so 20l plus storage space is the norm. If you’re looking for a 10-15-liter option then check out our round up of the best running backpacks for ultras and trail runs.
Best all-round running backpack for commuting
Stolt Alpha Business Backpack
This truly ticks all the boxes you could want from a running backpack. With a capacity of 20-liters, it’s large enough that you can carry a full change of clothes, and it has a separate pocket with a sleeve for your laptop. You can even stretch the storage to 25-liters using the expandable shoe pocket.
Despite all this space, the Stolt Alpha sits snugly against the back to be comfortable on the run even when you’ve packed it to the gills. We’ve even used it while tackling interval sessions on the way into work. The backpack is also made from a water-resistant material that has been treated with an antibacterial solution to stop smells building up after sweaty runs.
Furthermore, you can get useful extras like a garment box that fits into the backpack’s main pocket to keep your suit and shirt crease-free on the run, and if you’re worried about the weather Stolt also sell a waterproof cover for the Alpa that has reflective stripes on in.
Best large running backpack for commuting
OMM Ultra 20
The straps can be tightened on this large backpack so that even if you use every inch of the space inside its massive main pocket it won’t become uncomfortable when using it for your run commute. Alongside that main compartments, there are two stretchy mesh side pockets plus pouches in the straps that you can use to stash stuff you need quick access to.
And that’s pretty much it. There aren’t a load of fancy extra features here – the OMM is a simple but brilliant bag for commuters who need to carry a lot every day.
Inov-8 All Terrain 25
Although its intended purpose is for hikes and runs in the outdoors, this pack from inov-8 has a heap of transferable skills that means it’s an excellent choice for city dwellers taking on a runcommute.
First of all, it’s heavily customizable so you can play around with the fit until you get it just right for your body shape. Secondly, it has shoulder strap compression molds so the pack hugs the upper body so it doesn’t bounce around as you make your way home. In addition, there’s an internal back stiffener to ensure the whole thing stays firm on your back.
Although there’s plenty of space to throw in everything you need to take with you to and from work, there’s a dual closing system which minimizes the size of the pack if there’s less in it, which means it’s perfect if you’re looking for a rucksack that you can use for commuting or for weekend runs and hikes in the hills.
Best running backpack for keeping your clothes crease-free
IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro Large
The hard shell of this backpack means that it will keep your clothes free of creases while you run, assuming you master the slightly tricky feat of correctly folding those clothes before putting them inside. You can fit up to five garments in the special pocket on the backpack if you opt for the larger Backpack Pro, and there is also a separate space for your laptop with straps to hold it steady while you run.
There are adjustable waist and chest straps on the backpack so you can get the fit spot on or tweak it on the run if it isn’t, and the outer case is water-resistant so you can commute through a shower without any fear that your perfectly-folded clothes will get drenched.
HOKA ONE ONE Tor 30L Pack
At 30 liters, this is one of the biggest bags you’ll find that’s designed well enough to allow you to run in it without it being too cumbersome. Perfect if you’re the sort of person that carries around the amount of clothes, gym kit, work equipment and snacks that we do every day.
It features a heap of straps and velcro adjustments across the front and sides, allowing for a lot of customization when it comes to getting the fit right. There’s also a nice wide opening to get your stuff in and out as well as a frankly obscene amount of pockets dotted around the inner and outer layers. 17 in fact, including a hydration pocket, water bottle holders, front zip pockets and eight internal ones allowing for a forensic level of storage management.
Best small running backpacks for commuting
Nathan TrailMix 12L
This backpack might be designed for trail-running, to the point where it even comes with a hydration bladder, but we’ve found it to be perfect for run commutes where you don’t need to carry much beyond a change of clothes. You can even slip a small laptop into it as well if needs be – but we’re talking an 11-12in computer though, nothing too beastly.
The roll-top pocket design is key to this because you can stuff a lot of things inside it and still force it shut. There are large pockets on the straps too, where you can put your phone, wallet and ID card, and a zip pocket on the outside. And since it is designed for trail runs, you can be sure that the TrailMix is comfortable to wear no matter how long your run commute is.
Osprey Duro 15
This is another backpack actually designed for the trails, which means some of its features – like the straps to hold your trekking poles and the hydration bladder – probably won’t be that useful as you race the number 33 bus to your office. However, the 15-liter capacity will be right in the sweet spot for many commuters – not too large to make the backpack uncomfortable, but still big enough to take all your gear for a day at your desk.
The reflective graphics on the back will also be appreciated by commuters running late at night, or early in the morning, and the strap and hip pockets are roomy enough for your phone, wallet and other essentials.
Gregory Maya 10L Backpack
Although this woman-specific 10-liter pack is designed for day hikes it does a more than adequate job of doubling as a versatile commuter pack. Although its size suggests a minimal level of carrying capacity, it’s more than enough for the bare commuting essentials, and then some.
The long slender design twinned with the chest and waist straps offer a nice figure-hugging fit, even when full of kit, whilst the vented rear back panel offers a good level of airflow and breathability. It also features something called BioSync Suspension technology – essentially fittings on the top and bottom of the straps that help make the pack feel less stiff as you move around.
For storage, it’s got a heap going for it. On the hip strap, there are two zipped pockets for quick access items like your phone or your keys, two external side pockets, a big front pocket to stuff a jacket in and a zippered main compartment. If you’re planning on using it for longer runs it also has an easy to access hydration sleeve.
Other features include an external sunglasses loop, a tube clip for the hydration pack on the shoulder strap and a connector for a safety light if you’re planning on running at night.
Best reflective running backpack
Proviz REFLECT360 Running Backpack
You spend all that money on an expensive running jacket covered in reflective sections to make yourself more visible at night, and then you go and wear a backpack over it anyway. Fortunately, if you opt for the Proviz REFLECT360 backpack, you’ll be even more visible to others, because the entire back panel on the backpack is made from a reflective material, and there are also reflective patches on the straps of the rucksack so you can be seen from the front as well.
The 10-liter capacity isn’t huge, so this isn’t one for lugging a big laptop to and from the office, but you will fit a change of clothes into the backpack easily, and there are extra pockets on the waist strap too.
Best budget running backpacks for commuting
The slim design of the Slice rucksack means it sits nicely against your back and doesn’t bounce around too much when on the run, though it doesn’t quite match the comfort of the pricier options on this list. The 15-liter capacity is mostly accounted for by the large main pocket, which we’ve found you can just about slip a 13in laptop inside, alongside a change of clothes.
There’s a large reflective pattern on the outside of the pack, and reflective details on the straps as well. All in all, it’s an excellent value option for commuters – perhaps the perfect pick if you’re not all that sure how much you are going to run to work and want a backpack to test the waters with.
Kalenji 10L Trail Running Bag
Kalenji’s running backpacks offer a budget option for runners that far surpass the price when it comes to features and design.
The 10L pack is no exception, delivering a well made and functional piece of kit that’s a great option for commuters or trail runners alike. In comparison to some of the more roomy packs on the list, it may lack some of the carrying power, especially if you’re planning on lugging your laptop around with you. But if you’re just taking a change of clothes and the essentials it does an excellent job.
The build is extremely flexible and acts more like a vest than a rigid backpack (hence why you can’t carry a laptop effectively), so strapping it tightly to your back makes for a secure run. That lack of rigidness does, however, mean that it can get a bit hot and sweaty against your back as there is a noticeable lack of airflow.
Features include a hydration bladder and an impressive selection of six front pockets and four back pockets.