There are a few different reasons to use a running backpack including long run support, run commuting and running while doing errands. There are also many types of packs to chose from. These include:
- Handheld water bottles with an added zip pocket
- Waist packs which allow for water and/or room to carry items
- Running backpacks with or without Hydration accessories. These are generally the largest packs and allow for a lot of carrying room. They can be used for more than just running (think hiking or day trips) but for running, bulkier packs can shift a lot so these should still be compact.
- Race vests are the minimal version of a hydration pack. they tend to be lighter, allow for a water bladder and you can carry smaller items such as food but not much else.
How do you chose?
Handheld water bottles work very well for some. The amount that you can carry in the pocket is very limited however. And at the end of a long race, fatigue in your arms (even as you switch sides) can be a challenge. Those handheld water bottles don’t seem like they are heavy but water weighs a lot!
If you decide a running pack would better suit your needs, you need to figure out what those needs are. If you would like a pack for long runs, bigger isn’t always better. The smallest pack that you can get away with and that is comfortable will mean that you use it that more often. It may also require a couple of different packs.
Running packs with or without hydration accessories are standard right now and there are many brands. (Check out the list of packs that clients have had success with at the bottom of the page.) Look for sturdy, padded shoulder straps, chest and/or waist straps. Chest and/or waist straps should be well positioned for your body. These straps help keep the load secure while running.We do recommend front strap storage as taking a pack on and off to access a back zipped storage area is time consuming and can get annoying.
Will you carry water? Some people prefer using packs that allow for carrying water bottles and some prefer bladders. When using water bottles it is easy to see how much water you have used and refilling is typically easier. Water bladders allow for easier drinking (from bite tubes) and minimize sloshing sounds if filled properly. They typically can carry more fluids as well (20 ounce bottles or .6 liter versus 1-3 liter capacity for bladders).
Now we get into the nitty gritty of fit and comfort. A lighter weight back pack is better. The material of the backpack is also important. Many have a mesh layer to provide air against the skin. Wearing a backpack can be warmer than you expect. Unfortunately the easiest way to tell what will work for you is to use the item. With use, you may find that the fit is not quite right for your body or your needs.
Waist packs can work very well. There are many types and some with 1 – 4 bottles of various sizes. We know some athletes who swear by their waist pack and others who swear at them.
Many manufacturers have gender specific packs as well. That pack built for a petite and narrow shouldered woman is not going to work as well for a 6’+ guy with shoulders! The packs use a variety of other straps to mold the pack to your body. You should be able to get a comfortable and snug, natural fit.
Check out these packs:
- UltrAspire: Alpha (pack) or UltrAspire Spry (vest)
- Nathan Sports: HPL 20 (men’s) and Intensity (women’s)
- Ultimate Direction: Wink (men’s) and Wasp (women’s)