best running backpacks

Running Backpack: Test & Reviews

Author: Manuel Heitmann

Coach & Fitness Expert

Our evaluation of customer reviews shows: A running backpack is not only used for endurance runs, but also on the ski slopes and on the bike. Their most important feature is a hydration system, which is already included in the high-priced models. Cheaper backpacks only offer space for a water bag or a drinking bottle and also hold a smartphone, fitness bar and a sweater or towel. Our excellent consumer portal recommends the best running backpacks based on external tests and the recommendations of specialist magazines such as Runners World. Here you can see the models that most find comfortable and practical.

Questions to Consider Before Buying A Running Backpack

What is a running backpack?

In the running backpack comparison 2020 we found that these relatively flat special backpacks are an ideal companion for long-distance runners. As with running clothing, great functionality has been taken into account when developing these running backpacks. This means that a running backpack is particularly lightweight and does not restrict the athletes’ movements or interfere in any other way. The running jackets and trousers with their small pockets offer hardly any storage space for small items such as house keys and possibly an MP3 player. Instead, the various running backpacks were designed for the demanding athletes.

Trail runners and long-distance runners in particular swear by this practical extra luggage, because it allows them to carry everything they need with them without it being a particular burden. In contrast to a running belt with a drinking bottle holder, the backpack is barely noticeable when it sits close to the body. In addition, such a backpack usually offers more capacity.

Often the running backpacks from the test are pieces of luggage with an integrated beverage system. At the same time, the hard-wearing materials from which the backpacks are made are striking. On the one hand, they offer reliable protection against possible weather changes, on the other hand, they increase the safety of the runners.

How does a running backpack work?

The smaller, simple backpacks as well as the running backpack comparison winners are characterized by an intelligent interior division. Due to their insensitive materials, they prove themselves in outdoor sports, at the same time they serve to increase the storage space of the running equipment. The running backpacks with a hydration system in particular are an interesting solution for hobby and professional athletes. So you can use part of the running backpack for the drinking bottle or a complete beverage system. The barrels have direct access to the liquid through a hose that is led forward. The opening for this drinking tube is also integrated directly into the running backpack. The athletes only need to suck on the mouthpiece to quench their thirst. This is very important, especially for long distances like a marathon.

Further features of the running backpacks are, for example, reflectors, which ensure that the runners can be seen even in poor light conditions. The functionality of the running backpacks differs from the features of the conventional backpacks mainly in the shape. While the running backpack lies close to your back, the normal backpack bounces up and down when you run with it. The running backpack thus offers better stability, which is partially reinforced by a chest strap or waist strap.

The main way the running backpacks work is that they hardly move when you run. This has to do with the fact that they are strapped tightly to the upper body.

Otherwise, the knocks that go through the body with every running step would throw the backpack up again and again and immediately hit the back with momentum. In competitive sports and jogging, this would be very cumbersome, because the more strenuous the hobby and professional athletes run, the slower they become. For this reason, the special running backpacks were equipped with extra-wide shoulder straps and straps. These allow direct adaptation to the body without constricting. This is ensured by the slight flexibility of the material in combination with the adjustment options.

Advantages & areas of application

It does not necessarily have to be the comparison winner of the running backpacks if you put together your basic equipment for running. Normal running clothing, which you can also buy with a voucher, is sufficient for the beginning. Only when the distances get longer and longer is it worth purchasing a functional running backpack. After a certain training duration you should not start without a drink. The experts say that you can go for an hour or a little longer without hydration, even with more intense exertion. Those who run regularly will find out for themselves when their thirst gets out of hand. The running backpack with hydration system is therefore suitable for long distances, for which you need two hours or more, for example.

However, if you like to have various things with you such as a music player, protein bars, cell phone and money, you cannot do without a certain amount of luggage even on shorter runs. Then the running backpack is the optimal solution, because it does not hinder the runners and still has everything important to hand. You can hardly feel the weight on your back, especially when the backpack is so tight that it cannot bounce up and down or slide to the side. With its light weight and ergonomic shape, the running backpack provides ideal comfort.

The running backpacks are typically designed in such a way that you can reach for the contents without having to completely remove the backpack. With this requirement, the special running backpacks are not only suitable for long jogging laps or for marathons. These small and lightweight backpacks also prove their worth during intensive trail running or more relaxed hiking. If necessary, they can also be converted into a bicycle backpack or a ski backpack.

Of course, the flat backpacks are also suitable for other uses, for example for a weekend trip. The running rucksack can be selected to match the outdoor jacket in a restrained design or in a bright shade and scores as a reliable companion when you take a long walk or stroll through the city. On a city trip, you can put everything you need in the backpack, from food and wallet to the city map. Still, you never have the feeling of lugging around a lot. The weight on the shoulders is hardly noticeable, at the same time you keep both hands free. When visiting a trade fair or at other events, you are on the safe side with a skilfully filled running backpack.

What types of running backpacks are available?

The running backpacks can be divided into the simple variants and the hydration backpacks. The classic running backpack is a piece of luggage that holds various small items in its pockets. There is also enough space here for the drinking bottle. Without special functions but with an anatomically adapted shape, these backpacks ensure that the contents are not shaken too much. At the same time, they in no way affect the performance of the runners.

The hydration backpacks are a kind of holder for the drinking container. Instead of a bottle, a so-called hydration bladder is integrated into the backpack or it can be built into the compartment provided for it. A suction hose leads from the hydration bladder to the front, so that you can drink without having to reach back to the backpack. Depending on the length of the route, you have the choice between small hydration packs with a capacity of only one to three liters and a larger capacity of up to ten or even 20 liters.

Some manufacturers combine the basic running backpacks and the hydration systems with one another. Nevertheless, the backpacks for runners have a relatively compact shape so as not to affect performance as much as possible. Differences in the materials make the running backpacks suitable for cold or warm temperatures. The overall size and the number of pockets also say something about the suitability of the various backpacks.

The advantages of the running backpacks from the 2020 test briefly summarized:

  • Due to their light weight they are comfortable to wear,
  • no bobbing up and down, no wobbling,
  • easy handling even on the go,
  • adjustable straps,
  • often weatherproof properties.

The disadvantages are not very relevant:

  • A certain amount of effort is required to adapt,
  • The desired ergonomics are only given with the ideal size,
  • sometimes you have to take off the backpack to take out the contents.

How are running backpacks tested?

Whether you are looking for the running backpack test winner or just looking for a practical everyday model for jogging, our check deals with the detailed features that you should pay attention to. In this section we aim to list the important factors. We want to show that quality does not focus on one point alone. Ultimately, the main question for us is which running backpack is particularly suitable for which purposes. Every buyer has to find out for himself. Nevertheless, we put together all the information that is worth knowing in order to provide a sound basis for the purchase decision.

Wearing comfort

A running backpack should be comfortable to carry. This is only available if the backpack is optimally adapted to the size of the athlete. Two shoulder straps are not enough to ensure that the running backpack actually stays in place without wobbling. That is why a chest strap in combination with a hip belt ensures even more security and thus a comfortable fit. These straps should open, close and adjust easily. This enables a relatively quick setting so that you don’t have to tinker a long time before you start. By choosing the right size and fine-tuning the straps, runners can be sure that the backpack fits perfectly without wobbling.

You can get even more comfort with extra padding on the running backpack. With the top products, this is located on the shoulder straps and in the back area. Breathable inserts can also ensure that you don’t sweat too much. The backpacks in the shape of a vest, which ensure ideal weight distribution, are also interesting.

Weight

The running backpacks have a very low weight, as the standard models between 200 and 800 grams prove. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t choose the largest model, but look for the smallest possible backpack.

Even if some of these are somewhat smaller versions, the running backpacks from our detailed test offer sufficient storage space and in some cases can even be expanded with fold-out pockets. If the weight is slightly higher, a compression belt can help shift the center of gravity to improve the comfort.

Materials

If possible, the material of the running backpack should keep the contents dry and at the same time absorb the athlete’s sweat. Therefore, waterproof material is typically used. Nylon and polyester are among the standard materials that are characterized on the one hand by their resistance and on the other hand by their low weight.

Sealed zips and impregnated surfaces prevent moisture from penetrating. If the backpack is equipped with foam padding on the rear side, channels for increased ventilation usually remain free. In other running backpacks, mesh inserts are integrated, which provide the necessary cavity between the body and the backpack and thus promote air circulation.

Complete equipment

Backpacks with special equipment or with standard features are available depending on the training needs. A modern trail running backpack is often provided with side brackets in which the sticks can be hung. There are also often mounting options for lighting elements. Other running backpacks come with a rain cover that can be pulled over the luggage in no time at all.

Some running backpacks also have small safety equipment. This is, for example, a signal whistle that can be used if necessary. If it is attached directly to the shoulder strap, you have immediate access to it.

Pockets

Just like a conventional rucksack, the running backpack is often provided with insert and zip pockets on the outside, which can be quickly accessed. In this way, the athletes can get their drinks or other provisions in one go. A securely lockable compartment with water-repellent properties should be available for the cell phone or other electronic devices. This also works as an extra safeguard if you use the running backpack as an alternative to the shoulder bag on a trip to the city.

What do I have to look out for when buying a dumbbell?

Our running backpack comparison 2020 should serve as buying advice and give an overview of the model variants. At the same time, we would like to show which criteria have to be considered when choosing and which options the athletes have. Basically there is no difference between the backpacks for men and women, but you can see which running backpacks were specially developed for tall and short people. After all, the backpack should be perfectly tailored to the individual stature. Most running backpacks, however, can be optimally adjusted using the straps and straps.

In addition to the good, stable fit, which is adjusted by the straps, the materials must be checked. If you do your outdoor activities mainly in summer, you should definitely pay attention to the breathability of the running backpack. The appropriate materials prevent heat build-up in the back area and transport moisture away well. This is much more comfortable for the runners and at the same time ensures that the contents of the backpack do not get wet. If the materials are rainproof at the same time, the bad weather will not affect the objects you are carrying.

If longer distances are planned, you should have a hydration system with you. It is integrated directly into a hydration backpack, but the other running backpacks can also be upgraded with a water bottle or hydration bladder. Depending on what the performance target looks like, you can opt for a simple running backpack from which you can remove the water bottle if necessary, or you can choose a backpack with a hydration bladder, the tube of which you can also access while running. You don’t have to stop here to have a drink. This makes the hydration packs particularly suitable for competitive athletes.

The robust trail running backpacks that we also tested prove to be reliable running companions in all weather conditions. Thanks to their special properties, they can withstand changing environmental conditions. Whether the weather changes or the ground becomes more difficult, the trail running backpack does it all. The larger versions in particular are ideal for taking a second pair of running shoes with you in order to be able to run safely on the other surface.

Leading running backpack manufacturers

Our running backpack test checks the products of major manufacturers such as adidas, Vaude and Asics. Outdoor brands such as CamelBak and The North Face also present waterproof and at the same time comfortable solutions for trail runners and other athletes. Some of the backpacks can also be used for other purposes, as shown by the models from Decathlon, Salomon and Mammut. Here it becomes clear that the running backpacks can also be used across the board for sports such as hiking or cycling. The backpacks without a permanently integrated hydration system in particular prove to be very flexible companions.

Where is the best place to buy my Dumbbell?

To find the ideal backpack for long-distance running, you can go through the sports shops or browse the internet. The salespeople in the sports retailer are happy to provide detailed advice, and you can also touch the material here and look into your pockets. The explanation of the possibly existing hydration system can be understood particularly well if you have the respective parts directly in front of you.

With the telephone advice that you get in the online shops, it is sometimes a little more difficult to understand everything immediately. The descriptions and tips given by chat or email cannot replace direct discussions. Instead, the Internet purchase scores with the excellent comparison options. In combination with filter and sorting functions, you can quickly find the personal test winners of the running backpacks and compare them.

In the shop you pay for the running backpack you choose and take it home with you. However, the selection here is often much smaller than on the Internet. When ordering online, buyers have several options for the payment method, and the prices are often cheaper than in the store. The mostly short delivery time of a maximum of four days can be shortened to just one day, depending on the shipping method. You don’t need a lot of patience here either.

If you are not satisfied with the running backpack, it can be returned or exchanged in the store or when you buy it online. Both are relatively uncomplicated, but the way to the sports shop generally costs more time and effort than contacting the Internet shop.

Useful accessories

To run you need the right sportswear and of course the right footwear. The running backpack is itself an accessory, so to speak, and is geared towards the needs of relatively well trained athletes. For the occasional jogger, complete equipment is not initially required, but if you like to train off the beaten track, the running backpack can be an important means of transport for safety equipment. In combination with walking sticks and a drinking system, the rucksack turns into a useful and safe companion.

A GPS device or a multifunctional watch can also be used as accessories for running. These modern tools help athletes to monitor their training and to check their own performance curve in a convenient way. Depending on what you intend to do, a fitness tracker can help you prepare for the next race or even just with the individual fight against the pounds.

There are specially designed drinking bottles for some running backpacks, others can be filled with any bottle. The runners themselves like to demonstrate their individuality by choosing their drinking system. Some bottles look very cool in upbeat color designs, but the non-slip surfaces and robustness are more important.

A hydration bladder can be integrated into some backpacks so that you can do without the classic drinking bottle.

This hydration system is often included in the scope of delivery of the running backpack, but in other cases it is also selected separately and combined with the backpack. The drinking tube and the mouthpiece can also be retrofitted or exchanged individually. You should make sure that the components fit together exactly. For this purpose, you may need to contact the manufacturer to inquire about which parts are to be connected to one another.

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Those who like to be safe on the road, even jogging along the street, will find a signal whistle and reflectors among the accessories for the running backpacks. If the backpack itself is not yet equipped with reflective elements, these can be attached to it later. The signal whistle can also become an important object, because it is used to call for help in an emergency, be it because you feel threatened or because you have been injured.

Running Backpack Alternatives

The running backpack was developed as a tailor-made solution for trail running and therefore cannot be replaced by a conventional backpack or hiking backpack.

The situation is different with the small bicycle backpack, which has an adjustable belt system. If such a bike backpack fits tightly to the body and is not too heavy, it can definitely be used as a running backpack.

For runners who only want to take their drink with them, a pure drinking system is also suitable as an alternative to a running backpack. This is usually held on the body with a wide belt.

A running belt can also be used. Here the small parts and the drink are attached directly to the belt. However, especially with water or iso drinks, it is difficult to fix these containers in such a way that they allow trouble-free running. This is why running backpacks are favorites for trail running.

Frequently Asked Questions: Running Backpacks

Which forms do running backpacks have?

Most of the running backpacks in our test resemble a rectangle in portrait format, with rounded edges and sides. Often the shape is a little wider at the bottom, even with the backpacks, which tend to form an oval. There are also models of hydration packs with shoulder straps that are so wide that they look like a vest. Nevertheless, you can see at a glance that it is a small, functional backpack.

What material are the running backpacks made of?

Since the rucksacks for runners should be as light as possible but still resistant, manufacturers use plastics such as nylon and polyester. The respective processing or the addition of mesh inserts ensures good breathability. In addition, many running backpacks convince with their weatherproof properties.

How heavy is a running backpack?

Whether it’s the running backpack test winner or other designs, the weight makes it easy to run with this means of transport. The lightest backpacks only weigh around 200 g, with the majority being around 400 g. The weight is not necessarily related to the pack size and volume.

Which hydration systems are there for the running backpack?

A trail running or running backpack is ideal as a container for a drinking bottle or for a drinking system. Depending on how far you walk, you should bring enough water or another drink with you. The hydration backpack is a carrying system with a hydration bladder. From this hydration bladder, the tube leads over the shoulder to the front, so that you can have a drink while running. Other running backpacks have a pocket for the water bottle, which can be easily removed without stopping or possibly having to remove the whole backpack. This is particularly important in running training and racing.

Depending on the design, the weight of the drink is not only carried on the back, but it is distributed in front and behind. Above all, the vests and drinking systems are increasingly found with this even distribution.

When do I need a hydration pack?

If you only jog for a maximum of an hour, then you don’t need a hydration pack. In general, the human body can do without hydration for over an hour, even under heavy exertion. From one hour onwards, however, it is worthwhile to carry a drinking bottle with you. When it comes to moderately difficult training units or when you are out and about in a familiar area, a bottle with a capacity of about one liter should be sufficient. On the other hand, hydration packs with a volume of 1.5 to 3 l are ideal for long journeys. So you can always have something to drink so that you don’t get dehydrated while running. Warm temperatures can cause the body to lose fluids faster. This means that you have to drink more in summer to avoid dizziness.

At many running events there are stations in between, where you can get provisions and drinks. So here you can do without the hydration backpack.

What is the difference between a running backpack and a bike backpack?

The running backpack is typically a bit tighter on the body, because you usually move more when you run than when you cycle. The rucksack receives stronger impulses from the jolts of the running movement. For this reason, running backpacks are often anatomically shaped so that they nestle tightly against the back. In the case of bicycle backpacks, however, there is often a belt system that allows a precise fit. In this case it is possible to walk with the bike backpack on your back. On average, the bike backpacks are heavier than the running backpacks, but they are often larger so that you can fit more in them. These points should also be considered if you want to exchange the two models.

How do I care for and clean the running backpack?

If you have an easy-care running backpack, it doesn’t take much effort to clean it. For this reason, it is worth paying attention to the specific properties of the material. In the case of a waterproof backpack, a waterproofing spray helps to maintain this repellent layer. The backpacks with hydration bladders must be cleaned regularly. To do this, the tube and bladder are cleaned and dried thoroughly. You shouldn’t forget the mouthpiece either, so that no bacteria form here.

Special materials and brushes are available for some backpacks. The manufacturers recommend this accessory for reliable cleaning outside and inside. Normally, the drinking systems, including the bladder and hose, can also be cleaned in a water bath. If necessary, add a little mild detergent to the lukewarm water.

Are there any special details that you have to pay attention to when cleaning your hydration system?

The manufacturers of the hydration backpacks recommend cleaning the hydration bladder and the tube after each use. Especially when you have filled in something other than water, for example an iso drink, you should not neglect this cleaning. Because with other beverages, residues often form more quickly.

After cleaning with water and, if necessary, washing-up liquid, hang up the drinking system to dry out. Only when it is guaranteed to be dry should it be used again or stowed away.

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