How To Buy A Trail Running Pack

When looking into buying a trail running pack, chances are you’ve been out running and got more than just a feel for it. You love it and you want to push yourself that little bit further, meaning you need to carry more kit. The question is though, do you buy a small hip pack or a full running pack? and when is a vest appropriate? The key is to assess exactly what and how much you need to carry, and working out what the smallest space is that this can be fitted into. Excess space should be kept to a minimum.

We have highlighted a few key points that are worth considering before you buy.

Running Backpack

trail running pack with arrows pointing at it

A running backpack is ideal if you are looking for something that will stash a considerable amount, whether that is for running to work or running an ultra. Running specific backpacks tend be 10 to 15 litres, and rarely above 20 litres. Compression straps will stabilise the contents if you don’t always fill it, but a needlessly big pack can be detrimental to your rhythm if contents aren’t secured. Running packs feature chest straps and a hip belt to stop it from bouncing around on the move. Depending on the design, hip straps will either be minimalist to save weight, or slightly padded for enhanced comfort and many feature pockets for easy access to essentials.

Almost all running packs have a pouch in which to store a hydration system, with an internal reservoir stash and routing for a hose to clip to your shoulder strap. This makes keeping hydrated much easier, as there is no need to reach behind to find a water bottle.

They aren’t designed to provide access to kit while on the move, so if you need anything that is stored in your main compartment you’ll have to stop to get it out. however, some packs do offer small zipped compartments on the hip belt which are perfect for stashing high energy nibbles that can be reached while on the move.

Perfect for:

  • Commuting
  • Resistance training with heavier loads
  • Cold weather conditions
  • Multi-activity lifestyles (i.e. using the same pack for running, hiking, going to the gym)

Running Vest Packs

trail running vest with arrows pointing at it

A vest style pack is a better option for those who would like something that offers access to essentials while on the move. They are suitable for racing as well as general running and are very sturdy due to the close fit. Running vest packs range from having just enough space for essentials such as hydration and energy, to having enough space to stow mandatory race kit often required for longer races. Some will have smaller water reservoir bottles in two pockets at the front of the vest and more kit storage on the back.

Vest packs sit much closer to the body and higher up on the back, have wider shoulder straps with multiple stash pockets and usually have two chest straps at the front to ensure a perfect fit. Substantial storage on the front of the shoulder straps as well as at the sides just below the armpits allows you to stash high energy snacks in easy access locations so you don’t have to stop in order to refuel.

Perfect for:

  • Ultra distances
  • Technical trails
  • Hot weather conditions

Hip Packs/ Bum Bags

trail running belt with arrows pointing at it

Hip pack, bum bag, or pocket belt is an ideal low-volume option. Perfect for taking along minimal energy supplies as well as your phone and a key. It sits on your hips and can be positioned for the purpose of easy access without an issue.

Perfect for:

  • Short distances
  • Non-technical trails
  • Hot weather conditions

Once you have decided on what type of pack to go for, you can get down to finer details such as fabrics, fit and product specific features that will help your personal needs along the way.

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