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Trail Running Packs Buying Guide

There are many different styles of running packs available. Our guide breaks down the different styles - what features they have and their benefits for different types of running.

When buying a Trail running pack there are a few key aspects you’ll need to consider:

  • Stability of the pack on your back
  • Security of the contents in the pack
  • Volume of the pack to make sure there is enough space for your belongings
  • Running specific features such as reservoir compatibility & stretchy stash pockets

Running Backpack

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A running backpack is ideal if you need to store more kit, whether that is for running to work or winter hill running. Running-specific backpacks tend to be 10 to 25 litres. They can also be above this for mountain marathons and other multi-day races. Compression straps will stabilise the contents if you don’t fill it. An overly big pack can harm your rhythm if the contents aren’t secured. Running packs feature chest straps and a hip belt to stop it from bouncing around on the move. Hip straps will either be minimalist to save weight or padded for enhanced comfort.

Most running packs have a pouch 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. If you need anything in your main compartment you’ll have to stop to get it out. Some packs offer small zipped compartments on the hip belt which are perfect for stashing food to reach while on the move.

Perfect for:

  • Running commute
  • Mountain Marathons
  • Cold weather conditions
  • Multi-activity lifestyles (i.e. using the same pack for running, hiking, going to the gym)

Running Vest Packs

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A vest-style pack is a better option for those who want access to essentials while on the move. They are suitable for racing as well as general running and are very stable due to the close fit. Running vests range from space for essentials to having enough space to stow mandatory race kit for longer races. Most now feature soft flask bottles in two pockets at the front of the vest and kit storage on the back.

Vest packs sit much closer to the body and higher up on the back. They have wider shoulder straps with stash pockets and usually two chest straps to ensure a perfect fit. Storage on the front allows you to stash race/run nutrition in easy-access locations so you can refuel while you are moving.

Perfect for:

  • Medium distances or longer
  • Races where you need to carry minimum kit
  • Any distance where you want to carry a drink and some essentials

Hip Packs/Bum Bags

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Hip pack, bum bag, or pocket belt is an ideal low-volume option. Perfect for taking along a few gels, a small soft flask, a jacket as well as your phone and a key. It sits on your hips and can be positioned for easy access without an issue.

Perfect for:

  • Short distances
  • Fell running and racing
  • 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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