Trail Running Packs Buying Guide
There are many different styles of running packs available and looking through them all can, initially, be quite daunting. Our guide has been designed to break down the different styles, what features they might have and why they are good 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
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 winter hill running. Running specific backpacks tend be 10 to 25 litres, but can also be above this for mountain marathons and other multi-day races. 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 food that can be reached while on the move.
- Running commute
- Mountain Marathons
- Cold weather conditions
- Multi-activity lifestyles (i.e. using the same pack for running, hiking, going to the gym)
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 stable 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. 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, 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 allows you to stash race/run nutrition in easy access locations so you can refuel while you are moving.
- 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 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 the purpose of easy access without an issue.
- 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.