10 Best Running Backpacks 2021

Whether you’re an ultra-distance runner, a trail runner or a person who commutes via running, a running backpack is as essential as running shoes. How else are you to transport your work clothes, water, gels, Cliff Bars and other essentials to and from your destination? With a pack that’s specifically designed for runners and their needs, that’s how. So, with that in mind, let’s discuss how to find the best running backpack on the market today.

Look, all runners know that running is not conducive to transporting things. Carrying things over long distances just doesn’t work, and you can’t have things bouncing around in your pockets either. The obvious solution is a backpack, but not one of those bulky things hikers use. You need one designed not to bounce up and down on your back with every stride, with pockets up front for easy access to gels and other forms of sustenance, and the ability to transport liquid as well. Other things to consider are price, size, the inclusion of a bladder, and weight. But what make and model to choose?  Please allow this brief buyer’s guide to shed a little light on the murkiness of running backpacks.

Things to Take into Consideration

  • Bladder or Not? Many of the best running backpacks come with a bladder system included. It’s usually a semi-stiff, plastic material that includes a tube that runs from the top, clips to the shoulder strap, and permits you to sip from it, like a straw, as needed. They usually hold between 1-2 liters of liquid, which is another choice to consider. However, if you prefer to drink your liquid from a bottle, some backpacks eschew the bladder and provide pockets in which to store those bottles.
  • Capacity. This, of course, depends on what you plan to haul in your backpack. If you plan on running to work and would rather not spend the day in sweaty running clothes, then a pack that’s large enough to carry your work attire is a must. If, on the other hand, you’re primarily in the market for a pack in which to carry your favorite beverage, then a smaller pack is probably in your future. Most manufacturers measure capacity in liters, in the same manner they measure bladder size.
  • Weight. As all runners know, extra weight is a bad thing, whether it’s under your skin, in the form of excess body weight, or being carried. Since that is the case, weight, like size, does matter. This category is measured, like most things, in ounces.

Top 6 Running Backpacks Overview

PictureNameCapacityPriceRating (1-5)
Rating (1-5)
51KQYYGXp3L. SL1101. Paladineer Water Resistant Hiking Backpack12 liters$4.8
51NN%2BhiKHuL. SL1102. Nathan Intensity Vest, 2-Liter, Tango Red/Tangerine6 liters$$$$4.7
41fhFsbBVaL. SL1103. Deuter Speed Lite 10 Backpack - Black/Titan10 liters$$$4.6
51UGEMk2tqL. SL1104. Nathan HPL 020 Vest, 2-Liter, Grey6 liters$$$$4.5
81YOAr2hlnL. SL15005. Hydration Pack with 1.5L Backpack Bladder (BPA Free)5 liters$4.4
6. TETON Sports Trailrunner 2.0 Hydration Backpack4 liters$4.1

Benefits of Running Backpacks

The benefits are twofold: the best running backpacks make it easier to carry things and permit quick and easy access to water or sports drinks with the inclusion of a bladder or pockets for your bottles. It’s really that simple.

Top 3 Best Running Backpack Reviews

1. Paladineer Hiking Backpack


The strength of this pack is its versatility. It shines whether you’re heading out for a long run, day hike, or a bike commute to work. Both light on your wallet and your back, the Paladineer offers plenty of space for spare clothing and food. It also has pouches located at your hips in which to store essentials, such as gels or small water bottles.

This pack offers a vertical zipper that opens the large, main compartment. Within, is a smaller, zippered compartment in which to stow smaller items. This smaller area prevents those items from bouncing around as you run. And while it doesn’t come with a water bladder, it is designed for one to be added with minimal effort. The wide shoulder straps and waist strap ensure that the Paladineer stays snug against your back, which is essential for a comfortable run…that and the ability to run with a “hot pink” pack upon your back (which is one of the colors offered).

So, if you’ve been searching for a multi-use pack at an extremely affordable price, the Paladineer has your name on it.

2. Nathan Intensity Vest


This pack comes in three versions, depending upon your needs and/or budget, and each is designed for the specific needs of the female form. What makes this pack special is its patented 3-way Propulsion Harness that virtually eliminates side-to-side and up-and-down movement. In fact, if you don’t have the bladder tube in your mouth you might forget it’s perched upon your back (2 liter bladder is included, btw).

Each version provides front strap pouches that are perfect for your smart phone and other important items, and at only 13 ounces, this pack is one of the lightest on the market. Its two rear zippered compartments are surprisingly roomy and permit you to carry running essentials from a small first aid kit to your car keys.

Designed for the serious female runner, the Nathan Intensity Race Vest certainly allows you to bring home the bacon…whether you fry it up in a pan is entirely up to you.

3. Deuter Speed Lite 10


The Deuter Speed Lite, at just 12 ounces in weight, stays true to its name. Its Spartan design is simple and functional with few unnecessary inclusions. A truly versatile pack, the Speed Lite is at home on your back whether you’re running, skiing, hiking, or biking and its sleek design stays put with the assistance of the removable hip belt and chest strap that adjusts to your height.

Despite its light weight, it boasts a roomy interior at 10 liters, and its side mesh pockets, perfect for bottles or gels, extends its carrying capacity. It also sports an external loop for your bike helmet, an interior SOS label, a small zippered “valuables” pocket, and 3M reflectors for nighttime activities. And while it doesn’t include a bladder, one can easily be added.

The Speed Lite is perfect for your quick and nimble lifestyle, of that there is little doubt.

An experienced runner and an active mom, Kelly is the research expert behind runninggearlab.com When you don't find Kelly training for her next 10k or 5k race you'll find her reading reviews and testing the latest running watch.

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