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Serious runners know that a big part of running is drinking and eating — for real. Running is so much easier when you have a reliable source of water and a snack every 45 minutes or so. If not, you might, you know, pass out. Or die. So, it begs the question: How do you keep sustained for extended periods of time when you’re literally on the run? The answer is a running backpack.

A hydration pack allows you to hold everything you need to survive an hours-long activity. It holds not just a hydration system, but also snacks and desirable items like a phone, keys, an ID, and even a jacket. 

While most running backpacks have a lot in common, they’re not all built the same. Some hold a little more, use more durable materials, or just fit better. And it’s not always obvious. That’s why we compiled this list of the best running backpacks.

The Salomon Advance Skin 12 is a top-of-the-line product in the field of running hydration vests. The smart cut and breathable and durable fabrics come together to provide an incredibly comfortable running hydration vest that still has a solid capacity for carrying items from wallets and keys to headlamps to gels and snacks.

The Salomon Advance Skin 12 comes with two hydration options — the two chest-mounted, 500-milliliter soft flasks with the vest and the capacity to add a standard hydration bladder to allow for even more liquid. The hydration flasks are mounted high on the front, allowing you to open and access the flasks without taking them out or having to put them back. Moreover, the soft design of the flasks makes them both compact and comfortable to carry.

The 2022 version of the Salomon Advance Skin 12 has a redesigned top pocket that is notably easier to manipulate than earlier versions. The pockets are well-designed to securely keep whatever items you may need to accompany you on a long trail run, marathon, or for just a few miles in the neighborhood. The pockets are secure, comfortable, and easy to access on the go. The Quicklink bungee cord adjustments across the front of the vest allow for a snug and largely customized fit while running.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 9.77 ounces
  • Product dimensions: 15.7 x 7.9 x 4.7 inches
  • Materials: Polyamide and elastane
  • Gear capacity: 12 liters (732 cubic inches)
  • Liquid capacity: 1 liter (34 fluid ounces)
  • Number of pockets: Six, plus main compartment
Why It Made The Cut
  • The Salomon Advance Skin 12 is the top-of-the-line hydration running vest, especially for distance runners and multi-day events. It’s a snug fit with breathable, durable fabrics.

Snug, comfortable fit

Reservoir sleeve fits most standard hydration bladders

Comes with two integrated 500-milliliter soft flasks

Multiple pockets for storing essential items



Quicklink adjustment system can be difficult to manipulate

Bladder not included

The affordable Dtown running hydration backpack provides many of the same qualities as the most expensive options, but without the same monetary output. There are several inexpensive options among hydration running backpacks, but few are the same quality as the Dtown.

The main compartment has an insulated pocket to help keep the water in your hydration bladder cool longer. While I did not have the opportunity to independently test it, the Dtown website states the insulated pocket will keep liquids cool for up to four hours.

The hydration bladder is designed with a 3.1-inch extra-wide screw cap opening, which is suitable for adding ice or beverage powders along with water. The bladder itself is two liters, which is one of the larger hydration bladders available with most hydration running backpacks.

The Dtown hydration running backpack has a waist strap that has two small, zippered pockets — one each on the left and right — and a large main compartment. Integrated into the back of the backpack are a large mesh pocket and a sewn-on reflective strip.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 15.68 ounces
  • Product dimensions: 16.5 x 9.5 x 2.8 inches
  • Materials: Nylon
  • Gear capacity: 12 liters (732 cubic inches)
  • Liquid capacity: 2 liters (70 ounces)
Why It Made The Cut
  • With the Dtown running hydration backpack, you get a solidly made, low-cost alternative. Overall, it is an inexpensive hydration backpack that doesn’t sacrifice on quality.

Economically priced

Durable materials

Included high-capacity hydration bladder

Hydration tube has on/off switch


Only available in green

Shoulder straps can feel scratchy

Bladder sometimes leaks

Going into this, I knew I could expect good things from the CamelBak Ultra Pro hydration vest. CamelBak pioneered the hands-free hydration system and has been making high-quality products for civilian and military use since 1989. The CamelBak Ultra Pro comes with two half-liter flasks mounted on the chest for easy accessibility. The vest itself is incredibly light, coming in at a mere five ounces. The 3D Micro Mesh material is cushioned and provides breathability.

Attached to the upper right side of the vest is a plastic, integrated safety whistle. The reviews on the safety whistle are mixed, though. On the upper left is a secure phone pocket. Some have complained the pocket is too small for larger-sized phones and devices.

The CamelBak Ultra Pro does not come with the signature CamelBak hydration reservoir, however, the vest is designed to accept a CRUX 1.5-liter reservoir for added hydration capacity.

This vest has reflective materials to make this a good selection for low-light running. There are other pockets on the CamelBak Ultra Pro for stowing snacks or gel packs, and there is an attachment to carry trekking poles.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 160 grams (5 ounces)
  • Product dimensions: 12.52 x 8.35 x 3.23 inches
  • Materials: Nylon
  • Gear capacity: 6 liters (360 cubic inches)
  • Liquid capacity: 1 liter (34 ounces); can add a 1.5-liter CRUX reservoir
Why It Made The Cut
  • The CamelBak Ultra Pro is a lightweight hydration running vest that boasts the high quality you’d expect from CamelBak. The CamelBak Ultra Pro is a high-caliber minimalist running backpack.


Reflective materials


CRUX hydration bladder not included

Phone pocket is very small

Sizing is inconsistent

Best for Women

The Osprey Dyna 1.5 stands out as a minimalist vest-style running backpack that has been specifically designed to better fit the smaller female frame. It is a lightweight vest that holds a liter and a half of fluid and is cut to maximize stability and comfort during long and short runs in an urban or trail-running environment.

The Dyna has stretchy pockets that allow the runner to secure a variety of items without worrying about them bouncing around. One flaw to the pocket design, however, is the front pockets lack an enclosure method, such as a bungee cord, zipper, or hook-and-loop fastener. While it is unlikely you would lose something, no one wants to risk losing an expensive phone or their car keys somewhere on a multi-mile run through the woods.

The comfort of the Dyna is excellent. The Spacer Mesh body wrap material is both comfortably form-fitting and allows for excellent breathability and ventilation. Some users complained the cut of the arm holes left too much material and, thus, restricted some arm movement. Others had no issues with the cut and design.

The Dyna comes with some little details that make it a great choice. The sternum strap has a magnet attachment which corresponds to a magnet attachment on the hydration tube to ensure a secure fit with easy access. The sternum strap also has adjustable height settings to allow for different comfort levels. In one of the back pockets, there is a bright red key clip to secure your keys while keeping them highly visible when you look for them. The Dyna, like most Osprey products, comes with easy-to-use, ergonomic tabs on the zipper pulls. You don’t fully appreciate details like those until you’ve tried to access a compartment with sweaty, shaky hands.

The Osprey Dyna 1.5 Women’s Hydration Vest brings all the same quality you can expect from an Osprey product but in a product designed specifically for a woman’s frame and build. It is an ideal running backpack for those looking to keep down space and weight but maintain optimum hydration and comfort.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 376 grams (13.5 ounces)
  • Product dimensions: 12.2 x 14.57 x 5.12 inches
  • Materials: Nylon
  • Gear capacity: 10 liters (610 cubic inches)
  • Liquid capacity: 1.5 liters (50 ounces)
Why It Made The Cut
  • The Osprey Dyna 1.5 Women’s Hydration Vest is a minimalist pack specifically designed to fit a woman’s frame. It also has lightweight padding, ventilation, and removable chest straps.

Designed for a woman’s frame

1.5-liter hydration bladder included

Integrated pockets for two collapsable water flasks are included


Front pockets have no closures

Vest is heavy for a minimalist vest

Lacks cinch straps to customize fit

Best for Marathons

The CamelBak Zephyr comes with two half-liter flasks mounted on the chest for easy accessibility. The vest itself is a very light seven ounces made with 3D Micro Mesh material and is cushioned and provides breathability. The 3D Micro Mesh is very well-reviewed for its breathability and comfortable fit, but it is prone to snagging on flora in the thicker brush.

Like the Ultra Pro, the Zephyr has an integrated plastic whistle, presumably to help you if you get lost and disoriented on a long trail run. The whistle is not, however, terribly well-reviewed by either experts or consumers. As a tool, the whistle makes sense, but you may consider using an aftermarket whistle, especially if you feel your life may one day depend on it.

The CamelBak Zephyr does not come with the signature CamelBak hydration reservoir, however, the vest is designed to accept a CRUX 1.5-liter reservoir for added hydration capacity.

This vest has reflective materials to make this a good selection for low-light running. There are also pockets for stowing snacks or gel packs and an attachment to carry trekking poles.

The slightly larger size makes it a better option in many ways for running marathons. Unlike long trail runs, marathon runners are commonly looking for time and want to keep running as consistently as possible. With the Zephyr, versus other minimalist running backpacks like the Ultra Pro, you get all the same high-quality minimalist design, but with just a little more space for energy gels, snacks, etc.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 200 grams (7 ounces)
  • Product dimensions: 15.35 x 0.44 x 5.91 inches
  • Materials: Nylon
  • Gear capacity: 10 liters (610 cubic inches)
  • Liquid capacity: 1 liter (34 ounces); comes with two 500-milliliter squeeze bottles; can add a 1.5-liter CRUX reservoir
Why It Made The Cut
  • The CamelBak Zephyr is an exceptionally built and engineered minimalist running backpack.


Reflective materials

Two collapsable water flasks are included

Hydration tube has on/off switch


CRUX hydration bladder not included

Phone pocket is very small

Whistle is difficult to get to and does not work well

The Nike Run Commuter 15L is a 100 percent polyester running backpack designed for runners and cyclists who want to do fitness commutes to and from work or school. The bag is also very useful as a travel carry-on bag.

While not inherently a hydration backpack, the Nike Run Commuter comes with an internal hydration bladder sleeve, an internal clip to secure it, and a routing tube in the shoulder strap for the hydration bladder tube. The bladder sleeve doubles as a laptop sleeve for those who opt out of using a hydration bladder.

Coming in at a mere 8.8 ounces, the backpack is very lightweight, allowing the commuter to carry more personal items without burdensome weight. The shoulder straps are wide and made of lightweight polyester with adjustable straps, which makes for a more comfortable and stable carry while running. The shoulder straps come with a horizontal sternum strap, which has both adjustable tension and adjustable height for a customizable fit.

The polyester material is durable and generally water-resistant. The large main compartment of the backpack is great for putting your clothes and some personal hygiene items. (Pro Tip: If you’re commuting to work as a runner or cyclist, save space and weight by keeping a personal hygiene kit in your desk or locker).

Product Specs
  • Weight: 376 grams (13.5 ounces)
  • Product dimensions: 19 x 12 x 7 inches
  • Materials: Polyester
  • Gear capacity: 15 liters (915 cubic inches)
  • Liquid capacity: Up to 2 liters
Why It Made The Cut
  • The Nike Run Commuter Backpack is a running backpack designed for those who want to use their trips to and from work or school to get in their running miles.

Thin and wide shoulder straps.

Hydration bladder pocket with a clip to secure it

Cinch straps to tighten the bag

Reflective Nike Swoosh logo for low-light commuting

Comfortable top carrying handle


Somewhat small for a commuter running backpack

Side mesh pockets are small

Lacks cinch straps to customize fit

Things to consider before buying a running backpack

Fit and comfort

The very most important thing to consider when buying a running backpack is fit and comfort. While my ego would thrive if I learned our readership trusted my opinions and assessments so much that they were willing to buy running backpacks sight unseen, I think it’s a bad move. This is, for sure, a try-before-you-buy item. 

If the running backpack does not fit well, you are going to risk being miserable on your run. If possible, find a seller who will let you throw a couple of items into the running backpack and jog around the store for a few minutes. At the very least, try it on and see how easily the straps work. 

Running style

Know your own running style and needs before you finalize your running backpack selection. You may find the running backpack you need for commuting to and from work may be very different from the running backpack you need for an ultramarathon or a trail run. Think about what you need to carry, how much protection is needed for what you are carrying, and what kind of weight distribution you may need. 

While a nicely padded laptop sleeve might be completely irrelevant to you on a running backpack you use for ultramarathons in Death Valley, it might be critical if you are getting your miles in running to and from your university or place of work. 


Straps are the close cousin of fit. I am setting straps into an individual section because they are that important. 

The location and padding of the straps are critical elements of the design of the running backpack. The shoulder straps are going to, well, shoulder the weight of the bag. They should be padded enough to keep the straps from digging into your shoulders, but without being unnecessarily bulky. 

The running backpack should also have a chest strap. The purpose of the chest strap is to allow you to lift the weight off your shoulders and redistribute it across your chest. The chest strap has to be easily adjustable and secure. It also needs to be able to be adjusted along the shoulder straps so you have at least some control over the height of the strap. 

Compression straps are not a must-have item, but they are certainly a nice-to-have item. The ability to cinch your bag nicely and snugly around whatever you are carrying can make a significant difference in the comfort and stability of the backpack when you are running. 

Water capacity

Not every running backpack has a space for a hydration bladder, but the vast majority do. Some come equipped with bladders and others just provide a space where a hydration bladder can go if you so desire. The upside to a running backpack that does not provide a hydration bladder is you save money if you: (a) don’t commonly use a hydration bladder for running, or (b) you already have a perfectly good hydration bladder from another pack and you want to use it with different platforms. 

It is important, though, to consider the capacity of the bladder the running backpack you choose can carry. If you need a massive water source for your long-distance runs, ensure the running backpack you purchase can comfortably hold the bladder you need. 

Other running backpacks have pockets to hold water bottles or collapsable water flasks. If that is your preference for the amount of water you need or the accessibility of the water sources, that may be something to look for when you are selecting a running backpack to purchase. 

FAQs about running backpacks

Q: Is running with a weighted backpack bad for you? 

A: This one is a little tricky. In military training, we were taught when training for schools which had walking long distances under a weighted ruck and a time limit, you should never run with a weighted rucksack in training. The caveat, however, was you might need to run during the school event to meet the time requirement. Running under weight creates the potential for a knee injury. Running reduces some of the stability you have when walking. 

Running is inherently high-impact, while walking is low-impact. I would not recommend running under a weighted backpack, but consult an orthopedic professional if you are considering implementing weighted backpack runs into your fitness plan. 

Q: How much do running backpacks cost?  

A: Running backpacks can range in price from as low as $65 for the more economical and no-frills running backpacks, upwards to $150 for the more high-end running backpacks. If you need or want a hydration bladder and you are purchasing a running backpack that does not come with one, you will need to factor the additional cost into your purchase plans. 

Q: How do I clean my running backpack? 

A: A running backpack can be easily cleaned with some basic cleaning items. The first thing to do is to take a firm bristle brush and scrub the outside of the running backpack to knock loose any large concentrations or ground-in dirt. Then, fill a bucket or sink with lukewarm water and mild detergent, preferably scent-free. Submerge the backpack and use the bristle brush to scrub the exterior and interior. Rinse the running backpack with a hose or by refilling the bucket or sink with fresh water. Rinse until the bag has no residual soap. Hang to dry or lay the backpack out on a dry surface in direct sunlight. 

Q: How do I stop my running backpack from bouncing when I run?

A: Refer to the paragraph above regarding fit and the one regarding straps. The best way to keep your bag from bouncing around too much when you run is to ensure you have the straps pulled snugly enough for your body type. Proper packing is critical, too. Finding the right load-out for your bag may take some time and experimentation, but one key factor is to ensure the contents of your running backpack are not just thrown around loosely within the bag.

Final thoughts

While there are plenty of options for running backpacks, if you could only pick one, you can’t go wrong with the Salomon Advance Skin 12. The smart design includes breathable and durable fabrics, and plenty of storage space for everyday items.


In order to properly evaluate the different products featured in this review, I perused a multitude of sites and sources related to running backpacks. Many of these sites were other review-based sites that provided information and feedback about the different products on the market. My preference is to dig deeper into sites authored by specific subject matter experts. 

In addition to experts, I dug through a number of customer reviews. Customer reviews can be tough because sometimes they are not as clearly written as I would like, and sometimes you have to dig through and make sure what a customer doesn’t like is related to the product versus the purchasing experience. As an example, I am not going to dissuade a reader from purchasing a particular product when it becomes evident the complaint was about a delivery taking too long or a store clerk being rude. 

Additionally, in the case of the Salomon Advance Skin 12 running backpack, I am fortunate enough to own one, so I dug it out and did a series of runs with a variety of load-outs and configurations to test and evaluate the comfort and versatility. This methodology was challenging because of a major orthopedic surgery I had last year, but it was helpful and gave me a reason to force in some extra runs. 

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