Backpacks for Running to Work

In my article on how to start run commuting I talked at length on the first key steps to running to work. There’s a lot to consider, but at it’s purest you can just get out their in your shorts, shirt and sneakers, throw your work clothes in a backpack, and go for it. Simple! Or is it?

That barebones approach can work, and is a great way to get started cheaply, but anyone who has run to work a few times will have already noticed the niggling inconvenience of running in a backpack. The types of rucksacks people have lying around at home fall into two categories:

  1. Normal gym backpacks. These do the job, but they can be really loose and jiggle around everywhere as you run, banging against your back. They don’t have any straps to secure them firmly in place as you jog.
  2. Hiking backpacks. These often come with straps to secure the bag in place, but are relatively big and often much larger than you need, weighing you down with a bulky bag that makes you look like you’re ready to scale Kilimanjaro.

After a few runs with a heavy bulky weight on your back, or a few in which the contents of your bag slap around as you run, swinging wildly, you’d be forgiven for thinking that their must be a better way.

Well, you’re right – you just need a running backpack! It turns out that there are plenty of bags which are pretty much perfect for run commuting.

3 Key Tips for Buying a Running Backpack

When you’re making a purchasing decision, you can’t go too far wrong as long as you follow these three key tips:

1. Get a backpack with waist and chest straps

This is the single most important factor in buying a backpack for run commuting. With just the usual pair of arm straps, the bag will jiggle up, down, left, right, back, forth – all over the place. It’s not nice. But if you buy a back with waist straps and chest straps, and all of a sudden the bag begins to hold steady! A set of adjustable straps to keep the bag firm will give you a chance to focus on your run (not just your balance!).

2. Get a light pack

Any bag is going to add weight – and therefore difficulty – to your run. When run commuting it’s almost inevitable that you’ll need to take something with you, even if just a spare pair of underwear and your lunch, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to minimise the weight you carry. If you can cut down your load, you can buy a smaller backpack – one which is in itself lighter, easier to secure, and better for your back!

3. Get a breathable bag

If you’re anything like me, you’re going to sweat while you run to work – even if only in the summer. But the build-up of sweat, and the horrible feeling of being sweaty, can be reduced by picking a bag with breathable back and breathable fabric. That can keep the backpack drier, keep your skin and clothes drier, and lead to a far more pleasant (and less chafing) experience.

Recommended Backpacks for Running to Work

Picking the right backpack for run commuting is a tough choice and so many new models are released annually that any recommendation I make will soon be out of date. That said, here are some great choices to use as reference points.


Osprey Raptor 10 Daypack

Osprey Manta 20 Daypack
Buy an Osprey Manta 20 Daypack from Amazon!

This awesome backpack has been my own firm favourite for some time. Straps hold it firmly in place, and 20L is a perfect balance for capacity: large enough that I can take everything I need back and forth, while being small enough to keep the weight on the right part of my back!

This bag has excellent zippable pouches on the waist straps, perfect for storing gels, snacks, gloves or hats on the move!

Best of all, this bag gives me the freedom to go on longer runs, bike rides or hikes too due to the included 3-liter HydraForm reservoir – a hydration pack to allow you to take water on the move! I don’t use this for my shorter work commutes, but on hot days when I plan to take a longer detour it’s a lifesaver and really useful to have built-in.

This pack is awesome, but don’t just take my word for it – check out the reviews on!


Deuter Speed Lite 10 Men’s Backpack

Deuter Speed Lite 10
Buy the Deuter Speed Lite 10 from Amazon!

Another great backpack with a removable waist strap, a nice tight sternum strap, side mesh pockets, and zippable pouches. This 10L pack is the perfect size for a small amount of clothing and your lunch, helping you stay light on the run. It’s sturdy and well-built too.

Importantly, the airy mesh system on the back will do a very good job at keeping your back ventilated and cool – reducing sweat build-up and avoiding any chaffing.

All in all this is a light and comfortable backpack. Highly recommended.



Salomon XA 20 W Women’s Backpack

Salomon XA 20 W Women’s Backpack
Buy the Salomon XA 20 W Women’s Backpack from Amazon!

One for the ladies, this bag offers many of the same excellent important features mentioned above: waist straps, shoulder straps, pockets and pouches. As above, this bag is great for running and carrying some clothing to work – but it is also excellent for day trips and hikes. This bag even has a whistle for getting attention – a handy safety feature for evening runners!

This bag also has an external bladder compartment, meaning it’s “future proof” if you get bitten by the running bug – if you want to start using a hydration system, you can slot it right into this bag!


What’s your favourite bag?

Obviously I’ve only covered a small number of bags that I’ve had a chance to see and try (or had recommended by a friend). There are plenty more choices out there! What’s your favourite backpack? Please leave a comment at let me know!

4 thoughts on “Backpacks for Running to Work

  1. Thanks for the tips! I particularly like the fact that the Berghaus will take a hydration bladder – the Camelbaks aimed at runners have enough carrying capacity for a couple of stamps and a folded handkerchief (if you pack carefully) and I was beginning to despair of finding anything more practical..!

  2. Thank you for this article! I’ve been bussing to work and running home (sans backpack), which means on Fridays I have nearly a weeks worth of clothes to haul home. One of these packs will mean I can take my clothes home each night and avoid the “bag lady look” on the bus!

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