The best running backpacks for active commuting

best running backpacks
Best running backpacks for days trips & commuting Hearst Owned

The best running backpacks are the perfect piece of kit if you’re looking to add a run commute or two to your weekly mileage and need something that can transport your laptop and a change of clothes.

Likewise, if you're planning on lacing up your trail shoes for an extended length of time, a running backpack can hold more food and extra supplies than a hydration vest or pack, which is better for storing the essentials (think water, a few energy gels and a waterproof jacket).

The best running backpacks for 2024

Here are our tried and tested favourites, at a glance. Keep scrolling for expert advice on how to choose the right bag for you, as well as our reviews.

How to choose the best running backpack

For more information on choosing the right running bag for you, check out our comprehensive guide here.

In a nutshell, you’ll want to look at the straps of the bag – you’ll need one with shoulder, chest and waist straps in order to run comfortably. The shoulder straps should be padded and wide enough to distribute weight evenly (thin straps often dig in and rub), the chest strap should be able to be moved up and down (especially important for female runners) and all the straps need to be adjustable.

Secondly, take a look at the capacity of the bag. For commuting, 8-12L is normally more than enough room for all your belongings and a good starting point – don’t overpack your bag, the lighter the better.

How we test

All of the backpacks in this guide have been put through their paces by the RW editors. We’ve tested them on a series of runs, from commutes to and from the office, to weekend training runs and multi-day adventures. We’ve taken into account the fit, durability, capacity and price of each backpack to help you find one that’s right for you.

The best running backpacks for 2024

Stolt Athlete Backpack

The Stolt Athlete Backpack is designed specifically with commuters in mind. Featuring a roll-top design, which means you can pack loads in it – one of our testers managed to squeeze a pair of trainers, a work dress, underwear, make-up bag, wash bag and hairbrush into the main compartment.

There’s also a separate compartment for your laptop and stationary – big enough to fit a laptop up to 16”. With detachable waist straps and a strap across the sternum (which are placed high enough so that even women can wear it comfortably without it digging into your breasts), once you’re strapped in, it doesn’t budge. One of our team tested this bag on their 25km (15 mile) commute from home to the office and while it was heavy, it was surprisingly comfy, thanks to the padded back mesh panel.

It’s also water repellent – 'I got caught in about 40 minutes of rain on my cycle home, and everything in the bag remained completely dry,' said one tester. Our only gripe? While the black colour is ideal, it’s not the easiest to be seen on the road, so perhaps a reflective panel on the back wouldn’t have gone amiss in the design process. You can, however, buy a high visibility cover separately (£10).

Stolt Alpha Backpack

The Alpha Backpack from Stolt is another RW favourite, designed for running and cycling. While it’s certainly an up-front investment, the bag oozes quality down to the smallest detail, whether that’s its YKK zippers that open with ease, its anti-microbial material that keeps sweaty odours at bay, or the additional garment box to keep your clothes wrinkle-free.

The Alpha differs slightly from the roll-top Athlete Backpack in that it converts into a business bag in seconds with hideaway straps. It can store a laptop up to 16”, shoes and a change of clothes in its expandable compartments, though we find that the compartments don't extend as much as expected. If you're someone who struggles to pack light, the Athlete Backpack will probably be better suited. If you can leave a few bits in the office, on the other hand, it'll fit the bill.

The adjustable padded straps also create the same secure, bounce-free fit as the Athlete bag and overall, the Alpha makes our commute into RW HQ an absolute breeze.

Proviz Reflect360 Pack

This bag's pluses are the weatherproofing (it’s completely waterproof, down to the zips), the reflectivity – like all Proviz kit it’s exceptionally visible in the dark, which makes it perfect for gloomy winter commutes – the durability and the very acceptable price. It is also hydration pack-compatible. On the minus side, despite the vented rear panel you'll still get a sweaty back, which means it’s not great for very long runs, and the straps tended to pinch a little when they were pulled tight for a snug fit.

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Sweaty Betty Commuter Running Backpack

Padded shoulder straps and cool mesh back combined with elegant design mean this commuter pack scores on both style and substance. Designed for women, the body and hip straps are easily adjustable and the chest band fits comfortably across most bust sizes. It’s deceptively roomy, with space for a 13-inch laptop plus toiletries and a change of clothes at a push.

Subtle technical details include reflective eyelets, outside pocket for a water bottle and bungee cording to strap your jacket to the back. Plus, it comes with fastening toggles, so you won’t need to stop moving to strip off a layer. Mud splats can be easily wiped off the stylish recycled polyester exterior, leaving you to segue straight into office mode.

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Camelbak Octane 22L

This larger-capacity pack offers impressively flexible storage and excellent versatility. It’s equally capable on long, remote run adventures, city run commutes and wild hikes. The two-litre bladder is removable, so when carrying kit trumps hydration there’s ample space for a 15-inch laptop and other essentials.

A 360-degree opening and a row of small internal compartments make it easy to organise your kit. A broad harness – packed with pockets to keep your in-run essentials in easy reach – works with two adjustable sternum straps and a hip belt to reduce bounce. We also loved the ridge-padded back that boosts airflow while softening lumps and bumps.

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Osprey Tempest 20

Designed for women, this robust pack offers 20 litre-capacity and holds 3 litres of water in an external bladder sleeve. It's considered multiple adjustment points, from shoulder to sternum to hip, make it really comfortable whether all day on trails or commuter runs.

The shoulder straps are particularly comfy, clearly designed for women, with good padding. The internal frame with its Airscape system helps heavier loads (like laptops) sit stably and comfortably, while still feeling breathable. There are multiple pockets including at the hip, making it easy to get to a phone or snack, plus external attachment points. The standard fit comes up narrow, but there’s an extended fit option for the broader-framed.

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Osprey Daylite Plus 20L

A sturdy pack with plenty of space for daily commute needs (including extra pockets): the tablet sleeve is perfect for keeping work documents un-crumpled. We also found it really breathable, with no sweaty back even after a longer run or hike.

However, you need to keep weight to a minimum for on-the-run comfort since the unpadded waist/hip and chest straps are narrow and dig in if you pull them tight to minimise bounce. Definitely one for walking or lighter commutes.

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OMM Phantom 25L

Made for serious weekend adventures and extreme multi-day races like the Marathon Des Sables, OMM’s Phantom combines big-pack capacity with upfront race-vest accessibility. The seven-point adjustable harness spreads weight with excellent control over the fit and load. The substantial storage includes two large zippered hip pockets for mid-run essentials, two front, 750ml bottle pockets, two front mesh drop-ins for gels and snacks plus stretch mesh back pockets that extend the capacity beyond the 25 litres.

There’s also a removable sleeping mat, it can take a three-litre bladder and the durable Cordura nylon offers good weather protection for your kit.

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Saysky Running Commuter Backpack 12L

Designed specifically for commuting and long-distance trail runs, this backpack can hold up to 12L and is fully waterproof, meaning it can handle whatever the British weather decides to throw at you.

For commuters, there’s an integrated laptop compartment for greater peace of mind and stability when running. There’s also plenty of pockets – our tester liked the zippy waistband pockets for storing their phone on the run, allowing easier access. There’s ample storage for a spare change of clothes and your wash kit in the main bag compartment too, as well as a cable-tie style pocket on the side for a water bottle or walking poles (something not all commuter bags we've tested have).

The Saysky Commuter Backpack secures around the waist and across the chest – our tester experienced very minimal bounce during their 12k commute to the office.

The camo print may not be to everyone’s liking – particularly if you’re looking for something a little bit smarter – but it adds a degree of visibility during darker mornings. There’s no reflective element though.

Sandqvist Noa

This is the ideal smarter-looking running pack that will not only safely transport all your essentials to work and back, including your laptop, but will also not look out of place when you're changed into more formal business attire.

Scandinavian brand Sandqvist crafts stylish, functional and sustainable accessories, and this is no exception: it's fully waterproof (made with 100% recycled nylon ripstop) with a roll top fastening to stop water finding its way in. It can also house a hydration pack and features a removable waist strap.


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