Running all or part of your commute is one of the best ways to add more exercise to your weekly routine, but the logistics behind a successful runcommute can be tricky. To do it right you'll need more than motivation, you'll need a backpack that's up to the task.
For many people running to and from work wonât take that much longer than alternative methods of transport, especially if you live in or commute into a city, and itâs a brilliant way to relieve stress at the start or end of the working day. Thatâs especially true when compared with sitting in traffic or standing on a jam-packed train.
To run commute successfully, however, you need the right gear. Weâre not talking about shoes and kit, either, because the most important part of a running commuterâs set up is their rucksack. Having the wrong pack strapped to your back can make every run an uncomfortable chore, and even lead to injury.
What to look for in a run-commuting backpack
The right running backpack will have an array of straps you can tighten to ensure it fits close to your body and doesnât swing or bounce around while you run. It might also be waterproof, if youâre really committed to run commuting, and reflective details are also useful, because come the winter many of your trips to and from the office will be in the dark.
Those who run-commute tend to want a bigger volume than those just ensuring they have the essentials for a Sunday jaunt â so 20l plus storage space is the norm. If you're looking for a 10-15-liter option then check out our round up of the best running backpacks for ultras and trail runs.
Best all-round running backpack for commuting
Stolt Alpha Business Backpack
This truly ticks all the boxes you could want from a running backpack. With a capacity of 20-liters, itâs large enough that you can carry a full change of clothes, and it has a separate pocket with a sleeve for your laptop. You can even stretch the storage to 25-liters using the expandable shoe pocket.
Despite all this space, the Stolt Alpha sits snugly against the back to be comfortable on the run even when youâve packed it to the gills. Weâve even used it while tackling interval sessions on the way into work. The backpack is also made from a water-resistant material that has been treated with an antibacterial solution to stop smells building up after sweaty runs.
Furthermore, you can get useful extras like a garment box that fits into the backpackâs main pocket to keep your suit and shirt crease-free on the run, and if youâre worried about the weather Stolt also sell a waterproof cover for the Alpa that has reflective stripes on in.
Best large running backpack for commuting
OMM Ultra 20
The straps can be tightened on this large backpack so that even if you use every inch of the space inside its massive main pocket it wonât become uncomfortable when using it for your run commute. Alongside that main compartments, there are two stretchy mesh side pockets plus pouches in the straps that you can use to stash stuff you need quick access to.
And thatâs pretty much it. There arenât a load of fancy extra features here â the OMM is a simple but brilliant bag for commuters who need to carry a lot every day.
Inov-8 All Terrain 25
Although its intended purpose is for hikes and runs in the outdoors, this pack from inov-8 has a heap of transferable skills that means it's an excellent choice for city dwellers taking on a runcommute.
First of all, it's heavily customizable so you can play around with the fit until you get it just right for your body shape. Secondly, it has shoulder strap compression molds so the pack hugs the upper body so it doesn't bounce around as you make your way home. In addition, there's an internal back stiffener to ensure the whole thing stays firm on your back.
Although there's plenty of space to throw in everything you need to take with you to and from work, there's a dual closing system which minimizes the size of the pack if there's less in it, which means it's perfect if you're looking for a rucksack that you can use for commuting or for weekend runs and hikes in the hills.
Best running backpack for keeping your clothes crease-free
IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro Large
The hard shell of this backpack means that it will keep your clothes free of creases while you run, assuming you master the slightly tricky feat of correctly folding those clothes before putting them inside. You can fit up to five garments in the special pocket on the backpack if you opt for the larger Backpack Pro, and there is also a separate space for your laptop with straps to hold it steady while you run.
There are adjustable waist and chest straps on the backpack so you can get the fit spot on or tweak it on the run if it isnât, and the outer case is water-resistant so you can commute through a shower without any fear that your perfectly-folded clothes will get drenched.
HOKA ONE ONE Tor 30L Pack
At 30 liters, this is one of the biggest bags you'll find that's designed well enough to allow you to run in it without it being too cumbersome. Perfect if you're the sort of person that carries around the amount of clothes, gym kit, work equipment and snacks that we do every day.
It features a heap of straps and velcro adjustments across the front and sides, allowing for a lot of customization when it comes to getting the fit right. There's also a nice wide opening to get your stuff in and out as well as a frankly obscene amount of pockets dotted around the inner and outer layers. 17 in fact, including a hydration pocket, water bottle holders, front zip pockets and eight internal ones allowing for a forensic level of storage management.
Best small running backpacks for commuting
Nathan TrailMix 12L
This backpack might be designed for trail-running, to the point where it even comes with a hydration bladder, but weâve found it to be perfect for run commutes where you donât need to carry much beyond a change of clothes. You can even slip a small laptop into it as well if needs be â but weâre talking an 11-12in computer though, nothing too beastly.
The roll-top pocket design is key to this because you can stuff a lot of things inside it and still force it shut. There are large pockets on the straps too, where you can put your phone, wallet and ID card, and a zip pocket on the outside. And since it is designed for trail runs, you can be sure that the TrailMix is comfortable to wear no matter how long your run commute is.
Osprey Duro 15
This is another backpack actually designed for the trails, which means some of its features â like the straps to hold your trekking poles and the hydration bladder â probably wonât be that useful as you race the number 33 bus to your office. However, the 15-liter capacity will be right in the sweet spot for many commuters â not too large to make the backpack uncomfortable, but still big enough to take all your gear for a day at your desk.
The reflective graphics on the back will also be appreciated by commuters running late at night, or early in the morning, and the strap and hip pockets are roomy enough for your phone, wallet and other essentials.
Gregory Maya 10L Backpack
Although this woman-specific 10-liter pack is designed for day hikes it does a more than adequate job of doubling as a versatile commuter pack. Although its size suggests a minimal level of carrying capacity, it's more than enough for the bare commuting essentials, and then some.
The long slender design twinned with the chest and waist straps offer a nice figure-hugging fit, even when full of kit, whilst the vented rear back panel offers a good level of airflow and breathability. It also features something called BioSync Suspension technology â essentially fittings on the top and bottom of the straps that help make the pack feel less stiff as you move around.
For storage, it's got a heap going for it. On the hip strap, there are two zipped pockets for quick access items like your phone or your keys, two external side pockets, a big front pocket to stuff a jacket in and a zippered main compartment. If you're planning on using it for longer runs it also has an easy to access hydration sleeve.
Other features include an external sunglasses loop, a tube clip for the hydration pack on the shoulder strap and a connector for a safety light if you're planning on running at night.
Arcâteryx Norvan 14
It's not the smallest bag on the list but once you're running down the street with work a distant memory, you'll think you're hardly wearing anything on your back.
That's because the Norvan 14 is designed to hug the body but whilst being stretchy and flexible enough to expand and move as you tick off the miles. It does that with a combination of a lightweight harness twinned with an elasticated chest strap.
Despite offering one of the most comfortable options the Norvan 14 doesn't skimp on the kit carrying capabilities â being designed for long distance trail runs where you need to make sure you've got more than the essentials. As well as a 2L hydration bladder (which you can remove for your commute and opt for a soft flask in the front pocket), there's an internal zipper pocket in the back, two mesh dumps with pole carry pockets, four front envelope mesh pockets and a weather-resistant roll top main compartment.
Black Diamond Distance 15 Backpack
The Distance backpack is actually designed for trail runners that are heading into the mountains to take part in another activity, like climbing or bouldering. As a result, the pack's main focus is allowing you to carry lots of equipment without it making the run itself difficult.
For us city commuters, that may sound like overkill. But if you're looking for the hardiest of packs that'll store a lot of kit without making you dread an uncomfortable jaunt home, it's a great option.
The light material used in the design is deceptively strong, so it can handle pointy clunky mountaineering equipment, and there's a clever elastic cording system on the side to secure the pack against your body so it doesn't move around.
As well as having a large fully water-resistant main stash compartment, features include stitch-less taping on the shoulder straps for comfort, reflective detail on the side panels and a special vapor barrier on the back panel to help with breathability and protecting the contents from moisture.
In addition to the main storage area, there's two front chest pockets for soft flasks, a deploy pocket for a shell jacket and a zipped interior pocket for valuables. The only problem is that it lacks the space for larger laptops but it'll cover you for tablets and smaller ones.
Best reflective running backpack
Proviz REFLECT360 Running Backpack
You spend all that money on an expensive running jacket covered in reflective sections to make yourself more visible at night, and then you go and wear a backpack over it anyway. Fortunately, if you opt for the Proviz REFLECT360 backpack, youâll be even more visible to others, because the entire back panel on the backpack is made from a reflective material, and there are also reflective patches on the straps of the rucksack so you can be seen from the front as well.
âšThe 10-liter capacity isnât huge, so this isnât one for lugging a big laptop to and from the office, but you will fit a change of clothes into the backpack easily, and there are extra pockets on the waist strap too.
Best budget running backpacks for commuting
The slim design of the Slice rucksack means it sits nicely against your back and doesnât bounce around too much when on the run, though it doesnât quite match the comfort of the pricier options on this list. The 15-liter capacity is mostly accounted for by the large main pocket, which weâve found you can just about slip a 13in laptop inside, alongside a change of clothes.
Thereâs a large reflective pattern on the outside of the pack, and reflective details on the straps as well. All in all, itâs an excellent value option for commuters â perhaps the perfect pick if youâre not all that sure how much you are going to run to work and want a backpack to test the waters with.
Kalenji 10L Trail Running Bag
Kalenji's running backpacks offer a budget option for runners that far surpass the price when it comes to features and design.
The 10L pack is no exception, delivering a well made and functional piece of kit that's a great option for commuters or trail runners alike. In comparison to some of the more roomy packs on the list, it may lack some of the carrying power, especially if you're planning on lugging your laptop around with you. But if you're just taking a change of clothes and the essentials it does an excellent job.
The build is extremely flexible and acts more like a vest than a rigid backpack (hence why you can't carry a laptop effectively), so strapping it tightly to your back makes for a secure run. That lack of rigidness does, however, mean that it can get a bit hot and sweaty against your back as there is a noticeable lack of airflow.
Features include a hydration bladder and an impressive selection of six front pockets and four back pockets.