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There's nothing better than heading out for a run with your perfect running shoes, comfy running kit and nothing more than a watch on your wrist. However, sometimes it's not just you that you have to carry around on your run! So, here are the crème de la crème of the running backpacks – for commuting or general use. If you're running to work (or play) with stuff on your back let's make sure you're as comfortable as possible.
Small Running Backpacks / For Laptops or Medium Loads / For Heavy Loads / For Women
First go over exactly what you'll be carrying. If it’s a matter of a top and trousers, but no shoes, plus personal effects, but not a laptop, then a 10L pack will suffice, maybe even an 8L.
The OMM Ultra 8L is a stripped down pack; lightweight but strong thanks to the rip-stop nylon material – which is also pretty effective at letting rain run off it, though in consistent rain you should line it with a plastic bag. It has a removable foam pad at the back, to protect your back from stuff digging in whilst you run. Straps are a strong mesh for lightness, as the capacity is slight you won’t miss any padding here. Due to the size it also has one sternum strap and no waist strap as the pack isn’t big enough to warrent one. It also folds in on itself and fits into a flap pocket – so, perfect for traveling, and the buckle of the strap is also a whistle! As with all packs you can add a bladder for water if you like – it will fit up to a 2L – and there's a hole for the tube and elastic holds to keep it in place on the shoulder straps. There are also side stash pockets for water bottles – they fit the OMM Bottle and the collapsable Flexi Flasks best. This is the smallest of our packs, it will fit thin layers like trousers and a shirt, plus small extras, but bulky jackets etc. will work better with the following…
The OMM 8L Running backpack has a main zipped pocket with a bladder compartment and a smaller zipped pocket for your phone / wallet / nutrition. The 2 external side pockets will fit an OMM bottle. As with other OMM bags, there's a small whistle and reflective details for safety.
The Salomon Trailblazer 10 features a longer back support in a more square design. Like the OMM, there’s space for bottles in the side mesh compartments and you can add up to a 2lt bladder.
The Montane Trailblazer 16 is a great option for women. It offers great comfort and durability, as well as a good number of pockets so you can store items easily. I've had mine for a year, washed it a fair amount of times and it's still going strong.
If you're carrying heavy items then we really recommend Montane running backpacks and if they are heavier, then OMM but offer more padding and protection.
The Montane Trailblazer comes in two gender distinct fits. The 16 is women’s specific fit and very comfortable. The 18 is cut on a male specific fit (don’t get me started on why women get 2lt less space!). There is a good number of pockets for easy access and quick finding of keys etc. I particularly like the design of pockets on the shoulder straps at the expense of hip pockets that can come too far forward which means you don’t knock your elbows into any side pockets. The harness is customisable so you can get exactly the right fit for your shape. Both will fit a laptop that’s 15” or less.
The Salomon XT 15 is perfect for intense adventures – whether you’re running, hiking, biking or traveling, this spacious pack will keep up the pace with soft fabrics, a multitude of storage options and easy hydration. The belt is adjusts to fit precisely and carry the bag on your hips.
If you've got a 17”+ laptop or simply loads to carry then go for the 20 litre + options.
The Ultra 25L is very similar to the OMM 15 and 12 but with more storage. It’s great for packing clothing in, less ideal for laptops as the base is a strong but thin ripstop nylon material.
The Montane Trailblazer 25 has generous zip pockets on the straps for quick access of essentials. You can customise the fit of the harness to ensure a neat fit regardless of how full or not the pack is. The double chest straps guarantee this pack won’t jiggle about when you’re running, so even if you’ve got a load of things to carry it'll all be held really securely.
OMM backpacks also fit us well and are beautifully light, we find the 8Lt very popular for those looking to carry bare essentials.
The Montane Trailblazer 16 is a women-specific pack that's padded and comfortable – at least in my experience! All the straps pull tight enough to fit the slightest frame. The back is padded as are the straps, plus there are lots of handy internal pockets and compartments.
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Shankara SmithMarch 18, 2022 at 6:29pm
Hi Colin, For a 15” laptop of above, your best options are: Gregory Miwok 24L. It’s on the large side but the smaller packs are too narrow for a laptop. That said there are side compression straps which ensure any unused capacity is shrunk to keep from things moving around as you run. The Gregory packs are very durable, padded and comfortable. OMM Ultra 15L. This is a lighter pack with less storage but it’s only got padding on the back (sitting against your back), there’s none at the base, so you’d need to put a piece of clothing at the base so the laptop doesn’t protrude and push against your hips. Otherwise it’s a good option.Reply
ColinMarch 16, 2022 at 3:48pmHi I'm trying to find a backpack for running that will take a standard size laptop Reply
IzzyOctober 25, 2020 at 3:59pmHi Shankara,
Hoping you can help. I'm 5.1ft. Would you advise the Maya 10 litre for someone my height? I've had other backpacks in the past but they've always rubbed against my neck.
Shankara SmithOctober 26, 2020 at 11:45am
I think you'll be safe with the Maya 10 as far as your neck goes, I really don't think it would rub. My only concern is the bottom of the pack could touch your hips. As we offer free returns, I'd suggest you order the Maya 10 and the OMM Ultra 8, (unless you need the full 10lt space) and then you can try both on and see what suits you best.
sweaty.shazzaMay 18, 2020 at 11:07amThis is so useful. After lockdown it looks like I'll have to turn a large chunk of my commute into a run and this has given me a clearer understanding of what to buy. Now I just need to figure out what is really essential! Thank you. Reply
Shankara SmithMay 19, 2020 at 12:12pmHi,
Thanks for your lovely comment. Yes, this is the time for a commuting backpack and a fitness commute:-)
RishabhFebruary 27, 2020 at 10:05amGreat post.I am glad to see this post wherein the information is necessary.Thanks for sharing.Keep up the good work.
Shankara SmithFebruary 27, 2020 at 11:34amHi Rishabh,
Thank you for your kind comment and we will definitely keep sharing what we learn:-)
Sophie DaviesMay 7, 2019 at 3:50pmWhy are women's backpacks always in ridiculous colours? I just want a plain black backpack that looks professional for running to work that is designed for my body and not a mans. The only one i've seen that is remotely decent is the iamrunbox rucksack but this is way too small for the things i need, they advertise that you can fit one shirt in there, assuming that I'm a man and therefore keep my suits at work... womens clothes don't work like that. Its far too small.
Finding a professional looking backpack that won't ruin my back for a 4 mile run to work each day shouldn't be this hard!! Reply
Shankara SmithMay 8, 2019 at 11:52am
The running backpacks available from running product companies do favour performance and functionality over looks but they also try to reflect the 'sporty' look. That said the Gregory Maya backpack in grey is quite muted in colour. When built to hug the body, provide quick access to necessary bits and pieces and allow for water bottles etc. the result is not a streamlined look I'm afraid. The plainest running backpacks which will also perform very well are the Salomon Trailblazer 20 and Trailblazer 10. These are Unisex packs and they've suited many of our female customers. The women who benefit most from the women's specific Gregory range are those with shallower or sloping shoulders (like myself).
AmyMarch 2, 2019 at 4:00amThanks for this great video and overview. I just bought the Gregory Maya 10 with the intention of running to work a few days per week and am trying to figure out if it fits before removing the tags. I’m 5’7”, and measured my torso as 17.5 in. So I’m not super tall but even at the maximum torso length setting the pack feels high on my back. . . But maybe it is supposed to be? The waist strap sits about an inch above my belly button and I’m worried that the wide part of the waist belt on my sides will be annoying rubbing against my lower ribs. I’m probably making the mistake of comparing it to bigger hiking backpacks, where the waist/hip strap sits on your pelvis. Thanks in advance for any advice you can give about fit. Reply
Shankara SmithMarch 5, 2019 at 10:05am
Hm, I wonder if this pack is the right one for you. I am pretty much the same height (5'8") and the pack fits me perfectly but I do have ski slopes for shoulders, so that means packs sit lower on me than someone who has swimmer shoulders. If you've put some items in the pack and fitted it on but it still doesn't feel natural then it's not the pack for you. It should mould and feel just right. Maybe try the OMM pack instead. However, you're right that any running pack is going to sit differently to a hiking pack. You really don't want the waist straps sitting on your pelvis as invariably this will lead to some rubbing and at the least you'll find your clothing riding up your back. So something in the middle is what you're looking for. We tend to find that women who don't find the Gregory Maya range fits them right will get on with the OMM.
NikkiJanuary 30, 2019 at 12:15pmHi
I'm currently commuting without a laptop, but it looks like I'll now need to start taking it.
Do you think the Maya Gregory 10L or 16L would be suitable?
I don't need much additional space, as i have a locker for bulky towels and toiletries, but you mentioned the 10l isn't as padded as the 16L.
The laptop is a small Dell Latitude so not a full sized laptop, if that makes any difference.
Shankara SmithJanuary 30, 2019 at 4:38pm
Unless your Dell is tablet sized it is not going to fit in the Maya 10 which is quite a narrow backpack. The Maya 16 should be fine unless it's a big size and you can use the compress straps to keep it neat against your back, so it should still be comfortable to run with.
All the best
natalia guryevaSeptember 17, 2018 at 1:28pmHi,
I am trying to arrange my running to work so that I can also take my laptop with me in the beginning and back in the end of the week.
I had tried a gregory maya 22, but it seems too big for all the other stuff, so I had to pad it up a bit. The problem with that backpack is that it seemed to jump on my shoulders and when I did the straps tighter, the waist straps just rode higher.
Do you thing a smaller bag will be better and what sizes would fit a laptop (Maya16 or OMM? or Salomon?)
Have only got shops that sell Osprey and Karrimor around, so need to order carefully.
Thank you Reply
Shankara SmithSeptember 19, 2018 at 2:58pm
I sympathise with you, commuting with a laptop is no fun, less so when it's a running commute. I suspect the cause of the bounce with your Maya 22 is the weight of the laptop, I have used my Maya 22 with a MacBook Air and it's not been too bad but if you add even a kilo of weight for a regular weight laptop then it is hard to eliminate bouncing. I'm afraid the Maya 16 is not going to hold the laptop (unless it's smaller than 13", it simply won't fit in the compartment). The OMM 15 will take a laptop and has a slightly different fit but as it's lighter in construction than Gregory I suspect it will still bounce. However, I think the OMM 15lt would be the best one for you to try. The Salomon 20lt would hold the laptop but has more space and will cause more movement than the Gregory 22.
HugoAugust 24, 2018 at 6:14amExcellent video. Thank you very much for all that information. Reply
Shankara SmithAugust 25, 2018 at 8:42pmHi Hugo,
Thanks for your comment, glad our post has been useful:-)
LouiseNovember 20, 2017 at 3:29amHi,
Just wondering if you could advise me - all I want is a backpack that will sit still and not bounce around while running. Size wise all I want to put in it is a full size towel and my gym program (piece of paper in a plastic sleeve) and my drink bottle.
Any ideas please. Reply
Shankara SmithNovember 20, 2017 at 3:42pm
All our backpacks come with waist straps, so they sit really snugly against your back and don't drive you crazy bouncing around. So, for what you need to carry, I'd look at either the Gregory Maya 10 or the OMM Ultra 8L.
The main difference between them is that the OMM is lighter but just has the one compartment and two side mesh pockets without zips. The Gregory is more padded and structured to fit like an extension of your body. It has side hip pockets (on the belt that goes round your waist) plus a small pocket at the top of the pack, so it's easier to keep track of keys etc. This explains the price difference too. Take a look at the video on the Gregory page, we haven't got round to recording one for the OMM 8L yet.
Hope that helps
XavMarch 18, 2017 at 6:53amHi,
Wondering if miwok 24 gonna be too big/long for 160cm female?
Thank you. Reply
Shankara SmithMarch 18, 2017 at 1:28pmHi Xav,
I think it's unlikely the Miwok would work, not only will it be long for the back and probably secure more round the hips than the waist, but it is likely the side straps wouldn't compress down enough for a snug fit of pack to back. The Maya 20 would be a safer bet, if you could live with 4lt less space. Currently we don't have any stock as we're waiting for the next delivery but it should arrive soon.
geprigMarch 3, 2017 at 3:44pmI've been run commuting for years and I recommend it wholeheartedly. Coming to work along the Regents Canal in the spring is one of life's great pleasures. I currently use the OMM 15l bag and I think it is the best bag I have ever used. Reply
Shankara SmithMarch 3, 2017 at 7:21pmHi Geprig, bit jealous that your commute route takes you along the Regents Canal, I've made special trips to run that route and it's gorgeous! Thanks for your feedback on the OMM 15lt, it's certainly a popular choice with customers. Reply
HarrietNovember 20, 2016 at 10:48pmVideo was so helpful, Shankara. Thank you so much! I'm petite so your advice on which bags to avoid due to length was particularly useful!! Reply
Shankara SmithNovember 21, 2016 at 11:36amHi Harriet,
Great, I hope you get a backpack that works perfectly for you.
CamiAugust 30, 2016 at 9:52pmThank you! Most helpful article/ video I've come across so far. Reply
Shankara SmithAugust 31, 2016 at 1:18pmHi Cami,
Great, I'm glad this was helpful.
FAQOctober 16, 2020 at 7:58pmWhere is this video? I can’t find it on the page here, but sounds like it would be useful! I’m also 5’3, and keep ending up with bags that run against my neck when I run (which I’m blaming on the fit of the bag), so advice on how to avoid this would be great! Reply
Shankara SmithOctober 17, 2020 at 12:19pm
Hi, We took down the video because the packs featured in it have been replaced. However, the written information on this post is up to date and if you click on the Gregory packs at the bottom of the post, they will take you to the product page where there is a short video showing the backpack in detail (I reckon these packs will fit you the best). The OMM packs also have videos. Hopefully that’ll help indicate the pack that will be right for you but if you’re still in doubt do comment again and I’ll be happy to help.Reply
Adrienne ScottMay 3, 2016 at 7:10pmI love the reviews you've shared and all the comments and your responses. I'm still torn between the Maya 10L and 16L. When I run with a backpack I carry clothes that can fold up quite small and sometimes have a couple of containers with food/snacks and a water bottle. Rarely do I need shoes, sometimes I may have an iPad. I'm not near a store which carries these bags and I'm worried about too much bulk. Im leaning towards the Maya 10L. What do you think?? Reply
Shankara SmithMay 4, 2016 at 9:03amHi Adrienne,
I reckon the 10L will work fine for you. On the days that you end up carrying shoes you can always protect them in a plastic bag and then secure them in the outer pouch which pulls over the bag with the help of a bungee cord. This area is designed to fit a bike helmet so there's enough space for shoes even though it won't pack perfectly. For the odd occasion I don't think it's going to be a problem.
AliApril 13, 2016 at 7:40pmHey great video thanks,
Helpful to have a women's point of view too Reply
Shankara SmithApril 14, 2016 at 3:04pmHi Ali,
Glad you liked it and thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.
Irma SandovalMarch 29, 2016 at 8:07pmHi,
I'm in Canada and recently started looking for a running backpack for commuting home from work. Your video and explanations on the different types of backpacks was excellent and I now own a Gregory Maya 16 which I'll be using for the first time this evening.
ShankaraMarch 30, 2016 at 9:55amHi Irma,
Wonderful, I'm sure you'll have a great time with the Gregory.
AlisonNovember 17, 2015 at 6:18pmThank you for all the information! I am planning to start run commuting and think I'm going to go with the Gregory Maya pack. I am having a hard time deciding on size. I'll be carrying shoes (boots on some days in the winter), change of clothes, small toiletry/makeup bag, lunch, and a towel for the shower once I get to work. I can save some space if I get a tech towel that is thinner/less bulky, but the other items are pretty much essential for work. Would you recommend the larger, 22L, size? And if so, how is running with the 22L? I'm hoping to order online as these aren't available in stores nearby. I don't have a problem exchanging once ordered, but would like to skip that if possible, with your help.
Thank you! Reply
Shankara SmithNovember 18, 2015 at 5:31pmHi Alison,
I've just tried packing a pair of boots (size 6) into my 16lt Maya and there's still plenty of room for clothing, etc. So I don't think you'll need the 22lt. If you occasionally find the space too limited you can use the front pocket which has stretchy sides and is designed to store a helmet. I often use that for bulky items. It makes it a little less aerodynamic as the bulk extends away from your back but I don't think you'd need to use it too frequently.
If you were to go with the 22lt you could use the compression side straps to pull it close to your body when the contents are less bulky. I don't think you'll notice a negative impact running with the 22lt as opposed to the 16lt. The main irritation is caused by the weight of the pack and that depends on the contents. That said I think it's bigger than you need.
If you're unsure you can always order both sizes and return the one that you don't need.
TamzinJuly 28, 2015 at 8:09pmHello,
Great reviews, thank you. Do you know if an 11 inch macbookair would fit in the 10L? My wardrobe is now paired down to what can be carried (think ballet flats and lightweight clothes), so really, if the laptop fits I;d rather not get the larger size for comfort reasons!
Thank you! Reply
Shankara SmithJuly 29, 2015 at 3:30pmHi Tamzin,
You'll fit your Macbook in the 10 lt without much trouble. There's not a great amount of padding on that pack, so you'll be a bit aware of what you're carrying but as long as you pack clever with your other bits then it should work fine.
JessicaJune 4, 2015 at 8:04amHi, do you have the different sizes of the Maya to try on in your London shop? Thanks Reply
Shankara SmithJune 4, 2015 at 12:51pmHi Jessica,
Yes, we stock the full range in our London branch, so do pop by and see what suits.
RebeccaOctober 16, 2014 at 11:59amHi Shankara,
Thanks for the really helpful video. I was wondering what is the size of the last backpack featured in the video? My current backpack rubs the sides of my neck when I run and the straps of the gregory backpacks look as if they are more widely spaced. Reply
Shankara SmithOctober 17, 2014 at 12:13pm
The red-ish backpack is the Gregory Maya 16 litre. They've updated the look of the bag since I recorded this clip but the functionality remains very similar. This size will fit clothing and shoes, though it will be a bit tight. There's also the 22 litre version that carries masses. It's a common complaint from women that other backpacks cut into their neck, the Gregory's Female specific designs really do sort this problem out and are very comfortable.
All the best
BaniSeptember 15, 2014 at 5:20pmThank you for this! Is the Gregory backpack on your back in the photo the pink one in the range? And is it the 10ml size? It's a lovely colour and looks incredibly comfortable. Reply
Shankara SmithSeptember 16, 2014 at 9:35amHi Bani,
The one in the photograph is the 16 Litre Maya, the 10 litre version is a little shorter and narrower plus a fair bit shallower, it still sits on the back really nicely, just like the bigger version, but is even more comfortable as there's not as much bulk. If you just need space for a bit of clothing (nothing bulky) and a few personal effects the 10 litre is perfect.
As for the colour, well I need to update this photo! It actually shows the previous version Maya that Gregory has now updated with a few great additions (like secure side stash pockets) and the pink colour is a fraction brighter than that pictured which was a bit redder.
Hope this helps :-)
GeorginaAugust 1, 2014 at 8:22amReally helpful, thank you!!! Reply
Shankara SmithAugust 1, 2014 at 10:11amFabulous, glad you found it useful. Reply
nickAugust 6, 2013 at 7:28pmgreat video and guide on the subject. i was overthinking it a bit, and not using the right terms while on the web looking it up. you are well spoken and well organized, thanks for getting me on track Reply
Shankara SmithAugust 7, 2013 at 10:11amHi,
Wow, thanks! It's so easy to get confused when there's loads of choice, so it's great if we can help clear things up a bit for our customers.