Best Backpacks for Running to Work

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 that simple and 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 – if you're running to work with stuff on your back let's make sure you're as comfortable as possible.

Best Running Backpacks for Small Loads

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 10lt pack will suffice.

The OMM Last Drop 10L 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 rather than into 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, not padded but as the pack is small it's unlikely that it'll be heavy enough for this to be an issue. 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's also side stash pockets for water bottles – they fit the OMM Bottle best. You could also consider the 8L version, which is almost the same but a little smaller.

The Salomon Trail 10 is a good commuting backpack too, plus it comes in some nice colours (okay, not a technical thing but if you like the look of it you can be more inspired :-)) Like the OMM, there’s space for bottles in the side mesh compartments and you can add up to a 2lt bladder. There’s one main compartment and the ripstop material keeps it light but durable. The only thing it’s lacking next to the OMM is a whistle.

The Gregory Maya 10 is a great option for women. You can read more bout the Gregory women’s specific backpacks at the bottom of this page. The Maya 10 offers a good number of pockets so you can access things quickly, great comfort and durability. I’ve had mine for years, washed it a fair amount and it’s still going strong.

The Gregory Miwok 12 gives you that little bit more room.

Best Running Backpacks for Lots of Stuff

OMM 15lt Running BackpackIf you've got a bit more to carry - shoes / laptop / books / bulky jumper - then you want to look at either the OMM Ultra 15L (pictured top and right) or the Gregory Miwok 18L. The 15L will carry a pair of shoes but it'll be a bit snug. If you've really got stacks to carry there's the Gregory Miwok 24L

If you're carrying heavy items like laptops or books then we really recommend the Miwok, don't be put off by the 24L capacity, there are compression straps so you can reduce the volume to fit the contents, and the padding on the back and shoulder straps is brilliant and very comfortable. The Miwok also has a stack of pockets and compartments, so you'll always be able to find things quickly, there's even a expandable mesh compartment for a bike helmet! I've used the women's version - Maya 16L - with my laptop and it's far more comfortable than anything else I've tried, a lot of thought has gone into comfort: side strap fastening for less bulk, tidy loops for hanging straps, sits high on the back to prevent clothing riding up.

The OMM 15L has the same features as the 10L but is a bit longer, with hip pockets, slightly padded shoulder straps and a handy top zip pocket for keys, etc, same lightweight design.

Best Running Backpacks for Women

Gregory Navarino Women's Running BackpackGregory design women-specific packs that are far and away the most comfortable – at least in my experience! They sit properly on the shoulders, no digging in round the back of your neck, or too much gaping at the top of the pack. All the straps pull tight enough to fit the slightest frame, and they sit high enough on the back so that even if you're petite in height they won't rub on your hips. The back is padded as are the straps, and there are lots of handy internal pockets and compartments.

There are three sizes. We find the Maya 10L is the most popular, it will hold clothing and the contents of your handbag but you could struggle with shoes. If they are flats you can fit them in the side mesh pockets as long as you don’t need to put bottles there – I do that a lot. Heels can work in the helmet space which is the front part of the pack and expands out quite a bit as it’s designed to hold a helmet but you may have to stuff them with paper to prevent the toe area from being crumpled. You’ve got hip pockets to hold phone, keys, etc. There are two main compartments to the bag, one fairly shallow and the other that is designed to take the bulk of the contents.

The Maya 16L will fit a laptop and has plenty of space, plus the front half pocket has side zips to expand capacity. I use that for carrying shopping but it will fit a bike helmet. If you're carrying less on some days the side compression straps ensure the pack is still neat and contents secure. There's even a Maya 22L pack if you need the extra space.

OMM backpacks are also pretty good for women. The Salomon work well too but don’t have the level of padding which generally equals comfort as Gregory.

Have your say

Everyone has a different experience, so we'd love to hear what you think. What's been your best running backpack? Let us know in the comments below...

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  • nickAugust 6, 2013 at 7:28pm
    great 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 10:11am

      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.

      Shankara Reply
  • GeorginaAugust 1, 2014 at 8:22am
    Really helpful, thank you!!! Reply
    • Shankara SmithAugust 1, 2014 at 10:11am
      Fabulous, glad you found it useful. Reply
  • BaniSeptember 15, 2014 at 5:20pm
    Thank 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 9:35am
      Hi 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 :-)

      Shankara Reply
  • RebeccaOctober 16, 2014 at 11:59am
    Hi 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
      Hi Rebecca,

      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

      Shankara Reply
  • JessicaJune 4, 2015 at 8:04am
    Hi, do you have the different sizes of the Maya to try on in your London shop? Thanks Reply
    • Shankara SmithJune 4, 2015 at 12:51pm
      Hi Jessica,

      Yes, we stock the full range in our London branch, so do pop by and see what suits.

      Shankara Reply
  • TamzinJuly 28, 2015 at 8:09pm

    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 3:30pm
      Hi 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.

      Shankara Reply
  • AlisonNovember 17, 2015 at 6:18pm
    Thank 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 5:31pm
      Hi 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.

  • Irma SandovalMarch 29, 2016 at 8:07pm

    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 9:55am
      Hi Irma,

      Wonderful, I'm sure you'll have a great time with the Gregory.


      Shankara Reply
  • AliApril 13, 2016 at 7:40pm
    Hey great video thanks,

    Helpful to have a women's point of view too Reply
    • Shankara SmithApril 14, 2016 at 3:04pm
      Hi Ali,

      Glad you liked it and thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Shankara Reply
  • Adrienne ScottMay 3, 2016 at 7:10pm
    I 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 9:03am
      Hi 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.


      Shankara Reply
  • CamiAugust 30, 2016 at 9:52pm
    Thank you! Most helpful article/ video I've come across so far. Reply
    • Shankara SmithAugust 31, 2016 at 1:18pm
      Hi Cami,

      Great, I'm glad this was helpful.

      Shankara Reply
  • HarrietNovember 20, 2016 at 10:48pm
    Video 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 11:36am
      Hi Harriet,
      Great, I hope you get a backpack that works perfectly for you.
      Shankara Reply
  • geprigMarch 3, 2017 at 3:44pm
    I'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 7:21pm
      Hi 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
  • XavMarch 18, 2017 at 6:53am

    Wondering if miwok 24 gonna be too big/long for 160cm female?

    Thank you. Reply
    • Shankara SmithMarch 18, 2017 at 1:28pm
      Hi 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.
  • LouiseNovember 20, 2017 at 3:29am

    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

      Hi Louise,

      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


  • HugoAugust 24, 2018 at 6:14am
    Excellent video. Thank you very much for all that information. Reply
    • Shankara SmithAugust 25, 2018 at 8:42pm
      Hi Hugo,

      Thanks for your comment, glad our post has been useful:-)

      Shankara Reply
  • natalia guryevaSeptember 17, 2018 at 1:28pm
    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

      Hi Natalia,

      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.


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