The best running backpacks 2024: for everything you need on the move

The best running backpacks are designed for adventure races and long speed hikes in the mountains. They occupy the blurred middle ground between a trail runner's hydration vest and a hiker's daypack, with many of the excellent packs featured in this guide more closely resembling the latter.

With capacities ranging from 7 to 32 liters, these packs are designed to carry a substantial amount of kit, more than just your emergency waterproof jacket, a whistle, water and some energy gels. These are packs for adventurers who expect to be out in the mountains all day and many work perfectly as hiker's packs too. We tested them on long runs and hikes in the backcountry.

As with the best hiking backpacks, these running packs are designed to give you stability and balance, as well as handy, on-the-go storage features. Hydration bladder compatibility comes as standard, with some even having a reservoir bundled in as part of the package.

For packs that work for adventure races and as hiking daypacks, we love both the Exped Impulse 30L and the Montane Azote 32. For smaller packs that are more suited to continuous running, we highly recommend Nathan's Trail-Mix 7L and Cambelbak's Octane 18.

Meet the expert

You can trust Advnture Our expert reviewers spend days testing and comparing gear so you know how it will perform out in the real world. Find out more about how we test and compare products.

best running backpacks: Casey Blaine
Casey Blaine

Casey loves anything involving running, particularly if it also involves her beloved mountains. She's adventured around the world, from the Indian Himalayas to the DMZ in Korea. Based in Colorado, she's steadily working her way through the 14ers and is an expert when it comes to testing running gear.

The quick list

This is the quick list, a snapshot of the best running backpacks available in 2024. To delve deeper into the features and qualities of each featured pack, see our more detailed reviews further down the page in this guide.

The best running backpacks 2024

The best running backpack overall

Exped Impulse 30 running backpack on white background

A versatile, well-considered daypack with plenty of storage and features to take you from the hills into more technical terrain (Image credit: Exped)

1. Exped Impulse 30L

The best running backpack overall

Specifications

Weight (empty): 978g / 2.1lb
Hydration capacity: 30L (tested)
Other variations available: 20L
Harness sizes: One size
Compatibility: Daywalks in all conditions and across all sorts of terrain
Colors: Navy / Black

Reasons to buy

+
Tough
+
Versatile
+
Sustainably made
+
Plenty of pockets

Reasons to avoid

-
Sizes slightly small, internal capacity a little less than 30L
-
Only one harness size (although it’s very adaptable)

The Exped Impulse 30 backpack is a tough backpack and one that we think is a highly versatile beast. Made from a durable 210 Denier material, this daypack was able withstand the toughest abrasion when scrambling through the mountains, but it was equally at home when we were out and about on the hills, thanks to its versatile system. There are a number of adaptable features, from a removable back plate, to detachable hip belts for those who prefer to keep their adventures fast and light. There are several well-considered technical features, from an inside mesh pocket to zipped pockets on the hip fins.

The internal mesh pouch is for holding a hydration bladder. In addition, two mesh side pockets made it easy for us to stow away everything from drinks bottles to trekking poles, making it the perfect practical pack for a multitude of activities. 

What’s more, the pack has some of the greenest credentials of those on test, with the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification, meaning every component has been checked to make sure the materials are not harmful to human health, while also being certified as PFC-free. For those who want a backpack that can adapt to a range of mountainous and hill activities – we think this pack is perfect. 

The best running backpack for simplicity

Montane Azote 32 running backpack

An unfussy but extremely capable pack for single-day adventures in all sorts of terrain (Image credit: Montane)

2. Montane Azote 32

The best running backpack for simplicity

Specifications

Weight (empty): 925g / 33oz
Hydration capacity: 32L
Variations available: 24L (women’s) / 25L / 30L (women’s) / 32L
Harness sizes: Male / Female
Compatibility: Daywalks in all conditions and across all sorts of terrain
Colors: Black / Astro Blue (men’s) / Wakame Green (women’s)

Reasons to buy

+
Recycled materials used
+
Simple, effective design
+
Well featured and versatile
+
Lifetime guarantee

Reasons to avoid

-
No rain cover
-
Only available in dark colors

The Montane Azote 32 is brilliantly designed and was able to deliver everything we needed for everyday escapades, as well as some extra capability for peak-grabbing adventures (including a pole and axe attachment), but with a clean look and more minimalist finish.

The main harness is constructed with breathable mesh, with a foam frame behind it to minimize contact with the lower back, which significantly reduced sweating on test. The pack’s adjustable sternum strap has a Click-and-Go system, which we were able to operate with one hand. When we needed to stash wet gear, or keep a sheet map/extra layer handy, the large, mesh sleeve pocket on the front was invaluable. A pair of side pockets swallow water bottles (cleverly placed at an angle, so you can actually reach them while wearing the pack, without dislocating your shoulder). In addition, there is a sleeve for taking a hydration bladder. 

Impressively, the Azote is mostly made from recycled fabric. The main section is constructed with RAPTOR Eco 100 denier Robic Nylon – 78 per cent recycled, which is both durable and lightweight. All in all, we love this simple and versatile pack.

The best small running backpack

Nathan Trail-Mix 7L running backpack

A nimble and wonderfully wearable little running pack (Image credit: Nathan)
The best small running backpack

Specifications

Weight (empty): 312g / 11oz
Hydration capacity: 2L hydration bladder (included)
Gear capacity: 7L
Colors: Sangria / Magenta Purple / Sky Blue

Reasons to buy

+
Nimble and agile
+
Gender-specific fit

Reasons to avoid

-
Hydration tube is extremely long and fiddly
-
Not much storage space

"Super-comfortable, airy, flexible, easy-wearing pack for a fun adventurous day on the trails," says our expert tester. We think this nimble, super-comfortable vest is a gem at a very good price. While space is limited as compared to others on this list, there’s sufficient storage for a day adventure’s requirements, such as raincoat or windbreaker, snacks and other essentials. We particularly liked the simple, convenient way that storage is arranged, with two deep, zippered pockets in the back plus three easy-to-access stretchy pockets up front for an easy-grab of your phone, gels or sunscreen.

Hydration is well-served by a 2L bladder, and a drinking tube secured up front with a sternum clip. If you’re not a bladder fan, you can sink an 18 oz bottle (not included) into a pocket up front. A gender-specific design helps dial in fit, but that said, our male and female testers both tested the male version, and found it could be quite easily adjusted to suit them both. However, if you’re a woman who’s either large-chested or more petite in stature, consider seeking out the female version for a more nuanced fit. 

Hikers and trail runners will appreciate the elastic holders for stowing poles. Overall, the Nathan Trail-Mix 7L is well-suited to trail running, day hiking and scrambling.

Read our full Nathan Trail Mix 7L review

The best value running backpack

best running backpacks: Camelbak Octane 18

A super tough running backpack that's also super lightweight (Image credit: Camelbak)
The best value running backpack

Specifications

Weight (empty): 398g / 14oz
Hydration capacity: 2L / 70 oz (reservoir included)
Gear capacity: 16L
Colors: Black / Bluefish

Reasons to buy

+
Easy-to-refill reservoir
+
Versatile design
+
Internal frame support
+
Copious amounts of storage

Reasons to avoid

-
Lack of durability
-
Not ideal for smaller women

We found that this roomy running backpack will comfortably and securely tote all the gear, hydration and snacks you need for several hours out. Though quite pliable and lightweight, it has some elements of a traditional backpack, offering some structure in back. While not a full-on internal frame, the lightly padded frame sheet makes packing, retrieving and refilling a bladder much easier than with flimsier packs, where considerable stuffing can be required.

The low weight combined with the structure and padding may also make this an option for backcountry snow sports, depending on gear, and its easy-to-wear design even led one tester to use the padded reservoir space for a laptop, making this an excellent commuter pack. Materials are tough and durable, and mostly non-abrasive, though wearing a T-shirt is going to work better than a tank top, where we noticed some chafing on exposed skin during a particularly long, hot walk. 

While the model is unisex, easy-sliding sternum straps and another set of adjustable straps at the hips dial in the fit. That said, if you’re petite or have a shorter torso, consider trying this one on before buying to ensure you can get the fit you want. Our expert tester said it was "well-suited for day hiking, hut-to-hut trips, backcountry snow sports and commuting."

Read our full Camelbak Octane 18 Hydration Pack review

The best running backpack for balance

Osprey Skarab 22 backpack on white background

A roomy pack for all-day trail adventures (Image credit: Osprey)
The best running backpack for balance

Specifications

Weight (empty): 662g / 1lb 7.4oz
Hydration capacity: 2.5L (reservoir included)
Gear capacity: 22L
Colors: Mystic Red / Deep Blue / Black

Reasons to buy

+
Highly adjustable
+
Excellent back panel and comfortable shoulder straps
+
Well-balanced load management

Reasons to avoid

-
No front or waistbelt pockets
-
Dual-entry side pockets lose contents

The Osprey Skarab 22 fuses modern style and materials with a classic rucksack design featuring an easy-access, wide-mouth, bucket-style storage area, a zippered slash pocket on top and two stretchy, open-air side pockets. Our tester took this pack up and down Mt Sheridan and Bear Peak in Boulder, finding it "to be a classic daypack for hiking with an effective hydration system that’s easy to refill and store."

It’s ideal for carrying just-what-you-need gear for multi-hour hiking adventures, whether that’s extra clothes, camera equipment or a picnic lunch. The adjustable strap system is highly effective in adapting to different hiker shapes, sizes and personal preferences. The dedicated hydration reservoir compartment keeps 2.5L of liquid securely stored, while elastic tube management loops on the pack’s front straps make drinking easily accessible on either side. 

One of the best aspects is the open-mesh, foam AirScape back panel that not only keeps sweat to a minimum, but it also provides insulation for the hydration reservoir. We appreciated the attachment loops for trekking poles on the back of the pack, but we would have loved easy-access waist-belt pockets that could allow retrieval of key items without having to take off the pack.

Read our full Osprey Skarab 22 daypack review