The Right Backpack for Running to Commute.

Kyle and her back pack
Me and my "weird little green backpack" are inseparable.

Often when I’m riding the Subway to and from work I feel like it’s a waste of time.  Sure, I can bring a book, listen to a podcast, jam out to some tunes or do a crossword puzzle, but honestly I’d rather be running!  I waited for a long time to commute because I generally have to bring some stuff back and forth with me, as many of us do, but I didn’t have an appropriate bag to carry while running.

Most backpacks out there are made with a larger fit for a man’s body which makes them too loose for running and often too big in capacity.  Hydration packs are made tight for running but they’re too small to carry all the stuff I need for work.  But don’t worry, Goldilocks–I’ve got a great suggestion for you to find a bag that’s just right!

For me, the solution finally came at REI where I had found some women’s packs.  I’m not a tiny runner or anything but I still found them too big for my body.  For hiking they’d be great, but for running I want a much more snug fit.  Additionally they were pretty expensive – between $130 and $200!  On the plus side I figured out I wanted something in the neighborhood of 15 liters and thought maybe I could search for that size online.  Then, as I was walking away I saw a sign–literally, a sign!

It said KID’S PACKS!

There were only three options in the store but the best one for my needs was the Osprey Jet Daypack, available in Cherry Shake and Lime Squeeze – I loved them both, but settled on the Lime. The big bonus was the pricetag, $50!  The 18 liter REI Tarn Pack ($40) is pretty close too, but the other kid-sized pack the store carried didn’t have a hip belt.

Here’s some stuff to look for if you’re choosing a pack to run with:

Capacity: My pack is 17 liters, perfect to hold all my raingear plus my laptop if necessary and still have room for extras, or for club runs or race days to hold extra shoes, a change of clothes and even my jacket.

The right bag will hold all the stuff you need and still have great water bottle access.

Weight: At 1 pound, 1 oz, so I never feel like the pack is too heavy – my laptop weighs it down quite a bit but it’s still reasonably comfortable.

Chest Fit:The chest strap is adjustable in height, so it lies across the top of my chest just right.

Adjustable height straps keep my boobs from getting squished.

Hip/Waist Fit:The kid-sized height of my pack makes the hip belt ideal to wrap around my waist.  As a result, I can secure the pack as tight as necessary to strap in all my stuff and minimize bouncing.

A great running pack will fit snugly around the waist or hips. For curvy ladies like me a high fit is more secure.

Ventilation: The one place my backpack falls a little short is that my back gets pretty hot when I run.  I have considered sewing a small bolster onto the lower part of the bag but the problem isn’t unbearable.


One additional suggestion is that you purchase a rain cover.  I looked around online and found that Osprey makes an extra-small cover sized perfectly for my pack, but a quick trip to Tent and Trails (New York City’s best kept secret for outdoor gear) and I found a little Sea-to-Summit cover that works just fine and was half the price.  It stashes in its own teensy little pouch and comes in very handy during unexpected showers!

No, I don't run on my roof.  But I do model backpacks there.

Do you run with a bag?  What kind?  What features would the perfect running pack include?


Cinnamon made Salty Running, takes lots of pictures and drinks lots of coffee. By day she's a camera assistant for films and tv in New York, and by night she's on a quest for zen in the 10k. Her writing is a mix of satirical humor, finding wholeness as an average runner, cheering for runners at all paces and more.

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  1. Running to work – so hardcore! I love it! My boyfriend did that for a couple weeks when he was in between cars and I think all our friends thought he was a little nuts… I maybe even thought that ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. How neat! I’ll have to try this sometime! I think this article/topic is a first of its kind ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. This is great! I’ve been running to work a couple times a week now, leaving my clothes and lunch there, but I need to find a bag for days when I decide at the last minute, or if there’s just something I need to have with me. I looked at both the packs you suggested and giggled a bit at the suggested ages (5-10 and 8-12, respectively). But you didn’t have any problem with straps/belts being too short?

  4. I almost got the Cherry Shake yesterday, but I was exchanging the $100 Gregory Maya16, which is $50 more expensive. I decided to try the Osprey Tempest 20 first and if that didn’t work, I’d go to the Cherry Shake.

    The problem is that I don’t want to go down in price only to have to go back up again. I’m already in for the C-note. To go down to half would be great. But then to have to go back up would be to make that decision all over again!