When considering using a running pack for the purpose of carrying food, fluids and/or extra gear you have two main types to choose from – backpacks and waist packs. Both have their uses and benefits. It really comes down to what you need the pack to do for you.
The Running Backpack
Backpacks are great for the long haul. They are the largest kind of pack you can wear and still run with complete freedom of movement. Most are equipped with adjustable shoulder straps for a tight fit, and a waist strap to keep the backpack secure and stable. The waist strap also keeps the weight of the pack evenly distributed, which helps to prevent injury to the lower back or shoulders.
You can carry a lot in a backpack. For example, you can bring water, gels, and food as well as extra shoes and socks, rain gear, bug spray and anything else your imagination can come up with. One of the most enjoyable aspects of running is to be able to “get away” from civilization and experience the freedom of being self-sustaining. A backpack maximizes your ability to do this so that your only limit is your ability to run.
Backpacks don’t all come in the same size, either. There are lightweight packs, designed to hold just a few items but allow you to move easily without being weighed down. Large packs may slow you down a bit, especially if you load them up with heavy gear. However, you will be able to travel further, possibly even for multiple days – if you should choose to do so.
A hydration backpack is a great way to transport fluids on the run. It usually holds more liquid than a waist pack, and the fluid is drinkable from a “straw” that you can get to your mouth while running. It is very convenient and keeps your hands free at all times.
Running Waist Packs
On the other hand, a running waist pack is great if you don’t need to carry a lot of stuff. It is easier to put on and take off than a backpack, weighs less and is less likely to put strain on your back, neck or shoulders. The waist pack is a particularly good choice in warmer months when you probably don’t need to carry a lot of extra gear. Backpacks tend to act as another layer of clothing, holding in heat, which might be undesirable in hotter weather.
A waist pack also has the benefit of convenience. It is easy to get food, fluid, or a pair of sunglasses out of your waist pack. You can probably manage it without even having to slow down. Backpacks, being attached to your back, are not as accessible. You will probably need to stop to get whatever it is you need, even if the thing you need is a water bottle on the outside of the pack.
A hydration waist pack usually consists of three to five bottles attached to a belt, like a utility belt. The advantage here is that you can bring different kinds of fluid in each bottle. Also, it is easy to refill bottles at a drinking fountain mid-run.