testing the best running backpack with vest harness above a teal alpine lake

Lightweight, Full-Size Running Vest Backpack Hybrids

Securely store a full day’s worth of gear, layers, hydration, and food by wearing a vest harness trail running backpack that minimizes bounce-and-sway. Our preferred assortment exists at the intersection of daypacks and running vests, offering a locked-in torso fit without sacrificing capacity, comfort, or functionality. 

Running Backpack Characteristics

  • Secure vest harness fit
  • 10-25L main compartment capacity
  • Plentiful external storage, front-mounted bottle pockets

A running backpack is not strictly for runners! They’re also perfect for long distance speed hikers and peak baggers on self-supported, fast-moving, all-day adventures that require a full backcountry kit, multiple layers, and a day’s worth of food. If you transition between jogging flats and hiking steeps, a running backpack may be for you!

This selection of running packs represents our current preferences on a rapidly growing, relatively new genre of gear. Many of these packs we’ve used and recommend, while others were selected based on word-of-mouth, meta-study, user-review, and/or familiarity with brands and similar models. We will continue testing this year and update accordingly. If you have experience with a running pack in this guide, please let us know in the comments!

While you’re here, consider more options in our guide to multi-day fastpacks, backpacking packs, ultralight daypacks, expedition backpacks, and EDC backpacks.

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Best Running Backpack Comparison Table

Model Price ($) Weight (oz) Fit Primary Material Main Compartment Volume (L)
Salomon Adv Skin 12 165 9.7 True Vest Polyamide 12*
Arcteryx Norvan 14 190 14.9 True Vest Ripstop Nylon 14*
Black Diamond Pursuit 15 150 25.0 Pack w/ Vest Ripstop Nylon 15*
Nashville Tiempo 15 305 14.5 Pack w/ Vest UltraGrid 17
Ultimate Direction Fastpack/Her 20 150 18.4 Pack w/ Vest Polyester 23
Black Diamond Distance 22 200 14.5 True Vest Ripstop Nylon 22*
Outdoor Vitals Skyline 30 200 20.6 Pack w/ Vest Robic Nylon 23
Six Moon Flight 30 225 31.0 Pack w/ Vest Robic Nylon 27
  • * Specific volume information not provided by manufacturer; number from model name used instead
Salomon Adv Skin 12

Salomon Adv Skin 12

The Salomon Adv Skin 12 is a true running vest with a full torso wrap and enlarged rear compartment. It is the lightest, fastest, sleekest running backpack in our lineup thanks to its low volume and secure fit. A great choice for runners when minimal gear is required.

  • Price: $165
  • Fit: Vest with rear compartment
  • Volume: 12L
  • Weight: 9.7 oz
  • Material: Polyamide
  • Pros: Ultralight. Ultra secure. Very highly rated.
  • Cons: Less durability.
Arc'teryx Norvan 14 running backpack

Arc’teryx Norvan 14

The Arc’Teryx Norvan 14 is another true running vest with a wide torso wrap to which a small rear compartment is attached. It is very similar to the Salomon Adv Skin series, only slightly larger, heavier, and more durable thanks to the Cordura ripstop nylon.

  • Price: $190
  • Fit: Vest with rear compartment
  • Volume: 14L
  • Weight: 14.9 oz
  • Material: Ripstop Nylon
  • Pros: Durable fabrics. Ultralight. Very Secure.
  • Cons: Expensive for a vest.
Black Diamond Pursuit 15

Black Diamond Pursuit 15

The Black Diamond Pursuit 15 is an interesting running backpack with a unique “wing-body construction”. In addition to the vest harness straps, it features the widest hip belt of any pack we’ve ever tested, though a missed opportunity to not give it pockets.

  • Price: $150
  • Fit: Pack with Vest Harness
  • Volume: 15L
  • Weight: 25.0 oz
  • Material: Ripstop Nylon
  • Pros: Good value. 100% recycled. Rear mesh pocket. Most secure hip belt.
  • Cons: Heavy relative to size. Hip belt lacks pockets. Narrow front bottle pocket.
Nashville Packs Tiempo 15

Nashville Tiempo 15

The Nashville Tiempo 15 is our favorite ultralight Cottage Industry running backpack. This roll-top design features a continuous exterior pocket and bottom pocket, in addition to vest harness straps decked out in storage. We also love their larger Cutaway series for more gear-intensive adventures and fastpacking

  • Price: $305
  • Fit: Pack with Vest Harness
  • Volume: 17L with extension collar
  • Weight: 14.5 oz
  • Material: UltraGrid
  • Pros: Ultralight. Nice vest straps.
  • Cons: Expensive. Floppy while loading.

Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20

Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20

The Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20 and W’s Fastpackher 20 are some of the original running backpack designs, and helped to popularize the vest harness style. They come with a roll-top closure and lots of rear/side mesh storage capacity. The padded back panel blocks lumps and increases comfort, but does get a bit sweaty. This is a full size daypack, as such, you have to actually fill the volume or it will feel sloppy to run in.

  • Price: $150
  • Fit: Pack with Vest Harness
  • Volume: 23L
  • Weight: 18.4 oz
  • Material: Polyester
  • Pros: Lightweight. Affordable. Exterior pockets
  • Cons: Nylon webbing hip belt. High volume must be filled or it gets sloppy.
Black Diamond Distance 22

Black Diamond Distance 22

The Black Diamond Distance 22 is one of, if not the highest volume true vest running backpack. It does not have a hip belt, rather a large, wide, torso contouring suspension vest harness with built-in pockets. The 22L model stands out within the Distance series for having a rear mesh compartment, which is hyper useful for whipping out a shell when the weather picks up. Conversely, the 15L model has a more universal size but no external mesh pockets. Not sure why…

  • Price: $200
  • Fit: Vest with rear compartment
  • Volume: 22L
  • Weight: 14.5 oz
  • Material: Ripstop Nylon
  • Pros: Rear mesh pocket. Largest true vest.
  • Cons: Higher volume must be filled or it gets sloppy. Narrow front bottle pocket.
Outdoor Vitals Skyline 30 running backpack

Outdoor Vitals Skyline 30

We’ve had great experiences with the Outdoor Vitals Skyline 30, a full size vest harness running backpack. This design features a roll-top closure and offers more than the traditional amount of external mesh storage pocket, thanks to the addition of the bottom pocket. It’s big enough to flex into fastpacking, but better suited to long distance day trips.

  • Price: $200
  • Fit: Pack with Vest Harness
  • Volume: 23L main, 3L exterior
  • Weight: 20.6 oz
  • Material: Robic Nylon
  • Pros: Great external pockets. Padded back panel. Lightweight.
  • Cons: Higher volume must be filled or it gets sloppy. Nylon webbing hip belt.
Six Moon Designs Flight 30

Six Moon Flight 30

The Six Moon Designs Flight 30 is our pick for running backpack with the most secure fit, discounting the smaller true vest designs. This is thanks to the full size hip belt, which includes snack pockets, and adjustable torso length vest harness fit. Flight 30’s main compartment is a 27L, full size roll top design, and like the OV Skyline, flexes the size range between daypack and overnight fastpack. The adjustable torso all but guarantees a proper fit. We ding it slightly for being heavy and not having a front mesh panel pocket.

  • Price: $225
  • Fit: Pack with Vest Harness
  • Volume: 23L main, 4L extension collar, 4L exterior pockets
  • Weight: 31.0 oz
  • Material: Robic Nylon
  • Pros: Very secure fit. Wide functional, pocketed hip belt. Adjustable torso fit.
  • Cons: Heavy. Expensive. Higher volume must be filled or it gets sloppy.
using a nashville packs running backpack

How To Choose a Running Backpack

True Running Vest vs Running Backpack with vest harness

How much time you will be spending actually running vs speed walking is the best way to determine whether you should choose a true vest running backpack vs a backpack with a vest harness. The former is more secure, but the latter is comfier and can accommodate larger volume capacities.

Most often, the difference between these two is noted by the way in which a true vest sits higher, lacks a hip belt, and features an extra-wide side-torso-wrapping fit. Conversely, a running backpack has a vest harness connected to the main body with adjustable nylon webbing straps, usually sits a bit lower, may have more back panel padding, larger volume, more exterior pockets, and includes a hip belt of some kind.

Volume and gear storage capacity

For most people on most fair weather day trips, the 10-20L sweet spot is ideal. However, if you are expecting to pack multiple layers including something puffy, or want a pack capable of flexing into overnight use with a minimalist shelter, choose something in the 20-30L range.

wearing a running backpack

Best Running Backpack Conclusion

Thank you for reading our guide, where we hope you found your new best running backpack. While this style of pack won’t replace the traditional daypack for most adventures, or be used more often than a sub-10L vest for daily runs, it is a nice item to have in your quiver for a specific type of adventure. Those which are fast, lightweight, long distance, and self-supported. Happy trails!

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