When Should I Get A Running Pack?

Guides Dec 24, 2020

I have been running with a Salmon Adv Skin 5 Pack for 6 months now and it is game changing for me, so much so I've recently upgraded to the 12 litre version for longer runs.

However one question when starting out is; at exactly what point should you be considering investing in a running pack?

In this article we'll go through some of the reasons and indicators of when to start looking at getting a pack.

So Much Fuel

You tend to need between 30 and 60g of carbohydrates per hour after the first ~45mins of running (sources: Runner World, BBC), along with hydration & electrolytes to replace your salts lost through sweat, which tends to be 500ml of fluid every hour.

When running 5 to 15k you can usually get away with either refuelling when you get back home or bringing along a single water bottle, so at this level you won't really need a pack.

However for a 20km run you're then looking at taking 2x 500ml bottles along with a set of gels / bars / chews / whatever you are using to get to 30-60g carbs (For me I use a powder in my drink that gives me 30g carbs so need another 1-2 gels and hour).  As you put in more mileage the amount of fuel you need to carry gets greater and greater.

On top of that you may want to bring extra layers if it is cold, an emergency blanket if you are running somewhere off the beaten track, a headtorch if its dark etc etc.  I also tend to drive places for the long run, so need secure storage for car keys, not to mention my phone!

Stick It In A Backpack?

The Salomon Trailblazer 10 Backpack

This is what I did for the first few months of long runs, took a lightweight backpack and threw everything in there.  I had a Salomon Trailblazer 10 that did me solid, you could tie it down across your body well and it weighed next to nothing.

There are 3 main issues with backpacks though:

  1. They move around your back; even with a pack you can secure there's always a bit more motion when running.  Your gear inside will bump around, the should straps will shift about and generally you'll end up with soreness after some longer runs
  2. They are harder to access; having to stop every time you want to pull a drink or snack out can slow your pace down
  3. Weight distribution; the weight of everything you are carrying it going to be on your back and shoulders, rather than split between pockets around your body

Enter the Running Pack

The Salomon Adv Skin 5 Pack

Having had a few problems with backpacks, especially as the distance got greater, I transitioned to a running pack.  These are more like vests, and contain pockets all over, space for water bottles and hydration packs, along with extra tight storage on your back.

From personal experience I found packs most useful for half marathons (20K+) upwards, where you'll need to be carrying enough fuel that it would be uncomfortable in a backpack, and too much to carry in your hands / a running belt.

The main advantages then are:

  1. Designed from the start for running; vests hug your body tightly with adjustable straps to keep everything snug and movement free
  2. Lightweight; you'll forget you're wearing it after adjusting it
  3. It helps evenly distribute the weight across your chest, with pockets all over and space to store water on the front and back
  4. Water and gels are easily accessible through front facing storage
  5. Still able to carry extra layers, water bottles and fuel in the back pouches

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Luke Merrett

Ex smoker and couch potato turned manic trail runner, wannabe ultra runner & proud Dad