Trail running packs/solutions for dummies.
June 29, 2017 10:52 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a smallish but not SUPER tiny pack to take on 3-10 mile trail runs. What do you have and use that you love?

I have a couple small bike packs that are way too flappy to be useful and I probably need something more purpose-built. I am a short (5'2" on a tall day) and VERY hourglass-shaped woman and everything that starts on my hips seems to ends up around my waist and bunching/pulling my shirt up uncomfortably.

I need to store 1) dog leash and poop bags 2) sometimes an extra light/small top layer 3) bear spray in an outside pocket with no top that I can reach into and access immediately 4) phone/car keys. Water bottles or bladder are optional since I'm generally running not that far and am never running in temperatures above 75 F.

A flip belt-type thing can't hold the leash easily and I end up carrying the bear spray in my hand, which I hate. I can do it it in a fanny pack with water bottle holes for the bear spray and have been using that as the default, but that always ends up weird around my waist too and I'd really like a no-bounce backpack solution unless I am not thinking of something smarter.

Help! I am sure I am doing this wrong since I always end up just bracing my thumbs on the straps to keep my bike pack from flapping, which kinda sucks. Price is not a huge consideration. Enlighten me.
posted by charmedimsure to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I used to find that fanny packs would bounce or move around too much for comfort during long runs - my solution was to safety pin the belt to my shorts and that seemed to solve the problem for me. YMMV of course, but might be worth a go.
posted by crocomancer at 2:33 AM on June 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I love my OMM Last Drop 10 litre pack. I'm 5'4" and curvy and it sits quite high on my back - which I would expect to make my shoulders hurt - but it's actually really comfortable and doesn't move. I often end up running with it really full and it's still comfy (I did 9 miles in the hills the other week carrying a litre of fluids, a spare pair of running shoes, lots of food and a sweater, and it was fine!).

The only thing to note is that I do ideally need to wear a shirt with a collar, or at least a reasonably high neck, to stop it chafing my neck. But that's no biggie.

I think the most important thing is to try them on, though. There are so many different dimensions at play. I've often seen a pack I thought would be great and tried it on to find it gaping/moving/sagging in strange places. Also, when you try them on, put stuff in all the pockets and see how it is, and try it with short sleeves, etc. I had to abandon a nice INOV-8 pack because I didn't notice that the bag was so wide, the big bottle pockets on the side actually wrapped around the side of my body and chafed my arms when I wore short-sleeved tops.

I guess it might also be worth trying it with just a few items in and making sure they don't bounce around when the pack's less full.

The other option to search for if you're looking online, if you're not carrying too much, is an ultra vest (or trail vest or running vest or race vest). They're kind of somewhere between a garment and a bag - here's an example. Might be a good choice if it's the straps bouncing that irks you.
posted by penguin pie at 4:57 AM on June 30, 2017

Oh, and that example of a vest shows someone with bottles in the pockets on the front straps, but they're obviously optional. But you could put the bear spray in there and it'd be very much to hand. I've got a friend who's just bought one and she said even if she puts stuff in the front pockets, it feels like they're sitting at the sides out of the way, rather than right up in her front. She's not terribly bosomy though, so YMMV.
posted by penguin pie at 5:01 AM on June 30, 2017

The Buddy Pouch. It comes in several different sizes and attaches to your waistband with magnets.
posted by FencingGal at 5:54 AM on June 30, 2017

My favorite running backpack is a knockoff hydration pack without the bladder in it. It's small and cinches down well to reduce bounce.
posted by advicepig at 6:17 AM on June 30, 2017

I have a Camelbak Scout, which is a child's backpack with a spot for a water pouch. You can get it for under forty dollars and it's worked well for me for long hikes. It has a chest cinch. It might be too large for your requirements, but there could other children's bags that are cheaper and would fit you.
posted by tooloudinhere at 7:38 AM on June 30, 2017

Can you get a backpack/carrier for your dog to wear? If the dog is on leash you can have them carry most of your items, including bear spray. maybe buy one of those water bottles with the grip/pouch just to carry your keys safely. I was at REI this weekend and liked the feel of the Nathan bottles and I'm a 5'4 person with tiny hands.
posted by adorap0621 at 8:40 AM on June 30, 2017

Best answer: I think you want a vest-style running pack. I have the awkwardly-named Salomon S-Lab Adv skin 5 Set which I absolutely love. It fits like a t-shirt, and even when fully-loaded (water, food, thin jacket and a first-aid kit) it doesn't bounce at all. They also make larger and smaller packs, depending on how much you want to carry (but I'm amazed by how much I can stuff into my pack for how small it is).

There are a bunch of other companies that make similar packs -- Nathan, Ultimate Direction, Nike, Camelback -- so I'm sure you could find something that fits you well. Before I got the Salomon pack, I had a Nathan HPL 020 which I liked a lot. Also, I've heard from a few women runners that the Nathan VaporHowe fits really well, as its been specifically designed for women.
posted by jacobian at 8:52 AM on June 30, 2017

Response by poster: A pack for the dog would be a good idea in a different situation, but he is not on leash- this is normal where I live and run, although I always have one available just in case- and a pack for him gets gross/wet enough with him toodling around in the underbrush and messing around in puddles that it's not a great option for anything besides his leash (top would get wet, bear spray really does need to be immediately accessible). I really hate running with things in my hand regardless and I already have to keep the remote for his collar there so I can vibe him back as needed.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:57 AM on June 30, 2017

Best answer: I have a vest like the Salomon Adv Skin linked above, but it's a knock off available via amazon. It will definitely hold all that you need, but most importantly is really super comfortable. The side lower zipper pouches are easy to reach while wearing the vest and the back pouch held my 2L bladder along with some minimal first-aid stuff, and definitely had more room. It happily got me through a 50 mile trail run.

Since your needs are currently more minimal, there's like a $30-40 USD vest (search running hydration vest on amazon) that will work for you. However I tried one them, and the pouches on the front were rather minimal, and at most had one spot for a water bottle (think bear spray). Where the vest I have really worked was the lower side pockets are rather large (easily hold a phone), and are easy to reach while wearing them. On the cheaper vests, it's just a strap that connects the bottom of the back to the bottom of the front.

I've tried (and returned) an Osprie Talon belt - it had a large pouch in back which would have been good, and it felt like it would be good for hiking, but when running either it would fall down over my butt, or would bounce up off of my hips (even when tightened, *a lot*) which meant it was then tightened around my belly - not doing that for any distance.

Failing that, I also have a running backpack which also sits nicely, and has more cargo room, and was relatively cheap compared to my vest. But *nothing* can be reached while I wear it. Even the side mesh pouches, because they are behind my back I can't reach. Really, search for running hydration vest, and just skip buying/using the bladder if you don't want it. However, if you later start doing 10-30 mile trail runs, you'll be glad to have a bladder even if you might stop needing the leash (with weather over 10C I can't take my dog more than 20k, and at the current 20+c he's only good for about 5k).
posted by nobeagle at 11:34 AM on June 30, 2017

Response by poster: Okay! The vest solution had literally never occurred to me, since at REI they're not kept anywhere near either the Camelback packs, regular backpacks, bike backpacks or waist packs. Went there and tried on a few today and ended up with a Nathan Fireball, which I took for a quick test run today since I had already been out before I went to the store. There weren't tons of options that would fit the bear spray somewhere easy to get but this one does.

You guys, I need to do a longer run to see but after two quick miles all indications are that I may have found true love. Thank you so much.
posted by charmedimsure at 8:10 PM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

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