How to choose backpacks and belts

How to choose backpacks and belts

Belts and backpacks for running

During long runs it is absolutely necessary to have some intake of fluid and nutrition along the route. Sometimes a running belt, sometimes called hydration belt or running belt, can be sufficient to bring this. For the really long runs, like ultra runs, a backpack with more capacity is needed to ensure that the running experience shall be a good one. Backpacks for running exist in a variety of designs and sizes.

Check the equipment in advance

There are numerous choices when it comes to different running belts and backpacks for running. Few things are as annoying during a long run as a belt or backpack that is uncomfortable. It may loosen, squeeze, jump up and down, bottles may fall out, and straps may slacken. After a few hours of running it is not much uncomfort needed before it gets annoying. Therefore, it is important to check the equipment before starting the run, to see that everything is in order.

If you are using a running belt, it may be tempting to bring some extra nutrition in the belt, in addition to fluid, if you are planning to stay out a little bit longer than
normal. If this feels a little bit uncomfortable from the beginning, you can be sure that it will be worse after some time out running. So, then you should find another solution from the start. This also applies to backpacks. Avoid to fill them completely to the top, even for long runs. Some experienced runners prefer to
run with handheld bottles in addition to the backpack, to get the extra needed fluid with them. Handheld bottles have become quite good during the last years, appear in different sizes, and are used by more and more runners.

Backpack, running belt or nothing

There are different opinions among runners about how long a run shall be before you need to bring extra fluid with you. This of course also depends on the temperature at the location you are running, and on the intensity. Anyway, it is better to have some extra fluid available than not to have it. If you are on a real long run, one alternative can be to place some bottles at certain places around the route you will be running, before the actual run. Previously this was done by many top runners, but I think it is not so common anymore. One of the reasons is that there are many good running backpacks at the market today, in different design and sizes. The size of the bladder inside the backpack varies a lot between the different types of backpacks. For some it will be sufficient with a bladder around 2 litres. With 2 litres, some extra food and some extra clothing, the backpack may easily weigh up to 3 kilos. Then you should be aware that your running stride may change from your normal stride. It becomes a little bit more challenging to fall forward in the kick-off phase of the stride, and you will more easily get into a more “sitting” type of stride. It is important to adapt the stride to the equipment you are using during a long session, or during an ultra run competition.

If you don’t bring so much with you, a running vest may be the most suitable. You can hardly feel that you wear it, but then it is limited how much you can bring. Vests may be suitable for shorter ultra runs, where you don’t need anything more than a little bit nutrition and not so much fluid.

Test beforehand

If you shall run a competition with a backpack, it is of outmost importance to have tested the backpack on a long run in due time prior to the competition. Pack it the same way in the test that you plan to do it in the competition. Many races have strict rules and a zero tolerance for throwing away garbage. If so, remember
that you need to bring all the garbage with yourself all the way to the finish, unless there are dedicated places to get rid of garbage along the route. This is of course also applicable for your training sessions. I would say it is a must to to have pockets in the front, if you want to bring gels and bars, and it also makes it
easier to put away empty paper and empty gels.

Select thoroughly

Spend sufficient time before choosing backpacks for running and running belts. Check thoroughly that the backpack is suited for your own personal purpose, which means that you should have thought through this in detail before you go to the shop. For my own part it took some years before I felt comfortable to run with a backpack. It is actually not so many years ago since the manufacturers started to make backpacks that were specially designed for running. It took me some time before I found backpacks that was comfortable for me, but when I first found them, the barrier was broken. Now I use a backack quite frequently during my runs, in particular if they last more than 1,5 hours.

Good luck with your choice!

Author: Gjermund Sørstad