Even though I have been run commuting for a while now, I had yet to invest in a pack specifically made for running. This is what I’d been using thus far:

String-tastic

The Old “Pack”

It was free, and I made it work. I used two hairbands to secure the drawstrings mid-chest, tight enough that the bag wouldn’t bounce around.

Apparently, I am too cheap to invest in something to make my life a bit easier.

Finally though, I decided it was time for a new pack. Those drawstring straps aren’t really the most comfortable, if you can believe it. After looking at a few packs online, I headed to REI to scope out more options in person. I spent some time trying on different packs and investigating the various features offered. Ultimately, I decided to go for the REI Stoke 9 Pack.

Read on for my review!

Product Description

Here’s the pack:

The New Pack

Shoulder strap close-up

From REI’s website:

Light and minimal yet packed with functionality, the REI Stoke 9 pack is great for fast-paced fitness outings, as when you squeeze in a quick hike or trail run.

Features:

  • Sculpted torso pad with foam shoulder straps
  • Pocket that holds up to a two-liter reservoir–not included
  • Removable hipbelt webbing system
  • Adjustable exterior bungee cord
  • Outside pocket with key clip
  • Two mesh outside pockets

Run Commuting Pros/Cons

Pros

  • Price
  • Easily adjustable
  • Comfortable
Cons
  • Small capacity

Overall Impression

I really enjoyed using the Stoke 9 during my commute. It’s extremely comfortable–it fits high on the back, and doesn’t jostle about while you’re running. It’s also lightweight and well-ventilated. Once you have it generally adjusted, it’s easy to make small adjustments mid-stride. All the straps have elastic and/or velcro closures so any excess in your straps won’t bounce around.

One of my favorite features of the pack is the sliding top chest strap. The pieces that connect the chest strap to the shoulder straps slide up and down so you can move the horizontal chest strap within a range of about five inches (see detail photo above). This is a great feature for women especially–some of the packs I tried on felt a bit awkward when I secured the chest straps.

My biggest initial concern with the pack was the size; however, I was able to fit my lunch, work clothes, a pair of flats, keys, and cell phone in the pack with a bit of work. I even had room to put a rain cover from my bike’s pannier in one of the outside mesh pockets (have I mentioned I’m cheap?). I don’t plan on using a reservoir with the pack, which grants me a bit of extra room, as does the bungee cord on the outside. For those of you with a lot of gear, this probably isn’t the pack for you, but it’s been great for me so far. Additionally, since I’m a member at REI, if I end up needing more space, I’ll return the pack (no questions asked) and upgrade to a larger size.

Recommended? Yes

MSRP:  $34.93 (I got it for $19.93 on sale)

Website:   http://www.rei.com

 

2/7/12: For those of you interested in the drawstring method, here’s what I do:

     

I pull the pony tail holder through the loop until tight and secure. To keep the bag from shifting too much, I use two pony tail holders, placed about five inches apart.

Here’s the end result: