The Best Run Commuting Backpack Ever?
OMM (standing for Original Mountain Marathon) is a brand well-known to UK and Euro trail runners, but it has yet to become popular in the US, which is a pity. I would go so far as to say this is a ‘best-kept secret’ of running packs. The OMM 20L may be the best run commuting backpack ever, and for those so inclined, it doubles as the best multi-day trail running pack ever, too! It is relatively cheap, hugely comfortable, robust, thoughtfully designed, and has tons of storage room.
For these reasons, no doubt, it has been the backpack of choice for the winners of some epic races: this year alone Eion Keith was wearing it when he won the notoriously grueling Spine Race in England – 268 miles non-stop over snowy English high country in mid-winter. Elspeth Luke wore it to run 1100k over Scottish mountains in record time. And it’s not just for cold-weather conditions: Aussie pro racer Samantha Gash wore it to run the 4 Deserts races across –as the name implies–four of the world’s serious deserts. Many athletes use this pack at the 6-days, 250km stage-race in the Moroccan desert, the Marathon des Sables.
So, how does such a hardcore pack work for everyday run commuters who just want to run an hour to work through suburban streets? Brilliantly, that’s how!
On the lower half of each side of the main compartment is a mesh pocket with elasticized top edge. They are water-bottle pockets, and have been designed with great consideration for the needs of adventure runners, for whom hydration is essential. The pockets are deep, each amply holding a 600mL bottle. This is true even when the main compartment of the pack is full. The other brilliant thing about their design is that they are angled slightly backwards, so that the top of the water bottle is tilted fractionally towards the direction you are facing. This makes it easier to pull the bottles out and put them back in, while running. The bottles don’t jump out of these pockets even when there isn’t much in the main compartment of the pack. Overall, excellent design and performance.
Main Compartment and Top Access Pouch
The main compartment is basically a cylindrical sack with a drawstring closure. Over this fits a hood that buckles down with a strap that runs vertically down the front of the backpack and clips to the lower quarter of the front of the pack (the ‘weird’ strap described above). The main compartment holds a LOT of stuff. You could easily get a medium-thickness winter coat in here along with shoes, clothes and lunch.
As you can see in the photo above, there is a zipped pocket on the top of the hood that covers the main drawstring compartment of the pack. This zipped pocket is almost the same width across as the hood itself, so it can hold a wallet and phone, or even a small Tupperware container, easily.
Back, shoulder straps and waist belt
The padding on the OMM Adventure Light 20 is generous, light and comfortable. It is also positioned where you need it and not where you don’t. The back is kept firm and self-supporting by a removable foam pad that sits inside the main compartment in its own sleeve. This pad is so light, and helps keep the overall structure of the pack so comfortable, that after I tried running once with the pad removed I resolved never to do so again — it’s simply more of a gain to have the foam pad in there.
There are two identical pockets on either side of the waist belt. Both pockets close with zips. They are large enough to fit a smartphone, and there is some flexibility as the lower half of each pocket is made of a mesh that stretches slightly. I found these pockets to be very useful for carrying my phone, food snacks, and accessories like gloves, hat or headlamp.
The OMM Adventure Light 20 does not come with a hydration bladder or bottles. As discussed above, the side bottle pockets are perfectly designed and executed for their purpose. With both bottle pockets carrying 600ml — or 750ml at a pinch — bottles, this would give you 1.2L – 1.5L fluid. You could also remove the foam back pad from its dedicated sleeve and put your hydration pouch in there. There is no other pocket in the main compartment to hold a hydration bladder, and unless you had a completely full load it would slosh around a bit if in the main area.
A top-drawer backpack for adventure running AND run commuting!
Finally – a backpack specifically made for run commuters!
The company that brought us our favorite garment carrier, IAMRUNBOX, released a series of run commuting backpacks after a very successful Kickstarter campaign, and we were extremely excited to get our hands on one recently. The IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro is a stylish and extremely practical backpack for everyday commuters who run with a change of clothes, a laptop, and a few personal items. Best of all, this pack won’t bounce!
The laptop carrying feature works quite well. It’s a simple, two-strap holder that rides close to your back, but it does what it is designed to do. Smaller laptops or tablets may need additional padding around them to keep them from bouncing up and down in the pack.
The deep and wide zippered waist belt pouches are a fantastic feature. Most backpacks that have these usually tend towards smaller, stretchier styles that work for carrying, at most, a few gels, a thin beanie, or a pair of gloves. The IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro’s waist pockets, in contrast, can hold large smartphones, thick wool hats, sunglasses, and more. I normally carry my Nexus 6P (which is 6 ½” long and 3 ¼” wide) in the main compartment or in inaccessible side pouches of other packs, so it is awesome to have it right in front of me and be able to pull it out to take a picture or check a text message.
You notice the weight of the pack just forward of your shoulders and at the small of your back. I couldn’t identify any potential chafing locations – the fit and feel of everything was perfect.
Waist and sternum strap with whistle
Waist strap has openings on both sides to hide excess strap
The sides do not include any additional storage or features.
Top and Bottom
The top and bottom of the pack include reflective strips. No additional features are present.
When open, the right side of the pack is where you store your clothing. To hold all the clothing together, the Backpack Pro has a zippered, breathable cover, which makes it very easy to close the pack once everything is inside.
The left side of the Backpack Pro is used for securely storing up to a 13.5″ laptop. It can also hold a tablet, a book, or a few magazines quite well, or any other items that you may need at work (small lunch, belt, packable raincoat, etc.).
Open and empty
Fully packed with a light lunch
Back and Waist Strap
The back of the IAMRUNBOX Backpack Pro is rigid, with four palm-sized cushions strategically placed to allow the pack to rest comfortably against your back while walking or running. When the pack is on the body and cinched down, the cushions rest at the base of the scapulae and on both sides of the lower back.
The waist strap is wide and lightly-padded and a simple plastic buckle secures it to your waist. There is a large zippered pouch on each side that is big enough to hold large smartphones and plenty of additional gear (see notes at end of review regarding the metal zippers). A unique feature of the waist strap is that each side facing the buckle opens to reveal a pocket that can be used for storing excess straps.
Four cushioned pads make for a comfortable ride
The waist strap pockets hold large phones and more
Compared to most packs I’ve used, the shoulder straps on the Backpack Pro are wide, coming in right at 3 inches (7.62 cm) and there is very little narrowing of the straps along the length. There is some very thin padding on the inside of the straps, and I found it to be adequate for running with heavier weight.
The front of the right side strap features a reflective loop and a zippered, crescent-shaped pouch. The pouch holds a pair of gloves or a few gels when closed, or – when opened – a water bottle. This is a neat feature and works best with shorter bottles.
The left side strap includes a reflective loop, as well, and an elastic expandable top loading pouch that holds smaller smartphones (iPhone 5, etc.) securely.
There is one sternum strap on this pack. It is made of nylon and includes a piece of elastic that stretches an inch and a half that enables the strap to move when the wearer inhales and exhales. The sternum strap can be adjusted 9 inches vertically, so that it can placed in a comfortable location on the wearer’s chest.
Suspension system. Right strap opens to hold a small water bottle
Fully loaded with a winter jacket secured to the front with straps