The Ultimate Direction Fastpack series is loved by fastpackers, trail runners, ultra-lite hikers, and bike commuters alike. It’s a very versatile pack that seems like it would be great for run commuters and comes in several sizes to meet all our needs. Whether you carry clothes, lunch, a laptop, and additional gear, or only a few personal items, there is a Fastpack for you (including a women’s-specific model). This week, we take a look at the Fastpack 15 (unisex).
The design is good. This is not for an around the world journey or even a domestic flight. Although the capacity is more ample than advertised (21 liters rather than 15 liters), it is not by virtue of thickness. The room comes from height. The main section opens down the center with zip featuring two sliders and then further from the top, courtesy of hook and loop fasteners; it is a roll top, fastening securely on each side to a plastic clasp.
The compartment has room beyond the laptop sleeve. It isn’t much space. There is a zippered inner pocket for a power adapter and cables. I put loose items that are larger but not large enough to avoid the risk of falling out unnoticed into a separate drawstring bag.
Backpack loaded with Macbook Pro 15 and clothing (shirt, t-shirt, socks)
To tell the truth, I loved this backpack on first sight. I was not disappointed in testing on the first run. My comparison is an ultra-lightweight backpack by Marmot, which I was fond of, enough so to buy an extra. It was and remains excellent for general use, and I would not hesitate to endorse it as formless as it is. The unique selling proposition of this UD offering is the transportation of the laptop. There was no significant bouncing thanks to the straps having considerable travel. There is a bit of heat on the back. I am no engineer, but I have enough common sense to suspect it would be impossible to avoid some friction and trapped sweat between my back and the backpack.
Run commuting takes effort. That extends beyond the physical exertion. It obliges a person to plan. The Ultimate Direction Fast Pack 15 facilitates the process. I have a short list of favorite things. This has earned its place there.
I am a long time Deuter fan. I have been run commuting with a Deuter backpack for close to 10 years. When the shoulder strap of my Race Exp Air unexpectedly broke right in its middle this past Fall, I contacted Deuter to see what, if anything, could be done for my backpack. I thought that if their customer service was as good as their equipment, I should receive a quick answer. A few months later, I am still waiting for that answer.
I did some research on the Internet to see if anyone else had had the same issue as me with this backpack, but found nothing.
Honestly, I was not looking for much – I just wanted to know where I could get my pack fixed. I was willing to pay to get it done. But the answer never came. To contact the company, I used the form available on their website: https://www.deuter.com/DE/en/contact.html
So, at the end of last year, I bought myself a new run commuting pack: an Osprey Synchro 15.
I selected it for three simple reasons: it comes with a very nice rain cover, it is the right size (15 liters) for run commuting, and it has probably one of the best water bladders on the market: the Osprey Hydraulic Lt. I very seldom need a water reservoir when I run commute, but it is definitely nice to have if you ever decide to run for reasons other than making your way to and from work. And, at $128 (Cdn) for both the pack and the water bladder, the price was more than right.
So far, I like the pack, but I will run at least a thousand more kilometers with it on my back before I express a final opinion.
Still, I could not resolve myself to throwing away my Deuter Race Exp Air. As a last resort, I took it to a shoe cobbler, that specializes in outdoor gear: http://www.atelierhorspiste.com/en/home. I had no hope. If something could be done, great! Otherwise, I had my new Osprey.
To my surprise, my Deuter pack came back as good as new. Isabelle from Atelier Hors-Piste was able to replace the shoulder strap mesh material with some new fabric. To make sure it would not look odd, she even did both straps.
Now I have two backpacks to run commute every day of the year, which is not a bad idea now that I am actually experiencing it. The only sad part to this story is the lack of service I got from Deuter when I needed it.
In looking for the best run commuting backpack, I stumbled upon GORUCK. Their GR1 is considered by many people to be the ultimate everyday backpack. So can the backpack that can do anything also run commute? Let’s find out…
Run commuting in the cold, dark days of winter can be challenging. If you keep normal hours, you often start and end the day in darkness. Footpaths are often not as well-lit, which make running on the road itself safer, but that renders you vulnerable to passing traffic who can’t see you. In an effort to make myself as visible as possible, I looked for the brightest backpack I could find, and strangely enough found it in the black backpack produced by ProViz Sports.
ProViz Sports are a UK-based company that specialise in highly reflective gear, using 100% CE EN 20471 certified reflective material to produce clothing and equipment designed to highlight users in low-light areas. They chiefly focus on cycling and cycling products, but recently produced a backpack tailored to running (and run commuters): the REFLECT360 Running Backpack.
What I carry on a typical day
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.