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Options for the run-commuting worker bee range from streamlined packs to minimalist waist belts
Want to learn more about commuting to work on foot? Read this first.
Mountain Hardwear Fluid Series Packs
The Dirt: The Mountain Hardwear Fluid series of packs provide the full range of commuting packs from their race vests to the Fluid 6 hybrid vest-pack to the larger sized Fluid 18 backpack. I was able to test the Fluid 6 and Fluid 18.
The Fluid 6 is a sleek hybrid vest-pack that wears incredibly comfortably – it was easy to forget I had it on. The pack is easy to adjust, and cinches comfortably when carrying heavy loads and running technical terrain. It provides small pockets on the front straps, a large compartment on the back with a sleeve for a bladder, and drawstring cords on the outside.
The Fluid 18 is the larger of the series that were tested. It looks like a traditional backpack, but sets itself apart by being lightweight and having many pockets for quick access to items. Included are two belt pockets, a large outside mesh pouch, water bottle holders, a bladder pocket and a large compartment with a small zippered pocket on the inside. Don’t think, just throw everything and the kitchen sink into this pack and comfortably run to your destination.
Best For: The Fluid 6 is a great commuter pack for the days when you want to go simple, light and fast, but carry a bit more. This pack is great for carrying a meal, hydration and light clothing, but depending on size and amount of stuff, this pack could also carry a pair of clothes for the day. Unless sweat soaked clothes are your thing, put clothes in a plastic bag to keep them dry–the pack fabric is thin.
The Fluid 18 will fit everything you need to bring. It’s a great pack to haul multiple pairs of clothes and shoes to the office at the beginning and end of the week, allowing you to run light the rest of the week. Heck, if you want to throw a laptop in the bag, give it a whirl; it’ll easily fit. Best of all, this pack may be big, but it has all-around ventilated fabric and padding, staying cool when the temperature rises.
Not Great For: The pockets and pouches on the front of the Fluid 6 pack are small, and while they fit keys they may not fit your phone or wallet. Overall, the pack could use more pockets for smaller items.
The Fluid 18 has room for everything, but may be too bulky for some run commuters. Compared to the more technical packs made specifically for trail and adventure running, this pack lacks pockets for smaller items in strategically accessible locations, such as on the shoulder straps. Though the pack has tons of adjustments to customize the fit on your body, it can be difficult to tuck the many straps away so they don’t flap in the wind.
Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 2.0
The Dirt: This vest-pack was designed by ultra-adventurer Peter Bakwin and works for both adventure races and the daily commute. This pack takes storage seriously. It boasts a total of 14 different sized pockets and pouches, not to mention drawstring bungees, gear loops and other unique features for holding stuff. The pack is super light, weighing in at only 16 ounces. The front of the vest offers easy access to the essentials without stopping. Or you can quickly swing or reach around the pack to access larger items.
As I see it, there’s no need for Ultimate Direction to make a 3.0—this pack meets all my needs.
Best For: This pack is great for any distance and stays stable no matter how fast (or slow) you are running. With a pocket for everything, it comfortably fits a pair of clothes, light layers for the elements, a meal and snacks, hydration, your wallet and phone, keys (without the jingle), and varying sized shoes. If running in colder temperatures, the vest can provide added warmth as it hugs close to your body.
Not Great For: The streamlined design can make large items, such as heavy jackets, large books or bulky food storage containers difficult or impossible to fit. People with larger chests or frames may need to test the pack with a full load and adjusted sternum straps to make sure it fits properly.
The Dirt: The Fastpack is an adventure pack that will take you and everything you own from point A to point B. The main large compartment is a top loader that comfortably places the bulk of the weight on the hips like a lumbar belt. Additionally, it has a large mesh pocket on the outside, a deep and easily accessible bladder pocket, a zippered lid pocket, two large water bottle holders for quick access from behind, and six additional pockets and pouches on the shoulder and waist straps. The shoulder straps hold secure (without loose ends) and allow your body to move freely.
Best For: The Fastpack is a marvel of pack engineering for its ability to carry a huge load, and allow excellent movement of the arms and body on a trail. This is the go-to pack for carrying multiple pairs of clothes for the week without wrinkles, as well as lunch, shoes, winter coats and whatever else you can dream up. Pockets and pouches are all over the place, including great storage for hydration.
Not Great For: If you only have a little few things to carry, then grab a smaller pack for the job. Larger and bulkier items like laptops may not fit into this pack due to the tapered small opening for the main top-loading compartment.
Nathan Gel Pak Belt
The Dirt: The Nathan Gel Pak is one of the few belt packs that is sturdy, appropriately sized, bounce-free, and has an excellent fit to the small of the back. Its ultra-light and breathable construction provides a comfortable fit while flying down the trail for a long run. The Gel Pak has one main zippered pocket with a secondary hidden pocket that will keep your small loose items from jingling, and a small outside mesh pocket. Due to its tapered design from back to front, this Pak stays in place with an easily adjusted buckle.
Best For: The minimalist commuter who brought clothes to the office earlier in the week. If only carrying keys, a wallet, phone, and perhaps some gloves and arm sleeves for the elements, then the Gel Pak will do the job. You’ll need to separately carry a hand-held bottle for hydration, though. This is a go-to commute belt pack when the mercury is rising, and carrying a pack on the back is just too hot.
Not Great For: Carrying anything more than the bare essentials. The Gel Pak cannot carry a homemade meal, hydration or clothing. Complement it with a single-compartment vest if you need more storage.
Salomon Agile Belt
The Dirt: This lumbar belt pack allows for a lightweight, stable, and fast commute. It has plenty of storage for the essentials and a little bit more. It contains one large zippered pocket with a secondary hidden pocket to avoid bouncing small items, and two deep mesh pockets on the sides that allow for easy access to nutrition or to quickly stow away items. The hook-and-loop belt adjusts well for a secure and bounce-free fit.
Best For: The commuter who thinks ahead and has clothes, shoes and basics at the office already. This belt pack is great for the minimal, fast run to carry the essentials, like a wallet, keys and phone, and possibly a few other items like a lightweight rain shell or hydration.
Not Great For: Carrying an entire outfit. It’s just too small. In addition, compared to smaller belt packs that can be worn underneath a shirt or running shorts, this pack may run awkwardly if tucked underneath clothes. So, be ready for fanny-pack tourist comments from colleagues.
Jonathan Loewus-Deitch has been hitting the trails in and around Washington, DC, since moving there four years ago from the Pacific Northwest. He run-commutes daily to his office by the White House, often taking the long way through the Rock Creek Park trails, and spends weekends outside the city running trails and ultras in the mountains.