Choosing your backpack
Exercising outside, especially running and cycling, generally means that you need to carry a few things with you – from water, or a spare layer, through to a full change of clothes for when you get to work, or even your laptop. The bag we carry this kit in can alter our posture dramatically, so the ergonomics of a backpack are vital. Take a look at our guide on what to look out for – how do you keep your pace, save your back and yet keep all your belongings with you?
There’s not much you can do about the contents of the backpack, but you want to try and make sure that the bag itself is adding as little weight as possible.
Wherever possible, the smaller the bag the better, so, first, go over exactly what you'll be carrying. If it's a matter of a few items of clothing, but no shoes or a laptop, then a 10 litre pack will suffice. However, if you need to carry bulkier items you’ll need something bigger, perhaps no larger than 20 litres, ideally, to run or cycle with.
A padded back will minimise direct pressure on the back. However, extra padding can mean extra sweat, so many backpacks now use special breathable materials and are designed to allow good airflow to prevent this.
Strap location and padding are both crucial. The main shoulder straps need to be padded, but not bulky, and wide to evenly distribute the weight of the bag across your shoulders. Thin straps dig in and can rub. In some cases, they can also hinder circulation and cause numbness or tingling. The straps also need to be well stitched at their joining point, at the top and bottom of the bag, as this is where most of the stress will be placed.
Finally, the straps need to be adjustable in length and feel comfortable when pulled tight enough to secure the bag firmly – ensure there is no discomfort around your neck and shoulders.
Waist and chest belts are essential to transfer some weight from your back and shoulders to your trunk and pelvis, helping to distribute the weight of the bag more evenly over your whole body. Belts also secure the bag more tightly to your body to prevent it from moving around as you exercise.
The chest straps need to be adjustable across the chest and up the length of the shoulder straps so that you can find the optimal tension point. The chest strap is all about tension – most will have a built-in section of elastic so that the tension of the strap adjusts with the movement of your chest, holding the bag tight, without restriction. You don’t want to have to pull the chest strap too tight to hold the bag in place – that’s the job of the shoulder straps and the waist straps.
With the top of half of the backpack now secured, the waist straps deal with the bottom of the bag. This the heaviest part, which means the straps need to easily extend around the torso and be wide and supportive – especially on the lower back and hips. You want to feel like you’re able to wrap the waist straps around you like a belt. Again, they need to be adjustable.
Pockets and compartments
When packing your backpack, you want to think about distributing the weight of the contents evenly throughout the bag. Don’t have one heavy item in a side pocket and a pack of tissues in the other side – a shoe either side is a good solution. Backpacks with multiple compartments help to better distribute the weight in the backpack and prevent heavy things all dropping to the bottom of one large space.
Opt for a backpack made of reflective material to increase the chances of being seen at dusk, dawn and night.
How to fit your backpack
When adjusting a backpack before a run, your posture is key to how the bag should feel on your back – it needs to compliment your natural position. Don’t adjust your posture to cope with the backpack because this can lead to all sorts of problems. Avoid hunching and rounding your back, instead keep your shoulders back and your chin up.
The ideal position for the backpack depends on its weight and how you run, but it should fit snugly around your shoulders and hips, as these are the parts of your body most used to carrying load. Adjust the shoulders straps first, then the waist, and finally the chest.
Proviz make a range of backpacks for both adults and children in small and large sizes and all with more reflective and high visibility materials than other bags. We put a lot of thought into the technical design and have created backpacks specifically for cyclists and runners, each with a close-to-body fit, to ensure stability.
There are a variety of Proviz backpacks to suit all of the criteria above, depending on your specific needs. Alternatively, if you already have a favourite backpack, but are looking for some additional reflectiveness or waterproofing, our backpack covers are a good option. Here are some of our favourite options:
For the quick trip…
10 Litre Nightrider Rucksack
If you’re just carrying some water and a few essentials, the 10L Nightrider backpack is the one for you. It’s made of tough nylon, coated with a PVC lining to give good water-resistance. The inner lining is made of polyester, which adds strength and creates a strong, lightweight, bag designed specifically to withstand the rigours of all outdoor activities. You can also add a two-litre hydration pack and clip in a straw for easy access. It also includes a chest strap and is compatible with the Red Dot Design Award-winning Triviz light pack.
If you need to carry bulkier items, then you might like to try the 30L Nightrider backpack.
30 Litre Nightrider Backpack
For maximum visibility…
If being seen is your priority, then you can’t go wrong with the REFLECT360 backpack. It’s designed to be an extremely comfortable, fitted backpack that fits closely to your body.
Like the REFLECT360 jackets, the backpack is made with material that incorporates millions of tiny, highly-reflective beads. By day, these beads are undetectable and the backpack is an unassuming grey. But at night, when the fabric picks up an external light source, such as car headlights, the whole backpack turns a shimmering white.
The backpack includes a number of extras, such as AquaGuard® zips, adjustable waist/hip and chest straps, mesh pockets and a light loop. It also has a ventilation system that helps to ensure good airflow between the bag and your back.
For the kids…
Children need the same comfort, functionality and visibility in their backpack as adults, and Proviz has created two sizes of its Reflect360 kids backpacks. Both include all the same features as the adult version.
Reflect 360 Kids Small Backpack