Top 5 Tips To Consider When Buying Your First Trail Running Pack


There’s just over two weeks to go until the OCC and over the past few weeks I’ve been upping the altitude and kilometres and it has been causing a few niggles. My knees have been giving me some problems so I booked in with Neil for a physio consultation (yes, even his wife has to book herself into his diary to be seen!). I obviously went in for my knee diagnosis but Neil had other ideas: “When did you sprain your right foot?” “What?” And then I remembered that a few years ago I had tripped and bent my big toe over. There’d been no major issues since but it had obviously been significant. A few manipulations later and I now find myself standing taller, walking with every part of my foot touching the ground, and crucially – my knees feel stronger.

So, now my knees have been fixed I have decided to treat myself to a new trail running pack. Luckily one of our favourite trail shops is having a sale at the moment so I don’t feel to guilty for buying more gear!

Here are my top tips for ‘Novices’ like me looking to purchase a trail running rucksack:

The Fit – Women’s packs are different to Men’s! We have boobs and the men’s packs sometimes sit in a really awkward position on the front. imagesHowever everyone is different so try on as many as you can. Also the fit can be altered by weight. In the shop you try on a variety of styles but until you get your kit in there you won’t know the true fit. So think about taking your kit along with you to try out the rucksack fully weighted.

Water – You need to first decide where you’re going to carry your water – in a bladder within the rucksack or in water bottles on the front? For my race I will be refilling my water supply regularly and I don’t want the hassle of having to remove the sack at every refreshment point so I have opted to wear the water bottles on the front. Another advantage of this is that you can see how much water you’ve drunk, and how much you have left to get you to the next refuelling point which is definitely more difficult with an bladder system.

Size matters – You don’t want excess space and neither do you want it too tight inside. Find out what obligatory kit you need and decide on the size of the pack by litres. I bought a 5 litre pack as my race will last a day. Neil on the other hand has opted for a 10 litre pack as he is running a longer race, will be spending a night out in the mountains so has to carry with him more obligatory kit.images (1)

Friends – Speak to your running friends and ask them what they use, what they like about it and what they don’t. Ask to try it out for a day to see if you like it. If you can’t afford to buy a super duper new one, ask to borrow theirs for the event or check out Ebay for last year’s model.

Poles – If you’re using poles you’ll need to decide where these will be stored on the pack. Practice storing them and unlocking them over and over whilst walking so you don’t lose time battling with loops etc. I certainly don’t want to be stopping to deal with poles getting caught up.

Obviously this is my first ultra-race so please do take these tips with a pinch of salt. My main priority is to make sure that the little things don’t hold me back so I have more chance of dealing with the bigger things – ie how on earth I’m going to get round the 53km, 3,300m course! So it is important that I practice using my backpack with the obligatory kit packed for every session so I’m not shocked by the weight come race day.

Each training session has already proved to me that even if I don’t finish this race, it’s the start of a journey for me. Assigning time to be outside regularly means that I have to get disciplined in all the other areas of my life. As Haile Gebrselassie said “You should make running your fourth daily meal, that way you will never miss a session”.

Jackie Maclean-Martin
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