How To Properly Pack A Running Backpack For A Marathon?



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So you’re gearing up for a marathon and you’ve decided to carry a running backpack to hold all your essentials. Smart move! But now you’re faced with the challenge of figuring out how to pack it properly. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of packing your running backpack for a marathon. We’ll explore the top brands that specialize in running backpacks and their different options, such as hydration packs and ultralight backpacks. By the end of this article, you’ll be ready to hit the pavement with a perfectly packed running backpack that caters to your specific needs.

Table of Contents

Choosing the right running backpack

When it comes to choosing the right running backpack, there are a few factors to consider. First and foremost, you’ll want to think about the capacity and size of the backpack. The capacity of the backpack will determine how much gear you can carry, so it’s important to choose one that is appropriate for your needs. If you plan on going on longer runs or participating in races, you may want a larger backpack that can hold extra clothing layers, hydration packs, and other essentials.

In addition to capacity, the size of the backpack is also important. You’ll want to choose a backpack that fits snugly against your body and doesn’t bounce around as you run. Look for adjustable straps and a waist belt to ensure a secure and comfortable fit.

Look for proper organization

Organization is key when it comes to a running backpack. Look for backpacks that have multiple compartments and pockets to help you keep your gear organized. This will make it easier to find what you need quickly and efficiently during your runs.

Some backpacks even have specific pockets designed to hold items like water bottles, energy gels, and your cell phone. This can be especially useful if you have certain items that you like to have easy access to while running.

Ensure a comfortable fit

A comfortable fit is essential when it comes to a running backpack. Look for backpacks that have padded straps and a breathable back panel to help prevent chafing and discomfort. Adjustable straps and a waist belt can also help ensure a snug and secure fit.

Try on different backpacks and take the time to adjust the straps and waist belt to see how they feel. Walk around with the backpack on to get a sense of how it will feel while running. Remember, comfort is key when you’re going to be spending long periods of time wearing the backpack.

Essential items to include in your running backpack

Now that you have chosen the right running backpack, it’s time to think about what essential items you should include. These items will ensure that you have everything you need for a successful and safe run.

Hydration pack or water bottles

Staying hydrated during your run is crucial. Choose a hydration pack with a bladder that can hold enough water for the duration of your run. If you prefer using water bottles, make sure your backpack has pockets or straps to securely hold them.

Energy gels and snacks

Long runs can deplete your energy levels, so having some energy gels or snacks on hand is important. Look for lightweight and easily digestible options that provide a quick source of fuel.

Extra clothing layers

Weather conditions can change during a run, so it’s a good idea to pack extra clothing layers. This can include a lightweight jacket, a hat, gloves, or arm warmers. Choose layers that are moisture-wicking and easy to pack.

Rain gear

If there’s a chance of rain, it’s always a good idea to pack some rain gear. Look for lightweight and waterproof options like a packable rain jacket or a waterproof hat.

Sun protection

Protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays is crucial, especially during long runs. Pack sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to keep yourself protected.

First aid kit

Accidents happen, so it’s important to have a basic first aid kit on hand. This can include items like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and blister treatment supplies.

Emergency contact information

In case of an emergency, it’s important to have your emergency contact information easily accessible. Consider carrying a small card with your name, phone number, and any relevant medical information.

Money and ID

It’s always a good idea to have some cash or a debit/credit card and your identification with you when running. You never know when you might need it.

Cell phone

Carrying a cell phone is a safety precaution that should not be overlooked. In case of an emergency or if you need to contact someone, having a cell phone can be incredibly helpful.

Race bib and timing chip

If you’re participating in a race, don’t forget to pack your race bib and timing chip. Ensure that they are securely attached to your backpack so you don’t lose them during your run.

Properly organizing your running backpack

Once you’ve gathered all the essential items for your run, it’s time to properly organize your running backpack. This will ensure that everything is easily accessible and that the weight is evenly distributed.

Use compartments and pockets effectively

Take advantage of the compartments and pockets in your running backpack. Use them to separate and organize your gear. For example, you can keep your energy gels and snacks in one pocket, your first aid kit in another, and your cell phone in a secure and easily accessible pocket.

Separate liquids and electronics

To avoid any potential damage, separate liquids and electronics. Place them in waterproof bags or pouches to keep them safe from spills or rain.

Pack heavier items closest to your back

To maintain a balanced and comfortable fit, pack heavier items closer to your back. This will prevent the backpack from pulling you backward and throwing off your balance.

Keep frequently used items easily accessible

Items that you’ll need to access frequently, such as energy gels or your cell phone, should be kept in easily accessible pockets. This will save you time and frustration during your run.

Packing tips for different types of running activities

The gear you pack for running will vary depending on the type of activity you’ll be engaging in. Here are some packing tips for a few different types of running activities:


For a marathon, it’s important to pack enough fuel to sustain you throughout the race. Pack energy gels, snacks, and electrolyte tablets. Consider carrying extra clothing layers in case the weather changes.

Trail running

When trail running, it’s important to be prepared for varying terrain and weather conditions. Pack a lightweight jacket, a hat, and gloves. Additionally, consider carrying a small survival kit with items like a whistle, a compass, and a small knife.


Ultramarathons require even more careful packing due to the longer distances involved. Pack extra fuel, clothing layers, and gear for maintaining hydration. Consider carrying a lightweight emergency shelter in case of unforeseen circumstances.

Multi-day race

For multi-day races, packing efficiently is crucial. Plan your clothing and gear according to the weather conditions you expect to encounter. Consider carrying quick-drying clothing and lightweight camping gear if necessary.

Training runs

When going on shorter training runs, you can pack lighter. Focus on carrying essentials such as water, energy gels, and your cell phone. This will help you get used to running with a backpack while minimizing unnecessary weight.

Guidelines for packing a hydration pack

Hydration packs are a popular choice for runners, as they allow for easy access to water while on the go. Here are some guidelines for packing a hydration pack:

Fill the bladder properly

When filling the bladder of your hydration pack, be careful not to overfill it. Leave some space to allow for the water to slosh around and provide a comfortable fit.

Clean the bladder before use

Before using a hydration pack, make sure to clean the bladder thoroughly. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and drying to prevent bacteria growth.

Check the bite valve and tube for functionality

Ensure that the bite valve is working properly and that the tube is securely connected. Test it before your run to avoid any surprises while on the go.

Secure the bladder in the pack

Properly secure the bladder in the pack to prevent it from shifting or bouncing around. This will help maintain stability and prevent discomfort while running.

Choosing the right clothing layers

Choosing the right clothing layers for your run is essential for comfort and protection. Here are some factors to consider when selecting your clothing:

Consider the weather conditions

Take into account the weather conditions you’ll be running in. Choose clothing that will keep you warm in colder temperatures and cool in hot weather.

Wear moisture-wicking fabrics

Moisture-wicking fabrics are designed to pull sweat away from your skin, keeping you dry and comfortable. Look for clothing made from materials like polyester or merino wool.

Layering for temperature regulation

Layering allows you to adjust your clothing according to your comfort level and the changing weather conditions. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, add a lightweight mid-layer for insulation, and finish with a windproof or waterproof outer layer if needed.

Pack extra clothing for longer runs

If you’ll be running for an extended period of time, it’s a good idea to pack extra clothing. This can include extra socks, a spare shirt, or an additional layer for added warmth.

How To Properly Pack A Running Backpack For A Marathon?

Tips for packing a first aid kit

Having a well-stocked first aid kit is important for any runner. Here are some tips for packing a first-aid kit:

Include essentials like band-aids and antiseptic wipes

Band-aids and antiseptic wipes are essential for treating minor cuts and scrapes. Make sure to include an assortment of different sizes to cover any wounds that may occur.

Pack blister treatment supplies

Blisters are a common issue for runners, so be prepared by packing blister treatment supplies. This can include moleskin, blister cushions, or blister prevention tape.

Carry pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medication

Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medication can help alleviate discomfort caused by muscle soreness or inflammation. Consult with your healthcare provider before including any medication in your first aid kit.

Consider carrying a lightweight emergency blanket

In case of an unexpected situation where you may need to stay warm, consider carrying a lightweight emergency blanket. These blankets are compact and can help retain body heat in case of an emergency.

Organizing race essentials

If you’re participating in a race, there are a few race-specific essentials that you’ll need to organize in your backpack:

Securely attach the race bib

Make sure to securely attach your race bib to your backpack using safety pins or bib clips. This will ensure that it stays in place throughout the race.

Properly attach the timing chip

If your race requires a timing chip, make sure to attach it securely to your shoelaces or ankles. Double-check that it is properly attached to avoid any issues with recording your race time.

Pack safety pins or bib clips

Carrying extra safety pins or bib clips can be helpful in case you need to make any adjustments to your race bib before the start of the race.

Carry a small race information card

Include a small race information card in your backpack with important details about the race. This can include the race start time, course map, and emergency contact information.

Weight distribution considerations

When packing your running backpack, it’s important to consider weight distribution to ensure a comfortable and balanced fit:

Balance the weight evenly

Distribute the weight of your gear evenly throughout the backpack. This will prevent the backpack from pulling to one side, which can throw off your balance.

Avoid overloading one side

Try to avoid overloading one side of the backpack. This can create an imbalance and make your run uncomfortable.

Keep the center of gravity close to your back

Keeping the center of gravity close to your back will help you maintain stability while running. Make sure the heaviest items are positioned closer to your back for optimal balance.


Choosing the right running backpack and properly packing it can greatly enhance your running experience. Consider factors like capacity, size, and organization when selecting a backpack. Pack essential items like hydration packs, energy gels, extra clothing layers, and first aid kits. Organize your gear effectively and distribute the weight evenly for a comfortable fit. With the right backpack and packing techniques, you’ll be well-prepared for any running activity. Happy running!

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