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Trail Running: Backpack vs Beltpack

Words and Images by Anna Paxton

Lighter days are here and with them, the promise of long days out in the hills, dry trails (we hope!), and summer fell runs. Whether you’re heading out for a shorter trail run or over a longer distance, you’ll want to carry the essentials without being weighed down.

Some runners prefer a beltpack, others love a backpack, so I took Lowe Alpine’s new Tensor 10 backpack and the Mesa beltpack out to get a feel for both!



6 Litre | 260g | 210D Mini Ripstop Fabric

I was amazed how much I could fit into this 6l beltpack. I packed it with a map and compass, waterproof jacket, gloves, phone, money, snacks, headtorch, and 1l water and there was still room to spare. There’s one internal pocket to keep valuables safe, and one external pocket which can easily fit phone, gloves, and snacks. There isn’t a specific system for water, so I carried two 500ml soft flasks.

The Mesa beltpack fastens with one buckle and the straps are fully adjustable so that it fits even if you have very small proportions. I found the pack easy to access while on the move, and the compression straps at the sides and over the front of the pack are a really useful feature. They adjust the capacity so there’s no empty space no matter how full or empty the pack is. They're easy to adjust while running, and the pack stayed stable after I took out food and layers.


The back of the bag and side straps are padded and they sat comfortably on my hips and across my lower back. Although the pack did move around a bit, especially when running faster or jumping, it felt well balanced and stable and stayed comfortable.

As the capacity can be compressed the Mesa is very adaptable and would be especially good for runs where you don’t want to carry too much. It would also be perfect for warm days when you need to take your kit but would prefer to feel the sun on your back rather than a bag.

My favourite features are the compression straps, the padded back and sides for comfort and stability, and the ease of access while on the move.


Tensor 10

10 Litre | 360g | 210D Shadow Ripstop Fabric | AirContour Backsystem

The Tensor backpack weighs just 360g, and the 10l capacity means there’s space for everything you might want to take on a run, including extra layers, food, and maps. The pack is designed to be used with a hydration bladder, so there’s plenty of room for water and it's effortless to stay hydrated on the move.

The internal pocket keeps essentials like money, phone and keys safe, and there’s an external pocket on the top of the pack for fast access to other bits like camera, snacks or gloves. I found the mesh pocket on the front of the bag particularly useful for things I wanted to get hold of quickly, such as an extra layer. It’s also the ideal size for a map so that you can grab it on the go if you do need to navigate.

The shape of the pack is slimline and sleek, it sat nicely on my back and the straps are fully adjustable so that it can fit any size person. The chest strap can be moved into several positions so that it can sit in the right place for you. The waist straps offer extra stability but are removable if you don’t want to use them or don’t need them.


The straps and back of the pack feature foam padding covered by mesh, which is really lightweight and very comfortable. The foam meant that there were no pressure points from the items in the bag, and the cut out mesh sections were breathable so that the pack didn't feel too warm against my back.

The Tensor 10 is perfect for runs where you want to carry all the kit but want to keep weight to a minimum. It’s also ideal for multi-activity trips where you might need a running pack and a backpack but don’t want to take two.

My favourite features are that the pack is fully adjustable so that it can be made to fit any size person very comfortably. It's lightweight but spacious, and the stretchy external mesh pocket is really handy.

The Verdict

If you like to keep your kit as minimal as possible, the Mesa beltpack is a great choice for you. It’s spacious enough to fit the essentials, but less bulk to run with than a backpack. It’s also perfect for warm summer runs where you might only want the basics of keys, water, and money. The capacity can be reduced right down, and as there are no shoulder straps or weight on your back, it’s much cooler. If you plan to be out for longer, or for days when the weather is looking uncertain, the Tensor 10 backpack is the ideal choice. It’s great for hot summer runs, as there’s space for a hydration bladder so you can carry as much water as you need. The larger capacity also means that there’s room for extras like additional layers (and lunch!).

Shop Beltpacks Shop Tensor

About the Author

Anna is a trail and ultra runner, climber, and writer from the Peak District, Sheffield, UK. Anna founded Outdoorista, a site focused on representing women in the outdoors.

If you want to keep up to date with Anna's latest adventures you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Packs Used

Tensor 10

Tensor 10

10lt | 40 x 21 x 17cm | 0.36kg

The Tensor 10 is the small, lightweight pack of choice for running, hiking, biking general day use.



6lt | N/A | 0.26kg

A new version of our long-established beltpack design, the Mesa is a favourite amongst runners, walkers and bikers alike.

Ultralite Drysac

Ultralite Drysac

2.5 - 20lt | N/A |

Ultralite, waterproof nylon stuffsac with roll top closure. In sizes XXS to XL.


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