Need a running backpack? OMM Ultra 12 Review

I’ve never been a fan of running with a backpack. I’ve always found them inhibiting, restrictive and uncomfortable. But as the Rat Race Canterbury Trails Ultra requires all runners to wear a backpack (for the mandatory kit list), I thought I’d invest. Needs must, after all.

Fortunately, I got a lot of advice from more experienced runners than myself, and my quest for a comfortable and lightweight running bag lead me to OMM’s Ultra 12. I decided to buy it and check it out for myself, and it’s a decision I haven’t regretted.

Here’s what you need to know:

The Ultra 12 has been specifically designed for running training and racing. With 12 litre capacity, it’s big enough for daily use, but remains light enough and compact for more serious running. In fact, the bag comes designed with features specifically for Ultra marathon and mountain racing – perfect for me.

There’s nothing overly fancy about it – no hidden pockets, no snazzy design and no additional hooks. But its simplicity and reliability make it a favourite for commuters, both runners and cyclist.

The Ultra 12 is designed to carry loads between 3-6kg, and the comfortable waist belt adds stability. There is one zipped front pocket, 1 large zipped opening (the main section of the bag), padded shoulder harnesses and waist belt pockets. In training or racing where extra kit is required, such as multiday or endurance races, it’s perfectly suited.

In my experience, the saying ‘you get what you spend’ rings true when it comes to running bags. While a cheaper, more basic option will do the job, for serious running, it’s always advisable to get quality. At £55, the Ultra 12 doesn’t break the bank so is the perfect mix of quality and good price. There’s the more expensive version on OMM’s website, but the 12-litre capacity is more than enough for me. As you can see, I went for the blue colour, but it also comes in grey and orange.

Key Features

  • LEANWEIGHT chassis
  • Lightweight mesh yolk shoulder harness
  • Reflective detailing
  • Zipped pocket on front
  • One zipped belt pocket
  • Stretch mesh side bottle pockets
  • Adjustable chest strap with integrated whistle
  • Removable back padding to achieve LEANWEIGHT
  • Hydration bladder compatible
  • Hydration bladder tube can be routed over or under shoulder

Key Technical Details

  • Full Weight: 285g
  • Capacity: 12 litres
  • Pockets: 2 side stretch mesh, one zipped mesh waist belt, one zipped front
  • Compression: Yes, customisable using tabs and hooks on pack plus addition of Leanweight Compression Kit
  • Back Length: 45cm
  • Colours: Orange, Blue, Grey

OMM Ultra 12 Review

From first use, the Ultra 12 is incredibly comfortable and easy to use. The large zip opening means easy access for packing and unpacking, and you can fit plenty inside. Mine is packed with a 2-litre hydration bladder, a running rain jacket, two water bottles in the side mesh pockets, and my nutrition products in the smaller front pocket.

It’s really lightweight and comfortable, with no rub points found to date. Even when packed full, it doesn’t feel unstable or overly ‘bouncy’, which I’ve found with other backpacks. Within my first run using it, which was 10 miles, I couldn’t believe how quickly I got used to it. It felt so snug and lightweight, I barely actually noticed I had it on. I’ve tried plenty of running backpacks over the years and this is one I can honestly say fits the bill perfectly. There are larger options, sure, but if you are looking for a lightweight and compact running backpack that will fit the essentials in, look no further.

You can also add some extra space by buying additional pockets which attach to the straps on the front – see them here. They have velcro straps which are great for gels as they sit on the front. They do bounce around a little bit but the knowledge you can have 6-8 gels at your fingertips without having to stop; remove the backpack; take a gel out; put it back on, and so on, outweighs that. By a long way. See an example below:

I also asked for a comment from Vivi ambassador and ultra veteran James Randall, who said: “I bought mine in early 2018 and since then it’s lasted me through 5 training ultras, numerous training marathons, the 69-mile Wall and the Ultra Tour of Edinburgh. Plenty of different sized pockets for gels, liquids and credit cards, and durable too. Excellent value for money.”

James with his OMM bag and additional front pockets pre-Ultra race

So, if you are looking for a running backpack, I couldn’t recommend this one more. Check it out here.

Chris Smith
Founder of Vivi Nation, sports enthusiast, occasional triathlete, keen cyclist and optimistic Liverpool FC fan.