Running is often described as a ‘cheap’ sport, because you don’t need to buy any kit to just go out and run on the road. Of course, the truth is quite different. You’ll soon discover that your 5-year-old trainers don’t give enough support and you’ll have to spend €100+ on a new pair of shoes. Then you need some kit so that you feel like a ‘real’ runner – and enough of it so that you’re not wearing the same t-shirt every time you run. After that comes the Garmin watch, the cold-weather accessories and don’t get me started on race entry fees and travel costs!
When you eventually decide to leave the roads for the trails, you’ll then discover that you need to upgrade another piece of kit: your running bag. If you’re planning on getting lost in the woods for hours at a time, you need enough space in the bag on your back to carry food, water and survival aids. It also helps to have at least a jacket or spare top to change into for the inevitably long journey back from the forest to your city home.
However, the current options on the market for good quality trail-running backpacks are very expensive. The ‘go-to’ standard which most of my friends own is a Salomon version, such as the Advanced Skin 12 Set, which retails at €180! Other brand options tend to range from €90-€150. In any case, it felt extortionate as a trail-running newbie to invest that much money into one piece of kit, so I looked elsewhere and landed on the Kalenji 10L trail-running bag, which is sold at Decathlon for a princely €35!
Normally cheaper means lower quality, but I am already so pleased with this bag and am going to spend the rest of this post waxing lyrical about how great it is. I previously owned another Kalenji 5L bag which I’ve had for nearly two years without anything breaking, tearing or showing any damage at all, and I can only assume that this bag will last in the same way.
The first thing that got me so excited about this bag was the tag it had attached to it, which shows you exactly how much stuff you can fit into all of the pockets and sections. The main reason I needed a new bag is because my old, smaller pack would barely fit 1L of water, a banana and a jacket without being completely stuffed. For my upcoming races I will need to carry a lot of mandatory kit, and so needed a product that could hold all the items. The tag alone told me that I would have space for everything – and more.
The bag is designed as follows: in the main backpack section there is a zipped pocket where you can keep your phone, wallet, keys – anything you don’t need during the run and also don’t want to accidentally lose. The rest of that section is where you can carry your food, phone charger, tshirt, small kitten – it’s huge. Behind it, up against your back, is another compartment where your water bladder lives. There is a 1L bladder included with your purchase. This section has a mesh back which is very comfortable, but I do wish that it could be closed even just with a velcro fastening.
Around the bottom of the back of the pack is a stretchy mesh section to hold a jacket. I tried stuffing my orange jacket in here and it didn’t quite fit perfectly. However, I think a slightly thinner or more squishable jacket would have no problem, and in the end I just left it with some bits peeking over the edge and could not feel the jacket at all while running.
The front of the jacket features another 10000 pockets perfect for holding all the stuff you want accessible on-the-go. Each strap (the part that comes around the front of your body) has space for a 500ml water flask. You need to purchase the soft flasks separately, but I picked up a 500ml one for €10, or Kalenji also have 250ml options. The bottle fits easily into the pocket, and I found that my spare pocket on the other strap (for another 500ml flask) is the perfect size for my phone. The straps also have two more pockets each for snacks, arm-warmers, gloves etc., and none of it feels bulky to carry.
However, hands-down my favourite feature of the bag is the fastenings. That may sound a little silly, but it’s the little details which go such a long way. The bag comes with three buckles, but you can change the position of where they sit! This is a huge benefit for women, as those straps can often be really uncomfortable. Via a simple hooking mechanism on both sides you can choose to position the buckles higher or lower, and to have one, two or three straps. Brilliant!
Taking this a step further though is another genius addition to the bag. One thing that annoys me like mad with buckles is when you’ve tightened the strap, but it then flaps around annoying you as you run. Not on this bag! Each one of the fastening straps has a little piece of velcro attached to the end which means that you can secure it back on itself. So simple, yet such a major improvement on trying to tuck fly-away straps down. As soon as I discovered this feature, I was completely sold on this bag.
So that’s the Kalenji 10L trail-running bag, which I consider one of my greatest purchases in my running career. It’s a great size for carrying everything you need, has thoughtful additions to make life easier, and is very reasonably priced. I can’t wait to take it out on the trails again!