TESTED: Thule Vital 3L hydration backpack


A few years ago, hydration backpacks were an unfortunate yet necessary evil. Frankly, the fit and comfort levels were wanting. Unless fastened tightly to a point were breathing became difficult they would slide up your back when descending, roll around during cornering and flop all over the show when the trail got gnarly. The Thule Vital 3L is a minimalist option which I put through the wringer.

Design and features

Available in two colours, this unit is compact but includes all the crucial features like loops to secure a pump, easy access jersey style pockets on the hip strap and a clip on the inside pocket to fasten keys. A large zipped internal compartment secures valuables. I think that a second internal compartment would be nice – something really small to store a phone and ID – but perhaps I am being a little picky here. There are five additional external loops which can be used to secure things like clothing and lights, or, to tow your mates with.

A robust and neat construction which is typical Thule.

Liquid capacity is 1,75L which is the equivalent to two large water bottles, plus some change. Total storage space is a full 3L. For those looking for a bigger pack Thule offer 6L and 8L versions too.

A mesh lining on the inside of the pack is designed to keep air flowing through the back and shoulder area making this pack one of the cooler options around. There are no ugly or dangerous excess straps hanging around which might bind up into the wheel or saddle. Everything is where it should be. The attention to design and construction detail is excellent.

On the trail

The fit and comfort of this pack is exceptional. The shoulder straps don’t dig in or bite. The waistline strap is narrow and not intrusive, even when tightly secured. Probably the most impressive feature is the magnetic strip which runs along the hose securing it to the shoulder strap. During testing it never disconnected or bounced off of the strap.

The high flow bite valve doesn’t drip or leak and the magnetic hands-free return system is a clever touch. The pack sits nice and low down the torso which lowers the center of gravity and is the main reason why when on the trail there is very little interference to the ride.


If the brief was a lightweight, sleek, unobtrusive hydration pack to enable neat stowage and on the fly hydration then Thule absolutely nailed it with the Vital 3L. The ventilation, strapping and weight distribution of this pack makes it one of the best.

MORE: https://www.thule.com/en/za

1 Comment

  1. What’s the sweat index like? Asking for a friend 😉😓

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