Perhaps you’ve already seen it at the Bike Motion Benelux early March; Thule has introduced a series of hydration packs for mountain bikers. The Vital collection consists of 3 backpacks of 3, 6 and 8 liters. For Gearlimits I tested the Vital 3 and 6. With the Vital series, Thule sets a promising first step in the world of drinking backpacks.
None other than mountain bike freerider Martin Söderström provided input for the collection, which Thule promises an optimal weight distribution through a low center of gravity. The ReTrakt hydration system should prevent movement of the hose while riding.
I tested the bags in dry weather. The bags have no rain cover and are therefore less suitable for rides in the rain or mud.
All sizes are available in 2 colors: black and blue. On the inside the bag has a different color, so you can quickly find your stuff. On te back the bag is made of mesh: a light, 3D-woven fabric that is very breathable. The bags are easy to clean, if necessary. The bags have a nice finish and the contrast color on the inside of the bag returns in the magnetic strip of the ReTrakt hydration system and in the side pockets. The smallest bag has no reinforced back, the larger one does. Both bags are supplied with a HydraPak reservoir bag: 1.75 L for the 3 liter bag and 2.5 L for the 6 liter bag.
For me very important ‘cause I travel a lot by train with my bike and luggage: you can easily stuff the empty bags into your luggage.
The bags are lightweight: 0.45 kg / 3L and 0.52 kg / 6L. When using the bags it turns out they fit really well. The large side pockets kind of ‘hug’ your body, which ensures stability. The center of gravity is, as promised, low and the perfect weight distribution keeps you going on the trail. The shape of the shoulder straps is a bit curvy and therefore fits perfectly on the body.
The waistband is narrow, easy to adjust and has a firm closure. It’s a pitty that the belly and chest straps flapp while riding. Thule attached loops, but they are stitched in the wrong place so they cannot be used. You can of course detach the sewing, but this should not be the intention.
The chest belt is also adjustable, but this takes some effort. A lot of other brands use a sliding system to adjust the chest belt. Thule uses 4 very tight loops you have to pull the chest belt through. As far as I am concerned, this should be changed.
I can easily reach the food in the elastic side pockets. The side pockets don’t have a zipper, but do have a kind of edge so that your stuff stays in place (unless you fall down, but I skipped that test).
In the Vital 3 there is room for a thin jacket a tool and your phone and there is a special loop for a bicycle pump and a key ring.
The 6 liter bag has more room for clothing, extra food and more tools. The bag has an extra pocket on the outside. The inner pockets in both bags are made of mesh, so you easily see what’s inside.
HydraPak and ReTrakt hydration hose
Thule supplies a water bag that is free from BPA and PVC. The bag has a large opening at the top, which makes cleaning very easy. The bag can even be cleaned in the dishwasher. The closure is ok and the nozzle has an open and a closed option. It doesn’t leak while open. Inside the HydraPak is a thin plastic sheet, separating it in 2 tubes,
which prevents sloshing of the water. This keeps the load stable: very nice.
The Vitals are equipped with the ReTrakt drinking system, which consists of a magnet on the shoulder strap and a magnetic sleeve that you slide around the drinking hose. This kind of system isn’t new, but I had no experience with it. It works fantastic! No moving hose that gets in the way.
You can also use the sleeve with another drinking bag than the one from Thule by the way.
- low center of gravity, good weight distribution
- easy to clean material
- ReTrakt hydration system
- good fit
- no rain cover
- flapping straps
- not so easy to adjust chest strap
A very nice series of backpacks that are well thought about. I’m very enthusiastic about the hydration system and the low center of gravity. Apart from the few cons mentioned, this is really a very nice backpack. With suggested retail prices from € 99.95 for the 3 liter to € 139.95 for the 8 liter Thule puts the bags on the market quite pricey. For that price there is also a drink bag though.