Deuter has been making bags since the 19th century and has always been a solid choice for biking, but an explosion of other MTB-focused bag brands over the past few years has put them into the shade. Really well made, well thought out and outrageously well-supported bags like the Pulse 3 show it definitely still belongs in the spotlight though and this model is definitely one of the best MTB hip packs around.
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Design and aesthetics
With a five-liter capacity, the Pulse 3 is a bit bulkier than some MTB-specific designs and it’s quite deep too but that means a decent amount of storage left even with a full 1.5-liter bladder (not included) loaded into the back sleeve. Three mesh pockets (one zipped) in the outer compartment give basic ‘easy to see where things are’ storage although fans of one pocket for each thing might get itchy. Semi-stretch mesh hip pockets add plenty of extra storage and will swallow a smartphone and/or chunky snacks no problem. They’re both zipped for security too which is a welcome relief from packs that insist on having a ‘special pocket’ of some sort on one side. The zips are YKK and all have plastic reinforcement on the pull cords and we’ve not managed to break one yet, which again is a relief after recent tests of other brands. There’s a gutter clip for a bladder hose on the belt, an internal key clip too, external rear LED loop, and reflective stripes too. It doesn’t have a bottle holster, extra straps for lashing on pads, or a rain cover though, so if you’re a fan of those, look elsewhere.
The main belt can cope with a 132cm/52in girth but sturdy siding elastic loops and double back buckles at the bag end mean that slimmer riders won’t have excess length flapping about. The waist belt is mounted on split yokes on each side which allows the bag to find a natural angle. There are straps between the main pocket block and the side pockets too, which help keep the load more stable. Big padded, open mesh hip sections flank a 3D foam back pad to keep your lumbar area as dry and ventilated as possible.
While some hip packs take a lot of wriggling and strap tugging to get comfortable, the Deuter hugged our hips well straight away. It’s needed minimal re-positioning when riding, even when we’ve used a bladder in it and filled all the other pockets. While it’s impossible to keep your lower back totally cool under a hip pack and the Deuter is deeper than most, it certainly didn’t turn my butt crack into a river even on hotter days.
The pocket arrangement and sizing meant it was easy to put exactly what we wanted where we wanted, rather than ‘having’ to put phones/tools in a specific place because the designers decided to make storage-specific choices. Being able to find the pull tabs easily was a bonus on dark, wet nights. Speaking of which, while it’s not specifically waterproof and there’s no rain cover it kept the weather out for hours at a time under storm or puddle attack. Thankfully – as I forgot to take pictures when it was fresh – it cleans up well too.
I’ve had zero structural issues either and if you do Deuter will do its best to repair your bag however they’ve been caused. Failing that they’ll just replace your old bag with the most applicable new one which is pretty damn impressive considering the price is already competitive given the quality.
With an overall capacity not far off a small pack, practical pocketing and an impressively stable, load spread feel when riding Deuter’s Pulse 3 has already become one of my favorite ‘longer ride’ waist packs. Keen price, excellent build quality, and awesome repair or replace warranty absolutely guarantee it a place in our best MTB hip packs line up though.
Tech Specs: Deuter Pulse 3
- Price: $85 / £50
- Weight: 366g (without bladder)
- Colors: Black, Bay Blue