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Thule Vital 6l ReviewBest Hydration Pack for Mountain Biking: MTB Hydration Pack Review

  • Storage 70% 70%
  • Comfort 70% 70%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 80% 80%
  • Weight 80% 80%

Price: $53.00-$110.00

Gear Capacity: 9l

Bladder Capacity: 3l

Weight: 620g

Dimensions: 17.9” x 8.7” x 8.9” / 45.5 x 22 x 22.5cm

What We Like: “Everything You Need and Nothing You Don’t,” CamelBak Big Bite Valve

What We Don’t: Not as Comfortable as Some Newer Bags, Twist Off Water Reservoir Lid

The Thule Vital Hydration pack is also available in an eight-liter variant, as well as an ultraminimal two-liter variant.

The Thule 6l hydration pack is a mountain bike specific pack made for riders who don’t want to wear a hydration pack. It joins a growing list of such packs and holds its own among stiff competition

Osprey Raptor 14

  • Storage 90% 90%
  • Comfort 100% 100%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 80% 80%
  • Weight 70% 70%

Pros

Top Notch Comfort and Organization

Cons

Average Weight

Pricey

Gear Capacity: 11.5l

Bladder Capacity: 2.5l

Weight: 800g

Dimensions: 20” x 9” x 9” / 48 x 22 x 25cm

CamelBak Skyline LR 10l

  • Storage 80% 80%
  • Comfort 100% 100%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 80% 80%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Pros

Low Rider Technology is Comfortable and Stable

Best Water Flow in Test

Cons

Average Weight

Not Terribly Easy to Access

Fill or Clean Hydration Reservoir

Gear Capacity: 7l

Bladder Capacity: 3l

Weight: 995g

Dimensions: 8” x 8” x 15” / 20 x 20 x 39cm

Platypus Duthie AM 10.0

  • Storage 90% 90%
  • Comfort 100% 100%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 80% 80%
  • Weight 70% 70%

Pros

Best In Class Ventilation

Great Organization

Cons

Only Slightly Above Average Water Flow from Reservoir

Gear Capacity: 7l

Bladder Capacity: 3l/100 fluid ounces

Weight: 800g

Dimensions: 9” x 6” x 18” / 23 x 15 x 46cm

CamelBak MULE LR 15

  • Storage 90% 90%
  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 80% 80%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Pros

Low Rider Hydration Reservoir Positioning

CamelBak Bite Valve

Cons

Subpar Ventilation

Heavy

Gear Capacity: 12l

Bladder Capacity: 3l

Weight: 990g

Dimensions: 21” x 10” x 9” / 53 x 23 x 25cm

Dakine Seeker 15l 

  • Storage 100% 100%
  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 60% 60%
  • Weight 40% 40%

Pros

Water Resistant

Tons of Storage

Comfortable

Cons

Heavy

Not the Greatest Reservoir

Gear Capacity: 12l

Bladder Capacity: 3l

Weight: 1340g

Dimensions: 19” x 12” x 8″ / 48 x 30 x 20cm

CamelBak Lobo 9l

  • Storage 60% 60%
  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 80% 80%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Pros

Lightweight

CamelBak Big Bite Drinking Valve

Sale Prices

Cons

Not Much Storage

Subpar Ventilation

Gear Capacity: 6l

Bladder Capacity: 3l

Weight: 480g

Dimensions: 18” x 8.3” x 7.5” / 46 x 21 x 19cm

CamelBak M.U.L.E. 100 OZ

  • Storage 70% 70%
  • Comfort 70% 70%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 80% 80%
  • Weight 80% 80%

Pros

“Everything You Need and Nothing You Don’t,”

CamelBak Big Bite Valve

Cons

Not as Comfortable as Some Newer Bags

Twist Off Water Reservoir Lid

Gear Capacity: 9l

Bladder Capacity: 3l

Weight: 620g

Dimensions: 17.9” x 8.7” x 8.9” / 45.5 x 22 x 22.5cm

Thule Vital 6l

  • Storage 80% 80%
  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 40% 40%
  • Weight 90% 90%

Pros

ReTrakt Hydration Hose

Great Main Compartment Organization

Lightweight

Cons

J Shaped Zipper

Subpar Water Reservoir

Gear Capacity: 3.5l

Bladder Capacity: 2.5l

Weight: 540g

Dimensions: 8.7” x 3.5” x 17.5” / 23 x 9 x 44.5cm

Evoc Stage 18

  • Storage 100% 100%
  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 20% 20%
  • Weight 50% 50%

Pros

Top Notch Comfort and Storage

Cons

No Water Reservoir Included

Pricey

Gear Capacity: 18l

Bladder Capacity: Accommodates Hydration Systems Up To 3l (Not Included)

Weight: 965g

Dimensions: 8.25” x 17.3” x 4.75” / 28 x 50 x 12cm

Evoc CC 10l

  • Storage 90% 90%
  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 50% 50%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Pros

Comfortable

Stable

Great Storage and Accessibility

Cons

Average Ventilation

Subpar Water Reservoir

Gear Capacity: 8l

Bladder Capacity: 2l

Weight: 690g

Dimensions: 7.9” x 19.7 x 3.9” / 20 x 50 x 10cm

Storage

The Thule Vital 6l hydration pack features a 2.5l water reservoir and three liters of gear capacity. While it is not a hydration pack that is going to carry an entire bike shop worth of tools, it has plenty of room for all of the water, tools, and fuel that you should need for all but the longest and most strenuous of rides. 

The Thule Vital 6l is not awash with pockets. The vast majority of its capacity is all accessed inside of the main compartment. Curiously, the main compartment fully zips on one side, but only partially on the other, making for a J shaped zipper rather than the usual U shape. This is not terribly inconvenient, but we did find it a bit odd. Whoever complained of having too easy access to their gear? Inside the main compartment is plenty of organization, with multiple mesh pockets, and a sleeve to hold a pump on each side, similar to the setup found in the Platypus Duthie AM 10.0.

Beyond the main compartment, there is a small quick access compartment at the top of the pack, and a stretch mesh pocket on each side of the hip belt.

Aside from the odd, J shaped zipper, the only real drawback of the Thule Vital 6l is that there is no external storage, which is felt all the more on such a small pack. The addition of an overflow pocket with straps to accommodate a helmet or knee guards would have been a great addition.

Comfort

The Thule Vital 6l sits low on your back in a way that is very reminiscent of the CamelBack Low Rider packs, save for the fact that it still uses a more traditionally shaped water reservoir.

Both the straps and hip belt on the Thule Vital 6l are minimal and well vented. While they don’t feature terribly robust padding, that is to be expected on a pack of this size, and the ergonomic shoulder straps were very comfortable, particularly for women, and for men with larger chests.

While the back panel is not one of the most ventilated out there, it is fairly stiff, which keeps it from molding too tightly to the shape of your back, and its low slung nature means that the upper half of your back stays cool, even if the lower half does not.

Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking

The Thule Vital 6l features Thule’s ReTrakt hydration hose. The hose threads out of the top of the bag like most hydration packs, and through a clip on the shoulder strap. But rather than using a standard magnet like other hydration packs on the list, the Thule Retrakt hydration hose features a magnetic sleeve around the entire hose, which sticks to a magnetic strip on the shoulder strap. This means that you simply let go of the strap after taking a drink, and it magically attaches back to the shoulder strap. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent adjusting magnets to try to get this same effect with my CamelBak and Osprey packs, with very limited success.

Unfortunately, that is the only great thing there is to say about he Thule Vital 6’s hydration system. The reservoir compartment is located in the main compartment, which means that it takes up a bit of the limited space in that compartment, and it also means that you have to deal with the odd, J shaped zipper to get to it. Furthermore, the hose does not disconnect from the reservoir, making getting it in and out of the pack more difficult than it needs to be, never mind cleaning it.

On the plus side, it does feature the Osprey, zip style opening.

In the end, we would probably recommend getting a better reservoir down the road, and slapping the nifty ReTrakt sleeve in that, as the subpar hydration reservoir is the only thing that really holds the Thule Vital 6l back from being one of our favorite hydration packs for mountain biking.

Weight

The Thule Vital 6l is a minimal hydration pack, and as such its weight of 540g is not surprising. This makes it one of the lightest hydration packs in our list, and a great option for those who want a lightweight hydration pack for mountain biking, but who do not want to skimp out on comfort or organization.

What Did We Really Think?

The Thule Vital 6l is a great all-around pack, that is only held back by a subpar hydration reservoir, and to a lesser extent, by its J shaped zipper that makes accessing a very well laid out and spacious (for its size) main compartment more difficult than it needs to be. The ReTrakt magnetic hose is one of my personal favorite features out of any hydration pack that I have ever used, and one that I hope all of the top hydration pack manufacturers adopt soon.

Finally, the Thule Vital 6l sells for $119.95, putting it on the less expensive end of the best hydration packs for mountain biking. If you are budget conscious and weight conscious, or if you just want the sweet ReTract drinking hose, the Thule Vital 6l is a tough hydration pack to pass up.

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