The Deuter Pulse 3 5L is a compact hip pack that is best suited for hot laps and small to mid-sized rides. Deuter took a unique approach with this pack and delivered a bag with a unique shape and low weight. The Pulse delivers solid performance in most metrics, but never stands out as particularly awesome. This may sound like a jab, but it really is a compliment as this is a well-rounded, light, and compact hip pack that may just be a little less refined than some of our award winners. The Pulse 3 sells for a reasonable price and delivers a nice value with generally good performance across the board.
Deuter Pulse 3 5L Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Well-rounded performance, compact, attractive price
Cons: Never stands out from competition, polarizing styling
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Our Analysis and Test Results
At times, products in our comparative analysis' post respectable scores but get lost in the middle of the pack. It can be easy to hyper-focus on the top options in the test class and lose track of the 2-3 products that hang around the middle of the scoring chart. We hope that isn't the fate of the Deuter hip pack. No, it never scored at the top of any performance metric, but this bag works quite well for the right buyer. Comfort was a strong point and it earned upper mid-pack scores across the board. For the price, this bag is definitely worthy of consideration.
Ease of Drinking
The Pulse 3 5L scored well in the ease of drinking metric. It is easy to take a nice, strong, haul off the hose and it doesn't require too much effort. Upon taking a drink, replace the hose into a clip located on the waistband, this is an effective and simple detail that we appreciate.
The hydration hose routes from the bladder through the wing, or hip-side pocket, and comes out on the right side bag. The hose is of appropriate length and it is easy to adjust. You can make the hose a little bit longer or shorter by pushing the hose back into the bag, or pulling on it and giving yourself more slack.
The end of the hose features a twisting nozzle. As you are looking at the front of the nozzle, you can twist the nozzle right, or clockwise, to shut off the water flow and lock it. Twist it counterclockwise, or left, and you can now have a drink. This is a two-hand job and we recommend just leaving it in the open position for the duration of your ride. When open, the nozzle will not leak or drip onto your leg or waist.
Deuter used a hose clip on the left side of the waistband. This allows riders to clip the hose to the waistband while riding so it isn't simply dangling there as you are pedaling. This is an interesting approach. Other bags in our test class use a magnetic system. The clip on the Pulse 3 is definitely secure but takes a little more force to secure and remove the hose. The magnet systems are a little weaker, but are a touch more user-friendly mid-ride or when you're exhausted, even if they pose a little more of a risk of falling off mid-ride.
Ease of Filling
The Pulse 3.5L scored okay in the ease of filling metric. In fact, it scored close to the top of the test class in this metric. Ease of filling is quite important as it really enhances the user-friendliness of the pack.
This pack uses a quick-connect system that is critical for an easy and swift filling process. The hose disconnects from the bladder easily with a pinch of the fingers. Once disconnected, you can leave the hose in place, remove the bladder, and fill it up. The quick-connect system is enormously beneficial. Other packs that do not have this feature require you to pull the hose out of its routing path every time you fill the bladder. This is more difficult than it sounds. Of course, you then need to reinstall the hose after filling, which really is a hassle. We give Deuter a lot of credit for the use of the quick connect system.
The top of the bladder is opened and closed by a foldover and track system. Fold the top of the bladder over itself to reveal a track system. A slider that is not attached to a string slides onto this track pinching it shut. This system works well enough and it is a little easier to fill compared to a screw-on cap system. It does take some getting used to, but it works quite well.
Comfort levels were about average with the Deuter pack. This pack didn't stand out as particularly impressive or irritating. It was about par for the course.
The backside, or portion that contacts your lumbar, of the pack has a screen-like material over a ribbed foam surface. This is intended to promote a little bit of airflow and let your back breathe. It felt relatively well ventilated, but not super airy like some other designs. One design flaw is that while there is space for air to circulate, there is no place for it to go. The four sides of this panel are more or less sealed off and there is nowhere for the air or heat to go. Given the size and low weight of this pack, it never felt particularly clammy or steamy.
The wings, or the portion of the bag that wraps around your waist, are comfortable. The wings are broad and approximately 5-inches wide at the widest part. The portion that contacts your body is soft and comfortable. The straps worked well and were issue-free. Some straps can interfere with the waistband of your shorts. When worn at the appropriate height, this is a non-issue with the Deuter pack. The waistband did not twist up or ride. We did not experience any pressure points or areas where the strap jabbed our stomachs.
Storage space is ample with the Pulse 3 5L, but it is not a cavernous hip pack in which you can load multiple additional clothing layers. That said, it has plenty of space to get you through a quick ride or even a medium length outing.
The outer storage compartment is quite simple in the Deuter pack. Once you zip open the pack, the flap kind of folds out towards you. The underside of this flap has a sizeable zipped pocket that is of sufficient size to hold most mid-sized cell phones, a credit card, and maybe some keys. On the opposite side of the pocket, there are two elasticized sleeves. They are both of decent size, and either could carry a tube while the other could fit a multi-tool, C02, and a shift cable. There is also an attachment for your keys. The storage is fine and there is nothing exciting here. The open, non-pocketed space could fit a peanut butter and jelly or an apple.
The larger compartment holds the water bladder in a nylon sleeve against your back. The rest of this large compartment can fit a number of things from a light compressible jacket, a tube, or a small hand pump. On the hip wings, there are two smaller pockets. One is located at each hip. These zip open and offer enough space for a candy bar, smaller smartphone, or maybe a GPS unit. These pockets can come in handy as you do not need to remove the bag to access them.
The Pulse 3.5 L weighs 341-grams. This makes it about middle of the pack in terms of weight. It certainly doesn't feel heavy when you're wearing it, but it is substantially heavier than the lightest model we tested.
Ease of Cleaning
The Pulse scored quite well in the ease of cleaning metric thanks to the quick-connect bladder/hose system. It is easy and quick to pull the bladder out of the bag without having to pull the hose out too. Since the bladder is so easy to remove, users have far more incentive to clean it after every few rides. You can leave the hose in place and maybe pull it out monthly for a deep clean with a pipe cleaner.
If the inside of the bag gets sticky from a rotten apple core or some tubeless sealant, it is easy to clean. It is simple to get in there with a soapy rag and scrub around to get the grime off. Once soaped up, this bag can be blasted off with a hose or kitchen faucet.
At $80, the Pulse 3.5 is a solid, user-friendly, hip pack. It delivers decent on-trail performance, it's lightweight, and features a small and compact design. We think you can do better in this price range with other bags that have slightly better features. If you find a deal on the Deuter pack, it can still be a great option for the right buyer.
The Deuter Pulse 3 is a solid hip pack that boasts a compact design and low weight. The hip pack didn't blow us away in any one single performance area. That said, it is still a viable option for riders who want a simple comfortable pack for small to medium length rides and hot laps. The Pulse delivers a comfortable fit and a reasonable amount of storage given the size of this pack. At $80, this pack is a good value and a nice choice for the right buyer.
— Pat Donahue