Deuter Pulse 3 5L Review
Cons: Never stands out from competition, polarizing styling
Our Analysis and Test Results
At times, products in our comprehensive review's garner 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 don't want that to be the fate of the Deuter hip pack, so we're glad you're reading this. No, it never scored at the top of any performance metric, but this bag works quite well for the right buyer. Comfort is a strong point, and it earns overall scores across the board. For the price, this bag is definitely worthy of consideration.
Ease of Drinking
The Pulse 3 5L scores well in this metric. It is easy to take a nice, strong, haul off the hose without 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 of the bag. The hose is of appropriate length and is easy to adjust. You can make the hose a little bit longer or shorter by pushing it 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 right (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 so the hose doesn't dangle 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 it 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.
Ease of Filling
The Pulse 3.5L scores quite well here. This is an important metric as it really enhances the overall user-friendliness of a pack.
The Pulse uses a quick-connect system that is critical for a swift and straightforward filling process. The hose disconnects from the bladder easily with just 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 isn't a huge deal, but it does mean you need to reattach the hose after filling, which can be a hassle.
To open the bladder, fold the top 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 are about average with the Pulse 3. This pack doesn't stand out as particularly impressive, but it's also not irritating. It is about par for the course.
The backside portion that contacts your lumbar 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 feels 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 escape. However, 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. They are broad and approximately 5-inches wide at their widest point. The portion that contacts the body is soft and comfortable, the straps don't twist or ride up, and there are no uncomfortable pressure points. Some straps can interfere with the waistband of your shorts, but when worn at the appropriate height, this is a non-issue with the Pulse.
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 on the Pulse. Once you zip open the pack, the flap folds out towards you. The underside of this flap has a sizeable zipped pocket that can 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 open, non-pocketed space could fit a peanut butter and jelly or an apple. The storage is fine, but there is nothing exciting here.
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 on 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 5 L weighs 341-grams. This lands it about in the middle of our tested models 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 scores quite well in this 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.
The Pulse 3 is a solid, user-friendly, hip pack. It delivers decent on-trail performance, it's lightweight, and it features a small and compact design. We think you can do better in this price range with other bags that have slightly better features, but if you find a deal, 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. It didn't blow us away in any one performance area, but 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 its size, making it a good value and a nice choice for the right buyer.
— Pat Donahue
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