The Vital 8 sits in the middle in terms of size in Thule’s range of cycling-specific packs. Its 8-litre capacity feels about right for most day rides and its cargo space is organised logically with one main compartmentalised pocket and two smaller ones – one of which is fleece-lined for valuables.
There are also deep (non-zipped) stash pouches on the hip ‘wings’, which are useful for quick-to-grab items. While the expandable external panel isn’t big enough for a helmet, you can fit a jacket in, and a lid can still be attached by clipping it through the straps.
Thanks to the Vital 8’s wide, flat and pliable shape it’s one of the comfiest and best-fitting packs I’ve tested – the only downside to its figure-hugging nature and large-contact back panel is that it can get sweaty.
This can’t be said for the shoulder straps, though, which are thin, vented and ergonomically shaped to provide support and freedom of movement.
Because the Vital 8 is so snug it stays where it should on rough trails – helped by the wide ‘wings’ moulded into the pack’s waist belt.
Included in the price – which isn’t that cheap – is a 2.5-litre HydraPak reservoir. This is housed in a sleeve in the pack’s main compartment. As we’ve come to expect from HydraPak systems, this performed well, with a central baffle in the bladder to stop water sloshing around, and a sliding top closure for easy cleaning.
Refilling however can be a little frustrating because the bladder doesn’t have a quick-disconnect clip where the hose attaches to it, and the small fabric loop to hold the bladder upright is so tight that removing it is quite awkward.
However, Thule’s way of securing the drinking hose in transit is one of the best I’ve seen. Its ReTrakt design uses two magnetic strips, one on the hose and one on the shoulder strap, so when you’re done drinking, you can just let go and it snaps back into place.
This means no more fiddling with clips or magnetic tabs that come loose. However, the strip is only on the right-hand shoulder strap, there’s no option to run the drinking hose on the left.
There’s a women’s-specific version available too with a slightly different fit, but the same storage capacity.