Hydration packs have changed the game when it comes to all-day mountain bike adventures. I remember back in the day having to stock up with two large water bottles attached to your frame with the hope that you wouldn’t lose one and spill its contents during a rocky section (these were rigid days, remember). Seat packs were also the order of the day with levers, tubes, patches and a couple of nasty first-generation PowerBars all stuffed neatly under the seat.
Thankfully, those days are long gone as hydration packs rule the singletrack. With hundreds of flavors of hydration packs out there, what makes some stand out as best-in-class, while others wallow in the sea of sameness? The answer is in the little things and Deuter–with over 100 years in the backpack biz–has built hydration packs with many little features that make them stand out as a clear leader in the category.
About the Hydro M3
I’ve been looking over the Deuter pack line for some time. Their designs are well thought out and the features are top-notch. Take the proprietary Deuter Airstripes back panel and carrying system. With Airstripes, 80% of the wearer’s back has free air flow. Yes, a full 80%! That type of air circulation is far and beyond anything I’ve seen on the market today. That circulation reduces perspiration and also helps keep your pack from getting manky nearly as fast.
The guts of the system is in the split foam back with an air channel down the middle, which acts like a chimney to pull air up and encourage airflow out the waffled panels on either side. In addition, with the Hydro M3, you get mesh straps throughout to improve airflow even more.
Another great feature of Deuter hydration packs is the bladder itself. The Source bladders are built from a proprietary material that’s coated to provide a lining that’s nearly as smooth as glass and is also anti-microbial. The result is a bladder and tube that rinses cleaner than the competition and one that doesn’t make your water taste like a rubber boat.
Another nice feature of the Hydro M3 is the expandable back pocket that can hold your helmet, gloves and whatever else securely for transport before or after a ride. Everything stays put and in one place.
The Deuter Hydro M3 on the Trail
The Hydro M3 is a medium-sized (350 cu. in.) hydration pack built for mountain bikers. With a 100 oz. Source reservoir, Airstripes system and enough room to stash the essentials, the M3 can handle all-day rides with the best of them. The Airstripes system is clearly the best feature of this pack. I sweat a lot and with most hydration packs I’ve used, my back is hot and sweaty within minutes. But, with the Airstripes system, I noticed a considerable reduction in sweat buildup and also a reduction in the heat trapped by the back panel. The entire pack breathes better and fits better than any pack I’ve used.
The Source bladder lives up to the hype with an easy-fill top and quick open/close with the channeled top seal. It’s easy to fill and super easy to clean with no residue from energy drinks, etc. Just some hot water and a little soap cleans that sucker out as clean as can be. The sleeve is also insulated and the actual bladder material is thick, so the combination keeps things chilled even on long rides.
The bite valve is easy to engage and gives plenty of water without much effort. The bite valve cap is kind of a pain to take on and off with one hand, but it proves its worth when setting the pack down on the ground. It prevented the inevitable dirt magnet that is a wet bite valve coming in contact with dirt.
The M3 does have plenty of room inside the zippered main compartment, has a parallel zippered compartment that runs 3/4 the length of the outside of the pack and finishes off the storage compartments with smaller zipped compartment with a key clip. These three compartments are great, however the pack could use more dividers to segregate your gear. Other packs that are MTB-targeted have specific compartments for tubes, pumps, tools and a camera, but this one lacks those. So, my stuff just ended up all jumbled in either compartment–not the greatest.
I did love the ability to stash my lid, gloves and anything else into the expandable panel pocket. That is a great feature.
The Bottom Line on the Deuter Hydro M3
Overall, the Airstripes system alone makes this pack worth its weight in gold. I noticed a huge difference in airflow and coolness with the channeled and breathable backing. It does lack some divided compartments to organize your gear, but the Hydro M3 pack is super comfortable and the bladder is money. Getting past these minor shortcomings is easy once you take this pack for a spin as the function of this pack is superior to anything I’ve used. MSRP on the M3 is $79.
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