Camelbak is the pioneer in the field of hydration packs since the early 90s.

The Camelbak brand name is synonomous with hydration packs, in fact many people refer to hydration packs as Camelbaks. The previous generation of M.U.L.E. was one of the favourite packs used by mountainbikers as it provides a good balance of lightweight compactness with useful utility storage space.

However in recent years, the growing popularity of trailriding and freeriding has necessitated the need for a design update to better suit the direction of the sport’s growth. The new M.U.L.E. is noticeably bigger, with lots of features to cater to the needs of trailriding.

FEATURES

The central feature of all hydration packs is the bladder, and the new M.U.L.E. does not disappoint. A new OMEGA Hydrotanium reservoir with a ninety degree bite valve and Ergo Hydrolock ensures a convenient and leakproof drinking experience. The bladder also has a lifetime warranty and an improved HydroGuard anti-microbial reservoir which eliminates a claimed 99.9% of common bacteria and fungus.

The shoulder straps are redesigned with a Dynamic Suspension Harness which maximizes the load stability. The harness and pack have reflective strips stitched on to improve visibility of the user to others. The waist strap is also removeable if one chooses not to use it. The back of the pack has an Air Director panel with 6 raised pads to help channel cool air for ventilation of the user’s back. There is a MP3 pocket on the top of the pack, with a velvety lined pocket and weather resistant zipper to help protect your MP3 player or digital camera. The smaller pack has 2 straps built-in to allow you to expand for holding a normal XC helmet. There is also a hard rubber Splash Guard at the bottom of the small pocket to protect it from mud and abrasion.

The internals of the pack is equally impressive. The bladder is stored separately from the rest of the cargo, protecting it against potential condensation and rust resulting from a bladder full of cold drinks. The big compartment allows one to store big bulky items like bicycle pumps, inner tubes and jackets, while the small compartment has built-in organizer pouches for you to securely store small items.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The first thing you notice about the new M.U.L.E. is how much larger it seems next to its predecessor. To keep abreast of consumer technology, a MP3 pouch with a water resistant zipper is added to the top of the pack. The shoulder harness is also wider and thicker padded than before to better help spread the increased loads. There is an interesting velcro strap management system for keeping any extra harness straps tidy. Internally, the smaller pouch has 2 netting organizers with a keychain holder so that the keys won’t be lost should your pouch be accidentally left unzipped while riding. The waist strap is removeable should the user decide against it.

M.U.L.E. IN ACTION

Getting the M.U.L.E. to fit me is a simple matter of adjusting the straps snugly and using the velcro strap management to hold the loose ends in. I did not use the waist strap, so I removed it. I discovered that the chest strap’s elastic band was insufficient for expansion if you adjust it to fit nicely in a standing position. It’s best to loosen it abit so that it won’t constrict your breathing in a riding position. The M.U.L.E.’s huge storage capacity meant that it easily took my tools, minipump, first aid kit with lots of room to spare a windbreaker. The MP3 pouch has proved to be very rain resistant, and I sometimes carry a compact digital camera in the fleece lined interior. I added an aftermarket handphone pouch to the shoulder harness, and I got some additional velcro straps from IKEA to tidy up the other straps’ loose ends. The pack’s weight was pretty well distributed when I’m riding, and helps to keep my shoulders comfortable despite lugging around so much gear and water. In the 3 months plus of regular use, 2-3 times a week, it has not shown any wear and tear. However, even with a thorough cleaning and drying after each use, the bladder developed a slight fungus problem in the drinking tubes when I used it with Gatorade powder mix. A simple cleaning with the cleaning kit solved it though.

CONCLUSIONS

With a wide range of hydration packs to suit a wide range of sports and even military and civil defense applications, it’s no surprise why Camelbak is synonymous with hydration packs. Besides being the inventors, they are also the market leaders with their packs and bladder technology. The M.U.L.E. is a pack catered to riders who require 3 litres of fluids with sufficient gear and spares for long offroad trips. Cyclists who seek smaller packs can try the LOBO or the Classic, while riders requiring more storage space can try the Mayhem or the Havoc.

SPECIFICATIONS

Fluid Capacity 3 liters
Pack Capacity 8.8 liters
Empty Pack Weight 690 g
Dimensions 18 in x 9 in x 8 in