Camelbak m.u.l.e. Hydration Pack Review
As a user of Camelbak hydration packs since the early 1990’s, I was please to be able to try out the 2006 version of the most popular hydration pack in Camelbak’s range – the M.U.L.E.
M.U.L.E stands for Medium to Ultra Long Endevours, and it’s aimed squarely at all day / enduro type riders who want to carry enough liquid and supplies for a comfortable day out, without taking a rucksack.
The M.U.L.E. has a liquid capacity of 3 litres in the new Omega reservoir, and a cargo capacity expandable up to 9 litres by clever use of expander straps and pockets. The pack has 6 pockets in total:-
1) A mesh pocket for a very small waterproof, snacks, or anything else you need to keep to hand (but don’t mind getting wet / dirty / dusty). A rubberised splash guard works quite well at keeping most of the crud off the pockets contents.
2) An organiser pocket and numerous pockets for small items like change, snacks, mobile phone, a key holder. If you have a short mini pump, it could go in here too.
3) An expandable area ideal for a normal sized waterproof which can be nipped up tight to prevent fallout with the expander straps.
4) A large pocket for normal length mini pump, suspension pump, a map, sandwiches / snacks, anything not already catered for by the other pockets.
All pockets have double zips for access from either side (or for carrying weird shaped items!).
5) The bladder pocket. This is accessible from the back of the pack so you don’t have to decant everything to refill the bladder (very clever and useful!). The pocket position keeps the bladder nearer your body which helps prevent movement, and helps keep the contents warm if it’s really cold! There’s a hanging loop to prevent the bladder folding itself over and blocking the drinking tube outlet as it empties (nice touch!).
6) Fleece-lined MP3 player pocket which also has a weatherproofed zip / headphone lead exit area. Very well thought out and useful. If you don’t have or use an MP3 player, you can fit a compact digital camera, helmet lamp or helmet cam battery pack or a pair of shades in it. Anything delicate which you don’t want to get scratched or joggled about too much.
The Omega reservoir has been further improved and is even better than previous incarnations of the bladder. Featuring a wide screw neck for easy filling and cleaning, the material has an antibacterial coating which apparently kills 99.9% of bacteria and is guaranteed for life by Camelbak. I can’t devise a scientific test for this, but if sugary juice is left in it for a few days, it’s still drinkable after nearly a week!! (this was NOT possible with earlier bladders, everything tasted ‘plasticky’ after just a few hours, never mind a few days. This coating has also extends to the drinking tube – time will tell how well / long the effects last.
Camelbaks have always featured a great valve which has no moving parts and is simple and effective – bite it and suck, let go and it seals again. There’s no reason to change something which works so well, and the valve remains unchanged for 2006. The bite valve is mounted on a 90 degree elbow to postion the valve in easy reach. The valve also has a simple ‘stop tap’ which prevents those annoying leaks if anything accidentally opens the bite valve during transport.
The wide straps are attached to the M.U.L.E. body via large ‘D’ rings which allow the straps to swivel round the pack slightly – which helps achieve the perfect fit, allows the pack to move whilst keeping the straps still (prevents chaffing of the shoulders) and helps getting a fully loaded pack on / off. The rear of the pack has an ‘Air Director’ back which has raised islands to space the pack away from your back and allow air to circulate and prevent sweaty patches forming under the Camelbak. For really technical off-road days out, there is a waist belt to prevent sideways movement of the pack when cornering hard etc. This is removeable if you don’t want to use it.
The finishing touches are a loop for an LED rear light, and some Scotchlite reflective piping to increase low light / night time visibility.
I’ve been using my M.U.L.E. since the StrathPuffer 24hr race in January (2006) and have found none of the claimed features to be ‘gimmicky’ or marketing hype – they all do exactly what they claim to do, and I’ve found them all useful. It’s a very stable and comfortable pack, even when fully loaded, with no-nonsense and ideally suited to my requirements without having loads of pockets and things I don’t need or use. My favourite features are the MP3 player pocket and the hanging loop to prevent the bladder collapsing as it empties.
The M.U.L.E. is available in Black, Red, Blue or Orange / Grey to match, or contrast, with your other kit.
Visit the Camelbak website for further information. If you find the ‘Why Camelbak?’ down the left hand side menu, this opens a great window which let’s you hover over the various features for an explanation.