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CamelBak M.U.L.E. Review


Hydration Pack

Camelbak M.U.L.E.
Price:   Varies from $69 - $109 online  —  Compare at 6 sellers
Pros:  Good storage, decent stability
Cons:  insufficient hip belt, hard to clean bladder
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   CamelBak

Overview

The Camelbak M.U.L.E. has since its inception been one of the most popular hydration packs for tons of uses. But how does it stand up to the test of time? While Camelbak had the market cornered with their early innovation in the at one time small market of hydration packs, they're now under fire from manufactures all around the globe. Camelbak revamped the M.U.L.E. to meet some of these demands by updating details of the hydration bladder, various accessories, and the overall fit.

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Tommy Penick
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Sunday
September 6, 2015

Comfort


CamelBak M.U.L.E.
CamelBak M.U.L.E.
Camelbak did a great job in building the M.U.L.E. out with the right materials—the pack's shoulders, back panel, and sides are very comfortable. However, our main complain is the pack's lack of rigidity, which contributes to its tendency to turn into a tubular shape against your spine rather than keeps its natural shape. This creates pressure points in the front of the shoulders, and in the center of the back when the pack gets loaded up. While this isn't an issue when the pack isn't full, we found that in the beginning of rides when we were loaded with 3L of water, clothes, and food, that the pack was a bit more uncomfortable than others. We enjoyed the shoulder support, and how the shoulder straps met with the pack. We found that this design is crucial to the overall stability of the pack.

Stability


The M.U.L.E.'s strap system did a pretty good job providing the pack with stability while on the bike and while hiking. We really liked the contoured shoulder straps and its confluence with the pack, that widens into a patch that sits well between your shoulders. We found that overall, the pack was very stable. The well designed adjustable height sternum strap also provided additional stability.

However, we were thoroughly unimpressed with the simple webbing hip belt. We'll be the first to admit that we didn't use it on this pack, but maybe if it weren't so insignificant, it could've propelled the M.U.L.E. even higher in the rankings.

Ease of Drinking


The updated CamelBak M.U.L.E. now includes a clip for the hydration hose to keep it from flopping around.
The updated CamelBak M.U.L.E. now includes a clip for the hydration hose to keep it from flopping around.

As with all CamelBak packs, water delivery is very good with high flow from minimal effort. We were happy to see that CamelBak has updated the M.U.L.E. with a clip that helps keep the hydration hose at bay while riding rough trails. However, we got spoiled by the magnet on the Osprey that holds the mouthpiece right in front of you and gives hands free or almost hands free use, and preferred that design.

Ease of Filling


As with all the CamelBak bladders tested, the side opening of the bladder is easy for filling in a shallow sink, but proves difficult to clean and to fill in other situations.

Weight


This pack is very light considering how much gear it carries, and came in on our scale right around the Osprey Raptor 10.

Durability/Leakage


As with most CamelBaks, we give this high marks for durability. No leakage was detected and we expect this to last longer than average before the bladder or plastic parts need to be replaced. However, the mouthpiece design of the CamelBak pack seems rudimentary to the other packs we tested, and tended to become a bit squished over time, leading to leaks.

Ease of Cleaning


While CamelBak's bladder design is good for shallow sinks, it's somewhat of a pain to clean in comparison to top zip bladders. Though CamelBak has a cleaning kit, it adds cost, complexity, and one more piece of gear to break/store. We much preferred the top zip due to ease of cleaning, which was a large priority to our testers.

Storage


The Camelback gets high marks for the amount of storage it has relative to its weight. There are three zippered pockets and an exterior sleeve where you can stuff in a jacket. All the packs that have more storage are generally much heavier. The M.U.L.E. hits the sweet spot of being light but having plenty of room for a day hike or ride essentials: food, rain jacket and a light warm layer. The only option that gives more storage for weight is the Osprey Talon 22 with Platypus Big Zip SL which has a lot more storage and is lighter.

Out of all of the helmet carry designs, we found this one to be the worst. Unless the pack is almost empty, the helmet can't fit into the sleeve, rendering it useless.


Other Versions


M.U.L.E. NV
  • $140.00 ($30 more than the M.U.L.E.)
  • 29 oz (same as the M.U.L.E.)
  • NV is short for N.V.I.S. which is CB's more tricked out back panel system
  • Storage to the waist belt
  • More adjustability in the shoulder straps
  • Rain cover

Camelbak Classic  Older Version
CamelBak Classic
  • $60 ($50 less than the M.U.L.E.)
  • 6.7 oz (22 oz less than the M.U.L.E.)
  • 2L (1 L less than the M.U.L.E.)
  • Best Buy Award winner!

L.U.X.E.
  • $109.00 (same as the M.U.L.E.)
  • 1 lb 6 oz (6 oz lighter than the M.U.L.E.)
  • Designed specifically for women
  • Shorter pack length
  • Specially lined shoulder and chest straps

CamelBak Mini MULE
Kid's M.U.L.E.
  • Kid's size hydration pack
  • Holds 1.5L of fluid
  • Several pockets for organization
  • Reflective Strips
  • $50

Accessories


CamelBak Antidote Reservoir
CamelBak Antidote Reservoir
  • Best Buy Award Winner for hydration bladders!
  • Easy to fill wide mouth opening
  • Great bite valve design
  • $30 for 2L version

CamelBak Thermal Control Kit
CamelBak Antidote Thermal Control Kit
  • Helps to keep the tube from freezing during cold weather events.
  • $20

Camelback Brush Cleaning Kit
CamelBak Cleaning Brush Kit
  • For cleaning inside both reservoir and hydration hose, especially important if using hydration drink mix inside the reservoir.
  • $10
Tommy Penick

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: December 27, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
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  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 100%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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Write a Review on this Gear

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Dec 27, 2016 - 11:25am
 
Marcus213 · Backpacker · Tucson
It fits perfectly to the back of the cyclist, which in long routes does not cause the appearing of pains in the lumbar zone. Besides, it fits in an amazing way to the contour of the body, which attached to the zippers, handles and other fastening elements of the backpack, makes that carrying it results very natural and not uncomfortable (unlike conventional backpacks).

Camelbak. It is the brand for antonomasia for these products, not only because it is the most popular, but because it is the one who offers more variety.


Nowadays, and even more, there are many brands that work in this field (Poc, Evoc, Scott, Osprey, Mavic, Zefal, Fox, Shimano, B'Twin, etc.) giving excellent results, but the one who really continues winning is Camelback. It is the most famous, the most widespread in stores and also the most used nowadays. I'm not suggesting you to buy a hydration backpacks for cycling from this brand, but if you don't know this market really well; this is a very good starting point.
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