Sometimes a backpack and a bottle of water don’t cut it. That’s especially true on those long rides that start in the morning and continue through the afternoon.
So, it’s no surprise many cyclists opt for some kind of hydration pack to get them through the day and, if they’re lucky, something that can also hold a few bike tools and some snacks.
When it comes to hydration, there’s no company that’s more respected and experienced than Camelbak. The brand’s latest hydration pack is another winner that adds to the company’s stellar reputation.
I dove deep to provide a review of the Camelbak MULE Hydration Pack, an update on the classic pack which now offers more room for a larger water reservoir, in addition to space for tools, extra clothing, or whatever else you like bringing on your rides.
In terms of pricing, you can find this hydration pack from a number of outdoor retailers at a price that’s slightly on the higher end of the spectrum but won’t break the bank.
So, if you’re looking for a hydration pack that will give you enough water for an all-day ride while doubling as a gear backpack, it’s worth checking out the Camelbak MULE.
- Weight : 620g
- Reservoir Capacity : 100oz / 3L
- Colors : Russet Orange/Camelflage; Racing Red/Black; Black; Gibraltar Navy; Kelp/Black
Who is it For?
The Camelbak MULE Hydration Pack is for the mountain or road cyclist who goes out on all-day rides and needs space not just for tools and some snacks, but also a reservoir that can keep them hydrated throughout the day.
This isn’t for the casual rider who hits the roads for about 30 minutes per ride and only needs a water bottle on their bike.
Obviously, when it comes to hydration products, you can’t go wrong with the Camelbak brand.
But, like most cycling gear, nothing is perfect. I’ve broken down the key features, in addition to any pain points, you might run into, with the Camelbak MULE Hydration Pack.
- Lots of storage. It can accommodate a 3L reservoir for all-day hydration, and there’s plenty of room for tools, extra clothing and snacks.
- Comfortable. From the well-ventilated back panel to a removable stability belt, this hydration pack is super-comfortable.
- Sustainable. This hydration pack is made using sustainable materials.
- Installing the reservoir is more difficult in this latest iteration with the removal of the hook shelf.
- Helmet-hanging tool can misclip at times, so make sure everything is secured.
Big Water Bladder for Long Rides
Let’s start with the most obvious feature of this hydration pack: the water bladder, also known as the Crux reservoir.
At 100oz or roughly 3 liters, this pack offers more water-carrying space than Camelbak’s previous model and certainly enough to keep you hydrated on long rides.
Of course, that also brings us to the first possible pain-point with this pack. A reservoir filled with 100oz of water is going to add some significant weight to your ride. The pack itself with an empty bladder weighs 1.3lbs. When filled with water, it’s going to add 6.5lbs.
So, you need to decide if the ability to carry that much water makes sense for you. For mountain bikers who spend the entire day outside under the sun, it could totally justify the extra weight of the water. But for the casual road biker who goes out for an hour-long ride every so often, it’s probably overkilling.
Camelbak has updated the design of its MULE reservoirs and packs in an effort to improve the product over previous iterations. One of those updates includes the Quicklink system for an easy install of the reservoir in the pack.
While past models used a hook slot to line up and easily secure the reservoir, Camelbak removed it in favor of its updated system that uses a smaller loop that wraps around the reservoir. This setup can be tricky to remove and install the bladder. It also requires you to remove the reservoir each time you want to fill it up, instead of filling it up while it’s installed in the pack.
Innovative Features for Great Ease of Use
This pack sets out to do two things: Keep you hydrated and let you easily store any gear you need to take with you on a ride.
When out on the roads or the trails, you want a hydration pack that lets you easily drink water without getting in the way. That’s where the Camelbak MULE excels.
Let’s start with the Magnetic Tube Trap Management system, which does a great job at securing the drinking tube so it’s not flopping around on your ride. When you need it, simply reach out your shoulder and pull the tube toward you for a drink.
As an added benefit, the tube system is designed with perfect valve positioning that lets riders quickly suck water out.
Plenty of Storage Compartments
Camelbak really designed this hydration pack with mountain bikers in mind.
It features an easy-access elastic loop for a small pump. The stretch overflow pocket is perfect for storing that top clothing layer you needed to shed after getting warmed up. And included tools let you easily hang your helmet and any armor on the exterior of the pack for when you’re not riding.
I really like the secure phone pocket, which not only gives your phone extra protection on the trails but also lets you access it easily, which is important when you need to snap a quick photo or take a call.
But like I said, this is designed for mountain bikers. This is why the Integrated Tool Organization system is so welcomed. There are plenty of little pockets, loops, and storage areas to keep things like CO2 cartridges, patch kits, and, yes, even snacks that you need to grab quickly.
At 540 cubic inches, there is plenty of storage space with this Camelbak.
Breathable Comfort for All-Day Use
When it comes to breathability and comfort, the Camelbak MULE is one of the best-ventilated hydration packs on the market.
That ventilation starts with Camelbak’s Air Director Back Panel, which does an incredible job at keeping air flowing and keeping your back cool. Keeping your back cool keeps your core cool, allowing you to ride longer and not overheat.
Even the harness of this pack is ventilated nicely.
Combine that with its lightweight construction (remember, though, it’s going to be much heavier when filled with water), and this hydration pack can be worn all day. Some riders have said they forgot they were even wearing it.
What Others are Saying?
This is my second Mule. I still have the original from when it first came out. These are a perfect size backpack for hiking and mountain biking, plus I love the large reservoir. I never run out of water.
D Web, purchased from Jenson USA
Brilliant product and company
Bought the full black version from tredz and it came within 24hours of ordering and it’s perfect for what I need it for And can’t fault it at all I’ll be using camelback and tredz again for all my needs. Thanks again
Charles A, purchased from Tredz
Camelbak Mule Alternatives
Camelbak Palisade 100oz
Bigger storage compartment but with the same bladder capacity.
If storage is critically important to you, the Palisade features the same size water reservoir, but even more storage. This is certainly designed for cyclists going on those super-long rides that likely last all day.
It is going to run you more money and it’s about twice the weight, but you get three-times the amount of storage space.
Camelbak Hydrobak 50oz
A smaller and compact option.
The 50oz Hydrobak is the perfect hydration pack for riders who don’t need that much water and storage on their back because maybe they’re only going out for a few hours at a time. There have been some bad reviews with this smaller Hydrobak focused on a bad seal that can cause the reservoir to leak. It’s also a little tricky to install the bladder in the bag once it’s filled with water.
Think of the 100oz MULE as your all-day pack and the 50oz Hydrobak as your pack for a quicker ride.