For cyclists and hikers, there is nothing quite like a Camelbak hydration pack. The concept behind the hydration pack is a simple one: a long straw is connected to a supply of water carried in a leak-proof bladder contained within a backpack. The result of this elegantly simple design is a massively useful device which lets users get a drink whenever they please without dismounting their bike or stopping their hike to dig through bags.
Camelbak offers several high quality hydration packs, such as the Camelbak Lobo (~$88.00 on Amazon.com,) a great general purpose or bicycling hydration pack, or the Camelbak HAWG (~$145 on Amazon.com,) a true hikers friend with plenty of water and tons of extra space.
But we’re going to focus on the Camelbak hydration pack I have the most experience with: the Camelbak MULE 3 Liter Hydration Pack (~$135 on Amazon.com).
Designed with the Cyclist in Mind
The Camelbak MULE is ostensibly designed with the cyclist in mind. Lightweight and ergonomically form fitting, it has a minimal footprint meaning it adds very little extra stress on the back when walking or cycling. A weather resistant pocket is provided for an MP3 player, which I make great use of to keep myself grooving while walking or biking.
While it is certainly well suited to the demands of riding a bike, the Camelbak MULE is just as well suited to being a hiking companion, though it lacks some of the extra backpack space offered by larger Camelbak hydration packs. But the MULE does offer some storage space in the form of a tool compartment on the front, large enough to accommodate a few extra water bottles, a first aid kit, or a few items. Helmet hooks are also provided to make it easy to strap a bike helmet to the MULE at a moments notice.
Having owned a few hydration packs, I can appreciate some of the more clever innovations the MULE brings to the table. One of the nicest features is what Camelbak refers to as “XV Back Panels.” These are more or less nice cushions which pad the MULE from being too abrasive against the back. They also provide ventilation – if you’ve ever worn a cheap backpack on a long hike or bike ride, you know how miserably hot and stuffy your back can get. Not with the MULE – the design really does work quite well and I’ve always felt sufficiently ventilated even with the MULE full of water (holds up to 3 liters) and gear.
The drinking tube on the MULE is definitely worthy of commendation. Camelbak’s PureFlow technology provides a highly durable, kink-resistant material which delivers excellent flow rate relying purely on suction with no moving parts. Drinking from the MULE feels simple and natural, and the useful Big Bite Valve seals after a drink has been taken to prevent the left overs from leaking onto your face or bag.
Although I have never used it myself, the MULE incorporates a “Quick Link System” which allows it to be connected to an inline filter to improve taste and water quality, or even a flow meter to track your water consumption.
Maintaining the MULE
It is super easy to refill or clean the MULE, largely thanks to the generously sized mouth of the pack. Easy to open or seal with the ¼ turn valve, the MULE provides a leak proof seal but is easy to access when you need to. While its easy enough to clean, there are a lot of crevices and since the bag is flexible and foldable its important to make sure it is cleaned thoroughly to avoid contamination.
The MULE’s reservoir is part of Camelbak’s Antidote series. Made from BPA- and BPS-free materials, the Antidote is a modern food-grade plastic material. I have never experienced any odd flavors in my water stored in the MULE, even after long periods. This was a major concern of mine, as cheaper hydration packs I have owned can leave water with a chemical taste after long usage. I’m pleased to report the MULE does not suffer from this massive set back – provided I manage to properly clean the reservoir, my water is always fresh and delicious.
My Camelbak MULE is essential for any long cycling or hiking expedition. Three liters is plenty of water, the MP3 pouch is handy, and I always manage to pack a few useful items in the extra backpack space.
Easy To Fill
Easy To Drink From
- Readers Rating
- No Rating Yet!
- Your Rating
The MULE3 is one of CamelBaks many hydration pack options - designed as a general-purpose hydration pack, it is useful ion a variety of situations.
Jacob Hatch is the author and founder of Hydration Anywhere. He has been actively writing about drinking water since 2013. These days Jacob spends most of his time investigating water related news, studying environmental issues, reading health studies, and reviewing products like water bottles and water filters.