Review: CamelBak M.U.L.E - Explore! Review: CamelBak M.U.L.E - Explore!

Review: CamelBak M.U.L.E

CamelBak Mule – Hydration Pack . . .

My biggest problem when on the trail is water.  If I get enough,  I feel fine – if not, I run out of energy very quickly.  Thus, I thought, a hydration pack would be the thing for me.

The main function of a hydration pack is to carry water and make it easy to drink.  This is done with a bladder that is connected to a “squirt tube” – essentially a long flexible straw.  You fill the bladder with water, zip it inside the pack and drink through the squirt tube. M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack - PackedMountain bikers seem to be the main users of these packs, but it looks like more and more hikers are using them too.

There are two main options – buy a specifically designed hydration pack or buy a bladder and install it in your regular pack.  New packs often include space for a bladder and a hole through which the squirt tube exits the pack.  If you already have a pack like that,  you might want to go with the bladder.  I didn’t have such a pack, so I decided to buy a complete system.

Compared to an ordinary day pack, these packs tend to be very narrow and quite small.  They are well designed for a bicyclist that needs a pack that fits tight against the body and doesn’t swing from side to side.  I also enjoy bicycling, so I thought this would be great for that as well. I was looking for a strong pack and one that carries a lot of water.

After searching around the world-wide-web, it looked like the CamelBak M.U.L.E. would fit my needs.  Numerous reviewers commented on its strength and it carries 100 ounces of water. Plus, it carries more other things than many hydration packs that carry only water.   I ordered one and used it on my trek through Crater Lake National Park to Stuart Falls – a twelve mile round trip.

I packed it with my video camera (a Canon GL-1, not a tiny one), lunch, granola bars, sunscreen, bug repellent, toilet paper, map, extra video tape, and extra batteries.  Then I decided to take a tripod.  Well,  the pack isn’t really designed for carrying a tripod, but it does have straps on each side that handled my light tripod very well.  My video camera fit nicely in an open pouch between the main bag and the outside pocket.  I bought a waterproof bag (the red thing in the photo) to protect the camera.

The photo below displays the contents of the pack.   I carried my still camera around my neck. CamelBak M.U.L.E. and ContentsWell, I carried the still camera around my neck until I got caught in a thunderstorm near the Pacific Crest.  I then found a way to get it inside the pack too.  The result is what you see in the photo above.  I couldn’t quite get my plastic sandwich box inside, so, as you can see, one zipper was left partly open.  It looks a tad sloppy, but it worked.

All in all, this amount of material in a small pack like this stressed it quite a lot, but damaged it not at all. Surprisingly,  this pack was comfortable throughout the trip.  It has padding on the back with channels between the pads for air flow.  That probably works best on a bicycle, but it helped me keep comfortable on my hike.  The water bladder is at the back of the pack to offer even more padding.

The tripod was positioned well and didn’t bother me at all.  I was on the trail or messing around at the waterfall for seven and a half hours.  More water might have been better, but I had one sip left upon my return – and, of course, more water in the pickup.  The only quibble is that the part of the squirt tube that is outside the pack gets warm in the sunshine, so the first part of each sip is warm water.  Otherwise, the water in the bladder stays quite cool.

The bottom line . . .  this is a tough pack that carries a surprising amount of ‘stuff” including a lot of water and, it’s comfortable.  I recommend it.


Author/Photographer:  Jerry, Pathfinder ©2010. Global Creations LLC, All Rights Reserved

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