The Camelbak KUDU range has been available for nearly two years, but up until very recently, Camelbak only offered the KUDU in 18 and 12 litre versions. For the 2017 riding season however, Camelbak has now added a smaller, lighter and more compact version called the KUDU 8.
You may have already seen it in Fresh Goods Friday, and Chipps also reported on the new KUDU 8 back at PressCamp, but after having played with one over the past couple of months, I thought I’d bring you my thoughts on the compact hydration pack from Camelbak.
The Camelbak KUDU 8 Backpack Features:
- 5 litres of storage space
- Designed to fit a 3 litre hydration bladder (not included)
- Integrated back protector
- Wide profile waist straps
- Dual sternum buckles
- Internal tool roll (included)
- Storage compression straps
- Hidden waist storage pockets
- Flexible overflow storage compartment
- Available in three colours: Black, Green & Orange
- RRP: £139.99
I’ve already got extensive experience with the bigger KUDU 12 hydration pack, so I was already plenty familiar with the KUDU concept. If you’re not, the big story with the KUDU is its integrated back protector. I’ll get onto the details of that below, but in essence, Camelbak wanted to combine the versatility and functionality of their hydration pack system with a layer of back protection.
It’s still a backpack with integrated hydration, but with the addition of a special back protector plate, the KUDU becomes an ideal option for riders wanting more protection for riding higher speed trails on more technical terrain. It’s also why the KUDU harness comes with two sternum straps and a large profile waist buckle. This is a pack that is designed to be snug and close fitting, so it doesn’t move around in the event of a crash.
The KUDU doesn’t have masses of storage space compared to its bigger brothers, with just 5 litres of cargo volume for you to pack with tools, spares, an outer layer, some food and a POV camera. If you’re looking for an all-day riding pack to add in extra layers and carry more food and more spares, then consider the bigger KUDU 12 or KUDU 18. The KUDU 8 on the other hand, is a lighter and slimmer pack that is less noticeable to wear, and only equipped to carry the essentials. This makes it a great pack for racing.
The KUDU 8 only has one main compartment, which I like because it keeps everything centralised. The main compartment has a wide-mouth zippered compartment, so it’s easy to load and unload gear, though you will have to undo the two top compression strap buckles to get in there.
There’s a mesh harness inside the main compartment for tucking in things like pumps, and there’s also a dedicated pocket for the included tool roll.
I like the Camelbak tool roll. I own a couple of Camelbak hydration packs, so I just have one loaded tool roll that I swap from pack-to-pack as I need them. It’s also a great idea to be able to store smaller loose items like spare chain links, derailleur hangers and cable ties.
Unlike most other Camelbak mountain bike packs, the KUDU range comes sans bladder in most regions in the world (UK included). The reason? The KUDU isn’t a cheap pack because of that integrated back protector, so in order to keep the price a little lower, Camelbak has skipped the bladder. This is good news if you already own a Camelbak pack (like me), as you can simply fit it into the KUDU 8. If you don’t, make sure you factor in the £39.99 price for a 3 litre Camelbak Crux Reservoir.
If you haven’t heard about the new Crux reservoir, then Chipps’ PressCamp article is worth checking out for all the details. Essentially the Crux doesn’t stray too much from the previous Antidote bladder, but there are some improvements. For a start, the inner diameter of the drinking tube has been opened up to boost flow to the bite valve. Internal baffles have also been added to help the bladder keep its shape regardless of how full or empty it is (depending on whether you’re an optimist or pessimist).
Ok, so back to the pack itself. Hidden behind the Crux reservoir is the Impact Protector. There’s an elasticated sleeve, and the protective back panel slides into that sleeve so it sits between your back and the hydration bladder.
The Impact Protector is what makes the KUDU a special pack for Camelbak. There are other brands offer packs with integrated back protection, including options from EVOC, Dakine and POC, and it’s a clever idea for encouraging more riders to better protect their spine and back in the event of a crash, without having to don a full body armour suit.
While the Impact Protector is removable, it was so cold during our photoshoot that I didn’t bother, so you’ll have to make do with the photos I took at an earlier date with the KUDU 12 I’ve also used. As you’ll see in the above photo, the Impact Protector uses a triple-layer construction that is made from a high density foam. It’s flexible, though Camelbak has added additional slits and ventilation throughout the protector to encourage further movement and breathability.
“The protection insert or “Impact Protector” is a CE 1621-2 Level 2 certified protector, which means that it has been tested and meets the standard for motorcycle use (CE 1621-2 Level 2 is a much higher impact protection than Level 1). This flexible and lightweight insert is capable of withstanding multiple impacts and is located inside the reservoir compartment where it can be removed for inspection, cleaning, etc.” – Camelbak
In use, the KUDU 8 is a supremely comfortable pack to wear. Despite the extra layer of back protection, I regularly forgot that I was wearing anything other than a snug-fitting and lightweight hydration pack. The extra sternum strap and the wide profile waist belt ensure the KUDU 8 doesn’t move around on your back, and if you don’t have it full of gear, then the external compression straps help to tighten everything down to stop any gear from bouncing around internally.
The only thing that bothered me about the KUDU 8 was its lack of a pocket for your mobile phone. The other KUDU’s (and other Camelbak packs) come with a felt-lined zippered media pocket that is ideal for your phone or sunglasses, but that is a feature that is mysteriously missing from the KUDU 8, and it’s puzzling why Camelbak decided to omit it.
As I found with the KUDU 12, the KUDU 8 is a well-fitting backpack that happens to have excellent back protection in it too. Because the KUDU 8 is lighter and slimmer though, it’s even less noticeable to wear while riding. The only real limitation of the KUDU 8 is its storage space, so bear in mind how much gear you’ll need to carry and whether you’ll have to upsize to the KUDU 12 or KUDU 18.
The Impact Protector itself is excellent, and I would highly recommend more riders consider a pack with back protection if you don’t already have one. It’s flexible and light enough not to notice, and if you carry sharp objects around in your pack such as multi-tools and shock pumps, then having an extra layer of protection between your spine and those items is a very, very good thing. I had a solid OTB crash where I landed hard and flat on my back, but thankfully I had no damage or pain to speak of, when I wouldn’t have been so sure if I didn’t have the Impact Protector.
The Camelbak KUDU 8 isn’t cheap for a hydration pack, but once you factor in the CE certified back protector, it becomes very good value indeed.
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 3 Months|