In Issue #110 of Singletrack Magazine, Rob tested and reviewed the redesigned Camelbak Mule
Since 1996 the Mule has been CamelBak’s most reliable and consistently popular product. It is, undoubtedly, a classic riding pack that many riders all around the world have come to depend on, with a reputation for comfort, practical design and dogged durability. Save for some subtle styling updates and slight alterations over the years, the Mule has otherwise remained the stalwart of the CamelBak range.
For 2017, however, the classic Mule has had a good old looking at, and for the first time in 20 years it has been completely redesigned. The Mule now features the new Crux lumbar reservoir, which uses CamelBak’s innovative Low Rider™ technology. With the water reservoir sitting lower in the pack, the centre of gravity of the whole pack has been lowered and has in turn, increased stability of the pack while riding.
Compared to earlier Mule packs, the Mule LR is lighter and more flexible. The harness hugs you like a Koala bear, and the liberal use of mesh and ‘Swiss-cheese’ foam means there’s plenty of ventilation. Wide and thin shoulder straps help to distribute loaded weight more evenly, so it remains comfortable even when you’re packing for an all-day expedition.
There are plenty of straps on the harness to adjust, plus four external compression straps that help to secure your load. There’s even an internal compression strap for the reservoir to limit sloshing and slop when riding.
A small detail that bothered me is the way that the water hose attachment is now stitched into the right side shoulder strap, so you can’t move it to the left shoulder strap. But hey ho.
As you would expect, the Mule LR follows in its predecessors’ footsteps with a plethora of storage compartments, so you can split your sarnies from your spare tubes, and your extra layers from your tools. Total storage volume sits at 12 litres, so there’s a fair whack more capacity than our other favourite CamelBak, the Skyline LR.
There’s a separate pocket behind the back panel which holds the Crux reservoir via its handy plastic hook. In front of that is a full-size zippered compartment that’s perfect for packing in your lunch and a rain jacket. That said, when the reservoir is full of water this space becomes tricky to access quickly. In front of that is another full-size zippered compartment, which includes a mesh pocket for your wallet and keys, as well as a CamelBak tool roll. The tool roll keeps all of those smaller spares and pointy tools away from the unreachable depths of the bag, and it’s easy to pull out and throw into another pack if need be. When fully unzipped, both compartments offer wide-mouth access – which is handy when you want something that isn’t right at the top.
With a soft lined pocket on the outside for mobile phones or glasses the Mule LR (as we expect it to) has all your potential storage needs covered. There’s also a helmet holding strap, and two small pockets on the waistband allow you to stow a multitool or some trail mix for scoffing without having to stop and pull the entire pack off.
Another good variation of the CamelBak Mule, with an excellent reservoir and a comfortable fit. As a pack for a day’s riding, it works well – but awkward compartment access when the bladder is full holds it back from achieving full marks.