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CamelBak M.U.L.E. Bikepacking Baggage Evaluation

Surprisingly, it took CamelBak this lengthy to get into bikepacking. The corporate made its auspicious begin in 1989 when future founder Michael Eidson determined to get artistic together with his hydration system for the “Hotter’N Hell 100.” The race, because it nonetheless does in the present day, coated 100 miles by means of the summer time warmth of Wichita Falls, Texas. He slipped an IV bag right into a tube sock, tossed it over his shoulder, and ran a hose from it to him with the help of a clothespin.

The remainder is historical past — 35 years of it — between that first occasion and CamelBak’s spring 2024 launch of its new M.U.L.E. bikepacking line. The lineup runs the gamut from streamlined commuting to bikepacking. Between the body, saddle, handlebar, and stem luggage, essentially the most spacious choices supply 26.5 L of packing quantity — a stable base for an entire bikepacking setup.

Naturally, as somebody who’s been rocking CamelBaks since Primary Coaching, I needed to be the primary to load it up and hit the highway … and gravel, sand, and fireplace entry highway. I put the CamelBak M.U.L.E. bikepacking line to the take a look at over 150 miles — from touring by means of northern Arizona mountains and deserts exterior Sedona to commuting by means of Flagstaff and downtown Chicago in winter.

In brief: CamelBak’s first full lineup of bikepacking luggage affords an almost full bikepacking setup. Paired with just a few cages, dry luggage, or some average panniers, a brand new bikepacker can get arrange and on the path simply. Nonetheless, the brand new M.U.L.E. line has some rising pains which may restrict it to freshmen and intermediates.

CamelBak M.U.L.E. Body Pack

Camelbak MULE bikepacking frame bag
(Picture/Ian Graber-Stiehl)

The M.U.L.E. body pack is CamelBak’s revolutionary star of the present. And so far as luggage go … it’s blended.

Even on bikes with too little house on the pinnacle tube to safe a body bag in entrance, the M.U.L.E.’s quite a few attachment factors made for a fairly easy and versatile setup. Between the 2 sizes, so long as your prime tube is any type of straight, you’ll be capable to safe it — although broad prime tubes could take some fiddling.

I examined the bigger of the 2 body packs. As somebody who normally carries 4-7 L and prefers to maintain the majority of it within the triangle, a 4.5L pack is an ideal dimension for me. So, I used to be stunned to search out that even the massive pack’s Fast Stow Reservoir is capped at simply over 2 L.

The Fast Stow comes with a lockable and circulate rate-adjustable mouthpiece and a QuickLink attachment level for the hydration tube. Between a handy tube port and a hose clip that may be Velcro-strapped virtually wherever, operating a tube was a breeze.

The pack’s V-shaped zippers allowed me to splay open the principle compartment — a function I want extra body packs provided. This made utilizing the reservoir as a collapsable bottle fast and straightforward. The topmost zip additionally allowed entry to the again of the pack.

It’s an clever design — a hydration system that’s equal elements bottle and reservoir sculpted to suit the entrance half of your body pack, a side-loading design that makes accessing it easy, and a zipper that means that you can entry different gear stowed alongside the pack’s again aspect.

Only one drawback: The Quicklink didn’t completely match the entrance of the pack. The mismatched flares of the reservoir and the entrance of the pack left me with simply sufficient lifeless house to think about changing it with a 3L HydraPak Seeker with an adaptor and tube.

Likewise, with the reservoir crammed, there was little room to suit something into the frontmost of the principle compartment’s two mesh pockets. There’s a compartment on the opposite aspect. Nonetheless, it bumped into the identical subject. With the reservoir full, the entrance half of the pocket was already crowded.

One final subject: the zippers are protected against water, however they had been chronically allergic to mud and sand.

Total, the body pack provided a simple and versatile setup. It balanced good water resistance with distinctive accessibility. The Fast Stow labored nicely sufficient and should match the small pack higher.

The CamelBak M.U.L.E. body pack is stuffed with nice concepts, however I often wished for extra and better-fitting water storage that — whether or not it occupied the entrance, backside, or prime half of the body — compartmentalized gear storage extra successfully.

  • Quantity: 4.5 L (3L small possibility as nicely)
  • Value: $150 (Small is $140)
  • Hydration reservoir quantity: 2 L
  • Weight: 8.5 oz. (7.7 oz. for the small)
  • Predominant materials: ECOPAK EPLX400 C0 PFC-free DWR
  • Weatherproofing: Water resistant
  • Closure: Twin-sided zips

CamelBak M.U.L.E. Handlebar Bag

Camelbak MULE bikepacking handlebar bag
(Picture/Ian Graber-Stiehl)

The CamelBak M.U.L.E. handlebar pack was barely odd however fairly spacious, streamlined, and straightforward to arrange. It was an surprising standout.

The pack’s built-in aluminum keep/spacer bar gave cables some respiratory room. There are two units of straps to safe the pack to the handlebars: one Velcro and the opposite voile-style. Constructed into each the keep and the rear of the bag, the strap placement was adjustable sufficient to work round different handlebar-mounted equipment. Lastly, elastic loops on the prime and backside of the pack tethered it to the stem and head tube.

When cinched down, the again material of the bag was pinched. As a substitute of a flat floor, it took on some creases that allowed a reducing board I shoved in to catch on a seam, practically tearing it. Nonetheless, for many who don’t really feel the necessity to convey a santoku and reducing board into the backcountry or have the kind of frequent sense to which I can solely aspire — this seemingly wouldn’t be an issue. (It simply means my campsite has higher meals.)

With the keep bar spreading the highest of the bag out and no spacer for the underside’s elastic tether, the bag angled ahead fairly a bit. Whereas this made it barely tougher to entry gear whereas mounted, it made for a streamlined carry. Even loaded up with 8-10 kilos of substances, the bag was comfortable, with no undue sway.

The stiff lip of the bag and central snap made rolling it shut, even when stuffed, straightforward. Nonetheless, the outer edges of the roll prime typically flared out — leaving me wishing for a strap to cinch them down. Further straps to roll the ends flat and flush to the pack can be price the additional weight.

However, general, 12 L of house, a slim span, a rolltop closure, and abrasion-resistant ECOPAK material made a successful mixture.

  • Quantity: 12 L 
  • Value: $100 
  • Weight: 13.4 oz.
  • Predominant materials: ECOPAK EPLX400 C0 PFC-free DWR 
  • Weatherproofing: IPX5-rated waterproof
  • Closure system: Roll-top

CamelBak M.U.LE. Saddle Bag

Camelbak MULE bikepacking saddle bag
(Picture/Ian Graber-Stiehl)

And, 9 L is on the small aspect for a bikepacking saddle bag, for my part. However for the CamelBak M.U.L.E. saddle bag, it made sense. It’s rather a lot simpler to make a 9L holsterless saddle bag with minimal tail wag and loads of tire clearance than an 11-16L pack. It additionally retains the pack in a much less aggressive worth vary.

Fortunately, the pack affords three positions for the Velcro strap that attaches it to the seat submit. With the aggressively acute angle of the seat rail straps, I discovered it greatest to fill the pack and safe these first, earlier than dialing within the seat submit strap.

Even absolutely tightened, the seat submit strap appeared keen on slowly descending. However it by no means got here near compromising tire clearance, even on 29-inchers. Stopping this slippage can be as straightforward as wrapping a bit of outdated internal tube across the submit.

Nonetheless, noticing some average tail wag, I discovered myself cinching down all of the pack’s straps tight sufficient to compromise a small quantity of inner house. After that, any tail wagging wasn’t noticeable.

A central snap held the bag shut whereas rolling the opening down and securing side-mounted straps. Even when stuffed, the CamelBak M.U.L.E. handlebar bag was straightforward to shut and compress. The shock wire loop that stretches and criss-crosses excessive of the pack was a pleasant contact. It prolonged the house and cordage to cinch issues on prime of an in any other case small bag.

The place the pack fell a mark brief was its waterproofing and abrasion resistance. ECOPAK’s EPLX400 material is understood for each this stuff. Nonetheless, after a full day of rain, I discovered a little bit of moisture contained in the bag — barely sufficient to note, however sufficient that I’d run the pack with a liner in monsoon season. And simply after every week of bikepacking, I discovered a small gap on the underside of the pack.

Nonetheless, at $90, the value is correct. The pack’s greatest competitors can be choices just like the Topeak Backloader sequence and the Rockbros Waterproof Saddle Bag. If price range is the largest concern, cyclists would possibly get extra bang for his or her buck out of Rockbros. Nonetheless, at below $100, the CamelBak M.U.L.E. seat pack is an efficient worth.

  • Quantity: 9 L
  • Value: $90
  • Weight: 12 oz.
  • Predominant materials: ECOPAK EPLX400 C0 PFC-free DWR 
  • Weatherproofing: IPX5-rated waterproof
  • Closure: Roll-top 

CamelBak M.U.L.E. Bikepacking Baggage Conclusion

Over 3 a long time after the corporate was born from an ingenious strategy to biking hydration, CamelBak lastly gambled on a devoted bikepacking bag line that wears a few of its design challenges.

The road’s strategy to hydration delivered best-in-class accessibility — supplied the zippers aren’t choking on mud. The reservoir/bottle hybrid sculpted to suit the pack is a stroke of brilliance. Nonetheless, imperfect match and storage that wasn’t eager to compartmentalize across the reservoir barely hampered utility.

Even at its worst, although, the CamelBak M.U.L.E. system will get fairly a bit proper.

The roll-top handlebar bag provided far simpler entry and extra clearance for drop bars than most horizontal dry bag-style setups. In its weight class, the M.U.L.E. saddle bag delivered loads of storage and efficiency. And, for consumers involved with environmental friendliness and sturdiness, the ECOPAK recycled 400D EPLX material, with a PFC-free DWR, is a plus.

That mentioned, I’d wish to see a bundle deal when the CamelBak M.U.L.E. bikepacking line launches in March of subsequent 12 months. A core bikepacking setup for below $350 is a aggressive supply. However for a lineup certain to work greatest for cost-wise newbie and intermediate bikepackers, an economical bundle may make the CamelBak M.U.L.E. bikepacking system a correct steal.



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