CamelBak Mule Backpack - Feature Image

CamelBak MULE Backpack Review: 15 Years Later

If you love hiking and mountain biking as much as I do, then you probably have a way to carry all of your stuff and water at the same time.

However, wouldn’t it be nice if your backpack came with a designated hydration pack which was integrated into the backpack? And, with a hose that connects to the shoulder strap and enables you to take a sip of water anytime you want, without stopping and searching for the water bottle? Sounds impossible?

Well, the CamelBak MULE, with its many features, lets you do just that.

Back in 2004, when I bought this backpack, CamelBak’s integrated hydration pack was a totally new concept for me, which I’ve never seen before and it didn’t look durable at all. But because CamelBak already had a great reputation for high-quality and durable backpacks, the decision to spend my hard-earned money was that much easier.

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Let me tell you a little about how it all panned out and why having a backpack like this is a valuable addition to any outdoor trip.

The CamelBak MULE

This is not a backpack which you will use for backpacking around the world. Instead, this is a backpack perfect for single-day use, even if MULE does stand for ‘Medium to Ultralong Endeavours.’ If you’re hiking or biking from dawn until dusk, then it can start to feel ‘ultra-long’ but nevertheless, this backpack’s volume lets you carry all the essentials for a single day only.

CamelBak Mule Backpack - Side

With storage space and a hydration pack, this backpack from CamelBak has all you need for an adventure-packed day of biking, hiking, or relaxing by the lake.

The backpack is not too cumbersome, while still giving you adequate space for your emergency tools and gear and a 3L hydration pack for you to fill with water.

Why Did I Buy This Backpack?

Back in 2004, I was purchasing my very first mountain bike. I was excited to traverse the downhill slopes, and hopefully not injure myself in the process (the good news is that I am still here to write this article). I had not really thought about a backpack but a friend, who was an avid mountain biker, recommended the CamelBak MULE.

CamelBak Mule Backpack - from the top

CamelBak already had a good reputation, and I knew that I needed a way to carry my water and belongings, so I took the plunge.

Even before starting this website, I had an interest in durable products. The CamelBak backpack was expensive (around $125, if I remember correctly) but my friend had recommended it and, from what I had seen, I knew that it was built to last.

15 years later, I still have my backpack and hydration pack, and it is sure to last me a lot longer. When you break it down, it has only cost me $8 a year.

Features

At Durability Matters, we are all about the durability of the products we use and review, and this CamelBak backpack hits all the right notes. The material is thick and impervious while still remaining light and flexible. In all my time using it, it has never been impaled by thorns, rocks, or anything else. The durable zippers also help, and the weak points of the bag are not really weak at all. In 15 years, I must have used this backpack more than 500 times, for multiple hours at a time, and it shows absolutely no signs of wear and tear.

CamelBak Mule Backpack - Strap

The layout of the pockets and storage space is excellent. There are dedicated pockets for things like your cell phone and wallet, so you can reach for important items without having to dig through your other stuff.

CamelBak Mule Backpack - Phone Pocket
CamelBak Mule Backpack - Pocket 3
CamelBak Mule Backpack - Pocket 1
CamelBak Mule Backpack - Pocket 2
CamelBak Mule Backpack - Main Compartment

The hydration pack is also very secure and hasn’t leaked once. When I am carrying my phone and wallet, this is extremely important to me. I also like the way that the hydration pack is filled. There is a baffle attached to stop the water from sloshing around when you are moving, and a handle to better hold the hydration pack when you are filling it.

CamelBak MULE Hydration Pack
CamelBak MULE Hydration Pack - Cap
CamelBak MULE Hydration Pack - Quick Link
CamelBak MULE Hydration Pack - Big Bite Valve

Over time, you are going to want to clean out the hydration pack to ensure that no mold or bacteria grow in there, and CamelBak has used a removable tube for easier cleaning.

When you are on long journeys, such as all-day bike rides, you are going to have this backpack on your back for long periods of time. When this is the case, you want something breathable, and CamelBak delivers. The back panel has air channels (Air Director™), so the air is constantly flowing and circulating to cool you and wick away any moisture. There are also ventilated harnesses so that the air will flow across your shoulders and chest as well as your back.

CamelBak Mule Backpack - Air Director

CamelBak vs. Budget Competition

While my backpack has lasted me for 15 years, I have friends who bought cheaper backpacks only for them to have issues. The zippers would give out, the stitching would come loose, and the hydration packs were punctured. They would also find that their water would take on an unusual and ‘plastic’ taste. You’d have to try it to fully understand how horribly that tastes (though I recommend that you don’t).

While I took no pleasure in my friends having to buy other backpacks, I was validated by my backpack outliving the ones of my friends.

Not only that, they ended up spending more on their backpacks than I did.

They have bought one or two low-end backpacks before switching to a better brand and, when you add it up, this has cost them twice as much as it could have.

What Makes The CamelBak Backpack Durable?

As I mentioned, I have used my CamelBak backpack at least 500 times, and you’d be hard-pressed to find any visible wear on it. So, what is this down to?

CamelBak Mule Backpack - 1

Whenever I wear it, especially on hot days, I notice how cool the backpack is. The ventilation and airflow stop moisture (sweat) from building up and breaking down the material. This goes a long way to prolonging the life of the product.

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The bite valve mouthpiece is also a part of the backpack which has been shown to break down quickly and easily on cheaper backpacks, rendering the hydration pack useless, or causing leaks. The bite valve on this hydration pack is crafted from medical-grade silicone and works today as it did on day one, with no signs of wear. The valve seals perfectly, and nothing gets in or out.

The storage does not add to the durability, but it does add to my happiness. When I am in the great outdoors, I can carry all of my essentials with me – and probably a bit more than the backpack was designed for. The stitches are durable and, even if I overpack at times, there isn’t a single stitch I can find that has come loose.

via GIPHY

The backpack has enough room for a bike pump, cellphone, rain jacket, snacks, first aid kit, wallet, tools, and more. It does not matter if I am hiking, biking, or something else, I can carry all that I need to survive (for the day, anyway).

The Long Way Back

The CamelBak MULE backpack and hydration pack is a backpack with which you can get lost (as long as you don’t get lost for too long). This backpack is built for adventure and has taken me on plenty of them. Either way, it is a great choice if you are looking for a one-day backpack solution.

The CamelBak name is as trusted today as it was 15 years ago (more so in my estimation), and that was a large part of what convinced me to take the plunge. If you are looking for a one-day backpack, then there are a lot of high-quality products out there. Choose one of those or go with the CamelBak, and you will not be disappointed.

Go out into the great outdoors with style and durability.



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