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CamelBak MULE LR ReviewBest Hydration Pack for Mountain Biking: MTB Hydration Pack Review

Best Lumbar Hydration Pack for Bigger Rides

  • Storage 90% 90%
  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 80% 80%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Price: $150.00

Gear Capacity: 12l

Bladder Capacity: 3l

Weight: 990g

Dimensions: 21” x 10” x 9” / 53 x 23 x 25cm

What We Like: Low Rider Hydration Reservoir Positioning, CamelBak Bite Valve

What We Don’t: Subpar Ventilation, Heavy

While hydration packs are not something that I would usually think of as “iconic,” the CamelBak MULE is about as iconic as they come. It is an O.G. of the mountain bike hydration pack world, and while the newest iteration of the standard MULE might feel a bit long in the tooth, there is plenty of innovation to be found in the CamelBak MULE LR. It brings the old school “everything you need and nothing you don’t” mentality of the original MULE, along with CamelBack’s low rider setup, and a few other new features.

Osprey Raptor 14

  • Storage 90% 90%
  • Comfort 100% 100%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 80% 80%
  • Weight 70% 70%

Pros

Top Notch Comfort and Organization

Cons

Average Weight

Pricey

Gear Capacity: 11.5l

Bladder Capacity: 2.5l

Weight: 800g

Dimensions: 20” x 9” x 9” / 48 x 22 x 25cm

CamelBak Skyline LR 10l

  • Storage 80% 80%
  • Comfort 100% 100%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 80% 80%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Pros

Low Rider Technology is Comfortable and Stable

Best Water Flow in Test

Cons

Average Weight

Not Terribly Easy to Access

Fill or Clean Hydration Reservoir

Gear Capacity: 7l

Bladder Capacity: 3l

Weight: 995g

Dimensions: 8” x 8” x 15” / 20 x 20 x 39cm

Platypus Duthie AM 10.0

  • Storage 90% 90%
  • Comfort 100% 100%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 80% 80%
  • Weight 70% 70%

Pros

Best In Class Ventilation

Great Organization

Cons

Only Slightly Above Average Water Flow from Reservoir

Gear Capacity: 7l

Bladder Capacity: 3l/100 fluid ounces

Weight: 800g

Dimensions: 9” x 6” x 18” / 23 x 15 x 46cm

CamelBak MULE LR 15

  • Storage 90% 90%
  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 80% 80%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Pros

Low Rider Hydration Reservoir Positioning

CamelBak Bite Valve

Cons

Subpar Ventilation

Heavy

Gear Capacity: 12l

Bladder Capacity: 3l

Weight: 990g

Dimensions: 21” x 10” x 9” / 53 x 23 x 25cm

Dakine Seeker 15l 

  • Storage 100% 100%
  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 60% 60%
  • Weight 40% 40%

Pros

Water Resistant

Tons of Storage

Comfortable

Cons

Heavy

Not the Greatest Reservoir

Gear Capacity: 12l

Bladder Capacity: 3l

Weight: 1340g

Dimensions: 19” x 12” x 8″ / 48 x 30 x 20cm

CamelBak Lobo 9l

  • Storage 60% 60%
  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 80% 80%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Pros

Lightweight

CamelBak Big Bite Drinking Valve

Sale Prices

Cons

Not Much Storage

Subpar Ventilation

Gear Capacity: 6l

Bladder Capacity: 3l

Weight: 480g

Dimensions: 18” x 8.3” x 7.5” / 46 x 21 x 19cm

CamelBak M.U.L.E. 100 OZ

  • Storage 70% 70%
  • Comfort 70% 70%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 80% 80%
  • Weight 80% 80%

Pros

“Everything You Need and Nothing You Don’t,”

CamelBak Big Bite Valve

Cons

Not as Comfortable as Some Newer Bags

Twist Off Water Reservoir Lid

Gear Capacity: 9l

Bladder Capacity: 3l

Weight: 620g

Dimensions: 17.9” x 8.7” x 8.9” / 45.5 x 22 x 22.5cm

Thule Vital 6l

  • Storage 80% 80%
  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 40% 40%
  • Weight 90% 90%

Pros

ReTrakt Hydration Hose

Great Main Compartment Organization

Lightweight

Cons

J Shaped Zipper

Subpar Water Reservoir

Gear Capacity: 3.5l

Bladder Capacity: 2.5l

Weight: 540g

Dimensions: 8.7” x 3.5” x 17.5” / 23 x 9 x 44.5cm

Evoc Stage 18

  • Storage 100% 100%
  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 20% 20%
  • Weight 50% 50%

Pros

Top Notch Comfort and Storage

Cons

No Water Reservoir Included

Pricey

Gear Capacity: 18l

Bladder Capacity: Accommodates Hydration Systems Up To 3l (Not Included)

Weight: 965g

Dimensions: 8.25” x 17.3” x 4.75” / 28 x 50 x 12cm

Evoc CC 10l

  • Storage 90% 90%
  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking 50% 50%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Pros

Comfortable

Stable

Great Storage and Accessibility

Cons

Average Ventilation

Subpar Water Reservoir

Gear Capacity: 8l

Bladder Capacity: 2l

Weight: 690g

Dimensions: 7.9” x 19.7 x 3.9” / 20 x 50 x 10cm

Storage

A 15l pack, the CamelBak MULE LR 15 has three liters dedicated to its water reservoir, leaving you with 12l of storage for gear, which should be more than enough for an all-day epic in the big mountains, but it is not so big that you mind wearing it on a shorter ride after work.

The main compartment of the CamelBak MULE LR 15 is accessed via a large U shaped zipper, similar to the one found on the original CamelBak MULE and CamelBak Skyline. Inside, there is not much in the way of organizers or pockets, but there is plenty of room to stow whatever needs stowing. 

Rather than one massive compartment and then several small quick access compartments, the CamelBak MULE LR uses a slightly smaller main compartment than it might, and one other compartment, which is much larger than a standard quick access pocket, and is also accessed via a U shaped zipper. This pocket has a bit more in the way of organization, and as much room as some smaller hydration packs’ main compartments.

Having fewer, but larger, compartments will float some people’s boat more than others. Personally, I did like the fact that I didn’t have to wonder which of five pockets I had stashed a random item in, and the subdividers on the smaller pocket makes it easy to get quick access to the things you need it for.

Inside of the pack, there is the same rollout tool kit that we were so fond of in the CamelBak Skyline LR. 

The new for 2019 model of the CamelBak MULE LR looks to have lost the overflow and helmet stow compartments found on the previous version of the MULE LR. However, upon closer inspection, you will find that these deploy from what at first appears to be just an added layer of protection near the bottom of the pack, and store neatly out of the way when not in

Comfort

While the Low Rider design of the CamelBak MULE LR 15 might take users of traditional hydration packs for mountain biking a bit of getting used to, it does feel like an improvement.

The CamelBak LR rides much lower than a traditional hydration pack or technical backpack, and it has a much more low slung, square shape, rather than the usual, long and narrow shape of hydration packs used for mountain biking.

In addition to the fact that the pack itself sits lower on your back, CamelBak’s Crux LR reservoir sits low and rectangularly in the pack, which really helps to get the weight as low as possible. Furthermore, the reservoir compresses itself as it drains, which helps keep the pack’s center of gravity low and stable.

Like other CamelBak hydration packs, the MULE LR uses the old school system of raised pads to create air channels, rather than the new mesh panel system used by most new high-end hydration packs. A stretch mesh panel, similar to the one found on the Osprey Raptor is something that we were disappointed not to see CamelBak add in the latest redesign of the MULE LR.

Meanwhile, the shoulder straps and hip belt are both well ventilated, although not to the same degree as the ones on the CamelBak Skyline LR. They are a bit more padded, which makes sense considering the MULE feels like significantly more pack than the Skyline.

Overall, we love the feel of the low rider design and felt that the MULE LR 15 is another good implementation of the lumbar hydration pack design. However, some of the fit and finish comfort features of the Skyline LR would have been appreciated on the MULE LR, as would a better back panel.

Water Reservoir and Ease of Drinking

The CamelBak MULE LR uses the same CamelBak Crux LR hydration bladder found in the Skyline. If you have read that review, you can safely skip this, because the two are virtually the exact same.

This bladder features virtually the exact same features as the standard Crux hydration reservoir of the CamelBak MULE. The only difference is the shape, with the Crux LR reservoir being shorter and wider owing to its lumbar design.

Meanwhile, the Crux LR uses the same Big Bite Valve as the standard Crux, which is the best on the market. It is significantly easier to get water out of Camelbak reservoirs than others on our list, which is all the more important when your are out of breath and want water as quickly as you can get it.

The Crux LR’s hose threads through the MULE LR’s shoulder strap and attaches to a magnet on the shoulder strap as well. While this setup does mean that you have to unclip the magnet to drink, it is easy enough to do. The hose also features a convenient shutoff valve, which anyone who has ever arrived at the trailhead with an empty water reservoir and a soaking wet backseat will appreciate.

Just as it shared the pros of the original Crux reservoir, the Crux LR also shares the cons. Namely, the twist off lid for the reservoir is neither as easy nor as convenient to clean or fill as the Osprey Hydraulics reservoir.

The reservoir itself is also located behind the stowaway overflow pocket and helmet straps, which, like the reservoir compartment on the CamelBak SKyline LR, is a bit of a pain to reach.

Weight

Weighing in at nearly a kilogram, the CamelBak MULE LR 15 is on the heavy side, particularly when you compare it to the traditional MULE, which only weighs 620g. But, as we noted while reviewing the CamelBak Skyline LR, a drawback of the low rider system seems to be that it adds a bit of weight. However, we don’t think that should be too much of a deal breaker for the CamelBack MULE LR 15, since most gram counting mountain bikers will not be in the market for a 15l hydration pack in the first place, and it doesn’t feel as heavy as it is, once it is on your back.

What Did We Really Think?

We really liked the CamelBak MULE LR 15, and we really wanted to love it. It is a hydration pack that offers a lot of great features, and we love the low rider system. However, it just seemed to lack a bit of the polished feel, fit, and finish of the CamelBak Skyline LR, although it certainly seems to be a bit more polished than the standard CamelBak MULE.

With all of that said If you are in the market for a lumbar style hydration pack for mountain biking, and you need a bit more room than the CamelBak Skyline affords, then you would be hard pressed to go wrong with the CamelBak MULE LR 15

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