Carrying a bunch of stuff with me on MTB rides is a rarity, I have been known to cover the miles with minimal gear, food, and water. And while this is my old normal it as occurred to me that this is not the best for my aging body. I need the food and fuel I used to be able to go with out, I need the layers, and the additional items I once shunned. In addition to this additional burden of stuff I also need a comfortable way of carrying the gear. And while comfortability may be subjective there are a few ways that I look at what makes sense for all. The pack has to fit well to me, you, mostly everyone. This means it has to snug down well enough to not add to the rotational force as I unexpectedly Endo. It must be easily adjustable for on the fly adjustments. It must breathe relatively well, this is a tough one because for a guy that rarely uses a pack on a bike, any thing on my back will seem to not allow enough ventilation. And it must be able to hold all of my incidentals and maybe a beer or 4.
This newly updated pack features the following:
• Updated helmet carry buckles
• Airfoil back panel for increased airflow and comfort
• Stabilizing load-bearing waist belt
• Dual reservoir compression straps
• Larger diameter tube and connections
• 15L capacity (3L water reservoir)
With those qualifications in mind I found the Camelbak Mule LR, the LR sounds for Low Rider, and while the imagery I had in my mind was more of Dickeys and plaid, gold chain steering wheels and hydraulics, that was not at all what CamelBak had in mind.
LR is a feature that CamelBak has introduced that allows you to carry up to 3L of water in a bladder that is designed to be carried closer to your waist and not up the length of you back. In addition to the low riding bladder the pack also has external webbing adjusters so that you can keep the pack snug to your body as you deplete your water. By keeping the weight and load lower I did not feel as heavy up and down my back and it left a ton more room for other fun stuff (like those beers I mentioned earlier). Now I guess I should say that I am totally unapologetically sold on this pack, the design and functionality and over all package, so yeah this is going to be a bit of a puff piece, deal with it.
The pack features multiple pockets that fit just about anything you might want or need. Each pocket is dialed in just enough to be purpose built for the user, without limiting its ability to be used in a variety of ways. Starting at the back of the pack (the side closest to the rider’s back) you have a zippered pouch for the hydration bladder. The bladder has a nice rigid handle on it for easy filling, and once it is full you can slide it into it pouch and the handle fits nicely in its own compartment so that the bag can never collapse leaving you pissed off you have to reposition the pouch to get the much needed last few sips of water.
Next you have a full length zippered pocket that is HUGE, it has no other pockets with in and is much like a front loading backpack, you can fit all of it and a bag of chips in it. The color of my pack is blue and neon yellowish, and the yellowish color they used is perfect for signaling a search party should you need. The 3rd pocket is where things get fancy again. the top has a zippered mesh pocket with key holder, and the bottom has a centered pocket that come with a nifty little 3 pocketed zippered tool roll. Bitchin! The outer pouch features a oversized fleece lined sunglass pocket and 2 expandable external pockets, once stores the yellow rain fly and the other is just for fun, you know to stuff a light layer or something else you might want quick access to.
Lastly the 100oz LR bladder I mentioned earlier also features an easy to manipulate on and on valve, a super magical magnetic clip to keep it in its place on the shoulder strap.
And while CamelBak has been in the industry for ages, their constant attention to detail and slight tweaks is really on point with the progression of cycling needs. I look forward to many many more miles with this new pack over the coming months and even years!