Before summer comes to an end, I wanted to review the hydration pack I've been using on my excursions outdoors. CamelBak has been a heavyweight in the hydration gear sector, and is well known in the hiking, camping, hunting, and tactical industries. They've come along away in their history, with founder Michael Eidson using an IV bag filled with water slung in a tube sock to rehydrate in an extremely demanding bike race in Texas.
I picked up the CamelBak Mil Tac M.U.L.E. because it looked just the right size for biking, hiking, day hunting, and big events (NRA Show, SHOT SHOW, etc). CamelBak describes this hydration pack as ideal for shorter adventures, with enough liquid capacity and features to get the job done. Not only is it pretty tactical with its laser-cut MOLLE webbing and loop panels for morale patches (shameless plug for Patriot Patch Co. patches here) but it utilizes the awesome Antidote bladder system with a 3 liter/100oz capacity and QD connections.
Starting with the pack itself, its made of 500D Ripstop Cordura fabric, which is a good balance between lightweight and durability. The shoulder harness features 7mm EVA foam and a 420D high-density nylon backside, and what Camelbak calls "the Air Director" back panel that uses a 3mm closed-cell PE foam that's designed to: you guessed it, increase air ventilation. The front of the pack has upper and lower zippered compartments, with the lower pouch outfitted with organizational pockets for your pleasure. The main large compartment houses the Antidote bladder, with three port positions for routing the drinking tube upward behind the wearer's neck, or under either left or right arm.
The Antidote reservoir has a 100oz / 3 liter capacity, and is embossed with increments to help monitor consumption, or just measure out supplemental tablets. The nicest feature I enjoyed was the wide-mouth opening with a plastic handle. Conventional bladders are really awkward to fill without spilling everywhere, but the collar and handle make it easy to fill up with only one hand. The Antidote's lid seals with a quarter turn of the tethered cap. The whole reservoir is suspended inside the M.U.L.E via a nylon loop you simply hook into with the plastic collar. Camelbak's "Big Bite Valve" makes it easy to take a sip on the go, and the insulated PureFlow tube keeps water from heating up or freezing depending on the environment.
The Antidote's more notable feature is the Quick Link HydroLock and disconnect. This makes it easy to control the flow of the liquid or shut it off entirely. The quick disconnect function lets you swap out valves, as well as clean/maintain the reservoir easier, and even attach an inline filter that works while you sip, instead of filtering or boiling water first and then filling the reservoir.
The majority of the time I've used the M.U.L.E was mountain biking in the warm summer months of June-August. I found the shoulder straps aren't the most comfortable... even though they are wide, they are quite stiff and I had to purposely stress the padded foam to break it in alittle bit more for comfort. I ran the drinking tube up thru the top port and down the right shoulder strap, threading it through the straps and D ring and up thru the female M buckle strap so the valve is always pointing up towards my face. This makes it easy for one-handed use, and keeps the valve up and away from snagging on vegetation or getting caught in the bike.
Overall I love this hydration back, and the only things keeping it from a perfect score are the rigid, subpar shoulder straps and the steep price point compared to other offbrand hydration packs. It's safe to say though, that if I'm going out on a hike or logging miles on the bike, the M.U.L.E's got my back.
FIREARMS INSIDER REVIEWS – 8 KEY POINTS
Claim to Fame: The CamelBak Mil Tac M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack is ideal for shorter adventures, with the capacity and features to keep you hydrated and comfortable as you get the job done.
Target Market: Hikers, Campers, Hunters, Bicyclists
FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):
- 500D Rip-Stop Cordura Fabric front panel, gusset and shoulder harness (front side)
- 420D High Density nylon on shoulder harness (back side)
- 7mm EVA foam padding in shoulder harness
- 3mm closed cell PE foam padding on back panel and inside hydration compartment
- Hydration Capacity: 100 oz / 3L
- Mil Spec Antidote 100oz / 3 liter Hydration Bladder
- Total Capacity: 8L (488 cu in) + 3L Reservoir
- Total Weight: 1.9 lbs / .88 kg (pack only)
- Dimensions: 17.5 in x 8.5 in x 7.9 in (44 cm x 22 cm x 20 cm)
- Low Profile composite laser cut MOLLE webbing
- Backed by CamelBak Got your Bak Lifetime guarantee
What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: Black, Coyote, Multicam
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING?:
"This pack is amazing. Small enough on the outside to not get in the way yet surprisingly big on the inside. The laser cut molles are superb and extremely low profile. The reservoir works perfectly and is a breeze to operate. Three things would make it absolutely perfect. 1- Top D-ring attachment points are a must! It's small enough to work perfectly attached to a plate carrier. 2- The shoulder straps would benefit immensely from a little extra padding, especially with the reservoir and pack fully loaded. Don't let the small size fool you. 3- The bottom of the pack needs to be of thicker fabric or have some sort of extra protection. It looks like it might have a hard time being put on the ground on rough terrain. I have yet to see how it performs though. Highly recommended and the Multicam version looks great!" - Customer Review
"Great little pack for adventuring and day trips. Pros:
- Detachable hip straps. I am so happy about this as I rarely used them on my old pack and just cut them off. These are velcro and you can take them off when not in use. Huge plus for me.
- Lots of different storage options in the lower, larger compartment. Zippered mesh pocket, smaller pockets for pens, etc. and event a spot for a 30rnd magazine. I thought that was cool.
- Bladder, tube and bite piece are top notch and its really nice to have a cover so the mouthpiece doesn't get dirty/you don't have to worry about it
- Excess shoulder strap can be rolled up and velcroed just under the shoulder pads so it doesn't fly around.
- My older Camelbak had a little C clip of sorts that you could put the excess hose in to that held it to the shoulder strap. It was nice so the hose didn't flop around, but this pack does not have it.
- No padding in the straps. They are sturdy and well made, but will need some heavy use before they are truly comfortable
- The "molle" styled webbing on the outside is not the right width to accommodate the molle accessories that I have tried. A bit of a bummer.
Ultimately a well made pack that I look forward to using for years." Amazon Review
- MSRP: $166.50
- Retail: $114.93 @ Amazon
I NEED IT NOW! AVAILABILITY:
- Thick width shoulder straps prevent neck chaffing
- Insulated drinking tube
- 3 options for running drinking tube out of bag
- low-profile laser-cut MOLLE webbing for adding more pouches
- Padding in shoulder straps is rigid and uncomfortable
- Velcro mangement of excess straps would have been a nice feature