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Camelbak M.U.L.E. (Medium to Ultra Long Endeavor) N.V. (Next-generation Ventilation)
Fluid Capacity: 100oz/3L
Cargo Capacity: 520 Cubic inches/8.52 Liters
Colors Available: citronelle/charcoal, black, chili pepper/charcoal, white(tested)
Weight: 2lbs 9oz
Helmet compatible? Not officially, but the two top compression straps hold a full-face quite well. XC helmets don’t fit snugly anywhere specific, but can be clipped on just about anywhere — or worn on your head.
Media pocket? Yes, fleece-lined with headphone port integrated into zipper.
Pros: The length of this pack works well for taller riders like myself at 6’3″, yet isn’t too overbearing for my petite, 5‘2″ lady friend.
Ventilation is noticeably better than the M.U.L.E. of several years ago with Camelbak’s N.I.V.S.(Next-generation Integrated Ventilation System) Back Panel, which finds a good balance of keeping the girth of the pack off your back without keeping it so far away from the torso that it sloshes around independently. The Back Panel also allows the pack to hold its form even while empty, but is still flexible and comfortable. Shoulder straps are comfortable and easily adjustable, as are the chest strap and waist strap.
Compartments are easily accessible and not overly-compartmentalized, and cargo can be realistically snugged-up with four cinch straps that have clever quick releases for easy access to what you’re strapping down. The hidden rain cover is a fantastic feature that doesn’t seem to compromise any space, regardless of its worth, and is pretty much a necessity for the white version of the pack if you want to keep its original color while riding mucky trail conditions.
The 100oz reservoir didn’t leak, was easy to use and has an obvious shut-off valve at the mouthpiece. The insulated pocket in which the reservoir is housed seems to do a decent job of keeping water cool, but isn’t overly impressive.
And last but not least, there’s just enough reflective piping on the back to have a fighting chance if caught without lights after dark, as well as plenty of places to affix a tail light.
Cons: The Flowmeter might be an attractive feature to some, but after giving it a try, I’d opt to go without if anything for simplicity’s sake. The digital readout is easy to read, yet trying to reset the reservoir capacity wasn’t the most numbskull-friendly endeavor. It also seems like the flow-measuring mechanism itself is suspect to contamination, but that could just be my germaphobic side shining through.
Considering all the other fit straps on this pack have nice retention systems for excess strap, it’d be nice if the chest strap were supplied with something similar as well, especially since it seemed to be a bit long.
While the ventilation system seemed to work very well at keeping my back cool, the mesh had a tendency to grab looser-fitting jerseys and ride them up my back. This wasn’t an issue with traditional jerseys that have elastic waists, only on lighter tech-t-shirt style jerseys. Not a major issue, but noticeable.
Bottom line: Great hydration pack with enough room for rain gear, food, pump, tools, 100-ounces of fluid and still room left over for keys and such, yet small and ventilated well enough to not feel burdensome on shorter endeavors where only the bare necessities are needed. Though I’m not tossing out my old pack, this one has turned into my go-to bag for sure.