Designed around stability for 'proper' riding, the M.U.L.E. LR 15 can stow everything you need for the trails
Camelbak are the innovators when it comes to hydration packs. Coining the phrase ‘Hydrate or die’, Camelbak has been on the scene since the eighties. Indeed most of us have, at one stage in their lives, probably owned one. The M.U.L.E. LR 15 is the latest incarnation of one of their longest standing mtb specific packs. Standing for Medium to Ultra Long Endeavours, as it implies, this is a pack aimed at all day riding.
The LR (Low Rider) edition adds a lumbar positioned reservoir to lower the weight on your back. This should equate to better stability on more aggressive trails, even when fully loaded and the three litre capacity bladder filled. The Crux LR bladder is also supposed to deliver up to 20% more fluid per sip, so making it easier to drink when working hard. The bladder also includes a quick release tube for easy cleaning and a redesigned lock on the bite valve that is infinitely easier to use single-handed.
It’s safe to say that the M.U.L.E. LR 15 is the Mcguyver of the hydration pack world. Featuring no less than ten compartments/pockets, it easily swallows a complete change of kit, tools, spares and food. Enough to keep you going all day or even for minimalist, multi-day trips. Not only that but it also comes with a separate tool roll; helmet clip and rain cover to complete the deal.
The backpanel is Camelbak’s latest Airfoil back system comprising of two separate ‘pods’. The upper pod cleverly angles the pack away from the shoulders to redistribute weight towards the hips and create airflow, whilst the lower hugs the lower back and includes the softly padded, load bearing hip straps. Adjustment of the pack is simple and rapid when being worn. The hip straps feature additional adjustment to cinch the bladder tight to the body increasing stability.
Living with the M.U.L.E. LR 15
The M.U.L.E. is a pack you know you are wearing. The bare weight is over 1.1 kilos, that’s a good few hundred grams over some of its competitors. It certainly is ‘there’. Despite the weight even when loaded, it remains very stable and comfortable. It is noticeable how much more freedom you actually get from having the weight distributed lower on your back. Your shoulders especially, benefit from not having to tighten the straps too much, allowing you to move unhindered. The narrow and lower profile doesn’t foul helmets either. It clings to the back like a limpet and never really felt unstable.
What is noticeable is the back system doesn’t do the greatest job of ventilation and inevitably, even on short rides I was left soaked in sweat. What is more frustrating though is how difficult it is to insert the bladder. Due to the design of the pack the bladder needs to be removed to fill. But if the pack is loaded there is minimal squeeze room to get it back in. Cue the emptying out of the pockets, and even then it is a struggle to fully push it to the bottom of the pack. This is one area when a stiffened bladder backing would certainly help.
The only other niggle I really have with the pack is the placement of certain pockets. Ideally I would like the suspended mesh pocket moved to the main compartment for storage of a phone/wallet, rather than in the same area as tools and spares.
A comprehensively equipped pack capable of swallowing everything you need to enjoy a full day out on the hills. The MULE is not without its faults. At over 1.1 kilos it is heavy and the bladder is frustratingly fiddly to fit. But it should last a lifetime.