Camelbak Mule LR 15
REVIEW

Camelbak M.U.L.E. LR 15

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Apr 4, 2017

M.U.L.E.ennials

The Camelbak M.U.L.E. was born in 1996 and I think it's fair to say the M.U.L.E. LR on review here is a testament to its parents. At 21 years and counting, the not-too-big but-not-too-small all day or short ride pack line continues to evolve sensibly.

It's true that a Rocky Mountain Blizzard is no longer a steel hardtail and no one is winning World Cup XC races on a RockShox Judy these days, but in the case of the M.U.L.E. the basic layout of the 100-ounce (3L) bladder and various pockets for storage of tools, food, a flask etc. is true to the form of the original.

Camelbak MULE LR NSMB AndrewM

The M.U.L.E. packs have a tonne of features, like a waist belt and rain cover, that weren't present in the 90's but the basic idea is still the same: 'Medium to Ultra Long Endeavours'. How much sweet single track can you ride in a day?

Not unlike bikes, hydration packs present a lot more thought and technology than they did even a decade ago. The LR 'Low Rider' moniker on this M.U.L.E. speaks to a better distribution of weight, the back panel and straps are designed to breathe as much as possible and there is a host of adjustment options to dial in the fit.

Camelbak MULE LR NSMB AndrewM

From 1996 to today the Camelbak represents an evolution of an idea but the heritage is obvious through two decades.

Breathe

Run, rabbit run. A backpack is always a compromise between having the stuff I want with me in the woods vs. turning myself into a hot mess when riding uphill in anger.

Camelbak has been working for years to make their packs more breathable and the sum of their focus is evident in the perforated backing and strap materials on the MULE LR. Nothing like some chalky salt stains on my pack to confirm it was an epic adventure.

Camelbak MULE LR NSMB AndrewM

Perforated material on the backing and straps allows for better air flow than past efforts without compromising the fit of the pack or causing it to shift around when descending. The perforations also extended away from the back around the shoulder blades to promote air flow. I think this also helps with weight distribution.

In a market challenged by hip-packs, stash bibs and frame bags, pack companies have to find ways to get lighter weights, more breathability, and better fit, particularly when loaded. That's especially true for rides under a couple of hours.

Fit

I always carry a pack. Tools, jacket, snack, phone, wallet, spare gloves, flask, light and tube; there is a lot of stuff to haul around. For local rides I'll generally just take a water bottle and I'll add 1-2 liters of water in my bladder for really long rides or hot days.

To get a proper testing of the M.U.L.E. LR I filled it with the full 3 liters of water and tossed in the worst collection of crap I'd ever carry including a shock pump, a tall can of beer and my small camera.

Camelbak MULE LR NSMB AndrewM

To properly test out the MULE LR I loaded it up with 3 liters of water, all my tools from my pack, shock pump, a beer and a camera. It was a chore to lift it out of my car but on my back the weight distribution was excellent and the Camelbak stayed in place very well.

It was a chore to lift the over stuffed pack out of my car but once I threw it over my shoulder the weight distribution was excellent. Insert some cliché about feeling pounds lighter than it was. Most importantly, the pack stayed in place even in steep technical terrain. I never had to fight to get the MULE back in position.

With my regular load and a liter of water in the bladder, the pack also danced with me and I never felt it working against me on climbs or descents.

Features

My Camelbak M.U.L.E. LR experience started with a conversation about my personal pack, a Mission/ACRE Hauser. My friends have suggested the Hauser is essentially a dry bag with straps. It has a similar degree of fit customization to the M.U.L.E. LR 15 (in both cases very good) and is exceptionally well made. Otherwise it provides a fairly simple storage space.

In contrast the M.U.L.E. LR offers a great amount of internal organization in addition to a couple of zippered pockets on the mesh waist belt. A good choice for the more OCD among my fellow travelers.

Camelbak MULE LR NSMB AndrewM

Zippered waist band pockets on both sides of the awesome and highly adjustable mesh waist belt. I quite like how the subtle details of the grey side panel and orange straps break up the all black pack.

I particularly like the included tool roll with its own sleeve, and the large mesh cellphone pocket with key clip is a great feature as well.

Camelbak MULE LR NSMB AndrewM

The handy tool roll has its own sleeve for keeping the heaviest bits I'm carrying low in the pack and making sure they don't move around.

The M.U.L.E. NV sold very well in a shop I worked in a decade ago. It carried a similar amount of crap then and most importantly for here in North Vancouver, included a stashed rain cover. That's the only feature carried over to the current M.U.L.E. LR, only with a much faster and easier storage sleeve in its external pocket. It takes a few seconds to install or stash the cover.

For the life of me, I don't understand why Camelbak doesn't do a premium M.U.L.E. H20 model with waterproof material and zipper and seam sealing. That said, the cover works admirably.

Crux Lumbar Reservoir

Camelbak's new bite valve and the cap on their Crux bladder are both welcome improvements. The cap is very easy to remove and reinstall for re-filling and the open/close function on the bite valve is easy to use. I've almost always used a Camelbak reservoir in my non-Camelbak bags because they are the best, and this is an improved product yet again.


Camelbak Mule LR NSMB AndrewM

I really like the new switch on the bite valve - it's easy to use with gloves in the dark. The new bladder cap is also easier to remove and reinstall for filling purposes.

Here's a short public service announcement for anyone who didn't know that you can easily shorten your Camelbak hose. If you are riding around with an extra foot of hose sticking out of your pack, hooking on trees or even your handlebar, you may as well put on a JOEY name tag.

Figure out the desired length. Pull the bite valve off. Cut the hose. Push the bit valve back on. It's easier than changing a pair of lock-on grips and it will improve your experience.

Camelbak MULE LR NSMB AndrewM

The MULE LR is a great pack with a highly adaptable fit and every effort to make for a more comfortable wearing experience thanks to improved breathability and weight distribution.

Camelbak MULE LR

A 15L pack is just right for me. It lets me take everything I need for a long day in the woods while forcing me to jettison the unnecessary. In keeping with Camelbak's reputation, it is well made and has excellent airflow. It is easy to adjust the fit and to get it dialed in and the MULE LR has a great assortment of features.

Camelbak Mule LR 15

From dayglo to subtle.

The Camelbak MULE LR comes in 4 colours and sells for around $150 (USD).

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Comments

craw
+1 Andrew Major
Cr4w  - April 4, 2017, 12:27 p.m.

Wow I had one of those original M.U.L.E.s

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - April 4, 2017, 5:19 p.m.

I had one in the original brown with the same layout of storage but I'm positive it had a waist belt? Maybe it was an add-on?!

Reply

brad-sedola
+1 Andrew Major
Brad Sedola  - April 4, 2017, 5:02 p.m.

No mention of the functionality, or lack thereof, regarding the orange belt straps to reduce sloshing of the reservoir. I've heard that they don't really work as intended and/or are not really needed. Any comments on them?

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - April 4, 2017, 5:17 p.m.

I didn't have any issues with the reservoir shifting around so either they were working OR they do nothing in that regard but it isn't/wasn't an issue for me.

I definitely did use them for adjustment. Once the waist belt general tension was set I would use the orange straps to dial in the fit (shape) of the waist belt and I thought they were a nice detail in that regard - for me.

Reply

wncmotard
0
WNCmotard  - April 4, 2017, 11:14 p.m.

I have a Charge 10LR, and the belt cinch straps do indeed work. Also, top row, third from the left black and grey with yellow trim Mule circa 2001. Bought it when I worked at a shop, still have it, still works great also.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - April 4, 2017, 11:22 p.m.

I really appreciate this comment - and assumed there would be more.

There are so many choice for great packs now - even within Camelbak's lineup - but there was a huge stretch of more than ten years where I feel locally the MULE series was the best game in town.

Half the folks I road with had one?!

Reply

wncmotard
0
WNCmotard  - April 6, 2017, 12:33 p.m.

No problem Andrew. I kinda figured there'd be more also, being it's arguably an iconic piece of mountain biking history in my opinion.

I've been tempted to try other brands, just nowhere to go locally to check them out before buying. So I just end up sticking with what works, and has been working for years.

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