CamelBak are the grandfathers of hydration bags with over 25 years of experience and the M.U.L.E. is a classic, it has seen many redesigns over the 15 plus years it has been in existence and continues to be one of the most popular styles in their range.

The M.U.L.E. NV has been available for a couple of years now with a few minor tweaks along the way. The key of the NV is its four independently moving pods which provide optimal airflow and spread the load while you move around on the bike.

Sounds good but how was it on the trail?

Tech Specs

The M.U.L.E. NV has a total capacity of 12L plus a 3L reservoir, one main storage pocket, front panel organization pocket for smaller items, media/sunglasses pocket, stash pocket, four point compression, stretch overflow helmet storage and a removable rain cover. The fabric used is a mixture of a 70D and a 420 Nylon with DWR + 1000 mm PU.

The CamelBak Antidote reservoir is arguably the market leader and features a quarter turn cap which makes opening and closing a dream, handy dryer arms and centre baffling to allow easy drying, the Quick Link connector allows easy removal of the non kink tube from the reservoir for filling  and the Big Bite valve allows a high water flow rate without that annoying leaking onto the front of your shirt.

On the trail

I’ve been using the the M.U.L.E. NV for the last 12 months after replacing my Sydney Olympics era M.U.L.E. which was still going strong. The only issue I had over that time was the need to replace a couple of reservoirs due to cultivating mould from not drying them properly and the capacity of the old style is now on the small side for my needs. I decided on the NV over the regular M.U.L.E. due to the greater ventilation that the harness provides for riding in hot and humid weather in summer. I found that the pods of the NV harness really aided in sitting the pack off the body thus keeping my back cool by allowing the sweet to evaporate much quicker than a traditional harness would.


Four independently moving pods provide airflow and spread the load


Handy helmet storage on the front of the bag











The majority of the rides the pack has been used for has been around the 2 hour mark where I only need to carry the necessities (spare tube, pump, multitool, tire lever, phone, a couple Cliff Bars and water). The side compression straps allow the bag to be squished down so it doesn’t move around while shredding the singletrack and the front organisation pocket allows easy and quick access to all you need.

The M.U.L.E NV has been also used on a number of day length hikes and rides. Most recently it was used at Mount Buller in the Victorian Alps with a majority of the riding being full day trips, the weather was variable so more gear needed to be lugged around and this is when the bag shined. Releasing the compression straps allowed a rain jacket, thermal top, lunch, camera, 1st aid kit and extra bike tools to fit nicely without feeling cumbersome and awkward to ride with. The hip belt took just enough weight off the shoulders and harness contoured nicely to the back while grinding up the hills.


On the trail at Mount Buller

Final word

Personally I find it hard to fault the M.U.L.E. NV the build quality is up to CamelBak’s usual high standards, the reservoir has not leaked or had any issues like many of the cheaper copies do, there are plenty of pockets which provides all the room needed for everything from a short ride with mates to an all day epic. Above all the harness allows great ventilation and is very comfortable.

Yes the M.U.L.E NV isn’t the cheapest hydration pack on the market but when my original M.U.L.E lasted over 13 years the extra dollars can be quickly justified and in the long run it will work out to be far less than 50 cents a ride.

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CamelBak also make a Mini M.U.L.E. for any little shredders in the family so they can look just like Mum or Dad!

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About The Author

Dave Casey

Dave has worked as an International Expedition Leader and in Outdoor Education for over 15 years. He has extensive travel and guiding experience in Australia, NZ, Asia, South/North America and Europe. In his spare time Dave is a keen bushwalker, mountain biker and climber while also dabbling in some mountaineering and sea kayaking. He is currently working at Paddys as the National Account Manager, to fund all of the above.