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Hydration Packs...hydrapak, MULE, Deuter?

Sandwich

Pig my fish!
Staff member
May 23, 2002
15,829
937
01776
I'm thinking of getting myself a new hydration pack. I've found that by not throwing my money away DH racing, I actually have money to spend on my bike, and it's working out pretty well. Right now I have a Camelbak Octane 14+ which I bought for an adventure race but use it entirely for biking now. It's a decent pack, I like the side pockets, but there's no internal storage compartments and virtually everything is worn out (Zipper flaps, cord pulls). The reservoir has been decent but it's tough to clean all up in there. It's also ultra light, which is cool but I'd rather have better ventilation on my back than light weight. I currently ride about 3 hrs max, and most of my rides are sub 20 miles. I doubt I'll ever do much beyond that without getting back to a car or something.

What are people riding that doesn't suck? Hydrapak has really good reviews on their bladders, but some of their pack reviews are so so. The MULE has been around forever, but that doesn't inherently make it good. I've read some good things about deuter packs, which aren't too expensive and have a decent ventilation system which looks cool. So what gives?
 

kickstand

Turbo Monkey
Sep 18, 2009
3,445
390
Fenton, MI
I have an osprey pack, don't recall which one, it's a bit bigger than the previous pack I still have but never use (due to the osprey's comfort) and a touch smaller than a mule (my buddy rides with a mule).

Either way I absolutely love it, super comfy, holds 3L, I have all my necessities in it, easy to pull the bladder, etc.
 

jimmydean

The Official Meat of Ridemonkey
Sep 10, 2001
29,201
1,734
Portland, OR
I've been rocking my MULE for 13 years now. It does everything I need it to do on the bike and short day hikes. My daughter is big enough to have her own, so I am getting her one for xmas this year.

I have a crappy backpack I use for overnights and on the street moto. But it needs to be replaced soon.
 

Pesqueeb

bicycle in airplane hangar
Feb 2, 2007
26,877
3,395
Riding the baggage carousel.
I've had several MULEs over the years with nary a problem. I like it enough that it's the only hydration pack I've ever used, whenever I've had to replace one I just get the latest model. No issues here.
 

Yelo

Monkey
Aug 3, 2008
290
1
Quebec city, Quebec, Canada
I've been rocking my MULE for 13 years now. It does everything I need it to do on the bike and short day hikes. My daughter is big enough to have her own, so I am getting her one for xmas this year.

I have a crappy backpack I use for overnights and on the street moto. But it needs to be replaced soon.
I'M with you on the MULE, got one of the newer one and love it....

For your daughter, their is a Mule that is women specific design that sport a different name, my GF got one so as lots of our female friends and all seem to like it... One of the key feature that seems to be important is that the shoulder strap goes around the breasts instead of over them, you might want to look at that model for her....
 

CBJ

Turbo Monkey
Mar 19, 2002
10,875
1,207
Copenhagen, Denmark
I lost my Mule when somebody borrowed. I have another pack which is okay but a little bulky. I just got a new bladder from camelback and I really like the new design and features and its BPA free.
 

SkaredShtles

I love NEWCASTLE and will ONLY drink NEWCASTLE!!!!
Sep 21, 2003
47,739
2,332
In a van.... down by the river
The Deuter beats the living $hit out of the Camelback for functional space. The back-ventilation is really good. And the bonus is the reservoir beats the $hit out of any other one I've seen. With the full top-opening bladder you can put your whole arm down in there to clean it if need be.

The only thing I'm not enamored with is the mesh shoulder-straps. They're not as comfy on long rides as the more padded ones I've used.
 

Dirtrider

Monkey
May 2, 2006
676
621
Asheville, NC
I have had a Dakine for the past 5 plus years and love it. Great for easy traiil rides or all day epics. Lots of storage room and pockets.
 
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Nick

My name is Nick
Sep 21, 2001
14,334
2,862
behind you, don't wait up.
I used a MULE or HAWG forever. I had zero complaints about either pack, and grabbed one depending on the duration of the ride and if I intended to carry a lot of extra gear (food, pads, clothes, etc)

I now have a Dakine Apex; it's slightly larger than the HAWG, lots of very functional pockets, a nice padded pocket for glasses or goggles, super easy to carry pads and a jacket without the pack feeling overstuffed. Another nice feature is that the back relief 'grooves' which do allow some airflow between you and the pack. My HAWG has a similar design but it doesn't work as well.

Dakine packs can be found on sale pretty regularly on-line too. (huck n roll, etc)
 

jimmydean

The Official Meat of Ridemonkey
Sep 10, 2001
29,201
1,734
Portland, OR
I'M with you on the MULE, got one of the newer one and love it....

For your daughter, their is a Mule that is women specific design that sport a different name, my GF got one so as lots of our female friends and all seem to like it... One of the key feature that seems to be important is that the shoulder strap goes around the breasts instead of over them, you might want to look at that model for her....
That's awesome. I will have to check that out! I have the very basic Camelbak that the Army issued me that she uses, but it lacks storage.

I got a buddy of mine a DaKine pack that he loves. I got it for his moto because its smaller than a full sized backpack but also has a strap to carry a helmet.
 

Silver

find me a tampon
Jul 20, 2002
10,848
0
Orange County, CA
I haven't tried the Hydrapak, but I've used pretty much everything else, and I like the Osprey the best, with Deuter and Wingnut tied for second. If keeping a cool back is your #1 priority, I'd say go Deuter. That hammock system is the best for back ventilation that I've ever used, but like SS says, the shoulder straps could be a touch more comfy.
 

Da Peach

Outwitted by a rodent
Jul 2, 2002
12,519
1,779
North Van
I had to replace the bladder (Nalgene) which came with my Dakine Nomad. The hose fused itself into a pinch when I left it in the car...

Anyhoo, I replaced it with a Hydrapak and like it. It holds water, and I can drink from it.... pretty much fills the bill...

I like the Nomad. Not huge, some nifty compartments, enough room to hold a spare jacket and layer if you need it. Helmet carrier and straps to attach your armour for the long slog up.

Back ventilation isn't great though...
 

Silver

find me a tampon
Jul 20, 2002
10,848
0
Orange County, CA
I had to replace the bladder (Nalgene) which came with my Dakine Nomad. The hose fused itself into a pinch when I left it in the car...
I went through about one of those a month with my Dakine. I was worried that the Osprey would suck because of the Nalgene bladder, but it's been holding up better. I'm still leery of the mouthpiece though, just waiting for it to spring a leak.
 

Sandwich

Pig my fish!
Staff member
May 23, 2002
15,829
937
01776
I haven't tried the Hydrapak, but I've used pretty much everything else, and I like the Osprey the best, with Deuter and Wingnut tied for second. If keeping a cool back is your #1 priority, I'd say go Deuter. That hammock system is the best for back ventilation that I've ever used, but like SS says, the shoulder straps could be a touch more comfy.
what was gooderer about the osprey? I see them all over the place, and on sale, but have never seen one in person. It looks like REI carries them so I can take a physical look if need be.

I'm not in love with the hydrapak's magnetic system, in that the hose kind of hangs out there. I have a much older pack and the hose wraps around your waist and comes up...I don't like it.
 

Silver

find me a tampon
Jul 20, 2002
10,848
0
Orange County, CA
what was gooderer about the osprey? I see them all over the place, and on sale, but have never seen one in person. It looks like REI carries them so I can take a physical look if need be.
Fit. It's laid out very well too, lots of dividers for gear. But mostly fit.
 

OGRipper

Turbo Monkey
Feb 3, 2004
9,703
139
NORCAL is the hizzle
My old Mule finally got bit the dust, I looked around and picked up one of the new Camelbak Charge paks:



It's lighter, has plenty of storage and straps for adding stuff, and the new bladder is awesome. A lot of people also like the Osprey stuff. Keep in mind that the newer lightweight stuff seems to have some durability issues.
 

DORO

Monkey
Jun 15, 2006
131
0
whatever you do don't get the cb mayhem. $hit gets lost in there and never to be found again.
I found things in mine years later that I just thought I lost.
 

kickstand

Turbo Monkey
Sep 18, 2009
3,445
390
Fenton, MI
Fit. It's laid out very well too, lots of dividers for gear. But mostly fit.
x2

what was gooderer about the osprey? I see them all over the place, and on sale, but have never seen one in person. It looks like REI carries them so I can take a physical look if need be.

I'm not in love with the hydrapak's magnetic system, in that the hose kind of hangs out there. I have a much older pack and the hose wraps around your waist and comes up...I don't like it.
I have a Viper. It's just over a year old. I've used it as spine armor plenty of times, I throw it in the bed of the truck, on the floor, etc. durability wise it is still 100% The pockets and dividers are well laid out, but what sold me was the comfort level when I put it on, it "just fits" me.

As for the leaking mouth peice, doesn't matter what bag I have had I usually chew through about a mouth peice a year and need to replace them, the magnet still holds well even though its packed iwth a bunch of dust and dirt.

I don't want to over analyze a hydration pack, but this one just plain works well for me.
 
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AngryMetalsmith

Business is good, thanks for asking
Jun 4, 2006
14,278
2,122
I have no idea where I am
I've been using Camelbak since the very first one came out. But I would be hard pressed to buy another one after checking out Osprey packs. Every Camelbak bladder I have had has failed at some point. Their new design is absolute garbage. The O-ring on the lid easily gets pinched causing water to pour out of it if the pack is laid over. Also the designers at Camelbak seem to be purposely making their packs more difficult to get the bladder in and out.

The Osprey packs seem to be well thought out with a bladder that has a screw off lid similar to a mason jar. Also it is stiff backed so water doesn't settle to the bottom.

I've tried on a few Osprey packs and found them to be quite comfortable despite being slightly heavier. Next pack is going to be an Osprey for sure.
 

OGRipper

Turbo Monkey
Feb 3, 2004
9,703
139
NORCAL is the hizzle
I've been using Camelbak since the very first one came out. But I would be hard pressed to buy another one after checking out Osprey packs. Every Camelbak bladder I have had has failed at some point. Their new design is absolute garbage. The O-ring on the lid easily gets pinched causing water to pour out of it if the pack is laid over. Also the designers at Camelbak seem to be purposely making their packs more difficult to get the bladder in and out.

The Osprey packs seem to be well thought out with a bladder that has a screw off lid similar to a mason jar. Also it is stiff backed so water doesn't settle to the bottom.

I've tried on a few Osprey packs and found them to be quite comfortable despite being slightly heavier. Next pack is going to be an Osprey for sure.
Weird. I've never had a Camelbak bladder "fail". I haven't had any issues with the new Camelbak bladder, and access is better than ever, especially with the new quick release hose.

Some of my buddies love their Osprey packs and they definitely have neat features. However, I saw my friend rip his open by barely rubbing against a fallen tree as he went under it, something that I've done dozens of times with different packs without issue. Just sayin.
 

-BB-

I broke all the rules, but somehow still became mo
Sep 6, 2001
4,257
28
Livin it up in the O.C.
The Deuter beats the living $hit out of the Camelback for functional space. The back-ventilation is really good. And the bonus is the reservoir beats the $hit out of any other one I've seen. With the full top-opening bladder you can put your whole arm down in there to clean it if need be.

The only thing I'm not enamored with is the mesh shoulder-straps. They're not as comfy on long rides as the more padded ones I've used.
Love the HECK out of my Deuter pack. It is the one with the mesh back panel and the small internal frame so that the actual pack sits off your back. You never get annoying pump handles sticking yo in the ribs. It breathes VERY well even here in the blazing hot SoCal summers. I also feel like the internal frame offers a little back protection in case you OTB directly onto your back. Good functional space, and the "helmet" strap works great for leg pads. My first one lasted me 5 years, so very solid construction as well. Only think I changed was the bite valve.
 

IH8Rice

I'm Mr. Negative! I Fail!
Aug 2, 2008
24,554
487
Im over here now
been using the same MULE for about 13 years and its still going strong. plenty of storage for tools, pump, tube, levers, phone, keys and all the other crap i seem to lug around.
a++ would recommend
 

in the trees

Turbo Monkey
May 19, 2003
1,210
1
NH
I really like the Camelbak LR packs. Very stable, but you are limited to a 70oz bladder. For 2013, however, Camelabk is offering a new 100oz LR bladder/pack.
 

ICEBALL585

Bacontard
Sep 8, 2009
6,238
742
.:585:.
Been using the same Camelbak MULE pack for the past few years. Still going strong and has lasted through a few good crashes where I slid on my back.
 

Quo Fan

don't make me kick your ass
I see them all over the place, and on sale, but have never seen one in person.
You didn't look very well at Monkeyfest, I and 3 others (at least) had them.

I purchased mine after I shredded my Hydrapack limboing a branch. I'm not a "follow the crowd" type of person, so I was looking for something that not everybody has. The Hydrapacks were getting to be more than I wanted to pay for a pack, and I found the Osprey. I read a couple of reviews of the pack, and decided to give it a try. Like others have said, the pack is way comfortable, like it is not even there. The weight distribution is fantastic, and there is room for everything I want to carry. I really like the bladder, it has a large screw-on cap and a handle for filling, and the handle also gives the bladder some rigidity so it doesn't sit all the way to the bottom of the pack.
 

Uncle Cliffy

Turbo Monkey
Jan 28, 2008
4,496
42
Southern Oregon
For the last year I've been using a Wingnut Hyper 3.0.



Been really happy with it. It's SUPER light. The whole thing is made-in-the-USA out of windsail material. All zippers are waterproof as well. The pack's designed to sit low on your back. This thing feels great in the saddle, and it's nice when you jump as the weight isn't shifting between your shoulders.

Best feature IMO are the "Wing Pockets." I keep most of my stuff in them and you don't have to remove the pack to get to any tools, keys, bars, ect. I really just use the main pocket for a pump, tube, and a jacket if I need it.

My old Dakine Nomad feels terrible by comparison now.
 

Montana rider

Monkey
Mar 14, 2005
466
333
I use whatever is on sale (10 yo Ultimate Direction pack atm) but this review breaks down some of the newer options

http://www.gearreview.com/10_hydration_packs.php

10 Large Hydration Packs
By Jon Sharp

Staying hydrated is one of the most important aspects of any exercise—especially an exercise that takes you outside in the heat, like mountain biking. Ever been to Moab in the summer? It can be pretty tough to keep going if you don't have enough water. Enter the hydration pack. Once CamelBak made the hydration pack popular, bike manufacturers stopped worrying so much about water bottle mounts on bikes—freeing them up to do strange and innovative things with their frames. Mountain bikers, for their part, realized they could carry more water and gear to take them further from civilization and deeper into the wild.

In this review, we focused on just that sort of pack: the pack that has enough room for food, a rain jacket/windbreaker, lots of water, tools, spare tubes, and sometimes music (in case you want to bring some civilization with you). If you're looking for something in particular, we listed size, price, and weight first so you can narrow this review down to your own needs. Please note that weights posted are the manufacturers’ claimed weights. Click here for a detailed chart of features.

With that, let's get started. You might want to get something to drink before we begin… unless, of course, that's the reason you’re here. If so, just relax and pace yourself—taking frequent trips to the sink for water. After all, we don't want anyone passed out in front of their computer with visions of water putting them in a dazed stupor. Ready? Good.

View Chart of Features

CamelBak M.U.L.E.
Deuter Hydro EXP 8
Nalgene Radius 3.0
GoLite Tailwind
Wingnut Hyper 3.0
DAKINE Nomad
Ultimate Direction Teocalli
JanSport Diablo
Platypus Mega
Hydrapak Big Sur

(blah-blah-blah, too much text to include, read the article)


Conclusion
At the end of a large review like this, more likely than not, you're expecting a winner. And, as usual, that isn't an easy task. To make it easier on ourselves, we decided to pick a winner in a few different categories:

Best Value (aka: Best Bang for your Buck or BBB): CamelBak M.U.L.E.
Although not the cheapest in this comparison, it is easy to find this pack on sale—often as low as $55 (at time of writing). With all the features and the great bite valve and bladder, it is hard to pass this one by. CamelBak has been in the hydration pack business longer than most and it shows. If you can't find this one on sale, buy the Platypus Mega. It is great pack at a great price—only with fewer features than the M.U.L.E and some of the others.

Greatest Capacity (aka: I'm afraid to leave home without that, or that, or that either, or …): DAKINE Nomad
It is definitely heavy, and not the cheapest (though not the most expensive, either), but it holds the most. And it does so without adding much bulk. The Nomad packs down small when its capacity isn't being utilized, and expands to epic proportions when needed for your epic rides. It also is the best organized—with more dividers and pockets for whatever stuff you think you need to have on that ride. Just make sure to check out the length of the drinking tube before cutting off the tags.

Best bladder (aka: reservoir): Deuter's Source reservoir
Although we really liked the Nalgene bladder, the Source had a wider opening that was super easy to use. The Source reservoir did a great job of keeping the water tasting fresh after days and weeks of sitting idle. Unfortunately, it didn't come with the best bite valve. If you try it and can live with the mechanical valve, this might just be the bladder for you. (Another option, and you didn't hear it from us, is to buy a different valve and put it on the Source reservoir.)

Best bite valve (aka bite valve): Hydrapak Easyflo valve
Although the bladder made the water taste like rubber if it sat too long, the valve was the best in this test. That's right, folks, we liked this bite valve BETTER than the CamelBak valve. It's about time that someone came out with a valve that challenges CamelBak, and Hydrapak's finally done it. If you are meticulous about cleaning out your reservoir and changing the water frequently, this is the reservoir for you.

Most innovative (aka: what is that guy wearing?): Wingnut Hyper 3.0
There are two main things we liked about this pack: First, its position on your hips instead of your mid to upper back. Secondly, we loved the huge pockets on the wings. This pack was also the lightest of the bunch, though not the smallest in cargo space, making it good for short hauls or epic adventures. Unfortunately, the pack seemed cheap in some ways, despite being the most expensive (and that without a bladder). This was probably due to the light materials used to pare down the weight. If you are looking for the lightest, this is probably your pack.

Most comfortable (aka: ahhhh): GoLite Tailwind
Even though it wasn't as adjustable, nor was it the lightest, every time we had to strap this one on, we were relieved. It somehow just dissipated the load better on my back and conformed to my shape. I'm certain it isn't the best at cooling, and it doesn't hold the most, but for a fairly light-weight pack (4th lightest in this review), we definitely found this to be the most comfortable.

Best overall hydration pack (aka: the winner): ???
No pack is perfect, and especially, no pack is perfect for everyone. C’mon, I don’t even know you, how am I supposed to pick the perfect pack for you. Sadly, though, if the Hydrapak had a more palatable bladder, it might just have made this list. However, your best bet is to look at the ones we liked the best and choose it based on your needs. If you ride mostly downhill or freeride, the DAKINE Nomad is probably your best choice. Are you looking for an ultralight, but spacious pack? You ought to spend the extra dough for the Wingnut (just get a different bladder), or the slightly heavier GoLite Tailwind. Looking for something small? Well, we’ll have to cover those packs in a different review. In the mean time, try and go on some longer rides, will ya?
 

Sandwich

Pig my fish!
Staff member
May 23, 2002
15,829
937
01776
Thanks dude! Doesn't necessarily clear it up, and all those packs look a bit old, but I appreciate the reference.

Has anybody seen one of these recently?
https://www.google.com/products/catalog?hl=en&safe=active&client=firefox-a&hs=jxr&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&spell=1&q=salomon+hydration+pack&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.&fp=4c814b5607df3525&biw=1371&bih=672&tch=1&ech=1&psi=ehNvUOnKM6uw0QGTmIDwBQ.1349456761961.3&cid=16882186681857626086&sa=X&ei=fRNvUPBVhO_SAc-ngMgC&ved=0CIQBEMwD

They look cool as hell...and if they're designed for running, they should clear the body in all the appropriate areas. I wonder if the weight balance, with more stuff in the "vest" would be better or more awkward.

I find my camelbak to be extremely comfortable...unnoticeable so....but I haven't used anything else besides my blackburn from 97.
 

HardtailHack

used an iron once
Jan 20, 2009
2,257
163
have a MULE from about three years back and it is garbage, plastic lining on the inside of the fabric separated after a year rubber bits started perishing and it is just too narrow to have a decent load in and feel stable.
I went back to my ~8 year old Deuter Race X air(new ones are pretty crap) Deuter bladders are garbage they taste of plastic and the bite valves leak. I like the Platypus bladders but always end up running a Camelbak bite valve as they are still, in my opinion, the best avaliable.
 

valve bouncer

Master Dildoist
Feb 11, 2002
7,786
17
Japan
I just replaced the old 3L bladder from my Mule for a new style 2L one. Like the bladder but 2 litres on a 3 hour ride is getting close especially if you like a little extra "stuck on the trail, leg broken with death adders and sh*t" water.
 
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AngryMetalsmith

Business is good, thanks for asking
Jun 4, 2006
14,278
2,122
I have no idea where I am
So anyhoo, my second Camelbak bladder this year failed and started leaking so I took it back to REI and they gave me a credit of $33 + tax. I had a 20% off coupon and was able to score an Osprey Viper10 for about $24. Schweet !



The 100oz. Osprey is indeed far better designed and built than Camelbak, but is considerably heavier than the 70oz. Rogue. The bladder is idiot proof and comes out way easier than anything Camelbak has put out. However, for short rides it's a bit overkill. So I'm thinking about getting a smaller, 70oz. Osprey bladder for my old Rogue to use on sub two hour rides.


One thing that I've noticed since losing 50 pounds is that whatever pack I use it tends to move around a lot more now. So I've been trying out the sternum and waist straps to see if that helps, which of course they do. But the waist strap on the Osprey makes my back hurt. Is there some secret to using the waist strap that I am unaware of ? I still have just enough of a "gut" to anchor the strap so the pack doesn't smack me in the back of the head on log crossings. Am I doing this right ?
 

OGRipper

Turbo Monkey
Feb 3, 2004
9,703
139
NORCAL is the hizzle
Am I doing this right ?
Trying tightening the shoulder straps so the pack sits higher on your back. That works for me, especially with a heavier pack.

And, you might also try some core strength exercises, especially some lower back stuff. Lots of reasons for that, the ability to do long rides with a pack is only one.
 

ridiculous

Turbo Monkey
Jan 18, 2005
2,909
1
MD / NoVA
The $25.99 High Sierra hydration pack from Costco is THE BEST hydration pack I have ever owned. Easiest to clean, easiest to install, perfect size, has all of the features of the more expensive packs (insulated straw, helmet net, . It's the hyundai genesis of hydropacks. I say this after owning, Fox, Camelbak, and Sette offerings.
 

scrublover

Monkey
Sep 1, 2004
924
1,070
Check EMS - I've got one of these. that works well for a medium size pack. Big enough to cram all day stuff in, small enough it's not too cumbersome on shorter rides. Loooove the side pockets for munchies and tools. Sits very stable, doesn't bounce around much. Compresses down well if you aren't filling the thing all the way up.

Have an older Octane 14 for short rides, but longer than for just a bottle on the bike. And one of the big ass Octane packs for loooooong stuff, or carrying lots of other crap. That EMS pack sits great in between.
Nice and un-bouncy.

 

kickstand

Turbo Monkey
Sep 18, 2009
3,445
390
Fenton, MI
So anyhoo, my second Camelbak bladder this year failed and started leaking so I took it back to REI and they gave me a credit of $33 + tax. I had a 20% off coupon and was able to score an Osprey Viper10 for about $24. Schweet !



The 100oz. Osprey is indeed far better designed and built than Camelbak, but is considerably heavier than the 70oz. Rogue. The bladder is idiot proof and comes out way easier than anything Camelbak has put out. However, for short rides it's a bit overkill. So I'm thinking about getting a smaller, 70oz. Osprey bladder for my old Rogue to use on sub two hour rides.


One thing that I've noticed since losing 50 pounds is that whatever pack I use it tends to move around a lot more now. So I've been trying out the sternum and waist straps to see if that helps, which of course they do. But the waist strap on the Osprey makes my back hurt. Is there some secret to using the waist strap that I am unaware of ? I still have just enough of a "gut" to anchor the strap so the pack doesn't smack me in the back of the head on log crossings. Am I doing this right ?
Thats the pack that I have. I love it.

How does it make your back hurt? like joint pain, muscle pain, or just digs in funny?

I did as was suggested and wear mine with the shoulder straps pretty tight, belt and sternum strap snug.

I'm not a big guy though at 5-10 175/180ish