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camelbak mule nv

Hiking Daypack: Camelback MULE NV Review

Some other daypacks might have more bells and whistles, but the Camelbak Mule NV comes out ahead. This great hiking daypack is my goto pack for everything outdoors. Some of my buddies have other daypacks, but everyone ends up complimenting me on this great hiking daypack.

5 / 5

At First, I Had an Osprey

I have other Osprey daypacks that I love, and Osprey is a great company. So I bought and Osprey and used it for a year. I soon found that the zippers on the Osprey, while looking cool and clever, didn’t really work well in real world situations. More importantly, the the water bladder required a superhuman burst of strength to screw open and closed. The pack was almost too clever for it’s own good.

hiking daypacks on rack
Lot’s of great hiking daypack choices. Great until you actually have to decide on one.

After tons of research and hands on testing at REI, the Camelback Mule NV was the best. Here’s why.

The Camelbak Mule NV Is Dead Simple 

This daypack doesn’t try to be tricky. It’s a pack where the pockets, straps, and features are where you expect them to be. While I’m a fan of gear trying to be innovative and clever, I’m a bigger fan of simplicity. When I’m exhausted and want to grab a snack out of my bag, I don’t want to have to remember some clever way to get in. I just want to unzip a zipper and not think.

camelback mule nv zippers
Main compartment zippers are on top to easily get to your gear.

This Pack Keeps Your Back Dry

This is actually a mountain biking backpack, but I use it for hiking.  The reason why I went with this pack over the Camelback hiking-specific packs is because of of the ventilation system on the back. When you bike, you sweat more, so this pack has a ventilation system on the back that keeps the pack off your back, and allows air to flow through. It not only works great for biking, but it works great for hiking too. I’m not sure why all the Camelbak packs don’t have this, but they should.

I was highly skeptical about the promise to keep your back dry, but it does really work, paired with a moisture-wicking top layer, it keeps me extremely comfortable. – REI Reviewer

camelbak mule nv sweat ribs
Four big ribs on back keep the pack off your back.
camelbak mule nv sweat ribs
Air circulates under the ribs, keeping your back dry.

The Water Bladder Just Works

I had the Osprey brand hydration bladder, which has more bells and whistles, but was hard to open and close. This one is simple and works. They’ve been honing the design for years, and the cap comes on and off really easily. The tube disconnects from the unit for easy cleaning. There’s a convenient clip on the shoulder strap for the drinking tube. 100oz is plenty for most hikes.

camelback mule nv water tube
The water tube clips onto the shoulder strap so it doesn’t flop around. Simple and it works well.
camelbak mule nv water bladder
Pressing on the yellow button snaps the tube off. It snaps back on by just pushing it in.

Your Water Stays Cooler Than Other Packs

An added benefit of keeping the pack off your back is that the hydration bladder stays cooler. In general, the water stays cooler much longer than my other packs, and a lot of the online reviews echo this.

There’s Plenty of Room

I actually not only use this pack for day hikes, but also for simple overnighters (with my hammock or bivy sack). There is a big main pocket to put gear, then some smaller zippered and organized pockets for bars, a knife, etc., and then a large outside pocket where I keep a shell and some layers. Compression straps bring it all in and keep it snug. My favorite is a fleece lined pocket on top for sunglasses. I keep my phone there too.

This pack is perfect for my uses- biking, camping, even all-day hikes. I love the expandable storage that stays compact when not in use and can compress gear to keep it small on your back. Great fit for my small frame and my step dad’s very large frame. I’ve started using it for trips around town in LA even. – REI Reviewer

camelbak mule nv storage
There’s a big inside pocket and big outside (open) pocket that’s handy for a rain jacket or extra layers, anything you need to quickly grab.

The only thing I don’t really like is the hip belt. It’s nice because it offers storage, but it’s a little flimsy and the pack is so light, I don’t really need that level of support. If you’re a hip belt fan, you’ll be happy, but I just generally let them dangle. They don’t flop around or anything and it’s fine.

camelbak mule nv hip belt
If you do use the hip belt, each side has a cool little zippered pocket for a energy bar, camera, etc.

It Has an Integrated Rain Cover

It’s so simple but so great. This pack has an integrated rain cover zippered into the pack. Simply unzip and pull the cover up and over the pack, and you’re stuff stays dry. Like I said, simple and easy.

camelbak mule nv rain cover
The rain cover comes out from a tucked away zippered pocket.

A Pack That’s Tough as Nails

I had a similar Camelback that came out before the Mule NV, and it lasted for about 7 years. I still keep it around for when friends want to hike. No rips, loose seams, nothing. It’s not the lightest (but not heavy by any stretch), and it’s build tough. That’s why the military use Camelbaks.

Since I love this pack so much, I’ve been using it for mountain bike rides and tourist weekends with the wife. It’s bombproof and works great for a variety of uses. There are cheaper packs out there, but for the use I get out of the Camelback Mule NV, it’s worth it.

I purchased this bag more as a universal all around smaller backpack. It has performed perfectly. I use it daily for commuting to work, but then on the weekends have used it for anything from long distance trail runs to smaller sport climbing approaches. I have only owned this bag for a summer, but with everyday use and consistent overloading. I am very happy with my purchase. – REI Reviewer

The Best Place to Get It

I love Amazon but get my outdoors gear from REI.  There are a lot of reasons why REI is great, but in general I save 10% with my REI dividend and know I can return it easily if it’s a problem, which has not been my experience with Amazon, especially when items are sold through a third party like this is.

Read the reviews for the WOMENS version

Read the reviews for the MENS version


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