CamelBak is the company that created the first personal hydration backpacks and remains the market leader of personal hydration gear.
Camelback backpacks are well regarded by many committed outdoor bikers and adventurists–experienced users who are passionate about their equipment.
Hydration backpacks were introduced by Camelbak in the 1990’s as an evolution in design for hands-free drinking by active users.
A hydration backpack contains a water reservoir, or bladder, which fits into a customized pouch. The technology has become a popular way to make cool water available on the trail.
Quick Comparison: CamelBak Lobo vs Mule
|Product||Hydration Capacity||Gear Capacity||Pack Weight|
Our Best Pick
|3L/100 fl oz CRUX Reservoir with Quicklink System||9L/500 cu in||620 g/1 lb 5 oz|
|3L/100 fl oz CRUX Reservoir with Quicklink System||6L/350 cu in||480 g/1 lb 0 oz|
Two Top Choices: Lobo and Mule
Two of Camelbak’s top lightweight models stand out for active day trips: Lobo and Mule. The popular Lobo Hydration Backpack is light and economical while offering the same reservoir capacity as a similar larger model, the Mule.
The design and construction is of high quality in both models, so choice between them is about deciding which parameters you prefer. A quick review of the Lobo vs Mule will highlight which best fits your needs.
Lobo and Mule: Common Features
Both the Lobo and more spacious Mule backpacks have great features in common. With the design innovation experience of Camelbak, it is not surprising that these 4th-5th generation offerings come with advanced hydration technology.
Both popular backpacks are unisex and offer a compact, slim design that won’t snag even in heavy brush. Hydration packs ride low and snug against your body to keep you stable: it is not loose like a typical backpack.
Reflective accents offer good visibility for safety. Both models also have the advantage of expandable capacity—owners say these backpacks “blow up like a puffer fish” to fit more as needed. The overall material selection, stitching and zipper construction are durable and well executed.
Hydration capacity is the same for both: the shared CL Crux Reservoir is designed for easy access and filling, and also to seal and stow easily without dripping or leaks.
Inner baffling keeps the water from “bagging” at the bottom of the compartment. The tubes are BPA, BPS and BPF-free, and contain “hydroguard” technology that retard the growth of bacteria: the bag is easily cleaned and free of stubborn flavors or smells.
The Lobo and Mule share convenient touches like a quick disconnect valve between the reservoir and drinking tube. Magnetic attachments secure the tube. The assembly has a pair of fold-out drying arms for drying.
Camelbak’s Air Director back panels are built into both packs—an innovative ventilator which cools air using condensation. They have the same trim accents and vibrant colors of blue, yellow, red, black and charcoal. Both backpacks are water-resistant and lightweight, and come with a lifetime guarantee.
It’s hard to go very wrong.
The backpacks are made with light 70d diamond ripstop nylon—by some measures the plastic feels cheap, but it’s quite strong and durable. Fully adjustable straps made of thin netting are cut narrowly to reduce sweat.
The profile of either backpack is tall and slim to fit behind your shoulders
but the Lobo is about a half-inch narrower and less deep. Both backpacks share a low support point, but it’s negligible with the lighter Lobo. Though the Lobo is a bit smaller than the Mule, keep in mind the backpack is unisex and may not fit women with smaller frames.
Internal storage is the main difference in the two backpacks, with the Lobo coming in with just 6L capacity. The hydration bladder is the same as the larger Mule.
There is a helmet hook and a “kangaroo” panel-opening section, and four exterior pockets.
The Lobo’s limited storage is most suited for short trips of an hour or two. In short, you can carry your wallet, keys and some snacks. If you need to carry more, the Mule may be the answer.
At 9L, the Mule’s capacity is a third higher than Lobo’s. The pack has five exterior pockets including a stretch outer compartment.
There is an unlined media pocket for electronics in the main pouch, and netted sections to provide further organization. Expanded, the Mule can hold tools, food and clothing you need for a half-day’s travel.
Both backpacks are tall and narrow, but the slimmer Lobo occupies less space on your back. The Lobo is the same length as the Mule, suitable for most people.
The Mule has a wider back, but it’s thin and comfortable even with almost twice the storage space of a Lobo. You can use straps to shrink the Mule, too, if needed.
Lightweight, streamlined construction is a major feature of both, so you aren’t going to strain yourself easily no matter which you choose.
The Lobo comes in at just over a pound without water or gear. The Mule adds 3L of gear capacity with only 5 more ounces in weight.
For quick getaways Check Kelty Redwing Backpacks<<
Neither of these backpacks will break your wallet, though the Lobo is less expensive. This is a good value considering its high-end engineering.
The price of the Mule is higher, but commensurate with its larger capacity. The Mule isn’t an economy model, but it reasonably ramps up in price without an excess premium.
The Lobo and Mule Hydration Backpacks are best-sellers for a good reason: quality design and materials. Storage is tight for the price, yes, and there are a few conveniences missing.
An insulated sleeve for the drinking tube would be nice, as would a felt-lined camera bag; there could be more pockets. Yet overall, both are excellent lightweight day packs that will perform well and last for a lifetime.
The Lobo is best for short rides under about 20 miles, and it remains a good option if you’re traveling ultralight.
For a recommendation, however, the Mule gets the nod. It has useful capacity without sacrificing lightness or stability. If you carry less, you can always collapse it down.
The Mule is our choice because it’s better to have more space than you need, than to run out of room.