On Test: 2013 Camelbak M.U.L.E. NV and Deuter Compact Air EXP 10- by Grannygear

We are up to our knees at least in hydration packs right now.  GT has the 2013 Osprey Raptor 10  Out of the Box, I have two Deuter packs, one that will be discussed in a separate test coming up and the one we will announce here, a Compact Air EXP 10, and a 2013 Camelbak M.U.L.E. NV.  Whew!  Here we go.

The hydration pack is kind of a love hate thing for many folks.  Some folks love them, some folks hate them.  The fixie hipster in the pic above is a convert.  Me?  I am a hydration pack fan but having something on my back does not bother me as it does some guys I ride with (and my wife as well).  But regardless of how you feel about them, the hydration pack changed the dynamics of how far we could ride self-supported and how we carried stuff.  And the two packs debuted here, and the Osprey Raptor 10 GT has, represent the fat middle of the hydration pack variety curve.  All are in that 600 to 800 cubic inch range, carry 100OZ/3.0L of water in the reservoir, and all are full featured packs in that they offer multiple storage pockets and unique features such as tool rolls, rain covers, expandability, hip belt pouches, sunglass pockets, and so on (not all of these in one pack, of course).

This level of pack is the workhorse hydration pack.  Big enough for an all day ride and small enough to be an after work pack.  They are do-all packs, or as close to it as you can get.

So I have two packs to introduce and get to testing.  First, the Deuter Compact Air EXP 10.  What may be the most full featured pack of the two, the ‘EXP 10′ for short, is brimming with goodies.  From the Deuter website:

We present our popular all-rounders also in a maximum back ventilation version: the Aircomfort FlexLite System features an elastic spring steel frame and an effective, three sided ventilation system – high carrying comfort, low weight! The Compact AIR unites all advantages of our classic, such as the expansion feature, internal tool pocket and the separate compartment for the drinking bladder, with fantastic breathability. Plus it looks fantastic in its textile design.

Details:

  • mesh shoulder straps, mesh hip fins with two zipped mesh pockets and Aircomfort FlexLite back system for three-sided ventilation
  • hydration system compatible with separate bladder compartment secured by autolock zip, Velcro sealed drinking tube opening and tube line
  • reinforced back panel to avoid pressure points
  • internal organizer and tool mesh pockets
  • safety light and tube loop
  • 3M reflectors on hip wings
  • zipped front pocket
  • side compression straps also suited to storing protective pads
  • stow-away helmet flap and rain cover
At 2lbs/3oz, 990g claimed, 2lbs/12oz, 1248g observed (with reservoir), and 610 cubic inches expanding another 180 cubic inches (10L + 3L), the EXP 10 is a smart looking pack.  There is a lot of internal support too, what with the spring steel frame and the Air Comfort system.  It is also the larger of the two packs in capacity due to the expandability and gives the impression that it will carry that possible load well.  The rain cover is included and stows into it’s own compartment.
deuter Compact Air EXP 10deuter Compact Air EXP 10
The 2013 Camelbak M.U.L.E. NV continues in the tradition of the workhorse pack that the M.U.L.E. is and includes the new NV system.  From the press release:

CamelBak® introduces the all new M.U.L.E. NV®, with a completely new NV back panel unlike anything you have ever ridden.

How It Works:  The new M.U.L.E. NV® is a premium narrow-gauge mountain bike hydration pack perfect for all day rides in any weather. Equipped with the brand new NVTM back panel, the M.U.L.E. NV® allows air to freely flow between the pack and the rider, in all directions. The NVTM back panel utilizes individual articulating pods that flex in all riding positions. No matter how much you are carrying, the MULE NV stays comfortably off your back for maximum ventilation and is extremely flexible to accommodate any riding position, whether standing and cranking or hucking drops. Complete with helmet hook, integrated rain cover and plenty of room for cargo, the M.U.L.E. NV® is the only mountain bike pack you’ll ever need.

Product Details:

  •  NEW for 2013
  •  AntidoteTM 100 oz. (3L) Reservoir with Quick LinkTM System
  • Perfect for a full-day of mountain bike riding
  • Hydration capacity: 100 oz. (3L) with the AntidoteTM Reservoir
  • Cargo capacity: 732 cu in (12L) plus 3L AntidoteTM Reservoir
  • Weight: 1.90 lbs (no reservoir)
  • Back panel: NVTM
  • Helmet hook
  • Media pocket
  • Overflow storage
  • Integrated rain cover
  • Belt: Fixed 20mm / .75” with cargo pockets
  • Bike tool organizer pocket
  • MSRP $135
  • Retail availability: January 2013
Looking like little pods from a giant squid or something, it is an intriguing design, what with the articulated nature built into the NV back panel.  We shall see. The weight as measured was 2lbs/7oz, 1105g with reservoir.  You can see that it comes out swinging with full features too like the Deuter…a rain cover, expandability in the overflow pouch, helmet holders, etc.  The overall feel of the new M.U.L.E. NV seems lighter to the touch and has less structure to the pack as far as an internal frame, etc, compared to the EXP 10.
Camelbak MULE NV 2013
Camelbak MULE NV 2013

Next up we will get them out on the trail and report back.  Hang around for updates, will ya’?

Note: Deuter and Camelbak sent the packs to Twenty Nine Inches at no charge. We are not being paid, nor bribed for this review. We will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.