The main thing that hits you when strapping a MULE on your back is how it just works for cyclists, in particular off-road riders. Everything is in the right place, it feels good on your back and never gets in the way.
The MULE holds a hulking great three litre reservoir, which is enough for an epic day out in winter, and a good few hours in summer. If that’s not enough you can always stash a second bladder in the main compartment, and the other compartments are well-proportioned.
Listening to an MP3 player while cycling is daftly dangerous, but that top compartment is great for a helmet-mounted light battery pack, or keeping your mobile scratch-free and easy to grab.
And the two main compartments’ capacity is just enough for everything you’re likely to need – jacket, keys, tools, a spare inner tube, pump and an energy bar. You can even use the webbing on the back to strap in some body armour, or hold your helmet when off the bike – although it is a faff and a squeeze to manage.
As well as being laid out brilliantly, the MULE wins out against its often cheaper rivals (Deuter and Dakine, for example) by being supremely hard-wearing. One Stuff MULE has been dunked in rivers, rolled down rocky banks, overstuffed with jagged bits of broken bike and covered liberally in the worst mud the UK has to offer. And years on it’s in near-perfect nick.
Camelbak’s hydration bladders are also top-notch, with excellent anti-bacterial and fungus coatings and close really well to avoid leaks into your bag. All in all, they’re the perfect companion for your biking adventures.