The CamelBak M.U.L.E. 3LT hydration pack is meant to be an all-around mountain biking pack that can support a rider for three hours or more on the trail, and the M.U.L.E. NV provides a better-articulated back panel that provides additional comfort and ventilation.
I bought this CamelBak pack about a year ago when I started going on longer rides and the 1.5L pack that I had wasn’t cutting it for water volume or storage capacity. It was fine for rides up to an hour, but once I started getting out for 3-hour rides, I needed to step it up. The M.U.L.E. NV has been an extremely reliable pack in the time that I’ve had it—it’s well-constructed, and has survived a few crashes with no visible damage (though I suppose damage could be hidden under the inch-thick coating of mud that it’s currently sporting)
CamelBak 3L Mule Video
I’ve been pretty impressed with how long 3 liters of water can keep me going; it’s really rare that I finish the full pack, even on 4 and 4.5 hour rides. The four-point cinch on the back is really nice for when you’re running low on water or you haven’t packed much extra gear—if you start to hear or feel any sloshing, just cinch it down and the problem is solved. I also really appreciate the two separate storage compartments, in addition to a small iPod pocket (I keep money and ibuprofen in mine) and a mid compartment that’s good for keeping an extra layer in if it might get cold.
The only thing that I don’t like about this pack is that if I pack for any possible change in the weather, the bag is jammed full. I usually carry a spare tube or two, a small pump, a multi-tool, a sandwich, some crackers, my phone, and keys in the pack. All of that fits fine, but if I want to throw a light jacket or an extra pair of gloves in with all of that, it can start getting precariously full. If you’re riding in the summer, this is no problem. If it’s fall or winter, or you’re at really high altitude, it could be a problem.
To sum it all up, I never get on my bike without my M.U.L.E. NV ($81.00). I love it. However, if I ever decide to replace it, I’ll definitely be investing in the H.A.W.G. NV, which provides an additional 2L of storage space and the same 3L water capacity with only a little added weight. Though I might be able to convince myself that I need a summer pack and a rest-of-the-year pack.