Trying to decide between CamelBak’s MULE and Lobo hydration backpacks? We can help with that! We compared the two backpacks in detail, to help you figure out which is the better fit for you.
Both of these backpacks are the best and newest versions of themselves – meaning that they were redesigned several times. Also, they both feature CamelBak’s CRUX reservoir – the champion of hydration bladders.
And both of them are hydration backpacks designed for cyclers who don’t want to stop or be weighed down by anything. But only one of them is perfect for you! Scroll down to see which one.
Both of these backpacks are unisex, so they don’t have any gender-specific design features. This makes perfect sense because they are so small – it’s on backpacks that have 50+ liters of capacity that you really start to notice the need for ergonomically shaped shoulder straps and waist belts.
There is the biggest difference between these two packs is right there in the table – the size and capacity. I will talk more about it in a later section – what does it mean, and who each backpack is better suited for.
But first, let’s talk about the features that both of these backpacks have in common.
There are actually quite a lot of features that these two backpacks share. So, let’s take a look at those before we talk about the differences.
Both the MULE and the Lobo are made from 70d diamond ripstop nylon. It is a very durable, tear-resistant material, which performs really well on the road. It is lightweight and sturdy, and one of the best materials used in backpacks and luggage of all kinds.
One thing I love about nylon is that it is water-resistant without any additional coating. This is especially useful when you consider the position of the tool pocket on the Lobo – it is the most exposed one, and the first one to get wet if you get caught in the rain. But, thanks to the water resistance of the backpacks, rusty gear isn’t something you should worry about any time in the near future.
The star of both these backpacks is the CamelBak’s CRUX reservoir. It’s one of the best hydration bladders on the market, and a reason why most riders opt for CamelBak packs. Obviously, the reservoir is included in the purchase of both these backpacks, as well as all the accessories you need to set up hands-free hydration.
The CRUX reservoir was improved many times. Its latest version delivers about 20% more water per sip than the previous one and features a self-sealing bite valve. This makes hydration completely hands-free and means you won’t ever have to stop to take rehydration. You just bite on the hose, and the water starts flowing. The valve then seals itself.
And that is one of the reasons why CamelBak’s hydration packs are so popular. The new valve is also leak-proof, so you don’t have to worry about any loose drops.
The reservoir also comes with a magnetic tube trap. This allows you to secure the hose to the shoulder strap of your backpack so that it always stays in a position close to your mouth.
Both packs have the same hydration capacity and come with a 3-liter CRUX reservoir. Which is enough for a little over 3 hours of cycling. With either one of these backpacks, you are able to rehydrate without even taking your eyes off the trail. And that’s huge.
There’s one more important thing to mention about the reservoir. It has its own compartment, and it doesn’t interfere with your other gear. This means that you can refill the CRUX without unpacking anything else – just take it out of its compartment and open it up.
Additionally, the hose features a quick link system – you can disconnect it from the reservoir with a press of a button, so you don’t have to remove it from the harness when you want to refill the CRUX.
Both of these hydration packs have an Air Director backpanel. It is covered with mesh and offers great ventilation – very important for fast riders.
The back panel of these backpacks was designed to keep you cool, dry, and comfortable so that you can thoroughly enjoy all of your adventures.
The harness is also fully ventilated, just like the backpanel. However, the shoulder straps feature less padding, so they won’t feel as soft against your chest. But they are fully adjustable at least, and you can easily get both of these backpacks to fit you perfectly.
If comfort was one of the main things you were concerned about, then either backpack is fine. They feature the same technologies and materials and provide you with the same riding experience.
Both packs also feature a removable waist belt. This is a really useful feature to have for when you need that extra stability. It also helps transfer the load of the backpacks away from your shoulders and to your hips, which are the largest muscles in your body.
With the waist belt, you will barely feel any weight on your back. But if you don’t like it, it’s a good thing that you can remove it.
That feature is also useful if you want to use this backpack for different purposes. Maybe you want it for some light hikes, or you need it for the festival season. Anyway, it’s always nice to have the option to customize the features how best suit your needs.
Because the helmet is attached to the exterior of the backpack, you won’t really feel it. And that is much better than carrying it in your hands.
The hooks are very secure, so there’s virtually no chance that your helmet will get detached and fall to the ground. Plus, because of their position, you will still have full access to all the compartments of your backpack, which is a huge bonus.
The front zip pocket of both these backpacks features an integrated tool organizer. And I really like this feature – not only do you have a dedicated compartment for the tools, but you can also organize everything so easily.
You can find a spot for every tool you need on your rides, and if you actually need it, you will be able to access it in seconds.
Additionally, CamelBak’s tool organizer isn’t really that cheap. It can cost anywhere from $20 to $50, depending on the size and color you want to get. So, it is not only a useful addition you get, but it also means you are getting some good value for money. But more on that later.
You get a big front pocket on both of these backpacks. It’s perfect for quickly putting away a spare layer of clothing, a tripod, an additional water bottle, and pretty much anything bulky that won’t fit in the other compartments.
It is an external pocket, so you can access it very easily. The pocket is actually secured by the compression straps, and the stretch side panels allow it to hold even some pretty large gear. Meaning that you could easily fit your jacket in it, even though it doesn’t look like it.
Reflective accents are an important, but often overlooked feature of biking backpacks. They help you stay visible even when it’s pitch black outside, which is incredibly useful if you often ride on the road. And even more useful if you’re like me, and like to go on evening rides.
Both of these CamelBak packs have them. Whichever one you decide to buy, people and cars will be able to notice you in the night.
There are some things that make these two backpacks very different. And those are the things that will ultimately help you decide which one you want to get. So, let’s check those out.
The Lobo backpack is more narrow and appears taller than the MULE. It is also lighter and just generally smaller. That doesn’t mean that it’s better or worse than the MULE – just that this particular backpack is for people whose main focus is hydration, and who don’t want to be weighed down one bit.
If you are looking for something extremely small and lightweight, where the main focus is on hydration, then the Lobo is the backpack for you. It won’t slow you down one bit, and you will barely feel it on your back.
The MULE can fit 3 liters more gear than the Lobo can. This doesn’t really make it a better or a worse choice – it just means that it’s designed for a different type of rider.
If you often go on longer rides and then carry more gear with you, then the MULE is the better option for you. You will benefit a lot from its increased capacity.
But if you usually go on really short rides and don’t carry too much gear with you, then the Lobo is the choice for you.
Keep in mind that I’m not talking about the tools here since both backpacks have an integrated tool organizer. I am talking about other gear you might carry with you – GPS, GoPro, snacks, etc.
But when you look at the photos, you realize that the Lobo lacks that big gear compartment that the MULE has. And the question you need to ask yourself is, can you do without it? If the gear you carry on your rides is usually really small and can fit into really small pockets, then you don’t need it. Even if you have 1-2 bulkier items, you can fit them in the overflow storage pocket.
But if there are several larger things you often carry around, then you should think about getting the MULE. I think you could really benefit from the additional compartment, especially if you think you can’t fit everything in that stretchy pocket.
The exact price of these backpacks depends on the color you want to get – at least on Amazon. Now, if we compare the two cheapest backpacks, the MULE is about $10 more expensive than the Lobo. Which ultimately means that you are getting more for your money if you buy the Lobo backpack.
Think about all the accessories you’re getting – the CRUX reservoir, the valve, the antibacterial hose, and the tool organizer. The reservoir and the organizer alone are about $50 worth of gear, which means that you’re only paying some $18 for the Lobo backpack. And that’s pretty cool.
Of course, there’s also the fact that you’re getting more backpack if you buy the MULE. And there’s one really interesting thing – when you compare the two newest designs of the backpacks (Brown Seal/Camelflage), the MULE is actually $5 cheaper than the Lobo. So, the value for money you get really depends on the design you want to buy, and just how much you plan to wear the backpack.
I wish I could tell you “buy the XX backpack, it’s the better one”. But it is not that simple.
You saw just many features these two hydration packs share. And they are both equally comfortable and durable, so this is really a difficult choice to make.
Ultimately, you need to make the decision based on your preferred riding style. If you ride fast and are looking for the absolute lightest option, the Lobo is the clear winner – at only 1lb, it’s one of the lightest hydration packs money can buy. The Lobo is also the better option for people who frequently go on short rides, and don’t really carry a lot of gear with them.
And then, there are those who like to have that extra capacity, for all the what-if equipment. What if I get hungry? What if I want to film something? What if I brought my iPad with me? And for those people, the MULE is by far the better choice.
They will benefit from its larger capacity and additional compartment, without having to sacrifice much. It’s only 5 ounces heavier than the Lobo, and I think that’s a compromise worth making.
If you know which one is the better option for you, head over to Amazon to check out the prices. And if think that neither one of these will be a good fit, check out our related posts – there are plenty of other good hydration packs out there, and maybe one of these below is just perfect for you!