The hydration pack market has become drenched. <<< Pun intended. They all enable you to carry water on your rides (and runs). Prices, sizes and carrying capacity run the gambit from bare-bones basic to ultra excessive.
The CamelBak L.U.X.E NV ($135) hits that sweet spot with the 100-oz Antidote™ reservoir and eight liters of carrying capacity. A women-specific shoulder harness and slider sternum strap keeps it all on your back comfortably and an integrated rain jacket keeps the pack dry when the unfortunate and unexpected rainstorm occurs.
I won’t bore you with a regurgitation of its features—you can read them on the website. But I will bore you with my opinion of the L.U.X.E NV, complete with my own 10-point Fulton Sweet Child of Vine IPA rating system.
In my opinion, CamelBak nailed it with the L.U.X.E NV’s four-point compression system. The fit is brilliant and the pack doesn’t flop around on my back through rock gardens or over jumps.
Score: 10 Sweet Child of Vines
At one point in my mountain biking career, I thought it was necessary to carry everything from a portable bike stand to a dozen spare tubes. But now I only carry a multi-tool, mini-pump, one spare tube, snack, phone and keys. The L.U.X.E NV certainly holds it all.
CamelBak claims you can carry an “extra layer” but then all the hydration pack makers say that. The reality is that it all comes down to the size of that extra layer. I can get a light shell or down sweater (size small) in the L.U.X.E NV.
Score: 8 Sweet Child of Vines
Ease of Cleaning
This is very important to look for when choosing a hydration pack. The tubes can get really manky because they’re harder to dry and clean than the bladders themselves. If not dried properly and cleaned regularly, a biohazard will grow.
The Antidote reservoir’s brilliant design makes drying cleaning easy. I remember the pre-Antidote days and not with any great fondness. I’ve discarded many a petri dish-infested CamelBak tube with an adolescent insouciance throughout the years because once I managed to muscle the tubes off, I could never get them back on.
With the Antidote’s Quick Link™ connection system, I just remove the tube with an easy quarter turn. After it is dry/clean, it snaps back on. Integrated “dryer arms” prop the bladder open enough to dry.
The wider mouth is also considerably easier to clean. CamelBak makes a nice cleaning kit for the Antidote, too.
The only other bladder on the market that is easier to clean is the Hydrapak Reversible Elite because you can, literally, turn it inside out to dry and clean.
Score: 9 Sweet Child of Vines
I got my very first CamelBak M.U.L.E in 1997. A few years later, I got a newer M.U.L.E. and retired the first M.U.L.E to an extreme cheapskate friend—who still rides with it.
When I ask him why he still rides with a primitive CamelBak when there are sexier models available, he responds with something cheeky like, “Why would I do that with the CamelBak® Got Your Bak™ lifetime guarantee?”
Score: 10 Sweet Child of Vines
A word about the “NV” back panel. It’s made up of four independently moving pods that work to spread the load evenly across you back, thereby allowing the pack to maintain its structure when completely full.
But the s-curved shoulder harness of the L.U.X.E. NV is light years ahead of the M.U.L.E. NV because it’s designed to work with narrower shoulders. And because us gals have a shorter torso length, CamelBak put the harness hardware at the base of the pack. The velvety harness lining makes it comfy next to bare skin because, admittedly, I like cycling tank tops in the summer.
Overall score: 9.3 Sweet Child of Vines