I'll preface this gear review by letting you know that I have a problem.... a hydration pack problem. I like them and I'm always looking for one better than the last. I've owned no less than 20 over the last 14 years, from brands like Camelbak, Hydrapak, Ergon, Axiom, MEC, to name a few. I bought both of these packs (Mule NV and Volt LR) at the beginning of 2014 and have swapped back and fourth putting time on both packs.
Camelbak Mule NV
The Camelbak Mule. Quite possibly the most well known and widely used hydration pack of all time. I've owned 3 different incarnations of this pack over the years. This is my first one with the NV back panel, made to keep the bulk of the pack away from your back for air flow. The NV back panel works well, keeping your back relatively dry better than most other packs. The four pods cause no discomfort against your back and are made of breathable material.
The rest of the pack is well put together like most Camelbak products. It features 11 liters cargo capacity and 3 liters water capacity. They pockets are nicely put together with internal organizers, waist strap pockets, an "electronics" pocket, helmet clips. It also features an integrated rain cover.
Now the not so good. The NV system keeps the pack away from your back for ventilation, this also keeps the bulk of the pack and its weight up off your back and more prone to flop around. While not noticeable most of the time, when things get rough and fast the pack will bounce around. Also, at my height and girth, the shoulder straps seem on the short side, keeping the pack up higher on my back and again more likely to bounce and flop.
I'll give it 4 /5 stars. Great for long singletrack rides, when things get choppy or rough it moves too much.
Camelbak Volt LR
The Volt 13 LR. A 13 liter capacity pack with a 3 liter lumbar reservoir. The idea behind the lumbar reservoir is to keep the heaviest part of the pack strapped around your hips, keeping weight off your shoulders. It does work as advertised, keeping the shoulders light and more weight placed on your hips where you won't notice it.
The strapping system is of excellent construction, with additional straps to pull at your sides that hold the water bladder tight into your lower back / hips that can be adjusted on the fly to compensate for the load change as water is consumed. The pack is very secure against your back and has none of the flopping that the Mule had. The downside to this is the pack is held tightly against your back with no room for ventilation. This has caused me a very sweaty and uncomfortable back during longer rides as the airflow is minimal. If the pack had a stiff back panel in it like the Ergon BX series it would help with this issue.
The pockets are great, as with most Camelbaks. Lots of organization in it. The hip pockets are nice and big with zippered tops, large enough to fit a point-and-shoot camera or gps. The pack material is much lighter weight than that of the Mule and seems quite thin and susceptible to rips, but after a year it shows no significant wear and no tears.
I rate it 4 /5stars, would be nice to have some airflow in against the back.
As always, these product(s) where purchased with my own money. I have not been paid or bribed to review this product. Comments whether positive or negative are purely my opinion only.
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.