While some companies are yet to release a women’s specific hydration pack, others are in the process of refining them. CamelBak is the latter type. The L.U.X.E. (a women’s version of the M.U.L.E.) has been around for a few years now and has morphed into two models for 2013.
The regular L.U.X.E. is a 7.5L pack, which carries 3L of water and fits most of the things you need for a day long ride: lunch, snacks, spares, extra spares, a jacket and warmer layer, first aid kit.
The L.U.X.E. NV offers 8L carrying capacity, has easy access side pockets for gels and comes with a rain jacket to protect your goods in the wet. We comfortably carried a DSLR Camera and spare lens in ours along with the rest of our regular gear for half-day rides.
The side pockets are glove friendly, using wide elastic openings rather than zips. Located on the waist belt they stay clear of the rain jacket and allow easy access to gels and other small items whatever the weather throws up.
The biggest difference between the two models, and the biggest innovation for 2013, is the ‘NV’ back. Four independently moving pods ideally provide optimal airflow and spread the load while you move around on the bike. We can give this a tick on both accounts. The new design also prevents the rear of pack from deforming when full.
Unfortunately for us, the bottom pod tended to chaff the lower back and make undershirts hitch upwards while riding. In CamelBak’s defence, our tester has sloppy posture in this area and when extending better from the pelvis the chaffing ceased to be an issue.
The overall design provides ladies with a snug and comfortable fit. Shoulder straps are an S-shape to compliment women’s torsos, and softly padded so as not to rub. The harness comes in nice and tight and the main straps adjust from the bottom upwards keeping the things nice and secure.
You can rail sweet trails with confidence knowing you won’t get hitched on a tree or need to constantly swing your hips to slide your hydration pack back in place. The tight and tidy fit of the L.U.X.E. also prevents the pack feeling uncomfortably weighty.
CamelBak’s bladders offer almost as many features as the packs themselves. The one we like most is the wide quarter-turn opening that allows for easy filling and cleaning. The hose is easy to drink from although we wouldn’t have minded a bit of extra length so we could keep our head a fraction higher while drinking on the trails.
The constant improvements to the fit and function of the L.U.X.E. are evident in the way it performs on the bike and as a daypack while travelling. The different back panels on the L.U.X.E. and the L.U.X.E. NV offer riders different choices if they find the NV pod system a bit scratchy.