After having arrived at 2nd Ranger Battalion I began the process of being issued gear. Not your standard uniforms, those were provided by the CIF facility. Instead the Ranger specific gear: fast-rope gloves, Oakley sunglasses (ballistic with four different lenses), CamelBak, soft armor, ceramic plates, ruck, combat gear (Rhodesian, etc), sleep systems, you get the idea. Of all the gear I was assigned (and was allowed to keep after leaving the military) my CamelBak ended up being the most used piece of gear I retained for post-military activities.

I was issued the CamelBak Stealth, and I used it through 4 combat tours, all my military training, and all post-military activities (hunting, fishing, camping, etc) over the next 8 years. In total, I used this one CamelBak for around 12 years. I didn’t use it for anything except water, I cleaned it regularly, and I took good care of it. After all this, it was exposure to some kind of spore that made me finally retire it. While I was out hunting I exposed my CamelBal, a daypack, and some other items to some kind of spore that began to grow on the exterior surface. No, it was’t mold, it only grew in a specific spot and didn’t look like any mold I’ve ever seen (disclaimer: I am not a scientist it may have been mold).

CamelBak MULE Hydration System
My original CamelBak Stealth

I was able to clean all items (again), disinfect them, and prepare them for use again. The problem was I just couldn’t get over the idea of drinking some kind of microscopic biological matter (X-Files episodes kept running through my head). I wanted something similar to my Stealth.

Current Stealth Specifications (Courtesy of CamelBak.com)

  • Hydration Capacity 70 oz (2L)
  • Total Capacity 122 cu in (2L)
  • Weight 1.2 lbs (544g)
  • Dimensions 14.4 x 10 x 2.4 in (36.5 x 25.4 x 6.1 cm)
  • Torso Length 12.5 in (39 cm)

The Stealth basically amounted to a water bladder in a light-weight slim carrier. The carrier has shoulder straps, and a chest fastex buckle. If you wanted to carry more items with you then you would place the Stealth in a larger daypack, or take the bladder out altogether. The downside to the Stealth is there was nowhere to place small items, almost always forcing you to take a daypack if you were hunting (food, compass, etc.). So I began to search for my next CamelBak with the hopes of improving on a product I absolutely loved for over a decade.

CamelBak MULE Hydration System
CamelBak’s Stealth (left), and MULE (right)

After a lot of research I decided on CamelBak’s M.U.L.E. (Military/Tactical version). This model is larger than my Stealth was, but it would allow me to carry essential items without the need of a daypack. Additionally, it has a larger hydration capacity allowing me to travel further to water sources. A nice finishing touch was giving the user three choices (ports) for the antidote tube (drinking tube). This allows me to change where the tube is depending on what activity I am performing (left, right, high-center).

Current M.U.L.E. (Mil/Tac) Specifications (Courtesy of CamelBak.com)

  • Hydration Capacity 100 oz (3L)
  • Cargo Volume 488 cu in (8L)
  • Total Volume 671 cu in (11L)
  • Weight (empty) 1.9 lbs
  • Dimensions 17.5 x 8.5 x 7.9 in (44 x 22 x 20 cm)

One of the most notable upgrades over my Stealth is the M.U.L.E.’s quick release antidote insulated tube (drinking tube). Where the tube attached to the reservoir you can activate a release (without spilling water), and remove the tube for easy cleaning (or replacement). The M.U.L.E. (like the Stealth) has shoulder straps and a faster bucket chest strap. However, the M.U.L.E. also has a waist strap which can help accommodate its larger carry capacity. It should be noted that all straps have fastex buckles which can be used for expedient removal of the system.

The M.U.L.E.’s cargo section are broken into two main compartments. The smaller of the two is the top. It is basically a zip-open compartment that you can dump some items into it (approximately 7(h) x 8.5(w) x 3-4 in). The bottom compartment is what really shines with the M.U.L.E. model. The bottom has a series of organizing pouches that will actually allow you to carry more gear than if you just tossed it into a pouch (approximately 12(h) x 8.5(w) x 2-6(d) in). Finally, the exterior of the bottom pouch is cut to allow for Molle attachments. This allows a level of customization for the user to really fine-tune their experience.

CamelBak MULE Hydration System
CamelBak MULE bottom cargo section.
CamelBak MULE Hydration System
These cuts will accommodate MOLLE gear

Bottom line is after using one of CamelBak’s products in extreme environments for 10+ years they have earned my respect. I look forward to many years from the M.U.L.E., and should an unforeseen problem occur, I have the peace of their “Got Your Bak” lifetime guarantee (for all reservoirs, backpacks, bottles, and accessories). The M.U.L.E. retails for between 140-180+$ depending on where you are looking (Prices also vary depending on color, military style, etc). I was able to get the M.U.L.E. for 85$ using Promotive. Amazon also has a huge selection of M.U.L.E. variations which you can check out.

No matter what activity you are doing outdoors, water is an important consideration. Do you use a different brand, or prefer a different model? Let me know in the comment section below.