In the pursuit of better back ventilation, Camelbak has been developing an air flow channeling system they call the N.V. Back panel. It consists of perforated foam panels covered in a light mesh, that sit roughly an inch from your back, and are designed to maximize air flow across your back.
In order to test these claims, Camelback sent out the new L.U.X.E. bag, which is the ladies specific version of the M.U.L.E., and is intended to carry enough water and supplies for three plus hours on the trail.
The L.U.X.E. differentiates itself from the uni-sex bags by being slightly shorter in overall length, and having re-positioned straps, which work better with the female anatomy.
The N.V. system is also available on the popular M.U.L.E. and larger H.A.W.G. model.
The L.U.X.E. has two main interior storage compartments, in addition to the compartment where the hydration reservoir is stored. The outermost pocket is subdivided for tool storage, while the larger central pocket is designed to carry anything you’ll need on a longer ride.
The external compartment has cinches to compact bulkier items, but it’s also perfect for storing emptiesThe bottom lip of the Antidote Reservoir (long term review here) locks into a sleeve in the dedicated reservoir pocket
At the bottom of the bag is a hidden high-viz rain fly, which has a reflective stripping, and an attachment strip for a rear light. Not only does the rain protector keep your valuables dry in wet weather, but the bright reflective color is a great way to stay visible to drivers at night.
On The Trail
Photo Credit: Colin Meagher
I’ve been hammering on this bag day in and day out for roughly a year, and in that time, it’s been subjected to everything from dirt bike riding in the Mojave desert, to Enduro racing in the thick mud of the Pacific Northwest.
Despite the all the miles it’s traversed, the bag still looks brand new. The only visual indicator of all the abuse is some slight discoloration from mud and grease on the light gray straps. Aside from that, all the zippers still work, and none of the stitching has come undone. So in that sense, the Camelbak L.U.X.E. has been absolutely flawless.
Digging deeper though, there are some small issues with storage management that prevent this bag from being my absolute go to. My main gripe lays with the tool compartment, which is not tall enough for a shock pump, and not wide enough for a spare tube. What makes this particularly frustrating is that the normal M.U.L.E. bag has more usable bike tool storage area and a superior compartment layout.
In terms of ventilation, the new N.V. back panel design does offer improved air circulation. It won’t prevent a sweaty back during an arduous ride, but on short trips around town, it does offer noticeable advantages over the older Camelbak designs.
Overall, the $135 L.U.X.E. is not quite as spacious as similarly 3+ hr rated bags, and the organizational compartments leaves something to be desired for gear junkies, but the fit is exceptionally comfortable, and the high quality construction will guarantee this bag will last for years. So for women who’ve had issues finding a bag that fits properly in the past, the L.U.X.E. is well worth considering.