The Bike List

CamelBak L.U.X.E. £70

Tested by Jane Conway, tester for The Bike List

Sports scientists reckon you need around 1 litre of water per hour to maintain your hydration levels when indulging in vigorous exercise, and CamelBak packs with the largest reservoirs offer a whopping 3-litre capacity, so you've got enough for 3 hours of high-level effort. The water reservoir feeds you through a tube that sits close to your mouth, and the end is sealed by a non-drip bite valve. To put it plainly, you just bite gently to open the valve, and suck your required quantity of water through the tube. A couple of decent gulps every 10 minutes or so does the trick, and because it involves no real effort and doesn't require you to take your hands off the bars, you stay hydrated.

camelbak luxe 3My first CamelBak was a Blowfish model from way back in 1998, and the fact that I still use it now says a thing or two about the robust build quality. I've changed the reservoirs two or three times in the intervening 12 years (you can buy the 3-litre ones separately for £32) but the pack itself is still going strong. Yes - these things last!

Unlike my first one, the L.U.X.E. is specifically designed for women and features a shorter back length and narrower, contoured shoulder straps. These are nicely padded with a soft, microfleece face fabric called Velvetex, and the whole harness is on a floating system, so a perfect fit is both automatic and immediate, once you've pulled in the cinch straps at the bottom of the shoulder straps. To make it extra stable, there's a Velcro-attached waist strap to help prevent side-to-side movement, and a sternum strap to hold the shoulder straps in the right position. This is elasticated, so you don't feel constricted when you start breathing hard on climbs.

On the pack, there are six pads that make contact with your back, and these stand quite a way proud of the pack, creating generous luxe 02channels for air to flow and prevent excessive sweating or overheating. This 'Air Director' system works really well, and the L.U.X.E. is considerably cooler than a pack with a traditional one-piece padded back.

The reservoir itself has a wide mouth for easy cleaning (you can get your whole hand inside it) and sits inside the compartment closest to your back. This compartment is insulated with closed cell foam to keep your water cool, and even with 3 litres of water in, it's easy to fit, thanks to a long L-shaped zip and a hanging loop that suspends the whole thing. The drinking tube pokes through an elasticated aperture at the top of the compartment and can be fed through retro-reflective loops on either the right or left shoulder straps, depending on what you prefer. 3 litres does weigh quite a bit - 3kg to be precise - but it doesn't feel too extreme, thanks to the way the harness spreads the load.

At the top of the pack, there's a handy pocket with a weatherproof zip for purse, credit cards or other valuables you need to get at quickly, and this also has a small hole for an eluxe 04arphone lead to thread through, if you want to put your iPod inside it.

The main, zipped storage compartment comes next and gives plenty of room for windproof, food and spare clothes, and then there's a zipped outer compartment that features lots of pockets for tools, mini pump and a key clip. Sandwiched between these two is an adjustable mesh stowage area, that'll store wet waterproofs, shoes or even a helmet. This is loosened or tightened by webbing straps, but as it has an open top, it's obviously not as secure as the other compartments. On the outside there's a second mesh storage area for yet more kit (it's great for a spare tube and energy bars) and this sports an LED tab for a rear flasher, along with retro-reflective piping for visibility at night.

The L.U.X.E. really is crammed with features and it has been designed with quite an obsessive attention to detail. Annoyed by the long end of a shoulder strap flapping about? Don't be - the L.U.X.E. has a strap management system that tidies them away. Irritated by tiny zip pullers when you're wearing winter gloves? Not any more - it's got mountaineering-style cord loops on every zip.

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All in all, the L.U.X.E. is the most complete and well thought-out pack I've used for mountain biking, and the extra compartments and stowage areas open it up for other activities like walking, scrambling or ski-ing. The 10 litres of zip-up storage is just about right for an active day out in the hills, and the mesh overflow sections are genuinely handy for stuffing in waterproofs or layers that are constantly on and off in changeable weather. The 3-litre capacity gives you the maximum hydration you can get in a backpack, so you can get in a pretty big, remote ride without having to worry about filling up.

Like most backpacks, it's not seam-sealed so isn't fully waterproof, but it's hard to mark it down on this, especially when there's an optional, hi-vis raincover available for the L.U.X.E. (or the men's M.U.L.E. version) for just £13. The list price of £70 sounds like a lot for a hydration pack, but when you look at what's on offer with the L.U.X.E., and the comfort it provides, it's actually a real bargain. Brilliant!

Buy from:

CamelBak says:

The woman mountain bike enthusiast will appreciate the L.U.X.E.'s combination of innovative features, premium materials, and aggressive design. With superior, secure overflow storage, and incredible stability, this is the women's mountain bike pack by which all others are judged. Sister to CamelBak's M.U.L.E.™, the L.U.X.E.™ incorporates a women's specific fit with 520 cubic inches of storage and 100 oz of hydration.

  • Capacity - 100 oz (3 L) OMEGA Hydro Tanium Reservoir with Lifetime Warranty
  • Cargo - 600 CU In (10L)
  • Insulated reservoir pocket keeps liquid cool for hours
  • Sternum strap positioned for women for improved comfort and stability
  • Women's-specific pack profile - shorter footprint for shorter torso
  • Specialized Women's-specific harness is narrower and curves with a woman's body for a comfortable fit
  • Velvetex lining on harness prevents chafing
  • Dynamic Suspension Harness maximizes load stability
  • Air Director back panel with Air mesh
  • Strap management secures loose straps
  • Multiple storage compartments with dual mesh overflow and organizer in front pocket
  • Removable waist belt offers the option to use it for added stability or stash it away
  • Easy-to-access MP3 pocket with weather-resistant zipper

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At a glance

Verdict Top-quality women's specific hydration backpack with a 3-litre reservoir and 10 litres of storage for tools and MTB kit