Designing the CamelBak Cycling Commute Collection
CamelBak has come a long way since its 1989 inception. The prototype for the now ubiquitous hydration bladder consisted of medical tubing and a plastic intravenous drip bag stuffed into a sock and attached to the back of a shirt. The rest, as they say, is history.
CamelBak are one of the powerhouses in the outdoor industry and are often seen as the pioneer of portable hydration. Their hydration packs have been to the ends of the earth and back again, as well as exploring every local trail. These packs are known for their thoughtful design, intelligent hydration integration, and bright colors and can be seen on the backs of mountain bikers, hikers, winter sports enthusiasts, and even the military. Covering such a broad customer base leads to the inevitable question – where next?
Well, for all of their expertise, and despite all of the places CamelBak had been, they were missing one specific, very large group – commuters.
An evolution for CamelBak, and not just a “next product”. CamelBak have truly considered every facet of these new packs. Throughout their research, they swiftly realized that biking is not just a hobby but a way of life, and did the work to specifically tailor their design for the bikers among us.
To begin designing for commuters, research kicked off across the urban hubs around the world, and CamelBak quickly realized a few key things. In urban settings with good infrastructure, cycling commutes skyrocket. According to Strava, in 2019, 80.5% of cycling in Cook County, IL (Chicago) was commuters! This astonishing figure, matched by many others around the country, further cemented the need for a functional cycling commuter backpack.
Surveys were sent, interviews conducted, and swiftly CamelBak had what their city fans deemed to be the most important features for a cycling commuter pack.
Let’s dig into the key design insights:
- Weather Resistance
Starting with a polyurethane-coated N330d Cordura® face fabric, both the 22L M.U.L.E. and the 30L H.A.W.G. are about as water-resistant as one could hope for without being fully submersible. The idea for this is simple: maintain functionality and access while protecting the vitals inside the pack.
However, not satisfied with the exterior being weatherproof, CamelBak went further and added in a laptop dry sleeve, in both sizes, that is seam-sealed. This added protection gives every commuter peace of mind and is a unique feature that is sure to stand out from the competition. On the 30L H.A.W.G., the laptop has its own external access zipper. On the 22L M.U.L.E., it is accessed through the main compartment.
Comfort is a key consideration for any pack, but arguably even more so for a bike commuting pack. When cycling there isn’t time to make the adjustments for a sore shoulder or back. Thankfully, the H.A.W.G. comes in at a very light 2lbs 4oz, while the M.U.L.E. is featherweight at only 1lb 5oz. Bearing in mind that these are fully featured 30L and 22L packs, that weight saving is all the more impressive.
The inception of this pack was based on extensive research – but it doesn’t end there. CamelBak took the idea of treating a commuter as an athlete. In conjunction with the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut, they deciphered where body heat gets trapped and how best to release it. Because of that research, the Air Support ventilation zones on the back of the pack are positioned precisely where best to release heat to keep the commuter cool and comfortable in the heat of the action. Both packs have removable hip straps to aid stability and comfort for longer commutes.
- Easy Access
Having a comfortable, weatherproof pack is all well and good. But as a commuter, you need to be able to access all of your items at different moments. Whether it’s your transport cards, laptop, or your change of clothes, it shouldn’t be a hassle. Both bags come with the comfortable Command Center harness that takes inspiration from running vests. On the right strap is a stretch mesh pocket with a key loop – perfect for house keys, office IDs, or a metro card. On the left strap is a zippered mesh pocket for your phone or device. It even includes a well-placed pleat, meaning that this can accommodate larger items. The easy access isn’t limited to the straps though.
Both bags feature an external beaver tail, the perfect spot to stow a jacket or sweaty shirt after the ride in. A mesh-lined quick-access pocket is designed for your glasses or other precious goods.
The 22L M.U.L.E. has two external mesh water bottle pockets which can easily hold 26oz water bottles. The 30L H.A.W.G. has one large mesh water bottle pocket, and one large zippered water bottle pocket for those wanting to house a larger vacuum insulated bottle. In true CamelBak style, both packs are hydration compatible (3L/100oz), although the reservoir is not included.
A simple selection of organizer pockets internally means that you can configure this in whatever way suits you best. The 30L H.A.W.G. has a full clamshell opening, designed with the intention that you may be carrying a change of clothes or two for those bigger/longer days, while the 22L M.U.L.E. has a top-loading format.
Safety doesn’t have to mean being dressed up like the love child of a Christmas tree and construction worker. On the H.A.W.G. and M.U.L.E. there are reflective details to make you visible to all. However, these are not just your standard prints. These are thoughtfully, intentionally placed panels that increase your visibility from all angles. The material used on these panels has a candela power of 350, the same level of reflectivity seen in emergency services clothing. In the same breath, due to it being a material rather than a print or finish, these panels remain matte unless a light source is shone directly on them. The same material is used on the exterior light loop so you can add more visibility with your own light.
CamelBak is a trusted brand – known for their well-made, well-thought-out packs. With the H.A.W.G. and M.U.L.E. commuter packs, the brand moves away from the mountains and into the streets. This is an exciting expansion for them, and in true CamelBak style, it is executed to a very high standard. If you’re a commuter looking for the gold standard in access, comfort, and safety look no further!