Review: Camelbak K.U.D.U. hydration pack is ready for adventure…and enduro!

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Along with the Bell Super 2R mountain bike helmet with removable chin bar, I needed an enduro-ready hydration pack for round one of the Italian Super Enduro series. Why? And what makes it “enduro ready”?

The Italian series, and others throughout the world, require spine protection to be worn during the race. And they require a full face helmet to be worn on the timed sections. The Super 2R’s convertible design made it possible to bring along just one helmet without having to wear a true full face during all the climbing transfer stages. But, that chin bar had to go somewhere while I was riding, as did water, snacks, a tool, tubes, etc. And, putting the back protection on the pack meant I didn’t need another padded base layer under my jersey to trap heat. So, I opted for a pack that combined my desired storage with the required protection, which was the Camelbak K.U.D.U…

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The K.U.D.U. launched in summer 2014, so it’s not a new pack, but it remains Camelbak’s only full size pack with integrated spine protection. It’s available in 12 and 18 liter sizes, which includes the 3L of water that can be carried in the reservoir. So, compartment storage with a full tank of water would be 9L and 15L, respectively. I opted for the larger 18L size because I tend to carry too much crap with me. But also, mainly, because its blue matched the Bell helmet and my Bliss Protection knee and elbow pads. Gotta keep it lookin’ pro.

The main compartment is made of heavy duty nylon that’s held up well on this and the myriad other Camelbak products I’ve accrued over the years. Even their lighter weight lumbar packs have held up exceptionally well to nearly constant use.

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The spine protection, shown here on one of the original (and no longer available) pack color options, is a thick, dual density foam pad with holes to help it move some sweat/heat vapor and be more flexible. Camelback says it absorbs more than 95% of an impact’s force, which protects your spine from just about anything the trail’s going to throw at you. Or you throw yourself at, as the case may be.

When not racing, it’s easily removed to make the pack a little less structured, but it really doesn’t affect mobility at all. It does add a few ounces, though, bringing the empty pack’s weight to 2lb 7oz (1.21kg) for the 12L and 2lb 8oz (1.27kg) for the 18L. Considering the minimal weight difference and the fact that the 18L cinches down nicely when not overstuffed, there’s little reason not to get the big one unless you’re a smaller person.

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The K.U.D.U. has one fully zipped main compartment with a smaller sunglasses zip pocket on the top. Inside the main section is a sleeve for their tool roll (shown below) and a zip mesh pocket on the main flap. On the outside, there’s another front flap that acts to wrap through a full face helmet and goggles, then strap down to hold everything tight while riding. Additional lower straps can hold knee, shin and/or elbow pads, or there’s plenty of room to stuff them inside along with a jacket.

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The shoulder straps use dual chest straps to keep the pack from swinging and swaying, helping keep the spine protection panel where it needs to be to do its job. The waist belt has two oversized pockets – one mesh with a flap opening, the other using the same durable nylon material with full zipper closure.

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I used the zip one for snacks, and the mesh flap one to stuff wrappers and trash.

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The outer flap worked perfectly to transport the Bell Super 2R’s chin bar and some goggles between stages. An overlapping top flap Velcros to it, but the adjustable straps are what really secure things behind it. The top area is somewhat open on the sides, so it’s best to stuff a jacket or larger items that don’t have a continuous loop (think goggle straps) inside the main zip compartment so they don’t get lost.

Like every Camelbak “bike” hydration pack I’ve ridden, the K.U.D.U. is very comfortable. The padded pods on the back panel do an OK job of moving air across my back, but any pack from any brand is going to end up trapping some heat and sweat there. The chest, shoulder and waist straps do an admirable job of keeping the pack stable, even when fully loaded and just a single chest strap. Throughout the 6+ hour enduro event, it worked flawlessly and shook off a couple tumbles without so much as a scuff. Fortunately, I didn’t have to test the spine protection, but knowing it’s there definitely provides peace of mind…and passes inspection at the start line, because yes, they do check those things.

The K.U.D.U. retails for $200 (12L) and $225 (18L), but street price is a little lower.

Camelbak.com

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