Camelbak Mini M.U.L.E.
You are in the right place if you want to know what backpack is best for your 4-10 year old when hiking less than 10 miles in a day or bike riding. Our youngest has used this pack for over 6 years and we look forward to sharing with you what we know. Let’s get started!
Currently priced at just under $40 it is on sale and a real value. We’ll put the amazon affiliate link in our description https://amzn.to/3Zpj91p so you can see the current price. If $40 is the right budget for you, keep watching. We are going to share features and how we have used the pack next. Read until the end for a clear cutoff to when you should be looking for a pack bigger than the Camelbak Mini Mule. If you would like to listen instead of read watch the video below.
Again, priced at just under $40 it is a great beginner pack and can be used by kids as early as 5 years old. At that age the best thing is to get kids used to the pack and to let them carry what they want. Our daughter has always carried a stuffed animal on her hikes. The three pockets and expandable pouch allow for a variety of items to be stored. The top pocket is really small. So, we found a pop socket, a little candy, compass, or bracelet for her to play with on the trail, fit well in there. We hike with this pack mostly and it’s great for bike riding, too.
Other reviews miss that it’s all about making sure your kids have fun outdoors. Make sure you bling the pack out with some buttons or other fun stuff. Here are some packing ideas to make fun happen while we discuss more features. Also, stay tuned for some shortcomings of this pack later.
The main storage pouch is large enough for protein bars and other food during your hikes. We always make sure to pack salty snacks like trail mix, too. It’s not large enough to carry all the food but it does help disperse the weight and it gives them pride that they are carrying their items. We also have digital cameras for our kids so that they can take their own pictures. We’ve found their pictures offer a different perspective and help finish our photo albums. Here is the camera we use: https://amzn.to/3GDGpzR . The camera stores well in the larger pocket, too. If cameras aren’t the right accessory for the day, small binoculars will fit in this pocket as well. We like these Nikon Binoculars: https://amzn.to/3CIzyE9 The pocket also has an inner webbed pouch for organizing and a lanyard with a hook for attaching items.
The water bladder fits in the pocket closest to the body. This pocket has a velcro close and can also carry a water bottle in place of the bladder during shorter hikes.
In between the main pocket and the water bladder pocket is an expandable pouch. Our daughter uses this area to store her stuffed animals. Straps on the left and right allow the pouch to expand and tighten around items. It is webbed so nothing will fall out the sides. However, the top stays open. Layers like jackets can also be stuffed here. However, I carried those items during long hikes more often or she would tie hoodies or jackets around her waist.
Features of the pack include an adjustable chest strap. This is really important to make sure the pack is comfortable and doesn’t come off while hiking or during stumbles or falls. It is adjustable up and down as well as loosening and tightening. Show them how it works and they will be able to adjust as needed as they grow and the pack is filled or emptied. Molded into the clip is an emergency whistle. Don’t discount the opportunity to attach items they want to play with to this strap so that they aren’t lost on the trail and are easily accessible.
There is a loop at the top of the pack and a loop on the face of the pack near the bottom for attaching items like flashing LED lights or as storage hangers. The bottom loop or strap has reflective material. The design of the packs are reflective also to allow for better visibility during low light conditions.
The shoulder straps are breathable and fully adjustable. There are also loops on each strap to organize the water bladder straw and to attach items which is great for lefties or righties.
The water bladder has a good screw-on cap. It is difficult to lock and unlock but once made the cap won’t leak. The 1.5 liter amount of water in the bladder seems appropriate for this age group too. Even on the hottest and longest hikes my daughter has never been dehydrated or run out of water on our hikes. The mouthpiece is comfortable. It comes with a lever that is easy for kids to turn on and off. We like that she has been able to use the lever since a very young age. However, parents need to pay attention to make sure that the lever is turned off and the straw isn’t leaking water all over the trail. Reminders while they are drinking help, too.
Read until the end to learn when this backpack is too small and you should move to a larger pack.
Pros - The real benefits of the Mini Mule is that this pack allows kids to carry their own gear and water and they can drink any time they want keeping their hands free to balance while hiking or keep both hands on the bars when biking.
2. The reflective fun designs provide a pack that fits styles for both boys and girls and can get kids excited to go outside and explore.
3. The lightweight breathable design can be packed in a way where kids can carry their proper weight and they won’t get tired of the backpack.
Cons: the shoulder straps are not padded. This may cause discomfort during hikes and I have carried her pack when she was younger. The straps combined with the weight of the contents may have been the problem.
2. The whistle is ineffective. Consider this more of a toy than a useful tool.
3. The mini mule does not come with a rain cover. So, if caught in a storm this pack will get wet unless worn under a rain jacket.
4. Water bladders are a pain. This one is difficult to clean and our experience is that they are all hard to dry and care needs to be made to prevent mold from growing in the straw and bladder.
5. It’s too small to carry everything you need on a hike. For example, the first aid kit will need to go in a larger pack. We also carry some of her food in our packs to make sure she has enough fuel to finish well. So, consider this if you are thinking about buying a small pack for yourself.
We have found a lot of success with our daughter using this pack during her 5-10 year old lifetime. Our youngest wore this pack through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula at five, Bryce, Zion, Arches, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, the Badlands, Acadia National Park and the Finger Lakes as she has grown. The pack is the right size to grow into and weight can be added as they get stronger. She bikes with it really well. However, take care to keep the shoulder strap tails away from the rear tire. We hiked many hikes this Summer that were 10 miles including the Narrows and the West Rim Trail and at 10 years old she carried her full pack well without complaints. When she was younger I would carry her pack on the last mile or 2 of a 5 or 6 mile hike as she would get tired. It’s lightweight and easy to carry in your hand or even attach to your own pack. Sometimes I would even carry her! At 9 or 10 years old it might be time to consider a larger pack. At about 60 pounds and 4 foot 6 inches our daughter is ready for a bigger hydration pack. If you are looking for a bigger pack read this next! Product Review Teton Hydration Pack (campbrood.com)
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