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Camelbak Kids Hydration Pack Review – Mini M.U.L.E. and Scout Packs

For Christmas last year, we got each of our five children a Camelbak Hydration Pack.

We got two Scout Packs for the oldest two kids (ages 9 and 7), two of the older-style Mini M.U.L.E. packs for the middle kids (ages 6 and 4), and one of the updated Mini M.U.L.E. packs for the smallest (age 2).

Needless to say, the kids were thrilled that they would each have their own water packs and not have to share with me or carry a water bottle on hikes.


After numerous outings, including hiking, biking, and camping, we’re all still thrilled with our Camelbak Hydrations Packs, both the Mini M.U.L.E. Packs and the Scout Packs. They seem to be just about the right sizes for everyone, and best of all, the kids can’t wait for the next outing if it means a chance to use their Camelbaks! 

What We Love About the Camelbak Mini M.U.L.E.

  • It has an easy-to-use bite valve and lock switch, even for a toddler.
  • Small size (especially in the updated model) makes it a comfortable fit for smaller kids.
  • Adequate water capacity without being overly heavy or bulky.
  • The emergency whistle on the chest strap gives you peace of mind.
  • Just enough zippered compartments for snacks, etc.
  • The updated model comes in a wider variety of colors and patterns.

What You Should Know About the Mini M.U.L.E. Before You Buy

  • This pack fits well for kids between the ages of 2 and 10. If you have older kids, you’ll want to consider the Scout Pack or a smaller adult-sized pack such as the Hydrobak.
  • The newer Mini M.U.L.E. model is just a bit shorter in the back than the older model, making it just right for the smallest riders/hikers.
  • If you want a larger pack capacity for hikes, the Scout Pack has more carrying space but is also longer and won’t be a good fit for kids under about 7 or 8.
  • A torn or chewed-through bite valve is practically inevitable at some point with kids (they chew on everything!), but it can easily be replaced. The spout can even be used without the bite valve if you keep the lock on when not drinking water.
  • The updated version of the Mini M.U.L.E. has slightly less storage capacity than the older style, just barely accommodating a light jacket and not much else.

What We Love About the Camelbak Scout Pack

  • The hydration pack is securely situated in a separate slot from the pack’s main storage area in case of leaks or spills.
  • The pack has enough space for jackets, snacks, etc., without being too big and cumbersome. Perfect for hikes or longer bike rides.
  • The emergency whistle on the chest strap gives you peace of mind.
  • It’s easier to refill the hydration pack than on the smaller Mini M.U.L.E. packs – essential for bigger kids to be able to easily refill their own packs!
  • The bite valve is easy to lock and unlock with one hand (while biking, for instance).

What You Should Know About the Scout Pack Before You Buy

  • The Scout Pack is the best fit for kids ages 6-12. It’s too long in the back and too bulky to be a good fit for smaller kids, as it will bounce on their legs while walking.
  • The Scout Pack only comes in two color options: blue and purple.
  • The shoulder straps are padded, which is great for comfort on longer hikes but not so great for ventilation on hot days.

Quick verdict

I love the Camelbak hydration packs we got for the kids. It’s not feasible for me to carry around enough water bottles to keep all 5 of my kids hydrated on a hike or bike ride, so the ideal solution is to have each of them carrying their own water, even down to the littlest!

The price is not that much more (if at all) than you would pay for a backpack without a hydration kit, so it just makes sense to outfit the kids with a backpack that gives them easy access to water at any point during a hike or bike ride, especially in a way that allows independence for those “do-it-myself” tots.

Camelbak also has good customer service and stands by its products. One of the connectors on one of our Mini M.U.L.E. packs developed a leak after only a couple of uses, and a replacement is currently on the way.

My own Camelbak has held steady since I bought it over 20 years ago. The only part I’ve had to replace is the bite valve, and that only after I started sharing it with my kids who, of course, chewed a big crack in it.

Other than that, it has held up, and I’m still using it. I will say that the design has improved significantly since then, and I’m sorely tempted to upgrade my own pack.

Who is the Mini M.U.L.E. for? 

The Camelbak Mini M.U.L.E. is a great hydration pack for:

  • The youngest bicyclists and hikers.
  • Best fit for ages 3-10.
  • Hot weather, with mesh shoulder straps to keep cool.
  • Light outings with minimal gear requirements.

The Mini M.U.L.E. hydration pack may not be the best choice if:

  • Your kid is in the upper range of the above age group, as you’ll get fewer years of use out of it as they grow. Opt for a small adult pack instead.
  • You want extra packing space in the backpack. Space is limited to room for a few snacks and a packable light jacket. If you want more backpack space, consider the Camelbak Scout Pack.

Who is the Scout Pack for?

The Camelbak Scout Pack is an ideal hydration pack for:

  • School-aged bicyclists and hikers.
  • Best fit for ages 7-12.
  • More strenuous outings that require some extra gear to be packed along.
  • Cooler weather, with padded shoulder straps for comfort rather than ventilation.

The Camelbak Scout hydration pack may not be the best choice if:

  • You have a very small youngster (below age 6-7), as the pack will be too large overall.
  • Your kid is at the upper age range listed above, as you’ll have fewer years of a good fit. For teens, consider a small adult sized pack.
  • You want a pack that is very lightweight and well-ventilated. The smaller Mini M.U.L.E. will be a better choice.

Personal Opinion

We do a lot of hiking and biking as a family. The ages of our five kids mean that we don’t go for extreme hikes or rides, but still, I wanted to have a good hydration option that didn’t mean I had to carry around 7 bottles of water.

I’ve had a Camelbak since college (a long time ago!), and we always took that on our outings, but it didn’t go far with everyone sharing, plus they were always nagging me to stop for a drink.

The perfect solution was to get each kid their own hydration pack in a size that would fit everyone, down to the littlest. I liked that Camelbak had some variation in kids products to choose from. That meant the packs were similar enough that it felt fair to everyone, with enough differentiation to allow the bigger kids to carry a bit more gear.

Overall, I’ve been very pleased with the Camelbak packs. Even more to the point, however, the kids have loved them!

First, a few of the not-so-perfect things.

Refilling woes

I don’t love that the Crux reservoirs are a bit fiddly to take out and refill. There’s not an easy way to fill it without completely taking it out of the backpack.

This means that I have to do all the refilling, rather than the kids doing it themselves (except for the 9 year old, who can manage it). One of my purposes with these packs was to allow my kids more independence in keeping themselves hydrated.

By comparison, my old Camelbak stays in the pack, while a flap opens to allow access to the water pouch. So much easier!

Leaky connection port

One of the Crux reservoirs developed a leaky connection port after only two uses. It had a constant enough drip that the entire back of the backpack was soaked, including my daughter’s coat.

I’m not sure how common an issue this is, but a claim reported through the company website got me a message that a replacement was on the way.

Now, what I love about the Camelbak kids hydration packs.

Easy to use

Everyone, even the 2.5 year old can easily manage the drinking nozzle. The lock switch is large and visible enough that even she can flip it up and down. This means that they can all get a drink whenever they want without having to stop to pull out a water bottle, or pester me for a drink from mine.

One thing about this, though, is that the toddler did take just a bit to figure out how to bite and suck at the same time. When the pack is first filled up with water, before the hose has any flow into it, there’s a bit of a vacuum to overcome with that first suck. She needs some help to get the water to fill the hose initially. After that, she’s entirely able to manage it on her own.

Not too big, not too small

I like that the packs themselves are sized for little people, with a good bit of adjustability so that each kid will be able to use theirs for a long time.

The Mini M.U.L.E. and the Scout packs both actually adjust enough that I’m able to put them on without much difficulty. (The “do-it-myself” toddler does occasionally get tired of doing it herself!)

I also like that the water reservoirs are not too big, but not too small either. They hold 0.5L, which is just about all that a small person would want to carry around in weight, while offering plenty of hydration for a day’s outing.

Packing space

I like that the Scout pack offers just a tad more space to pack a jacket, a swimsuit, a snack, an extra pair of shoes, etc. I want my kids to schlep their own stuff around as much as possible!

The extra packing space on the Mini M.U.L.E. is quite limited, but that’s for the best with the smallest hikers. They’re not really going to be able to handle much more than the weight of the water for very long anyway.

It would have been helpful to have an elastic strap or something on the outside to have the option of strapping on a rain jacket.


The Camelbak hydration packs are some of the best on the market, and that goes for the kids packs as well. They’re built to last, and to stand up to the wear and tear of toddler use (and misuse!).

I feel it’s worth the slightly higher price tag to get a quality product that will last the kids until they’re teens (or older), and not have to worry about buying replacements after just a few years.

If you’re looking for a high-quality hydration pack for kids that fits even small kids well, while offering room to grow, either the Camelbak Mini M.U.L.E. or the Scout pack is a great choice.