There are few items in a cyclist's ensemble that last as long or are more important than their hydration pack. I have had two in my life, both Camelbaks, both M.U.L.E.s. The first one lasted five years and the second lasted nine. Below is a photo of the newly purchased M.U.L.E. adorned by yours truly at the 2001 24 Hours of Snowshoe with the rest of Team Iron Lung.
My current M.U.L.E. is starting to show some wear and has a few design flaws that aren't noticeable while riding so I live with them. What I like about the old design is that it has two zippered pockets to separate small items from large ones.
An extra secure pocket helps me keep the smaller items separate from the bigger ones. I don't like to fish past my cell phone and a multi too to get too the pile of assorted extra chain links and drop outs I carry (of which have saved me many times). With the old design, I have the 'oh shit' pocket which I only go to when it's something serious.
Here is a pic of what I have in the Camelback on any given ride. Yes those are two different dropouts, you never know when you might end up on your other bike. The wrench and bolt are to compensate for a design flaw with the Rocky where the bolt holding the rear shock breaks every few years. It's a little heavy but it beats walking.
So on the new M.U.L.E., Camelbak replaced one of the zippered compartments for an open storage space where you can secure a larger object with straps. Even though they already have a larger overflow space that would serve the same purpose.
Another thing I don't understand about the new M.U.L.E. is that like an automobile, every new model seems to get larger. This pack is meant for the day ride, I don't need carry a change of clothes. Are they making everything bigger because we as a nation are getting fatter (because they keep making everything bigger)?
Ok rant over, this is just an initial impression, I can't truly pass judgment on the new M.U.L.E. until I ride with it. Then I'll be able to tell you how the wider straps with the pivoting hinges and the fancy ventilation works out.
It's freakin' freezing outside, go ride your bike.
I just returned the new M.U.L.E. in hopes to have enough to get one of these. With my old Camelbak still showing some fight in it I think I'll keep it in the ring for another season or two.