There’s no denying that Camelbak is the established leader in the hydration pack market. As such, any newcomer gets the benefit of learning from their past mistakes, but they also face the challenge of creating something truly innovative, without stepping on any patents.

While I was waiting for my FuL hydration pack to arrive, I perused their website and found that they tend to cater to the college and hipster demographics with a myriad of messenger bags and “book bag” type backpacks. Based on what I saw, I was genuinely curious to see what their take on an outdoor-oriented hydration pack would look like. When I opened the box, I was immediately impressed by how light the pack is and how wellconstructedit feels.

Before coming to market, FuL had originally dubbed this pack the “Multisport” and with its feature set, it is easy to see why. It has amultitudeof pockets, all with bidirectional zippers with tabs that feel both substantial and durable. Inside there seems to be a dedicated place for everything. It has a crampon patch on the back, as well as side pockets for securing trekking poles. Iteven features an ice axe loop!

When placed next to my Camelbak Rogue, the FuL Cargo pack doesn’tappear to be muchbigger, but when I transferred over all of the items I normally carry on rides, it swallowed everything, and still seemed empty. I stuffed in an extra jacket, and it still had room. Gloves and heart rate monitor strap…no problem. Then I found the expansion zipper that makes the whole cargo area 2 inches bigger….and I was able to stuff my whole Camelbak into it! And just when I thought it wouldn’t hold any more, I found a small zipper near the bottom that releases a large mesh pouch with hooks on it that attaches to eyelets near the top and provides storage for your helmet when it isn’t being worn. Since I also use the pack for commuting to work, convenient helmet storage is a huge bonus!

Like most hydration packs, the 70oz bladder must be removed in order to fill it. Instead of a screw on cap, however, the entire top opens for filling, and then folds over and is secured by a sliding clip that locks into place with two tabs. This setup makes it easy to stuff the bladder full of ice, or fill it in a hurry from just about any type of water source. With the top properly closed, I have experienced no leakage. Inside the pack, the compartment that holds the bladder is insulated to help keep things cool.

When I put the pack on, it took less than a minute to get it adjusted for a perfect fit. The shoulder straps are luxuriously wide and the sternum strap is identical to what you would find on a high-end day pack. It boasts real compression straps and channeled back padding that allows more cooling air flow than I have experienced with any other pack I have ever worn.

On the trail, the the Cargo rides close and does not flop around, even when fully loaded. The side and sternum straps can be easily adjusted while riding, but inactuality, once they are set, there is very little need to mess with them.I have noticed with this pack that the shoulder straps don’t constrict blood flow to my arms. It turns out this is an issue with my Camelbak, and it has been causing numbness in my hands this whole time….go figure. (It only took two pairs of gloves and three sets of grips to figure this out!)

As awesome as this pack is, it’s not perfect and my biggest gripe is the bite valve. The valve requires a push/pull motion to open and close it, and when I first tried it the water flow was pathetic. I emailed customer service at FuL to see about getting a replacement, and they actually directed me to make sure to bite as close to the end of the mouth piece as possible. (There’s actually a visible indentation indicating where to bite it) This did the trick and even though it still doesn’t gush like the patented Camelbak valve, it is acceptable. Honestly though, I’m not accustomed to putting that much though into getting a mouthful of H20, but once you get used to it, it’s okay.

It is clear that FuL has done their homework and pulled from their experience designing packs for a variety ofdifferentuses. The Cargo is a well thought out and expertly-constructed hydration pack with options that make it equally useful for biking, hiking, rock climbing, or even ice climbing. After several weeks of using it, I’m still discovering new features (like the Chapstick pouch inside the shoulder strap) and it has become my daily use pack for both commuting andmountainbiking.

If you’re on a budget or if you want one hydration pack for several different sports, for $69 MSRP you can’t go wrong with the FuL Cargo.

Thanks to the folks at FuL for providing the Cargo for review.

# Comments

  • steve32300

    Wow,$69 ain’t bad at all madd,got two packs now and just bought the new bladder from camel bak,but at that price you got me thinking.

  • roliryka

    Is this type of bladder easier or harder to clean and then dry out?

  • maddslacker

    Yes, the bladder itself is much easier to clean and dry. The tubing of course is the same as any other system. I use the Camelback wire brush kit for that.

  • fleetwood

    I agree. $69 sounds like a good deal based on your review. I’ve only used Camelbak up until now, and was going to try one of the Ospreys next based on past reviews, but now there is some competition. Of course, these are more wants than needs, but it’s fun to keep a list. Thanks for the review.

  • XCTolen

    FINALLY, a place to put my ice ax on those loooong distance mtb rides! LOL

  • trek7k

    Instead of an ice axe, how about a hatchet for impromptu trail maintenance. 🙂

    Sounds like the clipped bladder system is similar to the one used in Hydrapaks. In theory it makes sense but the proof is in the leakage (or lack thereof). With the screw cap set-ups I get leaks about 50% of the time; the other 50% of the time, I screw the cap on so hard I can’t get it off when I get home.

  • maddslacker

    I have never had a leak from the cap of any of our four Camelbacks, and so far the Osprey seems to stay dry as well.

    One thing I hate about the caps though is that they tighten as you suck the water out, making them a real pain to open later.

    I have had no leakage whatsoever from the bladder closure in the FuL and I love being able to open the entire top for dumping in ice from our automatic icemaker at home are shoveling in scoops of ice from the ice bin at work. The valve however has started dribbling a bit from where it fits into the end of the hose. To be totally honest, I may end up installing a Camelbak Big Bite Valve on it.

    This is in no way an indictment of the FuL as a whole, but in my opinion Camelbak nailed the valve design, and rightfully patented it.

    Speaking of valves, this past weekend we gave the Osprey 7 to our daughter as she as outgrown her kids’ Camelbak. She quickly discovered that you can stick the valve to the sternum strap via a magnet there. That’s just AWESOME!

  • XCTolen

    Maddslacker, speaking of Osprey packs, how do they compare to the Camelbaks? I’ve got a Camelbak MULE and LOBO. I’ve been happy with the MULE, until I saw the Osprey’s. I like the way they’ve done the compartments as well as the magnetic bite valve holder and “Lid Lock.” It also looks more comfortable with what appears to be a better ventilation system. I find the MULE is most uncomfortable when its full giving me that hump back feeling, whereas the Osprey is supposed to distribute the bladder more evenly. However, I’m not sure how the bite valve and bladder compare to the Camelbak tried and true technology. Plus, the Osprey just looks COOL IMO. I keep finding myself wishing something bad would happen to my MULE, but it takes a lickin and keeps on tickin. Is the grass really any greener with the Osprey??

  • maddslacker

    The Osprey we have is a women’s model and my wife liked it. However when it came down to it she gave it to our daughter and went back to her LUXE (chick’s version of the MULE) because it can hold her SLR camera.

    So I have technically never used an Osprey myself, but it looks like a decent setup.

  • Freddys20

    I got this bag at COSTCO!! $24.99. I bought two because the price was so good. First time out with this bag was awesome my left hand would go numb with my other bag not a problem with this!!!

  • nanook

    @XCTolen: Last spring I went looking for a larger-capacity, all-day ride hydration pack. After spending a lot of time in stores wearing many different loaded packs, I decided on a Osprey Raptor 14. I have liked it SO much, that I went back and got a Raptor 6 to replace my Camelback Rogue for shorter, everyday rides. IMHO, the Ospreys just carry weight better. I like how they ride snug, without being restrictive, regardless of the load.

  • bhuber

    i have an osprey raptor 10 and love it. I have also tried my friends MULE before and i can say the osprey is more comfortable by far. The only thing is that the water flow isn’t as good as camelbak’s, but its not bad, just not as good. take a look at either the raptor or viper series.

  • Johns96ss

    Costco has these on sale in many colors for $25, i got two but have yet to use them.

  • abegold

    If you live in a hot climate Deuter and Vaude are the best, you simply sweat less from your back so need less water. Even Ospreys system is inferior, more expensive and heavier. Doesn’t breath as well.
    Personally I think the Deuter with a buckle closure is sightly better than the Vaude simply because buckles rarely fail, unless chomped by my Pit Bull!
    Department of Goods has exceptional values on Vaudes 14+3 liter pack and 20+3 liter pack now. The +3 is similar to Camelbaks zip and expand system. Camelbak Mule is 14 liter pack.

  • RidingPastor

    $69 is a great price. my high sierra seems small sometime. Good to know you have had a great experience with it.

  • choctawken

    Have had a real good experience with my Ful pak. Have always been a Camelbak user like most but was shopping at costco (not a plug!, lol) and saw the Ful pak for 25.00!! Are you kidding me?! Had to buy it and may just go pick up another. Works great with plenty of storage!!

  • barrygxnz

    Does anyone know if Costco still sells these? Can’t find on their website, or at my local store. Not sure I want to pay full pop, but $25 is a no-brainer. Anyone?

  • cknittle

    Costco! Just bought 2! Awesome price and product! Looked at three different ones in OC, found them at the Costco in Laguna Niguel on pacific park.

  • Tragedy1965

    I, too, bought mine at Costco, thinking I couldn’t possibly go wrong with a pack for $25. It turns out that I made a great decision because I’ve had mine for over a year and, after many miles of hard riding and even a climb to the top of Mt. Bierstadt, it continues to serve me well.

    There’s lots of space for everything and more, the water bladder is adequate for even a four-hour ride, and the shoulder straps are super comfortable. Being a little narrow on my back keeps the weight centered and seems to prevent fatigue, and going downhill at speed, the air channels actually work to cool back back. I really like the front straps that anchor everything to me and when tightened down, it doesn’t move at all, almost as if it’s part of me.

    Honestly, this thing has more features than I will probably ever use. The net on the lowest rear pocket, which I assume is for a helmet, is a thoughtful touch, but not one I’m likely to ever employ.

    And no, you don’t have to take the bladder out to fill it. The orange clip slides off easily and goes back on much faster than the amount if time it would take to snake the tube through the hole and pull it out of the pack.

    The only complaint I can say that I have is the bite valve, which I thought was a little on the cheap side. The opening tore a little (because one of the kids got hold of it), but is still functional and will work until I get a new one.

    Overall, I’d give the Ful hydration pack 4.5 out of 5 stars for sheer functionality, thoughtfulness of design, and price.

    The water packs don’t show on the Ful website and I have no idea where to get them other than Costco.

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