There’s good reason why Camelbak has become synonymous with hydration packs – it combines well-thought-out backpacks with its market-leading Antidote reservoir to create benchmark hydration systems.
It seems a bit of a let-down, then, to learn the Kudu doesn’t include a reservoir, but its price puts it right in among its competitors, where bladders are often omitted. Shell out for a 3l Antidote reservoir and it will slip into the Kudu like a glove thanks to the internal strap that holds it in place.
Impact protection was developed in conjunction with Austrian snow sports protection specialist Komperdell. It consists of three layers of vulcanised tempered foam, which are spot glued together to allow the layers to flex more than a single solid layer. It exceeds level 2 of the European EN1621-2 motorcycle armour certification too, meaning it transmits only half the impact energy of the more common level 1 protection and can absorb multiple impacts.
The Kudu’s back protector exceeds level 2 of the European motorcycle armour certification and is claimed to absorb 94% of the energy in an impact, while being able to deal with multiple blows. Spine protection comes in the form of three layers of vulcanised tempered foam, which are bound down the middle with glue.
It's a shame the Kudu doesn't include a reservoir, but it's made to accommodate a 3l Antidote
This laminated construction is designed to allow some flexibility in use. It does allow some flex horizontally, but it’s noticeably stiffer vertically than some other level 2-certified protectors, such as EVOC’s Liteshield. This can make it a little uncomfortable when riding, especially when moving around a lot on awkward terrain.
While it curves slightly it still has a flatter, more board-like fit than conventional Camelbaks. This makes it shift about and sweat more, but that’s true of all armour packs.
That said, the harness is ergonomically superb. Contoured shoulder straps are joined by a pair of easily adjustable sternum straps, which help hold the pack in place without being too restrictive. The waist strap features broad hip pockets and a simple buckle to keep the Kudu from bouncing around on your back.
Despite the relative stiffness, it won’t prevent spinal over-extension, like some hardshell armour claims to. The protector is removable, though, which is great for less wild riding, as it makes the pack a whole lot nicer to wear. At 1237g on our scales (which don’t lie), the Kudu isn’t a lightweight, although removing the back protector saves around 300g.
Typically for Camelbak, construction is bombproof with external side and bottom straps for leg armour (or coats) plus a helmet sleeve on the back. There’s the seemingly obligatory ‘enduro’ pull-out rain cover stashed in the bottom and a soft goggle pocket at the top.
The Kudu's construction and protection credentials are reassuringly solid
Storage is a fairly uncomplicated affair, with a couple of small mesh pockets inside the main chamber, a removable tool roll for those who like to keep everything really organised, and a small, fleece-lined media pocket that is accessed from the top. The waist pockets are most useful: one is elasticated, offering easy access to small snacks and gels, while the other is more securely zipped – ideal for car keys and a multitool. Externally, there’s a bright yellow rain cover to keep your stuff dry, while making you that bit more visible at night.
Back protection could well save your spine in an unlucky stack and Camelbak’s Kudu soaks up more impact than most. Even after two months’ use it’s still a stiff and stinky addition to the bag that means we only stick it in on silly days. It’s a bombproof and versatile bag with or without it though and the extra cost could prove a priceless anti-impact investment.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.