It’s easy to see the trend of enduro specific as being a bit of a marketing buzz. However, for every few pieces of gear that simply had the “all mountain” label swapped for “enduro”, there comes along some fresh kit that offers innovative, performance oriented benefits, often favouring trail riders as much as competitive enduro racers. Enter the CamelBak K.U.D.U., which is available in both 12l and 18l sizes, both with a 3l water reservoir.
There is a long list of features packed into these bags, but the most noteworthy is the spine protection plate, which CamelBak dubs the “Impact Protector”, and they claim absorbs 94% of the impacts from a crash. This is an obvious benefit for the enduro race crowd, where the bag will be worn while riding full-on downhill tracks, yet without proper body armour being practical over the course of the day. However, enduro racers are obviously not the only ones who will be wearing their pack in extreme terrain, and with the Impact Protector being easily removable, this will be a valuable option for many aggressive trail riders. The spine guard is also safe for multiple impacts, so it need not be replaced after every major crash.
The K.U.D.U. also sports a handy tool roll and storage compartment, which keeps access to tools quick and organized when you need them, an outer flap than can fully contain an open face helmet, tethering straps at the bottom of the pack for easy access to extra gear (typically knee pads or an extra layer for me), and a rain cover that tucks into a small, lower pocket. Some more conventional features that adorn the pack is a pair of sternum straps, with a wide, pocketed hip belt, two large external pouches for carrying extra water bottles and a fleece lined optics pouch.
I got my hands on the K.U.D.U. 18 to test its meddle. This seemed to be the better option for me, as on an average ride I tend to drink lots of fluid, pack lots of a food, have an obsessive compulsive approach to packing tools, and very often end up packing extra layers, lights, a trail saw, and/or a couple post ride tall cans. I ask a great deal of my riding packs.
While the K.U.D.U. is not quite the largest bag offered by CamelBak, it is certainly close. This often arouses some trepidation about having a floppy mass strapped to your back that bounces around on every drop. The K.U.D.U. turned out to be very well managed in this regard, however. The pack is wide across the back, and keeps the cargo in a fairly low profile, rather than letting it protrude outwards. The large waist belt, which is easily adjustable on the fly, and sternum straps support the bag very well. The base design of the bag was clearly well thought out in its ability to carry big cargo over the roughest terrain – an essential element to an enduro race bag. I don’t know that I found much benefit from the second sternum strap myself, and I didn’t bother doing it up most of the time. But I’m sure it was added due to demand, and different body shapes and riding styles will see differing values in this feature.
The spine protector may be a trivial feature for some. How often does one need a spine protector while trail riding? Knee pads will work in your favour several times per season, and many riders will be thankful for the saving grace of a helmet at least once per year. However, most riders will go their entire life without needing a spine protector. That being said, in the chance you do need it once, it will have been worth wearing it your entire life for that one occasion. Thankfully, CamelBak has done such an exceptional job of tucking this into the bag, you won’t mind wearing it at all. I swapped the Impact Protector in and out many times during my time with the K.U.D.U. and it had very little effect on the fit or comfort of the bag. With a long tailed Troy Lee A1 helmet, only did I ever take notice when looking way up the trail in very steep chutes. Luckily I did not have to test the integrity of the Impact Protector during my review period.
I was very pleased with the small features on the K.U.D.U. While I didn’t originally think I would use the tethering straps for gear at the bottom of the bag, they came into regular use for me, and the helmet flap turned out to be very handy when carting gear around before and after rides. I don’t think anyone will deny the convenience of a tool roll in a fixed compartment and I found the lined optics pouch was also a favourite of mine, as I find myself stashing my eye wear quite often.
The bag was not without a couple small hangups, however. It took quite a while for the rubber taste to rinse out of my bladder. Not an issue I’ve had with a hydration pack for many years. I didn’t look into whether this is an anomaly amongst these bladders or not, but after a couple months it’s mostly gone. I also think that a few more compartments could have been added into the main pouch. Aside from the compartment for the tool roll, there is just a zippered mesh pocket at the top, which I typically reserve for my cell phone, and an open mesh pouch right at the bottom. I find this results in all my goods piling up in a mess at the bottom of the bag, which doesn’t distribute the weight as well as it could, and at times makes it hard to dig out my wallet, keys or Clif bar when needed. I don’t think either of these are deal breakers, but worthy of mention. Some may also find the pack to be a bit hot on the back. I deal with the heat pretty poorly at the best of times, so I personally don’t notice much difference between the purportedly cooler and warmer bags I’ve tried. But those who live in warmer climates may want to take this into consideration.
This K.U.D.U. 18 comes with a MSRP of $325 CAN, while the 12l, model goes for $278. Certainly on the upper end for a hydration pack. However, the K.U.D.U. also packs in enough features to justify it. Surely the Impact Protector does not come cheap, and the fit and finish are top notch. What we end up with is a riding pack that can be a valuable piece of kit for the enduro racer or aggressive all mountain rider, to the average trail rider who often carries a heavy load and also wants something for their big mountain riding vacation.