Comparing Osprey vs CamelBak hydration packs can feel like splitting hairs. That is because both brands make high-quality products and offer some compelling designs.
To help you figure out which is better and inform your buying decision, we took a close look at the differences between the two brands, paying extra close attention to their water reservoir designs.
Since Osprey and CamelBak offer such an expansive lineup of models to suit different users and activities, we chose to focus our analysis on two of the most popular and comparable models: the Osprey Raptor and the CamelBak M.U.L.E.
Quick Look: Comparison Table
Ease of Filling
Nothing is more frustrating than having water drip and spill all over when filling up the reservoir of your hydration pack. In order to fill up spill-free, a bladder must have three key attributes:
- It must be fillable without removing from the pack
- The lid needs to stay out of the way when filling
- The mouth must be large enough to add water—and ice—with ease
CamelBak, as the longtime behemoth in the hydration pack space, has all those desirable traits going for it with a bladder design that’s arguably the best on the market.
The M.U.L.E. comes with CamelBak’s CRUX Reservoir which has a large mouth that takes ice without hassle and has a leak-proof 1/4-turn locking cap that eliminates any guesswork about whether the threads are lined up and completely sealed. And, with the lid attached below the mouth, it stays out of the way when filling up.
Osprey hydration packs, on the other hand, feature a reservoir design that’s overall very good. However, it falls short of the performance offered by the CamelBak system. One of the biggest complaints of the Hydraulics Reservoir included in the Osprey Raptor is that its lid is attached to the top of the mouth, a position that’s prone to interference when filling.
Here’s where the two hydration packs differ the most in terms of raw functionality:
CamelBak reservoirs feature a shut-off valve at the base of the hose that allows you to detach the hose with the bladder full. The Osprey lacks this feature which causes a whole slew of issues.
Basically, in order to detach the hose from an Osprey hydration pack, the reservoir must be empty to avoid spilling its entire contents.
The CamelBak’s ability to detach the hose quickly while full makes for easier removal from the pack, which comes in handy when it’s time to clean the reservoir. With the Osprey, you have to snake the hose out of the pack which, while it isn’t the end of the world, makes accidental disconnection and the spills that follow more likely.
According to Camelbak’s website, the CamelBak CRUX reservoir delivers 20 percent more water per sip than previous designs. This improvement is echoed throughout reviews by customers who have tried both CamelBak and Osprey hydration packs.
They proclaim that the CamelBak is much easier to drink from. They say it delivers more water per sip. It also requires less bite pressure to activate.
On both the Osprey Raptor and the CamelBak M.U.L.E. you’ll find a magnetic tube holder that makes drinking on the go drastically more convenient. Each brand has slight variations in design of this small but useful feature.
Both packs have the magnetic tube holder position on the chest strap. That holds the tube in place. That way, you don’t have to fish around for the tube when you’re ready for a sip.
Comfort on the Back
Osprey and CamelBak both make hydration packs that are widely regarded as being very comfortable. That is the case whether you’re traveling on foot or by bike.
There are a few distinct differences in pack designs between the two brands. Those may cause you to find one pack more comfortable than the other.
First, the water reservoir of the CamelBak M.U.L.E. is flexible all the way around. The reservoir of the Osprey Raptor has a semi-rigid back.
The flexibility of the M.U.L.E’s reservoir allows it to conform more easily to the shape of your back. That is particularly noticeable when leaning forward when riding a bike.
However, if you do most of your travel on foot, you may find the rigidity of the Osprey’s reservoir favorable. That would give you more support and therefore more comfort when putting on the miles.
Osprey hydration pack reservoirs also feature special baffles that minimize liquid movement for better stability—especially when bouncing around on a bumpy mountain bike trail. CamelBak reservoirs don’t feature any such baffling.
Neither the Osprey or CamelBak packs feature weight-bearing suspension systems like those found on larger backpacking packs. However, both do have back panels.
Those increase airflow between your back to help you stay cool and comfortable. Both packs feature comfortable shoulder straps as well as chest straps and hip belts.
However, the Osprey has a slight edge in this department. Its hip belt is larger. It does work to reduce some of the weight felt by your shoulders.
The Osprey Raptor and CamelBak M.U.L.E. are both designed for and marketed to cyclists, particularly mountain bikers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use these packs for other outdoor activities like hiking, bird watching, geocaching, or rock climbing.
Cycling-specific features you’ll find on the Osprey Raptor:
- LidLock helmet carry system
- Integrated roll-out tool pouch to carry essentials like spare tubes, wrenches, and air pumps
- Blinker light attachment for securing safety lights
Cycling-specific features found on the CamelBak M.U.L.E.:
- External helmet hooks
- Stretch overflow compartment for holding rain gear
- Attached roll-out rain cover
If you are looking for more of a hiking-specific hydration pack, Osprey offers several models including the Manta, Skarab, and the Duro that are more geared toward foot travelers.
CamelBak also makes hiking hydration packs such as the Fourteener, Arete, and the Rim Runner. All of those have similar features as the M.U.L.E. However, they are designed with hikers in mind.
The functionality offered by CamelBak’s CRUX reservoir is straight up impressive—the 1/4-turn locking lid and detachable hose with a shut-off valve won us over.
But Osprey also brings a lot to the table. They offer designs that combine comfortable strap systems. They also offer features that make outdoor activities, whether on foot or on wheels, more enjoyable.
With all that said, CamelBak’s water reservoir system is just too good to pass up. If you’re looking for the most reliable and easy to use hydration pack on the market, do yourself a favor and pick up a CamelBak M.U.L.E. if you’re a biker or a Fourteener if you’re a hiker.