Camelbak K.U.D.U. 12 and 18 Pack Review

by Brian Mullin on June 4, 2015

KUDU Packs

The new Camelbak K.U.D.U. Series of hydration packs incorporates a removable back protector rated to CE Level 2 which can absorb 94% of a crash impact. The K.U.D.U. or Kinetic Ultimate Damping Unit comes with their 3-liter Antidote reservoir, along with a slew of useful features and pockets to make for a highly functional hydration pack for Enduro and All Mountain riding. The pack comes in two sizes, a 12-liter version for $200 and an 18-liter for $225.


KUDU Packs - front and back

 

K.U.D.U. Packs

The K.U.D.U. 12 pack weighs in at 1218 grams while the K.U.D.U. 18 comes in at 1276 grams, and a good portion of each packs weight comes from the 284 gram back protector. Made with tough nylon fabrics and utilizing robust stitching and construction for improved durability. Their XV back panel utilizes multi-layer EVA foam pods for cross ventilation and comfort, and the harness uses their Ultra-light 3-D Mesh Independent Suspension system with dual slider sternum straps. The hip belt uses a 1.5-inch webbing with a large front buckle that has pull tabs on each side for tightening, and it connects to the main pack with lightly padded hip wings. The pack has a flatter rather than deeper cut, so it helps keep the weight close to the body. Besides the back protector, both packs include their 3-liter Antidote reservoir, a rain cover, and a roll-up tool pouch. The 12 comes in three color schemes, Barbados Cherry/Sulphur Springs, Black/Andean Toucan and Silver/Atomic Blue. The 18 gets two colors, Charcoal/Atomic Blue and Charcoal/Sulphur Springs.

KUDU Packs pockets

Storage

The main compartment has a nice long zipper and opens in clamshell style for easy access. It has three internal organizational pockets in the main, a zippered mesh one at the top, a mesh sleeve at the bottom and a small middle sleeve meant for the tool pouch. Also, there is an externally accessed fleece-lined zippered upper pocket that is perfect for sunglasses and smartphones. The 18 has two stretch sleeve pockets on the lower side for water bottles, tools, and other items. The hip belt had a zippered pocket on one side and covered sleeve pocket on the other, which are ideal for small tools, keys, and snacks. On the front is a long sleeve with a Velcro closure for helmets, apparel, and other items. All the pockets and compartments combine to give 9L and 15L of storage space (models 12 and 18 respectively), although the helmet sleeve can add quite a bit of additional volume. It has four side compression straps for cinching down the load and carrying armor, along with two additional bottom straps for armor. The upper two compression straps are part of the helmet sleeve system and help hold down any gear within that location. At the back of the pack is a zippered compartment for the hydration reservoir and a separate sleeve with a Velcro closure for the back protector.

KUDU Packs back protector

Back Protector

The 3-layered back protector is EN 1621-2 certified and can withstand multiple impacts without degradation. Developed in partnership with the Austrian protection company Komperdell and is comprised of three pieces of glued together high-density foam. The 5/8-inch thick protector is flexible and lightweight (284g) and provides additional safety, and it can be easily removed to create a normal pack design.

Antidote Reservoir

The 100oz/3L Antidote reservoir has a fill port with a wide diameter hole for easier filling and cleaning, and its screw cap takes only a quarter turn to open or close. It has an internal baffle down the middle to equalize the thickness so that the reservoir doesn’t bow out when full. The drinking hose has an auto shutoff quick disconnect, named the Quick Link, which allows you to disconnect it easily from the reservoir. The 90-degree bite valve is easy to draw and doesn’t leak and has an easy to use shut off lever. The fill port has a large handle that hooks into the drop slot of the packs zippered rearward hydration sleeve, helping to keep it stable and secure. Hidden on the fill port’s sides are two plastic drying arms, which pop out and hold the reservoir open for upside down drying.

KUDU Packs tool pouch

Tool Pouch

The packs come with a nice roll-up tool pouch that inserts into a sleeve in the main compartment for easy finding. It isn’t very large, so you’ll only be able to add small tools and equipment to its three zippered mesh pockets. You can purchase the tool pouch separately for $25 if you want to use it with other packs.

KUDU Packs features

Impressions

The K.U.D.U. packs are quite comfortable and carry the weight well and even when fully loaded they load doesn’t bounce around or feel burdensome. I found the K.U.D.U. 18 a tad more functional and adjustable and stable, giving it improved weight bearing and comfort characteristics.

The shoulder harness uses a lightly padded mesh system that was comfortable and didn’t cause any pinch or hot spots, and the open weave pattern ventilated and breathed well. The two sternum strap design helped keep the load stable and secure on rough terrain. I had issues with accidentally grabbing the upper male clip and plugging it into the lower female and I think having a color coded lower and upper would alleviate that problem. The comfortable waist belt is wide and minimally padded and incorporates a large triangular attachment point to the main pack to carry and stabilize the weight. The waist belt has two pull tabs on either side of the centrally located clip, making for easy tuning adjusts for stabilization and comfort. I liked the small pockets on each side of the waist belt. The zippered one was extremely handy for keeping your car keys accessible and secure while the other one was great for a gel or small tool. Although their XV back panel with its EVA foam pods was quite comfortable, there wasn’t tall enough channeling between the individual pods to allow for better cross ventilation. I found it got warm and caused perspiration issues, especially on the lower back. By altering the waist and shoulder and dual sternum straps to a varying degree, an incredible amount of trimming, snugness and weight centering can be accomplished.

KUDU Packs helmet sleeve

The outer helmet sleeve was useful for all sorts of items, including a sweat rag, fleece top, rain jacket and anything you might quickly need. It was extremely handy for the chinguard of my Bell Super 2R helmet, making it simple to swap it around as needed during a ride. The upper compression strap secured the items within the outer sleeve. All four of the side compression straps did a great job of stabilizing the load, helping to keep the everything from unduly bouncing around. The rain cover has two upper Velcro attachment loops that connect to the hydration routers on the shoulder straps. This design keeps the cover secure, and the pack well covered during inclement weather and it’s a welcome improvement in Camelbak’s designs.

KUDU Packs pockets and rain cover

The large main compartment is deep and has a wide and shallow geometry to keep the weight centralized and close to your back. When opening the clamshell main, sometimes items liked to spill out since the height of the zipper and back of the compartment wasn’t very tall. The upper zippered mesh pocket in the main was extremely useful and its where I keep snacks, hand warmers, small tools, hand wipes and anything I would always require on a ride. The bottom mesh pocket in the main was where I kept smaller items, such as a first aid kit, my SPOT device, tissues, etc. On top of the pack is a small padded pocket that worked perfectly for my iPhone and it was the easiest pocket to open since no straps interfered with it. Behind the main compartment is the hydration reservoir compartment, which opened with an extra long pull strap on the zipper and its also where you access the back protector. I wished they had used the same extra long pull strap zipper throughout the pack since it was easy to draw and didn’t seem to get stuck while opening and closing. I liked the additional stretchy lower side pocket on the K.U.D.U. 18 for quickly stashing items and for foldable saws for trail maintenance, since you could reach it without taking the pack off. Their tool pouch was useful, and I liked how nice it was to keep all those small and odd items in one place in a very organized manner.

I can attest to the impacts the pack can sustain since I have crashed on it far too often and slammed into trees and bushes. I never really thought that a hydration pack could be considered part of my armor and protection system, and it has certainly lessened the blows to my back and shoulders. I took a very horrendous crash and landed hard into a rock garden, and concrete packed dirt. I sustained a painful back injury and multiple contusions, and it would have been significantly worse without the shock absorption properties of the back protector. For additional comfort and a more flexible pack, you can easily remove the back protector and use it as a normal pack. Without the back protector, the pack was comfier but didn’t carry the load as well and lost a tad of stability. One benefit of the back protector on the trail is that you can pull it out at a rest stop and use it to sit on for comfort and keep your posterior dry when the ground is nasty and wet.

Measured Specs

  • Pack weight (w/ protector and tool pouch)
    • K.U.D.U. 18 1276 grams
    • K.U.D.U. 12 1218 grams
  • Antidote weight -195 grams
  • Back Protector weight – 284 grams
  • Tool Pouch – 55 grams

KUDU Packs wearing

Bottom Line

The Camelbak K.U.D.U. 12 and 18 are well-made packs that use heavy materials and stitching for durability and toughness, and they incorporate a removable back protector rated to CE Level 2 which can absorb 94% of crash impacts. The packs have excellent organizational features including a large clamshell opening main compartment with an excellent upper zippered mesh pocket, a padded top pocket for smartphones and sunglasses and a highly functional helmet sleeve. The helmet sleeve can be used to carry apparel, armor and helmets, making for fast grabs of required items. The suspension system design allows excellent fine tuning for weight balancing and fit by simply altering the waist belt and sternum and shoulder straps. The packs carried loads extremely well and were very comfortable, although the nicely padded XV back panel needs deeper channeling between the individual  EVA foam pods to allow for better cross ventilation.

The Camelbak K.U.D.U. 12 and 18 are comfortable, can carry a lot of gear with good weight distribution, uses tough, durable materials and has a safe removable back protector

Pros

  • Well built – tough materials and robust stitching and construction
  • Back protector
  • Helmet sleeve
  • Tool pouch
  • Trimming load with waist, shoulder and dual sternum straps
  • Excellent load carrying capabilities and stable (especially the 18 version)
  • Antidote reservoir: quick connect, dryer arms, 1/4 turn cap, reduced stack height

Cons

  • Back Protector makes packs stiff
  • Dual sternum straps can be confusing – liked to have different colored highlights
  • Back panel ventilation system can be warm – needs deeper channeling

MSRP: 12 $200 and 18 $225

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