CamelBak was the first to add spine protection to hydration packs with its K.U.D.U. (Kinetic Ultimate Damping Unit) pack three years ago. Now, it’s introducing some intriguing new features. The biggest update is the zippered attachment between the cargo area and the back protector that lets you wear the latter on its own—great for a day in the bike park, shuttle runs, or anytime you don’t need to carry much. A pair of elastic back pockets and two more on the waist belt offer some storage, even when you’re not using the cargo pack. The back protector is CE level 2 certified, meaning it’s suitable for motorcycle use, too, and can withstand multiple impacts.
The K.U.D.U. is offered in 10-liter and 20-liter capacities—as well as S/M and L/XL sizes based on torso length. I tested the 10-liter model in the smaller size; in the future, I’d size up (for reference, I’m 6-foot-0, with a short torso for my height). Despite the added bulk of the protector and its 301 grams of weight, the pack is surprisingly comfortable and stable, thanks in part to the extra-wide waist belt. With its tool roll, integrated rain cover, 3-liter reservoir, and 7 liters of storage, the K.U.D.U. Protector 10 is an excellent choice for rowdy days in big mountains. —Ron Koch