Aug 19, 2013 at 3:31 am #1306690
Derek M.BPL Member
@dmusasheLocale: Pacific Northwest
This post is intended to be an outlet of sorts for anyone else out there who is a little puzzled by the hype surrounding ULA packs (maybe I'm the only one!). I am not, however, intending to bash ULA in any way, I am well aware that packs are like shoes– even some otherwise great ones are not going to fit you for whatever reason.
With that said, I am fortunate enough to live close to an outfitter that carries ULA packs (I have learned that this is rare), but for the longest time they haven't had any medium-sized packs in stock; so when I called them up the other day and found out that they recently got a new shipment in, I was really excited to go try on some packs! I had only ever heard great things (on BPL and the rest of the internet) about the ULA packs and I wanted to see what all the rave reviews were about (plus I'm in the market for a pack). In short, I really wanted to like these packs.
All I was interested in trying on was the Circuit and the Catalyst, so, full disclaimer: that's all I tried out. I found out quickly that the right size for me was a medium pack bag and a small hipbelt (as I suspected would be the case). I carefully packed 26 pounds in each pack (making sure the weight was as realistically distributed as I could get it) and tested them out for fit and comfort.
I was disappointed.
Everyone seemed to be saying that these packs will really transfer weight effectively to your hips and I didn't find that to be the case at all. It's actually still kind of puzzling to me that so many people feel so strongly about this aspect of the ULA line (at least the Circuit, and even more so the Catalyst). The most I felt I could get was about a 60/40 hip to shoulder weight distribution ratio. This wasn't simple user error as this was not my first rodeo… I know how to adjust a pack. And still, I couldn't get it to where I liked it.
Accepting all the caveats of how trying on packs for a few hours in a store is not really an ideal scenario for judging pack performance and fit, I still think one can get a relatively decent gut impression of how something will or won't work for them, and the ULA packs were just not working for me.
I was also really unimpressed with the ergonomics and aesthetics of the packs. Imagine the very highest quality pack that you could make with high quality fabrics and foams on a really nice heavy duty home sewing machine if you were an expert seamstress (but not necessarily an expert pack designer) and this is what the ULA packs are like IMHO. Make no mistake, they are very well made, but the design won't knock your socks off (and to many, this is the point… I get it). I still think a pack that is really pared down while still being extremely ergonomic. In my opinion, ULA got the pared down (yet functional) part right, but not so much with the ergonomics.
I think the most glaring problem I found with the packs is that there is absolutely no shape to the suspension. The stays in the Catalyst at not even remotely pre-shaped, and the hoop frame in the Circuit is just as bad (i.e. straight as a rod). I just don't understand why a manufacturer would try to sell packs like this. If you are really good at shaping your own stays, then more power to you, but for all the rest of us, I'm not sure how it would work. I guess these packs just conform to you over time? I'm not really sure.
The packs just sort of felt boardlike on my back… Not sure how else to describe it. It wasn't like I was in agony or anything, but it certainly wasn't all that comfortable.
Also, the buckle on the hipbelt was weirdly long and narrow, making it hard to close (compared with the more commonly used wider and shorter variety), and I didn't like the dual-pull cinch design on the belt (it struck me as an overly complicated way to do the same thing that a simple redirect would accomplish). On the plus side, the hipbelt was fairly comfortable to me, once properly adjusted.
Nearly all the straps on the bag are WAY too long, but I'm sure that's intended, since it's easier to cut a strap to fit your needs then to make it longer. So I had not problem with this, even though it can be a little distracting when you are trying to adjust everything in the store.
What I did have a problem with was the way the bag secured the load. I don't know how else to put it, but it just wasn't as secure as many other packs I've tried (for instance, Osprey packs). I know that this is a hard thing to get a handle on when using weight bags in a store, but I've had much better luck with other packs under the same circumstances. Take that for what you will I guess, the bag just seemed a little "shifty" to me.
Anyway, it became clear pretty quickly that these packs weren't working for me, and that's ok. It was apparent to me that a lot of care went into making the packs (all the seams looked great, good attention to detail) and lots of people have hiked thousands and thousands of miles with these packs, so you may have a much different experience than me (seeing as how I can't find a negative review anywhere, this is most likely the case).
In the end I wanted to get to the bottom of the ULA hype and see how I liked the packs myself, and it just didn't end up being a good fit for me.
I never really trust any product that only has good reviews, so maybe I'm doing ULA a favor with this post ;). I hope that's the case, because they are a cottage manufacturer here in the U.S. making quality products that serve a small but dedicated niche market– and how can you root against that?
Anyway, best of luck to all of you out there that want to try out a ULA pack for the first time. Hopefully you'll have better luck than me!
Edit: Holy moly this is long post, what was I thinking!!!? :)Aug 19, 2013 at 4:51 am #2016511
Katharina LångstrumpBPL Member
@kat_pLocale: Pacific Coast
I have an Ohm that was going to be mainly used by my daughter. She much prefers my Osprey Hornet, and I let her use it when we go together. So I have only used the pack maybe 14 days total in the last couple of years. I like the pack well enough as far as comfort and load distribution. What I am a little disappointed about was the fact that with such little use I did not expect there to already be a hole in the sleeve that houses the end of the stay. The stays have no tips surrounding the metal and the sleeves are straight fabric. Before leaving the trail head on my last trip I had to fashion a tip made out of a plastic lid that was wide enough to barely fit it the sleeve and not fall through the hole in it.
That seems like a pretty obvious issue.Aug 19, 2013 at 5:16 am #2016514
– -K.T.- –BPL Member
I'm still very happy with my Ohm v1.0. Packs are such the personal choice. I hope you find something you are happy with.
Edit: My Ohm never squeaked. I thought it a problem of later design, but apparently not. My bad.Aug 19, 2013 at 5:36 am #2016516
mik matraBPL Member
@mikmikLocale: Brisbane AUSTRALIA
Yeah I bought the pack on just info I found on the net.
1. After a few trips I have come to the conclusion that I plainly and simply just don't like the rolltop closure. When the bag is very full it won't even close up properly as there is not enough material to 'roll up'. I am going to sow a zipper in there myself.
2.It may be just adjustment (I haven't had time to tinker that much to get a definite) but I find the side pockets which is where I carry my 1.5L plastic drinking bottles too high and difficult to reach around to pull my water bottles out of.
3.Yes it does feel like carrying a board on your back especially when the bag is full and tends to curve to accentuate this issue. The flat back also doesn't allow your back to air and I end up having a wet back from sweat more often than not.
4.Yes straps a too long (unnecessarily so) but the one that baffles me is the strap that goes from the handloop where you pick the bag up off the ground with, over the top and clips onto the pack just above the mesh pocket. This strap seems 4 times longer needs to be.
5.The front mesh elastic cord is long enough to stretch a fair way but the mesh material will not expand this far…..there is not a lot I can fit in there and am thinking of altering this for myself.
6. My mate got the Osprey pack. Now for a comparative price and weight the Osprey pack has far more features that I find impressive. I think that is a better pack.
Not a rant but my 2c worth.Aug 19, 2013 at 5:45 am #2016518
Dan DurstonBPL Member
Wow long post.
1) The stays/framesheet in my Catalyst are certainly pre-shaped. They fit well.
2) The squeaky Ohm suspension that Ken mentions pre-dates the current ownership
3) I've been really happy with my Ohm and Catalyst. Both transfer weight well for their weight and are well designed.
ULA packs may not look as professional as some mainstream offerings, but next to packs from most other cottage manufacturers they look pretty darn refined.Aug 19, 2013 at 5:50 am #2016520
– -K.T.- –BPL Member
2) The squeaky Ohm suspension that Ken mentions pre-dates the current ownership
That was not my experience talking with folks at the GGG, including Brian Frankel as well. We picked apart changes made over the years. YMMV. Saw changes in the Catalyst that accelerates wear on the hip belt.
Great when you can get 20 customers in one place. Everyone has a different issue.Aug 19, 2013 at 6:27 am #2016531
Mike WhitesellBPL Member
I have an original Ohm made by Brian. Before Brian sold the company, and before the Ohm 2.0 came out, Brian introduced an upgraded hipbelt that had pockets on it. I sent my pack back to Brian to get it upgraded to the Ohm 1.1 with the revised hipbelt.
I have somewhere around 500 miles on the pack and have been very pleased with it.
So here are my long term pros and cons with the ULA Ohm 1.1 made by Brian:
-great water bottle pockets that hold 2 quarts each. bottles always stay in place and can easily be reached without taking off the pack.
-side compression cords work great.
-pack bag works great. has proven to be durable. prefer the drawstring closure on the ohm over the roll top on the circuit.
-love the elastic mesh back pocket. it provides it's own compression and holds everything securely. easy access for rain gear and other things that require quick access.
-Suspension works fine, but 25 lbs is about the max comfortable weight. pack bag is large enough that you can easily overload the suspension.
-Suspension on my ohm 1.1 is squeaky. it's not awful, but its always there.
-Flat cord on the drawstring packbag closure gets wound up and makes opening and closing difficult at times. this could be fixed by changing to a stiffer round cord.
So far my Ohm is still doing fine with only minor cosmetic issues. I have no immediate plans for replacing the pack. At this point, I haven't made up my mind what my next pack would be if I were in the market now. ULA is still top of my list for consideration, since I heard a couple people have had a custom Ohm made for them with the Circuit's full frame/suspension. That is appealing to me. But I also want to see what Ron and Brian come up with over at Six Moon Designs.Aug 19, 2013 at 6:30 am #2016532
Greg MihalikBPL Member
"The stays have no tips surrounding the metal and the sleeves are straight fabric. Before leaving the trail head on my last trip I had to fashion a tip made out of a plastic lid that was wide enough to barely fit it the sleeve and not fall through the hole in it. "
Without a photo this is only a WAG. And since mine was one of the very first, changes along the way may make my guess BS. But…
Originally the stay had a piece of webbing that went around it as it went into the pocket, to protect against abrasion. It sounds like yours didn't get it, or it ended up in the wrong place.
My guess is the based on the number of OHMs that are out there and that this is one of the few cases that have come to light.
Mine occurred as a result of "user error" when I removed the stay for some work and then put it back in, not knowing about the webbing "cup" in the bottom. It took about 5 days for the stay to cut through the fabric.
When I suggested that a fix was needed to Chris he said "yep", and …"send in the pack and we'll take care of it", even though it pre-dated him as an owner and was several years old.Aug 19, 2013 at 8:06 am #2016548
Amy LauterbachBPL Member
@drongobirdLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Originally the stay had a piece of webbing that went around it as it went into the pocket, to protect against abrasion. It sounds like yours didn't get it, or it ended up in the wrong place. ..Mine occurred as a result of "user error" when I removed the stay for some work and then put it back in, not knowing about the webbing "cup" in the bottom. It took about 5 days for the stay to cut through the fabric.
Same for us. Jim's stay on his Brian-days-Ohm-1 broke through the bottom, and we discovered that we had mis-inserted it after taking the stay out to wash the bag. It's a combination of user error and design flaw – the design shouldn't have allowed the user to make the error. We were on the trail in Spain, and fixed it by carving a socket into a wine cork and shoving the cork down into the bottom of the sleeve :)
The stay on my Circuit was pre-bent and worked for me out of the box. So if they're now shipping them without a bend that does seem like it puts a burden on the user to get it approximately right.
Jim and I have been using ULA packs since 2002. Eight different packs in all (four each). None has worn out. Quality and durability are fantastic, or at least were in Brian's day. Only one of our packs is a post-Brian pack.
I'm currently experimenting with Gossamer Gear Mariposa, just to see if I can improve on my Circuit. I've used the Mariposa for only seven weeks so far. Comparing the two:
Both are plenty comfortable for me and my loads of up to 25 pounds.
Mariposa is lighter than the Circuit (that was the inspiration for trying it).
Hipbelt pockets on Mariposa are next to useless. For this reason alone I'm considering abandoning the pack. The volume of the pockets on the ULA packs is perhaps 50-75% larger, which doesn't sound like much, but for me matters a lot. In the GG pack, I can fit one pair of wraparound sunglasses plus a pair of reading glasses in a belt pocket and it's functionally full. In the ULA packs, I can fit the glasses plus a bag of nuts and a bar. In the second ULA pocket I can easily put my wool hat and mitts, whereas I can only get one or the other in the GG pockets. It might sound minor, but that kind of difference matters a lot to me.
Quality of workmanship is WAY better in the ULA pack. We've been using ULA packs exclusively (except those 7 weeks I mentioned) since 2002. Thousands of miles for each of us. The ONLY failure was the above-mentioned stay. Whereas I've got several problems already in my GG pack – in many places the seams appear to not have been back-tacked and I've had to do several repairs already.
I really like the closure on the Mariposa, although I did fuss with the string to make it a single strand instead of a loop. Both roll-top and string closures on the ULA packs have been fine for us too.
FWIW, I tried an Osprey Talon 44 on one four day trip and my poor bruised hips said "never again". That belt was a failure for the shape of my hip bones.Aug 19, 2013 at 8:12 am #2016549
Stephen BarberBPL Member
To the OP: I understand you've had plenty of experience with packs, but if you were only able to get a 60/40 distribution of weight with a Circuit, I suggest you look at the large sized pack. You're back may effectively be longer than you think. When measured by REI experts, I always come out as a medium, but loaded up, a large pack size always works better on me.
I have regularly used the Catalyst for several years now, and found it to be excellent for weight distribution and carry. Yes, it's heavier than the Circuit, but the aluminum stays can be shaped to one's back, which doesn't happen with the carbon stays. I get good weight distribution with the Ohm as well, but the flat back is not as comfortable as the Catalyst. Still carries well.
FWIW, and I apologize for the topic movement, I just received my new McHale pack – which totally blows away any other pack I've seen. Amazingly versatile, with brilliant yet simple innovations to make the hike more enjoyable! The man is a genius! The McHale pack does indeed make my ULA look like a pack from a different century!Aug 19, 2013 at 8:40 am #2016554
Chad BBPL Member
I always figured I was in the minority, but I feel the same way. For me, the two I have tried (CDT, Circuit), did not fit well, at all. Nor did I care for the over all design. I have wanted to check out the OHM though, so I would be willing to give them another chance. But yeah, over all, I am not all that impressed.Aug 19, 2013 at 8:41 am #2016555
James DeGraafBPL Member
@jdegraafLocale: Bay Area
I too felt a bit underwhelmed by my Catalyst the time I used it. I was more pleased with my Elemental Horizons Kailas pack. I feel it fits better, carries better, and IMHO looks better too (it is also lighter). Granted I lost a few liters for packing but I rarely need anything more than40-50L anyway. If you're still in the market looking for a pack I would suggest Elemental Horizons.
-JamesAug 19, 2013 at 8:42 am #2016557
Marko BotsarisBPL Member
@millonasLocale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Ditto on on that. Check your fit. It is common for people (even ones backpacking for years) who think they have the right fit to be quite a bit off, and among those the vast majority are too short. Send a picture, if you like, of you wearing the pack.
Unless you are a mutant you can take our – and the many through hikers who use the pack – word for it that these pack DO support well for most folks, but %90 of the "fit" issue is the responsibility of buyer to select the right size and adjust ting correctly.
If there are aluminum stays you should be able to bend them to get a better fit to you back shape once you are sure you have the overall fit right. In my version of the pack (an old one) there were actually instructions on doing this, but it should be a no-brainer to make that adjustment.
Aesthetics are in the eye of the beholder. At this point for me all the "do-dads" that most bigger commercial pack makers put on their packs, and that supposedly make the more attractive to the average customer, are horrible eyesores to my eyes. I see only extra weight I have to carry for a features that I at best don't need, and at worst actively make my life on the trail more complicated. So even the aesthetics of the ULA packs appeal to me. Guess I'm like the one guy in the old listerine commercials who LIKES the taste. LOL
That said, I have recently sent my 10-11 year old primary pack (a ULA P2) into a well deserved retirement and (like James) plan on using my Kalais pack. Pretty much have the same attitude about it as James – it is like the update on the ULA that you WISH they had made. The Kalais is lighter, has a nice closure, and aesthetically without blemish to my eyes. You might want to take a gander at that one,but you will not be able to find it in a store to try on.You might be able to work something out with Matt.Aug 19, 2013 at 8:43 am #2016558
Katharina LångstrumpBPL Member
@kat_pLocale: Pacific Coast
Thanks for the info on the reinforced strip. I'll look into it. The plastic lid is working well for now.Aug 19, 2013 at 8:56 am #2016561
Link .BPL Member
I love my Elemental Horizon Kalais also,and I agree Matt is great to work with.Aug 19, 2013 at 8:56 am #2016562
@ocdaveLocale: Outdoors -MN
My experience is the exact oposite as the original poster's. After triying nearly every pack REI had to offer, (REI, Gregory, Granite Gear, Osprey, Deuter) I had nearly given up finding a pack to replace my REI Wonderland external frame (comfortable but noisy).
An alternate retailer turned my attention to the ULA Catalyst. At 5'8" and ~220 lbs a medium pack w/large hip belt not only fits me well, but exceeded in comfort other brands I had tried. Loaded to 40 lbs, the catalyst was far more comfortable than the others tried; especially at the front of my shoulders (I am a bit thick there).
Rather than too short, I found the shoulder adjustment straps could be a wee bit longer. The Large hip belt fits my 38-40 inch waist perfectly with just the right abount of extra webbing for adjustment.
I'll admit the roll-top closure did not initially apeal to me. I nearly decided against his pack for that reason alone. However, with a cuben fiber liner, I have grown to like the simplicity of the roll-top.
Comfort: after numerous training hikes loaded to ~ 40lbs, and trips to Glacier NP and Isle Royale NP overloaded to ~45-50lbs, I am extremely pleased with this purchase. The Cataylst distributed my load well. I rarely had to make any mid-hike adjustments. I ended my Glacier hike of ~ 25 miles and my Isle Royale hike of ~ 40 miles with zero pack related discomfort or complaint.
I am fortunate that a retailer in my area carries ULA packs. I would not have discovered the Catalyst otherwise.Aug 19, 2013 at 9:02 am #2016563
Marko BotsarisBPL Member
@millonasLocale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Yep – not a conspiracy. Your reaction seem to be in line with most people's. Still, pack fit is a personal thing.Aug 19, 2013 at 9:51 am #2016573
I love my CDT pack from ULA. My base weight is right around 9 lbs and this pack carries it like a dream for me. I personally couldn't be happier.Aug 19, 2013 at 11:38 am #2016598
spelt with a tBPL Member
@speltLocale: SW/C PA
I don't understand the point of a rolltop if the packbag isn't actually waterproof (as with a drybag hauler). But ULA are far from the only ones to use that design. Aesthetically I think they are fine (I happen to like green, though; ymmv).
I admit that for some time I wanted both a Camino and an Epic, to satisfy my organizational kink and my obsession with keeping stuff dry, respectively. This, despite known design flaws in each (width and collapse on the Camino, low carry on the Epic). But I picked up a different panel-loader on gear swap and an external frame on craigslist that I'm converting so I've largely stopped lusting after them.
I agree with those who suggested you try the larger size. I am only 5'4'' and on the upper end of most medium torso size ranges. I think a lot of people wear their packs too short, if only b/c I can't imagine people several inches taller than me have 100% of that height in their legs. That said, pack fit is personal and there is a limited range of shapes that a non-custom pack can fit.Aug 19, 2013 at 11:50 am #2016599
@fluffinreach-comLocale: no. california
" If you are really good at shaping your own stays, then more power to you, but for all the rest of us, I'm not sure how it would work. I guess these packs just conform to you over time? "
ohh dear… goodness no.
they don't do anything like that at all.
You have to bend them, and that can take more than a few attempts. if you mke them the shape of your back, which seems reasonable, it will suck. because once you put a load in it, and tighten things down, all that chnges. but go ahead and make them back shape at first anyway.
you'll want to 'open up' the top bend to make up for shoulder strap tension. do this in 1/2" increments.
you "may" want to open up the bottm arc as well, so as to exploit the hip belt pulling the pack into the small of our back. 1/4" a shot is about right for that trick.
and so it goes. a fine tool for stay bending is a picnic table. nice padded slots of varrying width, what more could we ask for.
any time the pack mfg does the bending for you, it won;t be right anyway, and they'll get calls about it. so be brave, and sieze the moment !
bottom line, you have more work to do before it's the pack's fault.
v.Aug 19, 2013 at 12:33 pm #2016608
My daughter and I both use the ULA Ohm 2.0. Weight transfer to the hips is nothing short of outstanding. The carbon fiber stays seem to be < 1/4" too long (top part doesn't seat into the pack 100% right) so I'm going to contact Chris to see what my options are but I don't notice it when I'm wearing the pack.
I don't own the Circuit but based on what I've read from the OP, I suspect he'll need a larger torso size than what he tried on.Aug 19, 2013 at 12:36 pm #2016609
@hhopeLocale: East Bay
Having recently made some backpacks, one somewhat but not totally modeled on parts of the ohm, it's worth noting a few things re your comments as OP. I have no personal interest in ULA packs, either way, positive or negative, though I have studied their designs to get some ideas. It is good to re-examine companies however, particularly after key people involved have left them, that is a fact.
1. If you are putting enough stuff into the pack to make the rolltop uncloseable, you bought the wrong size pack, period. The last roughly 1.5 or 2 inches of the rolltop should in no case be considered as 'extra space', it's the closing mechanism. I don't know what ula uses since I've never seen one, but when I decide how tall to make the rolltop part of the pack, I figure it this way: with a pack body thickness of 6", the top needs 3" to close, then x inches will form the actual height of the rolltop extension. I use 1/2 hem on the top of the rolltop, so I roll it in 1/2" intervals, roughly, and consider 3 rolls or so to be a nice safe closing, so that's about 2". Say you have 6" extension, plus 3" to close it back to front, and 2", that's 11" total, but that doesn't mean you have an 11" extension, it means you have a 6". the last 5 inches don't count as height. So you have to take that into account when you get the size you need. ULA cannot be criticized for this in my opinion, it looks like you simply bought the wrong size or have too much stuff for this type of pack, or something.
2. As Peter stated, accurately, stays should not be prebent if it's a form fitting bend, because the person has to do that bending. I had lowe alpine internal frame packs that came with clear directions on how to do the bends, since they were bomber, you didn't need to do the fine tuning Peter talks about, you just bent them to your back, the aluminum stays were very thick, and held it under weight. I'm sure lighter packs use lighter stays, and so you have to be more careful when adjusting them. ULA is to be commended for not prebending, not criticized, if you prebend, then you have to unbend, then bend again, not good. So that's not a real issue.
3. When you compare packs, you must compare them by weight, you cannot compare some REI pack that weighs maybe 1 pound more to another ULA or any other pack that weighs x ounces less, it has to be apples to apples. So it's useless to say, oh, this osprey/deuter/northface pack does x or y and a ula does a or b, you can do stuff when you get more weight in that you can't do with less weight, so make sure to compare only apples to apples.
4. Specific to older ULA packs, that highly slanted pocket, very shallow in front, what were they thinking? That to me was a major error, but they fixed it.
5. Re front pocket depth: I don't know what true depth ULA packs have, but I made my first pack with a 2" depth, and regretted it immediately, so I made my most recent one with 3.5" depth, and that was awesome, perfect, enough to hold stuff. I don't like elastic mesh at all, I prefer the solid mesh, with about 1/8" holes, so I won't say more, but elastic wears out, and solid non elastic does not.
6. Re side pockets, when comparing packs, what capacity does a pocket have, ie, can you fit 2 quart bottles (I just missed that on my measurements, so it only holes two narrow quarts, not two standard sized). Most commercial packs seem to have relatively small side pockets, a big side pocket doesn't 'look sleek and well designed', because it is actually big enough to hold 2 quarts, or close to that.
7. Re feeling like a board, if there is no extra padding on the pack, which is likely if it's a light or UL pack, then that is a fact, but I had no difficulty with this type of system, I believe my main pack is similar to an ohm, ie, side carbon fiber tubes to prevent body collapse, a delrin connection between top of tubes across pack to support the shoulder straps. I agree on the weight distribution you note, I can't get much better than about 50-60% onto my hips, but at max 25 pounds, that's fine. I use wide shoulder straps, it's not an issue, I didn't feel the pack on its first trip, and it didn't bug me, so I would say that type of experience suggests it works. I use a thin 1/8" pad as a back/frame as well, it's in a pocket, inside the pack. I'm unclear on any real benefit from carrying it against your back outside since I don't see how that would stiffen anything.
With this said, some time ago, I bought the last real pack that Lowe Alpine made, prior to their getting bought out, sad, the Zepton Hyperlight series, excellent pack, 'well designed', has features no cottage type gear maker can ever achieve because these big companies can source specific parts in large volumes from suppliers nobody else has access to from what I can see. Very good 'design', in terms of looks. Excellent weight for what it was, also had a very good curved steel stay that is VERY strong, but very light, pack weight without top is 2 pounds.
Seams: not so great, not bad, but mine are better, I've seen consistent unraveling of them but I don't use the pack anymore so I can't tell you how long they would last, I'd guess about 45 to 60 days max before you started getting structural failures, but it looks nice, good design. I would bet ULA's stitching is quite good if you look at the actual construction, when you care you can do more stitching, that's just how it goes. As Mchale has noted, he 'uses a lot of thread', which if you start sewing your own packs starts taking on real meaning, using a lot of thread means taking a lot of sewing time, far more than you would expect most commerical corporate stuff to do. The Zepton had no real side pockets, just these annoying flat elastic things that you can barely squeeze a quart, if that, into. No adjustments possible, ie, it's elastic topped, so when that goes, your pocket is gone. No front pocket at all, that's a major annoyance. Excellent, and I mean really excellent, suspension, because they have access to tooling and components that nobody in the cottage gear sector has, but even with that, a lot of oversights, no daisy chains, no hip belt clips to attach stuff, and I am suspicious of the durability of the shoulder strap connections. The sternum strap elastic basically died after 1 trip, or died since then from sitting in my closet, I don't know which it was. Doubled heavy duty elastic fixes this. Because most of the 'corporate' packs now use the custom made sternum strap sliders, when you lose functionality it's either hard or impossible to fix the strap, with a more 'home made' style, you just take it off and resew it, it takes about 5 minutes.
I wouldn't be so quick to assume that just because they (the corporate stuff you see at REI) have nice curves on their cuts and a few other things that these commercial packs are all that great, it's a case by case basis, who is sewing it, how stressed are they for time, how are the materials actually handled, ie, are they compromising pack body/features for minimizing nylon wastage?
With carbon stays, however, it's kind of obvious that the problem is that cottage people simply cannot charge what it would cost to have custom made carbon fiber frames made, so they have to use standard materials, like carbon tubes, aluminum slats, or aluminum tubing. Tubing, by the way, is very hard to bend.Aug 19, 2013 at 12:45 pm #2016612
Justin BakerBPL Member
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
I love my ohm. It's the only pack that just melts into my back and I forget it's there. It's the perfect size longer trips or shorter trips in colder weather. It's amazing how much weight carrying capability they put into such a light pack.
I do fold my z-rest up as additional padding which seems to help a lot.Aug 19, 2013 at 2:42 pm #2016645
To the OP:
1) if you dont shape the Al stay to match your back, you are causing your own discomfort, not the packs fault. I have owned 3 circuits and an Ohm, its a must-do, not a maybe. If you cannot shape a stay to your back, you need a heavy pack. This is true no matter what lightweight pack you choose. Having the pack conform to your back keeps it there with minimum belt tension.
2) the carbon fiber stays ride outside your back and you will never feel them. they are also behind the back padding on the circuit. They are not why the pack feels stiff to you.
3) The ends of the carbon fiber on the original ohm had a reputation for wearing holes in the bottom of thier slots. Had a cap on them which some didnt replace when removed the stay. Cheap, easy fix to add one. They dont include anymore since adding the Al rod enc. The old Ohm has a cordura like sleeve, Im not familiar with that they put inside the pack on the 2.0 for it.
4) My ohm is original, and it squeaks. They always have.
5) The ULA belt is the best lightweight belt around specifically because of the dual buckle arrangement. It lets you tighten the top of the belt more than the bottom, to keep from sliding down over the hips under load.
6) Any of my packs can ride 100% on my hipbelt by loosening the shoulder straps. You probably were wearing a pack way too small for you. On a UL pack , the strap attachment should be at the shoulder, not wrap around and go below it. Maybe less than an inch is OK, any more and the pack is too small.Aug 19, 2013 at 4:33 pm #2016672
Franco DarioliBPL Member
I have yet to come across any product whatsoever that works for everybody or even a clear majority.
So ,of course, even brands or products that get rave reviews will still disappoint or simply don't work for others.
The Circuit and in fact even the Amp work for me for their intended use.
So the Amp up to about 15lbs and the Circuit to about 30lbs (comfortably…)
The Circuit works as it is for me (I have had two, swapped the original for a newer version because I could…) but others may need to adjust the stay, not unique to ULA. (Google :how to adjust backpack fit)
The first Circuit had the draw string closure, the second has the roll top.I prefer the roll top.
Any pack with a roll top will not work if overfilled.
When BPL tested packs it settled on two turns of the top to determine the real capacity, I do the same…
(manufacturers suggest three turns)
With both Circuits I can and do get the full weight onto my hips, obviously others can too but again I would not expect everybody to get the same result.
To me a $225 ,40oz ,30lbs plus carrying pack that is comfortable (for me…) is a pretty good product but for three times that dollar value I would also expect (but not need) something better …
For the record I prefer to use another brand (Aarn)because I like the balance on that better however it is heavier and more expensive.
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