UL Backpack – Thoughts/Recommendations

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Home Forums General Forums General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion UL Backpack – Thoughts/Recommendations

Viewing 13 posts - 1 through 13 (of 13 total)
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    Dan S


    Looking for a UL backpack for the Colorado Trail this summer and am considering HLMG Southwest 3400 or the ULA Circuit in X-PAC VX21. Does anyone have experience with one or both. I can try on the SW3400 but not the ULA Circuit. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Base weight estimated at 15 lbs and generally planning to carrying 7 days of food after ea resupply.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    I always wonder if an UL backpack is a good choice for more extended stays in the wild, with the weights involved for carrying food and everything else. But that’s me.

    Over time, ergonomics may be more important than saving ounces in something as fundamental as a pack. But this has to be decided by each one, according to their experience and preferences.

    I require near complete weight transfer off my shoulders to my hips. For me, this means solid structure in my pack. This last adds, oh, maybe 8 ounces to my pack. For me, it’s weight well spent. I end up being less tired with this set up than if I were fighting weight every step of the way with an UL pack.

    Bruce Tolley
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    @ Dan

    You have two threads going on the exact same question. +1 to JScott’s comments.

    Do you need a bear can to be able to fit in the pack?

    Matthew / BPL


    Response from HK Newman in the other (now deleted) thread:

    Baseweight estimated.. 15 lbs

    Good to know baseweight obviously but especially on a long hike, get a good estimate on how many days of food you’ll carry between resupply points.  While gear stays mostly the same, food weight fluctuates as does water especially if there are long water carries.

    Both are well known packs that shouldn’t be much different in carrying that baseweight.  If it’s looking heavier food and especially water carries, you may want to go with the pack that has loadlifters.  Some reviewers also say the HMG packs shoulder straps were too close but that may be an individual fit problem too … as many HMG packs are on the long trails (as are ULAs).

    BPL Member


    Locale: Virgo Supercluster

    X2 or X3 or whatever it is on a more solid frame for load transfer.  Stripped down to its lightest configuration, my main-use 50/60L pack is still over 3 lbs…but it’s also still rigid enough to protect my spine and shoulders when carrying winter-weight gear.  At its full weight – including the poly frame, two aluminum stays, crampon pocket, brain, etc. – it’s over 6 lbs…and to be honest, I don’t notice that weight increase, because it carries SO MUCH better.  I know that sounds like an insane unloaded pack weight, but it’s just a matter of comfort for me.

    Also, regarding comfort: load lifters are critical for me.  There’s no other adjustment on a pack that creates either so much happiness, or so much misery.  Being able to pull the shoulder straps inwards without pulling them tighter across the crown of my shoulder is vital for keeping big loads from pinching my upper back and physically hurting me…and with as much water as I drink, that’s important.  For a pack that’s going to be a multi-day hauler without resupply, I wouldn’t want to go without load-lifters.

    BPL Member


    My base weight is between 12-13 lbs.  My main pack is an Arc Haul, but for any trip where pack weight exceeds 25 lbs at any point in the trip I revert to my GG Blaze 60.  It is right at 3 lbs and good for loads up to at least 40 lbs.  The extra 18 oz over the AH makes such a huge difference.  (framed) Packs without load lifters have no place in my gear closet…right tool for the job :)

    Also important to know how to pack your gear to get the backpack to ride the way you want it to.  I also prefer all weight on my hips with only a light pressure on the front of my shoulders from the straps…they are simply holding the pack from falling backwards.  This means the pack is nearly perfectly balanced on my hips.  Packing heavy items above the midpoint and close to the back makes this easier to achieve.

    Mina Loomis
    BPL Member


    Locale: Central Texas

    We hiked the Colorado Trail in 2018 with Mariposas which worked just fine.  Our base weights are about like yours.  We carried Bearikade Weekenders the whole way.  Longest resupply was 8 days.  Longest water carry was 22 miles which at our speed meant 6 platy 2L’s between us.  The water carry was uncomfortable but of course that doesn’t last.  One of us had a history of back surgeries.  I was 67 and my husband was 62 in 2018.  Except for the heavy water day, our total pack weights topped out at about 30 lbs.  The trip took 6 1/2 weeks which included some 2-night zeros.  30+ lbs is outside anything a frameless pack is designed for.  Within the framed options, the most important consideration is what fits *you* the best.  Do whatever you can to order early, try on, and return and try again as needed.  Our son is more UL than we are (he doesn’t get as cold) but he has settled on a SMD Swift with vest harness for his planned 2022 PCT through-hike.  He tried some other options including a Mariposa and a Nashville frameless each of which he carried for parts of the Pacific Northwest Trail last summer.

    Enjoy your trip!  The CT is spectacular.

    Dan S


    Thanks. New here so apologies on the double post. No bear canister. Likely an ursack.

    Chris K
    BPL Member


    Might also want to consider the updated Superior Wilderness Designs packs. Ben Kilbourne (who writes for BPL) gave a glowing review of the Long Haul 50 on his website recently. They are 3-4 months out though…

    Dan S


    Thanks.  I’ll check them out.

    Dan S


    Thanks for the recommendation. Actually ordered a pack through Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul 50.  14-16 weeks out.

    Mole J
    BPL Member


    Locale: UK

    ULA circuit is hefty enough to carry the load? Has stays? As a long term Gossamer Gear Gorilla user, when trying my friend’s ULA Circuit on, I thought the latter a more solid carry. This was  some years ago, but I doubt the current version is much different?

    Our baseweights were similar (7+kg) and we often carried 5-6 days food on our trips.


    Ken Larson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Michigan

    For what it is worth……

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