I ordered this backpack on Thursday and to my surprise it arrived in just two days! Last summer I used a pack made by a "mid sized company" on my overnight trips with my kid. The pack worked okay for the first few shorter trips. But by the time we were ready to do longer trips the pack had stretched to the point that it no longer rode comfortably on my hips. Maybe I tried to carry too much with it.
Also the pack body was just a little bit too small to hold 3 days worth of food for two people (or six days for one) and then part of the pack broke when I stepped on it and I was not able to obtain original replacement parts from the "mid sized company". The "mid sized company" told me to contact their third party factory in Mexico(?) to get my pack repaired. No thanks. Ain't nobody got time for that! So I had to do an ugly homemade repair job on it and without the proper parts. It's a good thing that I know how to sew.
I did quite a bit of research and decided that the ULA Circuit was probably the way for me to go next. Most of the folks who through hike the PCT carry this pack and that seems like a very good endorsement to me.
First impressions: The pack is really pretty, but then purple is my favorite color. There were four different color options for this pack. The pack also feels really light in spite of it being a few ounces heavier than I am used to. This pack comes with a lot of features and I might not want to use all of them, but that's okay because most of the features that I don't want are made to be removed.
The pack has plenty of volume for the weight and I am certain that I will never need a bigger pack than this for my 13 pound base pack weight, even when I go on multi-day hikes and carry stuff for my kid.
|weight with everything included|
|Back of the pack so purple, so pretty|
|Thumb strap, notice how long all of the straps are, I'm going to trim them.|
I was able to shave one ounce off this pack right away by removing the thumb straps. The thumb straps are big loops on the shoulder pads that you can hook your thumbs into so you can elevate your hands and prevent them from swelling up on long trips. I use trekking poles, so I doubt very much that I will use these straps. Also they weigh one ounce and they get in the way and bother me. I'm glad that the straps are made to be removed.
There are two ways to close the top of the pack. You can roll it down and clip it like a dry sack when it is not too full, or you can cinch it down with two straps when it is fuller. The straps are study enough that I am not likely to break them if I try to pick up the pack while I am standing on one of them. (that is how I broke the string on my last pack) The same clips work either as a roll top or a strap closure since ULA has very cleverly reversed the male and female clips on each side. I really like the option of closing it like a dry sack because that cuts back on the amount of fuss.
|Side compression strap|
There is also a big strap that goes over the top of the pack and can be used to hold stuff? Maybe it's to hold a bear can on the top? I suppose it could be used to carry snowshoes. I might cut it off. I can always sew it back on if I change my mind.
Made in the USA, got to love that!
|Hydration bladder pocket|
The pack comes with two ice axe loops that can also be used to carry trekking poles. I might remove one of these. I only carry one ice axe at a time and I can carry my tiny trekking poles in the huge side pockets.
There is a shock cord with a clip that goes over the front mesh pocket. This might be a good place to hold snowshoes or an extra jacket. I always like to have at least one shock cord on the outside of my packs. The cord has a plastic stopper on it to keep the ends from falling out of the clip. The same result could be achieved by tying knots into the ends of the cord but this clip seems more secure.
The sternum strap is way too long and it is thicker than it needs to be. I will be cutting the excess off of this and sealing the end before this pack goes anywhere. This pack has an awful lot of straps on it and most of them are too long. That's okay though, I can cut them all off to the size I want once I have decided exactly how long I want them all to be. I know that I can save at least 2 ounces by trimming the straps.
The pack also comes with water bottle loops on the shoulder straps. I've never carried water bottles on my shoulder straps, but I know that a lot of hikers do and I'm willing to at least give it a try before I cut the loops off. Since the side pockets are not as easy to reach into as I would like, I might actually want to carry water bottles on my shoulder straps.
|I put all of this stuff into the pack to see how it fit me when loaded|
The first test to see how this pack fit on me was to fill it with stuff. I filled it with all the stuff I would normally take on a backpacking trip and then I added some bottles of liquid to replicate the weight and bulk of my food. All of the stuff pictured above made my total pack weight about 30 pounds.
|Loaded pack. The top is being held shut with the straps in this picture|
The pack includes load lifter straps, I really missed not having load lifters on my last pack. In this next picture I have not yet adjusted the lifter straps.
I'm going to send a picture to ULA and ask them if they think I got the right sized pack. The website says that they will provide this as a service and even send you the proper parts for free if it turns out that your pack does not fit correctly the way you ordered it.
|Loaded for a total weigh of 30 pounds including the pack it seems to fit well|
|Large zipper pocket on hip belt. I am not wearing the pack in this picture|
|Large Zipper pockets are easy to reach, I got the "J" style shoulder straps|
|Included instruction sheet|
|Cost with shipping|
Good volume, low weight, sturdy pack that fits me perfectly. I think this pack is going to serve me quite well for years and years.
My only real complaint is that it is not as easy as I would like for me to be able to reach into the side pockets. But at least I can reach into them. Perhaps I won't mind that, if I start to carry water on my shoulder straps instead.
Also the pack comes with too many straps and the straps are too long, but that is a problem I can easily fix with a pair of scissors. I will take the pack on at least a couple of backpacking trips before I decide where to cut the strops.
I wish the pack cost less money, but it is priced competitively so I can't complain too much and it is made in the USA. Kudos to ULA for keeping jobs in the USA.
Next I would like to get one of these packs for my daughter. This is the only ultralight pack that I know of that is made in an adjustable kids size.