ULA Equipment Catalyst
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $250
This pack is very light and is the manufacturer's stated weight (I weighed it myself). Although I haven't had the pack a long period of time, it has performed admirably so far on several multi-day trips and has held up well.
- Lots of external storage compartments
- Good workmanship
- Must be treated gently
- Hip belt buckle occasional pops open
- Capacity might be limited for long (5 days plus) trips
- Not suitable for heavy loads
- Back padding not well vented
I bought this backpack in 2009 directly from ULA (Ultralight Adventure Equipment). I have used it on about 6-8 trips of 3-4 days. I'm 5'8" and 145 lbs. I used ULA's sizing criteria on their website to choose my pack size and based on it chose the medium size for both pack and hip-belt size, and it is the right size for me.
The pack carries well, always feels stable over rough terrain, and fits close to my body. The two aluminum stays are are flexible and can be formed to your back shape for a good fit. It has load stabilizer straps to adjust the pack's distance from your body as desired. As noted above, the hip-belt buckle occasionally opens, even when I'm careful about closing it. This is something ULA needs to address (perhaps they have already). But otherwise the hip belt is comfortable.
Much of the stated capacity is in the form of external mesh pockets. Using the mesh helps reduce weight, and I find them mostly well placed and easily accessible. I'd rather have capacity in the form of external pockets than interior capacity. One great feature of the pack is the way the internal compartment closes - much like a dry bag, i.e., you fold the edges of the compartment over and secure it with buckles at each end.
Or, if more capacity is needed, the compartment can be left open and secured (minimally, however) with a long strap that runs over the top of the compartment. The ULA web site's images illustrate this well. Another good feature is that the internal back padding can be removed, and a sleeping pad can be used in its place, which frees up more storage space in the pack.
Most of the "cons" noted above are probably factors that would apply to any ultra-light pack, not just this one. Follow ULA's instructions for putting on and taking off the pack. Don't overload it — the pack is made well, and the seams and joints are well constructed, but it might not be able to take a load beyond their recommendations. I always try to follow their directions, and I hope to get a lot of use out of the pack. As far as the back padding not well ventilated, I don't find this to be a major problem, and adding some kind of "ventilation system" would probably negatively affect the fit of the pack.
Overall, I'm very happy with this pack, and would recommend it.
Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $150
Nice light pack that fits perfectly. I like the size of the frame, it covers my broad shoulders and does not hang off. Built for speed!
- The size
- The mesh pockets
- Everything about this pack is sweet
Hiked Franconia Ridge having just bought this pack. The fit is spot on. I loaded down with all of my gear and added winter gear to the mix because of the cold weather.
I love the outer pocket sleeve. I love the diddy bag on the inside, the simplicity yet versatile design is what I have been looking for.
I have been shopping for an UL pack and this was the smartest purchase I have made. We get to go play on some overnights in the next few days and then we head to Colorado in July. Cannot wait to hike in this pack again.
Design: Top Loader
Size: 42-52 litres in main pack compartment
Number of Pockets: 3 external pockets 2 hip belt pockets
Max. Load Carried: 30 pounds
Height of Owner: 5'9"
Price Paid: $250
This pack is absolutely cavernous. It swallowed all my gear without using the extension collar space. The bellowed side pockets allowed larger items to fit even with the pack stretched tight on the bottom.
I have the newest version with all the options already added on. I like the water bottle holders on the front straps as they counter balance the weight of the pack very well. Also the pack is made in the U.S.A which means a lot to me. The fabric is very durable and wear resistant much tougher than i expected for the weight.
I know pack fit is subjective, but I found it very easy to find a comfortable adjustment for 30 pounds including food and water. The load lifters are easily the most effective I've used on a pack this size. Overall it is a great pack from a true American small company.
Price Paid: $250
Have only used this for one trip so far, but I carried two tents (3 children and wife), Kelty down sleeping bag, Therm-a-rest ProLite 4 pad, stove and fuel canister, water purifier, 3 liter Platypus, change of clothes, food, and misc. equipment for a total of 34 pounds easily.
It rode well, the hand loops were a lifesaver since I didn't have trekking poles (gave me something to do with my hands, helped with my balance, and rested the rest of my body), and it was pretty easy to adjust.
The only complaint was that there wasn't much ventilation for my back, but you can't have everything.
Overall, it was a great pack, and I would recommend it for everyone. And I almost forgot, if you call the number for the company, you get the owner, and he will talk about anything you want to talk about, give you pointers, and customize the pack for you if you ask.
Price Paid: $160 used, Retails for 254.00 new.
Design: Toploader, ALPINE
Size: 42-52 liter 4500 cu inch pack
Number of pockets: 3 external, 2 hip belt
Maxload: 30 pounds
Front shock cord
Front mesh pocket
Adjustible bellow side pockets
Bear canister capable
Internal mesh pocket
Water bottle holsters
2011 changes Side pockets are made with 210 ripstop nylon instead of mesh..Logo bottom is now Cordura nylon instead of dyneema. Pack can and is found being used on all national long trails. Front mesh pockets large enough to carry many items. Front cord as well to secure a sleep mat.
Did the last 1700 miles of an AT thru hike with one. It was perfect. Lightweight (replaced a Gregory in Damascus) roomy, and durable. It's still in great condition. I probably never had more than 30 pounds in it and wouldn't recommend that you go heavier than that.
Number of Pockets: 2
Max. Load Carried: 30lbs
Height of Owner: 5 9"
Price Paid: $235
I used this pack this year 2009 on the PCT. This pack took everything I could put it through including throwing it around trees in the Glacier Peak Wilderness that were down. Best pack I have ever owned!
Height of Owner: 5'10"
Purchased because I have to carry a lot of water on occasion. Works great with up to 35#, and it's huge. Great service from owner/sewer. Made in the USA! Replacement for an Exos 58.
4,600 cu in (75 liters)
Where to Buy
We found the ULA Equipment Catalyst at 1 outdoor retailer: