Specs

Total Volume 3,800 cu in (60 liters)
Load Guide 25-35 lbs
Weight 36 oz

Reviews

7

Very well-designed pack for lightweight backpacking.

Rating: rated 4.5 of 5 stars
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $225

Summary

Very well-designed pack for lightweight backpacking.

Pros

  • Large hip and side pockets
  • Light weight (~2 lbs)
  • Customer service
  • Sizing options

Cons

  • Not much organization
  • Hydration bladder access and size limitation

I've used my Circuit on several 1-3 night trips as well as a 17-day thru hike on the John Muir Trail. Overall, I was very happy with the pack and it has held up well.  

My favorite features were large, well-placed hip and side pockets, as well as the large mesh front pocket. I rarely had to dig into the inside of the pack during the day, except to remove the bear canister. A note on bear canisters: I rented a Bearikade "Weekender" bear canister for the JMT, and was able to carry it inside the pack horizontally as long as I put it at the top.

I also like the versatility of this pack. It makes quite a nice day pack—it weighs about the same as my Osprey Manta 25 and the stay is removable for lighter loads. The hydration bladder holder and hand loops are also removable. One limitation is that the hydration bladder holder will only hold up to a 2 liter bladder. The holder is on the inside of the pack and not easily accessible when the pack is full.

This pack is a "rucksack" style with a roll top closure, so it loads best by stuffing things in loosely (vs. compressing everything in stuff sacks). The ULA website has a nice instructional packing video. Although this method works well and keeps the pack's weight low, it can be inconvenient and will not suit folks who like more organization.

I found the pack to be quite comfortable and stable when carrying 15-25 pound loads. The only problem I had was sore collar bones, but that might be more due to my bony shoulders than the pack itself. I'm 5'2"/102 lbs. with a short torso and the size Small pack with size Small hip belt fit me perfectly.  The folks at ULA were very helpful with any questions I had on pack selection and sizing.

I did meet one guy on the JMT who didn't like his Circuit, but he had it loaded down with 40+ pounds.  You really have to lighten your load BEFORE using this type of pack.

denis daly

The weight issue the other backpacker was haveing is because the Circuit is made for a max load od 30 pounds.They should have went with a lower load like you expressed or ULA's Cataylist.


5 years ago
4

Too light to support much weight. People on the hammock…

Rating: rated 2 of 5 stars

Summary

Too light to support much weight.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Attractive looks

Cons

  • Poorly designed hip belt

People on the hammock forums and ultralight backpacking forums rave about this pack.

I hate it!

When I bought it, I wanted to like it. It didn't take long to realize that it wasn't working. I thought maybe I needed to fine tune the adjustment, but no amount of tinkering ever made it right.

The manufacturer recommends loads around 30 lbs. with a max of 35.  In my experience it won't even support 25.  The hip belt is just too flimsy.

It has a claimed total capacity of 4200 cubic inches (68 liters). 

I love the green color with the white Dyneema grid. Unfortunately, there is more solid black material than I would like.  All in all, I think it is a good looking pack.

I'm not crazy about the roll top closure. I understand that ULA will make a drawstring closure as a custom option if requested. That would be preferred in my opinion.

The bare bones ULA pack does not have a top lid. In my mind there is something not right about having the roll top closure exposed. But there is an independent cottage gear maker (Luke's Ultralite) that makes a matching top lid for this pack. It covers the top, provides easy access pocket, and improves the usefulness of the pack.

When I look at details of the pack I see many nicely executed details and features.  I like the shoulder straps.  I like the side pockets.  I like the pockets on the hip belt. 

But the bottom line is the pack is just too flimsy for me....even when carrying loads well under the recommended range.

I think if the Circuit had a beefier, stiffer, and more substantial hip belt it would change the way I view the pack. The real problem is that 'gram weenies' like to brag about how light their kit is. ULA is just trying to give them what they want. And in the process they go too far in trying to lighten things up resulting in lighter weight but limited function.

(Will update with a pic soon.)

300winmag

Hmmm... I have an Osprey EXOS 58, size Large (60 liters) and of the 3 UL packs I've owned it is the most comfortable, as in VERY comfortable with 30 lbs. At first I wondered about the EXOS soft hip belt too, but upon use I found it very comfortable. You may want to try one (loaded) at the store. REI sells them, among other stores.


5 months ago
Cadenza

In this size range I like the Arc'teryx Altra 65.
The hip belt is an order of magnitude above anything else in its class.


5 months ago
300winmag

Cadenza, While the Dead Bird (Arcteryx) hip belt may be "an order of magnitude above anything else in its class" so are Arcteryx' pieces! I refuse to support the Canadian social system, replete with its VAT tax system by purchasing Arcteryx and a few other overpriced Canadian retailers.


4 months ago
Cadenza

You have a point. I don't like Canada either. Especially the Canadian drivers in Florida.
But Osprey packs are made in Vietnam. That makes swallowing the Arc pill a little easier.


4 months ago
3

Simple design and outstanding construction have produced…

Rating: rated 4.5 of 5 stars
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $235

Summary

Simple design and outstanding construction have produced this bomber pack. This pack is light and compact enough to take out for a day hike, yet spacious and rugged enough to head out for a multi-day winter trip. Near perfection.

Pros

  • Structure
  • Durability
  • Load capacity
  • Comfortable distribution of weight

Cons

  • Lacks a back vent
  • Difficult to pack a bear can (though I think this is true for most packs and can be figured out)

The only reason this product didn't get five stars is because I believe that gear can always be improved and individualized. Quite simply this pack is fantastic. 

Fit: I am 5'9" with a 30" waist. I bought the Circuit with the medium torso size and medium hip belt. The pack fit well with the hip belt resting on the top of my hips. The pack is sold in varying sizes and I've seen people from 5'0" to 6'4" comfortably carry this pack. With that being said, you will want to consult ULA's sizing chart. 

Comfort: The pack is very comfortable with a reasonable amount of padding on the back panel and the hip belts. The padding didn't compress over the length of my PCT hike and feels as comfortable as the day I bought it. However, because the padding isn't exceptionally thick, the bag must be thoughtfully packed for optimal comfort. 

Capacity and Accessibility: The 68 liter capacity is accurate, however in order for the bag to roll close you'll want to try and pack 60 liters or less. The pack consists of one large compartment, a back mesh pocket, and two hip belt pockets. The pack also comes with elastic bands that are great for attaching items you'll want easy access too, as well as closable loops that are ideal for drying socks or attaching trekking poles. Because the pack only has one main compartment, it is important to pack this bag strategically in order to avoid removing everything from your bag to get to your lunch. 

Ride: The pack's load is distributed evenly and comfortably as long as the bag is packed thoughtfully. I prefer to have all of my sleep gear at the bottom of the bag, as well as food that I won't need until camp. I felt that the ride of this pack was improved by keeping the heavier items toward the bottom of the bag. The pack and load straps are sturdy and remain stable while in use.

Compression: One of the strongest features of this bag is its ability to adjust to different loads. I've used this bag in the desert where gear weight was at a minimum and water weight could be as much as 16 pounds, to early spring in the high Sierra with all of the essentials for snow travel. 

Ease of Use and Features: The pack's simple design allows for incredibly easy use as long as you make calculated decisions when packing it. In my opinion, the best feature of this bag in addition to its simplicity is the ability to attach things to the outside. I always end up wanting something on the outside of my pack that I can easily get to, like my sit pad and some snacks, or a drawing of the mysterious King Dorian.  

Durability: In my life I have owned five different backpacks and this one is by far the most durable due to the integrity of the construction. I've logged well over 3,000 miles with this pack and the only signs of wear are the smell and some fraying in the top compression strap due to an incident with a car door. I fully intend on using this pack on my all of my trips, both long and short, over the coming years. 

Backpack.jpg
Pictured above: pack at the end of a thru-hike of the PCT 

IMG-2772.jpg
Pictured above: everything that went into my pack (minus the dog). 

IMG-2819.jpg
Pictured above: wide pockets allow for multiple water bottles and a Sunbrella. 

19642774_1874209179484772_91036044462238

Pictured above: Strong enough to comfortably distribute winter weight including an ice axe, Microspikes, and additional layers. 

Alicia MacLeay TRAILSPACE STAFF

Excellent review, Bruce! Thanks for taking the time to share it.


5 months ago
_Christine

I used this pact on the PCT too and liked it a lot - I think it accommodates bear cans better than most lightweight packs, though it is definitely awkward for a BV500. Do you pack the dog at the bottom, or in the mesh pocket?


5 months ago
Mike Mineart

Nice review Bruce! I picked up this pack earlier this year for some section hikes I have planned this summer and like it so far and hope I end up enjoying it as much as you have.


5 months ago
3

I have had this pack for about a year now and I love…

Rating: rated 5 of 5 stars
Design: top loading
Number of Pockets: 2 side, one large cavity
Max. Load Carried: 35lbs
Height of Owner: 5'11''
Price Paid: about $150

I have had this pack for about a year now and I love it more every time I go out. I am a big guy, 5'11", 250lbs (sadly) and this pack fits great. It is very comfortable and when I have my ideal weight (25lbs or so) I rarely take it off once on the trail.

My favorite features are the large side pockets for easy access to water and the pockets built into the comfy belt. I tend to strap smaller items on the side as the interior is one large pocket and small things tend to get lost.

I have hiked in the rain and scraped against rocks and never had a problem. The multitude of adjustments help get the pack settled nicely.

Cons: Not much really. I have carried a lot of gear at 35lbs which likely is stressing the bag and me out, but it performed well. I like to stay under 30lbs with this pack.

I thought of going lighter but for a few ounces I like the padding and hip belt offered. I would get a larger ULA if I went out for more than 5 days.

Perhaps the best feature is that I am confident that if I should have a problem I can call then up and arrange a repair if needed, unlike other companies. Great customer service and craftsmanship.

1

This is a well-made pack that rides very comfortably…

Rating: rated 5 of 5 stars
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $220

Summary

This is a well-made pack that rides very comfortably for the whole day. At 2 lbs empty, it is in the "ultralight" class, and it is well suited to 2-4 night outings. The pack and suspension system can handle up to 30 lbs.

Pros

  • Capacity to carry up to 30 lbs
  • Very comfortable suspension system
  • Nice size hip belt pockets
  • Great craftsmanship

Cons

  • Lack of small outside pockets

I bought my ULA Circuit new, direct from the company, and have used it for two seasons now. I have certainly logged enough miles to know this pack. It is advertised to carry up to 30 pounds comfortably, and I would say that is fairly accurate. Anything over 30, I go to another pack (my external frame Trailwise—a dinosaur from the '70s). 

I can easily get everything I need for a three-night trip in it. I can do four, but it takes more "futzing" to get everything in it and usually strapping something on the outside. For me, that's the limit, but I know other ultralight wizards probably travel lighter than I do. 

The pack rides very well and comfortably. The construction quality is top notch. I am confident this product will last me many years. When you call the company, you talk to the owner (Chris) who really seems to care about you—isn't that refreshing!

This is basically a "no frills" piece of well-designed equipment. The stock pack is advertised at about 2 lbs +/-,  depending on some options. The pack is one large "sack" and has two ample pockets on the hip belt (fits my camera and other "need-to-have-right-now" essentials), two enormous elastic pockets on either side at the bottom, and a mesh pouch on the back, and compression straps. The top rolls up with side clips like a dry bag and secured over the top with one strap.

If I had one complaint it comes from me trying to make the transition from older external frame packs to ultralight. I sure like to have some smaller outside pockets for organizing my smaller personal items. With a single bag it means putting those little things in a stuff sack inside, then finding it's always the bag on the bottom of the pack when you want it! This is the outcome of this genre of pack, not the pack itself. I'm learning to cope. I also know this adds weight and people will buy based on weight.

Alicia MacLeay TRAILSPACE STAFF

Welcome to Trailspace, Doug! Thanks for sharing your first reviews with us. I'd love to see some pictures of your ULA pack in your review.


9 months ago
1

I was very excited to get my Circuit pack after all…

Rating: rated 0.5 of 5 stars

Summary

I was very excited to get my Circuit pack after all the glowing reviews. It fell short in almost every aspect.

Pros

  • Attractive
  • Good compartments on hip belt

Cons

  • Poorly fitting, rub on lower back
  • Few features, ones it has are useless
  • Outer mesh pocket not easy to fill

I ordered a ULA Circuit pack based primarily on a blogger's endorsement. I liked the look of the original green and was ready to love it. I never did.

Although ULA is helpful with trying to get the right size to the customer, the pack never felt right due to the shoulder harness. The hip belt was comfortable and fine. I did not like how the lower part of the pack was rubbing against my lower back.

My wife looked at the setup of the pack and said “You are not going to like it.” She was correct. My son purchased an Osprey Exos for the same trip. When I compared the comfort, features and overall utility of the two packs side by side, there was no doubt he had the better option. When I had all the gear and food ready to go and began packing, the Exos had a lot more utility.

I didn’t like the top closure on the Circuit. The Exos had so much capacity in the top flap. The mesh suspension on the back of the Exos seemed preferable. The side pockets of the Circuit seemed shallow and hard to use. I particularly disliked the hard mesh back pocket on the Circuit. The only thing I liked about the Circuit were the belt storage pockets.

Two days before departure, I woke up and realized I had to find a different pack. I went to REI, got fitted, compared all the packs they had and selected an Osprey Atmos.

I returned the ULA pack and had to pay the return postage. They claimed I had not included the “hand loops”, delayed my refund and charged me $5 for what must be the most useless item imaginable. Trust me, I did not want their hand loops. When I disputed this, they gave me snark about returning the pack a few days outside their 30-day policy.

I found this statement on the ULA website. “We may provide Personal Information to third parties or marketers for their marketing purposes.” Gee, thanks?

Alicia MacLeay TRAILSPACE STAFF

Welcome to Trailspace, Russ. I hope you'll let us know how the Atmos works out for you.


2 years ago
1

The pack is durable, gives you flexibility in packing…

Rating: rated 4.5 of 5 stars
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $225

Summary

The pack is durable, gives you flexibility in packing your stuff, carries the load well, and is pretty light.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Light
  • Packing options

Cons

  • Well, it isn't an external frame pack

I used this pack on a through hike of the Colorado Trail. No issues with wear and tear at the end of the month of use. I wasn't being careful with it, and sometimes had it overloaded with groceries, but there are no signs of stitching or fabric coming apart. 

The only time with this pack when I really noticed how light it is was when it arrived in the box. It felt like the box might be empty. But there were no times when I was hiking that I felt like light weight had compromised the pack's ability to carry stuff or to be relied on not to break. 

The pack has a lot of options for packing stuff. There is the main bag, and the side and back pockets are big and versatile enough to accommodate a lot of different sorts of things. It's not like any of those pockets are only useful for water bottles or something. The big back pocket is where we put our tent, because it was the last thing we packed up and because it was often wet, and was often the first thing we unpacked at the end of the day.

But there was room around it for other stuff like that: my rain jacket, the pack cover, the trash collection. And so on for the side pockets: water bottles, sunscreen, filter.... The hip belt pockets were fine for little stuff, but not quite big enough for the Colorado Trail book or my glasses case. If they could be a little bigger, to hold that stuff, it would be great, but I am not sure that there is actually room for that big of a pocket there.

I was hiking with my teenage son and daughter, who were using the packs that my wife used when, before kids, we hiked the AT (a Coleman external nylon frame, circa 1990) and a month each of the PCT and CDT (a Gregory pack, circa 1991).

I think the Circuit was easier to organize and pack than the Gregory, but the external frame pack is the easiest to do that with, with its assortment of pockets and main compartment divided into a top and bottom, with separate access for each. My glasses and the trail guide went in the pocket on the flap covering the main compartment on the Coleman!

colorado-trail-195.jpg
colorado-trail-450.jpg
colorado-trail-475.jpg

Alicia MacLeay TRAILSPACE STAFF

Thanks for sharing your Circuit review, Howard. I'd love to see some pics of your pack in your review.


3 years ago
Alicia MacLeay TRAILSPACE STAFF

Thanks for sharing this, Howard. That looks like a great family trip!


3 years ago
1

I heard all sorts of great stories and all the podcasts…

Rating: rated 5 of 5 stars
Design: top loading
Size: medium pack-bag and medium hip-belt
Number of Pockets: main, plus large mesh front, and two mesh side
Max. Load Carried: 28 pounds
Height of Owner: 73 inches
Price Paid: $175, www.ula-equipment.com

I heard all sorts of great stories and all the podcasts about ULA packs and Brian Frankle. I even made the call and spoke to Brian about his packs and his engineering and design. Now I own one (actually two...the Conduit too) and want to reverberate the praise...it is warranted! This Circuit pack is outstanding! Blows away the Gregory Z55, which has now found its place on eBay.

The Circuit tips the scales squarely at 2 pounds it has an amazing hipbelt, shoulder straps, and load stabilizers. I just returned from a 3-night rough trail maiden voyage hike and scramble in WV with a total pack weight of 28 pounds (including food and water) and the pack performed flawlessly. I considered a Mariposa but this far and away is the best pack for the money. Super durable Dyneema ripstop, ultralight and ubercomfortable. This pack could easily do 40+ pounds without a hiccup.

If you are looking for a modern feature, durable, ultralight pack...look no further than ULA and the Circuit.

0

The harness design is extremely comfortable. The hip…

Rating: rated 4.5 of 5 stars
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $200

Summary

The harness design is extremely comfortable. The hip pockets are extremely roomy and very useful. Overall the pack is as good or better than anything on the market in functionality and weight for the money.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Intuitive design

Cons

  • Hope the front mesh holds up over the miles.

I am 5'6" and the pack fits perfectly. I experimented with several other options before selecting the ULA.

Capacity is very good for light packers up to a week hike or so.

Not a lot of individual pockets for organizing little items, but that is not a problem for me.

Construction seems excellent, time will tell. I have heard very positive feedback on ULA's repair policy so hopefully a non issue.

So far, only used the pack on two occasions in Upper Peninsula of Michigan and everything was perfect.

What can I say other than buy one.

Alicia MacLeay TRAILSPACE STAFF

Welcome to Trailspace, Andrew. Thanks for sharing your ULA pack review. I hope you'll keep us posted on how it continues to work for you. Got any pictures of it you'd care to share in your review?


3 years ago
0

This pack has been a lifesaver. I'm a BIG gal and…

Rating: rated 5 of 5 stars
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $250 - $275

Summary

This pack has been a lifesaver. I'm a BIG gal and needing to lose weight for my health. ULA took my XXXXL measurements and without hesitation created for me the perfect pack that allows me to get out on the trail and still have total comfort.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Well-made

Cons

  • None

LOVE LOVE LOVE this perfect lightweight pack. Its flexibility has enabled me to carry all my gear in comfort for long distances.

0

Great pack. All equipment for a thru hike of the PCT…

Rating: rated 5 of 5 stars
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $225

Summary

Great pack. All equipment for a thru hike of the PCT fits. Carries like its not on, does not rub. Mounts fast. Looks great.

Pros

  • Light weight
  • Fits lots of gear
  • Fits me perfectly

Cons

  • None

The best pack I've owned. Lightweight and comfortable.

0

Went with the added stay, great pack for carrying…

Rating: rated 5 of 5 stars
Design: Top loader
Number of Pockets: 3
Max. Load Carried: 35#
Height of Owner: 5'10"
Price Paid: $180

Went with the added stay, great pack for carrying extra water. So cool to call ULA and talk to the owner. And I had a fit question when I received the Circuit, and Casey called my cell to help me with load lifter adjustment. Think you get that from a Chinese pack? Amazingly well built too. Replacement for an Exos 46.

-1

I would wholly recommend this pack for the light backpacker…

Rating: rated 5 of 5 stars
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $220

Summary

I would wholly recommend this pack for the light backpacker or ultralight thru hiker who values comfort/fit, quality and versatility. Everything you need and nothing you don't.

Pros

  • Exceptional versatility
  • Outstanding fit/comfort

Cons

  • Too large for carry-on

Perhaps the biggest selling points of this pack are its fit and comfort, which are superb. It comes in different torso sizes and then you add the appropriate hip belt size. For example, I am 6'3", 230 lbs, 35" waist, so I fit best in a large Circuit with medium hip belt.

Meanwhile, the minimalist suspension does its job exceedingly well. A 25 lb load feels like nothing while a 35+ load is more than manageable.

The detachable security pocket and hydration sleeve are nice features. The belt pockets, side pockets and large mesh pockets more than make up for the otherwise minimalist design—everything you need but nothing you don't, so to speak.

I would wholly recommend this pack for the light backpacker or ultralight thru hiker who values comfort/fit, quality and versatility.

Alicia MacLeay TRAILSPACE STAFF

Welcome to Trailspace, Erik! Thanks for sharing your ULA pack review. Got any pictures of it you could share in your review?


3 years ago

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