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ULA packs -- experience with different strap types?
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Brendan Lammers
(mechB) - F

Locale: Washington DC
ULA packs -- experience with different strap types? on 04/13/2011 04:13:38 MDT Print View

So today I'm going to buy a ULA Ohm for myself as a reward (after months of waffling), but I'm curious what type of straps to get. I am definitely on the slim side at 6ft ~160lbs, so that is a factor to consider. I guess I just don't know the real differences between them except one is standard (J curve) and the other is designed for women / skinny guys (S curve). Any experiences or recommendations?

If it helps, I never have experienced any real pain or rubbing from the shoulder straps on other packs. The main problem that I have with packs is developing a sharp pain in that vertebrae that juts out (C7 vertebrae?) at the base of my neck. Maybe wider straps would help with this? Or am I mistaken?

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: ULA packs -- experience with different strap types? on 04/13/2011 04:20:56 MDT Print View

I'm 5'8, ~138 lbs, and extremely lean. The standard straps work fine for me, but my Ohm is a couple of years old and I'm not sure if they've changed anything.

I can't comment much on the C7 issue without more information. What kind of packs have you used in the past? It sounds like a fitment problem.

Edited by simplespirit on 04/13/2011 04:21:39 MDT.

Brendan Lammers
(mechB) - F

Locale: Washington DC
Packs on 04/13/2011 05:07:25 MDT Print View

My standard pack has been an older (2007 or so) model of the Gregory Z55 with some stuff removed. I haven't liked it very well for a lot of reasons (mostly the pressure on my neck), but I haven't had the money or inclination to replace it until now. I've also hiked with a GoLite Jam a little bit, and I get the same problem. I've tried on other packs which seem to "pull" on my neck to varying degrees. The Granite Gear Vapor Trail was the worst, surprisingly, and the Osprey Exos seemed to do it the least and hug my back the closest, if that tells you anything.

Interestingly, my first real backpacking experience was with NOLS about 5 years ago using a 7lb+ monster pack and 40-75lb loads, and although it was painful in a lot of ways, I never really had that sharp pain in my neck.

By "fitment", I assume you mean pack construction relative to my body. I don't really know what the relationship is between different pack elements (load lifters, strap width, etc.) is to this problem I seem to have. But I suspect there is a "fitness" element too, in the sense that I have a slight frame but a really long torso, which might cause my back to buckle a little under heavy weights and put more pressure on my neck. I'll need to beef up and work on those upper back and shoulder muscles.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Packs on 04/13/2011 06:32:59 MDT Print View

I have a longish torso (and short legs) as well. I've never noticed any pain specific to my vertebrae but I have tried some packs that caused muscle soreness in that area (upper traps). The worst for me was an SMD Starlite. I also had lower back pain and a pinching on my shoulders with an Osprey Crescent. If you think you have a real back problem and can't find an off-the-shelf model that works, you may want to look at the McHale packs. They're expensive but completely custom and known for offering a better fit than most anything else you can get.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"ULA packs -- experience with different strap types?" on 04/13/2011 07:09:12 MDT Print View


I own the Ohm with standard J-straps with a L torso length- perfect fit. I'm 6', lean"ish" (175lbs.) just for reference.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
straps on 04/13/2011 07:56:17 MDT Print View

I wouldn't hesitate to give Chris a call directly, I'm sure he can shed some good light on the subject

I'm not lean and have the "regular" straps- so I'm not going to be much help that way :)

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: ULA packs -- experience with different strap types? on 04/13/2011 09:31:39 MDT Print View

I recently tried both the Ohm and Circuit with the S-straps. On me, the straps curve in right below my collar bone and then curve out again below my arm pits.

When they say "designed for women / skinny guys", I think it's mostly about shoulder width, specifically the distance across your chest from arm pit to arm pit (about where the sternum strap would lie.) When I try on most men's packs, the outside edge of the strap rubs against my armpit/inside of my upper arm. The S-curve avoids that.

Anyone with a thicker neck may not find the S-straps as comfortable.

On me, neither pack was resting against the C7 vertabrae; the C7 is above the top of my shoulders and the straps attach to the pack about 1.5 inches below the top of my shoulders.

Mike Knapp
(IdahoMike) - F

Locale: Idaho
Re: ULA packs -- experience with different strap types? on 04/13/2011 18:46:00 MDT Print View

Last night I e-mailed Chris to ask about the straps and if you are unsure I would recommend you do the same. He is very responsive and probably has the most experience with both strap types. This morning when I checked my e-mail, he had already replied. And by the way, I am 5'8" and 145 lbs with a 38" chest and am going to order the S-type straps.

Ben W

Locale: NW Center for Volcano-Aided Flight
J straps fine for me on 04/13/2011 22:00:28 MDT Print View

Brendan, I've got about an inch on you and probably within a couple pounds. I've also had issues with the same kind of needle like pain in that vertebra, with an old Kelty/Mystery Ranch monster (Yeti, actually), with a Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone, and just a tiny bit with an Ohm. I find that it comes up most when I'm carrying more than I want to or when I've done a poor job packing/distributing weight so that there is more force pulling my shoulders *back* (Think of the hips/hipbelt as fixed at the center of a circle and the weight on a radius that wants to swing from 12 o'clock down clockwise...) combined with when hipbelts tend to slide. (I have always had small issues with hipbelts sliding when carrying fuller packs... not enough to grab them on my build I guess!) This leads to a sort of hunched posture.

I just got an Ohm with J straps 2 months ago and used it on a trip in Joshua Tree in early March. They worked fine for me, but I did get a little of the neck needle when carrying 2+ gallons of water at one point. (I was being lazy about letting the hipbelt slide.) With more reasonable weights on the same trip (i.e. depleted water supplies) I had no issue. And for the record I really like the pack. The only weird thing is how far up the frame sticks, but the frame was nice for carrying that water... I've used it frameless since as well -- also great for the winter backcountry day loads I carried.

Edited by bpwood on 04/13/2011 22:04:11 MDT.

Brendan Lammers
(mechB) - F

Locale: Washington DC
Re: J straps fine for me on 04/14/2011 12:08:43 MDT Print View

Thank you all for your advice on this. I'm going to call Chris today and ask him about the different strap types. It seems as though it won't be a big issue either way.

Ben, thanks for your input and your specific experience with the Ohm. Originally, I was looking at getting a Gossamer Gear Gorilla or Mariposa Plus, but I heard people mention the pack has a backwards pull or lean. I'm guessing this is because of the lack of shoulder straps? I definitely notice the same things as you, that the pain is worse the more it pulls backwards on my shoulder and neck, and clearly when the pack weight is heavier. It's definitely reassuring to hear that the Ohm doesn't hurt your neck too much since on paper it is my perfect pack. That said, if any one else has had the same upper vertebrae pain as Ben and I and has found some sort of solution, pack choice or otherwise, then your experiences are definitely welcome here.

Konrad .
(Konrad1013) - MLife
Mariposa on 04/14/2011 22:34:20 MDT Print View

Hi Brendan, the backwards pull on the mariposa is due to it being a deeper (in terms of width, away from your back) pack. The gorilla is a narrower pack, so the load is closer to the body, resulting in a better ride. I am one of the lean guys that could not find the mariposa straps comfortable. As a matter of fact, I just posted my S-strap mod on the MYOG section. For reference, I am 5'9", 140lbs, 37-38" chest, 15" neck. You can see how the s-straps fit my build. Good luck!