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Brandon Vidrine
ULA Pack on 08/24/2013 16:25:13 MDT Print View

I'm trying to decide between a ULA catalyst vs circuit.

Any owners have recommendations here?

I want a load hauler but I am concerned about the weight of the catalyst vs circuit.


greg c
(spindrifter) - F
Catalyst on 08/24/2013 18:33:19 MDT Print View

Hi Brandon,

I can't speak to the Circuit's ability as a load hauler, but I can tell you the Catalyst has performed admirably in mountaineering and snow camping situations. As you know, it's more difficult to go lightweight in those conditions, and given the 2lb. 12 oz. base weight of the Catalyst I was impressed with the comfort of the carry. On a recent climbing trip up Mt. Baker I drew the short straw and had to carry the rope. This was an additional 9 lbs. yet it felt just as stable and comfortable as my trusty Dana Design Terraplane. I opted for a bit more weight by buying the Catalyst with the understanding that it would see both lightweight summer duty and more rigorous winter and mountaineering use. I couldn't be happier with my choice.


Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
ULA side pockets on 08/24/2013 18:49:26 MDT Print View

If'n I owned an ULA Catalyst pack the very first thing I'd do is cut off the side "pockets", actually pouches (or order it without them).

The second thing I'd do is attatch two Granite Gear TRUE side pockets for things I need to get to fast without digging through the main bag.

Otherwise it looks like a nice pack, almost as nice as an Osprey EXOS 58. :o)

Edited by Danepacker on 08/24/2013 18:50:36 MDT.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: ULA side pockets on 08/24/2013 18:59:18 MDT Print View

So helpful Eric.

ULA will put on Ohm side pockets if you wish. One of the best parts of my Ohm. I was not a big fan of the side pockets on the Circuit. Too easy to dump stuff out of them.

I had a Circuit. Good up to 30 pounds for me. Would you ever be carrying a bear canister? If so I would go with the Catalyst unless the rest of your kit is fairly compact;

greg c
(spindrifter) - F
Side Pockets on 08/24/2013 19:32:14 MDT Print View

Last thing I would do is cut off side pockets. They have a cinch closure and are great for carrying essentials ready at hand. Those pockets are one of my favorite features and are secure.

ULA on 08/24/2013 20:09:16 MDT Print View

Ive owned 3 circuits. Still have 2.

What kind of load are you wanting to haul?

The niche it fills is a ~ 2-2.5 lb pack (strip the doo-dads off and med/small belt weighs 34oz)that comfortably carries 25-35 lbs. Largely due to the belt. It can carry up to 40 or so if needed for short durations. I dont think there is another pack in this range that is as comfortable, durable, sturdy, easy to use, and has the carry ability. It is as close to a perfect pack for long thru hikes as one pack can be. Thats not unusual, it was designed by a thru hiker, for exactly that.

IMO it is best in the sub 30 lb range, as are all light weight packs. If I carried 30+ most of the time, I would probably opt for a beefier pack. Bending the al stay to match your back best is critical to getting the most out of the pack.

The side pockets are really water bottle pockets. They are one of the reasons I worship these packs. Thats their design use. However tents, poles, and large objects can be carried in them fine. I often stick my hiking poles in them behind my water bottles and secure them with the velcro straps . There is a big gap at the front bottom where the shoulder strap goes thru the pocket, so ixnay on the little items, they will fall out. I can reach behind me, and remove a water bottle, and replace it while hiking. Quite a few people are not flexible enough to do that.

Many packs with pockets rimmed with elastic dont allow easy re-insertion of water bottles. I can do it on my Ohm too. When I hike with someone else with different packs, Im often having to remove their water bottles and replace them for them. I really get tired of that, they should just get a pack thats properly designed, or get a bladder. However I have had to do that for other hikers with circuits too, they just werent flexible or something.

Much of the time my Circuit is too big except very cold conditions. Id say its best in the 8-12 lb base range. I use my Ohm most of the time when I have a 5.5-7 lb base, and it really too big for that even with a weeks food.

For me, a huge load is 30 lbs. I used a circuit at philmont this summer and hit mid 30s once with 6L water. Rest of my gear is compact and light so I never had any volume issues.

I will be using Circuits on the JMT next summer. If there was a better pack to replace them with, I would have. I did consider a cuben circuit a few months back but havent pulled the trigger on that yet. Ive also considered the arc blast, but there are a few things that bother me about it still.

Edited by livingontheroad on 08/24/2013 20:27:24 MDT.

Brandon Vidrine
Pack on 08/24/2013 20:54:59 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the feedback. My gear is ultra compact and I rarely carry a can. I'm thinking I'm leaving more towards the circuit. I currently use a gossamer gear gorilla or MLD exodus and generally carry all of my stuff and my wife's stuff in the exodus fairly well.


Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Hmmm.. bear canister room on 08/24/2013 21:06:40 MDT Print View


Good point, I haven't tried a bear canister in the new EXOS 58.
I have a Garcia canister so I'll take it to REI and try it in teh EXOS 58.
The Catalyst loooks like it may be sturdier than the EXOS 58, meaning a longer life.

As for drawstrings on the side pouches, that just doesn't make them weather resistant enough for me, or able to take skis behind them. I use a hydration bladder so don't want waterbottles On my pack. My front-carried Wet Rib has a bike bottle pouch where I can reach it easily.

And no, I wasn't trying to be helpful to the OP in my 1st post, just opining on the pack itself from my own past experiences with packs.

P.S. Greg, I also have a Dana Terraplane and at 7 1/2 lbs its a heavy puppy, if comfortable.

Edited by Danepacker on 08/24/2013 21:09:19 MDT.

Kyle Meyer

Locale: Portland, OR
Re: ULA on 08/25/2013 10:38:06 MDT Print View

I carried a cuben / nylon hybrid Circuit on the JMT this year and it performed admirably. It was up to 38 pounds at MTR (I had quite a bit of camera equipment) and while the weight sucked for a couple of days, the backpack handled it well. If I had to fault the backpack at all, it's that I wish the extension collar was just a few inches longer so that I could get a good waterproof seal at the top even when it's over-stuffed.

ULA packs are some of the most comfortable to live out of—can't really go wrong.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
try on 08/25/2013 10:49:13 MDT Print View

have you tried either of em on?

get the one that fits the best ... just because it fits a BPLer doesnt mean it will fit YOU


Stephen Murphy
(sjtm) - F
Re: Pack on 08/25/2013 13:46:25 MDT Print View

Did you consider the GG Mariposa? If so, why did it not meet your needs?

Brandon Vidrine
Marioosa on 08/25/2013 13:52:05 MDT Print View

I have the GG Gorrila and Murmur.

I'm not opposed to the mariposa but concerned about the quality control and construction of GG packs vs other cottage manufacturers and would prefer to go with ULA to see how their packs are built.

Edited by bvidrine82 on 08/25/2013 13:53:11 MDT.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
re: ULA Pack on 08/25/2013 14:20:50 MDT Print View

I've owned and carried both the Circuit and the Catalyst.

If you want a load hauler, I would suggest the Catalyst is the better pack for you. Heavier loads require more structure to support the load, which the two aluminum struts of the Catalyst give you. The weight difference between the Catalyst and the Circuit isn't that much, but the Catalyst carries weight better than the Circuit, in my experience (around 35 lbs, carrying extra gear with an annual church boy's hike).