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ULA Catalyst vs. ???? for a solo JMT thru hike
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Lance Cunningham
(Lancelot2u) - F

Locale: So. Cal.
ULA Catalyst vs. ???? for a solo JMT thru hike on 04/03/2014 22:51:20 MDT Print View

Hi All,

So I was on here when I was looking for a GG Nimbus Core, not too much feedback on that one. I went to a store here in San Diego that actually had a ULA Catalyst in that I could try on. I really liked it. Loaded it with 34#, just some ropes, like it was a sack of potatoes. The folks there were knowledgeable and very nice, the pack felt really good when they were finished too. I was impressed. It also swallowed up the Bearikade Expedition like it was a sleeping bag with room to spare on both sides and on top. Then he said with the roll top rolled up, clipped down, the bag was waterproof. Huh?

So, what do you all think about using the Catalyst on a JMT thru hike? Do I need something that big? The bag weighs 3 pounds too, sounds heavy compared to others, but it seemed comfortable to me, like I could wear it for days and days! Made in the USA, supporting a small shop, and I can buy it now and take it on the GGG trip to start shaking out my pack.

What do you think? Anything better, or just go for it?

Lance

greg c
(spindrifter) - F
Love My Catalyst on 04/03/2014 23:17:06 MDT Print View

Hi Lance,

I know there are any number of packs that could satisfy your objective and I'm sure you will see all sorts of suggestions. That being said, I have a Catalyst and have used it the last 3 years for mountaineering, snow camping, and multi-night/overnight summer/fall trips. It is a large pack but also does very well with smaller loads. The quality is top notch and at least for me, load carrying is plush. Mine weighs 2 lb. 12 oz., and considering this relatively light weight, it has a range of applications that not too many packs can boast.

I've been quite pleased with mine in a variety of situations and really have no negative comments other than the roll top closure; sometimes when the pack is really full it's difficult to close the top fully. This is a fairly minor issue and the numerous other advantages of the pack far outweigh any quibbles.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
First rule of packs, fit, fit and FIT on 04/03/2014 23:20:59 MDT Print View

I've tried lots of packs and found getting a perfect fit is tricky. If it fits then that is a strong argument in its favor. That said I'd be tempted to try out the new packs by Six Moons first. Its similar but very likely a more updated design and lighter. If its not a 100% good fit or you don't have time to adequately try it out get the Circuit.

Charles P
(mediauras)

Locale: Terra
Re: ULA Catalyst vs. ???? for a solo JMT thru hike on 04/03/2014 23:23:25 MDT Print View

I have the ULA Circuit (a bit smaller than catalyst) and totally love it. Super comfy. I would say that if you like the Catalyst, find it comfortable, and it holds your gear well then go for it. Like you said, lots of benefits. Maybe it pack it up with your stuff and see how it is. If its too big scale down to the Circuit.

Lance Cunningham
(Lancelot2u) - F

Locale: So. Cal.
S Straps or J Straps???? Is the ULA Circuit just smaller? on 04/03/2014 23:41:24 MDT Print View

You guys are convincing me... :-) BTW, Pack weight will be 34 pounds as I head up Whitney.

Ok, so standard J straps or S straps? I am 6'0, 190 pounds, 44" chest. Kind of have broad shoulders from swimming on and off most of my life. Average build, just a bit bigger around the top back and shoulders. The straps are not interchangeable are they?

Does the circuit have the same suspension? If so, what is the difference? Just a smaller size?

Edited by Lancelot2u on 04/03/2014 23:49:23 MDT.

Shawn Peterson
(afterdarkphoto)

Locale: Nor Cal
Catalyst on 04/03/2014 23:51:55 MDT Print View

I had a catalyst and it was a good pack. I'd stick with the standard straps if I were to buy it again. For your gear list and your fishing gear/camera gear you mentioned, I'd stick with the Catalyst. You'll be happy with it and like you said, it swallows up the expedition.

Sounds like you found your pack....now go get it dirty!

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: ULA Catalyst vs. ???? for a solo JMT thru hike on 04/03/2014 23:54:22 MDT Print View

You might want to start by estimating your total load for the trip. How many pounds, or how many cubic inches of volume? Only then can you start thinking about the other stuff.

--B.G.--

Glenn S
(Glenn64) - M

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Re: ULA Catalyst vs. ???? for a solo JMT thru hike on 04/03/2014 23:55:12 MDT Print View

Ok, well it's going to repel a lot more water with a roll top than a draw cord, but it's not waterPROOF... But they are sewn in Utah, even if they don't have that cool "Sewn in my garage" tag anymore lol

I thought my Circuit was huge, I can't imagine how massive a Catalyst must be, and I mean that in a good way. I don't thru hike (yet) and I don't carry a bear can, so I'm actually in the process of downsizing. Since I'm really just a weekender still, I'm working a Murmur right now, and with a 7#-ish BPW, it's light as a feather, but I gotta admit, it just doesn't reach around and snuggle you with love like a ULA does. Something about a ULA that just feels cozy, you felt it, you know it... You'll miss it. I say go for it. Just don't over pack it. It's easy to do!

PS: Everybody keeps plugging the new SMD packs. I have to ask, where are they made? My Gatewood Cape came with a Made-in-China tag sewn on to it...

Late to the game: S straps were designed for women and their womenly features... And for guys with a more slender physique, if I recall the description properly. (Guess I had that backwards for the guys, keep reading...)

Edited by Glenn64 on 04/04/2014 22:43:47 MDT.

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: S Straps or J Straps???? Is the ULA Circuit just smaller? on 04/04/2014 00:03:56 MDT Print View

I really love my Ohm but found that I didn't come close to using its full capacity when I'm solo so have recently picked up a smaller pack. I realize that the Ohm isn't bear canister friendly (while some people have done it) or necessarily appropriate for what you're looking to do but you may want to really analyze how much bulk you'll be carrying and see if you can get by with a Circuit. If you're carrying 34 lbs then I presume you're carrying a traditional tent and other bulky items so I guess the Catalyst may be the right way to go. If it happens to be too big, there's a market here at BPL and you shouldn't take too big of a hit if you need to switch out later.

Good luck with your search.

M G
(drown) - F - MLife

Locale: Shenandoah
Re: ULA Catalyst vs. ???? for a solo JMT thru hike on 04/04/2014 06:19:26 MDT Print View

My first JMT trip was solo in late Sept. /Oct. 2009. I had a catalyst. Loved how it carried my bearikade. It's a good choice for shoulder season or winter loads or climbing/camera/fishing gear + bear can. Original J straps on mine worked well.

Edited by drown on 04/04/2014 08:01:16 MDT.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: S Straps or J Straps???? Is the ULA Circuit just smaller? on 04/04/2014 07:24:19 MDT Print View

"Late to the game: S straps were designed for women and their womenly features... And for guys with a more slender physique, if I recall the description"

Close. For woman test is bad right description. For men, the S straps are good if you have wide shoulders and a big chest. Think athletic.

daniel B
(dbogey)

Locale: East Coast
vs. ???? Go for the ULA Circuit on 04/04/2014 07:51:15 MDT Print View

I really enjoyed the Circuit on the Sierra High Route. I put my bearikade weekender outside and on top of the pack. made it so much easier when it was time to eat and it makes a nice seat.

Here's a shot before descending to Marion Lake with it on top of the pack

Edited by dbogey on 04/04/2014 07:51:59 MDT.

Travis Bernard
(DispatchesfromtheNorth) - F - M

Locale: Lake Laberge
ULA Catalyst on 04/04/2014 07:58:37 MDT Print View

I picked a Catalyst for myself and a Circuit for my girlfriend in December. Love both of them so far. Yes, the catalyst is pretty big for shorter trips, but like others have said it still packs down well with smaller loads.

If you have no interest in owning a closet full of different backpacks, I'd say you can't go wrong with the catalyst. It's already become my favourite backpack.

My girlfriend finds the s-straps very comfortable, and she has always struggled to find comfortable shoulder straps on backpacks. Me on the other hand? I have the regular j-straps and I'm 6', 180lbs. Tried hers on with the s-straps and it certainly wouldn't work for me.

Cheers.

Michael Gunderloy
(ffmike) - MLife
Re: ULA Catalyst on 04/04/2014 08:38:34 MDT Print View

At 5'8" and 135 pounds, I'm happy with a medium Catalyst with the S-straps. Not that I've tried to J-straps to compare...

greg c
(spindrifter) - F
Catalyst on 04/04/2014 09:12:57 MDT Print View

Let's remember that the main pack body is only 2600 cubic inches. The variety of pockets add the remaining 2000. Given the roll top closure, not all of that 2600 is usable in the upper portion of the pack. I don't consider it as cavernous a pack as some allude.

Todd Taylor
(texasbb) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: ULA Catalyst vs. ???? for a solo JMT thru hike on 04/04/2014 09:13:15 MDT Print View

I've used a Catalyst for five seasons and love it. If I were looking for a new pack, I might just get another Catalyst without even looking around at the alternatives.

For a 34-lb load, it's probably the perfect pack, structurally. It's great for those of us who like bottles as opposed to bladders--the bottle pockets are enormous and reasonably easy to reach with the pack on. I love the little shoulder strap bungees for holding a small bottle up where it's easy to grab. I really like the enormous front mesh pocket. It holds virtually everything I need ready access to during the day, my tent (so I can set it up without having to unload the pack in the rain), and any wet clothes I need to air out during the day.

But don't believe any of the waterproof mumbo jumbo; it may repel a few drops that wouldn't matter anyway, but rain is going to soak through.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Straps on 04/04/2014 09:39:28 MDT Print View

"My girlfriend finds the s-straps very comfortable, and she has always struggled to find comfortable shoulder straps on backpacks. Me on the other hand? I have the regular j-straps and I'm 6', 180lbs. Tried hers on with the s-straps and it certainly wouldn't work for me."

Definitely a personal preference. Your size indicates a general average.

However, according to ULA:

"The J straps are the traditional straps, and work best on men with average builds and women who are heavier.

The S straps work best on most women and men with square shoulders and good posture, also big men with very thick shoulders."

Again, if you are a larger, more athletic type with wide shoulders and a muscular chest, the S straps are the way to go.

Lance Cunningham
(Lancelot2u) - F

Locale: So. Cal.
Done! ULA Catalyst, S-straps on 04/04/2014 12:12:07 MDT Print View

Hi All,

Thank you for your input! I am going with the Catalyst, while a large pack, it will fit the Bearikade Expedition for a through hike with NO problem. With 16 pounds of food (12 days), 4 pounds of water, it puts me at 34 to 35 pounds for the first few days hiking. As I eat through my food, the pack should become even more comfortable as time goes on. If it packs down well, I should be fine and have plenty of space to work with.

While I am pretty sure I could get away with the Circuit, I don't think I want that big of a can loaded down with food strapped to the top of my pack, nor do I want to pack food into my backpack and put an empty can on top. Just see it being unwieldy and tossing food around inside the can or getting smashed in the pack. Not to mention smells, bears, and going solo. I am kind of conservative when it comes to bears, and funny enough, I have never had a problem... food stays in the can.

S-Straps, they are going to order in for me. The J strap kind of dug into my left pec / rib cage at one point. It was the second pack with the J straps that I tried on that felt that way, the first one actually hurt. The other was another brand, not ULA, but I think it may be due to swimming and my back and lats pulling on the pack somehow. To show up on the left side within 5 minutes I am not sure is a coincidence. Called ULA, when I said I swim, customer service rep stopped me in my tracks and said that's all he needs to know, S-straps. He was a swimmer and cross country skiier. He said men with square shoulders, not sloped shoulders, should use S-straps.

There we have it! If you live in the San Diego Area, Nomad Ventures in Escondido has a few of the packs in stock. You can actually try them on, switch out belts, have someone help you that has experience carrying the pack, etc. They were very knowledgeable and helped get the pack of ropes set up comfortably in just a couple of minutes. Definitely worth the drive no matter where you live. I chose ULA ultimately, because I tried it on, felt the pack distribute the load, was able to move the belt up and down on the pack, and had assistance of a gal whose boyfriend loves the pack. She knew exactly what to look for, how to cinch it down, square the load, etc.

:-) THANK YOU!!!!

Rian Heffernan
(elheffe3) - F - M

Locale: Southern California
Re: ULA Catalyst vs. ???? for a solo JMT thru hike on 11/11/2014 16:20:41 MST Print View

Hey Lance,
I'm also in San Diego and would love to try on the Catalyst and hopefully a Circit as well. What shop did you find the Catalyst at here in San Diego?

Thanks so much.

Jeff Jeff
(TwoFortyJeff) - F
Re: ULA Catalyst vs. ???? for a solo JMT thru hike on 11/11/2014 17:30:46 MST Print View

I carried a Catalyst on the JMT and PCT. It's a fine pack for when you need a bear can or lots of water. I don't think 3 lbs is heavy at all.