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ULA Circuit

in Backpacks - Internal Frame

Average Rating
4.56 / 5 (16 reviews)

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Scott Peterson
( scottalanp )

Northern California
ULA Circuit on 07/19/2006 13:39:56 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

The true rating would probably be closer to a 4.5

LIKES (In order of importance to me):
Semi-custom fit. Ordered a small waist and medium torso and have a better fitting pack for my body.

Volume/Pack Weight/Feature Ratio: I know exactly what volume I load and therefore wanted the lowest weight pack with the most features. This delivered 3600 cu. with an internal frame and loads of features for 2 pounds...which was my target pack weight to get to or under.

Fabric: Not certain what brand fabric is used, but it is certainly much more durable than what would be found on comparable packs made by Granite Gear. After 5 days on the trail with bushwacking and granite slides...there is not a blemish on it.

Hip Pockets: Previously I have improvised my own hip pockets on packs. Why most manufacturers do not include these I am not certain. When it comes to lipbalm, energy bars, small cameras, compass, and the like, there is no more accessable area on the pack.


Opening to the large mesh pocket on the back. It only opens maybe 6 to 8 inches from the front of the pack, which makes it difficult to load a pair of crocks...which would fit otherwise...and impossible to load anything if the main body of the pack is already loaded.

Something about the shoulder strap harness is not quite right. At first, Brian had me send it back, claiming that he had accidentally missed sewing a tack, but even after getting it back, the tendency is still for the straps to want to shift off the padding. My suggestion would be to look at a Granite Gear strap system because my hiking partners always seemed to lay very well on his shoulders and chest.

Overall the pack is well engineered, provides lots of features...handled almost 30 pounds with little effort...and was priced reasonably. Something tells me that ULA will be around for quite a while if Brian can figure out how to handle producing these items in competition with Chinese manufacturers...and they probably will get even more refined as years go by.

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Kathleen B
( rosierabbit )

Pacific Northwest
great pack! on 03/06/2007 13:29:17 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

This pack was on backorder, but it came sooner than Brian said it would. I gave it a 2-day test this last weekend on a short backpacking trip in the Cascades. I was pleased that it was as comfortable, if not more so, as the pack I had been using previously that weighed twice as much, probably due in large part to the ingenious, adjustable straps on the hip belt. I liked the deep mesh pockets that easily held my 2L platypus. The front hipbelt pockets are a nice convenience. Plenty of room inside for my winter gear. This will be the one I use on my longer treks. I am now eyeing the Relay pack for my day trips.

Update: I have used this pack constantly for several years now, and my rating of it is still a strong 5. There is still no sign of wear, even though we do a lot of brushy scrambling. The Relay (now out of production) as my day pack gets even more use. They're the only 2 packs I own, because I don't need any others, although that Ohm looks tempting to go a little lighter.

Edited by rosierabbit on 07/13/2009 12:59:25 MDT.

Kevin Sawchuk
( ksawchuk - M )

Northern California
My favorite mid-volume pack on 08/29/2007 12:24:30 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

I really like this pack. It is very light and for the weight durable. I've done some bushwacking with only minor punctures where a sil-nylon pack would be shredded (Cartridge Creek to middle fork of the Kings--6500'-8000' elevation). It holds a Bearkade. I love the integrated waist belt pockets--for me this is a major draw.

The problems are that it seems a bit short in the torso with heavier loads (it compresses more than I'd like), the load lifters don't work as well, and you can't get into the main mesh pocket when the pack is full.

Tom Kirchner
( ouzel )

Pacific Northwest/Sierra
My go-to pack these days on 08/29/2007 18:16:54 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

Pro's: 1) Light; 2) Durable for the weight(like Kevin, I've done some off-trail/bushwhacking(Wanda Lake to Martha Lake via Davis Lakes/N. Goddard Creek) with only minor abrasion on the waist belt pockets; 3) Carries like a dream, at least as far as I have pushed it(30# on training hikes, 28# in the field, including 48 oz H2O in the side pockets); 4) Integrated waist belt pockets-love 'em; 5) Carries a full size bear canister loaded vertically, with no discomfort or stability problems(Ursack with insert in my case).
Cons: 1) Front pocket difficult to access when pack is loaded-maybe extend it with a larger gusset? 2) Same goes for side pockets with larger H2O bottles, but that's no biggie-I just use
2 x 24 oz bottles(Propel bottles work great @ 1.5 oz/ea). If I could, I'd give the Circuit a 4.5. Good argument for a 1 to 10 system, based on other posters oft stated comments in the same vein(i.e. 4.5 = 9, etc)??

Edited by ouzel on 08/29/2007 18:18:04 MDT.

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Adam Weesner
( davefan40 )
Perfect on 03/11/2008 10:58:35 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

After careful consideration I picked up this pack last year for my JMT hike. I bought it because of the innovative features and what I perceived to be the great durability to weight ratio. I was not disappointed.

I had the thing stuffed with a Bearikade, tarptent and cold weather gear. At the heaviest point, I was even approaching 40 lbs. after a 10 day resupply and the pack still was the most comfortable thing I've ever worn. The padding is perfect. the hip belt with the 2 adjustable straps provide a nice custom fit that can easily be adjusted. The pack moved nicely with my body, probably due to the lack of a rigid frame like most internal frame packs. The suspension hoop seems like a great solution. The hip belt pockets, outer mesh pockets and simple closure are all great features.

For my uses, the pack is perfect.

John Frederick Anderson
( fredfoto )

ULA Circuit review on 05/17/2008 01:49:09 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

Circuit review:

I've used the new Circuit for only day hikes so far, with all my 3/4 day gear (weight: ± 9 kg, including 1.5l of water- about 20 lbs) to see how it was, and it has been really comfortable.

I'm not that fit yet, but on the first test hike I really felt I could have walked all day in comfort- all day means for me about 6/7 hours. I'm a photographer so I stop often and wait for conditions to be right for the shot.

I walked 3 hours the second time, through some dry pre Pyrenean hills, and never really felt uncomfortable at all- it was just a bit of fine tuning, and we were away.

I have to add this is only the second pack I have ever owned, and I'm 43.

My last pack, was/ is a 2.6 kg Lowe Alpine 90 liter monster I have had for over 20 years. I used it right up until my last big multi day hike in 2007, which is when I swore I would never carry it again. I was carrying my normal kit- 18 kg of excellent but old style gear.

It has all served me well, and it's still in great shape, but when I found out about ultra light backpacking..... the rest is history.

In fact, all my kit has been replaced, so the Circuit was bought to be part of a system, and it carries everything very well. I've cut my average weight to between a half to a third of what is was for many years of walking.

I had considered the Vapor Trail, Pinnacle, the Jam2, and an Aarn Bodypack, but went with the Circuit and am not disappointed. Brian at ULA is great to deal with.

I use either a cut down Ridge Rest or a Womens ProLite 3 sleeping mat folded as back support depending on the trip, and both work great to support the weight in the pack. I keep my sleeping bag ( Rab Top Bag) loosely compressed in the bottom, clothes bag and the tarp next (Shangri- La 3), and the food bag on top with a liter of water. This load distribution works really well for me. I keep things loose and uncompressed to give the bag volume, rather than compact everything down. With all my kit, I only use the main compartment, about 40 liters of space- if I wanted to carry more, there's plenty of room with the extension and front pockets.

The hip pockets are fantastic for keeping the things you always need handy, like a head lamp, matches, bandana, knife, compass, sun glasses, gloves etc.

I keep .5 liter of water in a Platypus in one side mesh pocket, and balance the pack by filling the side pockets with the water and snacks. I try keep the large mesh pocket on the front empty for wet things, except for a small sit pad I made with the remains of the cut down RidgeRest. The side mesh pockets are really easy to access, tighten and loosen while walking, to get a drink or an apple.

The hip belt sits well on the hips, and has plenty of straps to dial in the most comfortable fit. I found the hip belt more comfortable if I didn't try fill the pockets too much. The pockets are fantastic- I'll never buy a pack again without them- I'm totally converted.

I've never had a pack without a lid before, but I soon got the hang of the roll top. Thankfully there is not too much extension collar to fight to get in the bag. Great design. Better than the Vapor Trial in this respect, which I read has acres of fabric to fight through to get to the inside of the pack.

The construction and stitching are first rate, and the fabric is robust, I did a bit of bush bashing, and it came out unscathed.

I've walked a few more times recently and in the rain too, and the bag just keeps getting better as it loosens up. No water got in, although it started raining so hard I ended up using my poncho.

So far, the only suggestion I'd make to improve the bag would be to swap the gender of the top closure, that way the remaining webbing strap could be stowed in the front pocket- I might do this myself one day, but it's not a big deal. Otherwise, I'm very happy with the Circuit, and can't wait for the weather to get better so I can go on some overnighters up to some glaciers in the Pyrenees.


I ended up selling the pack, as after using for a year, I found I didn't have enough gear volume for the volume of the pack. The gear I had fills my new 35+ liter pack fine, but I found I couldn't compress the Circuit to the same volume to my satisfaction. I see they now have a small size, which I also think would have fitted me better.
Great pack though!!!

Edited by fredfoto on 07/25/2009 09:31:12 MDT.

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Skip Booth
( the1skipper )

Great Pack, strikes the right balance of comfort and weight on 07/12/2009 21:17:29 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

Over the past couple of years I've been striving to drop my base weight by gradually replacing my gear with lighter versions, while at the same time trying to find the right balance of comfort and weight. I had been reluctant to replace my pack as I absolutely loved the comfort of my Osprey Aether 70 and was worried that the lightweight packs wouldn't be as comfortable. Also, finding one that fit my 6'7" frame was also a challenge.

After doing significant research I finally settled on the ULA Circuit. I choose this pack as I wanted something with a built-in frame/back padding for loads up to 25-30 lbs. I also liked the fact that it came standard with hipbelt pockets and was constructed of Dyneema X fabric. At just 36oz this pack seemed like the right balance of comfort, weight and durability.

I've had the pack out on several trips and to this point I've been extremely pleased. The volume is spot on for the type of trips that I typically take. I'm usually out for 2 nights/3 days with a base weight of around 15 lbs. I'm usually carrying 2-3 liters of water and 3-4 lbs of food for a total pack weight of around 22-25lbs. The most I've carried in the pack was around 30lbs. I can honestly say that at these weights this pack is just as comfortable as my Osprey, if not more so. The load transfers extremely well to my hips and I hardly notice the pack on my back. In addition, I've used the pack for day hikes and it does a very good job of compressing down with light loads. In both cases, the pack remains very stable with no weight shift.

The hipbelt is probably my favorite part of the pack. The padding is super plush and the hipbelt pockets are perfect for carrying my camera and loads of snacks for easy access on the trail. The 4-way pull adjustment on the belt cinches up tight and I like having the ability to take a pressure off the top or bottom of the belt to change up the weight distribution.

I absolutely love the mesh pockets on this pack. The side mesh pockets are huge and the elastic drawstring keeps items snug in their place. I don't wind up using the large front mesh pocket very often as I like to keep my gear inside the main body of the pack. That being said, the front pocket has worked well for storing my platypus water bottle for easy access. I also wind up using the shock cord to lash my Crocs onto the pack.

After each trip I inspect the pack to see if there's any wear starting to show. So far so good! The folks at ULA really seem to take pride in the craftsmanship of their product.

The only thing I'd change is to have the entire pack made out of Dyneema X fabric. The 2009 model that I have uses Ripstop Nylon in the front panel and Dyneema X everywhere else. I haven't seen any wear on the Nylon fabric to this point, but it would more reassuring if the whole pack was made out of Dyneema X.

I'd highly recommend this pack to anyone looking to retain the durability and comfort of their more traditional internal frame packs, while wanting to save 2-3 lbs off their base weight!

Edited by the1skipper on 07/12/2009 21:26:03 MDT.

Price comparison from GearBuyer: Osprey Aether 70 - Men's priced at: $202.95 - $279.99
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Joe Clement
( skinewmexico )

Perfect for me on 09/07/2009 20:50:22 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

Switched to this for more durability, and the ability to carry more water in the desert. Works like a champ, and you couldn't ask for better customer service.

Jonathan DeYoung
( jdeyoung81 )

New England
Great Fit and Comfortable on 09/14/2009 12:53:15 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

This was my first UL pack and is still my "go to" pack for anything over 1 night. I completed a trip this past spring with it where I covered 50 miles in 2 days and ran into an issue with the carbon loop for the frame in it. It kept popping out of its stay in the pack and punched through the bottom of the pack into my butt. I simply removed the frame and put it in upside down in the pocket in the front of the pack and used my blow up pad as the frame. for this reason alone I am giving it a 4/5. I will now use this as a frameless pack!

Nick Truax
( nicktruax )

SW Montana
nice one ULA on 09/18/2009 22:02:40 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

Pretty much amazing. I've carried this pack through multiple states and its a champion.

A bit heavier than some other ul packs but carries like a champ from 15 to 25ish lbs. Volume may be a bit lrg for some so check your specs prior, as mr F has smaller packs that are equally amazing.

ULA- thank you for your integrity and quality.

Edited by nicktruax on 07/19/2010 22:43:49 MDT.

Jonathan Ryan
( Jkrew81 - M )

White Mtns
Best Overall Trekking Pack on 03/25/2010 12:15:20 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

I purchased this pack alittle over a year ago and simply put, this may be one of the best overall trekking packs for hikers with a well dialed kit. While it is alittle much for a weekend trip it is great when heading out with bulky insulation, bear canister or heavy water/food loads. No nitpicks from my end!

- Amazing hipbelt
- Easily reachable on-trail storage options
- Flexible suspension hoop that actually moves with you
- Single frame stay great for heavier loads
- Craftsmanship!

- rolltop extension collar is alittle weird when the pack is full

Edited by Jkrew81 on 07/13/2010 05:54:35 MDT.

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William Johnson
( Steamboat_Willie )
My first UL Backpack on 06/17/2010 22:49:45 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

How does a newly turned ultralighter justify a perfect rating for his UL backpack and not make it sound like I am making myself feel good about it? I will try to explain myself to those who are considering the ULA Circuit as their first UL pack, rather than to those more veteran lightweighters. :)

I was looking around for a one-pound pack, but had two obstacles to overcome. One was that not all my gear was yet ultralight so it was heavy, and voluminous. The second was that as I live in CA, and love to go to Yosemite, and it's adjacent parks, I am required to use a bear canister. I like to hike with all my gear tucked inside my pack, rather than lashed to the outside of it. This meant I needed a larger volume pack and that upped the weight of the unit.

I spent a long time looking at ULA, Six Moon Designs, Mountain Laurel Designs, and even a little Osprey. All great packs, and I'll not explain why I ended up choosing ULA, I believe you will be happy with those other choices as well.

What I will do is tell you I am very happy with my ULA, and for reasons many have listed in their own reviews above. I was going to rate the pack at a 4 out of 5 because currently, when ordering a pack from ULA, it comes fully optioned out. Being a committed UL convert I was prepared to snip and rip at what wasn't needed on the pack, and was slightly miffed I had to buy all the options to begin with.

The reason I bumped it up to 5 out of 5 is that everything I removed from my Circuit (water bladder, inner zip pocket, external water bottle holders, etc) all came off without the need for scissors. I can put it all back on later if my needs, and trip requires it. That is handy, and within the UL philosophy!

Great quality, great speedy service (likely thanks to the halt on endless customizations) and a great new pack. Thanks ULA, and the BPL community.

edited for: misspelling MLD, sorry guys!

Addendum: Feburary 12th, 2011: Been using this pack for weeklong trips in the spring, fall and winter. It has held up nicely and been very forgiving to a new Ultralight user (myself) who is never quite sure how best to pack, or load.

It has also proven easy to clean. :)

Edited by Steamboat_Willie on 02/12/2011 15:41:00 MST.

Seth Brewer
( Whistler )

Comfy at 35 lbs. Durable, Easy to adjust and pack, well thought out! on 03/03/2012 10:59:45 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

Used this pack as my Winter pack for a 3 day snowshoe trip in VT. Full 35lbs of gear (never winter camped at -18 before) and found the pack to be more than sufficient for the task. Excellent load transfer, wonderfully large hip pockets to store snacks and gloves, large side pockets can hold two liter bottles each. A great bag at a competitive price. Saw more of these packs on my A.T thru-hike than probably any other single UL style pack.

Seth Brewer
( Whistler )

Comfy at 35 lbs. Durable, Easy to adjust and pack, well thought out! on 03/03/2012 11:28:54 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

Used this pack as my Winter pack for a 3 day snowshoe trip in VT. Full 35lbs of gear (never winter camped at -18 before) and found the pack to be more than sufficient for the task. Excellent load transfer, wonderfully large hip pockets to store snacks and gloves, large side pockets can hold two liter bottles each. A great bag at a competitive price. Saw more of these packs on my A.T thru-hike than probably any other single UL style pack.

mik matra
( mikmik - M )

Allways on the move
okay pack but it leaves a wish list on 08/19/2013 06:47:25 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 3 / 5

1. After a few trips I have come to the conclusion that I plainly and simply just don't like the rolltop closure. When the bag is very full it won't even close up properly as there is not enough material to 'roll up'. I am going to sow a zipper in there myself.
2.It may be just adjustment (I haven't had time to tinker that much to get a definite) but I find the side pockets which is where I carry my 1.5L plastic drinking bottles too high and difficult to reach around to pull my water bottles out of.
3.It feels like carrying a board on your back especially when the bag is full and tends to curve to accentuate this issue. The flat back also doesn't allow your back to air and I end up having a wet back from sweat more often than not.
4.Straps a too long (unnecessarily so) but the one that baffles me is the single strap that goes from the handloop where you pick the bag up off the ground with, over the top and clips onto the pack just above the mesh pocket. This strap seems 4 times longer needs to be.
5.My mate got the Osprey pack. Now for a comparative price and weight the Osprey pack has far more features that I find impressive. I think that is a better pack.

Edited by mikmik on 06/23/2015 13:33:02 MDT.

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Justin Anderson
( Justinhb )

Mozzie Bait
Great pack, almost perfect on 09/10/2014 23:52:39 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

This pack is awesome, light, and properly tuned, it's very comfortable. Hand sewn in UTAH.

My favorite feature is the big mesh back pocket that fits all of my small items and a rain shell with ease. Everything is visible which is why I like the design so much. You could fit a solo shelter in there if it was wet. There is a crisscross bungee over the pocket that is good to lash a fishing pole to, wet socks, rain layer, trekking poles etc. It also has velcro trekking pole loops.

The side pockets are big enough to hold 4 smart water 1 liter bottles, (2 in each pocket) with space for some small items. Not easy to get to, but I still get them in and out without taking my pack off. Technique is key. lol

The hipbelt pockets are huge!!! I carry an iphone, camera, headlamp, compass, lighter, cliffbar or two, and small snacks in them. Very well thought out since these are the most accessible pockets on the pack.

I've used the bungees on the shoulder straps to hold water bottles and a gopro. Counterbalance somewhat.

The only thing I would change would be one or two more mesh pockets located on the sides like the Mariposa. Just for easy packing and access of rain layers or a down jacket etc. Quick grab style to flow with the elements. I will probably have some sewn and attached to create the Ultimate Circuit.

One thing to note. With a 35lb load and a BV500 canister inside, it put too much pressure on the aluminum stay. It in turn rubbed against my lower back causing a blister. I realized the problem two days later and removed the stay completely. It now felt Cadillac comfortable and with the canister inside, it still retained the structural integrity for the suspension to perform as designed.

Overall it's my favorite pack to date after 10 top brand packs.

Edited by Justinhb on 09/11/2014 00:09:52 MDT.

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