Rating: 5 / 5
The Amp is my second pack from Brian Frankle. I’ve waited to post a review until my first outing with the pack this past weekend. The ULA Amp meets my expectations for a smaller volume pack to be used for 1-5 day trips with regular access to water.
My Amp is equipped with the Modular Front Pocket option. In size L it weighs 13.7 oz. on my scale. The volume works well for me with insulated clothing and a couple of days' food. (Listed as 1,600 c.i. for the main body on http://ula-equipment.com).
First impressions on the pack are that it is well crafted. The sewing is all top notch. There are no loose threads or sloppy seams. The Dyneema fabric is a low key gray color.
The instructions included from ULA are clear. The recommended load distribution works well for me.
I can't comment on longer term durability. I plan to update the review here after several months.
Features that I like include:
Dyneema fabric. A lot of my gear has tears and snags from encounters with brush. I expect the Amp's Dyneema to be just as tough as my other ULA pack's fabric.
Simplicity. This pack is a top loading bag with 3 external pockets. There is very little to fail – no zippers or Velcro. As my kit has become simpler and lighter I don't need lots of features.
Side pockets. The bellowed side pockets utilize a cord lock to secure stuff in the pockets. I carried a 1 liter Platy on each side along with snacks, water treatment, map, and a few other ditties. Best of all, I can reach my water bottle while wearing the pack.
Comfort. The Amp has a near perfect fit for me (6' tall, 20.5" torso length). My pack weighed 13.5 pounds at the beginning of the trip. On short 3-5 mile day hikes, I'd become concerned that the shoulder straps wouldn't meet my needs for comfort and load distribution. On the overnight trip things just clicked. The Amp was a delight to carry. I still think that the shoulder straps could be a bit wider but they worked just fine. I used a TorsoLite pad against my back in the pack. After loading my gear I pulled the compression cord tight to give the pack an adequately rigid shape. While the Amp works well for lighter loads, I don't think this pack would be the right choice for desert trips requiring a large water load.
Front pocket. I'm glad that I picked this option for quick, external access to select gear. I especially like to stuff my wet poncho/tarp and groundcloth there. The compression strap does close the top of the pocket when it's cinched tight. Any feature that keeps me from losing more small gear items is a good thing. I carry a few other things in the pocket -- my small first aid/ditty bag, headlamp, TP, fuel, and lunch.
Hip belt. The load distribution worked well with the light load that I carried. My other packs mostly use a more generously padded and wider hip belt. The wings on the Amp’s belt are padded. The belt narrows to a 1" strap across the front.
So far, the ULA Amp is a delight. My kudos to Brian for another solid design with excellent execution.