ULA P-2 Review

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by Jay Ham | 2004-08-24 03:00:00-06

Overview

field photo
Photo 1: ULA P-2, shown with the optional top hood pocket.

At 2 pounds 15.2 oz (1,338 g) without options, ULA's P-2 is one of the lightest, large volume internal frame packs on the market. ULA was able to achieve these weight savings without sacrificing features and comfort. The basic pack has a total of five exterior pockets, an ice axe loop, and other gear attachment options. The P-2 is offered in four sizes (with five sizes for the hipbelt). We also enjoyed ULA's exceptional customer service and support. Included with the P-2 is a detailed description of the pack's abilities, how to adjust the various components, and how to install and remove accessories. The information provided goes beyond the market standard, providing even the novice backpacker the tools necessary to achieve pack adjustment nirvana. At 4,900 cubic inches (80 L) for the base pack, many ultralight travelers will find this large volume pack too cavernous for their backpacking pursuits.

Specifications

• Backpack Style

Internal frame, top-loading backpack with roll-top closure standard. A top hood pocket can be purchased as an option.

• Fabric Description

210d, 4.5 oz/yd2 (153 g/m2) Dyneema Gridstop and 1.9 oz/yd2 (64 g/m2) urethane coated ripstop nylon.

• Sizes (Size M tested)

SizesTorso Length (in)Torso Length (cm)
S15-1738-43
M18-2046-51
L21-2353-58
XL23+58+

• Hipbelt sizing (belt size M tested)

SizesWaist Circumference (in)Waist Circumference (cm)
XS26-2966-74
S30-3376-84
M34-3786-94
L38-4196-104
XL42+106+

• Volume (Size M tested)

SizesVolume (ci)Volume (L)
S3,80062
M4,90080
L4,90080
XL5,10084

• Weight (Size M tested)

ComponentBackpacking Light Measured oz (g)Manufacturer Specification oz (g)
Base pack47.2 (1,338) 47 (1,332)
Pack with all options56.3 (1,596)56.1 (1,590)
Top Lid4.2 (119)same
Internal Pocket1.1 (31)same
Hydration Sleeve1.4 (40)same
H2O Holsters (each)0.4 (11)same
Hand Loops (each)0.8 (22)same
Embroidered NameNot measured0.0

• Volume to Weight Ratio

104 ci/oz size M (based on 4,900 ci, size M, and Backpacking Light measured weight of 47.2 oz)

• Load Carrying Capacity

35 - 40 lbs (16 - 18 kg) as claimed by ULA and confirmed by Backpacking Light

• Carry Load to Pack Weight Performance Ratio

12 (based on 35 lbs and Backpacking Light measured weight of 47.2 oz)

• MSRP

Basic pack - $210
Top Lid - $22
Internal Pocket - $5
Hydration Sleeve - $5
H2O Holsters (each) - $2
Hand Loops (each) - $2
Embroidered Name - $10

• Manufacturer's Contact Information

Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA)
(435) 753-5191
http://ula-equipment.com

Features

Ratings follow subtitles on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best, and are relative to other Backpacking Light tested framed packs.

Frame and Suspension - 4.0

back and shoulders
Photo 2: The shoulder straps on ULA's P-2 connect to the bottom of the pack rather than along the back panel. Shown here, only the back half of the triangular fabric is supporting weight. Since the seam is 5 inches (13 cm) long, there is not much concern of seam failure; however, the angle of the triangular fabric as it connects to the bottom of the pack could be improved.

ULA designed the P-2 to handle 35 to 40 pound (16 - 18 kg) loads, both in volume and in weight, in relative comfort. We found the internal frame and suspension were well designed to handle this task. The P-2 has a single removable aluminum stay running the full length of the back panel. The stay fits into a long webbing sleeve sewn into a closed cell foam pad. This closed cell foam, combined with a piece of open cell foam, makes up the dual density padding for the P-2's back panel. The stay itself is fairly easy to remove for reshaping. However, the tight fitting padding is not, which prevents its use as a sitting pad in camp. The back panel is covered with mesh and moves perspiration efficiently, however there are no channels or grooves in the back panel for air circulation.

The P-2 comes loaded with shoulder straps, padded hipbelt, sternum strap, hipbelt stabilizers, and shoulder strap load lifters. The shoulder straps are contour cut and do a reasonable job of following body contours. However, we found the shoulder strap padding too long, extending beyond what is needed to pad the shoulders. The lower webbing ends of the shoulder straps are attached to the bottom of the pack, rather than to the lower sides and are reinforced by a large delta wing. In theory, this attachment should distribute the weight of a fully loaded pack better to the shoulder strap connection. In our testing, it appears the angle used to connect the triangular piece to the bottom of the pack is slightly too steep causing most of the load to fall on the rear of the triangle connection (Photo 2). However, we do not perceive any problems arising from this since the fabric triangle is much larger than necessary and maintains a significant amount of load distribution so it is unlikely a seam failure will occur. We did not experience any problems with this junction during our testing which included carrying weights up to 50 pounds (23 kg).

The hipbelt is adequately padded and removable. It attaches to the pack with Velcro behind the padded back panel. Torso length adjustment is made by moving the hipbelt vertically along its Velcro attachment behind the lower back panel. We found the hipbelt fit was exceptional due to ULA offering five sizes of hipbelts.

Both the hipbelt and shoulder straps have stabilizers that effectively compress the load into the user's lumbar and transfer weight to the hipbelt, respectively. The point where the shoulder strap's stabilizers attach to the top of the shoulder straps is adjustable. The shoulder strap stabilizers can also be removed altogether. The hipbelt stabilizers are not removable.

Usable Features and Ease of Use - 4.0

fanny pack
Photo 3: The optional top pocket for the ULA P-2 can attach to the padded removable hipbelt to form a functional fanny pack.

ULA's P-2 was designed with versatility in mind. A total of five pockets (six including the optional top pocket) provide storage for often needed items. The P-2 has a single large pocket on the back that is large enough to dry a small tent fly. Two side pockets, measuring 9 inches wide by 14 inches high (23 x 39 cm), cover both lower side panels. Each side pocket can hold a 2-liter water bottle, but the bottles are not accessible while wearing the pack. The P-2 has two camera-sized pockets, one on each side of the padded hipbelt where small, trail accessible items can be carried. The P-2 also has two shingled water bladder tube ports that allow water to be carried in a hydration bladder within the pack.

The P-2 comes standard with a roll top closure. A top pocket can be added as an option. The top pocket is not a permanent alteration and can be removed easily without leaving behind a multitude of extraneous webbing straps or buckles. As a bonus, it is designed to attach to the P-2's removable padded hipbelt to create a small lumbar pack (including the two hipbelt pockets) suitable for day trips from camp (Photo 3). The top pocket is too small to haul enough gear for a serious summit attempt or enough water for desert water runs. Nevertheless, we find the top pocket very handy when base camping and appreciate the lack of excess hardware when it is removed.

An optional bladder pocket can be purchased that attaches to the inside back panel with plastic quick clips. ULA offers water bottle holsters attached to the shoulder straps as another accessible water carrying option.Another mesh zippered pocket can be added to the inside of the pack for smaller items. Like the hydration pocket, this pocket attaches with removable plastic clips.

Two other options are available for the P-2. For those who don't travel with trekking poles, two hand loops can be seamlessly added to the shoulder straps to provide a location to rest one's arms. On the occasions we were without trekking poles, we found these additions comfortable, but wouldn't have missed them either. The final option is to have your name or trail name embroidered on the pack. This option was not selected; however the examples from ULA's web site are attractive.

A shock cord covers the large back pocket and adds compression and additional storage. Other exterior attachment options include two straps that run across the bottom and lower back of the pack - ideal for stowing a sleeping pad should the 4,900 cubic inch (80 L) pack volume be exceeded. These are attached at their upper ends with side release buckles and include enough webbing to secure fairly large items. The P-2 also includes a single ice axe loop on its right side with a Velcro attachment above that on the back panel to secure the ice axe handle. Other long items can be stashed into the two side panel pockets, with their ends secured under the upper-side panel compression straps. These straps do not have side release buckles for attachment. Instead they adjust with ladder locks which require that longer items be fished through the straps rather than simply buckling them on.

Load Volume Flexibility (Compression) - 3.0

small volume load
Photo 4: The ULA P-2 has several means of compression. Although small, dense loads can be contained in the P-2, this pack does not compress as cleanly as others. The P-2 is designed for carrying larger volumes.

The ULA P-2 has volume adjustability to meet the needs of various outdoor pursuits (Photo 4). For compression, each upper side panel contains a single compression strap which begins at the lower back panel just above the side pocket, runs to the back of the pack, and then back to the upper back panel where it attaches to a ladder lock. From the side, this strap looks like a sideways V. The bottom sleeping pad straps can also be tightened to compress the lower quarter of the pack. The roll top closure is compressed by a single strap that runs from the bottom back of the pack, up the center of the back, and over the top opening. The heavier than average shock cord over the large back pocket can effectively be used as a component of the compression system. Although the pack looks lumpy and poorly contained when compressed for a small volume load, the contents are stable.

When gear volumes begin to exceed the pack's internal capacity, gear can be attached to the outside via the multitude of attachment options including the large mesh side and back pockets. The large extension collar will easily swallow a volume equivalent to a winter weight sleeping bag. If additional volume is needed, request the $22 top pocket option to add 400 cubic inches (6.6 L). For most lightweight backpackers, these exterior packing opportunities will not be necessary as the P-2 is already a huge volume pack. But then again, the P-2 has the makings of a super expedition load hauler.

Field Performance

Pack Load Carrying - 4.5

We tested the ULA P-2 carrying loads ranging from 50 pounds (23 kg) down to 10 pounds (4.5 kg) to confirm ULA's suggested load carrying capacity. ULA recommends carrying weights between 35 and 40 pounds (16 - 18 kg) for best performance with the P-2. We found this to be entirely accurate. While the frame handles 40 pounds with ease, the shoulder straps and hipbelt begin to reach their comfort limit at 35 pounds, 40 pounds is tolerable, and comfort significantly drops off above 40 pounds.

We also tested the P-2 carrying smaller volume, heavy loads (i.e. desert water trips). Employing the full array of compression options, the ULA P-2 carries these loads with great stability but it is not pretty due to the lack of a comprehensive compression system.

One attribute of the P-2 is its stiff single aluminum stay with a relatively flexible framesheet. The flexibility allows great range of motion when hiking, while still being vertically supportive enough to effectively transfer the load to the hipbelt.

Durability - 4.0

Dyneema Gridstop, similar to Spectra Gridstop, was used throughout most of the ULA P-2. This 210 denier high tenacity nylon fabric adds a 215 denier Dyneema fiber in a ripstop/grid pattern. Dyneema is a high molecular weight polyethylene fiber that is, pound for pound, ten times stronger than steel and twice as strong as Kevlar, which translates into this fabric's high tear strength. We find Dyneema Gridstop very well suited to backpacking on trails and even off trail to some extent. Unfortunately, tear strength and abrasion resistance are not the same. The Dyneema Gridstop requires some attentive care if this pack is used for more aggressive climbing or off-trail pursuits where abrasion is a factor.

Value - 4.5

At $210, the ULA P-2 is very price competitive with other large volume, lightweight internal frame packs on the market. Its relatively low weight and high volume result in the P-2 having one of the highest volume to weight ratios (104 ci/oz, higher is better) we've seen in an internal frame pack. We feel the ULA P-2 is an excellent value, offering large volume, great fit, and low weight.

Recommendations for Improvement

Overall, the ULA P-2 is an excellent large-volume, lightweight pack. A couple of changes will bring it to perfection. First, the triangular reinforcing piece that connects the lower shoulder strap webbing to the bottom of the pack is at the wrong angle for a fully loaded pack, putting more strain on the backside of this triangle. We suggest adjusting this angle such that load forces are more evenly distributed. The padded end of each shoulder strap is longer than necessary for most users. The lower portion was wide enough to rub the inside of our arms, causing a little annoyance, though not chafing. (This is by no means a reason to avoid buying this pack.) Either increasing the taper or shortening the padding by about 1 inch (2.5 cm) would alleviate the problem and save some weight in the process. Finally, it would be more convenient if ULA would exchange the ladder locks on the upper side panel compression straps with side-release buckles and longer webbing straps. This would allow longer items that extend out of the side pockets, and climbing ropes slung over the top opening, to be attached with greater ease.


Citation

"ULA P-2 Review," by Jay Ham. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/ula_p2_review.html, 2004-08-24 03:00:00-06.

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