ULA Circuit Hands on Review
The ULA Circuit is a 2 lbs 9 oz backpack that can carry up to 68 liters of gear. These features are ideal for those who seek a quality high-volume lightweight pack that comfortably fits your body and is willing to hold a lot of weight. It’s a practical size for winter hikes or holiday backpacking trips and its multiple external attachments make it a flexible pack for all your tools and gear.
There are many factors of the ULA Circuit backpack to keep you comfortable during your outdoor activities. The Circuit’s squared top and curved bottom help distribute heavier weight to the lumbar area of the waist for a less strenuous carrying effort, especially for heavy pack loaders.
The Circuit’s hip belt comes with two webbing straps so you can customize the pack’s fit based on your body’s shape. Along with the hip belt, the back panel and shoulder straps are covered in padded spacer mesh which is a cushiony material that’s firm enough to avoid tear but soft enough to prevent sore shoulders and back.
Weight & Volume
With about 68 liters (or 4,200 cu in) in total capacity, the ULA Circuit backpack has an excellent lightweight suspension with three components to aid in carrying your gear. Its aluminum center, open fiberglass loop, and thin plastic frame sheet allows you to carry up to 35 pounds and are still gentle enough for a comfortable grasp around the body.
The Circuit itself only weighs around two pounds making it perfect for the ultralight hiker taking on the Appalachian Trail. Even if you’re not a heavy pack loader, you can still enjoy the features of the Circuit for those casual countryside walks or morning trips to the farmer’s market.
There are lots of attachment points on the shoulder straps to hang your gear from, along with front load lifter adjustments that slide down in front of the shoulder pad to adjust the angle of your load lifters (a feature usually found on more high-end packs). The hip belt comes in varied sizes and is also adjustable to snugly fit your waist to avoid uncomfortable shifting and slipping.
The ULA Circuit backpack is generally for unisex wear, but the shoulder straps come in two styles, which is J-curved (original strap) or S-curved to accommodate for women and some barrel-chested men. You can choose which torso size is best for you ranging from an adjustable harness system made especially for kids from 12″ up to regular adult sizes at 24″. The hip belts also come in different sizes from 26″ to 42″ and all can be adjustable by a four-inch limit.
Ease of Use
The whole pack’s interior is mostly made up of a large main compartment with a roll top closure for easy packing and access, and it’s neatly organized, so you don’t have to dig through your pack just to find something and waste precious hiking time.
In the interior, there are two accessory pockets; one hydration pocket and a hand-sized pocket for storing your valuables. The external storage pockets let you stow away all the snacks and tools you need during the day on the outside, so you don’t have to stop and look through your pack. These external attachments are the key to increasing hiking time and distance.
The Circuit’s side pockets are big enough to store multiple standard-sized bottles and deep enough for 1.5-liter bottles, although it’s a bit difficult to reach back and pull a bottle out while walking or climbing. Otherwise, the Circuit’s interior and exterior storage options lets you carry a little more than 30 pounds and its well-built frame allow for easier load bearing and excellent weight transfer, which is something to think about if you’re one to carry lots of equipment (or food).
The ULA Circuit’s durable material and numerous external attachments make it a very flexible pack for your daily ventures. There are two dual ice axe and shaft holders that can be used to carry walking or climbing axes if you’re one to climb steep hills. The side compression straps are made of webbing, which is convenient for stowing long items like umbrellas, trekking, or tent poles.
The Circuit’s rear mesh pocket allows you to store any dry or wet items you want without having to open your pack. There’s also a webbing strap that loops over the top roll closure that’s handy for keeping rope or even a rain shell secured at the top of the pack. Lastly, the Circuit has yellow elastic bands on the outside of the shoulder straps which are an easy way to fasten and unfasten smaller-sized water bottles to the backpack.
The ULA Circuit backpack is made of durable fabrics that include Dyneema gridstop, coated ripstop nylon and nylon mesh. The Dyneema and pocket mesh are stiff materials for resistance against wear and tear while the nylon mesh is wire-like. It can stand up to off-trail adventures without easily tearing.
It’s webbing, attachment cords, buckles, and zippers are light and slim compared to other typical hiking backpacks. All of the interior seams are bias-taped since this pack is mainly meant for medium to heavy loads, although if you’re out on a casual stroll through the woods, the Circuit can also be used as a lightweight day pack.
|Frame Type||Internal Frame|
|Gear Capacity (L)||68 liters|
|Gear Capacity (cu. in.)||4,200 cubic inches|
|Weight||2 lbs. 9 oz.|
|Weight – Metric||1.16 kilograms|
|Fits Torso||S15 – 18 inchesM18 – 21 inchesL21 – 24 inches|
|Fits Waist/Hips||XS26 – 30 inchesS30-34 inchesM34 – 38 inchesL38 – 42 inches|
|Material(s)||210D Robic Nylon|
|Frame Material||1.2 oz carbon fiber and Delrin|
|Number of Stays||1 aluminium|
|Suspended Mesh Back Panel||No|
|Number of Exterior Pockets||4|
|Sleeping Bag Compartment||No|
While the ULA Circuit backpack is indeed a great option for the everyday hiker or climber, there are a few small things to mention. Because of the tough mesh used to line the pack’s pockets, it “can be abrasive to the contents” they hold. For instance, if you put a leather-bound notebook in one of the pockets, it may end up looking worn and scratched up when taken out. Also, the side pockets of the backpack – as mentioned before – are a bit out of reach if you’re not a particularly flexible person, so you might have to stop entirely and turn your pack around to reach a water bottle.
It’s advised not to overload this pack since the bottom compartment “can bulge into your back,” and mind that the mesh back pocket tends to pick up residue and debris such as pine needles or tree sap, which can be a tedious clean-up job later.
While the Circuit pack can be used both casually and for serious treks, its design is primarily made for harsher conditions such as steep and rocky trails or freezing winter hills. Due it’s weight (or lack thereof), it’s best used for trips up to several days or longer, and tiring hikes from point A to point B. These are the kinds of conditions that will put the ULA Circuit backpack to the full test with little to no disappointment.
The ULA Circuit backpack is not necessarily for those with a tight budget, but if you’re willing to put in the money for a quality lightweight backpack that’s highly durable and is designed to hold heavy loads. If you are looking for a hardy, lightweight pack, then you’ll find that the Circuit pack is definitely worth its price particularly when there are other backpacks that cost more and have fewer features.
MOST COMFORTABLE BACKPACK
OSPREY ATMOS 65 AG
Made for the experienced and savvy hiking enthusiast, the Osprey Men’s Atmos backpack is top of the line in material, storage, comfort, and durability. While it may be pricier than the ULA Circuit pack, it carries more weight and has a unique anti-gravity suspension system that’s made of lightweight meshing extending from the top of the back panel to the hip belt for comfort and ventilation.
It also comes with a removable floating top lid for oversized loads, and the dual zippered front panel pockets add additional space for items you wish to easily access.
BUDGET OVERNIGHT BACKPACK
VENTURE PAL HIKING BACKPACK
If you’re tight on cash but need a lightweight pack that can be used for your outdoor ventures, the Venture Pal pack would be an ideal option. It’s more compact and lighter than the ULA Circuit pack and is made for the more simplistic explorer.
The 35-liter pack has one main zipped compartment, two zipped front pockets and two side pockets for keeping your things organized. It’s not the most practical pack if you’re planning on spending several days in harsh conditions, but is flexible enough to come with you on many adventures otherwise.
BEST MOUNTAINEERING BACKPACK
MOUNTAINTOP WATER RESISTANT HIKING BACKPACK
If you’re made for steep mountain angles and challenging climbing feats, this expedition backpack from Mountaintop has up to 3,660 cu in in space and a super carry-CR adjustable weight decomposition system that can be altered to three different sizes.
It has slightly less storage space than the ULA Circuit pack, but it makes up for this with its many attachment points and pockets. The pack’s fabric is made of a weather-resistant material for those unpredictable rainstorms and a high elasticity sponge with airflow channels to keep your back cool and dry.