ULA Circuit Review: Ultralight Hiking Backpacks

If you have no weight to spare on your hikes then an ultralight backpack is the way to go. Find out in our ULA Circuit review if this ultralight pack is worth the hefty price tag.

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ULA Circuit Review

Our Rating: 3.9/5

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What we found in our ULA Circuit review was a versatile and lightweight backpack that can be used for all types of treks or explorations. Whether you’re a hiking hobbyist or a mountain climbing enthusiast, this ULA backpack can endure all four seasons and is sturdy enough to last you for years.

Its rear mesh pocket and open side water bottle pockets, resilient fabric material, dual ice axe loops, webbing straps, and spacious interior make this backpack a quality solution when looking for a pack that will both hold enough gear as well as keep its integrity for the long haul on daily adventures and outdoor activities.

Key Features

  • 68 Liter total capacity
  • Large extension collar for extra storage & many external attachment points for bulkier items
  • Two side pockets, one large back mesh pocket, and hip belt with two zippered exterior pockets
  • Internal frame and suspension system
  • One hydration pocket and one small pocket for valuables in the interior

Category Scores

78%
Comfort
100%
Weight to Volume
79%
Ease of Use
77%
Durability
53%
Features
  • PROs

    • Sturdy hip belt pockets make for excellent durability
    • Both men and women can wear it thanks to multiple strap options
    • Extension collar provides extra space when necessary, rolls up when not needed
    • Replaceable waist belt with varied hip belt size options for a comfortable custom fit
  • CONs

    • Water bottle side pockets are too far to reach back
    • Overloading bottom compartment can lead to the pack panel pushing into your back
    • Spacer mesh can pick up small leaves and pine needles for annoying cleanup
    • Small objects not recommended in the side pockets, can fall out through the front pocket opening
Bottom-Line: The ULA Circuit backpack is simple, organized, and durable, making it ideal to use throughout the year.

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 are 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.

Comfort

What stood out in our ULA Circuit backpack review were the many features to keep you comfortable during your outdoor activities. The Circuit’s squared top, curved bottom, and internal foam frame help distribute heavier weight to the lumbar area of the waist for a less strenuous carrying effort. Particularly helpful 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 a padded spacer mesh foam pad material. A cushiony material that’s firm enough to avoid tears but soft enough to prevent getting a sore back and shoulders.

Weight & Volume

With about 68 liters (or 4,200 cu. in.) in total capacity, the ULA Circuit 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 allow you to comfortably carry a max load of up to 35 pounds yet is still gentle enough for an incredibly comfortable grasp around the body.

The total pack weight of the Circuit itself is only around two pounds making it a great pack 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.

Adjustability

There are lots of attachment points on the shoulder straps to hang 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 or custom packs). The hip belts come in varied sizes and are also adjustable to snugly fit your waist to avoid uncomfortable shifting and slipping. Hip belt sizes are from 26″ to 42″ and all are adjustable by a four-inch limit.

The Circuit backpack is generally for unisex wear, but the shoulder strap comes in two styles, which are J-straps (original strap) or S-curve shoulder straps to accommodate women and some barrel-chested men. These ULA packs have an adjustable torso length ranging from an adjustable harness system made especially for kids from 12″ up to regular adult sizes at 24″. 

Ease Of Use

The whole pack’s interior is mostly comprised of a large main compartment with roll-top closure for easy packing and access, and it’s neatly organized, so you don’t have to waste precious hiking time digging through your pack to find something.

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In the interior, there are two accessory pockets; one hydration pocket and a hand-sized pocket for storing your valuables. The external storage pockets, including hip pockets, allow you to stow 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 key to increasing hiking time and distance on any thru-hike.

The Circuit’s side pockets are big enough to store multiple standard-sized bottles and deep enough for 1.5-liter bottles. However, their positioning makes it a little difficult to reach back and pull a bottle out while walking or climbing. Otherwise, the Circuit’s interior and exterior storage options let you carry a little more than 30 pounds, and its well-built frame allows 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).

Versatility

The ULA Circuit’s durable material and numerous external attachments make it a 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 like 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 large mesh pocket on the front of the pack with accompanying shock cord allows you to store any wet rain gear and so keeps your pack inside dry. There’s also a top compression strap that loops over the top roll closure, handy for keeping rope or even a rain shell secured at the top of the pack. Lastly, the Circuit has yellow elastic bands, each with a cord lock, on the outside of the shoulder straps which are an easy way to fasten and unfasten smaller-sized water bottles to the backpack.

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Durability

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 will 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 intended mainly 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.

Technical Specifications

Best UseBackpacking
Frame TypeInternal Frame
Gear Capacity (L)68 liters
Gear Capacity (cu. in.)4,200 cubic inches
Weight2 lbs. 9 oz.
Weight – Metric1.16 kilograms
Adjustable TorsoYes
Fits TorsoS:15 – 18 inches, M: 18 – 21 inches, L: 21 – 24 inches
Fits Waist/HipsXS: 26 – 30 inches, S: 30-34 inches, M: 34 – 38 inches, L: 38 – 42 inches
Material(s)210D Robic Nylon
Frame Material1.2 oz carbon fiber and Delrin
Number of Stays1 aluminium
Suspended Mesh Back PanelNo
Pack AccessTop
Number of Exterior Pockets4
Sleeping Bag CompartmentNo
GenderUnisex

Limitations

While the ULA Circuit is indeed an amazing pack 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.

The Circuit pack doesn’t have a million pockets, which can be resolved somewhat as ULA Equipment offers a variety of add-ons that were once available as standard such as a shoulder strap pocket, internal stash pocket, and hand loops. The hydration sleeve is also now available as an add-on rather than as standard.

Best Applications

While the ULA Circuit can be used casually as well as for more serious treks, its design is primarily made for harsher conditions such as on steep and rocky trails or freezing winter hills. Due to its weight (or lack thereof), it’s best used for trips of 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.

Value

The ULA Circuit backpack is not necessarily for those with a tight budget. If you’re willing to part with your money for a quality lightweight backpack that’s highly durable and designed to hold heavy loads this may be the one for you. This hardy, lightweight pack is definitely worth its price particularly when other lightweight packs cost more and have fewer features.

Alternatives

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, it carries more weight and has a unique anti-gravity suspension structure made from lightweight meshing that extends from the top of the back panel to the hip belt for comfort and ventilation.

This comfortable pack 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 access easily.

Budget Overnight Backpack

Venture Pal Hiking Backpack

When you’re tight on cash but need a lightweight backpacking pack for carrying smaller loads on your outdoor ventures, the Venture Pal pack is an ideal option. It’s more compact and lighter than the ULA Circuit pack and is made for the more simplistic explorer.

If you’re looking for lighter packs this 35-liter option has one main zipped compartment, two zipped front pockets, and two pockets at the side for keeping your things organized. It’s not the most practical pack if you’re planning on spending several days in harsh conditions, but it’s flexible enough to come with you on many other adventures.

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 60L in space and a super carry-CR adjustable weight decomposition system that can be altered to three different sizes.

It has slightly less total storage space than the ULA Circuit, but makes up for this with its many attachment points and pockets. It also has a separate compartment for your sleeping pad and bag. The pack’s fabric is made of a weather-resistant material for those unpredictable rainstorms and has a padded and breathable mesh on the S-straps and back panel to keep you cool and dry.

Final Verdict

We absolutely love the ULA Circuit from its exceptional volume to weight ratio, its durability, and its even comfortable to boot! Due to its 2 lbs 9 oz. of weight and multiple features to aid with comfort and fit it’s perfect for longer treks over challenging terrain. The plethora of storage pockets and attachment points further add to the usability and practicality of this pack. The ULA Circuit is a versatile lightweight backpack sturdy enough to last for years, really what is there not to love?

How did you like our review of the ULA Circuit? If you have any questions or comments, please drop them in the comments box below. And if you’d like to share this post with your friends, share away!

Last update on 2022-10-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Brian has been an avid hiker and backpacker since he was a small kid, often being taken out into the wilderness on trips with his father. His dad knew everything about nature and the wilderness (or at least that's how it seemed to a ten year old Brian).

After high school, he went to university to read for both a BS and MS in Geology (primarily so he could spend his time outside rather than in a classroom). He's now hiked, camped, skied, backpacked or mapped on five continents (still need to bag Antarctica) & 30 of the US states.

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