Once again, ULA has provided the ultralight backpacking world with yet another great pack. The ULA Circuit is very similar to a favorite from last year's tests, the ULA Ohm 2.0. The Circuit is slightly larger than the Ohm 2.0 and weighs a tad more. This added weight and carrying capacity makes it a great option for long distances, carrying heavy loads, or those newer to ultralight backpacking. The Circuit is extremely comfortable, especially for heavier loads. Additionally, the feature set provided just about everything we wanted in a pack, with lashing capabilities and a burly mesh outside pocket for clothes and miscellaneous items.
Ultralight Adventure Equipment Circuit Review
Cons: Mesh attracts dirt and pine needles, somewhat bulky
Manufacturer: Ultralight Adventure Equipment
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Ultralight Adventure Equipment Circuit
|Price||$235 List||$270 List||$260 List||$145 List||$139.95 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Durable, large external pocket, roll-top closure, adjustable, compatible with bear can||Durable, comfortable, well-designed pockets, carries light and heavy loads well||Lightweight, carries light and medium loads well, adaptable, perfect feature set, more durable than most||Simple design, inexpensive, durable||Very light, large volume, versatile compression system|
|Cons||Mesh attracts dirt and pine needles, somewhat bulky||Large capacity makes it less versatile||A little small for a bear canister||Foam pad falls out easily, shoulder straps lack support||No frame, poor comfort for medium loads|
|Bottom Line||The ULA Circuit is a durable, comfortable pack with a roll-top closure and the ability to carry up to 64 L while remaining lightweight.||The Mariposa wowed us with its perfect set of features, comfortable design, and carrying capacity.||The Gorilla delivers a perfect set of features, plenty of pockets, comfortable straps, and carries well.||The CDT is a lightweight, simplified version of our favorite pack from this same company, making a durable, well-designed option.||For the ultimate lightweight pack, the Virga 2 steals the show with its entirely frameless design and streamlined set of features.|
|Rating Categories||Circuit||Gossamer Gear Mariposa||Gossamer Gear Gorilla||Ultralight Adventure Equipme...||Granite Gear Virga 2|
|Weight To Volume Ratio (35%)|
|Comfort To Carry (25%)|
|Specs||Circuit||Gossamer Gear...||Gossamer Gear...||Ultralight...||Granite Gear Virga 2|
|Total Weight (ounces)||40 oz||30.5 oz||31.5 oz||24 oz||18.5 oz|
|Stripped Weight (ounces)||37.5 oz||30.5 oz||27.5 oz||23 oz||18.5 oz|
|Claimed Volume (liters)||68 L||60 L||40 L||54 L||50-58 L|
|Measured Main Pack Volume (liters)||46 L||48 L||38 L||45 L||41 L|
|Measured Volume Total (minus hip belt and shoulder strap pockets)(liters)||64 L||64 L||53 L||53 L||49 L|
|Measured Volume Stripped (minus hip belt, shoulder pockets, and removable lids)(ounces)||64 L||59 L||48 L||53 L||49 L|
|Average Weight-to-Volume Ratio (grams/Liter)||17.5 g/L||14 g/L||13.5 g/L||12.8 g/L||10 g/L|
|Carrying Comfort 15 pounds||Good||Great||Great||Great||Good|
|Carrying Comfort 30 pounds||Great||Great||Great||Poor||Poor|
|Frame Type||Simple frame- 1.2 oz carbon fiber/delrin active suspension frame loop||Foam pad/ removable stay||Foam pad/removable stay||Removable foam pad||None (foam pad)|
|Fabric||ULA 210 Robic nylon||70 & 100 denier Robic nylon||70 & 100 denier robic nylon||210 Robic nylon, 400d Robic Bottom Panel||Cordura|
|Main Pack Pockets||3||4||3||3||3|
|Hip Belt Pockets||2||2||2||Two||none|
|Single Hip Belt Pocket Capacity||2||4||4 cliff bars||2 cliff bars||N/a|
|Shoulder Strap Pockets||No||no||No||No||None|
|Whistle on Sternum Strap||No||No||Yes||No||None|
|Internal Hydration Sleeve||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Bag Sizes/Torso Lengths Available||S, m, l, xl||S,m,l||S,m,l||S,M,L,XL||Long, short, regular|
|Mix and Match Hip Belt Sizes||Xs, s, m, l, xl||S, m, l||S, m, l||S, M, L, XL||No|
|Can Easily Strip Off Frame and Hip Belt||Yes||Good||Good||No||No|
|BearVault BV500 Compatibility||Yes||Good||Ok||Ok||Ok|
|Lid (aka Brain)||No lid||No||Yes||No||No|
Our Analysis and Test Results
With high scores in weight to volume, comfort, and durability, the ULA Circuit was a great all-around performer among the packs in this review. Among the newest in the review, the Circuit performed second-best, only falling behind the ultralight Granite Gear Virga 2 regarding weight to volume. This alone would be impressive, but the fact that the ULA Circuit is also comfortable on the shoulders, hips, and back after a day on the trail makes it one of our top packs in this season's updated review. The Circuit is a great all-around pack that can be used in a variety of situations, from ultralight backpacking to winter time trips into the backcountry.
ULA packs can be difficult to find at major retailers and we've found it's best to order directly from the small manufacturer. Do note that ULA packs can be found in some small backpacking stores, such as Sage to Summit in Bishop, CA, or the Georgia-based Mountain Crossings on the Appalachian Trail.
Get it online at: ULA-Equipment.com.
Weight to Volume
The ULA Circuit receives an average score in this metric for a few reasons. The first being that the difference between its total weight and stripped weight is minimal, making the average weight of the pack higher than packs like the ULA Ohm 2.0 which can be stripped down quite a bit. Though the Circuit gets a lower score in the weight to volume metric, it is still a pack that feels light because of its simple design. Packs that received comparable scores in this metric are the Osprey Levity 45 and the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30.
Total Weight with all modular components = 2 lbs 8 oz
Pack striped of components =2 lbs 5.5 oz
Lid = NA
The Circuit weighs 40 oz total, and can carry up to 64 liters. Compared to the ULA Ohm 2.0 and the Gossamer Gear Gorilla, the Circuit weighs 9 ounces more, but also has a larger carrying capacity and more support than both of these packs. For a large capacity pack, we were impressed by the Circuit's ability to feel lightweight, without sacrificing comfort (which is the case in the Granite Gear Virga 2, which has little to no support).
Total Volume = 64 L
Main Bag = 46 L
Pockets = 15 L
Lid = NA
Regarding comfort, the ULA Circuit performed very well in our field tests. Our qualitative impressions of the pack from multiple days in the Yosemite backcountry lines up with ULA's claims that this pack is designed with comfort in mind. The pack has a 1.2 oz carbon fiber and Delrin suspension hoop in conjunction with a solid internal foam frame and a single aluminum stay. This frame design gives good back support, load control, and rigidity, without sacrificing weight or limiting the range of movement with the pack on.
The straps and waist belt are also designed with comfort in mind. The shoulder straps didn't rub uncomfortably and seemed to be equally comfortable on male and female hikers. The waist belt is comfortable and widely adjustable as well. Since it is similar in design to the ULA Ohm 2.0, the Circuit is up there with the Ohm and the two Gossamer Gear packs (the Mariposa and the Gorilla) as packs that earned a "great" in our comfort ratings.
In general, the ULA Circuit has most everything we wanted in an ultralight backpacking pack, with a few small flaws. We found that the two side pockets were constructed with an opening that is set at a steep angle, which made for wasted space and excess fabric. The side pockets were only useful for storing water bottles, which works great, but lacks the versatility of packs like the Gossamer Gear Mariposa, which have many different sized pockets. The pack does have a large mesh pocket common in ultralight pack design which was great for drying out wet items throughout the day.
The roll-top closure system was a feature that took some getting used to, but in the end, we liked the simplicity of the system and the flexibility it provided.
Since this is a large pack, with a smaller and quite similar version available in the ULA Ohm 2.0, the Circuit scored lower in this metric. The pack performs optimally when loaded with 15 to 25 pounds. The pack does work with more weight, but we found it began to feel more uncomfortable on the shoulder straps. The roll-top closure is a nice feature since you can synch down the pack when carrying less volume, while still having the capability to fill the pack to its full capacity.
The ULA Circuit received high scores in durability mostly due to the fabrics used in its construction. After three months of use and abuse on the trail, we found no signs of wear and tear on the pack. The ULA 210 Robic fabric used for the main body of the pack is incredibly abrasion resistant, as is the Robic fabric used for the side pockets. ULA also received lots of feedback on the large mesh pocket and have recently changed the fabric to a tighter-knit, less see-through mesh that is much more durable. The ULA Ohm 2.0 is comparable in durability, but for those looking for a completely indestructible pack, check out the Hyperlite Mountain Gear pack, which takes the cake.
The Circuit is a great ultralight style pack that will not disappoint regarding durability and longevity. The ULA Circuit is a great pack for those who are new to ultralight backpacking and don't want to go minimal with their base weight just yet. The pack is durable, has a large carrying capacity, and is comfortable for long days on the trail. Concerning design, Ultralight Adventure Equipment did not go overboard on features, but the pack provides enough external storage to keep your gear organized and accessible.
At $235 online, the ULA Circuit falls in the middle of the road regarding price. Since ULA is a small, Utah based company, you know you are getting a good product when you buy from them. The owners of the company are backpacking enthusiasts and are receptive to input and feedback from customers. Also, they use incredibly durable fabrics in their construction, so you can be assured the Circuit will last a number of years.
The ULA Circuit scored highly in almost all metric categories and performed great on the ground day after day. In terms of weight to volume, the pack is almost unmatched. Comfort wise, the ULA is up there with the two Gossamer Gear packs as the most comfortable ultralight packs we tested. The only negative feedback we got was in a few of the design features, mainly the size and positioning of the pockets. The pack is versatile, in fact, it seems that its best application would be as a one-pack- quiver — a pack that can perform in a variety of situations.
— Jane Jackson