Gear

ULA Circuit Review: Ultralight Backpacking Pack

by Carissa Stanz

ula circuit review

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The ULA Equipment Circuit is sinfully comfortable for an ultralight pack with a massive storage capacity — which is perfect for thru-hiking.

What We Dig

The ULA Equipment Circuit is about as cozy as a backpacking pack can get. This ultralight pack practically spoils backpackers with comfort thanks to the dense foam frame, padded straps and hipbelt. All of which helps to prevent rubbing in all the wrong places.

The sturdy frame hugs the body without restricting range of motion while balancing out your pack load – granted you didn’t overload your pack. This is much appreciated when you’re staring at the face of a brutal ascent.

As for storage options, the Circuit has this in spades. A few highlights being the ice axe/trekking pole loops, hipbelt pockets, and a front mesh pocket with an exterior shock cord for quick stash items.

Meanwhile, the rolltop closure increases storage space in the main compartment while the pack fabric itself can take a serious trail beating.

The Circuit also offers several customizable features allowing you to tailor the pack to your trail needs.

What We Don’t

We’re all for lightening our load but for longer trips where resupply isn’t an option, the 35 pounds carrying capacity of the ULA Equipment Circuit may not suffice. Overstuff this pack and you’ll easily find that your smooshed gear poking you in the back is not so comfortable.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re really looking to lighten your load for a thru-hike, there are lighter packs to choose from.

We dig the side water bottle pockets but find the pocket angle makes it awkward to grab items out when you’re strapped in.

Also, when digging around in the pack you can’t access your gear stuffed in the bottom unless you take everything out. Perhaps ULA Equipment could offer a customization option where you can access your goods from the bottom.

Bottom Line

If you’re new to ultralight backpacking or simply want a comfortable pack with some frills thrown in, the ULA Equipment Circuit is a terrific option.

The ULA Circuit is a comfortable lightweight backpacking pack that minimizes pack weight without skimping on features.

This pack is loaded with ample external storage while the solid frame does well to control the pack load. The carrying capacity makes it an ideal choice for thru-hiking the PCT or other trips that require less than 35 pounds of gear.

Field Test

The last outing I took the ULA Equipment Circuit on was a three day backpacking trip with my adventure partner in the Olympic National Park. For this journey my pack weight was around 20 pounds, give or take a few. As for the terrain, this varied from talus slopes to overgrown meadows.

Whether we were gaining elevation on a short, yet gnarly ascent or trekking along the springy forest floor, the Circuit performed admirably.

The plush padding on the straps and hipbelt were akin to pillow-top mattress comfort. I found the hipbelt pocket useful for stashing smaller items like my phone, lip balm, and gloves.

Meanwhile, I fell in love with the front mesh pocket and shock cord. This was a quick stashing place for my jacket along with our trail map and other easy to access gear.

As for fitting the pack, the Circuit has adjustment straps where you need them most. I was able to fit the pack to my body and easily release tension when making an ascent.

The only issue I really had was the side water bottle pockets. I utilized one to stash my bear spray which was not so easy to reach back and grab while I was fully strapped in. Luckily, I never had to use it.

Speaking of bears, we used the BearVault BV500 to stash our food. This bear canister can either fit vertical inside the main compartment or strapped on top of the rolltop closure.

Product Details

ULA Equipment put it best, “every mother has a favorite child – ours is the Circuit.” As an ultralight backpacker, you’ll find the 41 ounce ULA Circuit has everything you need.

The Circuit features quality construction with a durable abrasion resistant 400 Robic fabric, 1.2 ounce carbon fiber and Delrin suspension hoop, and a single aluminum stay.

Solid and sturdy, the Circuit frame balances your load while still allowing for an excellent range of motion.

The 68 liter carrying capacity maxes out your load at 35 pounds which is sufficient for any backpacker looking to go the ultralight route on a thru-hike or shorter trip.

As for stashing your gear, you have several compartments to choose from. Load up the main compartment and stuff your water bladder in the removable hydration pocket.

Then strategically stash your quick grab items in the front mesh pocket, shock cord, side water bottle holsters, dual hipbelt pockets, and ice axe/hiking pole loops.

All that and the ULA Circuit fits like a dream. There are several points of adjustment so you can fit the pack just right.

This pack also features ridiculously soft padding on the straps and hipbelt along with a dense foam frame. Which is perhaps the best part.

Takeaways

The Circuit is ULA Equipment’s favorite pack. Here’s the lowdown on the highlights.

Comfortable: The Circuit was made with one key factor in mind, comfort. The hipbelt, straps, and padded back blended with the load control make this one of the most comfortable packs on the market.

Lightweight: The Circuit makes the cut as an ultralight pack at 41 ounces (roughly 2.5 pounds). Weight like this keeps you agile on the trail and lightens your load which is the ultimate back saver.

Durable: The 400 Robic fabric is rugged and abrasion resistant. Meanwhile, the tight tension on the shock cord leads us to believe it will take a good amount of trail abuse and many, many trips before stretching out.

Ample Storage: Unlike other ultralight backpacking packs, the Circuit doesn’t skimp on storage. This pack is capable of carrying a whopping 68 liters and comes with ample exterior storage. That means you have several quick stash options for items you don’t want to constantly be rummaging around for inside your pack.

Ultralight Backpacking Pack Comparison

If you’re looking for a durable and lightweight pack that doesn’t skimp on comfortable features, the ULA Equipment Circuit is an excellent choice. However, this is contingent upon your needs.

ULA’s lightest pack, theCDT, gets down to the basics by ditching the frame and slimming down to 24 ounces of weight.

The Hyperlite Southwest 2400 is another terrific option that’s incredibly lightweight and ridiculously durable for around the same price. The drawback is it won’t hold as much gear.

The Osprey Exos and Eja 48 are a solid purchase at a less expensive price, but may not be as comfortable as the Circuit.

For more tips on how to choose a backpack, check out this helpful REI guide.

Conclusion

The ULA Equipment Circuit is the ideal choice for backpackers who want to minimize trail weight while maximizing comfort. You don’t have to be an ultralight diehard to appreciate what this pack can do for you.

Built with comfort in mind, the ULA Circuit features soft padding in all the right places. This pack also has external storage galore while still featuring a streamlined design.

The carrying capacity and larger storage space let you pack in all the basics you need for a thru-hike or extended weekend backpacking trip.

If you’re on a budget or really looking to minimize all your pack weight, you may want to look elsewhere.

But if comfort is a key factor in your decision making process, the ULA Equipment Circuit should be at the top of your list.

Get Trekkin’

For recommendations on what gear to stuff your backpacking pack with, check out the JetBoil MiniMo System, the 7 Best Backpacking Tents Under $100, and Cheap Backpacking Gear Your Budget Will Love.


Seen in: Backpacking, Bags & Backpacks, Gear

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