ULA Circuit

As noted in a previous post, I am in the process of going lighter with my gear. At this point I have lightened my load considerably from when I first started out by changing out gear for lighter and smaller gear, but also from just dropping things that I do not need all together. Now that my gear has changed, it was time to get a new pack, one that was a little smaller, but also lighter than my current pack. So, what I went with is obvious (from the title), the ULA Circuit. It is 1400 cubic inches smaller than my other pack (the Kelty Red Cloud 5600) as well as a whopping 3 pounds lighter!

Since it is brand new, it is hard for me to say what my exact thoughts are. The only way to do that is to get out and put it to use, and I will. I have 2 trips planned over the next three weeks, one at Sipsey Wilderness and then another in the Great Smoky Mountains. Hopefully these outings will give me something to say about the pack. At this point though, I can say I am happy with what I got. It appears to be well made and from the reputation that comes with ULA, I feel that I can be confident about this pack. However, only time will tell…

For now I would like to leave you with this 3-part video series I have made on the ULA Circuit…

For a detailed list of all gear packed (including weights) click here:

Winter Gear List

21 Responses to ULA Circuit

  1. russ brent says:

    I ordered a ULA Circuit pack based primarily on an endorsement. I liked the look of the original green and was ready to love it. I never did. Although ULA is helpful with trying to get the right size to the customer, the pack never felt right due to the shoulder harness.  The hip belt was comfortable and fine. I did not like how the lower part of the pack was rubbing against my lower back. My wife looked at the set up of the pack and said “You are not going to like it.” She was correct. My son purchased an Osprey Exos for the same trip. When I compared the comfort, features and overall utility of the two packs side by side, there was no doubt he had the better option. When I had all the gear and food ready to go and began packing, the Exos had a lot more utility. I didn’t like the top closure on the Circuit. The Exos had so much capacity in the top flap. The mesh suspension on the back of the Exos seemed preferable. The side pockets of the Circuit
    seemed shallow and hard to use. I particularly disliked the hard mesh back pocket on the Circuit. The only thing I liked about the Circuit were the belt storage pockets. Two days before departure, I woke up and realized I had to find a different pack.  I went to REI, got fitted, compared all the packs they had and selected an Osprey Atmos. I returned the ULA pack and had to pay the return postage. They claimed I had not included the “hand loops”, delayed my refund and charged me $5 for what must be the most useless item imaginable. Trust me, I did not want their hand loops. When I disputed this, they gave me snark about returning the pack a few days outside their 30 day policy.  I found this statement on the ULA website. “We may provide Personal Information to third parties or marketers for their marketing purposes.” Gee, thanks?


    • Stick says:


      Sorry to hear that your experience wasn’t top notch with the Circuit. While ULA does indeed make a great pack, which is used by many, that still doesn’t mean that it works for everyone. Tis the way of the world…



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  6. TheBluMan says:

    Hello Stick,

    Just a quick question. I noticed you aren’t using a bear canister. Was just wondering if the Circuit could handle a Wild Ideas Bearikade Weekender or Expedition. Thanks in advanced.



    • Stick says:


      Unfortunately, in my neck of the woods, I am not required to carry a bear canister, so I have absolutely zero experience with them. I think that I once say one in a shop, but did not pay any attention to it…

      But, this is what the ULA site has to say about the Circuit (and the Catalyst) regarding bear canisters:

      Do you live in California or plan to do a lot of hiking in bear country?

      If so look no further than the Circuit Backpack or the Catalyst Backpack. As you may or may not know bear canisters are required almost everywhere you’ll want to hike in CA, and only these 2 packs will haul a bear can and still give you room for your other gear. The Catalyst Backpack will hold a can the size of the BV500 or Backpacker Cache horizontally or vertically, and the Circuit Backpack will carry it vertically. Sure these canisters will fit in the other packs but take up much of the pack body and will not, repeat will not, be comfortable. The smaller canisters will also fit in all packs, but because of their diameter I guarantee they will be uncomfortable in the smaller packs.

      Hope this helps some. Also though, I highly encourage you to give them a call and speak to them directly. They will be more than happy to answer any of your questions, as well as help you pick the pack that is right for you. As well, I highly recommend these packs, they are great in every aspect… (IMO).



  7. Karl says:

    Hi Stick. Sorry to write so late to you on this topic. On the other hand, if I didn’t, I’d never have a chance to get a question answered, so… here goes.
    I’m looking to get the Circuit myself, but have the same thoughts about frame size like most other people. For hip belt I know what size, but for the torso length I’m still in doubt.
    I understood you chose torso size M on your Circuit. What did you measure your torso length to (according the ULA website)? I measured 21,5 inch on myself, so pretty much bang in the middle between size M and L.
    / Karl


    • Stick says:


      My torso measures 18.5 inches. I measured this myself when I bought my first pack (The Kelty Red Cloud 5600) but I also had someone else measure it a while back too and they came to the same conclusion. Also, I know that height is not necessarily an indicator in actual torso length, but just so you know, I am 5’10” tall.

      Just throwing it out there, but in some post over on Whiteblaze.net, one of the posters (I think it is “stranger”) states that it is fairly rare that someone truly measures a 21 or more in torso. Now how true that is, I don’t know. Just wanted to say that to say this, if there is any way possible, I would try and let an outfitter measure you to be sure.

      If you truly are 21.5 inches then I would call ULA and talk with them about which pack too get and what not. They will be more than happy to talk with you and help you choose what is the best fit for you.

      I know that this doesn’t truly answer your question, but I hope that it helps.



    • Karl says:

      Hi Stick.
      Thanks very much for the quick answer, it’s definitely helped me along a fair bit.
      Turns out we’re the same height. I happen to be 5’10” tall too. But, if my wife measured my torso length correctly, with a longer torso than you.
      Regarding the comment on whiteblaze – I don’t know. Surely there must be a reason ULA keeps torso lengths longer than 21″ for all of their backpacks.
      I’ll certainly take your advice and get in touch with ULA and listen to their advice before I make a choice.
      / Karl


  8. Erik says:

    Hey Stick,
    I’ve actually been sorta following you (and all the others) on the various backpacking forums around the ‘net. I have watched and even learned from your “gear journey” to achieve ever lighter pack weights. I remember when you showed up on backpacker forum with a Red Cloud and a 2p Grand Mesa. (I’m on BPL and Whiteblaze too, just don’t post much, a “lurker” if you will.) It’s a quest that I myself have various struggles with, I love all things gear related. What I’m posting here for is to ask you a few questions that could possible help me in this madness of “U.L. Lust”. After watching your videos and following Wallace, a.k.a. jeeping32810 on the A.T. I have decided to get an ULA Circuit. I already have two other packs in this general size range, A Z65 and a Nimbus Meridian. I can’t stand the Gregory, it actually hurts me after about 6-7 miles while conversely the Granite Gear is the most comfortable pack Ive ever used. Problem is that after moving to more U.L. gear its now too big for 3 season use. I think the Circuit will fit the bill nicely. My first question is which hip belt did you eventually go with? I now you got both the Med and the Lg, did you have to pay extra for both? or just send one back? You seem to be about the same build as me, I have a lil gut after quitting smoking two years ago that I am also trying to remove. I’m 6’0″ tall and about 210lbs and my waist is about 36-37 in. I seem to be stuck between these two belt sizes and would have ordered the pack long ago if I was more sure of which to get.
    Anyway thanks in advance for the info and great job on the blog and such. I really get alot from your posts on the various forums.
    Maybe I’ll even see you on the AT in 2013 if I can get my stuff squared away to do a thru by then.




    • Stick says:


      Wow, in a way that seems like quite a while back…I do still have that stuff, but it is loaners now. 🙂

      It is hard for me to compare those packs since I don’t have them. My wife has a GG NM Ki and it seems to be a little smaller than my Circuit. But to be honest, my Circuit is pretty big too. When I pack it, my sleeping bag takes up at least the bottom third of the pack. I am actually getting a Six Moon Designs Swift to replace the Circuit for my summer kit since my quilt will not take up near the amount of room as my “bulkier” Helium. It should be here by Tuesday!

      But by looking at specs, I would say the Circuit is the same size as the large size Z65, which is a little bigger than the NM. Based on this, the Circuit may even be too big.

      As far as when I bought mine, I sent an email to ULA with my pants size as well as an actual measured size and asked them which size hip belt they thought would be better. His response to me was that he would send both the medium and the large, I could try them both out (in my home though, not in the field) and then I could return the one that didn’t work for me. The only extra money involved for me was the extra $5 or so to ship the hip belt back.

      When the pack arrived, the medium hip belt was already on the pack. I loaded it up and tried it on. Then unloaded it and changed the belts out and loaded it back up and put it back on. Removing the belt is not hard to do. The hip belt slides through a sleeve on the back of the pack and is sandwiched between two pieces of velcro. (Using 2 pieces of cardboard to get the hip belt positioned in the right spot helps this process.)

      In the end I went with the large hip belt. The padding in the medium came to the very edge of the bony part of my hip bone. The large hip belt actually extended past the bony part of my hip by about an inch on each side. This felt more comfortable. Also, since the hip belt came around the front of my hips farther, it seemed to carry the load better than with the medium. However, the hip belts are a little stiff and wide. This means that when I leaned over, the top of the belt would stick in my ribs and the bottom would dig in my groin a little. Of course the large was worse than the medium. But to counter this, the hip belts have a 4-way cinch. What I do is tighten the bottom cinches down a little tighter than the top ones so that the hip belt actually conforms around my belly a little (yeah, I got one too…) So, the hip belts are shaped like this: \ / rather than like this: I I (if that makes sense). This actually helps a lot. Also, since the large came farther around my hips than the medium, the hip belt pockets were easier for me to access on the large.

      I hope that this helps some. My suggestion would be to contact ULA. I would also ask them about the size of the pack too. Like I said, the Circuit may be too much volume for your gear. Like I said, for a smaller volume pack I just bought a SMD Swift, but I also looked at:

      Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus but the higher price along with the fact that 2 extra hip belt pockets would increase both the price and the weight kind of turned me off.
      ULA OHM was really nice (especially since I already have the Circuit) but the volume is not much less than the Circuit, plus it was a tad more expensive.
      ULA CDT was about the right size I am looking for, but it does not have a frame or the option to allow one (from what I can tell.) I still want a frame just in case.
      GoLite Jam seems to be too heavy for the size.
      HMG Windrider is a little on the expensive side and it is just a little heavier especially considering it is a cuben/nylon hybrid blend. Does look promising though.
      ZPacks Blast Pack. I would have gotten this if I could’ve afforded it. At about 12 oz it is uber light considering all of the accessories I would want. Maybe one day…

      But I went with the SMD Swift. I like that I can leave off the hip belt pockets and the stays if I prefer and get the pack itself down to 15 oz, or keep them on for a 22.5 oz pack. I like that it has a roll top closure and I really like the outside pocket configuration. Of course all of this is in theory at the moment since i do not have it in my hands yet…so look for a review of it probably by the end of next week ish…

      Anyway, thanks again for stopping by. If you have any more questions let me know, and if you get the pack let me know what you think of it!



    • Erik says:

      Awesome, Thanks! I admit I do have some concerns about the volume of the pack being too large. I did email ULA but that was on Fri. night and I haven’t heard anything yet, maybe I’ll call tomorrow. Realistically, I’m comparing the main body(s) of the two packs as the outside pockets are just sorta”extra” in my opinion. The main body of the GG is 3800 ci and the Circuit is 2400. Honestly Ive been on the fence between the circuit and the ohm. That SMD swift looks pretty slick too but it’s just not my cup ‘O tea. I have looked at most of the other offerings but keep coming back to ULA, they just seem bomber, and I don’t own anything from them yet. (that might be just the gear collector in me talking) I guess nothing short of talking to Chris ( I think that’s his name) over at ULA will suffice.



    • Stick says:


      Maybe you will hear from them soon. Good point on the body of the packs too, I didn’t think of that (it’s been a long day and now it is time to go to bed…) I don’t believe that you will go wrong with ULA, they are some sweet packs, and so far all of my experience with ULA has been exceptional.

      Good luck in your decision.



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  13. Joe Clement says:

    Every weighed all your stuff sacks? It’s an interesting exercise.


    • Stick says:

      I have…even the homemade ones… 🙂 That’s the problem with going “lightweight”…I go off and buy a scale and make a detailed gear list with weights and I have to weigh everything…And I used to think knowing about how many pounds it all came too was detailed…now its to a fraction of an oz… 🙂


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