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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > ULA AMP Pack > Test Report by Carol Crooker

July 29, 2007



NAME: Carol Crooker
EMAIL: cmcrooker AT att DOT net
AGE: 48
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.78 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (74.80 kg)
TORSO LENGTH: 19 in (48 cm)

For the past 8 years, I've backpacked about 30 days each year. My trips were from 2 to 28 days, with my usual trip being 3 to 6 days long. Most of my trips have been in Arizona with the High Sierras, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Pennsylvania, and New York thrown in for variety. Weather has varied from 107 F to a low of 0 F (42 to -18 C). Most of my backpacking trips are solo. My three-season base pack weight varies from 10 to 5 pounds (5 - 2 kg), depending on the weather and trip length. My winter base pack weight is about 16 pounds (7 kg). I use a tarp for shelter all year round.



Manufacturer photo

Manufacturer: ULA Equipment
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: Pack US$89, Modular Front Pocket US$12, Internal Stash Pocket US$5, Hydration Sleeve US$5
Listed Weight: Pack 10.6 oz (301 g), Modular Front Pocket 1.7 oz (48 g), Internal Stash Pocket 1 oz (28 g), Hydration Sleeve 1.3 oz (37 g)
Measured Weight: Pack 10.4 oz (295 g), Modular Front Pocket 1.7 oz (48 g), Internal Stash Pocket 0.9 oz (26 g), Hydration Sleeve 1.3 oz (37 g)
Volume: Total 2600 ci (43 L). Main Body 1600 ci (26 L), Side Pockets 400 ci (7 L), Extension Collar 600 ci (10 L)
Modular Front Pocket adds 350 ci (6 L)
Size: S/M 17 - 19 in (43 - 48 cm) torso, M/L 20 - 22 in (51 - 56 cm) torso
Fabric: 1.9 oz/yd2 (64 g/m2) ripstop nylon, Dyneema Gridstop

Small volume backpack designed for SuperUltraLight (SUL) loads. Features include padded shoulder straps and hipbelt, bellowed side pockets, Variable Compression System (non-stretch compression cordage with EZ pull guides), top compression strap, ice axe loop, and drawstring extension collar.


The ULA Equipment Amp backpack arrived on March 8, 2007 in a cardboard box. My initial inspection revealed no damage or flaws in workmanship. I expected the pack to have a slight bluish tint from the appearance of the manufacturer's photo on my computer screen; instead it is gray. There is a sunny yellow trim around the front of the pack. Workmanship is excellent and the materials appear to be robust.

The shoulder straps are nicely padded and about 2 in (5 cm) wide and lined with 3D mesh. The hipbelt has short padded wings (also lined with 3D mesh) with the rest 3/4 in (1.9 cm) wide nylon strapping. A nice touch is that the hipbelt is tightened by pulling the webbing ends towards the center. The shoulder strap ends are cord rather than webbing.

The back, bottom, side pockets, hipbelt wings, and the front of the extension collar are Dyneema, with the rest of the pack constructed of 1.9 oz/yd2 (64 g/m2) ripstop nylon. The side pockets are short - about 7 in (18 cm) high - and gathered at the top with elastic. Each side pocket has a small grommet for drainage. The top strap forms a Y once fastened. One end is attached at the top of the shoulder straps and the other at the bottom, front of the extension collar.

The top of the extension collar is closed with a cord and cord lock. (The manufacturer photo of the Amp above almost looks like the pack has a top pocket - it does not.)

The Variable Compression System consists of a single piece of non-stretchy cord threaded through small grommets (six on each side of the front panel and two on each back panel/side seam). The cord can be rethreaded as needed.

There are hydration hose ports at the top of each side panel where it meets the back panel.

Modular Front Pocket
The Front Pocket has a ripstop nylon back and Dyneema front with stiff mesh sides. An elastic finish on the top edge provides a little stretch. The Pocket attaches to the front of the Amp with a clever system. The ice axe loop threads through the bottom strap and buckle. The top of the Pocket has a large grommet that the Variable Compression System cord attaches to. Four Slik Clik (TM) plastic buckles snap closed once threaded through webbing loops sewn to the Amp's front panel (two on each side) to anchor the Pocket to the pack.

Internal Stash Pocket
The stash pocket clips onto the inside front of the pack with the same Slik Cliks as the Front Pocket. It is a very stiff mesh (same as used on the Front Pocket sides) pocket with zipper closure. It is flat and rectangular. My first impression is that it is overbuilt and heavy for a SuperUltraLight pack. It doesn't weigh a lot (0.9 oz, 26 g), but these three accessories weigh 3.9 oz (111 g) total which is 38% of the base pack weight. The manufacturer notes that the Stash Pocket can be removed and used as an in-town wallet.

Hydration Sleeve
The hydration sleeve is a nylon pocket with two Slik Cliks to attach it to the inside back of the pack right at the top of the shoulder straps. Again, it seems heavy for a SUL pack. ULA offers the same Internal Stash Pocket and Hydration Sleeve as options for their larger packs. Re-engineered and lighter options would be more in line with the SUL aim of the Amp backpack.

Hipbelt Pockets
The manufacturer is developing optional hipbelt pockets which I will report on once I receive them.


The Amp arrived with two pages of instructions listing the maximum carry weight of 20 lb (9 kg), loading recommendations, a strong recommendation to use a sleeping pad (three-quarter length), instructions for putting the pack on and notes about the Variable Compression System and pack options. The instructions were clear and left me without any unanswered questions.


My torso length is 19 in (48cm), but I requested the M/L pack which is listed as fitting torsos from 20 - 22 in (51 - 56 cm) since I had heard the ULA packs run small. The widest part of the hipbelt is from about 18 to 22 in (46 - 56 cm) from the shoulder strap attachment point so this pack should fit my torso. See below for more comments on fit.

The hipbelt is only padded for about 5 in (13 cm) and I have some concerns about whether the padding will do me any good. The padding just overlaps the back of my hipbone on each side. The length adjustment buckle comes just after the hipbelt padding and rides on the front part of my hip bones. Padding may not be necessary at all for these light loads. During field testing I will pay close attention to hipbelt comfort.

After checking to see if the Amp fit me, I checked to see if my gear would fit in the Amp. A year and a half ago I spent six months doing SuperUltraLight (SUL) backpacking trips where my baseweight was 5 lbs (2.3 kg) or less. (Baseweight is the weight of the pack and everything in it except consumables like food, water and fuel.) At that time I used packs with a similar volume to the Amp. After I stopped limiting myself to SUL baseweights, I kept many of my SUL habits but began using a larger volume pack and allowing myself more "luxuries." It took an adjustment to get back into the mindset of needing to fit all my gear into a pack with a main bag volume of 1600 ci (26 L).

I had an overnight backpack trip scheduled a few days after the Amp arrived, so I loaded up my gear for a fit check. Knowing the Amp would be arriving, I'd compiled my gear list with a close eye on weight and volume. I was pleased to see everything fit. Since my trip was just an overnight, I was still able to fit in some luxuries and larger volume options like a 4.25 in (10.8 cm) diameter wood burning stove and 1.5 qt (1.5 L) pot to go with it, a three-quarter length air mattress, a Therm-a-Rest chair kit and a pillow.

GEAR LISTouncesgrams
ULA Amp with all options14.3405
Pack liner1.337
Extra clothing17.1485
Poncho/tarp and stakes7.5213
Bivy sack6.7190
Down quilt 20.1570
Inflatable pad 17.2488
Closed cell foam pad1.748
Pillow 0.617
Wood burning stove5.1145
Other cooking and water8.2232
Therm-a-Rest UL chair kit10.3 292
Camera and phone 8.3235
Medical, repair, light, fire starting6.2176

The baseweight for this list is 8.2 lb (3.7 kg). Initial pack weight with 1.5 lb (0.7 kg) of food and 2 lb (0.9 kg) of water is 11.8 lb (5.4 kg).

All the gear packed nicely into the main pack bag and extension collar except the chair and foam pad which I rolled together and fit in the left pocket under the Variable Compression System. A 24-oz (0.7 L ) water bottle fit in the right pocket.

I loaded the Amp with 12 to 13 lb (5.4 - 5.9 kg) total pack weight on two occasions. The first time the pack fit me correctly (see gear list above). The hipbelt rode at my hips while the shoulder strap attachment points were near the tops of my shoulders. I could adjust the shoulder straps so the pack was close to my back along its entire length and the hipbelt was in the proper position. The second time, the tops of the shoulder straps were about 4 in (10 cm) below the crest of my shoulders. I think the difference may be caused by the pad I used. The first time I folded a Pacific Outdoor Equipment Max Thermo 3/4 (an inflatable air pad without internal foam) so that it completely filled the backpanel of the pack up to the shoulder strap attachment points. The second time I folded a Pacific Outdoor Equipment Uber Mtn torso length self-inflating pad so that it was 18 in (46 cm) high and did not reach the top of the backpanel. The pack may have slumped down with only 18 in (46 cm) of pad support. I did an overnight with the first load in the pack (it carried comfortably) and am about to depart on a three-day trip with the second load. I'll comment more on both trips in my Field Report.


I plan on using the Amp pack on two to five day trips over the next four months. Fitting everything in for a five day trips may be a challenge! Locations and conditions will vary from Arizona to Colorado, dry to a possibility of rain, and highs from around 100 F (38 C) to lows around freezing. I'll also use the Amp as a day pack with a hydration bladder. Check back in two months for the Field Report.


The ULA Equipment Amp backpack is well constructed of materials that appear bushwhack-worthy. It has some innovative features that I'm eager to test in the field.

This concludes my Initial Report.



Fully loaded Amp with optional Front and Hipbelt Pockets

During the two-month Field Test phase I used the Amp on three backpacking trips totaling nine days and on one day hike.

March 10, 11 Highline Trail near Pine, AZ
Forest trail at about 6000 ft (1830 m) with flowing springs at regular intervals.
Clear conditions with highs near 80 F (27 C) and a low of 37 F (3 C)
Starting pack weight: 12 lb (5 kg)

March 16 - 18 Saguaro National Park, near Tucson, AZ
Rocky and thorny desert trail with elevations from 4000 to 8500 ft (1200 - 2600 m).
Sunny to partly sunny, highs into the 90s F (30s C), lows to 45 F (7 C)
Starting pack weight: 13 lb (6 kg)

April 24 - 28 Pusch Ridge Wilderness on Mt Lemmon, near Tucson, AZ
A combination of rocky and thorny desert trails with pine forested terrain and huge boulders and streams in the Wilderness of Rocks section of this loop hike. Sunny with highs in the 80s F (20s C) and lows down to the upper 30s F (3 C).
Starting pack weight: 16 lb (7 kg); maximum pack weight: 20 lb (9 kg)

May 11 Day hike up Spruce Mountain near Payson, AZ
A rocky and forested trail with highs in the 80s F (20s C).


The Amp carried comfortably with up to a 20 lb (9 kg) load, except I wished for wider shoulder straps.

I have been able to fit four days worth of gear into the Amp utilizing all the pockets and the extension collar. My gear included "luxuries" like a chair (Therm-a-Rest UL kit), torso length self-inflating mattress, pillow and a small wood burning stove that takes up more space (it fits into a 1 qt/L pot) than a typical alcohol stove and cup/pot.

I used different pads with the pack including an egg crate closed cell foam pad 41 in (104 cm) long, a torso-length self inflating pad, a three-quarter length inflating pad and a self-inflating sit pad. All fit inside with enough room for the rest of my gear. The torso-length self-inflator allowed the pack to collapse since it was not a full 20 in (51 cm) tall when folded and placed in the Amp. However, with a light load that didn't affect carry comfort. The closed cell foam pad worked much better folded in fourths against the back of the pack than formed into a circle, since the latter caused the pack backpanel to round so the pack did not conform to my back.

When the pack is stuffed to the top of the extension collar (as it has often been on my backpacking trips), the draw cord closure leaves a small opening at the top that could be vulnerable to rain.

The Variable Compression System worked as advertised to cinch a small, day hiking load down so that it formed a stable package against my back.

Shoulder strap adjustor

SHOULDER STRAPS: Even with a total load of only 13 lb (6 kg), I wished for wider shoulder straps at the end of a day of hiking but found the thickness of the padding adequate.

The shoulder straps end in 2 mm cord. Adjusting the length is usually a two-handed operation: one hand to hold up the plastic tensioner, and the other to pull the cord. At other times, I can use my thumb to push up on the plastic tensioner and use the fingers of the same hand to pull down on the cord for a one-handed adjustment. A strap occasionally lengthened on its own during the process of taking off or putting on the Amp.

The shoulder straps stayed on my shoulders. I did not need a sternum strap.

SIDE POCKETS: A 24 oz (0.7 L) water bottle fit nicely into a side pocket. I was able to retrieve it while walking. My Therm-a-Rest UL chair kit rolled up with a Gossamer Gear 1/8 in (3 mm) thick ThinLight pad or Therm-a-rest seat fit into a side pocket and under the Variable Compression System (VCS). With a fully stuffed pack and the VCS under the optional Front Pocket, there was just enough slack in the VCS cord for the chair and pad to fit underneath (see above photo).

I used a 1 liter Platypus bottle in the side pocket the second trip and it stayed in with no problems. A welcome find for me since the Platy bottle has the best weight to volume ratio of any bottle I know of in that size range. Even a full, 2.5 L Platypus fit into a side pocket - and stayed put with the VCS looped over the top.

HIPBELT: The padded portion of the hipbelt is quite short - about 5 in (13 cm) - but I found it to be comfortable. I did not find the hipbelt adjustment buckle bothersome while hiking even though the buckle rests on my hip.

HYDRATION PORTS: The ports on both sides of the Amp have a slightly overlapping hood. Still, I noted that one port gaped open when the pack was fully stuffed - creating a rain entry opportunity. I haven't used the Amp in rain yet.

HAUL LOOP: There is none and I missed it at first but quickly became used to using the shoulder strap to lift the pack.


FRONT POCKET: The Front Pocket seems too wide at the back. The material against the pack has a tendency to curve away from the pack body meaning care must be taken to actually put an object into the pocket and not in the space between the pack and the back of the pocket - where it will fall out.

The front/top of the Front Pocket has a grommet that the VCS threads through to secure it. This means items need to be slid under the top edge of the pocket when loading it. I tried hiking with that grommet unsecured to make it easier to load/unload the pocket and items stayed in the pocket without a problem. In another variation, I secured the grommet with the end of the VCS cord with the toggle between the pocket grommet and pack front. This option let me cinch down the VCS for pack load control and secure the top of the pocket while leaving slack in the VCS cord so the pocket opening was wider and easier to access.

INTERNAL STASH POCKET: I noted initially that the Stash Pocket seemed overbuilt and heavy for a SUL pack. In the field, I appreciated the roominess. I could fit in my id and money, emergency kit in a 5 x 4 in (13 x 10 cm) Aloksak, an iPod Shuffle and a thin Razr cell phone. That said, where weight becomes an issue, I'll leave the Stash Pocket at home.

The Stash Pocket hangs down quite a ways into the pack. I had to fish for it to find it. I'd like to see it closer to the top of the pack.

Slik Clik attaching Front Pocket

HYDRATION SLEEVE: This was awkward to use. I folded my sleeping pad and fit it under the sleeve so water wouldn't be directly against the back of the pack rounding it out and also warming the water against my hot back. I prefer carrying water in the side pockets.

SLIK CLIK: I had some trouble opening and closing the Slik Cliks which are used to attach all the optional accessories; they are quite stiff.

HIPBELT POCKETS: Each weighs 1.1 oz (31 g) for a total of 2.2 oz (62 g). A few weeks after receiving the Amp backpack I received these accessories along with a full page of instructions and a note from Brian Frankle of ULA to call him if the instructions weren't clear. I began the pocket installation process with some trepidation, but the instructions were clear and I installed the first pocket without incident. Once I saw how it was done, the second pocket was a snap to attach. The pockets add 30 ci (0.5 L) of volume each according to the ULA website. They are about the size of the padded portion of the hipbelt and attach securely at three points to ride alongside that part of the hipbelt.

The pockets are set well back on the hipbelt and did not interfere with my arm swing when using poles or scrambling up rocks.

When empty, I often needed to use both hands to get the zipper to slide, but when loaded I could usually unzip or zip the pockets with one hand.

A small digital camera and GPS fit in one pocket and a mini notebook, snacks, lip balm and other small items in the other.

I love the convenience of these pockets.


Overall I really like this pack. Specifically,

What I LIKE so far:
Sturdy construction for a small volume pack.
Lots of external pockets.
The fact that this small volume pack has a hipbelt.

What I DON'T LIKE so far:
Narrow shoulder straps.
Often need two hands to adjust shoulder strap length.
Internal Stash Pocket hangs deeply in the pack and has to be fished out when there is a full load.
I personally would prefer an attached front pocket over the heavier optional front pocket.


I will continue to use the Amp for backpacking trips over the remainder of the test period.

This concludes my Field Report. Look for a Long Term Report in two months.



During the four-month test I used the Amp on six backpacking trips totaling nineteen days and on two day hikes.

May 31 Gila River between Christmas and Winkleman, AZ
Highway hitching followed by a four hour float trip.
Hot and sunny with highs just over 100 F (38 C)
Starting pack weight: 21 lb (9.5 kg)
I loaded overnight gear along with the 6 lb (3 kg) packraft, 2 lb (1 kg) paddles, and 1 lb (0.5 kg) Personal Floatation Device in or on the Amp for the hike/hitchhike to the put in to start the float trip. I lashed the pack and remaining contents on the bow of the raft for the 7 mile (11 km) float down the river.

May 31 - June 2 Pinal Mountains near Globe, AZ
Steep forest trail descending from 7560 to 4520 ft (2300 - 1380 m) and mostly rocky trail regaining that elevation.
Clear and hot with temperatures into the upper 90s F (upper 30s C) and down to the upper 50s F (14 C) overnight.
Starting pack weight including 7 lb (3 kg) of water: about 17 lb (8 kg)

June 14, 15 Blue Ridge Reservoir near Payson, AZ
A short, rocky trail descending to a reservoir. Sunny and hot with a high in the low 80s F (28 C) and a low of 47 F (8 C).
Starting pack weight about 14 lb (6 kg) with hammock, paddles and PFD (I carried the raft under my arm).

June 24 - 28 Weminuche Wilderness in southwest Colorado
Trails ascending from 8500 ft (2600 m) through forests to above treeline with intermittent snow cover at 12,700 ft (3900 m). Numerous creek crossings. Temperatures up to the 80s F (29 C) some days, dropping to freezing on one night.
Starting pack weight just under 19 lb (9 kg).


The Amp surprised me by being able to haul a packraft and gear for an overnight trip. I recently purchased a packraft - a tiny inflatable raft - and was very eager to try it out. The nearly 6 lb (3 kg) raft filled the bottom half of the Amp main compartment with enough room left over for overnight backpacking gear. The paddle, broken down into two pieces, fit nicely with blades down in the Front Pocket. I didn't figure out an elegant method of attaching the bulky Personal Floatation Device (PFD) and just tied it to the pack with the end of the Variable Compression System line.

I had some difficulty stuffing and extracting the packraft because the drawcord on the Amp was too short and slightly restricted the opening of the main packbag. My initial pack weight exceeded the recommended 20 lb (9 kg) load for the Amp by a little over a pound (0.5 kg), but the Amp carried just fine, although as I've mentioned, I'd prefer wider shoulder straps.

The Amp gets a ride after carrying raft and gear.

The Amp spent the trip down the river lashed to the raft bow. The pack got a little muddy and wet, but suffered no ill consequences. After my quicker than planned river trip, I reloaded the pack and drove to the top of a nearby mountain to camp out and backpack for the next few days.

Since I didn't want to carry pokey things in the packraft, I left my trekking poles at home. When not using poles, the optional Hipbelt Pockets encumbered my arm swing although not enough that I'll leave the pockets at home on future trips without poles.

In June I took an overnight packraft trip on the Blue Ridge Reservoir. I carried the raft under my arm for the half mile (1 km) hike to the put in spot leaving plenty of room in the pack for a warm weather hammock setup and an inflatable chair. The Amp spent a bit of time lashed to the bow of the raft as forward ballast as I paddled around and took a few dips as I practiced wet exits from the raft.

The hipbelt pockets were hard to unzip at times. When I was too stiff to twist my torso far enough to grab the tab at the back of the pocket, I found it often worked to grab the closer tab since the zipper is short enough that it can be pushed toward the forward tab to unzip the pocket.

On my late June trip in Colorado, the Amp swallowed five days of gear and food, but it was a tight fit. The extension collar was fully extended although the pockets weren't overly stuffed. The second day of the trip I noticed that the fabric surrounding the top closure grommet was pulling away from the grommet in one spot. This didn't overly surprise me since I had been really cranking to get the pack closed over all my gear.

Rip in shoulder strap.

During the same inspection I discovered a problem that did surprise me. The left shoulder strap was ripping away where it attached to the pack at the top. It was surprising since I had only exceeded the maximum recommended carry weight by about a pound (0.5 kg) for a short time on one occasion and because I put a lot of stress on the OTHER strap when I put on and take off the pack - grabbing it instead of the non-existent haul loop. The strap was ripped about a third of its width which concerned me since I didn't look forward to some jury rig to carry the pack for the rest of my trip. I babied the pack the next three days and the remainder of the strap held fine.

I mentioned earlier that the hipbelt adjustment buckle rests on my hips. I did not find that uncomfortable until this trip which was my longest. It was just a slight discomfort, a bit of bruising of my hips.

When I returned home from Colorado I e-mailed ULA . Owner Brian Frankle immediately e-mailed me back with a UPS number so I could ship the pack back to him for repair. I washed the pack first as per the instructions on the ULA website, then shipped it off to Brian. About two weeks later my pack came back nicely repaired.

I took the rehabilitated pack out on a short hike using it as a hydration pack. The Amp makes a nice hydration pack. It was stable on my back with the Variable Compression System cinched down to reduce pack volume and the hipbelt fastened. The optional Hydration Sleeve kept a hydration bladder in place and it was easy to thread the hose through one of the hydration ports at the top corners of the Amp. There isn't a loop on the shoulder strap to thread a hose through. I ran the hose through a shoulder strap and that mostly kept the hose out of my way. When I use a hydration bladder I sometimes carry a separate bottle with some kind of drink mix in it. The side pocket of the Amp made carrying the extra bottle very convenient.

The last test I performed on the Amp was to load it up and carry it around with an ice axe in the ice axe loop. I tucked the ice axe handle through the top strand of the Variable Compression System. The loop is nice and long which lets the sharp blades of the ice axe hang below the pack body - a nice feature.


I really like the ULA Equipment Amp backpack.

What I LIKE so far:
Sturdy fabric for a small volume pack.
Lots of external pockets.
The fact that this small volume pack has a hipbelt.
Customer Service was quick to repair my pack.

What I DON'T LIKE so far:
Shoulder strap ripped and grommet partially pulled out.
Narrow shoulder straps.
Often need two hands to adjust shoulder strap length.
The cord on the shoulder straps adjusts on its own at times when the pack is not being worn.
Internal Stash Pocket hangs deeply in the pack and has to be fished out when there is a full load.
I personally would prefer an attached front pocket over the heavier optional front pocket (threading the VCS through the pocket so the volume of the pack can be reduced without affecting pocket volume).


Although the Amp weighs a bit more than other lightweight packs of this volume, it has three features that will have me carrying it on short trips in the future. I really appreciate the hipbelt even on sub-20 lb (9 kg) loads, I like the robust fabric that doesn't need babying, and I love having a side pocket I can pull a water bottle out of while walking. My favorite pack configuration includes the optional Front Pocket and Hipbelt Pockets for a measured pack weight of 14.3 oz (405 g). (I love pockets and only forego them when I'm really counting grams.) For trips of four days or more, I'll likely use a larger volume pack since I prefer to allow my insulation to loft as much as possible inside the pack.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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