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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > ULA Equipment OHM > Test Report by Shawn Wakefield
Backpacking Background: I started camping and backpacking about 25 years ago as a teenager in the Boy Scouts. I am enjoying backpacking again, and I really like going lightweight now and covering a lot of miles. My wife and I take frequent backpacking trips together, and our kids (all under 13) go occasionally. We like to hike in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas for short trips, but enjoy Wyoming and Colorado for longer trips. My current pack averages 16 lb (7.3 kg) including water and three days' food.
INITIAL REPORT: April 5, 2010
The Ohm pack from ULA Equipment is the second largest in their line of packs. It is recommended by the manufacturer for a maximum load of 30 lbs (13.6 kg) and a base weight of 12 lbs (5.4 kg) or less. The pack is available in one color scheme that includes black ripstop nylon and medium green Dyneema Gridstop fabric. There are some splashes of color from silver and yellow trim items. Many options on the pack are removable in order to customize the pack to my exact needs and to reduce the pack weight at the same time.
The pack arrived in a thin cardboard box that was nearly the exact size of the pack. Two pages were included in the package that described how to use the pack, basic tips, how to put the pack on, and notes about the various pack options. The website also provides a lot of information on the pack, including a video, FAQ, and 360 degree exterior pictures.
There is a large, black mesh pocket on the front that is the same width as the front of the pack, and nearly the full height of the pack. This pocket seems to be convenient for frequently accessed items as well as clothing that may need to finish drying. At the top of the mesh front pocket, on each side, are two hook and loop straps with a reflective "ULA" logo on them. These can be used for an ice axe or to hold trekking poles that may be collapsed and in the side pockets. At the bottom of the front mesh pocket is a loop or strap for an ice axe handle or something similar. On the bottom of each side of the pack are two water bottle pockets. These are made out of the green Dyneema Gridstop and have an elastic top at the opening. Both are the same size and appear large enough to each hold a 1 L (34 oz) water bottle. Along each side is a yellow cord (non-elastic) that is laced back and forth through metal grommets and plastic rings. A cord lock at the top of the pack allows the yellow cord to be pulled tight. This could be used to hold wet items on the sides of the pack or to compress the pack body when it was not packed full.
The top of the pack is an extension collar that allows the pack to be loaded more fully. This extends above the pack frame and back pad. The extension collar has a drawstring closure with a cord lock. A top compression strap holds the extension collar in place. This adjustable strap would also allow another item to be strapped to the top of the pack. If the pack is not full, I typically roll extension collars after closing them, and then cinch down the top strap to help keep light rain out of the top opening.
The back of the pack (the side with shoulder straps) has many options and features. First, along both edges of the pack, a carbon fiber pole is visible. The tops of each side pole are connected with a plastic hoop, and together provide an active suspension system. This seems to provide a good degree of stiffness to the pack body, and it appears to help distribute pack weight down to the hip belt. There are also removable hip belt pockets on each side of the hip belt. These are zippered pockets large enough for a camera and other small items. The hip belt buckle has adjustable straps on both sides, as do most all packs, but additional adjustment straps allow tension between the pack bottom sides and the hip belt buckle straps to be adjusted as well. These are behind the hip belt pockets and are not visible in the pictures on the right. The hip belt has padded wings that provide a cushion on the hips.
The shoulder straps are contoured and also cushioned. A sternum strap is also attached to the shoulder straps. Two D rings are on the shoulder straps, just above the sternum straps. Attached to these D rings are handloops that provide a place to rest my hands. These are adjustable and removable. Four shock cord and cord lock loops are on the shoulder straps. Two of these on each shoulder strap are designed to attach the top and bottom of a water bottle to the shoulder strap. I am not sure how attaching a water bottle there might work, but I will certainly give it a try. These are also removable. Two additional straps from the top of the shoulder straps to the top of the pack body provide some degree of stabilization for the portion of the pack that is above the shoulder strap attachment points. A haul loop is attached to the top of the back of the pack, and the manufacturer recommends lifting the pack using this haul loop, rather than shoulder straps, when hoisting the pack from the ground.
On the inside of the pack are a few other features. First, a removable mesh wallet or flat pocket is included. This would be good for a wallet, cash, or other small items. It can be removed using the plastic attachment clips. Also, a hydration bladder pocket is removable and will hold most 2 L (68 oz) water bladders. A small, thin, closed cell foam pad provides some amount of back cushion in the pack. This is loosely held in place with two diagonal elastic straps near the top of the pack. It can also be easily removed.
I am quite impressed with my first look at this pack. The stitching and seams appear to be done very well, and many areas of stress have good reinforcing. The carbon fiber frame, although very light, appears to give the pack back some rigidity. I am looking forward to seeing how it performs. I really like how ULA Equipment has made it easy to add or remove the optional components on the pack. I appreciate this extra flexibility. Also, the yellow compression cord on the sides should allow me to quickly adjust the pack volume to my load.
I noticed that is also possible to remove the foam back pad and the carbon fiber suspension frame. These items are not listed as removable items in the listed weights by the manufacturer, but I put them here for reference. The foam pad is 1.3 oz (37 g) and the carbon fiber frame is 1.7 oz (48 g). Removing both of these, along with all other items, would reduce the pack weight to 18.9 oz (536 g). Some of the straps and cords have quite a lot of extra length, so it would even be possible to 'trim' the pack and reduce the weight further for those ultralight backpackers. I will not do any trimming for this test series, however.
In order to give a better idea of the exact size of the pack, I measured the flat back of the pack. It is approximately 12.5 in (32 cm) wide and 26 in (66 cm) tall.
When trying to decide on the correct size, my waist measurement was right on the border between a medium and large hip belt. I emailed ULA Equipment, but did not get a reply before I had to submit my requested size. Once I received a reply from ULA, and deciding that I needed a medium, rather than a large, I was shipped a second pack with a medium belt. They said to try them both and ship back the one that did not fit. I was somewhat concerned with the email response time, but when Chris from ULA responded, he explained that he had misfiled my email and did not respond as quickly as he normally would. He did give a well explained reply to my question.
I did like the fact that the pack was shipped in an appropriate sized box, with no extra tags or packaging that would be thrown away anyway. The two pages of instructions and tips contained more information that I normally see in the glossy color tags of most products.
My only concerns would be about the durability of the pack. Most everything on it looks durable, but there are some small grommets and plastic rings holding the yellow side compression cords that might be my only area of concern. The diameter of those plastic rings is quite small.
I tried the pack on and everything seems to fit fine. The pack offers plenty of adjustments on the shoulder straps, hip belt, sternum straps, and stabilizer straps to fine tune the fit. I look forward to loading the pack and putting quite a few miles on it over this test period. My planned week long Appalachian Trail section hike should provide a good test experience in May.
FIELD REPORT: July 5, 2010
Total use of the pack so far has been for 13 days and 7 nights during the following trips:
I think that the carbon fiber support does an excellent job of transferring most of the pack weight to the hip belt. I felt very little weight or pressure on my shoulders once I had the pack on and adjusted to my liking. This helps my balance and reduces fatigue. The poles and hoop system are not heavy or large, but work very well.
I also like the ease with which accessories can be removed and added. I found that I left most of them at home, with the exception of the hip belt pockets. These were a necessity to me. The hip belt pockets were very convenient for storing my camera, water treatment tablets, a knife, etc. Since the large front mesh pocket does not have a zipper, the hip belt pockets were useful to store those small items that might fall out of the other pockets on the pack.
I did like the open top front mesh pocket. I was not sure at first if an open pocket would work for me, but it was a convenient place to stuff my rain jacket, umbrella, trail maps, etc. Items in the pocket tended to stay put, since the mesh would stretch to accommodate them, and hold them in place as well.
The two large side pockets worked very well for my 1 L (34 oz) water bottles. I found that I could reach the bottles, and then put them back in the pockets, all without having to remove my pack. The pockets are also large enough to hold other items in addition to a water bottle if necessary.
The pack has proved to be quite comfortable. I have not noticed any pressure points or aspects of the shoulder straps or hip belt that seem uncomfortable to me. It has also proven durable, even though my number of days and nights has been limited. The mesh and other fabrics look very good, with no signs of wear, scratches, or tears.
I look forward to additional opportunities to put the pack to work for me over the remainder of the testing period.
LONG TERM REPORT: September 7, 2010
Total use of the pack has been over 17 days and 9 nights including these additional trips:
An unusually hot July and August has limited my number of nights out since the field report, but the pack continued to perform well for me.
I have been extremely pleased with the performance of the ULA Ohm pack. The volume is just right for loads of 20 to 30 lbs (9 to 14 kg). As my loads stay near the low end of that range, I found that I always had enough room in the pack. I did load it up close to 30 lbs (14 kg) for a 2 mile (3 kg) hike near my home, and found that the volume was able to hold all of that gear and food. I think that this pack works well for its intended weight range.
I continue to be impressed with how well the carbon fiber suspension system transfers the weight to my hips, even for larger loads close to 30 lbs (14 kg). I have used other packs with a closed cell foam back pad for stability, and the ULA suspension system is definitely superior for me. I watched the pressure points on the pack fabric for wear, but have not seen any abrasion or other problems.
The versatility of the pack is really nice. I like how quickly the accessories can be removed and added. I would often add or remove a pocket as my trip needs dictated, and it can be stripped down to a bare minimum if a lighter pack weight is desired. The hip belt pockets worked really well for a camera, water treatment tablets, a pocket knife, and pencil and paper.
All of the pocket sizes worked well for me with water bottles on each side and wet items being placed in the front mesh pocket to help them dry. I would often cinch up the yellow cords to compress the pack volume for day hikes or hikes with less than my usual gear.
The pack was very comfortable. I did not notice any shoulder fatigue, and the hip belt has enough padding to not dig into me anywhere. The top load adjustment straps allowed me to keep the center of gravity close to my body and help with balance on step ascents or inclines.
I do not have any complaints about the pack, as it has met all of my expectations and should serve me well on many future excursions.
Thanks to ULA Equipment and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in this test.
- Shawn Wakefield
Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > ULA Equipment OHM > Test Report by Shawn Wakefield
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