Posts tagged ‘ULA Catalyst’

August 9, 2009

Out playing with new gear pt1 – ULA Catalyst

by backpackingbongos

My recent backpack in the North Pennines gave me the opportunity to play with some new gear I had purchased over the previous few weeks.  Obviously a 2 day backpack with a wild camp can only give an initial impression of how stuff will perform over time, but here is my two pennies worth anyway (I have ended up splitting this post in two as I got carried away writing about the Catalyst!)

ULA Equipment Catalyst

This was a dream to pack the night before going away, it simply swallowed my overnight summer gear.  It was probably overkill taking this pack out for one night as even with the Akto inside it was only about three quarters full, I had to make full use of the compression straps.  ULA’s website states that the main body of the pack is 2600 cu in which by my calculations is 42 litres.  I think that the packability comes down to it being slightly wider than many other rucksacks, of great benefit when using a tent such as the Akto or Laser Comp.  It was the perfect width to place the Akto inside the pack near the top.  No faffing about trying to pack the tent vertically inside like I have to with the Golite Pinnacle.

When putting on the rucksack for the first time there is a fair amount of adjusting to be done to get the perfect fit.  The wide waist belt is very comfortable and the buckle is linked to two pieces of webbing on each side which you pull inwards to tighten.  This means that you can increase or decrease the pressure of the belt at the top or bottom to get the most comfortable fit.  I found that a few times when walking along I would adjust the belt a little to suit the terrain that I was on.  One thing that I did find a bit odd and rather annoying is when I took the pack off and put it back on again after a break.  The previously perfectly adjusted waist belt would no longer fit around my hips, I would have to loosen it off, buckle up and re-tension the straps.  The instructions that came with the pack suggested that this would need to be done so I would imagine this is part of the design.  I am on the other hand just used to throwing my pack on my back and buckling up.  The pockets on each side of the waist belt are of a perfect size and don’t get in the way, I used them to store my camera, tissues, snacks etc.

The internal frame of this pack is very stiff and to be honest took me a while to get used to.  I have recently been using a frameless pack which with careful packing will mold to the shape of your back.  With the catalyst you definitely do get the feeling that you have a framed rucksack on your back.  When standing upright the sack fits the contours of my back perfectly, but I have to admit to quite often slouching.  When you do slouch you are made very aware of a solid object strapped to your back.  I think that this may be an incentive to improve my posture!

I have found that many packs in the past have felt a bit separate from my back and they can wobble around on rough ground.  This may sound a bit weird but the Catalyst felt like it was actually clamped onto me.  It appears to be designed to be a close fitting rucksack and feels at its most comfortable when tightened so it is close to your back.  This again leads to the same problem when taking it off and putting it back on again.  The shoulder straps will be adjusted perfectly when taking it off but for some reason seem too tight when putting it back on again.  A fair bit of adjustment of shoulder straps and waist belt is necessary to get it perfect again.

The mesh pockets on the sides are huge and can be closed off with an elasticated toggle.  A one litre platypus bottle fits in with loads of room to spare.  The large mesh pocket at the front of the pack is perfect for maps and items you need throughout the day such as waterproofs.  I personally would not use it for heavy items such as a tent as this could mean making the pack off balance.

Aside from the adjustment issues when putting the pack on (which in reality only take a few seconds) I am very pleased with the Catalyst.  It will get alot of use over the coming few months and I will get a better picture of how it performs, especially on longer trips when it will be carrying more weight.  It is very well made and the Dyneema fabric appears to be very tough, I hope it will last for many years to come.

Some more gear waffle to come…………..

July 26, 2009

ULA Catalyst – first impressions

by backpackingbongos

I have obsessively spent a couple of hours playing with the Catalyst pack that I got on Friday.  My first impressions are very favourable, hopefully this is the perfect pack I have been looking for.  The main body of the pack is made from dyneema fabric, which if the Golite Pinnacle is anything to go by is very tough.  There are thick tough feeling mesh pockets on either side of the pack that can be closed by an elasticated toggle.  There is another larger mesh pocket on the front of the pack that can be compressed.  This pocket will easily hold maps and waterproofs.  There is no lid to the pack just a drybag style opening that attaches to the top and the two side compression straps.  There are also two pockets on the hipbelt that are big enough for a camera and small items that you need during the day.  I paid extra to have a removable mesh pocket inside the main body of the pack for keys / wallet etc.

The main compartment of the pack is 43 litres with the roll top opening providing an extra 10 litres if needed.  One thing that struck me when first getting it out of the box is how wide it is, much wider than say the Pinnacle which is tall and narrow.  This makes packing very easy with the top being wide enough to accommodate a horizontal Hilleberg Akto or Laser Competition.  This is one of the things that made this pack attractive to me as I find both of these tents a pain to pack due to the attached carbon fibre poles.  With the Pinnacle I usually packed these tents vertically down one side of the rucksack before adding other bits and bobs, a nuisance in the rain.  With the Catalyst I should be able to get everything packed before taking down the tent and then simply put it inside the pack at the top.

I filled the pack with various bits and bobs until it weighed 13kg which for me would be the approx weight for a 3 day winter trip with food and fuel.  With this weight the back system feels very comfortable with a large proportion of the weight being taken up by the supportive waist band.  The back system fits me very well (you are given 4 different back lengths to choose from) and the waist belt is superb (again you have 4 sizes to choose from).  The only problem with the waist belt is that if I lost a couple of inches round my waist I may not be able to do it up tight enough (a good excuse to eat pies?) – but at the moment it is perfect.  The rigid back has a distinct curve to it which feels a bit strange after using a frame less pack.  The aluminium stays are removable and can be bent as required but I think that I will take it backpacking and see how it feels before making adjustments.

The only criticism at the moment is that the front of the pack under the mesh pocket and the front of the roll top is not dyneema.  It appears to be ripstop nylon.  I will have to be careful when packing to ensure that nothing sharp or pointy goes at the front.  I would have preferred the entire pack to have been made of dyneema.

No review until it has a few miles under its belt, but in the meantime some photos (sorry about the flash!)

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July 24, 2009

ULA Catalyst received

by backpackingbongos

Rather excited when I got back from work today.  There was a letter from Parcel force saying that I had a delivery from the States and there is a customs charge to pay.  So it was straight down to the depot to pick it up.  The downside is that I had to pay a £41 VAT and handling fee which I feel is a bit steep!  Its out of the box now and I have done a bit of modeling around the house, have to say that it looks great at first glance.  The weekend will no doubt be spent loading it with gear and running up and down the stairs!  Will probably post some photos of it in the next couple of days.

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