Tuesday, 9 March 2010
I've been using a Haglofs LIM 45 (1050g) for most of my recent overnight camps and while it's a reasonably good load carrier with a good capacity, more than it's 45L tag would suggest I wanted something lighter and smaller for overnight/summer backpacking. I had found ULA last year and they appealed to me at the time although back then I was looking for a 45-50L rucksack. When I started to look for something smaller /lighter I found myself drawn to the ULA Ohm and ULA Conduit. Hendrik over at Hiking in Finland had been using the Ohm and that was the one I had almost settled on. I liked the idea of the carbon/Delrin hoop to help transfer the weight to the hip belt and I also liked the top tension/load lifters. The more I though about it though I began to wonder if I really need the load Lifter/Carbon hoop given the weight I expected to carry (Around about 5kg Base Weight) also taking into account that one of the main reasons for getting a new rucksack was to reduce weight I eventually decided on the Conduit.
When I looked at the Ohm/Conduit last year they came as basic packs with the option to purchase a variety of add-ons such as Hip belt pockets, Hydration pocket etc, See Here , I would have gone for the hip belt pockets but by the time I ordered my pack all the accessories were included although the cost of the pack had gone up by about $10. I think it works out better this way as sometimes it's difficult to know what optional accessories you will use until you try them.
The rucksack arrived today, to be exact I picked it up today as there were fees to pay and on initial inspection everything looked good. The quality of workmanship is good as far as I can tell and the pack had all the extra accessories fitted. The shoulder straps have a sewn in D ring which is good as I prefer to carry my camera in a chest pouch, there is also a webbing daisy chain loop. The hip belt has short padded wings and the Q/D buckle is tightened by pulling the webbing forward through a ladeer-lock buckle attached to the hip-belt wings on at each side.
The 1st thing was to remove the extras which were 2 x Hand loops, 4 x Shock-cord/Cord-lock Bottle Holders, 1 x Internal Foam back pad, 1 x small mesh zipped pouch, 1 x Hydration Pouch and 1 x Hip belt pocket (I kept the one on the R/H side and in the end decided to use the mesh zipped pouch)
The next thing to check was if my CCF Full Length Mat would fit inside rolled into a wide cylinder, again no problems, the mat fitted in easily and was lower than the top of the main body of the pack while still leaving plenty of space inside. There are 2 wide elastic straps sew diagonally at the top of the back panel to hold a folded mat in place but I didn't try them.
I was impatient to see if my proposed summer kit would pack in easily so I gathered up my kit and and set about packing. In the 13L orange Sea 2 Summit drybag is my Mountain Equipment Xero 250 sleeping bag, a pair of Mont-Bell UL Down Inner Pants and a PHD Ultra Down Vest. I wouldn't expect to be using the Mont-Bell pants in summer but would normally have my spare baselayer and socks in the drybag instead. With the down gear packed and compressed I was able to place the drybag horizontally at the bottom.
The remainder of the gear shown was packed thus,
1 x Ration Pack placed flat on the sleeping bag
1 x Single Skin Tent placed upright on top of the dry sack against the back panel
1 x Ration Pack placed upright in front of the tent
1 x Pole Set stored vertically between the layers of the CCF mat
1 x Toilet Trowel etc placed between layers of CCF mat
1 x Cooking Gear placed Horizontally on top of Ration Pack/Tent
Wet Gear packed loosely in front of/around cook set
Windshirt/Gloves etc placed on top of wet gear
Wash kit, and other soft items placed between ration pack and front of pack
1st Aid/Spares, Tent Light, Head Torch, Penknife stored on Mesh pocket attached to inside of pack.
Side Pockets held 1 x 750ml Pet Bottle on one side and Bladder on the other side and I hadn't used the hip belt pocket or large mesh back pocket but in addition to the gear listed above I'd have a few other items such as GPS, Compass, maps etc.
With everything packed the top was easily rolled down and compressed using the top compression strap. It looked as if the pack could easily hold more so I placed my Montane Flux belay jacket at the top of the pack, the result can be seen in the photo below.
The pack seems comfortable enough but until I actually try it on a hike I won't really be able to comment. There are 2 areas that I'm a bit concerned about, the hip-belt attachment point is one. As the hip-belt is sewn in at the extreme edge of the back panel it's difficult to pull it in snug all the way around the waist, theres a gap between the hip-belt and my back (kidney area) that I can't close down but it may turn out to be a non issue.
The other thing is the hip belt pocket attachment method, it's very clever but IMO overly complicated. The front lower corner of the pocket attaches to the yellow tape loop using an open-able oblong D ring, at the rear lower corner the pocket attaches by a captive cord-lock on the pocket to a short length of Yellow shock cord with a knotted end attached to the pack, to attach the pocket you need to untie the knot and thread the shock-cord through the cord-lock before re-tying the knot. The final attachment point is a standard oblong D ring, the shoulder strap webbing needs to be un-threaded from the buckle on the shoulder pad and threaded through the ring/loop on the pocket before being re-threaded through the shoulder pad buckle.
It's all a bit contrived to be honest but of course once you have it fitted you can let it stay on. The biggest problem however is that the pocket tends to flop around as it's really only held securely at the front and rear bottom corners, the top rear corner simply slides up and down the shoulder strap webbing and has a tendency to pull up when you try to open the zip. I have to say that I didn't have anything in the pocket when I tried it so it may be less of a problem that I imagine. That said I feel there's room for improvement on this, if it turns out to be a problem I may simply sew the pocket to the hip-belt, sew a short length of 50mm (2") velcro to the hip-belt/pocket to keep it in place or remove it completely.
I ordered my pack Small/Medium with a Medium Hip belt and it seems fine although there isn't much adjustment left on the waist belt. I'm about 180cm (5' 10") approx and 30" waist. To be honest I haven't weighed it yet as I was more interested in seeing how my gear fitted.
It took a long time making up my mind which pack to get but subject to using it for real I'm very pleased with it.
The total cost including shipping was $162.45 (£110.00 approx) in addition I had to pay £24.25 in fees (£16.25 VAT, £8.00 Clearance Fee)
Edit to Add
I finally managed to weigh the Conduit and the accessories, the weights are as follows;
Pack - 488g (Stripped)
Hipbelt Pockets - 30g each
Handloops - 11g each
Bottle Holder Elastics - 11g each side (2 x Elastics per side)
Mesh Zipped Pouch - 28g
Hydration Bladder Pocket - 36g
Supplied Foam Back Pad - 25g
I intend to use it with one hipbelt pocket and the zipped mesh pouch which brings the total weight to 546g.