Tuesday, 9 March 2010

ULA Conduit

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.


  1. Congrats on the new pack! It does look very nice, and good to see all fitting in. I do agree with the attachment of the Hipbelt pockets, its suboptimal at best. Maybe need to do some mod on it, like the sewing which you suggested.

    Have fun using it =)

  2. Thanks Hendrik :-)

    I was really pleased that everything packed in easily at the 1st attempt as sometimes a little re-arranging needs to be done when you've been using a different/larger pack.

    I'll consider the options before making any permanent changes to the pocket attachment.

  3. I've been looking at the Conduit is a possible option for some unspecified date in the future :)

    I have a question though: $162 - $110 = $52 P+P ???

    That's excessive shipping costs for a <600g pack IMO.

    This is becoming a habit of mine. Moaning in blog comments about the price of kit. :)

  4. Fraser the pack was $115, shipping $47.45 (£32.00 approx) Expensive indeed, I think it's a flat rate up to a certain weight Airmail Insured.

    Just one of those things unfortunately.

    TBH I tend not to look at shipping cost much as almost everything I ever needed had to come from the UK mainland due to the limited number of shops in N.I. In fact by the time I would pay petrol and parking fees to go to one of the shops in Belfast I'd be looking at £15 anyway.

    A really funny one is Chain Reaction Cycles, they ship for free and have their warehouse about 25 miles from me, it's cheaper for me to order online and faster if I happen to be working :-0

    p.s. It's good to moan (or should that be talk?) ;-)

  5. CRC have always been first class in my dealings with them. I always think any online shop looking to win customers should factor in free shipping as part of their running costs and adjust their prices accordingly, Alpkit, CRC, Wiggle, UOG all do and are the first places I look for many things.

    I understand cottage manufacturers are offering a niche product [and generally shipping from the US] so I wouldn't expect this of them. But that shipping cost is nearly half as much again on the pack cost! Looks like I'll be waiting until the exchange rate improves :)

    High kit prices does have some benefits. I wanted a Neoair to replace my Alpkit Airic [usually used in addition to a CCF mat]. But @ £100, I've lightened my pack by just forgetting about the Neoair, ditching the Airic and using a CCF mat alone. Hell, even TWO CCF mats at once for comfort. Still lighter and cheaper. :)

    Still reckon I'll buy a TT Contrail for the summer though, shipping be damned ;-)

  6. For Weight, Price & Durability you can't beat a CCF mat (apart from no mat), comfort is fine on a nice carpet of moss or grass.

    The Contrail is nice and light and looks like it has good headroom at the front, I'm just a bit comcerned about a wind shift to hit side on.

  7. Nice looking pack. I have the Catalyst which I have really enjoyed using, although much heavier due to the solid back.

  8. I have the older Conduit, and to be honest i much prefer it to the current Conduit.
    It has a wide, padded hip-belt, and wraps around my hips perfectly. Also, the pockets are part of the structure of the hipbelt. The top closure is a roll-top closure, and fastens to the side of the pack. It's the same closure as the Catalyst.
    I hope yours carries well Richard, as i found mine excellent. I use my Conduit as my winter day or overnight pack now. It is very tough, and virtually unmarked after a few years use.
    I've since moved on to lighter MLD packs for backpacking though.
    Mike fae Dundee.

  9. James I think I may have asked you about the capacity of the Catalyst last year when I was looking at bigger packs, I like the roll top closure on the Catalyst, similar to my LIM 45.

  10. Mike I think you recommended MLD packs to me on OM. Like I said to James above I'd prefer the type of roll top that the Cataylst has but maybe the basic style is lighter. Any idea what weight your Conduit is?

  11. My Conduit weighs 610g for a M/L, Richard. Obviously the hipbelt pockets are non-strippable, and i think the extension collar on mine might be a bit longer to allow for rolling it closed.
    I found using a Gossamer Gear Torso pad in the internal sleeve gives it a very comfy carry. A folded and scored torso size CCF mat may give similar results. It may be an option if you find that you are getting too much of a barrel effect using the rolled pad method.
    Mike fae Dundee.

  12. I bought a couple of CCF mats in Millets last week to experiment with just in case the rolled full length mat wasn't a success. My only concern with the scored mat is durability and putting duct tape on to reinforce the fold makes it heavier. I made a fold up 3/4 tapered mat out of a 3 season Millets CCF a while back but after the tape was added it was heavier than it was full length, so much for that experiment :-)

    I'll experiment a bit more when I finish my shift but it might be fine with the mat rolled anyway. I won't know for sure for another couple of weeks until I get out again.

  13. I love CRC - I hand-built my mountain bike using parts almost exclusively sourced from them and they were great. Nice people too. I have just taken delivery of the Gossamer Gear Gorilla and, packed, it sits really nicely. I've got a medium torso and medium hip-belt and they fit like bespoke. Will review that, and the WM Summerlite, when I get back from Scafell Pike and Bowfell on Sunday. I'll be using a Montane Lite Speed for the first time but there's been so many reviews of that, I don't think I'll bore people with it!

    On postage and handling fees - I wanted an MLD Exodus from Ron Bell but could not wait the 7-9 weeks it would take so was persuaded by the Gorilla as I could get it in the UK for £170 from Winwood Outdoor. It's $180 (£122) in the US, $35 delivery (£24) but then you have to add customs charges and VAT (c.£20) and the ridiculous Royal Mail "handling charge (£8) = £174 and quite a delay in delivery as well. So, in the end, £170 from Winwood was not so bad...

    On mats - I posted on this on Hendrik's site. I'm not convinced by the NeoAir either but will give it a few trips. May well look at an 8-fold Z-Lite which would weigh about 220g (c.40g lighter than the NeoAir & 104cm long) and I'd save another 46g by removing the SitLight pad back-system and substituting the 8-fold Z-lite.

  14. Look forward to the reviews Maz.

    Sleeping mats are a difficult one, CCF is obviously the lightest but when the pack size goes down (due to various weight saving excercises) and the sleeping bag gets lighter due to the same then the CCF pad can end up too bulky or maybe not as warm as a self inflate.

    swings and roundabouts.

  15. After using this pack for some time, whats your opinion on this now Mac E? I've seen one and was a little concerned by the lack of pull in straps on the shoulders to pull the sac close to the shoulders. Still really like it though but the Gossamer Gear Gorilla does look a better more comfortable system.
    El M

  16. Hi El M, I like it, I was concerned initially about the lack of pull in straps and had difficulty deciding beyween the Conduit and the Ohm. In the end I went for the Conduit as I intended to use it solely as a summer pack and it was lighter. With a baseweight of just over 5kg I personally don't see the need for pull in straps and it's quite a small pack anyway. To be honest I've carried more weight in a Karrimor Hot Earth which doesn't have a hip-belt (just a wide webbing waist belt)let alone pull in straps. That said if you want pull in straps the Ohm looks good and weighs in at about 625g.

    I'm completely satisfied with it and in fact I sold both my Haglofs LIM45 and Gregory Z55 with a view to getting a bigger pack from ULA, this time I'm trying to decide between the Circuit and the Cataylst.