- The ULA Circuit is an ultralight backpack that weighs only 41 ounces but has an impressive 68-liter capacity, giving it one of the best weight-to-volume ratios.
- A spacious main compartment, a full-length rear mesh pocket, two side pockets, hip belt pockets, and several external attachment points offer a wide choice of storage options.
- The frame of the Circuit is composed of a single aluminum stay and a carbon fiber loop, giving the wearer a wide range of motion while maintaining rigid back support.
- ULA offers a range of customization options for the Circuit’s torso size, hip belt length, and shoulder strap shape, ensuring that your Circuit will be tailor-made specifically for your size and body shape.
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Full suspension internal framed backpack
Camping, hiking, thru-hiking, travel
Lifetime (original owner)
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Black, Blue Blaze, Original Green, Grey, Multicam Camo, Orange, Purple, Red, Teal, Custom
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For many backpackers, it can be a real challenge to find a pack that’s durable enough for long and multiple thru-hikes while still being light enough for day hiking. Right smack in this middle ground is the Circuit from Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA), a lightweight, comfortable, and durable pack that will appeal to hikers of all levels.
Weighing in at only 41 ounces or about 2.5 lbs., the lightweight Circuit still isn’t the lightest high-capacity backpack on the market. In fact, it weighs 9 ounces more than the ULA Ohm 2.0, another incredibly high-quality pack made by the company. The Circuit makes up for the bulk with a 68-liter capacity, giving it one of the best weight-to-volume ratios out of all similarly-sized packs (if you have greater capacity needs, we recommended checking out the 75 L ULA Catalyst). The Circuit is a perfect entry-level pack for those who want to get into ultralight backpacking but aren’t quite comfortable making the jump to packs that have minimal base weight.
ULA is a small, Utah-based company and one of the few remaining backpack companies still based in the US. Having their own manufacturing facility allows ULA to make customized backpacks which uniquely suit any user. There aren’t many other backpack companies that can offer the level of customization that ULA does. With 5 torso size options, 6 hip belt length options, and two different should strap shapes, each ULA bag has been designed to the customer’s exact specifications.
The ULA Circuit is rated to carry up to 35 pounds, but we find that it performs best with a 20 to 30 pound load. Carrying this weight, the Circuit is exceptionally comfortable. ULA prides itself on the quality of their packs and it really shows in the Circuit. All the stitches and seams are taped, helping the Circuit achieve a water-resistant design that’s ideal for 4-season use. The Circuit is durable enough to endure multiple thru-hikes, off-trail hiking, and traversing sharp rocks.
The main compartment of the Circuit is spacious enough to fit a bear canister. It has two accessory pockets, one for a hydration bag and another small pocket suitable to keep a notebook, a pen, or keys. These accessory pockets are optional and can be attached and removed using a couple of tri-glide clips. The no-frills design of the main compartment helps to keep the Circuit lightweight but can make things challenging when it comes to organizing all of your gear. To help transfer the heaviest load closer to your hips, the main compartment has a flared shape that’s curved on the bottom and more rectangular in the middle.
Instead of a top lid or porch, the main compartment of the top features a roll-top closure. Aside from helping to keep the weight of the pack down, the roll top mechanism also provides additional compression for larger loads. It can take a little getting used to, but we ultimately found that the roll top closure made it easier to access the contents of the main compartment and made packing much faster. A webbing strap that loops over the roll-top closure provides additional compression and can also be used to secure a rope or a rain shell over the top of the pack.
A large open rear mesh pocket provides storage space for wet items such as clothes, towels, or rain gear. It’s also ideal for larger items that you need to access quickly, such as a first aid kit. The extremely fine mesh design of the rear pocket makes it less likely to get snagged and torn when hiking off-trail. A single elastic cord that zigzags back and forth in front of the mesh pocket provides a means to secure its contents.
The ULA Circuit also has two large side pockets, each one big enough to store multiple water bottles. The side pockets are also very deep, so you don’t need to worry about taller water bottles falling out. Instead of mesh, the side pockets are made of a solid material for added durability. The bottoms of the side pockets have drain holes and are reinforced with an additional layer of water-resistant fabric. Shock cords with cord locks on top of these pockets can be cinched tight to secure its gear.
The hip belts of the Circuit terminate on a lumbar pad and clasp together using a single buckle. They are wider than usual, helping to provide better hip support and giving a lot of extra storage space. The two large zippered pockets in the hip belt are great for storing small but important items such as snacks, sunscreen, a flashlight, insect spray, or a camera. Dual strap hip belt adjustments and an adjustable Velcro attachment helps to keep the hip belt well-suited to users of any size.
When ordering ULA’s Circuit backpack, you have the option of a standard J-shaped strap or S-shaped strap, which is designed for people with breasts or barrel chests. For people with narrow shoulders, an adjustable sternum strap helps to keep the shoulder straps securely mounted. A pair of load lifter straps run down the shoulder pads which can help transfer the bulk of the weight of the pack towards the central frame and closer to your hip and lumbar area. The front of the shoulder straps also has several D-rings where you can clip on small items such as a flashlight or a GPS receiver. Yellow elastic straps are specially designed to act as water bottle holsters for even easier access to hydration.
With plenty of easy access options, using the Circuit means you can minimize water breaks and snack breaks, thus increasing your mileage.
One potential problem we noticed with the Circuit is the fact that the bottom webbing of each shoulder strap goes through the corresponding side pocket. At these points, there is a small hole in the side pockets which may cause small items to fall out.
The Circuit also has plenty of external attachment points for larger items or those that are exceptionally soiled or have sharp edges. Elastic cords designed as ice ax holders can be used to secure a foam pad to the bottom of the pack. A pair of side compression straps can also be used to store longer items such as an umbrella or trekking poles.
Back support is provided by a single aluminum stay that comes pre-bent and is anchored on the lumbar pad. A U-shaped carbon fiber loop runs around the top and the sides of the frame, which gives it a little more durability. An internal foam pad acts as a barrier between the load and the user’s back. Despite the rigidity provided by this multi-component frame, the choice of lightweight and flexible material means that the range of movement is not compromised. However, it also means that the frame tends to deform when the pack is overstuffed. Aside from the discomfort of having a bulge on your back, a bowed-out frame also means most of the load will be carried by your shoulders.
The frame does not have any provision to hold the load away from your back. Although the pack is comfortable in cool weather, the poor ventilation can be problematic when hiking on very hot days.
The back panel, shoulder straps, and hip belt are all lined with padded spacer mesh, making the pack comfortable even when carrying huge loads. It’s a minor gripe, but we find that the holes in this spacer mesh tend to collect debris such as twigs and sand.
The price of the Circuit is in the middle range of ultralight backpacks. It may not be the most expensive option, but it is still rather expensive. Considering its excellent quality of materials and workmanship, the level of customization of that ULA offers, and its impressive weight-to-volume ratio, we think the Circuit offers very good value for money.
ULA is committed to delivering packs with the highest standards of quality. ULA offers excellent after-service assistance on all purchases, and if you think that your pack has been worn down through normal use, ULA will provide tune-ups for no charge if you ship it back to them.
Should your ULA pack fail due to a manufacturing defect, ULA can offer free repair or replacement at their discretion. This warranty does not cover damage due to improper use or accidents. Take note that ULA only accepts cleaned packs when they’re returned due to warranty issues.
- The Circuit has an excellent weight-to-volume ratio: a 68-liter capacity in a pack that weighs a little more than 2 pounds.
- ULA offers a wide range of customization options, ensuring that the Circuit pack you order will be especially suited to your body size and shape.
- The rear mesh pocket, side pockets, hip belt pockets, and various external attachment points offer a variety of quick-access storage options.
- The lightweight and flexible frame material gives the Circuit good rigidity without sacrificing range of movement.
- The main compartment with minimal internal pockets may make it hard to organize gear.
- The frame does not provide good ventilation for the back panel, making the Circuit uncomfortable for backpacking in hot weather.
- The flexible frame can bow out when the pack is fully loaded, canceling out critical hip support features.
- Small holes in the side pockets where the shoulder strap webbing goes through make them unsuitable for storing small items.
The ULA Circuit is a versatile pack that’s suitable for both long thru-hikes and more casual day hikes. With a 68-liter capacity, you won’t lack storage space even though the pack only weighs in at roughly 40 ounces. With its unique combination of capacity, comfort, and durability, the Circuit appeals to both seasoned and amateur backpackers alike.
Much like the other packs offered by ULA, the Circuit can be ordered in a variety of torso sizes, hip belt lengths, and shoulder strap shapes. It is this level of customization that sets ULA’s packs apart from the many other ultralight packs on the market. With the ULA Circuit, you can be confident that the pack you ordered was made especially for you.