ULA Epic Review (Waterproof Backpack)

An unconventional backpack for packrafters who need a bombproof waterproof bag.

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ULA Epic Waterproof Backpack
ULA Epic Bag Front
ULA Epic Side
ULA Epic Backpack Waist Belt
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 Summary

  • The ULA Epic backpack is made for packrafting trips, augmenting the waterproof quality of dry bags with a shoulder harness that provides additional storage space, comfortable shoulder straps and hip belt, and a rigid frame for load transfer.
  • By default, the ULA Epic comes with a 65-liter drybag from Sea to Summit. You can opt out of this included dry bag which will save you $50. In any case, the Epic is versatile enough to adjust to different dry bag capacities from 30 to 70 liters.
  • Much like other ULA packs, the Epic provides additional storage with a rear mesh pocket, optional side pockets, extra large hip belt pockets, and a variety of cords and D-rings on the shoulder straps. However, the Epic’s extra storage space is not at the level of those found in the ULA Circuit or Catalyst.
  • The ULA Epic is not a traditional backpack and the concept of relying on a dry bag as the pack’s main compartment won’t appeal to everyone.

 Reviews by our Readers


Introduction

MAKE:
ULA
MODEL:
Epic
TYPE:
Waterproof Backpack
MSRP PRICE:
$285
RECOMMENDED FOR:
Packrafting, expeditions, distance hikes, adventure travel, paddling trips
WARRANTY:
Lifetime (original owner)
MODEL YEAR:
2019
WHERE TO BUY IT:
ULA’s Website

Pack Details

WEIGHT:
32.5 oz
LOAD CAPACITY:
40 lbs
VOLUME:
38L – 82L
SIZES:
Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
AVAILABLE COLORS:
Black

Written Review

The concept of packrafting is based on the desire to overcome limits imposed by rivers and lakes on backpacking and hiking trips. Although the practice has started to gain popularity within the hiking community, many hikers find themselves having to rethink how they pack their gear for packrafting trips. After all, packrafting requires you to bring along a lot of additional stuff — aside from the packraft itself, you need paddles, a pump, and a personal flotation device (PFD).

You also need to put a lot of thought into whether or not your pack is suitable for a packrafting trip. Not only should it have enough capacity and storage options for all of your gear, but it also needs to have enough water resistance to keep your gear dry during those inevitable splashes, downpours, and dunks.

The waterproof Epic pack from ULA checks all of these boxes. It’s not a traditional backpack in the sense that it’s only an external frame designed to act as a dry bag harness. Made with ULA 210 Robic Fabric, the Epic is designed to withstand the harsh conditions that serious hiking and packrafting trips are known for. The choice of material keeps the Epic both lightweight and durable. On its own, the Epic only weighs 32.5 ounces but it can support a maximum load of 40 pounds. ULA recommends maintaining a minimum base weight of 10 pounds when using this pack.

The Epic is only one in a series of high-quality products by Ultralight Equipment Adventures (ULA), a Utah-based company who is one of the few remaining US-based backpack manufacturers. They have a reputation for providing excellent customer service and for offering a wealth of customization options for their bags. The Epic is no different. Although it only comes in black, the Epic is offered with four different options for torso size, five hip belt lengths, and a choice between J-shaped or S-shaped shoulder straps. With all of these choices, you can be sure that the Epic you order will fit you to a tee.

The standard Epic pack comes with a 65-liter Big Liter dry bag from Sea to Summit and removable side pockets. With these additions, the total empty weight of the Epic pack comes to 48 ounces. The Sea to Summit dry bag is a little on the heavy side because of the fact that it’s made from highly durable 420D Denier Nylon fabric. This is a very versatile and reliable material that’s virtually abrasion-proof and can even withstand bushwhacking through heavy vegetation. Waterproofing is provided by the TPU-laminated fabric as well as double-stitched, reinforced, and taped seams.

If you already have an existing dry bag or simply want to go with something else, then you can order the Epic without the dry bag and side pocket additions. This lowers the price of the Epic by $50. The Epic shoulder harness is extremely versatile and should fit dry bags between 30 liters and 70 liters in size, and the top and side compression straps can be easily adjusted to dial in the perfect fit.

To help you carry all the gear needed for packrafting trips, the Epic features an internal frame with two aluminum stays. The stays come pre-bent but can be reconfigured to suit the arch of your back. The rigid frame provides a load transfer system that shifts the load’s weight away from your back and shoulders and to your hips. The aluminum stays can also be removed if you need to further reduce the weight of your pack.

The bag’s hip belts are extra-wide to provide stability and comfort while also providing ample storage space. With a total capacity of 1.5 liters, the hip pockets are large enough to store snacks, a mobile phone, water filter, or point-and-shoot camera.

Outside of the dry bag, you won’t be short on storage space. The zipped front mesh pocket with a 6.5-liter capacity is great for storing wet gear or items that you need to get to without having to open the dry bag. The Epic also comes with smaller removable mesh pockets designed to hold a hydration bag or small personal effects such as keys or your phone.

If you decide to go with the optional side pockets, you can enjoy additional storage space that’s large enough to fit 1-liter water bottles with room to spare. These side pockets are reinforced with ULA 400D Robic fabric and easily attach to the pack’s side compression straps. The pockets are the perfect height and easy to reach even without removing the pack — a great design that allows you to hydrate without having to stop and put down the bag.

The Epic’s shoulder straps feature load lifters that can be easily adjusted to align the pack’s load along the rigid frame. Similar to larger ULA packs like the Circuit and the Catalyst, the Epic’s shoulder straps are also equipped with bungee cords for water bottle storage and several D-rings that can be used to hook small items such as a compass or GPS receiver.

Since the Epic is designed with packrafting in mind, it comes with adjustable straps at the bottom to hold your packraft. Paddles and other long items, such as trekking poles, can be easily secured using the side compression straps.

Versatile and designed to get wet, the Epic is one of the more unique products from ULA. It’s not cheap but the quality of the pack is unquestionable. If you’re a packrafter or have need for a durable waterproof backpack, the Epic is one of the best options currently available.

 Warranty

Like all other ULA products, if your Epic pack experiences a failure due to manufacturing or material defect, ULA will gladly repair or replace your pack at no cost. Take note that damage due to improper use of the bag, an accident, or normal wear and tear is not covered by ULA’s warranty. Lastly, before sending in any bags for a warranty claim, ULA requires the bag to be washed.

Pros:

  • The ULA Epic is a unique solution that was specially designed for packrafting. It provides complete waterproof protection, comfort, and bombproof durability in an ultralight package.
  • By default, the Epic comes with a 65-liter drybag from Sea to Summit. However, it was also designed to fit a variety of dry bag styles and sizes. Whether you decide to pack heavy or light, the Epic can be easily adjusted to your needs.
  • Aside from the dry bag, the Epic offers a lot of storage options distributed across the rear mesh pockets, hip belt pockets, optional side pockets, and the various bungee cords and D-rings on the shoulder straps.

Cons:

  • Being a non-traditional backpack, the Epic is certainly not for everyone. The use of a dry bag as the main compartment makes the Epic heavier than other options constructed from materials such as Dyneema or Robic.
  • The Epic relies heavily on the size of the dry bag used. Although it has a rear mesh pocket and other auxiliary pockets, these aren’t nearly as large as those found in the ULA Circuit or Catalyst.

 Final Thoughts

If you’re a packrafting enthusiast, then the ULA Epic will be right up your alley. It’s far from a traditional pack and will require a significant shift in how you prepare for your trips, but it’s a great option. ULA has retained the ultralight principle with the Epic, keeping things lightweight without compromising on comfort and durability.

Bottom line: If you need a pack that’s 100% waterproof and durable enough for the harshest conditions on land and water, then the ULA Epic is worth a serious look.

Click Here to Buy the ULA Epic Pack

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