ULA Fastpack Review (45 L Backpack)

A lean, mean ultralight pack that was built for comfort and speed.

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ULA Fastpack Backpack
ULA Fastpack Front Detail
Fastpack Ultralight Backpack Side
ULA Fastpack Straps
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 Summary

  • The ULA Fastpack is an ultralight, durable, and water-resistant pack made for maximum comfort, speed, and mobility.
  • The main feature of the Fastpack is a vest-style shoulder harness which offers superior stability while also hosting an array of easy-to-access storage options.
  • The ULA Fastpack is frameless. With no load transfer mechanism, we recommend limiting the load of the Fastpack to within 10 to 12 lbs. Achieving this level of ultralight packing can be quite a challenge for beginners.
  • The Fastpack’s combination of price and quality is hard to match. For short trips, day-hikes, and general traveling, the versatility provided by the Fastpack is hard to match.

 Reviews by our Readers


Introduction

MAKE:
ULA Equipment
MODEL:
Fastpack
TYPE:
Vest-style ultralight pack
MSRP PRICE:
$135
RECOMMENDED FOR:
Camping, hiking, day hikes, overnight trips
WARRANTY:
Lifetime (original owner)
MODEL YEAR:
2019
WHERE TO BUY IT:
ULA Equipment’s Website

Pack Details

WEIGHT:
26 ounces
LOAD CAPACITY:
18 lbs
VOLUME:
45 L
AVAILABLE COLORS:
Black, Blue Blaze, Original Green, Grey, Multicam Camo, Orange, Purple, Red, Teal, Custom

Written Review

Big packs like the 75-liter ULA Catalyst or 68-liter Circuit are great whenever you need to carry gear and food for trips lasting a week or longer. However, there are also times when something more reasonably sized is needed for things like day-hikes or short trips. For these kinds of trips, we prefer a pack that focuses less on capacity and more on being able to move quickly and comfortably. The Fastpack from ULA, a 45-liter ultralight vest-style pack, certainly fits this bill.

At 26 ounces, the Fastpack is only slightly heavier than the ULA CDT. It’s also a frameless pack, which helps to keep the weight down. The volume capacity of the Fastpack is significantly lower than that of the CDT. Its extra weight is mostly a result of the added focus on the pack’s shoulder harness system, a deliberate design choice meant to enhance the mobility of the Fastpack.

The Fastpack features vest-style shoulder straps and no hip belt. Built for comfort and speed, the Fastpack is only designed for a maximum load of 18 lbs. Its secure and stable shoulder harness system makes the Fastpack an excellent pack for trail running. It’s also an excellent pack for short trips, able to fit enough gear and supplies for three days or less. Being frameless, the Fastpack works well for traveling as it easily goes through airport security checks. Keep in mind that this is a small pack and it tends to ride up on the back when worn — definitely recommended for small to medium-sized people (between 130 and 200 pounds).

Ultralight Adventures Equipment (ULA) is a Utah-based company and is one of the few remaining pack manufacturers located in the USA. Although they’re a small outfit, they offer consistently excellent customer service. ULA is known for providing a wide range of customization options for their packs. The Fastpack is no different, as you can order it in either medium or large torso size and in color schemes that use either the ULA 400 Robic or the 500 Cordura fabric. Choosing the Cordura fabric option makes the Fastpack about 2 ounces heavier and results in a slightly reduced tear resistance rating.

The main compartment of the Fastpack features a 25-liter capacity. It has a generous extension collar that can hold an additional 15 liters. As with other ULA packs, the main compartment has two removable internal pockets that can be used to hold a hydration pack or other small personal effects. Rain protection and compression is provided by a roll-top closure and a top compression strap. Two pairs of side compression straps, one near the top and one right above the side pockets, also provide ample compression for the pack’s main body.

Similar to other ULA packs, the Fastpack is equipped with a spacious rear mesh pocket. It is a little smaller compared to those found in the CDT or Ohm 2.0 but is still made with the same high-quality fine mesh material and offers reasonably good tear resistance. This pocket is an excellent storage option for wet or soiled items that you’d like to separate from the rest of your gear. A series of zigzagging bungee cords secure the contents of the rear mesh pocket while providing additional compression for the rest of the pack. Loops for securing a trekking pole or an ice axe can be found on each of the four corners of the rear mesh pocket.

The ULA Fastpack also features two side pockets, each one roomy enough to hold a 1 L water bottle or set of cooking equipment. The contents of the side pockets are secured with an elastic cord at the top. The lack of a bungee cord to secure smaller items is compensated by the fact that the side compression straps right above the pockets run to the bottom in a zig-zag pattern. This means that tightening the side compression straps also secures the contents of the side pockets.

One drawback of the Fastpack’s small size is the fact that the side pockets are no longer as accessible unless you remove the pack. Since they ride up a little higher than usual, these side pockets end up near the wearer’s armpits.

The shoulder straps of the Fastpack are what sets it apart from the other ULA packs. Instead of bungee cords, this pack’s shoulder straps feature sleeves that are big enough to hold 1 L water bottles. Right above these water bottle sleeves are large zip pockets that can be used to store items that need to be accessed quickly such as snacks, your mobile phone, a point-and-shoot camera, and back up batteries. These storage options make it possible for you to get through your hike without ever having to remove the pack, increasing your mileage and making the Fastpack truly deserving of its name.

To reduce the movement of the pack while you’re walking, the shoulder straps are held together by a sternum strap. However, the height of the sternum strap is not adjustable and it may be uncomfortable for some people. A series of zigzag straps also connect the shoulder straps to the main compartment, helping to reduce the pack’s lateral movement and keeping it close to your body.

The lack of a frame on the pack puts more of the weight on your shoulders which is why we recommend limiting the pack weight to 10 or 12 pounds. A spacer mesh and an interior foam pad add some comfort, although you have the option of removing the foam pad if you’re still cutting down on weight.

The Fastpack is one of the more affordable options for packs in its capacity range. We like how the shoulder straps were redesigned for more storage, allowing hikers to access their supplies while staying on the move. However, we find the Fastpack to be a little heavy for a “fastpack”, especially considering the fact that the ULA CDT is a little lighter. It is still an excellent choice for day-hiking and trail running, but this vest-style pack probably won’t be a super popular choice for long-distance runners.

 Warranty

ULA guarantees that the ULA Fastpack will be free of manufacturing defects. If you experience a problem with your pack due to a defect in materials or workmanship, ULA will gladly repair or replace it at no cost. Keep in mind that to be eligible for the warranty, the pack must have been used under normal conditions and according to proper procedures.

Damage due to accidents and general wear and tear are not covered by ULA’s warranty. To make sure that your pack is received by ULA when you send it in for warranty concerns, just keep in mind that the pack needs to have been recently cleaned.

Pros:

  • The ULA Fastpack is made of lightweight but highly durable water-resistant material that can withstand trips and hikes in rough conditions.
  • With 45 liters of total capacity, the Fastpack has ample space for day-hikes, short hiking trips, and general travel.
  • The innovative shoulder strap design keeps you on the move by allowing access to critical supplies without requiring you to take off the pack.

Cons:

  • The frameless design of the Fastpack means that most of the weight will be carried by your shoulders and back. This can prove to be tiring after a long hike, especially if you choose to maximize the 18 pound capacity rating of the Fastpack.
  • The non-adjustable sternum strap may end up riding toohigh or toolow, depending on the size of the wearer. Not only will this be uncomfortable, but it also compromises the stability of the pack (especially during intense motion).
  • At 26 ounces, the Fastpack is a bit on the heavy side for a “fastpack”. While it’s lightweight enough for hiking and traveling, it may be too heavy to appeal to long-distance runners.

 Final Thoughts

The ULA Fastpack is an ultralight pack made especially for comfort and speed. The innovative design focuses on the shoulder harness that provides excellent stability and versatile storage options. With the comfort and accessibility of the Fastpack, you can constantly be on the move without having to reach into your pack to grab supplies.

The frameless design of the Fastpack limits the practical weight in which it can be loaded. Although it’s certainly possible to load it up its maximum 18 pound limit, we find that it’s not comfortable for longer hauls. Having no load transfer mechanism means that most of the Fastpack’s weight is carried by the wearer’s shoulders.

Considering its price and level of quality, the ULA Fastpack offers excellent value for money. Although it’s not the lightest pack around, we like the capacity and comfort that it provides — overall, a worthwhile addition to your gear arsenal in our opinion.

Click Here to Buy ULA’s Fastpack

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