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OR - ULA Catalyst backpack - Lyon

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  • richardglyon
    Just in time to miss out on brownie points. Edit away. HTML version in Test/OR folder at http://tinyurl.com/yu5o2s. OWNER REVIEW ÛLA EQUIPMENT CATALYST
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 8, 2007
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      Just in time to miss out on brownie points. Edit away. HTML version
      in Test/OR folder at http://tinyurl.com/yu5o2s.

      OWNER REVIEW
      ÛLA EQUIPMENT CATALYST BACKPACK
      Richard Lyon
      July 8, 2007
      Personal Details and Backpacking Background
      Male, 60 years old
      Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
      Weight: 200 lb (91 kg)
      Email address: rlyon AT gibsondunn DOT com
      Home: Dallas, Texas USA
      I've been backpacking for 45 years on and off, and regularly in the
      Rockies since 1986. I do a week long trip every summer, and often
      take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at
      altitudes 5000 to 13000 ft (1500 - 4000 m). I prefer base camp
      backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do my
      share of forced marches too. Though always looking for ways to
      reduce weight, I'm not yet a lightweight hiker and I usually choose
      a bit more weight over foregoing camp conveniences I've come to
      expect.
      Product Description
      Manufacturer: Ultralight Adventure Equipment, Logan, Utah USA (ULA)
      Website: www.ula-equipment.com. All quotations in this review come
      from this website. The Catalyst page on this website has a useful
      tool that allows a reader to view the Catalyst from all sides.
      Year of manufacture: 2006
      Year of Purchase: 2006
      Fabric: Dyneema Gridstop
      Colors: Green and white grid fabric, black trim. A few straps are
      silver-colored.
      Features: "Internal Frame, Contoured Shoulder Straps, Bellowed Side
      Mesh Pockets, Bellowed Front Mesh Pocket, Front Shock Cord, Side/Top
      Compression Straps, Dual Ice Axe/Pole Retention Loops, Dual Hipbelt
      Pockets, Dry-Bag Style Top Closure, Durable Dyneema Gridstop, Bear
      Canister Capable."
      MSRP: Pack, $225 US.
      Optional accessories:
      Accessory Manufacturer's Description (in quotes) or Author's
      Comment MSRP ($ US) Listed weight
      (oz/g)
      Dual Stay Framesheet "Dual aluminum stays replace the standard
      single stay for increased load control and stability." Recommended
      by company owner Brian Frankle for larger loads. 10 3 /
      85
      Internal Stash Pocket A removable internal zippered mesh pocket,
      approximately 5 x 8 in / 13 x 21 cm, for easy storage of small items
      such as car keys. 5 1 / 28
      Hydration Sleeve "Accommodates all 2 L bladders. A few 3 L
      bladders will fit. Drinking Tube exit ports on both sides of the
      Catalyst allow for easy tube management." Also removable. My
      Platypus 2L bladder fits just fine, a 3L Camelbak is too large.
      5 1.3 / 37
      H20 Bottle Holsters "Holds 16 oz [0.5 l] traditional bicycle
      bottles snugly." Not your usual holster; these are removable bungee
      cords that attach on the shoulder straps; see photo below. 2
      each 0.4 / 11 each
      Hand loops "Nice for folks who do not use trekking poles."
      Removable webbing loops, located at about sternum level on the
      shoulder straps. 2 each 0.8 / 23 each
      ULA has a convenient sizing guide its website that enables a
      customer to determine the proper frame size, from Small to Extra
      Large, based upon torso length, and hip belt size, from Extra Small
      to Extra Large, based upon waist size.
      Listed Weight, from website: Standalone pack, 43 oz (1.22 kg) (size
      not specified); accessories that I ordered (see below), 7.3 oz/ 207
      g). See chart above for listed weight of individual accessories.
      Measured weight of pack as delivered, XL frame, Large hip belt: 49
      oz (1.4 kg)
      Listed load guide: 30 – 40 lb/ 13.6 – 18.1 kg
      Listed capacity:
      Item (number on pack) Listed capacity (cubic inches/liters)
      Main Body (1) 2600 / 42.6 (See note)
      Front Mesh Pocket (1) 600 / 9.8
      Side Mesh Pocket (2) Each 350 / 5.7
      Extension Collar (1) 600 / 9.8
      Hip belt Pockets (2) Each 50 / 0.8
      Total Volume 4600 / 75.2
      Note: Per email correspondence with ULA owner Brian Frankle the
      Catalyst with XL frame has on overall capacity of about 5200 cubic
      inches (85 liters).
      Warranty: Lifetime warranty to original owner against defects in
      workmanship and materials. Also: "All packs are returnable if the
      product does not meet your needs. It does no good for either of us
      to have you using a pack you do not like. Packs will ONLY be
      accepted if they are returned in a new, unused condition. Shipping
      costs WILL NOT be refunded when your payment is reimbursed."
      The Catalyst, ULA's largest pack, is an internal frame backpack
      designed to minimize weight without sacrificing "the basic
      components of traditional backpacking -- comfort, function, and
      durability." ULA introduced it in 2006 as an upgraded version of
      its P-2 backpack. The buyer specifies which optional accessories
      and consequent additional weight he or she desires. I ordered mine
      with dual frame sheet, stash pocket, hydration sleeve, hand loops,
      and one water bottle holder (on the left), bringing the total list
      price to $251 US.
      ULA's approach to backpack modularity in the Catalyst is to allow
      the user to adapt the pack to loads of different sizes by using (or
      not) different compartments or sleeves included as standard issue,
      rather that adding or subtracting pockets, holsters, straps, or
      different-sized pack bags from a stripped-down frame. This pack has
      a large mesh pocket across most of the front of the pack that's
      criss-crossed by bungee cord-like elastic bands, so that I can use
      the pocket for a large item and then stuff a smaller item into the
      cords. In the photo my sleeping pad is in the pocket and my rain
      jacket stuffed into the cords. The mesh can also be loosened or
      cinched down somewhat by means of hook-and-loop attachments at the
      top on either side; these also allow safe and effective storage of
      long items like the trekking poles in the photo. Large mesh sleeves
      with elastic collars run diagonally across each side of the pack,
      similarly permitting use for many different things.
      The pack bag of the Catalyst has a single compartment, a top-
      loader. I'm not sure what ULA's description of "dry bag style top
      closure" means, as the lip of the pack bag and of the cover have no
      hook-and-loop closures, but they can be rolled up together and
      clipped securely if the pack is less than full. When the load in
      the bag rises above the sides of the pack, the extended cover can be
      adjusted with side compression straps that attach with quick-release
      snaps to keep everything snug and covered. A long strap with a male
      connector and compression slide runs from the back of the pack down
      the center of the cover to a female connector at the top of the
      front pocket that also has a compression strap. Each side panel has
      a compression strap that allows cinching up less-than-full loads.
      Sewn-on zippered hip belt pockets and tool loop at the bottom of
      each corner of the front mesh pocket provide additional storage for
      smaller items.
      Field Conditions
      I used the Catalyst as my primary pack last summer on day hikes and
      overnighters in the Rockies in August, September, and November, and
      on several day hikes in the Texas Hill Country last fall and winter,
      and very recently on two day hikes in Montana. Temperatures ranged
      from 30 to 90 F (- 1 to 32 C). The August and September hikes
      included some steep on-trail hiking, with daily elevation gain of
      between 2500-3000 feet (800-950 m), with a pack weight of between 35
      and 50 pounds (16-23 kg), including food and water. Low humidity
      but still plenty of sweat on the uphill climbs! The Montana day hike
      loads were in the 30-pound (14 kg) range, artificially inflated
      because I volunteered to carry some children's food and gear and to
      see how well a stove that I am testing packed into the Catalyst.
      These day hikes were relatively short but with an elevation gain of
      about 1000 feet (300 m), starting at 5000 feet (1500 m). I wore the
      Catalyst once on a cloudless day ski in Wyoming, elevation about
      10000 feet (3000 m) in January, with temperatures hovering around 0
      F (-18 C), with a load of perhaps 20 pounds (9 kg). In the
      following section I mention some particular items included in
      various pack loads.
      While I was fortunate enough to have fair weather most of the time I
      did hike through a couple of showers and a brief thunderstorm while
      wearing the Catalyst.
      Evaluation
      Disclaimer. I don't consider myself an expert on backpacks. For
      the past twenty years I've used only two on a regular basis when
      overnight camping, and they were similar to each other: a pre-Kelty
      Dana Design Terraplane and a Mystery Ranch BDSB. Even when looking
      for a permanent replacement for the Terraplane my experimenting was
      limited to a couple of Mystery Ranch prototypes. For those
      unfamiliar with these two great packs, both fall firmly (and
      heavily) into the expedition pack category. Each weighs more than
      eight pounds (3.7 kg) and lists capacity in excess of 6000 cubic
      inches (98 liters). Only last year did I decide to seek some
      serious weight reduction for shorter trips, and the Catalyst was one
      of the candidates I examined. It's possible that my opinions in
      this review are colored by my first exposure to a pack designed and
      intended for those who describe themselves as "lightweight"
      backpackers.
      Weight Distribution. I learned my first lesson very quickly, that
      this pack demands careful packing to ensure a comfortable carrying
      load. If I follow my sloppy giant pack ways and pay close attention
      only to my sleeping bag I find myself shifting the adjusters,
      pulling on the hand loops to counter the pack's pulling away from my
      shoulders, or listing to port or starboard. Not only that, with the
      pack less than fully loaded things tend to move about inside the
      main pack bag. These early experiences got me to focus on balancing
      the weight and at the same time taught me how to take advantage of
      the Catalyst's different storage options. Anything in the side or
      rear pockets should be waterproof, of course, but with some practice
      it's now fairly easy for me to keep things balanced out and me
      relatively comfortable. Here's an example of a recent pack load and
      where each item was stored:
      Main compartment: Sleeping bag in stuff sack at the bottom, with
      food packets at each end. Tent body (left) and down sweater in a
      compression sack (right) above these. Then Jetboil PCS, spare pair
      of socks inside an insulated cup, backcountry fly fishing kit (reel
      and gear box), clean merino underwear for sleeping (in a stuff
      sack), toilet kit, and additional food. 2L hydration bladder in the
      sleeve. Spare shirt, socks, Aquamira kit, and other small items
      stuffed in. Car keys and wallet in the stash pocket.
      Front pocket: Sleeping pad, with rain jacket on the outside.
      Left mesh pocket: Tent poles and stakes in stuff sack, rain pants,
      first aid kit.
      Right mesh pocket: Fly rod in tube, windshirt in a plastic bag, map,
      trowel and toilet paper in Zip-Lock bag.
      Left hip belt pocket: Tube of sunscreen and bottle of bug juice, in
      a Zip-Lock bag; Clif Bar; pocket knife, headlamp.
      Right hip belt pocket: Camera
      Left shoulder strap: 0.75 l/qt water bottle.
      When I have packed it carefully the Catalyst does a very good job of
      weight distribution. The forty-pound (18 kg) rating is if anything
      conservative, as I've packed with as much as 50 lb (23 kg) on a ten-
      mile (16 km) hike with no particular problems.
      Fine tuning. Straps at the top of the shoulder pads and a sternum
      strap aid weight distribution by allowing me to hike up the pack so
      that it rides on my hips and stays close to my back. I've been able
      to tighten these one-handed while wearing the pack; loosening any
      one of them sometimes requires both hands. There are also
      adjustable straps between the bottom of the shoulder straps and the
      hip belt; these I must adjust before placing the pack on my
      shoulders. With the heaviest load, 50 lb (23 kg) the pack will
      occasionally slip down my back slightly. I didn't try this pack on
      before buying it and I have once or twice thought that perhaps the
      frame is too long, but I've met with this problem on other packs
      that the pack designer himself custom fitted to me, so I'm inclined
      to blame this issue on less-than-perfect packing or adjusting on my
      part. I can report that I haven't yet had sore shoulders at the end
      of any day and haven't had that dreaded feeling of lugging a boulder
      that comes when the top of my pack pulls away from my shoulders.
      Ten compression straps – two on the lid of the pack, four on the
      shoulder straps, one on each side, and two on the strap that runs
      across the middle of the cover – are effective at choking the pack
      size down when necessary. So effective, in fact, that now that I'm
      used to it I haven't minded using the Catalyst as a day pack.
      Durability. So far so good. I haven't bushwhacked extensively in
      this pack, but it's held up very well in its rookie year, with no
      tears, scratch marks, loose threads, or jammed zippers. The fabric
      is water resistant when exposed to intermittent showers.
      Options. With one reservation each optional accessory does its
      job. I haven't been able to measure or compare, of course, but I
      believe that the dual frame sheet has aided carrying capacity, given
      the comfortable ride of the pack at a weight in excess of its
      recommended capacity. I like the hand loops for minor weight
      adjustments and, as advertised, as an alternative to trekking poles
      on less rigorous hikes. The hydration sleeve works just fine with
      the minor tweaking discussed below. I really appreciate the stash
      pocket; I'm paranoid about storing car keys in anything other than a
      zippered pocket and now I know exactly where they are. My only
      issue is with the water bottle holder. This is a means of carrying
      extra water that's less intrusive than a holster on a hip belt, but
      even after cinching the bungee as much as possible a bottle often
      slips out when I'm swinging the pack onto or off of my shoulders.
      Making sure that the top cord is set in the groove between bottle
      and cap reduces this risk somewhat. A bottle with a throat stays
      put more often than the cylinder shown in the photo. I haven't had
      the bottle impede arm movement when hiking.
      The Good
      Overall I give this pack very high marks; what follows are
      especially noteworthy items:
      Weight distribution. It's really, really good. I've been spoiled
      by my expedition packs, but I don't lose much in this category when
      I fill up the Catalyst properly. Saving more than four pounds (1.7
      kg) just by taking the Catalyst instead of one of my expedition
      packs makes this a worthwhile trade-off for me.
      Versatility. I can use it for a weekend or an afternoon.
      Simplicity. Everything has a purpose and there's no feature that I
      haven't used to good effect. Very little has gone wrong.
      The hip belt pockets are perfectly placed for easy access. Because
      they're sewn on there's no chance of their slipping around on the
      belt or catching on something and coming off. Truly useful on every
      outing.
      Similarly, the mesh pocket and cord system on the front of the pack
      make for very efficient packing.
      The Not-So-Good
      I do have some nitpicks and suggestions for improvement:
      The hydration ports at the sides of the Catalyst are too small. I
      had difficulty forcing the bite valve of my Platypus system through,
      and a larger valve on a Camelbak system that I have won't fit,
      requiring me to detach the tube from the lid or the valve for
      insertion through the port. A minor inconvenience except in winter
      when the tube wears a neoprene sleeve, when it's a real struggle.
      A necessary consequence of use of the side pockets for real storage
      means that the mesh on the side pockets tends to sag, making the
      pockets bulge out when not stuffed with gear. I've had a problem
      with this snagging on bushes that are close to the trail. It also
      means less-than-ideal tension when all that's in the pocket is an
      expensive fly rod. I'd like a bungee cord-type of tensioner to take
      account of a less-than-full load.
      As noted, the water bottle holder requires attention every time I
      put on or take off the pack.
    • chcoa
      PLEASE READ THIS EMAIL IN FULL. IT IS MOST IMPORTANT! Thanks for your Owner s Review. It has been added to the Owner Review Queue and will be picked up by an
      Message 2 of 4 , Jul 10, 2007
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        PLEASE READ THIS EMAIL IN FULL. IT IS MOST IMPORTANT!

        Thanks for your Owner's Review. It has been added to the Owner
        Review Queue and will be picked up by an Edit Moderator soon. Do
        not worry if nothing happens with it for several days. All our
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        official edit within fourteen days. If you have not had a response
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        To assist in this process, if this is your first Owner Review we ask
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      • rayestrella1
        Hi Richard, Thanks for another fine review. You know the drill. I have a few edits. After they are done you may put it here; http://tinyurl.com/2a467t Ray
        Message 3 of 4 , Jul 12, 2007
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          Hi Richard,

          Thanks for another fine review. You know the drill. I have a few
          edits. After they are done you may put it here;

          http://tinyurl.com/2a467t

          Ray



          ***Manufacturer: Ultralight Adventure Equipment, Logan, Utah USA (ULA)

          Edit: I think the (ULA) should go right after the actual name.



          ***ULA has a convenient sizing guide its website that enables a
          customer

          EDIT: "on" its website…



          **the Catalyst with XL frame has on overall capacity

          EDIT: "an" overall capacity…



          ***rather that adding or subtracting pockets, holsters, straps, or
          different-sized pack bags from a stripped-down frame.

          EDIT: rather "than"…



          ***I'm not sure what ULA's description of "dry bag style top closure"
          means, as the lip of the pack bag and of the cover have no hook-and-
          loop closures

          Comment: most traditional dry-bags have a roll down top that then
          clips together from the sides of the rolled down top. Is that what
          this does? I have lots of dry-bags in MN.



          Low humidity but still plenty of sweat on the uphill climbs!

          Comment: I hear you…



          ***I volunteered to carry some children's food and gear and to see
          how well a stove that I am testing packed into the Catalyst.

          Comment: ah the things we do for BGT!



          ***While I was fortunate enough to have fair weather most of the time
          I did hike through a couple of showers and a brief thunderstorm while
          wearing the Catalyst.

          EDIT: I try to never edit for commas, but this needs one after "time".



          ***A minor inconvenience except in winter when the tube wears a
          neoprene sleeve, when it's a real struggle.

          Comment: I had to do surgery on a new pack just for this reason
        • richardglyon
          Ray, Thanks for the quick turnaround. Revised and uploaded and Test file deleted. Regarding the dry bag closure, the top of the Catalyst looks to me like an
          Message 4 of 4 , Jul 13, 2007
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            Ray, Thanks for the quick turnaround. Revised and uploaded and Test
            file deleted. Regarding the dry bag closure, the top of the Catalyst
            looks to me like an ordinary pack apron, with no toggle. There are
            no "lips" like those on my dry bags(I have a couple that I use on
            fishing and rafting trips) and no clips. As I indicate in the review
            it's possible to roll up the top when the pack's not stuffed, but I
            can't find anything designed especially for this purpose. I'm going
            to ask Brian about it but I think he's on one of his sabbaticals,
            er, field expeditions for the next few months. Regards, Richard

            --- In BackpackGearTest@yahoogroups.com, "rayestrella1"
            <rayestrella@...> wrote:
            >
            >
            > >>
            > Comment: most traditional dry-bags have a roll down top that then
            > clips together from the sides of the rolled down top. Is that what
            > this does? I have lots of dry-bags in MN.
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
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