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ULA Equipment own image of the Catalyst backpack

The ULA Catalyst 75L rucksack has been my main long distance pack for about 10 years. I’ve used it walking the Pennine Way, Cape Wrath Trail and 1,200 miles walking Land’s End to John O’Groats amongst many others.

Pennine Way with my children in 2012

Volume

I like a large volume rucksack because it’s easier to pack and means you don’t have to force everything in it. It also allows me to carry more supplies, giving me room for a week’s food as well as all my camping equipment. This gives me greater access to more remote walks, and also means I can carry some of the younger children’s gear too.

I don’t travel ultra light. I like a bit of comfort while I’m walking, so I often carry more food and clothes than is absolutely essential, I don’t like to be hungry or cold! This also allows me the freedom and safety to change my route if the weather or my mood changes.

Lands End to John O’Groats and 3 Peaks walk 2019

Bespoke size

The ULA Catalyst 75L rucksack has a fixed back length, so you have to order the length to fit you. The hip belt is separate and again you order the size to fit. This way you end up with a bespoke rucksack that fits you perfectly.

Summit of Ben Nevis April 2019

Load

The ULA Catalyst will carry 18kgs (40lbs) or more. I like most of the weight on my hips, and this pack has a good back frame that transfers the weight to my hips very well. It’s extremely comfortable up to about 15kgs (33lbs), but thereafter I started to feel the weight on my shoulders more. However, I have carried nearly 20kgs (44lbs) reasonably comfortably.

South West Coast Path 2019
Walking the Pennine Way in 2012, carrying a lot of my children’s gear

Signs of wear – after 10 years of testing!

I’ve walked thousands of miles with the ULA Catalyst and never had a major problem. I’ve just had a few minor issues during my LEJOG walk in 2019 and these are the first signs of wear on the pack.

A number of the bungee cord retaining tabs stitching are failing
The stitching is failing on the lifting handle
The hip-belt pocket zip has failed. Probably my fault, continually stuffing too many snacks in the pocket
The coating on the inside of the hip-belt pocket is coming away
The shoulder straps look like they are still in perfect condition

Most of the above problems have happened during my LEJOG walk. None of them caused any real issues though, as they didn’t affect the performance of the pack. There was no worry about it falling apart or not being able to carry on. The main shoulder straps and hip belt show no signs of stress or potential failure. Even with the above issues, I would still be happy to take it on another long-distance hike without worry.

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February 2019 in Cornwall – heading to John O’Groats

Conclusion

It is an expensive backpack because it has to be imported from America, but it’s very comfortable and made to last. The pack has been designed exceptionally well and I find it very user friendly. I highly recommend it for heavier loads. I would happily buy another one.

Ultralight Outdoor gear is currently the only UK supplier of ULA packs.

ULA Equipment website

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Investing in good quality gear pays. This picture of me was taken in 1986 with my old Karrimor Jaguar S75 rucksack. My son is still using it and has just completed the West Highland Way with it. Still comfortable but twice the weight of the ULA Catalyst!

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