It wasn’t that long ago that I posted a review on the ZPacks Arc Blast (HERE) and proposed that any pack need not weigh more than 500 gr / 17.6 ounces. The OHM 2 comes in at 822 gr / 29 ounces (Torso M / Hipbelt M) and it’s such a great pack that I now find myself in the situation of ordering a large portion of humble pie.
I know I harp on about weight sometimes because for a thru-hiker it is number one priority. However, there are exceptions to every rule and the OHM 2 is most definitely one of them.
I used an OHM 2 for my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2012 and also used a ULA Circuit, a larger capacity pack, on my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike. The Circuit was chosen primarily for its larger size because of longer distances between re-supply points and hence the need to carry more food, it had a 69 litre / 4,200 cubic inch capacity with all the pockets and mesh etc taken into account. The OHM 2 has a 65 litre / 3,960 cubic inch capacity assuming the same. I chose the OHM 2 for the AT because re-supply was more frequent, my gear packed slightly smaller and I wanted to take advantage of the packs lighter weight.
I did a lot of research on packs before the PCT. I tried Go-Lite Jam and hated it. A Granite Gear Blaze was occupying top choice until I stumbled across the ULA website and having taken a look around, I did something I don’t usually do concerning packs, I ordered the Circuit without the benefit of being able to try it on and had it delivered to the States where I could pick it up when I arrived.
I needn’t have worried; I unwrapped the box in earnest at my uncles in San Jose, threw some gear in and went off round the block for a test run.The first thing that struck me was the comfort, it sat on my hips perfectly and the bottom nestled into the arch of my lower back nicely. For want of a better description, it felt great and moved well with me.
The OHM 2 – Amazing fit and comfort
This is a framed pack utilising a 1.2 oz carbon fiber/delrin active suspension hoop, think of an inverted U and you should get the picture. I still prefer framed packs and the materials used these days such as carbon fiber add a tiny amount of weight. The weight is transferred onto my hips where I want it to be. I’m still not sold on framless packs, even though some swear by coiling up a ground mat to stiffen the whole unit, I always carry an inflatable pad so it kind of rules them out.
There seems to be so many variations on the light factor at the moment that everyone’s confused. There’s light, super light, ultra light, and now someone has thrown in hyper light to confuse the issue even further. I figure after a complete lack of research that the above order is about right with the heaviest option first, i.e – light, going down to Hyper Light as the lightest.
Confused? Tell me about it.
ULA packs have never claimed to be the lightest packs on the market; having said that they slot nicely into the ultra-light category. This means a product heavier than others but still light, and with a little more weight, I would expect some compensation. Comfort is the prime bribe as I have said above. There is something about a ULA pack that just sits right. Testament to the design, construction, or whatever they are doing over there in Utah, I saw a lot of people on both the PCT and AT with one of their packs, in fact on the PCT it was probably the most popular brand. The OHM 2 felt right from the first day and despite not having tried it before, I never suffered from any rub / abrasion points.
In terms of durability it also scores well. The main material for the pack body is 1.9oz ripstop nylon, a tried and trusted material that won’t let you down. Both my packs from ULA were with me until the end of their thru-hikes and are still totally usable now. Despite a little stitching repair to the Circuit I still take them out.
So what do you get for your money? ULA are now also offering various colours as well as their standard green. The OHM 2 also comes with various standard fitments; large mesh pocket on the outside, two hip pockets, water bottle straps, sternum strap, load lifters, interior hydration sleeve, interior mesh pocket, hand loops and foam pad. All these are removable if not required which is a nice extra as opposed to permanent fixtures.
The mesh pocket is 5.2 litres / 500 cubic inches. In layman’s terms, that’s a pair of shoes and waterproofs. If you’ve never owned a pack with an external mesh pocket you probably wouldn’t miss it but if you have, you probably couldn’t do without it. Not only is it extra storage for that departure from town with a full food quota, it’s also brilliant for stowing wet gear so it dries over the course of a day.
The zipped hip pockets are perfect for items you need during the day without the hassle of removing the pack to access them. Stuff such as a camera and snacks can be stored here. They’re not waterproof but I usually just slip in a couple of zip lock bags to overcome this.
Water bottle straps I’ve never seen the attraction in. They’re placed, give or take, around chest height on the main straps and are designed to do just that, hold a couple of water bottles. I saw many hikers in the States with 2 Gatorades strapped in and I did try the set up but found them too top heavy. They are, however, extremely handy as an umbrella securing device. I used one of the 2 side pockets to store a 1 litre bottle where it was within reach, both during desert sections or for snacks. My poncho usually resided there where I could reach back and grab it in the event of a shower.
Water bottle straps, not fussed but they make a great fixing to secure your umbrella
The side pockets are where I store my water bottle and they’re useful for other items as well
A sternum strap is something I can also live without. I used it on occasion, mainly when carrying a full load after re-supply either up or down hill, where any pack tends to become a little top heavy and starts to sway from side to side.
Load lifters do exactly what they say. They are situated at shoulder height and drop down the front of the pack straps for easy reach. They lift the pack and also pull it closer into the body. A lot of straps tend to work lose on a hike, this is no exception but a quick pull on the straps and all of a sudden there’s a whole new level of comfort.
The interior hydration sleeve works as you’d expect, it holds your Platapus, or whatever your bladder preference is, inside and the tube exits either to your right or left hand side. The water bottle straps do come into play here, if you like, by securing the hose so it doesn’t flap about. If you don’t use a bladder, save some weight and take it out or utilise it for other items that you want ready access to.
The interior mesh pocket is also removable but I kept mine. The weight is minimal and it’s great for items that you want to keep dry inside the pack, but want ready access to when in town. For example, wallet, passport etc. You know exactly where they are and come into view as soon as you open the pack.
Hand loops hang down from the main straps and are designed simply to slip your hands in for an alternative position, kind of like tucking your hands behind the main straps for a while. They’re also removable.
The foam pad slips down the back of the pack and acts as a barrier against sharp objects protruding from the pack. It’s a tiny amount of weight worth holding onto to as it can also help you out in other areas such as a sit pad, or extra ground insulation to sleep on.
The main pack compartment is accessed by a simple drawstring setup, pretty much standard. There is no pack lid which I don’t miss. The opening is closed with the drawstring, and then rolled over to be secured by another strap. This will keep you safe from H2O except in a torrential downpour. I haven’t used a pack lid for years and don’t really see the point, they’re just added weight for no purpose. OK, they may save a little water ingress during a shower but I always use a pack liner or poncho. As for the usual couple of compartments I really don’t see the point so a tick for ULA for not bothering here.
Standard and reliable drawstring enclosure coupled with . . .
… roll over top is all I need. I gave up on lids a long time ago.
I love the hip belt but am not sold on the 4 point adjustment system. It’s handy to fine tune, for example you can slacken off the lower adjustment where the hip protrudes, and conversely tighten the upper adjustment where your hip narrows in. I found I was constantly fiddling with it and I’d prefer to see one strap with 2 adjustments. The hip belt can be ordered according to your size and also, fine-tuned up and down by the addition of a Velcro insert to match your torso length.
4 point (2 on each side) hip belt adjustment. Works well but I’d prefer a simpler, 1 point adjustment on each side
Other areas worth mentioning are velcro securing points and a single central loop for securing trekking poles or an ice axe although I usually slipped both my poles in one of side pockets and lashed them secure with the elastic shock cords either side. The extension collar inceases the capacity to fit in that food bag after a town stop but on the AT at least, I didn’t use it often.
The great news is that now you can ask ULA to spec Cuben Fibre as the main material on any pack except the Epic and Hybrid. It will, however, add $100 to the price, making a Cuben OHM2 a total of $300 (the standard ripstop nylon version is $200). In terms of weight it will knock off around 3 to 4 ounces / 85 to 155 grs, making an OHM2 in Cuben around the 722 gr / 25.5 ounces region. This is a middle figure as I don’t have exact weights. You can trim the weight further by firstly removing accessories you may not need such as the hydration sleeve, mesh pocket, water bottle straps, hand loops and foam pad which at a guess, would bring the OHM2 down to near the 600 – 650gr range.
Most ULA packs can now be specced using Cuben Fibre (image: ula-equipment.com)
And remember, as with most cottage industry manufacturers, if you need something out of the ordinary, shoot them an email and they may just be able to help.
As with most cottage industry gear, I’m biased but for good reasons. Invariably they’re manufactured by people who have hiked and know what they’re doing. Chances are it’s the MD who picks up the phone when you call. Got a special request? Ask them and they can probably accommodate you. Imagine going to Blacks and asking if they can design their pack with a few modifications. No. I didn’t think so either . . .
Pros: Decent weight. Fantastic durability. Top notch comfort. Great customer service. Tweaks, specials and one offs available on request.
Cons: There are lighter packs out there. Price could be keener but the ripstop nylon version is still on par with most other mainstream packs in a similar size. Don’t however, forget to take the postage costs into the equation. But who wants a mainstream pack anyway?
Price: £122.00 (As of exchange rate 31.1.14 – $1.00 =£ 0.61) / $200.00 in the USA
USPS Priority Mail International to the UK: £35.01 (As of exchange rate 31.1.14)
Total for UK customers ordering direct from ULA – £157.01 (NB – It’s a lottery whether customs and excise pull your parcel up and if they do, they’ll sting you for it – VAT, customs charges and handling fees add up).
Thanks to Martin Rye for pointing out that the OHM 2, and some other ULA packs are available in the UK from UltraLight Outdoor Gear. The OHM2 , however, is more expensive than if you ordered direct from ULA themselves, Ultra Light Outdoor Gear want £174.99 for one.