View Full Version : Loading the ULA Catalyst

09-02-2010, 21:05
I recently set my Kelty Redcloud 6600 aside and purchased the ULA Catalyst. I now have the Catalyst and really admire the quality of the pack...think I made a good move! My question to those of you that use the Catalyst or the Circuit...how do you load it? A fairly large percentage of the carrying capacity is "outside" the pack. I don't like using the camel water delivery system so maybe I'm at a disadvantage....the large hip mesh pockets don't seem best suited to carrying water. Do most load the mesh side pockets with stuff sacks...also the mesh pocket on the back of the pack. It does have 4 water bottle holsters on the front of the pack which should be adequate. Any inputs on what has worked for you would be greatly appreciated. For info...I carry a 2lb down bag and a Double Rainbow tarptent. Thanks and cheers.

09-02-2010, 21:20
I have the Catalyst too. Side pockets hold my ground sheet and potty trowel. The rear pocket holds my maps and food for the day. I carry a bottle in a holster that hangs off the hip belt and the rest of my water goes inside the pack. I added shoulder pockets for my sunglasses and gps/camera. I don't really use the hipbelt pockets. A potty bottle gets hung off the rear of the pack. The sleeping pad gets strapped to the top or in the rear, depending on how annoying overhanging branches are. The rest goes in the main compartment. Eventually I'll get an inflatable pad that will go inside the main compartment too.

09-02-2010, 21:33
Tent & rain gear in the rear mesh, water bottles in side mesh, sleep pad strapped on top.

09-02-2010, 21:36
I love my Catalyst. Here's how I utilize the outside space:

Left Hipbelt Pocket: Camera, knife and other small items

Right Hipbelt Pocket: Snacks to eat on the fly

Left Side Pouch: 1 liter of water

Right Side Pouch: Pack Cover, Rain Jacket

Back Mesh Pocket: First Aid Kit, tarp, anything else I want to get to easily

09-02-2010, 21:38
With the Circuit...
Inside the hip belt pocket I have munchies, compass,knife, camera, small emergency kit ( this changes but something like a few purifying tablets, an all purpose ointment, a couple of mole skins)
I put one 600ml or a 1.25L water bottle in each side pocket. Also sometime a map and or my rain jacket and or pants, when cold my wool beanie. (I wear a visor hat otherwise)
When the pack is full it is a bit of a struggle to get the larger water bottles in, but a bit of brute force does the job.
In most cases I will have a 600 on one side (usually ex-gatorade) with the other bits and the 1.25 or even a 2L in the other pocket.
In the front pocket I always have my tent and wet or dirty socks /top/unmentionables (that is if I have spare undies to dry...)
The front pocket is not ideal for a standard tent (say 4 lbs and over) but works well with the Tarptents.
Rain gear goes there too if the other pockets are full.
(make sure there is no possible way it can fall off. So tie it to the pack)

09-02-2010, 22:00
When I load mine I like to think of loading it in four layers. I load most everything inside. I use a pack liner. In the bottom, First layer I put my folded up hennessy hammock next to my back. In front of that I put my jetboil on one side then my sleeping bag on the other. In the middle I put my valuables pounch and misc pouch. If I have any space left over I cram rain shell etc into space. Second layer clothes bag, rain shell etc, books/guides/ Third Layer Food Bag then seal pack liner. I lay my 3 liter platypus on top and shoot the hose out the outlet. On one of the outside pockets I have my 1 liter nalgene with steripen inside. In other outher side pocket I have pack cover, orange shovel, and tp. In big mesh I have campshoes. I then fold z-rest in half and attach under flexible cables to back of pack.

09-02-2010, 22:17
I make a long roll of my tent and stand it up in one side pocket, water bottle in the other. Rain gear and map and whateve else in the back pocket.

09-02-2010, 23:09
I would suggest to pack the shelter in a place that is quick to access and possibly without having to open the pack or the liner , just in case it rains when you arrive at camp.
Could be inside between the pack skin and the liner.

Del Q
09-03-2010, 06:17
Agree on the tent move, I use a Tarptent as well, rolled and in it's bag in the left or right "pocket", other side is bag with toilet paper and hand sanitizer and water (gatorade / adult beverage) bottle(s) in same pocket, mesh back pocket for me is a catch all, use a large diaper pin to secure wet clothes, wet socks, etc to dry while I walk. Try not to put too much weight in the back mesh, seems to carry heavy by having too much in there. Unless it is really cold out I have a ton of room inside, use a sea to summit whole pack sil sack which makes stuff slide in and out easily and keeps everything dry!

Hip pockets, map, digital camera, MP3 & snacks for the day

Great pack!

09-03-2010, 08:24
This picture shows the way I pack my Catalyst. I attached this to my gear checklist so I don't forget the packing order that works best for me. I find carrying my water in the side pockets puts the weight where I prefer it. I normally use Gatorade bottles for my water; however, I can't quite reach them while hiking so I'm using a 0.5L Platypus with my hydration tube run out the bottom front corner of the mesh, under my arm and attached to the shoulder strap with a clip you can buy from Camelbak. I still carry a full bottle on the left side. I can generally travel 5 miles with one liter.

09-03-2010, 09:36
this is an awesome backpack! i used it on my thru-hike this year...along with a WM versalite and a hennesssy ultralight backpacker a-sym. it was the perfect combo for me! maddog

09-03-2010, 11:33
Am I the only person who finds the Catalyst too big most of the time?

09-03-2010, 15:43
Am I the only person who finds the Catalyst too big most of the time?

Nope. I did too, so I moved down to the Circuit.

09-03-2010, 18:53
For the ones that have had or seen both the Catalyst and the Circuit :
In the current BPL pack review the main compartment of the Circuit is listed as 48 L the one in the Catalyst 46L, so making the pockets of the Catalyst bigger than the ones in the Circuit ,but the pack itself smaller.
Is this correct ?
This is with the 2010 Circuit, the roll top type.
(The 2010 Circuit does have a bit bigger main compartment than the original version...)

09-03-2010, 19:40
Can't help you there, Franco. Brian made me a deal on a 2008 Catalyst in 2009, and then my Circuit is also a 2009.

09-03-2010, 22:54
I purchased the new version (cheaply) recently because I did not really like the previous draw string closure. I told Brian when he was still there and I guess I was not the only one.
There are some other minor differences between the original ( 2006 ?) and the 2010 version but I would have not bothered particularly at the standard price and considering that I will probably keep both anyway.
Still I am very surprised that the main compartment of a Catalyst could be smaller than the Circuit.
From memory the roll top is twisted 3 times (but at least 2 times) in this pic. As you can see there is more room in the new version. I switched loads and could not put the same load in the older one. There is at least enough extra room for the Contrail at the top, not that I would put it there anyway.


09-04-2010, 10:09
Thanks everyone for your insight. The Kelty Redcloud served me well but thought it was time to try to shed some pack weight. Looking forward to trying out the Catalyst the end of this month....Burningtown Gap over to Fontana...hope to see you on the trail. Thanks again and cheers.

09-04-2010, 22:50
I myself have a RedCloud, except a touch smaller at 5600 cu in. I am going to get a smaller / lighter pack next spring. I have a few choices I am considering:

ULA Circuit ~ But I really want something that will carry between 35 - 40 lbs if needed.
ULA Catalyst ~ Rated for up to 40 lbs, but at 4600 cu in it is almost the same size as my current pack (but lighter)!
GG Nimbus Ozone ~ Fits me good, rated to 40 lbs, but the new model will weigh more. Really don't want to go over 3 lbs, but since I want something to carry up to 40 lbs, I may go with something at 3.5 lbs...
GG Nimbus Meridian ~ Pretty much same as Ozone
Osprey Exos 58 ~ Sweet fit, nice pack, but will it carry up to 40 lbs?

There are some others I want to look into as well, such as those by SMD, GoLite, and MLD. I am trying to get my "average" gear weight (including food, water and fuel) to between ~ 27 - 32 ish lbs. This should be no problem for solo, but if I am with my wife or son, I may need to carry a little more. Or even if I go on an extended hike and need to carry a little more food and / or water, I want to be able to do so comfortably. Of course I will always have my 5600 RedCloud too, but that thing is just huge, oh and did I mention heavy?

So, for those of you with either a Catalyst or a Circuit, what weight have you carried in them, and what would you consider the max weight?

09-04-2010, 22:53
Oh yeah, I will have a nice rebate at REI next spring to go with the 20% off coupon, so if I could get it from there that would be nice. However this rules out some of my options, so I will just have to see... (I can always use that rebate and coupon for something else...I need a new set of poles too...)

09-05-2010, 00:05
My Exos was so bad at 30# that I sold it and went with ULA. But I don't think I've ever had 35-40 in them. Hope I never do.

09-05-2010, 05:33
i usually carry about 25-27lbs in my catalyst...including food and water. 7lb base weight. its the best pack ive ever had!!! maddog

09-05-2010, 19:00
I use the Circuit for up to 25 lbs , if I expect to carry more than that then I switch to the Aarn pack.
I have had 35 lbs (extra water) in it and it is doable and some would define that comfortable but I prefer a beefier frame (or better balance , hence the Aarn's pockets) at that point.

09-05-2010, 20:26
I picked up a Catalyst this weekend from Mountain Crossings at Neels Gap. Winton took the time to fit me with a medium torso harness and medium hipbelt and then pointed out all of the adjustments available. I promptly emptied my 25 lb(including food/water) GG Nimbus Meridian and headed south on the AT. Didn't stop till I hit Woods Hole shelter and overnighted. Back out the next morning after a beautiful cool evening.

I LOVE THIS PACK !! It swallowed everything I had with me in the interior with plenty of room left. I didn't even use the side exterior pockets or the front pocket which would be ideal for raingear or a wet tarp or tent fly. The belt pockets were nice to have for my LX3 camera on one side and snacks on the other side.This pack carries great. VERY comfortable and all adjustments fall at hand readily. Not much padding on the hipbelt, but its super wide and has top and bottom adjustments that really hug your hips. Also straps to pull the lower pack in tight. Shoulder straps are positioned properly and I just barely cinched the sternum strap. Lastly, the load lifter straps at the top of the harness really pull the weight in close on your shoulders.

For those of you that own the Catalyst... a couple of questions.

Why do the side pockets have a small elastic portion (basically a small hole) up near the hipbelt? I guess you could use it for an inverted water bladder to route the tube, but I would worry about losing small items out of that hole. I might sew a small piece of fabric there to prevent loss.

Next up, I removed the internal water bladder holder by unsnapping the ladder locks. While doing so, I noticed two other ladder locks (the same size) located furthur down in the body of the bag. Any idea what those are for?

With my Nimbus Meridian, I preferred to carry my water towards the top of my pack with the hose routed down the harness. Thats how I carried it with the Catalyst. It worked great and was centered, but those side pockets are perfect for a couple of lightweight water bottles. Any suggestions or preferences on water storage and usage while hiking?

Lastly, good to see the folks up a Mountain Crossings. Winton was a great help and the store was packed, mostly with bikers buying jackets for the unexpectedly cool weather ! Nice to meet his wife Nancy, too.

All in all, I am super impressed with this pack. Rock-solid construction, a clean simple design and the capacity to handle a thru-hike, with say, provisions for the Smokies without a stop in Gatlinburg. All this at under three pounds. Pretty impressive !!

09-06-2010, 22:59
Why do the side pockets have a small elastic portion (basically a small hole) up near the hipbelt? I guess you could use it for an inverted water bladder to route the tube, but I would worry about losing small items out of that hole. I might sew a small piece of fabric there to prevent loss.

If I'm thinking of the same holes, it's for the shoulder strap attached to the bottom to have a place to come out so it can be behind the pocket.

Next up, I removed the internal water bladder holder by unsnapping the ladder locks. While doing so, I noticed two other ladder locks (the same size) located furthur down in the body of the bag. Any idea what those are for?

These can be clipped to the loops on the opposite side to decrease the pack volume. Helps with the way your load will ride if you don't have enough stuff.

09-08-2010, 04:11
Thanks for the response. Both questions answered. The provision for decreasing the volume looks like it would work pretty good keeping the weight compacted and centered. Have to give that a try with a dayhiike soon. Hoping to do a four day in the Smokies in October. This pack should be perfect.