ULA Equipment Catalyst – Lightweight Expedition Backpack For Less

Let’s say you are looking for a heavy-duty expedition size backpack that is lightweight, capable, and won’t break the bank. You have come to the right place for a review of the more than capable, lightweight and inexpensive ULA Equipment Catalyst backpack! Let’s check out some of the features and specifications below!


ULA Equipment CatalystFirst and foremost, the Catalyst weighs in at only 48 ounces (for a Medium torso and hipbelt size). That is an incredible weight for a pack of this size. Some of the features are removable, bringing your total weight down even more to 44 ounces. The Catalyst is sewn with ULA’s 210 Robic fabric, which according to ULA, is the “toughest stuff ounce for ounce that we’ve ever seen.” You will be the judge of that, but everything we’ve seen is that it is some lightweight fabric that is extremely durable.

The total volume capacity for the pack with all the pockets attached is 4,600 cubic inches or about 75 Liters. The breakdown is as follows:


  • Main Body: 2,600 cubic inches
  • Front Mesh Pocket: 600 cubic inches
  • Side Mesh Pocket: 350 cubic inches times 2
  • Exterior Collar: 600 cubic inches
  • Hipbelt Pockets: 100 cubic inches

The recommended maximum load is 40 pounds or less.


Here are the integrated features of this backpack:

  • Internal Frame
  • Twin Stay Framesheet
  • Contoured Shoulder Straps
  • Front Shock Cord
  • Front Mesh Pocket
  • Dual Hipbelt Pockets
  • 210 Ripstop Adjustable Side Pockets
  • Rolltop Closure
  • Side/Top Compression Straps
  • Ice Axe/Pole Retention Loops
  • Bear Canister Capable
  • Cordura Bottom Panel

Here are the removable features (for a weight savings of about 4 ounces):

  • Handloops (~.8 oz)
  • Hydration Sleeve (~1.4 oz)
  • Internal Stash Pocket (~1.1 oz)
  • Water Bottle Holsters (~.8 oz)


The ULA Equipment Catalyst comes in 4 different Torso sizes and 5 different hipbelt sizes:


  • Small (15”-18”)
  • Medium (18”-21”)
  • Large (21”-24”)
  • XLarge (24”+)

If you happen to fall right between two torso sizes, ULA recommends you go with the smaller size. Make sure you measure you torso by standing up straight, tilting your head to your chest, and finding the largest lump on your neck. Measure with flexible tape down to the top of your waistband resting on your hipbone.


  • XSmall (26”-30”)
  • Small (30”-34”)
  • Medium (34”-38”)
  • Large (38”-42”)
  • XLarge (42”+)

If you fall between two hipbelt sizes, ULA recommends that you go with the larger hipbelt size. For men, use the waist of your pants and add 2 inches.

The Shoulder straps come in two different fits: the original J-Curve and the S-Curve. The J-Curve straps work best on most men with an average build. Men with athletic builds (strong, square shoulders) most often prefer the S-Curve straps. The S-Curve straps work best on almost all women and men with good posture and square shoulders. Below is a sizing guide for the Catalyst backpack, but be sure to measure your waist and torso to be accurate.

ULA Equipment Catalyst Sizing Chart

It also comes in 4 different colorations: original Green, Purple Blaze, Multicam Camo, and Woodland Camo. The two camo options (for you hunters out there) are made with 500 Cordura, so plan on adding about 2 ounces to the overall weight of the pack.

Backpacking Samurai Thoughts

We are big fans of the lightest ULA Equipment backpack, the CDT, but we also recognize that it is limited to shorter backcountry trips. We have found that the ULA Equipment Catalyst is a nice step up into the big-boy land of extended-stay and expedition backpacks, but without adding unnecessary weight. While it might lack style points, this is truly function over fashion, and admittedly, some of the ‘fashion forward’ backpacks tend to not only be on the heavier end of the spectrum, but also quite a bit more expensive.

Speaking of price, what will a ULA Equipment Catalyst set you back? $500? $400? Try $250. That’s right, a lightweight, capable extended-stay/expedition backpack costing only $250 is a steal. ULA Equipment is a proud American company that makes their backpacks in the good old U S of ‘Merica. They are a great company with awesome customer service, and are just a phone call away with any questions you have about fitting the pack to your build and body type.

This is what one customer recently said about the Catalyst:

  • “Excellent Quality: The pack had excellent reviews, so I took the plunge and ordered it. Quality of fit and finish is indeed excellent. The owner even called me before shipping to double check the sizing. A focused, American based, craft manufacturer producing an excellent product at a reasonable price. Highly recommended.”

Here is another review touting the customer service aspect of ULA:

  • “Great Customer Service: It did what it was supposed to do for 6 days on the John Muir Trail. When it arrived it had a loop accidentally stitched to the pack itself. I got an instant response to my email to the company which overnighted me a new one with a label to return the other one. Impressive.”

If you are looking for a lightweight, durable, and inexpensive backpack capable of medium to extended-stay trips, look no further than the ULA Equipment Catalyst. This is a highly recommended backpack for the weekend warrior and trail-blazer alike. Click the following link to order yours today!

[amazon_link id=”B00534ZGP2″ target=”_blank” ]ULA CATALYST Ultralight Backpack[/amazon_link]

What do you think of the ULA Equipment Catalyst backpack? Let us know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!


5 Great Dual Purpose Daypacks For Back-To-School

When the summer days begin to get shorter, and the temperatures begin to back off of summer highs, back-to-school shopping comes to mind. If you are looking for a good backpack for your books, computers, and supplies that can also double as an able daypack on the trails this fall, you have come to the right place. Below, we’ll highlight 5 great dual purpose daypacks for this back-to-school season.

The North Face Vault – $50

[amazon_link id=”B00IAUUU8O” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Vault Backpack Style: A93D-0M3 Size:One Size For AllSize For All[/amazon_link]This is a fantastic choice for back-to-school, and can also be used on the trail to good effect. The North Face Vault backpack features 26 Liters of interior space, two large double zippered compartments (one larger perfect for books, binders, computers, clothing, hiking gear, etc. and one smaller for smaller gear organization, calculators, pens, etc.), exterior daisy chain for lashing additional gear to your pack while on the trail, and support giving chest and waist fitting buckles. It also comes in several different color options. One customer review states the following:

“This backpack is made very well – it looks good, it is very sturdy and we anticipate it will last the entire school year – (not like some of the other backpacks we’ve bought in the past)!”

If you’re looking for an affordable, durable, and spacious daypack, The North Face Vault is a perfect option. Click the following link to pick yours up today.

[amazon_link id=”B00IAUUU8O” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The North Face Vault[/amazon_link]

Osprey Talon – $75

[amazon_link id=”B00HPM8TG8″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Osprey Talon 22-Litre Backpack (Meteorite, Medium/Large)[/amazon_link]The Osprey Talon is a 22 Liter daypack that resembles more of a hiking backpack than the Vault does, but it is more than capable of hauling your day-to-day school books and supplies. The Talon features a ridge-molded foam back panel with grip mesh covering as part of its Airscape suspension system that provides superior comfort for hiking, biking, and everyday use. The hipbelt distributes weight across the body, and also features a modified ErgoPull closure to ensure a secure fit. The sternum strap harness is adjustable and features a safety whistle. There is also a helmet strap (LidLock) to keep your bike helmet with you at all times. One reviewer says:

“First off, it’s an Osprey. Great reputation, lifetime warranty, and the Talon-22 definitely lives up to its name.”

The Osprey Talon is a great lightweight daypack with the support and harness to haul heavier books or hiking gear. If you are into biking (or are biking to class), you’ll love the LidLock feature, and this pack is hydration compatible. Follow this link to get yours today.

[amazon_link id=”B00HPM8TG8″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Osprey Talon[/amazon_link]

Gregory Miwok – $100

[amazon_link id=”B008NB4K72″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Gregory Miwok 22 (Prussian Blue)[/amazon_link]Gregory makes some of the most comfortable backpacking packs on the market, and their daypacks are no exception. The Miwok is lightweight and efficient for its ability to carry 22 Liters of gear or school supplies. From Gregory, “the Gregory Miwok 22 daypack is an ideal size for day hikes, long strolls, and other single-day adventures,” including a short or long day of classes. It features 6 pockets plus the main compartment, it is hydration compatible, and also features a lifetime warranty. The suspension system allows your pack to move with you, increasing the comfort. The key is the use of a set of flexible tendons that attach the shoulder harness and hipbelt to the pack body. See what this customer thought of the Miwok:

“Great product, I use it for everything from day backpacking to weekender, lately I have been using it as a carry on for flights across country.”

Gregory makes awesome backpacks, and the Miwok daypack is a fine choice for school or the trail. Pick yours up today by clicking the following link.

[amazon_link id=”B0045TB0FG” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Gregory Miwok[/amazon_link]

High Sierra Cirque – $50

[amazon_link id=”B004EBRG3K” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]High Sierra Classic Series 59102 Cirque 30 Internal Frame Pack Redrock, Auburn, Charcoal 21.5x12.75x9 Inches 1830 Cubic Inches 30 Liters[/amazon_link]This daypack features a whopping 30 Liters of internal space, enough for a laptop, several books and binders, or a ton of daypacking gear, and all under 2 pounds of weight. It offers a harness media pocket, daisy chains for lashing extra gear to the outside, suspension harness and padded hipbelt made of breathable mesh, and an integrated hydration compartment with dual exit ports.

One recent customer noted that they were “looking for a good sized hiking daypack that had a nice padded hip belt, and wasn’t terribly expensive. My initial reaction is very positive. I really like the design of this pack and it’s exactly the size I was looking for. The apparent quality of the materials and construction seem much higher than other packs I’ve looked at in the $50.00 price range, I’m actually really impressed with the quality at this price.”

If you are looking for a big daypack at a not so big price that is capable of hauling all of your school or trail gear, click the following link to buy yours today.

[amazon_link id=”B004EBRG3K” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]High Sierra Cirque[/amazon_link]

Kelty Redtail 30 – $60

[amazon_link id=”B00AATSCY2″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Kelty Redtail 30 Daypack (Cobalt, One Size)[/amazon_link]Another 30 Liter bag rounds out our selection, and this one is from another company that is known for offering a lot of features for the price. The Kelty Redtail daypack is a great option for those interested in a large pack for hiking or carrying a lot of school supplies. It features a webbed hipbelt for lighter loads which is also removable, plenty of pockets for organization or school supplies or backcountry gear, side compression straps, mesh construction on the suspension harness and back panel, daisy chain, and a reservoir sleeve. It is lightweight and low profile. One reviewer said this about the Redtail daypack:

“Light…great padded straps…nice size for my gear and nice design on padding for your back…purchased another one for the wife.”

With a limited lifetime warranty from Kelty and all of these features, the Redtail is a great option for you. Click the link below to order yours today.

[amazon_link id=”B00AATSCY2″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Kelty Redtail[/amazon_link]

The Bottom Line

This concludes our look into 5 great daypacks for back-to-school season. Any one of these is a great choice, whether you are getting ready to hit the books or hit the trails this fall, or both. Thanks for reading, and happy trails (and studying)!

What is your favorite daypack? Let us know in the comment section below. Thanks!


The Top 5 Expedition Backpacks – Quality And Comfort Are Essential

When it comes to expedition backpacking, it is essential to utilize a high quality backpack. If your backpack is made from inferior products and falls apart on the trail, you won’t have an enjoyable experience, and you might even put your health at risk. Expedition backpacks are at the top of the price range, but don’t be deterred by that fact. These backpacks on this list are made of high quality materials and with superior craftsmanship. You can rest assured that they will not fail you while on the trail.

Below is a list of our top 5 expedition backpacks that we have tested on the trail. They are all superb examples of comfort and durability on the trail.

#5 Osprey Xenith 105 ~ $400

[amazon_link id=”B00B1VBRX6″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Osprey Packs Xenith 105[/amazon_link]When you need to load up for your expedition, the Osprey Xenith 105 is a great choice. With a massive 6400+ cubic inches of interior volume, the Xenith 105 will hold everything you need for more than a week on the trail. This pack is comfortable, durable, and did we mention it holds everything? Click the following link to pick yours up today!

[amazon_link id=”B00B1VBRX6″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Osprey Xenith 105[/amazon_link]

#4 Gregory Whitney 95 ~ $390

[amazon_link id=”B001BBPZ84″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Gregory Whitney 95 Backpack (Trinidad Blue,Small)[/amazon_link]Gregory makes awesome backpacks. Two of their largest packs made our top 5 list, and for good reason. They are some of the most comfortable backpacks on the market, and their durability is second to none. The Gregory Whitney 95 backpack is an excellent choice for expedition trekking. With a capacity range of 5300-6300 cubic inches, you will be able to carry most of what you will need for an extended expedition. Comfort and durability once again is exemplified in this option. To buy your Whitney, click the following link right now!

[amazon_link id=”B001BBOEXQ” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Gregory Whitney 95[/amazon_link]

#3 Mountain Hardwear BMG 105 ~ $350

[amazon_link id=”B00HNKMPSK” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Mountain Hardwear BMG 105 Backpack Black Large[/amazon_link]The Mountain Hardwear BMG 105 is another huge expedition pack choice that ‘hauls all’ of the gear you can possibly pack and carry. Come up with your own meaning for BMG – we think it should mean ‘Big Mountain Gear,’ since you will be able to plan hiking, mountaineering, climbing and long distance trips with this bag. With a capacity range of 5800-7000 cubic inches, the Mountain Hardwear BMG 105 has more than enough space to fit all of your climbing, guiding, winter, summer, etc. backpacking gear. Get your BMG today by clicking the following link.

[amazon_link id=”B00HNKMPSK” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Mountain Hardwear BMG 105[/amazon_link]

#2 Arcteryx Naos 85 ~ $700

[amazon_link id=”B002UXZ8W0″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Arcteryx Naos 85 Backpack Blackbird Tall[/amazon_link]Coming in at #2 is the Arcteryx Naos 85, a monster of a backpack that has the internal carrying capacity of 5000-5370 cubic inches. What really sets the Naos apart from the other bags on this list is the fact that it is truly an all weather backpack, featuring an impermeable heavy duty fabric as well as fully sealed seams and waterproof zippers. Expedition backpacking usually exposes you to the worst kinds of weather, and this backpack will keep all of your gear bone dry. With the all-weather designation, the Arcteryx Naos also boasts fantastic comfort on the trail. If you plan on wet weather, you can’t go wrong with the Arcteryx Naos 85. Click the following link today to pick yours up!

[amazon_link id=”B002UXZ8W0″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Arcteryx Naos 85[/amazon_link]

#1 Gregory Denali Pro 105 ~ $550

[amazon_link id=”B00J07XSDA” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Gregory Denali Pro 105 Mountaineering Pack (Chili Red,Small)[/amazon_link]As stated in the Gregory Whitney 95 section above, some of the most comfortable packs on the market are made by Gregory. This is their flagship expedition pack, and is absolutely enormous. With a capacity range of 6100-7000 cubic inches, it rivals the BMG and Argon above. The Gregory Denali Pro 105 backpack is so massive that you have to be careful not to over pack it, or you could encounter some pain on the trail. Because of its comfort and fit, the Denali Pro is our top rated expedition backpack on the list today. Click the following link to get your Denali Pro today!

[amazon_link id=”B00J07XSDA” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Gregory Denali Pro 105[/amazon_link]

The Bottom Line

This was a close competition between all five packs, and when the results came back, a lot of us were surprised at the rankings. As you can see, there is a pretty good representation of the major backpack companies out there on this list. You would be well suited to go with any of the options on this list for sure. The previous edition to this article had the Arcteryx Bora 95 as the top rated backpack, but since it is next to impossible to find this backpack on the market today (we think it has been discontinued), we decided to update our ranking system. The number 5 backpack has also been updated, from the Osprey Argon 110 (a fantastic backpack) to last year’s Osprey Xenith 105. Thanks to John from the comment below for suggesting we look into this pack, and in fact, a few of us had already taken it on the trail, and since the Argon 110 is becoming more difficult to pick up, we decided to update this position as well.

We obviously left some great expedition packs off, and that was out of no disrespect for the companies or brands. We only had 5 to work with, and these 5 packs made the cut. Do you agree with our assessment of expedition packs? Tell us what you think by responding in the comments section below. Give us your own top 5 expedition packs if you like. We like to see what other backpackers think about the available gear. As always, thanks for reading and happy trails!

Click the following link to view our Top 5 Expedition Backpacks for 2016.


Gregory Baltoro 75 Backpack – Mid Size Champion

[amazon_link id=”B0045TDTLO” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Gregory Baltoro 75 Technical Pack, Moss Green, Small[/amazon_link]The Gregory Baltoro 75 backpack is a fine choice when looking for a pack in the 4450-4650 cubic inch range weighing on average 5 pounds and 14 ounces. Gregory is widely regarded as one of the foremost backpack manufacturers in the world, and has many proven models on the market today. Whether you are a summer month weekend backpacker or an all seasons expeditioner, the internal frame Baltoro 75 pack is a wonderful choice. Let’s look at some of the features and highlights of this backpack.


Gregory implements some advanced technologies into their backpacks. For example, the Baltoro 75 utilizes the Response AFS (Auto Fit Suspension), which involves:

  • A single aluminum stay integrated into the padding and belt suspension system which prevents barreling and optimizes load transfer from your back to your hips.
  • A unique design featuring waist belt panels that rotate independently of the rest of the suspension, allowing you to have a better center of gravity while hiking uneven terrain. This helps keep your momentum going in the intended direction.

Gregory Response AFSThis technology makes for a very comfortable hike, and comfort is definitely something that Gregory is known for.

Other highlights include:

  • 3 color choices – moss green, iron gray, cinder cone red
  • Double diamond ripstop nylon – improved durability
  • 3 gear entry points – top, side panel, and bottom
  • 8 exterior pockets + main interior compartment and sleeping bag compartment
  • Hydration reservoir sleeve
  • Removable top lid pocket

Backpacking Samurai Thoughts

Here at Backpacking Samurai, the Gregory Baltoro 75 pack is the mid size champion of backpacks. Most customer reviews highlight the fact that the Baltoro 75 is one of the most comfortable backpacks on the market today, and I would have to agree. I have used 2 iterations of the Baltoro 75, an old one and this new version, and I would add that while the pack is a little on the heavy side (not quite in the ultralight or minimalist standards), the pack makes up for this by how the weight is distributed to your hips. Carrying 45 pounds of gear with this pack seems more like 15 on long hikes. This is a testament to how well the Response Auto Fit Suspension works, and how comfortable the Gregory Baltoro 75 backpack is. Click the following link to purchase yours today!

[amazon_link id=”B0045TDTLO” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Gregory Baltoro 75 Backpack[/amazon_link]


Arcteryx Bora 95 Backpack Sizing Guide

Arcteryx Bora 95If you are thinking about purchasing an Arcteryx Bora 95 or 80, you will want to follow these fitting guidelines to make sure that you purchase the right size. The Bora line of backpacks from Arcteryx come in short, regular, or tall sizes, and it is important to make sure that your torso length matches the model that you purchase. Notice in the image below the different lengths of the support system for Arcteryx backpacks.

Arcteryx Pack Sizes

It is important that you do not choose your backpack based on the interior space, but that you choose a pack that will fit your body. The fit of your pack against your back is the most important consideration when choosing a pack, and will ensure that you have enjoyable and comfortable hiking experiences.

To determine which size is right for you, you will first need to measure your torso length from your C7 vertebrae to your hip crest. Your C7 vertebrae juts out from your spine where your neck meets your back. It is easy to feel; just lean your head forward and your C7 is the bone poking out the farthest. Your hip crest is also easy to find; find your hip bones at your sides, and trace it back to the small indentation in your back. The following image will help you to get the measurement right.

Measure Your Torso Length

Once you have measured your torso length, find where your pack falls on the Arcteryx sizing charts found below (or you can download at this link – Arcteryx Pack Sizing Chart)

Arcteryx Bora 80 Sizing Chart


Arcteryx Bora 95 Sizing ChartThere is pretty good overlap in these measurements, so if your torso length falls in the overlap, it is better to go with the smaller sized pack. Match your torso length to the above charts, and viol-la! You are now ready to purchase the right sized pack for you!

Click on this link to buy the Arcteryx Bora 95 Pack or the Arcteryx Bora 80 Pack.