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!


One thought on “ULA Equipment Catalyst – Lightweight Expedition Backpack For Less

  1. that’s funny i think the pack my now 8 year old took on our first backpacking trip was a combulia book bag. we only did that once. the whole thing with getting a kid a real pack, if the money exists to do it, is that it will carry whatever gear they’re asked to carry much more gracefully than a book bag, it gives them a cool piece of gear to look forward to wearing and, hopefully, it will keep the weight on THEIR backs longer instead of yours. Osprey is a great company (the packs used to be made here and they are still headquartered here) and the Jib is a really well-made, very well thought-out piece of gear. thanks for letting me crash your blog! it’s a great central point for info nice work.

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