ULA Catalyst

Share your advice and personal experiences, post a gear review or ask any questions you may have pertaining to outdoor gear and equipment.
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michaelzim
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Re: ULA Catalyst

Post by michaelzim » Sat Sep 26, 2020 9:20 am

@kpeter Thanks for the "final decision" re getting the Catalyst...which I think I now recall you have yet to take for an in-field test run???...probably c/o fires and smoke trashing so many of our hopes for late summer trips no doubt!? If possible I would appreciate hearing how it performs for you and what your total carry weight is when you take it for a spin.

Re the bigger bearcans discussion and how people are fitting them in...

One thing puzzles me and has been a resistance point re having one vertically in the main pack compartment and nearer the top. That is weight!
My bearcan is by far the single heaviest item I carry. At 3 pounds empty weight for the Garcia, then 10 days at 1 pound per day for "all foodstuffs" (so including coffee, sugar, powdered milk, KIND bars lunch, etc.) it is heavy! If I put that up near the top of my pack it offsets my balance if I lean slightly sideways at all due to Archimedes at work. Nearly falling off a ledge cured me of that experiment! So have kept it at the very bottom of my pack with sleeping bag above it, then rest of clothing, cook-gear, etc. above that. Has suited my "balance feel" well.

Does anyone else share this "off-balance effect" if the bearcan is up nearer top? Is it also the heaviest (and densest) item you carry? Is there some dumb thing I am not doing to counter this?
Putting that can up nearer top would sure open up a lot more pack choices for me as the current irony of my quest for a lighter pack seems to be that I am having to choose a pack around what gear it will fit (the darn bearcan) instead of choosing a pack I really like then fitting my gear to that! To make matters even more of a PINTR, the selection of such "bearcanable" light packs is extremely limited.

Best ~ Michaelzim








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Re: ULA Catalyst

Post by rlown » Sat Sep 26, 2020 9:23 am

You absolutely need to dump the Garcia.

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Re: ULA Catalyst

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sat Sep 26, 2020 9:25 am

What I meant by "total circumference" is; up one side, across the top, down the other side, across the bottom (kpeter's 40 3/4 inches).

The bear can horizontally on top balances much better if I have a "light side" and "heavy side". Heavy side goes close to the center of gravity. It is a weight/volume thing. Any freeze dried food is light per volume, so goes away from my back (or center of gravity) and heavy per volume, such as cheese, goes near my back. It is difficult to get a good balance at first because I have a lot more dense food vs light high volume food. As I eat food, there is room for non-food light weight stuff, such as used plastic bags, my foam pot pads that I use for "cozies", platypus water bags, etc.

Because the bear can is round, there will be four narrow empty areas on each side. The two next to my back are for heavier items- tent pegs and tent poles if they fit, fishing tackle; the ones on the far side I stuff light rain pants and my pack cover and tyvek ground cloth.

Neither of my packs have absolutely rigid frame/stays. When I put the bear can in vertically, the back becomes so rigid that it hurts when I have to bend over with the pack on. If I put a foam pad between the stays and bear can, that pushes the bear can farther from my center of gravity, making it unbalanced. That is why I prefer horizontal placement, near the top, where the rigidity is along the top of my shoulders, not along my spine.

A word of warning- in one of my packs the bear can fit is REALLY tight and as a result, where the can rim hits, there are worn spots that will soon be holes. If you have to really cram the bear can to fit, it stresses the fabric. Also, if your pack has a lid, the bear can may be too long for the lid to fit properly.

I do agree that if your pack rides really high, then the bear can at top can pull you over. I am thinking of the Hyperlite packs - they all look very high riding.

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Re: ULA Catalyst

Post by kpeter » Sat Sep 26, 2020 10:05 am

Packing a pack is more of an art form than a science.

For the first 35 years of backpacking I used an external frame pack. It was wonderful at transferring weight to the hips and carrying huge loads comfortably, while maintaining an air gap on my back. When packing that pack I tried to get as much weight high up and close to my body as possible, since otherwise the weight pulled backwards. Since we lean a bit forward when walking, getting the weight high puts it over your hips. Leaving the weight low puts it behind your hips, pulling you backward. You will notice that you have the weight too low when you turn in place and the momentum of the bottom of the pack pulls you further around than you want to go.

Having the weight too high, though, can be dangerous as I discovered on my last trip with my external frame. It was perfectly stable with normal usage, but when I slipped slightly on a rock while crossing a creek such that I stumbled backwards, the weight in the top of the pack prevented me from recovering and pulled me over into the stream. That is one of the reasons I decided to abandon external frame packs.

However, the way I packed changed when I switched to an internal frame pack. These packs hug your body (which is why they are sweatier than externals), and most of them don't have the ability to tie-on massive loads below the pack. Since the pack is closer to your body, you don't have to put the weight as high up to get it over your hips. They are, in my view, safer than external frames since they can get the weight closer to you. Still, putting the weight too low can still pull you backwards, and putting it too high can still feel tippy. So for me the heaviest items need to be in the middle. That inevitably means the bear can.

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Re: ULA Catalyst

Post by TurboHike » Sat Sep 26, 2020 10:53 am

michaelzim,

Vargo makes a pack that will carry the bear canister low, strapped to the bottom (https://vargooutdoors.com/exotitm-ar2-backpack.html). It's 2 lbs 12 ounces in weight, so not too bad. It would look like this: https://hikelighter.files.wordpress.com ... ck_002.jpg

Another option, which seems popular with PCT thru hikers who do not want to switch packs in the Sierra Nevada, is to put your food inside your backpack while hiking and strap the empty bear canister to the top/outside of the pack. You can find a harness for the bearikade canister here: https://www.simpleoutdoorstore.com/bear ... rness.html. Only weighs a couple of ounces, and you could probably make one yourself. There is a hassle factor, of course, since you'd need to pack/unpack the bear canister each day. But it does help to solve the center of gravity problem described by kpeter.

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Re: ULA Catalyst

Post by michaelzim » Sat Sep 26, 2020 1:46 pm

Ha, ha...This just "going lighter" is turning out to be a Life's Work! - Zeus help me if I was trying for true Ultra-Light and a bikini to run down the JMT in Air Nikes or whatever!!! The plethora of online websites, blogs and manufacturer advice aids all touting the glories of UL backpacking is astounding. What rock have I been under?????

However, certain mysteries still abound and nibble at the edges. Like "what really is being left out" to get these super low weights. One thing for sure is AGE...At 70 I'm not as macho tolerant of cold and wet as I used to be. Aka "sloshing" in a Stephenson's Warmlite R2 expedition tent that leaked like a sieve from underneath while in a spring snowstorm for 3 days. Been there, done with that.

But I digress...back to the Backpacks. I just watched this video c/o the long list that Seek Outside has on their website: https://seekoutside.com/backpack-instructions/ Their long time chief designer told me to check out the second one down re load distribution and why I needed to not have my bearcan at the bottom of my pack.
The video is overkill as the guy is demo'ing a 100 pound load! (Hunting ref. for carrying meat out) and I don't think it is quite comparable as the load density is hugely concentrated with meat v. misc. backpacking gear. However, the principles are there and I intend to experiment as maybe I have been "muscling though" a bit more than I realized with heavy stuff at the bottom. Easier to ignore and not realize of course with lighter loads!
P.S. No need to watch all of the video (if interested anyhow), just to where the guy shows how to switch load from top straps to hips and vice versa to reduce 'fatigue' for each. I sort of do that, but seeing it made it more conscious for me.
And in case wondering, I have no qualms about a pack that can carry 100 to 200 pounds, but weighs in at the same UL weights (c. 3 pounds) as the best of the other UL brands do though with clearly more strength and durability!

Back to basic gear and how to fit it into these generally smaller/lighter packs.

Apart from the "specialist" brands - and thanks for yet another one @TurboHike re Vargo - many come in at around 50 'real useable' liters (v. ultra crammed mini pockets full of test kidney beans!) with their minimal size being a big factor in thus how light they are. And I'm back to my question of "just what is being left out"? I'm not expecting an answer here as this is going to be along process and plenty of places to mine that question over winter (and other posts).

Now, just for fun (and frustration) dig this below for "gear" and "clothes"...which came via click links in this article called Ultralight Backpacking Basics https://www.cleverhiker.com/blog/ultral ... ing-basics

Gear pic!
Gear Pic.PNG
Please notice...NO BEARCAN....NO FOOD (I think)....So how on earth does all that fit a UL skimpy pack? That is considerably more than I take and yet I'm the one struggling to get below 40 pounds!

For more awe on my part check out the clothes pic!

Clothes!
Clothes pic.PNG
Like I said, just for fun...and two more trial packs on the way so I can get the "real" skivvy!!! And @rlown - yep, Bearikade on the way too.

Best ~ Michaelzim
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Re: ULA Catalyst

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sat Sep 26, 2020 2:46 pm

"What is left out?" Here are a few.

1. margin of safety. Perhaps too much taken in the past (the boy scout be prepared overkill) but I feel it has swung too far towards the skimpy. I read a lot of PCT journals, and seems like some of not many are depending on another hiker or their ability to push the "help" button to come to their aid when conditions deteriorate to the point of imminent hypothermia. Yes it is nice that everyone is helping each other, but you still need to be self-sufficient. The Sierra is pretty mellow, but many, later in the season, when they reach the PNW and into weeks of cold hard rain/snow UL hikers have little margin of safety for these conditions. I am all for multi-use items, but taking a 45-degree bag or quilt and then assuming that your "puffy" will stay dry to supplement the inadequate bag provides no margin of safety. Assuming that you will stay warm by constantly moving/hiking is no plan for survival if you get hurt.

2. durability. UL gear is both expensive and often more fragile. You are intentionally trading durability for light weight. Granted there are heavy poorly designed or made items that also lack durability, but if you look at high end mountaineering gear, it is a bit heavier but has the durability that mountaineering requires. Much UL gear will not hold up to bushwhacking, scraping against rock, or long periods of high altitude UL exposure. But if you are mainly walking down a trail, that really is not a problem. You also have to just be careful with stuff. Thus, UL gear probably is not the best choice for kids, who can be wrecking balls on equipment! I probably carry the same number of clothing items as the UL hikers, but each one of their items may weigh half of mine.

3. excess comfort. UL backpacking is minimalist. The only "fluff" that I notice is what I consider too many electronics. Over a pound of electronics when you have a 10-pound base weight, is, in my opinion, excessive. Survival warm and comfort warm are two different things! In summer I am willing to shiver a bit in my sleeping bag on those infrequent nights where the temperature drops below what my sleeping bag is rated; not so shoulder seasons. No-cook food. Minimal food- no "just in case" extra. No wading or camp shoes. Making miles is most often the goal of the trip. Not that you cannot be UL and then throw on fishing gear or climbing gear, but then you probably have a pack that is more appropriate for these activities.

However, many will agree that the extra comfort you gain while hiking off-sets the "discomfort" and "risk" of minimalism. After all, we humans are quite adaptable and many comforts we thought we needed were "nice" but not necessary. Long distance UL thru-hikers are really toughened by the end of their trips. The body will acclimate to cold as well as altitude. Plus if you can hike 30 miles a day, you can drop into civilization often. I am not sure they would be as minimalist if they were going to be out 10-15 day stretches regularly.

Unfortunately, the bear can seems to be an after-thought by the designers of UL packs. Realistically, world-wide, bear cans are not required in enough places to have the pack designed around it. And each jurisdiction has different rules on what qualifies and a bear can. My Bearikade is NOT legal in Montana!

By the way, I still occasionally use my Kelty external frame pack that I bought in 1968! They even sent me a new frame when I broke the original (life-time warranty then). I have replaced shoulder straps, hip belt and sewn a new lighter bag - now have the weight down to 3.5 pounds.

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Re: ULA Catalyst

Post by druid » Sat Sep 26, 2020 2:49 pm

michaelzim wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 1:46 pm
Their long time chief designer told me to check out the second one down re load distribution and why I needed to not have my bearcan at the bottom of my pack.
The video is overkill as the guy is demo'ing a 100 pound load! (Hunting ref. for carrying meat out) and I don't think it is quite comparable as the load density is hugely concentrated with meat v. misc. backpacking gear. However, the principles are there and I intend to experiment as maybe I have been "muscling though" a bit more than I realized with heavy stuff at the bottom. Easier to ignore and not realize of course with lighter loads!
P.S. No need to watch all of the video (if interested anyhow), just to where the guy shows how to switch load from top straps to hips and vice versa to reduce 'fatigue' for each. I sort of do that, but seeing it made it more conscious for me.
I probably should have mentioned in my previous post that my own load distribution preference is probably more than a little idiosyncratic. I'm 6'4" with a shortish torso. In addition, my lower body is relatively strong from decades of playing volleyball but my shoulders, on the other hand, I prefer to baby a bit because of previous surgeries. Still, I think there are enough adjustment points on their packs to make them work for almost anybody. I personally like to keep both the hip straps and load lifters cranked down and when I do the pack feels very stable.

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Re: ULA Catalyst

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sat Sep 26, 2020 5:35 pm

After looking at those photos of gear, I think the gear is for TWO people. So it all does not go into one pack. They say "we" and if you look closely, there are two hats and two water bottles, and more shirts and pants than one person would need. And one quilt that goes over both? a couple?

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Re: ULA Catalyst

Post by michaelzim » Sun Sep 27, 2020 1:04 pm

I seem to say "Thank you!" a lot on this forum...What else is there to say for so much freely given advice and help?!

Yes, this conversation has primarily been about backpacks, but it has been churning all the other aspects of "going lighter" along with it. Ultimately everything I take has to fit in the pack unless I'm wearing it, so the pack is pretty much at the top of the pile when it comes to my new gear choices. Said pack has to fit a large bearcan due to my penchant for longer trips without re-supply possible. My food use at an average of around 1 pound per day is not subject to much more tweaking, so for a 10 day trip I need a BV500 or a "Weekender" - with the latter being my choice (on order). This then has become the main limiting factor in choice of backpacks...will it fit the can?!

The answer to this question has led to much fruitful discussion - and my rethinking everything in terms of my gear, what I carry, how I carry it, and so forth. Not leaving anyone out, but @Wandering Daisy your extensive and thoroughly 'experiential' replies are just fantastic. Your "what is left out" comments seemed to pull together my various mullings into a more coherent whole based on what I sense I can accept v. plain nuttso out there way too lightweight.
I also like stuff that lasts. I am often way out in places where no-one would find me if I dropped into a hole (like my totally idiosyncratic route up to Coyote Ridge last month). The only time I got partial hypothermia in the mountains was in mid August = full summer! And I am 70 so have to cater to that fact. A few comforts are necessities rather than choices...like a pack that does not 'rub my back raw' in the name of Ultralight!

So, this is where I am now at in relation to this "bearcan-able backpack" quest.

I went over my Excel gear list with an eye to what I wanted to change v. what I could change if I wanted to be a fanatic. I realized I needed to find out what my "Base Weight" really was but then changed that to "Total Carry Weight" as my food and fuel total hardly ever changes [10 pounds for food + 8 oz. for gas]. Water I gave two options for. I used to start-carry two water bottles at a total of 4 pounds when full, but now with ease of filtering (hopefully) c/o a Sawyer I figure I will start-carry 1.5 pounds instead.

Plugging in the weights was revealing!

My old "Carry Weight" with 4 pounds of water = 51 pounds. [So Base Weight w.o food, fuel, water = 36.5 pounds]
My new "Carry Weight" with new gear and 1.5 pounds of water = 39.5 pounds [So Base Weight w.o. food, fuel, water = 27.5 pounds]
*** I have assumed I am going to find a new pack with a weight of around 3.4 pounds.

YES!...an 11.5 pound reduction in what I actually carry.
Amazingly not much has changed in my gear list except switching items for lighter versions and reducing my water approach.
With some finer tuning I hope to cut this down 4.5 pounds to a "Carry Weight" of 35 pounds for a 10 day trip. Man, that would be awesome v. the 51 pound version that had become standard process!

And thus the pack...
With this lower weight maybe the lighter pack options wont gink out and get uncomfortable as some articles/people have pointed out if one overloads them. However, I am going to semi-ignore that and primarily go for comfort, convenience and "volume" - given that items like my new tent have halved in size. As the REI rep encouraged me to, I intend to just keep trying packs until I really like the thing!
On the list are a couple of lighter Ospreys due next week. If they bomb then I am going to try the Seek Outside Divide, or the ULA Catalyst. Something has to work!

Last up @Wandering Daisy - your eyesight may be better than mine, but on those gear and clothing photos I see just one hat, one toothbrush, (I carry 2 water bottles), one pair of shoes...ah, and one meal! The "We gravitate towards lightweight gear..." I think refers to them as the authors using the 'royal we'. No biggie, but if that is a couple they are going share more than a quilt and toothbrush, they are going to get especially skinny if a bear gets their single Mountain House meal due to no bearcan!

Thanks again all for great feedback ~ Michaelzim

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