ULA Ohm Backpack Review

ULA Ohm Backpack Review

The ULA Ohm (formerly called the ULA Ohm 2.0) is a 63L ultralight style backpack that’s durable enough for rough and tough adventures. It’s also available with the same male and female shoulder straps and hip belts (available in multiple lengths) offered with ULA’s other multi-day backpacks, so you get a pack that fits you and your body type. Compared to ULA’s other packs, the Ohm has a lightweight frame and suspension system that is best used for loads under 30 lbs. It’s a great backpack that’s very responsive for on-trail and off-trail travel, but it requires a slightly different packing approach than backpacks with a beefier frame.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 33.8 ounces
  • Total volume: 63 Liters
  • Main compartment and extension collar volume: 42.6 Liters
  • Pockets: 5 + main
  • Hydration compatible: Yes
  • Load lifters: Yes
  • Rain cover included: No
  • Rec’d Max Load: 30 lbs or less
  • Rec’d Base Weight: 12 lbs or less
  • Torso lengths: 15″-24+”
  • Hip belt lengths: 26″-47+”
  • Shoulder straps: J-shape or S-shaped available
  • Bear canister compatibility: BV500 (vertical); BV475, BV450, BV425 (horizontal)
  • Fabric: 400D Robic Nylon (standard) + Custom colors and fabrics available incl Robic, XPac or Cordura in many colors incl camouflage. The ULA Ultra 24 Ohm is also available in Ultra 200D and 400D fabric.

Visit ULA Equipment for complete specs. 

Backpack Storage and Organization

The ULA Ohm is laid out like most ultralight style backpacks with a large central storage compartment, side water bottle pockets, and a long front stretch pocket.

The ULA Ohm is a roll-top pack with a front stretch pocket and side bottle pockets
The ULA Ohm is a roll-top pack with a front stretch pocket and side bottle pockets.

The main compartment on the Ohm closes with a roll-top that is secured to webbing straps along the pack’s sides. The roll-top does not have a stiffener, snaps, or velcro to catch on your clothing or gear. You can also clip the roll-top buckles together on top if you prefer and connect the roll-top webbing straps over the front stretch pocket so they don’t hang loose, or if you need to carry bulky objects like snowshoes. A wide webbing strap also runs over the roll-top to add top compression or if you want to strap a foam pad on top of the pack.

The main compartment does not have a hydration pocket, although it does have a velcro strap in the center of the back that you could hang a reservoir from. There are two hydration ports sewn into the sides of the pack above the shoulders.

The Ohm has large side pockets
The Ohm has large side pockets

The side water bottle pockets on the Ohm are enormous and make the pack look like a chipmunk with full side cheeks. They have drain holes at the base and elastic cords on top to secure tall bottles, like 1L Smartwater bottles. They’re also very easy to reach for pulling out bottles and replacing them while you’re walking. Unfortunately, the side pockets are not quite tall enough to secure a 32 oz Nalgene unless you lay it on its side. I prefer 1L ultralight polyethylene Nalgene bottles because Smartwater bottles are too difficult to keep clean for any reasonable period of time.

One notable difference between the Ohm’s side pockets and those on the ULA Circuit Backpack is the front of the pockets. The Circuit’s side pockets have an opening in front because the bottom of the shoulder straps terminate inside the pocket. That’s not the case on the Ohm, where the shoulder straps terminate in front of them, so they’re only open on top. I like this design a lot better and it’s an important difference if you’re trying to decide between these two ULA packs. They both of the same maximum load ratings but the Circuit is better for carrying a bear canister because it has a metal frame stay in the middle to protect your back from the canister’s hard edges.

The Ohm shoulder straps terminate in front of the side pockets
The Ohm shoulder straps terminate in front of the side pockets

The Ohm’s front stretch pocket is made with a tightly woven fabric that is virtually impervious to snagging on vegetation. The stretch pocket is pretty tight so you can’t store bulky objects inside it like a cookpot, but it’s fine for storing loose clothing layers, snacks, a water filter/soft bottle, a wet rain fly, or other daytime essentials you want handy access too.

Compression and External Attachment System

The compression system on the ULA Ohm is very simple and streamlined. There’s a simple cord-based compression system that runs along the sides of the pack. I prefer webbing myself, but the cord-based system is surprisingly effective. The side compression cord can also be used to secure tent poles, packraft paddles, or other long skinny objects to the side of the pack. (I like to tie wet socks to it.) If you don’t like the zig-zag pattern, you can simply replace it with your own cord and cord locks. You’d probably want to do this if you wanted to strap snowshoes or a foam pad to the side of the pack.

The Ohm has a simple cord-based side compression system
The Ohm has a simple cord-based side compression system

ULA offers two customization options if you want more attachment points including:

  • Y-Strap instead of a single top strap: a double strap in front that closes at a single buckle in the back where the collar meets the back panel.
  • Bottom straps: two straps that run from the bottom of the back panel to the front, buckling closed where the bottom panel meets the front panel of the pack.
The Ohm is available with S-shaped shoulder straps
The Ohm is available with S-shaped shoulder straps

The shoulder straps also have a number of very useful attachment points for carrying electronic accessories or attaching water bottles with elastic cords or a water bottle sleeve (sold separately). But I do like to attach accessory pockets to my shoulder straps and appreciate the plastic rings and daisy chains sewn onto the shoulder straps. There are also trekking poles and ice ax shaft holders sewn to the sides of the front stretch pocket, as well as a single ice ax loop at the pocket’s bottom.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Ohm has a lightweight frame and suspension system, which is why the manufacturer recommends that you keep your base weight (gear minus food and water) at 12 pounds or less. You shouldn’t take my description of the frame system as critical, but as cautionary. The Ohm is really designed for people carrying moderately light loads. The manufacturer recommends a max load of 30 pounds, which I would agree with. If you’re looking for a pack that’s similar to the Ohm but can handle heavier loads, I’d encourage you to look at the ULA Catalyst, which is designed for that purpose.

The Ohm frame has two components: a carbon fiber rod that runs around the perimeter of the main pack bag behind your shoulders and back, and a thin removable pad inside the main compartment that protects your back from pointy things poking through.

The Ohm frame consists of a carbon fiber rod and a thin foam pad
The Ohm frame consists of a carbon fiber rod and a thin foam pad.

The carbon fiber rod does not insert into the hip belt and therefore provides very little load transfer to the hips. Its primary purpose is to prevent the pack bag from collapsing on itself like an unstructured sack and to provide an anchor point for the pack’s load lifters above your shoulders. The carbon fiber rod is not very strong, so you should avoid sitting on the Ohm to avoid breaking it.

The foam pad inside the pack is the equivalent to the bivy pad you’d find on a climber’s pack. It’s not big enough or thick enough to sleep on, but it is a good source of secondary sleeping insulation under your torso or under your legs. It’s also a great sit pad or front kneeling porch for your tent, but it’s stored inside your pack and difficult to get out without unpacking it, so best used in camp for that purpose.

When packing the Ohm you need to be careful not to overstuff it with bulky objects, like tightly compressed stuff sacks, because you’ll feel them poking through the foam back pad. The best way to pack your gear in the Ohm is to stack stuff sack horizontally and stuff loose items along the sides. Try to avoid stuffing too much gear in, because the pack has a tendency to barrel-roll into your back through the foam pad. Heavier items, like a food bag, are best placed about 1/3 to 1/2 up the stack, so they’re close to your waist.

The fact that the Ohm has a frame makes it possible to give the pack load lifters. These are quite special on the Ohm because you can adjust the strap angle depending on your personal dimensions. I’m not talking about pulling on the load lifter straps to tilt the pack forward and in line with your hips, but how to adjust the strap angle so it’s close to a 45-degree angle. To do this, you’d move the buckle anchoring the front of the load lifter to the shoulder strap up or down, depending on how “long” your torso is. This is a high-end customization option normally found on expedition packs and very useful if you want to personalize a pack’s fit.

You can move the hip belt up 2” to adjust the torso length
You can move the hip belt up 2” to adjust the torso length

The Ohm hip belt is the standard wide wrap belt that ULA offers on all of its backpacks. It is attached to the back of the pack using velcro, in front and behind. Velcro-attached hip belts are a tried and true design element on lightweight packs and make it possible for you to try on different hip belt sizes with the same pack to dial in a custom fit. There’s also 2″ of vertical play where you can position the hip belt (higher or lower) which gives you the ability to fine-tune the pack’s torso length. This is a unique feature of ULA’s hip belt system which is a real value-add.

The hip belt has two large zippered pockets and dual straps that let you fine-tune the fit depending on the shape of your hips. The straps adjust using a Scherer pull-forward cinch, first developed by Kelty, and connect at a center buckle. I think the ULA dual strap hip belt is the best fitting hip belt available today on ultralight style packs and it’s the secret sauce that makes the ULA Ohm, the ULA Circuit, and ULA Catalyst (which all use the same hip belt) so easy to carry. It fits great, doesn’t slip, and makes for a very responsive and secure carry.

The hip belt has top and bottom straps to fit different hip shapes
The hip belt has top and bottom straps to fit different hip shapes

Both the hip belt and shoulder straps are covered in padded spacer mesh which is cushy without being too soft. The Ohm’s shoulder straps are also available in two styles, J-shaped or S-shaped: J straps work best on men with average builds, and S straps work best on almost all women and men with more athletic builds or sloping shoulders. See ULA’s Pack fitting instructions for a good explanation of the differences (at the bottom of the Ohm product page).

The 400d Robic Nylon is incredibly tough stuff and will last for multiple thru-hikes
The 400d Robic Nylon is incredibly tough stuff and will last for multiple thru-hikes

Recommendation

The ULA Ohm is an ultralight backpack (63L/33.6 ounces) that’s sized for multi-day backpacking trips and thru-hikes. It is designed for ultralight backpackers who’ve gotten their base weight down and want a durable but streamlined backpack. Made with heavier, more durable fabrics (400 denier Robic), this is a backpack that can take some serious punishment, making it a standout for backpackers who want a pack that they can use for years, or several thru-hikes. Optional components make it easy to reconfigure the Ohm for different styles of trips, and the choice of different style shoulder straps and hip belt lengths means that you can personalize the fit for optimal comfort. The Ohm is also available in a huge range of even more durable fabrics, colors, and color combinations if you want to let your hiker trash flag fly.  Any way you slice it, you really can’t go wrong whichever ULA Ohm. Highly recommended.

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Disclosure: ULA loaned the author a backpack for this review.

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