It all seemed so simple. I’d already ordered a couple of items from the US (the Scarp and some waders). I wanted a more robust rucksack than my Mariposa but a similar design. Instead of ordering a GG Gorilla, I was attracted by the ULA Ohm (featured by Hendrik a while ago).
It looked perfect. It is a similar size and weight but in tougher Dyneema ripstop. I was also attracted by ULA’s reputation for quality. At £117.48, it certainly wasn’t cheap but not outrageous. I sized myself up. I’m a medium back length. The website suggested a “large” hip belt as my waist is over 33” (I’m a 34” waist). I also ordered a packcover at £13.42. The postage came to a hefty £40.11, but, hey, it’s from the US.
My first inkling of trouble was an email exchange with Jeff who had bought a ULA CDT rucksack. He is also a 34” waist and had ordered the “large” hip belt. Unfortunately, the hip belt was too large. The Ohm was on its way, so there was nothing I could do but wait. Just over a week later, I went to collect it from the Parcel Force depot (an hour’s round trip!). I had to pay £34.07 (£26.07 VAT and £8 handling charge) for the pleasure. With P&P, the cost of the Ohm was now up to £191.66.
On arriving home, I eagerly unpacked the Ohm and tried it on. The hip belt, indeed, did seem too large. I filled the sack up with a couple of sleeping bags. It was cinched right up to the stops. Zut alors! Too large.
Jeff had arranged with Chris (owner of ULA) to mail him (Jeff) a smaller CDT. Rather than incur the return cost Jeff had arranged to sell the surplus CDT and remit the money to Chris. A quick email exchange set up a similar arrangement for me. Another wait of just over a week and the replacement Ohm appeared. This time there was no customs and handling charges and it could be collected from my local Post Office.
Off I duly trooped. When I got home, I opened the parcel I put the sack on. Yes the hip belt was the small, but the pack didn’t feel quite right. I fiddled about with it, convincing myself that is was OK. Then I had a closer look and it was a “small” back length. I looked at the invoice and it was meant from someone else.
Another email exchange ensued. This time, I was to send the packs back to the US. My postage costs were refunded. Another agonising wait ensued. Would they get it right a third time? To my horror, a Parcel Force letter arrived requesting me to pick it up from their depot and pay some more duty and handling, this time £23.23.
I couldn’t be bothered to argue at the depot. My Ohm had now cost me £214.84! I drove round the corner and opened the parcel. It seemed this time it was the correct sack. At home I unpacked it and it was the right size. Phew!
Chris at ULA has been pretty good about this, although the second lot of duty is frustrating and I’ve not heard back from him yet. It has given me the opportunity to inspect three ULA packs and they have all been of a very high standard of finish. The only blemish being some Velcro sewn slightly off centre on the second pack.
If you look at the ULA website, they have now changed the guidance on hip belt sizing. This would have saved a lot of angst if it had been correct in the first place. It has taught me to be a bit more cautious about ordering from the US, especially where sizing is crucial. The other lesson is be careful with the sticker price. Once you add P&P and VAT & handling, the costs soon balloon. Nearly £215 is a lot of money for a rucksack.
If you need to return stuff, the costs mount even more. Once you go international, it gets very costly. Recently I have had to return my home network server with a fault. The parcel was 4.2kg. With insurance cover of £850, it cost me £22.50 to send (in the UK). The rucksacks I returned to the US weighed just over 2kg and cost £40.69 (with insurance).
My advice is to think carefully and do the sums before committing yourself. I was a bit impetuous and had I totted up the charges, it would have been a much finer judgement whether to purchase.
The big question is: what’s the Ohm like and was it worth the cost and hassle. Tomorrow I’ll give you a first view.