Boots and rucksacks are the most difficult bits of gear to get right. I reckon rucksacks are more difficult than boots. Boots can be tested through test walks near home (for me dog walking). However, rucksacks often need to be carried for two or three days before shortcomings are apparent.
Such was the case with my ULA Ohm rucksack. After all the hassle of getting one, I was hopeful that this would be the “one”. I bought the Ohm to see if I could improve on my Mariposa Plus, which has begun to show a bit of wear and tear. I felt the design looked more robust, using Dyneema Gridstop fabric.
The volume of the Ohm was very similar to the Mariposa. I managed to fit all my gear with three days’ food reasonably comfortably (total 12.75kg). The Scarp fitted easily into a side pocket with some Velcro webbing to secure the top. A little more care has to be taken to ensure that lumpy objects do not dig into your back. I use two sections of a GG NightLight sleeping pad for the back panel of the Mariposa, so it is a bit more forgiving.
On the face of it the harness of the Ohm seems better. The shoulder straps are more substantial and the hip belt is better positioned with superior padding. On day one it felt better than the Mariposa. It felt more secure on my back, but retained some flexibility. The back panel is a bit sweatier as it is plain nylon with no mesh.
Photo courtesy of Jeff
On day two, some shortcomings became apparent. I wasn’t careful packing and the load felt a bit lumpy. After some adjustment it was OK. About half way through the day it became apparent that the padding on the hip belt was not quite long enough to cover the tightening buckles for the webbing. An extra half an inch would have done it.
Under tension the buckles are pulled forward to protrude just beyond the hip belt padding. Because I was wearing a Paramo jacket, the discomfort wasn’t too bad, but if I had been wearing just a T-shirt, it might have been worse. I don’t want to make too much of this. I think under most circumstances it should be OK, but it’s something to be aware of.
Had it not been for this issue, I think I would say that the Ohm is better than the Mariposa. As it stands, they are both good rucksacks but suffer from some small drawbacks. Both have some issues with their hip belts. The Mariposa hip belt sits too low. The Ohm has this minor problem with the buckles.
It seems to me that rucksack manufacturers don’t pay enough attention to hip belts. The most comfortable I’ve worn so far have been from Osprey (Aether 60 and Exos 58). The worst have been from GolIte (Trek and Quest). The Mariposa and Ohm are somewhere in the middle.
I suspect the Ohm will vie with the Mariposa for summer trips, but I think I’m going to need something with a better hip belt for cooler months and longer trips.
It’s probably also worth a quick word on stuff sacks. I changed my packing technique from the last couple of trips. I had taken to using two large waterproof stuff sacks (one roll top, one without). The base of the rucksack was filled with the roll top bag. In it I put my sleeping bag (loose, sleeping mat and clothes that I wouldn’t need during the day. In the second large stuff sack (an old F&T neoprene lined one) I put everything else, inside Alpkit Apollo bags to keep thing tidy. This meant I could guarantee that everything would stay dry.
This time I put my sleeping bag in one Outdoor Designs air permeable sack and spare clothes in another. These went at the bottom of the pack. I found that this method meant I could compress my sleeping bag and clothes smaller. The rest of the gear was packed on top in various stuff sacks (Apollo bags except extra clothes, which went in another Outdoor Designs air permeable bag).
I found this system worked well and gained me a bit of extra space. The only downside was that the stuff sacks got a bit wet as the Ohm is not totally waterproof, especially at the base. The Outdoor Designs bags kept everything dry inside. However, some of the gear in the Apollo bags was a bit damp, but it didn’t matter as nothing needed to be kept totally dry.
In conclusion, I still don’t feel I’ve got it quite right in the rucksack department, so I’ll keep looking.