ÜLA Equipment Dragonfly: Review

We dig into ULA Equipment’s first take on an everyday carry backpack, the Dragonfly.

12 comments

ÜLA Equipment was started in Logan, Utah in 2001 by one man desiring to provide provide high quality, lightweight packs for hikers and backpackers. ÜLA was later sold, in 2009, but it retains it’s status as an entirely US-based manufacturer.

The Dragonfly is one of the company’s first attempts to enter the everyday carry space. It’s intended for folks to use in the city or on trail, providing a size and features set useful in both arenas. The pack is available in a variety of fabric and color choices, but this one is the company’s flagship 210D Robic Fabric. ÜLA says it’s, “the toughest stuff ounce for ounce we’ve ever seen.”

ula ultralight equipment dragonfly front of pack

Tech Specs

ImperialMetric
Weight28oz794gm
Total Volume1857 cu. in.30L
Main Body1328 cu. in.21.75L
Front Pocket183 cu. in.3L
Side Pockets (each)160 cu. in.2.62L
Shoulder Pocket13 cu. in.0.2 L
Height19.5″45cm
Width12″30cm
Depth7″18cm
Specs are with the pack configured as shown in the Robic Fabric. Other fabric choices will be heavier.

Quality and Comfort

ÜLA makes a big deal on their site about producing their gear in America. It seems that they have been able to leverage this into a well built pack with nary a stray stitch and all of the appropriate seams bound and ready to go. I was quite impressed overall with the quality of the build.

In terms of material, the 210 Robic material does seem to fair well with light abrasion. Time will only tell how it holds up, but I don’t anticipate any real issues under normal uses.

As a lighter weight pack, there were some material choices that I am less certain about (I usually run 500d and 1000d, overbuilt packs). ÜLA used a #5 water resistant zipper, rather than a more typical #8 or #10, and left the annoying, noisy metal pull tabs on the bag (note, they have been cut off and changed out on the pack in the photos). The tweave pockets on the side and face are great for a variety of bottles or jackets, but I question how well they will stand up to scrapes and the abuse of regular use. These materials are likely appropriate given the packs intended audience, but I wanted to make note of them.

The most concerning design issue with the pack though comes from the placement of the compression straps. ÜLA opted to mount them entirely on the sides of the bag, no doubt to prevent obstructing access to the main compartment. In doing so, however, they have created a major stress point for the undersized zipper. ÜLA would have done much better to design the compression straps in some manner that allows them to run over the zipper and relieve stress on it, rather than create it.

ula ultralight equipment dragonfly side of pack in snow with bottle pockets

ÜLA Equipment is known best for making lightweight backcountry packs that perform. As such, I was curious to see how they fared making a smaller pack intended for city and daily use.

ula ultralight equipment dragonfly  harness suspension

I’m a load carriage snob. If a pack is not comfortable under the loads it should handle, it is not worth my time. I am happy to report that there are no comfort issues with the Dragonfly, even up to about a 20 pound load. The shoulder straps are wide and flat, distributing the load well. The bag does not have a rigid frame sheet, but there does seem to be enough foam in the back panel and laptop sleeve to give the pack some shape and keep things standing up. Dropping a laptop in the rear sleeve only makes things better.

Organization

The Dragonfly has a straight-forward organizational layout. On the face of the pack is a length of elastic cord laced through loops that provide the user a place to stash a light jacket or something similar (this is easily removed, as seen in various photos). Under that is a zippered tweave pocket that is great for a pair of gloves or some other small, oddly shaped items.

ula ultralight equipment dragonfly front of pack

On each side of the pack there is a generous tweave bottle pocket. These things are huge. Really. They will easily swallow a 48 oz Nalgene, or can accept a pair of skinnier bottles side-by-side. They will also stretch outward if needed, rather than eating space in the main compartment.

ula ultralight equipment dragonfly side of bag bottle pockets

Atop the bag is a single drop pocket well suited to wallets, cased sunglasses, or anything else one may want to access quickly. This pocket is pretty generously sized and can accept a 1 liter bottle.

ula ultralight equipment dragonfly quick access pocket stash

The bottom of the bag features a pair of simple daisy chains to allow for the lashing of overloads.

ula ultralight equipment dragonfly webbing daisy chain bottom of pack

At the rear of the bag, above the shoulder straps, is a slot pocket designed for laptops. The sleeve is padded and has no trouble accepting a 15″  Macbook Pro (MBP). ÜLA claims it will take a 17″ notebook. This section has padding on the bottom, but is not raised up off the bottom of the bag as we are becoming accustomed to seeing. Despite this, I have no real concerns keeping my MBP in there, as it seems sufficiently protected.

ula ultralight equipment dragonfly laptop sleeve

Each shoulder strap also includes a small open top tweave pocket. ÜLA mentions using these for keys or snacks. I was able to squeeze my iPhone 7 into it as well. I’m sure these could be used in a number of ways.

ula ultralight equipment dragonfly harness pockets

The packs interior has just a few features. There are a pair of compression straps running across the back panel, reminiscent of those found in suitcases. There is also a zipper mesh pocket on the inside of the main zippered panel. I’ve stashed everything from a small bible to a tech kit in this spot. It does run the full height of the bag, so smaller items will drop to the bottom.

ula ultralight equipment dragonfly panel loader internal luggage straps

What’s Perfect

  • The sum of the features and their layout just works on this bag. Panel loading. Quick access external pockets. Fantastic bottle pockets. A good laptop sleeve. Really, it’s got everything one would need. It’s efficient and easy to use, with nothing slowing the user from accessing their gear.
  • The Dragonfly handles appropriate loads without an issue. Wider, flatter shoulder straps make this pack a joy to have strapped on.
  • The lighter material makes for a lightweight pack. Coming from 4lb+ daypacks, I really enjoyed having something well under 2 lbs for a change.
  • Compresses down to nearly nothing when empty. It will not stow in it’s own pocket, but would be a strong contender for a stow-able travel pack if laid flat in the bottom of a suitcase or duffel.
  • ÜLA offers this pack in a variety of fabric choices at prices from $145-$160. That is an excellent value for a US-made product. Seriously, find me a better value.

What’s Not

  • The compression strap design needs reworking. I went over it above,  but putting stress on those zippers is not a good idea.
  • I’d rather see #8 zippers used at least on the main compartment. I’m sure weight savings were the main reason for selecting the smaller #5, but it’s not a trade-off I’m personally comfortable with.
  • I think it might have been a good idea to incorporate just one or two more small item areas. Perhaps putting an extra pocket inside the top pocket, or maybe splitting the interior mesh pocket into a pair of smaller ones? As is, the Dragonfly certainly requires the user to bring some of their own organization through the use of pouches or tool rolls.

Wrap Up

I’ve long been on the hunt for a proper panel loading EDC pack. Load carriage is most often the area they fall short in, followed by lacking a truly useful laptop sleeve, or being made from an underwhelming, heavy material.

The Dragonfly suffers from none of these plights. It is a (mostly) well thought out bag that really just works. The functionality that comes from a full panel opening design is hard to understate in allowing access to ones kit, and load carriage is great. Great water bottle pockets and a laptop sleeve round out what is a highly adaptable and convenient pack to use in a variety of situations. Build quality is high and the the bag is reasonably priced starting at $145 direct from ÜLA. I’d love to see ÜLA update the compression straps and main zipper size, but they genuinely have a winner here.

ula ultralight equipment dragonfly front of bag

12 comments on “ÜLA Equipment Dragonfly: Review”

  1. Thank you for this great review. I had been and still am considering the Dragonfly. I have the ULA Circuit and their Everyday. The Everyday I think was the precursor to the Dragonfly and while the Everyday is ok I am hoping for something better, for starters a little sleeker and the Dragon Fly looks that way. Second the Everyday just doesn’t stay always stay in place on my back and I am thinking just a belt, not a full on backpack belt but just a web belt to help keep it in place would have been ideal? Does the Dragonfly have any belt? I have been happy with the Robic fabric on both packs but for that more urban look the possibility of doing all black intrigues me, are you familiar with any of the XPack fabrics the Dragonfly comes in? And if so could you tell me any pros and cons of the XPack fabric over the Robic?
    Thanks
    -Gerry

    1. Hi Gerry! Thanks for the kind words.

      No belt on this one.

      As far as the fabric goes, X-Pac is waterproof and Robic is not. Some of the X-Pac fabrics will be even heavier and more durable as well. For more technical details on these, look at the Dragonfly’s product page under the ‘Fabric’ tab.

      1. Much thanks for the quick reply! If it isn’t too much trouble how did you go about replacing the zipper pulls?

        1. They were actually replaced by the gentleman who had the bag before me, but some side cutters will remove the factory metal ones. You can then replace them with whatever suits you better!

    1. Hi Mike! No, not really. The pockets are pretty high up and the material too stretchy to make that possible.

  2. Great review! There are so few out there about this pack so this overview is super helpful! Do you happen to know the height of the zippered mesh pocket behind the main panel?

    1. Hi Kels,
      I agree Adam did a great review and likely he can address this better.
      I just measured my Dragonfly. If I understood your question correctly the inner mesh pocket runs the length of the panel at about 16 inches with the zipper being at about the 12 inch mark from the bottom.
      So far I am extremely happy with my Dragonfly. I pretty much never been let down by anything from ULA, both for travel and hiking. Thanks to Covid I haven’t yet given my Dragonfly the full travel work out I expect to. Expecting to start up more extensive travel again, I al really looking forward to using my Dragonfly for shorter term trips and for longer term travel I just ordered the ULA Atlas, and I guess I am like a kid waiting for Christmas as I am excited for it to arrive.

  3. Hi Kels,
    I agree Adam did a great review and likely he can address this better.
    I just measured my Dragonfly. If I understood your question correctly the inner mesh pocket runs the length of the panel at about 16 inches with the zipper being at about the 12 inch mark from the bottom.
    So far I am extremely happy with my Dragonfly. I pretty much never been let down by anything from ULA, both for travel and hiking. Thanks to Covid I haven’t yet given my Dragonfly the full travel work out I expect to. Expecting to start up more extensive travel again, I al really looking forward to using my Dragonfly for shorter term trips and for longer term travel I just ordered the ULA Atlas, and I guess I am like a kid waiting for Christmas as I am excited for it to arrive.

    1. Hi Gerry – I too have the Dragonfly but am considering ordering the Atlas for longer travels. What are your thoughts on it after owning it for a period of time now. Thanks
      Michelle

  4. This is a great review–thanks so much for posting it.

    I just learned about the Dragonfly this weekend from a Reddit post, and found your review from there. I am wondering about the Robic fabric — the website says the “100% Robic Nylon fabric has a 3 pass Teflon DWR (Durable Water Repellant) and a 3 pass PU (Poly Urathane) Coating, making it highly water resistant.” You mentioned the Robic fabric is not waterproof. Have you had experiences with the contents of the pack getting soaked? Just curious. Thanks again.

  5. Hi Michelle!

    I am thrilled you have an ULA Dragonfly. They are as I am told growing in popularity, the web sight and YouTube sight Packhacker recently had the Dragonfly in a few videos and posts. I am also told the Dragonfly shows up on several Reddit posts both in travel and backpacker sights and it often seems to be referred to as the unicorn of backpacks for it’s versatility I guess. I am a pretty big fan of ULA, and am happy to see the Dragonfly get it’s recognition.

    The Atlas on the other hand in my opinion hasn’t caught on in as being as popular. I can likely understand that from my own usage in that I am gravitating towards the Dragonfly over the Atlas for much of my travel. For me thanks in part to COVID, my travels have still been narrowed to shorter and more specific travels. Using packing cubes my short various trips ranging from three to seven days the Dragonfly continues to be the pack I grab.
    Sadly the most activity my Atlas has seen was to pack up my dress shirts, dress pants and ties for a move half way cross country. In January I had an extended trip cancel that would have required more winter as well as variety clothing to be packed, my plan was to use the Atlas then. Fortunately this summer season I have three trips coming up that still seem to be on the books that will require a more variety of clothes and extra shoes to pack, since I will need to cover, extensive outdoor activities, as well as formal events like weddings. It is my intent the Atlas will be the better with the extra room for those events.

    I have had the opportunity to compare my Atlas to friend’s more traditional hiking ULA packs including the Catalyst. I think The Catalyst and Atlas both use a similar suspension of twin sheet stays or frame sheet. While I don’t think the Atlas is ready for a through hike and I don’t think my friend’s Catalyst I will burrowing to throw my clothes in for the ruff and tumble world of airports I think both packs are similarly durable and quality of build, just both for their respective purposes. That being said I would say while the capacity is pretty good sized in my opinion on the Atlas I would not over stuff it and try to keep the total weight no more than 30-35 lbs.
    That is a comparison of the Catalyst and Atlas. In comparing the Dragonfly to the Atlas, other than volume, if you go with a hip belt, and fabric selection the style is very similar. I would say the Dragonfly however doesn’t look too bad if once unpacked using it around town, the Atlas in my opinion just looks too big to have that every day carry look.
    Like the Dragonfly the pocket system suits me very well. I mentioned the max weight for carry, in my opinion if you are the type to on occasion need to carry heavy stuff, bottles of wine, beer, gifts or toys or work tools I would keep in my mind like all ULA packs it is a lightweight pack. If you are traveling with mostly clothes maybe extra shoes I think the Atlas can manage it very well, still be a comfortable load on the back and be very durable, protecting your stuff and giving you many years of use. If you need to over stuff over weigh down a pack for travel, rather it is all the fancy work tools you might carry, multiple bottles of wine, 12pk of beer or what ever I personally might give consideration to something like a GoRuck GR2, of course then you are easily paying double or more the price and there is the issue they tend to be scarce on the market. For most travelers I think the Atlas will be the perfect travel bag for those who need to pack that little extra, and for those who need to on occasion check a bag it is an extremely durable pack, able to handle the vigors that often comes with checked luggage. If you do opt for those few extra heavy things on occasion I think the Atlas will handle it well just so it isn’t over loaded or weighed down.
    I don’t know if I have given you the answer you are looking for, I may have given you just a lot of rambling malarkey. I think there is so much similarity between the Dragonfly and Atlas and it sounds as though you have the Dragonfly, I would do some sample packing, using packing cubes or stuff sacks figure out your typical travel gear, how easily does it all fit in your Dragonfly? Then decide do you really need the extra space the Atlas would provide? You already have the Dragonfly, as a side note the Atlas with out the addition of the hip belt, which I personally added, is now pretty much the same price as the Dragonfly. In my opinion you can’t go wrong either way, get the Atlas to compliment your Dragonfly use, or keep using the heck out of the Dragonfly, it remains an awesome pack and my favorite! Good luck and please post what you end up doing.

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