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.”
|Total Volume||1857 cu. in.||30L|
|Main Body||1328 cu. in.||21.75L|
|Front Pocket||183 cu. in.||3L|
|Side Pockets (each)||160 cu. in.||2.62L|
|Shoulder Pocket||13 cu. in.||0.2 L|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The bottom of the bag features a pair of simple daisy chains to allow for the lashing of overloads.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.