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Anyone familiar with the ULA Dragonfly pack?

I’m looking for information on the ULA Dragonfly pack.

It has the features I’m looking for in a pack. At 28 oz it has the right weight. The main pack is 26.8 liters so it appears to be ideal for those of us that want to travel with only a personal item.

I really like that it works as a day pack for hiking too - water bottle pockets, stuff sleeves, daisy chains.

Thoughts? Experience?

I’ve only found one review.

Posted by
19091 posts

I hadn't responded because I don't have any specific experience with the Dragonfly, but I do have some thoughts.

appears to be ideal for those of us that want to travel with only a personal item.

I'm not sure why you want to travel with only a "personal" item. A personal item, the size limit of which is specified by the airline, is only important if you also have a larger, carry-on item. If you only have one item, the carry-on size would be the limit. If you just mean that you want to travel with only a small sized item. A few airlines, Frontier and Spirit, for example, charge for a carry-on, but not for a "personal item". However, the Dragonfly exceeds the length limit for these airlines.

Things I like;
The weight (1¼ #) is a huge plus for me.
It is front opening.
It has a sternum strap.

Things I don't like;
Only two external cinch straps, at the top. A bottom cinch straps are far more important than a top ones, and four are really ideal.
The price is a huge negative. I see nothing that justifies the high price.

Posted by
5835 posts

I have no personal experience with ULA packs and only found the same review that looks very in-depth.

Yes, the ULA is premium priced (compared to the RS Classic Carry-on Pack as a for example), but it appears to be a "technical" backpack (e.g. hiking/trekking backpacking) and not tourist luggage carried on one's back. What may work for transporting luggage from airport to hotel may not work rock hopping boulders across a stream. The pack offers different material options with the more expensive up pricing the pack by plus $20 and the pack is manufactured in the US (i.e. American wages).

The primary disadvantage would be not being able to try the pack on with a load. If you do buy, find out about return policies.

Posted by
1478 posts

Hi Cindy,
I am not familiar with this pack, but it would be too small for me.
I have an Osprey Farpoint 40 L and a Porter 46 L (that I only pack 40 L in). I travel with one of these bags and I also carry a cross body messenger bag by Tom Bihn.

So 30L would be too small for me. Have you traveled that light before?

Posted by
11151 posts

Designed with a quick weekend getaway in mind, ( From ULA website)

Depends what type of travel you are planning to do. If for more than just a few days, capacity looks be a problem

Posted by
19091 posts

So 30L would be too small for me. Have you traveled that light before?

As a matter of fact, yes. Three years ago I spent 3 weeks in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland with an eTech 2.0 Weekender Convertible Jr., which does have a displacement (outside volume) of 39 L. However, my contents can fit in the 1400 cu in (23 L) main compartment of an Appenzell bag (I just don't use an Appenzell bag because it opens at the top, like a backpack, not like a book, and doesn't have hideaway straps. I have to have a pack with cinch straps because otherwise, since I don't fill it, the contents fall to the bottom.

Posted by
1194 posts

Amazing tool Google Search.

What in the world brought in this response??? Of course I used a search engine! I received almost no hits. That’s why I asked here. And BTW, your links are for maximum carry on bags.

To answer other questions:

  • I’ve been going one bag for decades. I’ve managed to get down to personal item travel in the last 6-7 years or so. I could go on and on about the freedom of personal bag travel. My current pack is 16 liters. Unfortunately, there is no spare room! So I’m actually trying to size up to a 20-28 liter pack.

  • My major reason for personal item travel is to avoid the overhead bin drama. But I’ve also found a lot of weight savings by going smaller. Another reason is that I don’t need to store my pack when touristing. It’s small enough to just bring along. Freedom, freedom, freedom.

  • Weight is always an issue for cabin bags. I’m willing to spend extra money for a lighter bag. I want the weight to be for my stuff, not the packaging.

  • This bag appeared to be a good compromise between a travel pack and a light hiking pack. I like to hike up mountains on my travels. One bag that fits both needs is optimal for how I do travel.

So 30L would be too small for me. Have you traveled that light before?

In case you didn’t see it in-text. Yes, many times for many years. Anything from 16 liters 25 liters. For weddings, professional presentations (with computer) and even a few winter trips. The longest so far was one week. But once you can do one week you can do X weeks.

You know how people become addicted to carry on only? It’s the same for personal item travel.

But alas, that perfect bag...
I’ve been looking for years.

Posted by
1194 posts

OK, I found a great review by a woman who bought a Dragonfly.

It is also customizable to add storable straps, logo removal, and load lifters.

These were most of the missing items from my dream bag.

My birthday is next week. Happy Birthday to meeeeee.....

Posted by
6289 posts

Cindy H, I use a 23 L Appenzell, but I do add a small shoulder bag. If my Appenzell ever wears out, I'm going to take a good hard look at the Dragonfly. It's awfully pricey, but it looks perfect for the way I like to travel, and has features the Appenzell doesn't.

Have a great birthday, and report back on how you like your new bag after you've been able to take a trip or two.

Posted by
1259 posts

I bow.
Bicycle touring and ultralight backpacking prepared me to easily adapt to one bag travel. But I can’t get my bare essentials stuffed into a bag that is smaller than the max carry-on, a 40-45 liter bag. I delight in quick trips in excellent weather in my Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30 but Europe in early spring means some extras.

Posted by
81 posts

Cindy, my favorite travel pack is the K-12 Katpack from Red Oxx. It is made in the USA as well and is somewhat smaller than the Dragonfly pack as it is 20.4 liters. I love this bag and actually was using it for my every day carry bag for SurfacePro, breakfast and lunch bags, water bottles, and personal items (before the virus started my daily working from home). However, I can pack it for a week of travel with summer clothes--I have not tried it where I would need long pants and somewhat heavier items though. Good luck with whatever you decide.

Posted by
19091 posts

Cindy, interesting to see your ideal pack from 2016. I, too, have come up with a set of criteria,
(not item-for-item identical to yours, but similar) I would like to find in a pack.

I'm not wedded to a maximum size, as long as it holds what I take (23L) with a little margin. It can be bigger as long as it has external cinch straps to tighten the load. Being storable under the seat (<35L) would be a plus, but, in reality, I have never found stowing my pack under the seat to be necessary.

I definitely want it have a single large compartment that opens like a book, stowable backpack straps, a sternum strap, and external cinch straps. I would call those non-negotiable.

I used to think a rectangular solid shape (I think that's what you meant by rectilinear, but that's not the correct term) was important because it maximizes the capacity within the airline maximum dimensions (bags that taper or that have a thick pocket over only half of the footprint are volume inefficient). Now that I am well within the regulation dimensions, that doesn't matter. For those who can't control themselves and constantly press the limit, a rectangular solid pack would be important.

I do like to have one external pocket to hold my passport, wallet, neck pouch, and belt while I go through TSA security.

I found that with a waist belt, I can completely loosen the shoulder straps and support the weight of my bag on my hips, but my bag is so light, at about 13#, that a waist belt is not necessary for me. I leave the waist belt at home. For someone with a weak torso, a waist belt might be needed and would nullify the "my back and shoulders can't take a backpack" excuse.

I, too, would like less than 2 lb, but I grudgingly accepted an additional ¾# to get cinch straps and a sternum strap. I felt the additional weight was worth the comfort. I went from a 1¾# OPEC bag to a 2¾# eTech W/E convertible Jr. to get the feature I wanted.

I recently acquired a Hynes Eagle 38L backpack. It has all the features I want at only 1¾#. It's advertised capacity is 38 liters, but the advertised displacement (LxWxH) is more like 33L, and I think it is really more like 30L. I think it would fit under a airplane seat, so it might be just about ideal for both of us.

Posted by
8645 posts

The Google response was a simple statement.

Had you mentioned it in your original post I wouldn’t have mentioned it. Something like “ I’ve Googled looking for reviews but wanting to hear from well traveled RS forum members so posting here as well.”

Glad you found the intel you needed.

Happy Birthday and give a shout out to my hometown of Los Gatos on your next trip over 17 to Santa Cruz.

Posted by
1194 posts

Being storable under the seat (<35L) would be a plus, but, in reality, I have never found stowing my pack under the seat to be necessary.

I’ve found it to be a nice to have as a result of living on the West Cost. Trips to Europe and beyond mean that I usually have a domestic leg of the trip. At that point there is overhead bin drama. It doesn’t help that I’m flying from a larger city and many flights are full.

at about 13#, that a waist belt is not necessary for me.

That used to be true for me. But I have a bad disk in my neck and another one in my lower back. Keeping the weight off my shoulders really makes a big difference for me (especially after hours of flying). I’m going to talk to the manufacturer and see what they say about adding an unpadded light weight belt. Something like what is on the Deuter Giga Bike.

I suspect by the time I’m done adding my mods the pack will be up around 2lb. I wish it were only 18” long but I think this is as close as it gets.

As far as the rectangular shape goes. It’s more of an optimizing space thing. As an engineer I find wasting space to be offensive, especially if it accomplishes no purpose.

BTW, I did look and the Hynes Eagle and it’s a nice bag. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the features needed for a good rock hopping/day hiking bag. That’s what is making this search more difficult.

Posted by
5835 posts

RE: I’m going to talk to the manufacturer and see what they say about adding an unpadded light weight belt.

Certainly have a conversation with the pack designer about adding a load carrying hip belt. That said, for a bag to transfer load from your shoulders to your hips the bag would need some kind of structure or internal frame to properly distribute to a hip belt. And the bag would need to match your torso length to properly transfer load to your hip belt. If your bag is too short for your torso the waist strap will not bear on your hips.

Small summit packs commonly don't have a load carrying waist system to reduce weight and because the packs are so small that you are not carrying a lot of weight. Summit bags may have waist straps to control lateral movement and sway but may not be effective as a load carrying belt.

Posted by
1194 posts

Thanks Edgar.

What you say is true for my 16” packs. But I have a fairly short torso so it may work on a 19” pack. I’m right on the cusp for a small to medium torso length.

And you’re right about the sway.

Posted by
149 posts

That looks like a nice bag. I've been looking for a smaller bag than my Rick Steves backpack, because I have a short torso.

However, I want to take a moment to obsess over the Croc flats! Since my dh and I cruise a lot, I think they could be awesome for me! I can wear with slacks/dresses for nicer dinners and use going to the pool or spa. Actually, they'd be great for many trips I take! I'm ordering today!

Cindy: can you tell me, do Crocs run true to size? Larger or smaller? Do they work well for a wider foot?

I've also been debating about ordering a Hynes 38 liter bag. It's in my Amazon cart and I haven't pulled the trigger yet, since so much of my travel has been cancelled.

Lee: Can you tell me more about it? How is the quality? Have you had a chance to use it yet? Can you compare it to the Rick Steves bag?

Posted by
1194 posts

I’m not sure where the Croc flats quote came from (it wasn’t me).

I have had a few and the sizes are variable depending on style. The classic round toe ballet flats run true to size for me. They make a decent garden shoe and aren’t bad for after the rain.

The biggest issue is that my feet sweat in them. I noticed that my white ones were turning green on the inside (ew!!). It was work getting them clean.

In the second Dragonfly link the author made a comment about Crocs being the perfect dressy shower shoe that she never knew she needed. I have to agree with that comment.

There is a Crocs store at the Great Mall in Milpitas where you can actually try stuff on. Or just order a few sizes from Zappos.

Posted by
149 posts

Oops Cindy, I read the review and associated it with you. I've never worn Crocs before but I am excited to try them!

Please let us know if you order the bag and how you like it.