Ultralite Sacks – Affordable DCF Ultralight Gear
Ultralite Sacks – Affordable DCF Ultralight Gear
I’ve been a backpacker for as long as I can remember, and have dabbled with ultralight gear over the years; but not until planning a thru hike of the Colorado Trail did I take the full plunge into the world of ultralight. After recently giving my whole kit a facelift by upgrading my “Big 3” (pack, shelter, and quilt), it was time to find somewhere to shave a few more ounces – enter Ultralite Sacks.
It turns out that pack organization can really add up. Most ultralight packs are built with the assumption that the user has their pack organization dialed, and therefore lack the bells and whistles of a more traditional, mainstream pack. As a result, it becomes even more important to find a way to keep gear organized and dry, while not adding significant weight.
Personally, I think pack organization is an all-to-often overlooked system in the backpacking world. Knowing exactly where everything is located – along with the peace of mind that it is dry – can improve any backcountry experience, especially on those longer trips. I realize there are plenty of hardcore ultralighters who will stuff everything into a single Nylofume pack liner (or trash bag), but not only does that remind me of having a messy bedroom as a teenager, it’s putting all my eggs in a thin, fragile basket.
Ultralite Sacks Review
The quality of the products from Ultralite Sacks is obvious. Every stitch is perfectly straight, seams are flawlessly sealed, and each product is garnished with subtle branding. Sure, this level of attention to detail isn’t necessary on a stuff sack, but it is a big part of what sets Ultralite Sacks above the rest.
Ultralite Sacks, like many of the fan-favorite brands in the ultralight world, is a small, US-based cottage brand. Every Ultralite Sacks product is made by a fellow hiker in Brookings, Oregon. Because of this, their attention to detail is impeccable and the customer service was top tier throughout the ordering process (and after).
Ultralite Sacks offers a solid selection of industry-leading fabrics, and if you don’t consider yourself a textile nerd, you might consider skipping to the next section. However, this is part of what makes Ultralite Sacks great, so it’s worth camping out here for a minute (no pun intended).
Over the last 5-10 years, Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF), formerly known as Cuben Fiber, has made a name for itself as the undisputed king of UL fabrics – and for a good reason. It was developed in the ‘90s to be used for the sails in racing boats and has since been accepted as the gold standard of UL fabric used in outdoor equipment.
It is constructed from a thin sheet of ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) and is 15x stronger than steel by weight. It is virtually tearproof, highly abrasion-resistant, and fully waterproof (DCF fibers don’t hold water, unlike other UL fabrics like Sil-nylon) – all in an insanely light package.
Due to the incredibly complex nature of production combined with high demand, DCF has been difficult for cottage brands to source in recent years, which is why it is so impressive that Ultralite Sacks offers most of its products in varying thicknesses/weights of DCF. For most products on their site, customers are able to select from a thicker, more durable version, or a lighter version of DCF.
But that’s not where their offerings stop… Ultralite Sacks is also utilizing another cutting-edge fabric known as Ultra Fabric, which has been giving DCF a run for its money in the last couple of years.
It utilizes the same type of UHMWPE fibers, but on the face fabric instead of the backing – making it significantly more durable than DCF, while weighing almost exactly the same and still being 100% waterproof. As a cherry on top, Ultra Fabric utilizes recycled material, making it a more sustainable option as well.
There are few companies offering products with such a wide array of fabric choices, which I applaud as someone who appreciates details. Whether you are looking to go super ultralight or prioritize durability, Ultralite Sacks will have an option for you – And regardless of which fabric you choose, everything they produce is crazy light.
Roll Top Compression Sack:
When Ultralite Sacks told me they make the only DCF roll-top compression sack on the market, I was excited to get my hands on it. I am used to my trusty old Sil-nylon compression sacks from Sea to Summit, but those, while reasonably lightweight, leave something to be desired in terms of durability.
For comparison, my go-to 10-liter Ultra-Sil Compression sack from Sea to Summit weighs 2.3 oz, is not fully waterproof, fragile (has a few holes from brushes with trees), and cost me $36. On the other hand, the large (9.5 liter) DCF Roll Top Compression sack by Ultralite Sacks weighs a mere 1.7 oz, is fully waterproof, far more durable, and costs exactly the same ($36) – a win-win-win.
I have used this compression sack to store extra layers this winter on backcountry ski tours, as well as on some preliminary Colorado Trail shakedown trips, and it is equally suited for both. With the 1.43 oz/yard DCF fabric that is used on this bag, I do not have to worry when setting it down on rough granite or hanging it in a tree. I have not babied this bag and it shows no signs of wear thus far.
My Roll Top Compression Sack is a size L, which is a bit too big for just my Enlightened Equipment Enigma 20 quilt; however, I have found that it is just about perfect for my quilt, puffy jacket, hat and gloves. With all of those things, compressed, this sack still fits horizontally in the bottom of my Hyperlite Southwest 3400 pack.
In terms of room for improvement, the compression straps seem a bit long (when fully extended, there is still quite a long tail). There might be an opportunity to shave a few more grams by trimming the slack if you were so inclined. Otherwise, this thing is damn near perfect – I never thought I’d be so excited about a fancy sack.
Pro Series Roll Top Dry Bag:
Ultralite Sacks also sent me a Medium Roll Top Dry Bag from their “Pro Series” with the disclaimer that, while still reasonably durable, this one should live between the inside of my pack and the inside of my tent. Utilizing an insanely light 0.8 oz type of DCF and fully bonded seams, these sacks are about half the weight of their heavier duty counterparts. The fully bonded seams not only serve to shave grams but allow the bag to be even more waterproof, as the seams are not sewn through.
The Pro Series Roll Top Bag (Size M – 6.8 liters) tips the scales at a mind-bogglingly light 0.49 oz. Yes, that is less than half an ounce! I found a perfect use for this storing my clothes on backpacking trips. This size was just right for extra socks, underwear, leggings, and a 2XL Melanzana hoodie.
I have been heeding Ultralite Sacks’ advice to take special care of this thing, but I have no reasons to believe it wouldn’t be reasonably durable, especially for the weight. It is still, without a doubt, more durable than a Sil-nylon sack and at a fraction of the weight.
My only qualm with this sack is that when it is loaded to the brim, the extremely thin and slick fabric seems to be prone to unrolling. These rolltop-style bags need to be rolled at least three times to be considered waterproof, and I found that the rolls were wanting to come undone inside my pack. However, that is likely user error on my part (filling it too full), since the problem seems to fix itself when the sack is not as full. This is certainly not a reason to overlook this bag, but I would recommend getting a size larger than you think you need to allow for more space to give it an extra roll or two.
Zippered Cube Ditty Bags:
These things are awesome. Buy one (or three) and thank me later. I have been a rolltop ditty bag guy for years, but these have won me over to the zipper side. Being able to zip open the top and sift through all the contents is more like opening a big drawer, which is way better than having to rummage around to find your Advil at the bottom of a bag.
The Zippered Cube Ditty Bags are constructed with a highly durable 200D Ultra Fabric, #3 Waterproof YKK Zippers, and weigh in at 0.67 oz and 0.74 oz (for the Regular and Large, respectively).
These have been especially great for my day hike/ski touring kit as ditty bags. I use the Regular size to hold things like sunscreen, ChapStick, first aid items, repair kit, etc.. I also have been carrying the Large size to hold my poop kit, emergency bivvy, hat and gloves, and some other odds and ends.
While these are highly water-resistant, they should not be submerged. They have held up extremely well to brushes with snow, light rain, and being tossed around in the dirt at camp.
Ultralite Sacks provides some of the most affordable DCF products on the market. Their Large Roll Top Dry Bag (11.2 liters, 0.92 oz) is priced at a very reasonable $32. Compare that with the similar offering from Hyperlite Mountain Gear: a 10L roll-top stuff sack (1.2 oz), which will run you $50; Or the “Big Dry Bag” from Z-Packs (10.7 liters, 0.99 oz) at $40. As if the pricing from Ultralite Sacks wasn’t already competitive enough, even more money can be saved by purchasing one of their product bundles.
Not only is the pricing better, but the quality is superior to many of the larger brands in the same space. You will likely not find a crooked seam or dangling thread on any Ultralite Sacks products – which is not the case for many other cottage ultralight brands (even the larger ones).
The stuff sacks and ditty bags from Ultralite Sacks have been an absolute pleasure to use. They serve their purpose well while on the trail: keeping my gear organized and dry. At a very competitive price (and arguably higher quality) versus other brands using similar fabric, there is no reason Ultralight Sacks shouldn’t be the first brand you look at when it comes to pack organization.
I have continued to purchase products from their site (my new bear bag is in the mail as I write this!), and I really look forward to putting these items through the paces on the Colorado Trail this summer. Kudos to Ultralite Sacks for putting out a high-quality product with top-of-the-line fabrics at an affordable price.
Check out their stuff sacks and other great products at https://ultralitesacks.com/.
Jace is a third-generation Coloradan, raised in the foothills of Evergreen. He fell in love with the outdoors at a young age, summiting his first 14er at 9 years old. Since then, he’s become a 14er Finisher, having stood atop all 58 of Colorado’s 14ers. He studied business at the University of Denver, where he was an All-American Rugby player.
He lives to play in the mountains with his wife, Taylor, and their super-mutt Samson. You can find them (usually together) playing on Colorado’s high peaks… Backpacking, mountaineering, snowboarding (split and solid), trail running, and mountain biking — these are a few of their favorite things.
He has an affinity for high-quality gear, but he’s not afraid to use it and is notorious for testing his equipment to its fullest potential.