Hill People Gear Runner’s Kit bag review

IMG_7625

I’d love to see a historical accounting of when outdoor recreation became, in the first world, bifurcated as it is today. My research indicates that by the mid 70s the effete world of hiking/backpacking/skiing/etc was well separated (in, among other places, ads) from that of hook and bullet. Cultural distinctions between these two have only hardened and broadened, at least in America. In my neighborhood, Glacier National Park backcountry visitation peaks with the hikers and backpackers of August, while across the road September elk hunting is the busiest time away from roads in the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex. The stereotypes fail as all such things must in application, but the tropes nonetheless illustrate why the durability of the divide makes me sad. There is something to be said about the big, name-brand scenery which goes along with national parks, and the ideology of pure witnessing and experience which they (along with all the world’s REIs) promote. There is also something to be said for the messier guidelines, poor trail signage, and fish guts burning in the fire of public lands under the less watchful eye of the Agriculture department. You learn a lot about the woods by walking ridgelines light and fast, and you also learn a lot by sitting still for two days and killing something wild and wary.

Human-powered backcountry hunting is driving a generalist revival of folks who do both. Hill People Gear is at the center.

IMG_7713

I’ve been on a quest this year to find a good on-body alternative to pack side and belt pockets, a way to carry food and possibles during the day. The Osprey Grabbag was ok, but a bit small and clumsy to transition from on to off the pack. The Zpacks Multipack didn’t carry well of pack, stuck out too far in use, and the build quality wasn’t especially inspiring. I dug HPG for a while, and decided the thinner, full-footprint Runner’s bag would be best. In foliage.

IMG_7714

The conceptual anchor of the kit bags is being able to carry a pistol, which is the primary purpose of the large compartment against the body. I don’t feel the need to carry (in the BC or ever), so I’ve used my kit bag purely as a utilitarian/possibles bag since I got it a few months ago.

As can be seen in these photos, the pistol compartment on the Runner’s bag is about an inch thick and encircled almost completely by a dual slider #8 zipper. The front compartment is flat, with two organizer pockets inside.

IMG_7715

You wear the kit bag via the mesh and 1.5″ webbing harness. Loosen the side buckles, unclip the right, and slide it over your head.

IMG_7716

I’ve found the harness to be exceptionally comfortable, both without a pack and with packs from 15 to 60 liters in size. This took a minimal amount of fiddling; I put on the kit bag, put on the pack as usual, fasten the sternum strap under the vertical kit bag straps, and I’m done. At first I thought the big 1.5″ side release would chafe, but I’ve never felt it.

IMG_7353

The construction quality, and materials quality, truly is a step above just about anything you’ll find in REI. The webbing is more tightly woven, the coating on the 500D nylon thicker and more even, and the quick-release buckle more positive in action. The zippers run dead smooth and easy with one hand. Everything is spaced properly, the reason for the aforementioned great fit and integration out of the box. The made in American hype and price is for real, you absolutely get what you pay for.

IMG_7388

The function of the kit bag I’m also quite enamored with. It holds a lot, more than you’d think at first glance, and has just enough organization to keep a variety of things where they should be. There is a restriction on size and shape to maintain comfort; an etrex GPS works but a Princeton Tec EOS does not.

Having a days worth of snacks and all the odds and ends you might need on the go is not only efficient, it simplifies pack organization. A lot of the things which end up in little stuffsacks inside bigger stuff sacks in your pack can live permanently in the kit bag, a state of affairs which also makes it less likely you’ll be without any of that when you need it. The other bonus here and one which I thought about (for instance) a lot when packrafting across the Copper this past summer is that things like your knife and fire kit will stay on your person if your pack takes a float or dive. You could even fit a sat phone, though not with the battery attached. The kit bag is also well suited to other tasks where you want x, y, and z close at hand yet out of the way. It’s a great place for extra ammo while hunting, will be great for fly fishing, and was very handy this past weekend for keeping all our bait station gear organized.

Besides the modest added complexity, the only downside to the kit bag is the moisture build up you’ll get under it. Just like a normal pack, it acts as a vapor barrier, no way around it. Not a big deal, but something your systems will have to take into account. In winter it’s extra surface area that will need to get dry, and in the heat of summer I’m assuming I’ll often leave it behind.

Those with exceptionally narrow chests might find the full size kit bags a bit too wide for best fit, and I assume women with larger busts might find the kit bags difficult to wear comfortably.

Overall, the Runner’s Kit bag is an exceptionally well-designed and well built piece of gear. I can’t see it doing the intended job any better, it is just a matter of if the design itself will suit your needs.

About these ads

20 thoughts on “Hill People Gear Runner’s Kit bag review

  1. Oh boy I almost got really excited by this review, as I’m on the perpetual quest to find the best-for-me chest pack for running stage races and fastpacking. I went straight to the website for more info, and was disappointed to see that it’s 12 ounces and that it has bungee cord bottom stabilizers. Have you actually run with it? Twelve ounces infers that either you can put a lot of weight into it (or that it’s overbuilt), but my experience with chest packs that have bungee cord bottom stabilizers (the OMM Trio and one I modified for myself from the skeleton of a Nathan waist pack) is that you can’t put more than about three pounds into the chest pack before you get too much bounce while running at any worthwhile speed. Hmn, thoughts? Maybe it should be called the Hiker’s Kit?

    • Running? As you know I do not engage in such uncivilized activities and thus cannot comment. ;)

      It is fair to say that the HPG is overbuilt but contemporary UL standards. Whether those need to be your standards is a different question. I’m quite confident my kit bag will have the functional life of 2-3 Osprey products.

      Meghan, seems like the UD PB vest might be a decent MDS rig (assuming the small is slim enough for you).

      • Oh that’s right I forgot that you can walk as fast as many runners. Why run, in that case? ;)

        Yes, that thing looks like it’ll last forever and ever, amen. I would be willing to carry it if I was planning on walking, for sure.

        Hah, the PB vest. It is lovely but not quite right for MdS. I need about 18 liters of storage space and the ability to carry the race-administered water bottle (a 1.5-liter monstrosity) somehow.

        Thanks for your thoughts and I hope you’re well! Also, I hope you’re still planning a Utah voyage soon.

  2. Between these three, I am leaning towards the grab bag, as the Zpacks just seems too big and the HPG seems overbuilt for what I’d use it for.

  3. I have used the HPG Runners kit bag on quite a few longer trail runs and it worked great. Most of the runs were using it with the HPG Tarahumara pack and the running harness though. It carries better than many running specific pack including all of the Nathans I have used, most of the Ultimate Direction packs. I am putting a UD PB through the test process right now and though I like it, I think the “overbuilt” HPG actually carries better. The HPG doesn’t give as many storage options as the PB however.

    I have come to realize that light fabrics and weight savings don’t always translate to greater comfort or better function.

    The kit bag does raise the overheating potential, especially in summer weather, but then all chest packs I have tried do as well, especially if they are snug enough to not bounce.

  4. I’m thinking we should place bets on how long it will be before Dave either cuts it up and modifies it or just makes his own from scratch.

    • Not gunna happen. Appearances on the ‘net to the contrary I actually suck at sewing, and find making fiddly little things with lots of small panels a serious pain.

  5. Okay, I can not believe you are reviewing this thing because I have been looking at them for months and came close to buying one several times. My purpose specifically is concealed carry of a Glock 19 while riding/running the slow tech of the Dells and anywhere else I happen to ride. Currently I accomplish this with a Wilderness Safepacker attached to the belt at 3:00, and this system has worked decently so far over the past year, but is less than elegant, and I think a chest rig just works better on the bike.

    The Safepacker does not work at all for running, so I have been using a Bellyband for that and those generally suck plus everything gets sweaty.

    I had my concerns about chafing with two sets of straps if I wore the Camelback over it: alleviated.

    I like that it can be separate from the main pack, so I could still wear the Runner post ride while taking off the hydration pack, and not have the pistol outside my control until secured at home. Biking shorts are not amenable to most holsters which require a belt, so I have had to wait to transfer the pistol from bag to holster and or safe once home and that can lead to potential brain farts: forgetting about it in the bag = unattended pistol = no no for obvious reasons. It hasn’t happened, but I like processes involving loaded firearms as idiot proof as possible. With this rig, one simply wears the pistol until stowing it at shower time.

    I have an interest in the Tarahumara/Kit bag/Runner’s harness combination, but the lack of a belt worries me. Perhaps it is a non issue for the ~15-20lbs of weight I carry biking? Let me know if you have an opinion.

    I just ordered one, you pushed me over the edge. Thanks. The only downside I can possibly see is the necessity for a two handed draw.

    My review of the Safepacker is here:

    http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2011/09/eric-nelson/gear-review-wilderness-safepacker/

    A year later, that review still stands. I have scraped the pack many times and fallen hard directly on the pistol on rock several times with no damage to the gun or myself. Only one person has ever asked me what it’s for.

    • I never really use a pack hipbelt for load transfer while riding, unless it’s a large and heavy (>20 pounds) pack which has its own issues. The one use for a basic hipbelt with a light pack mountain biking is keeping it from riding up and hitting your head on steep descents, i.e. exactly the kind of riding you do all the time. A well designed pack with a bit of weight seems to be immune to this, and I’d guess the Tara shoulder harness would help with that. From photos it also seems like a 1″ webbing belt would be easy to add.

      • Gotcha. Yeah, I just use the little one inch belt on the Blowfish to stabilize things on descents or tech although occasionally climbing, I will loosen up the shoulder straps a bit, especially for standing climbs.

  6. I would like to add my own mini-review here: I obtained a runner’s kit bag in foliage and proceeded to ride and run with it carrying about 32 oz of bear. There is not much I can add about construction, but fit and finish are great.

    The bike ride was extremely bumpy and technical, and I had to get the bag fairly tight to tame the bounce. Once tight, it was comfortable. It did interfere a bit with my strap mounted camera bags on my Camelback, but if I kept it, I could dispense with those attachments. It worked okay, but honestly did not feel superior to my current carry method linked above.

    Second test was a technical trail run. I found the pack either flopped around a bit and I could breath, or I tightened it up to snug, and it constrained my chest just enough to be annoying. I don’t think it hurt my performance any, but it was clearly more work to breath. By the end of the run my upper back muscles were feeling fairly strained from the two pounds of unbalanced weight on my chest. I found myself having great sympathy for any active woman having breasts of that weight or larger, and am thankful not to have to deal with that on a run.

    From a gun perspective, the draw pulling, the zippers apart is clunky and relatively unreliable, and requires quite a bit of staging to set it up. It is very concealed though. No one would even notice the second compartment if it were not pointed out to them. The gun in the bag in my opinion requires some sort of holster or trigger guard to safely store. It is conceivable one could just drop it in the compartment safely if NOTHING else were stored in that compartment, and that is probably safe for a revolver. Anything with a more sensitive trigger should have the trigger protected in some way. I used a Dale Fricke Zack holster (http://www.dalefrickeholsters.com/products.php) and this seemed to work fine.

    In summary: it is a nice pack and does its intended job, but I don’t like it. I think it would work better for less jarring activities than I am involved with. I personally can’t deal with the chest wall motion restriction, and the unbalanced weight on the front of my chest. I think I need to keep looking for more waist mounted solutions. The HPG prairie belt seems interesting: http://www.hillpeoplegear.com/Products/tabid/762/ctl/ProductDetails/mid/1916/ProductID/90/Default.aspx

    At the risk of being spammy (delete this if you care, Dave) I will pass this pack on in like new condition with lifter straps for $80 shipped (I am into it $105 with shipping right now.) Foliage Runner’s Kit Bag with Foliage Lifter straps. enelnelson at yahoo dot com.

  7. HPG is doing the best commercially available kit bag chest rig out there right now. Naval Special Warfare-Kodiak had Mystery Ranch make some for their Cadre in the early 2000s but these were a limited run special order. The HPG bag is a little beefier but definitely worth it. I have a copy of the MR version and use it for most hiking, skiing and snow biking too. Love it.

  8. I am adding a little follow up. I sold the HPG Kit bag and tried the Ribz front pack (http://www.ribzwear.com/). In my opinion, the Ribz is just what I was looking for. It is stable, but non strangling when running. The big difference from the kit back is that the weight is carried about 6 inches lower, and the stabilizing strap is across the abdomen, not the chest.

    The Ribz pack is not as sturdy or as quality as the Kit Bag, but it is about the same weight and holds more (500 cu in).

    I find the suspension straps on the Ribz bag much more comfortable than the kit bag. The Ribz does not interfere with chest strap or belt.

    It is really nice to have all tools front and center when needed. I took apart the air can of a shock and re-shimmed, and aired it back up, all with small tools from the front pack on the trail and never dropped my back pack. I could absolutely see the use of a front pack with “essentials” around camp. For half off the regular size pack, use the code “Ribzilla” on check out. Smalls are currently sold out. I get no kickbacks BTW.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 553 other followers