Story and Photos by Shane Adams
“You’re wearing your fanny pack wrong.” These were the words I said to my buddy Mike as he walked up wearing the first Hill People Gear Kit Bag I had ever seen.
Mike is kind of a goofy guy, and upon first impression, this getup made him look even goofier. What I remember most about this encounter was his response: “This thing will change your life!”
And he was right.
Over the next few days, while at a land navigation class, I watched how Mike used his Kit Bag, carrying essential gear at all times – and he never removed it.
Working for ESEE Knives/Randall’s Adventure & Training I spend a lot of time in the field, and there are certain items we recommend having on you at all times. More than once I’ve dropped my backpack to assist a student and found myself away from my gear, requiring a trip back to my pack to rummage through the contents and retrieve what I need.
The Hill People Gear Kit Bag allows me to have my navigation kit, multiple sources for fire and tinder, notepad and writing utensils, a knife and/or multitool and headlamps at my fingertips, with room for more – depending on the objective.
The HPG Kit Bag also allowed me to safely and discretely carry a pistol, in a way that does not put me on anyone’s radar. This was the tipping point that pushed me over the edge and sent me to their website for more research.
I reached out to the brothers Hill, Evan and Scot, and after speaking with them I soon had an Original Kit Bag V2 in the mail.
I had previously perused their website and noticed that their packs had a no-nonsense approach and seemed to be very well made. I have to admit, I’m a gear guy. Specifically, I’m a pack guy that really appreciates quality construction and attention to detail. I was not at all displeased when the Kit Bag arrived, and I had the chance to inspect it.
It is an exceptionally well-made American product, featuring 500d construction, heavy duty zippers and quality components all around.
The flat outside pocket has two internal organizing pockets, with dummy cord loops and Slik Clips above them, making it easy to secure essential gear that likes to unexpectedly jettison itself when you need it most. I can’t stress how often I used these Slik Clips to secure critical gear, like a compass, ferro rod, rescue whistle and other necessary items.
The spacious main compartment features two internal pockets, with the same dummy cord set up as the front pocket. The rear of the main compartment is lined with PALS cut Velcro faced fabric, designed by First Spear, in the 6/12 configuration, giving you near limitless options for internal organization and customization. You can use PALS compatible pockets and sheaths as well as any Velcro backed accessory suited to your needs.
Finally, the rear pocket is designed specifically to carry a pistol. It features a Velcro strip, down the middle, and a dummy cord loop, in the bottom center, to accommodate different setups and retention options. There is also a single row of PALS, on the underside, that is useful for mounting a fixed blade knife or a tourniquet.
Originally, I was concerned with how well this Kit Bag would work while wearing a backpack. Lucky for us the Hill brothers had taken that into consideration, and I have been very pleased with how it integrates with backpacks from many different makers.
I have fielded a Kit Bag with backpacks from Dana Designs, Kifaru, Osprey, Eberlestock, Deuter, and Hill People Gear without issues, interference, or discomfort of any kind. When using a sternum strap, you will have to make adjustments but I’ve yet to find a pack it would not work with.
The mesh backed H-harness is both comfortable and cool and does not produce hot spots or pinch in any way. While I have seen these Kit Bags worn many different ways, I prefer mine to fit snug, level in the center of my chest, and feel as though it provides some back support when worn this way. In the hot and humid South East however, there is no getting around the fact that you are carrying a pack on your chest, and you will sweat like you are in an IRS audit.
One word of caution, it is possible to overload a Kit Bag. The only time I have ever felt discomfort from wearing a Kit Bag is when I have overloaded it with non-essential gear. I can carry all I need to survive overnight, should I have to, and still have room for snacks, while keeping the weight down.
I also like that fact that the suspension has elastic keepers to manage the excess webbing, so I don’t have straps flopping about.
In 2019 I spent well over 120+ days in the field, doing everything from search & rescue training, live operations, technical rope/cave rescue, backpacking, canoeing, and myriad other activities – in vastly different environments – using a Kit Bag on almost every outing.
While some items may be added or removed, depending on the class, there are a few that are always constant.
I carry a lighter or two for fire, as well as a backup ferro rod, and these items are always dummy corded inside the main compartment pockets. In the other pocket I carry my Navigation Kit, that includes a Suunto MC2 Global compass, pace beads, and our navigation notebook and grid cards, all stored in a Rite in the Rain C935 pouch. Also stored in the main compartment are 2 Petzl headlamps, an Actik Core and an e+LITE, as a backup.
Attached to the PALS panel in the main compartment I use a 58 Pouch, from HPG, that houses a Leatherman Signal multitool, a Sharpie marker and pen, chap stick, a Rip Spool Repair kit from Exotac and an Altoids tin of various commercial and natural tinder.
In the zippered pouch of the admin panel I have another waterproof notepad.
Another essential for me is the Peak Designs Capture clip, on the shoulder strap, that allows me to securely store my camera when not in use. Depending on the situation, I have often carried a Bahco Laplander folding saw, Epi-pens, snacks, bandanas, tourniquets, knives or other gear I may be field testing.
The rear compartment of the bag is what first piqued my interest and is the primary reason for the design of the Kit Bag. It is to carry a firearm discreetly and securely, without drawing unwanted attention.
I hold a CCW permit and carry a pistol almost everywhere I go. I prefer to conceal carry and to fly under the radar as much as possible. In the past, carrying in the woods, with a pack, could be hard to have a firearm close at hand while still being discreet. Enter the Kit Bag.
Generally speaking, I carry a Glock 19 and spare 17 round mag in that rear compartment. I use one of Dale Fricke’s trigger guard covers for added piece of mind – you can also source this from HPG directly.
I dummy cord the holster to the webbing in the center of the compartment; this means that the holster comes off in the draw stroke, so there is no need to fiddle with it. Just grip it and rip it. Position the zippers on the rear compartment to the top right-hand corner, being sure to leave a little space between them. This allows me to grab that corner with my left hand and pull down, while gripping the gun and completing the draw stroke with my right.
It’s a bit wonky at first but with practice it gets much smoother, and you can adjust your method as you see fit. I have carried a full-size 1911, Smith & Wesson 629-6 44 mag revolver, Glock 17, 19, and 20, all without issue. HPG has a comprehensive compatibility list of which firearms fit various Kit Bags on their website.
3 years later, I have to say Mike was right, the Hill People Gear Kit Bag has changed my life, when working outside, and has become a staple for nearly every trip I go on.
I own several models and get the most use out of their SAR Kit Bag, which our very own Jeff Randall had a hand in refining for Search & Rescue applications. Suffice it to say, this ain’t your daddy’s fanny pack and it’s an item worth a hard look, for anyone who spends time in the field – especially if you are carrying a pistol.
It doesn’t hurt that it is an American made product that is designed and constructed by people that actually get out and use their equipment – and stand behind it. K&G
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Weight: 1.00 poundLength: 2.50 inchesWidth: 11.50 inchesHeight: 7.50 inchesMSRP: $125.00
Hill People Gear(888) 464-1875www.HillPeopleGear.com
Hill People Gear
Shane Adams is a native of North Georgia and has spent a lifetime cycling, hiking, paddling, and exploring. He currently works for ESEE Knives / Randall’s Adventure & Training as their Marketing Director/ Utility Player. Along with the rest of the RAT crew he routinely spends more than 100 days in the field teaching, learning, and is an active member of RATSAR. (RAT Search & Rescue).
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