There's lots of reasons to want a gun nearby when you're out in the back country. From hungry predators to meth labs and grow operations, there are potential threats and you may be many miles and hours or days away from backup. Unfortunately, carrying a concealed pistol with a serious backpack is often a difficult proposition--the waist belt interferes with normal inside the waistband or outside the waistband carry methods. The Hill People Gear Kit Bag aims to overcome that challenge, placing a pistol and other essentials in an easy-to-access, on-body location--your chest. Think of it as a backcountry CCW-friendly chest rig.
The design is well thought out, featuring three compartments--a slim compartment up front, the main middle compartment for gear storage and the handgun compartment in the rear. Both front and main compartments contain two pockets for organization, as well as tabs for tying off tethers for lights, lighters, compasses and similar. The handgun pocket features only a cord loop for tying off a holster if so desired. There's no built in holster sleeve, which allows the Kit Bag to accommodate a variety of handguns. HPG's forum has a list of handguns that are known to fit inside the kit bag, ranging from full sized 1911s to 4" S&W N Frames and of course smaller guns.
|A grip-chopped Glock 17 and an old kydex holster body paracorded into the handgun pocket. Lots of space left.|
The handgun compartment is fairly rigid and smooth--there's nothing inside that could conceivably pull the trigger of a handgun. HPG does not officially recommend using a holster inside the Kit Bag, and with something like a D/A revolver or a 1911 with a stiff thumb safety, that's the way I would run it. On a striker fired handgun like a Glock, I would add some kind of holster or trigger guard, just for the added peace of mind. It's not like kydex is that heavy. HPG sells Raven Vanguards, simple kydex tigger guard covers, for just this purpose. I have an old kydex holster body that I've tied in with some gutted paracord. The draw works well and I can re-holster with one hand, no looking required.
Drawing from the Kit Bag takes a bit of care and practice. Because of the handgun's horizontal orientation, you need to be cautious to not sweep your support arm during the draw. While we all train and are hopefully skilled with any handguns that we'd choose to carry, stuff still happens and avoiding sweeping your body during the draw is a general best practice. An accidental discharge of a premium jacketed hollow point into your elbow joint is not a good way to start off an encounter with a charging bear or angry meth cooker. There are several ways to draw safely from the Kit Bag, and I'll go into them in depth in a future post.
|Glock 17 mags, a Petzl Tactikka and spare batteries, and a ESEE 4. The plastic clips make dummy cording easy.|
The Kit Bag's main compartment is good sized and designed well. It's made for use while you're wearing the Kit Bag, with some amount of support to keep it from instantly flopping open when unzipped. I've placed a two magazine pouch in the left hand pocket, and in practice, this is the best placement that I've found to carry spare mags in the Kit Bag. Unzip the compartment with your support hand, grab the mag and reload. I've found that the front compartment's zipper can be hard to open after the pistol compartment has been unzipped--more likely with a heavier load in the front compartment.
|A 1L Playpus bottle, paracord donut and pocket survival kit inside the front pocket.|
Depending on what you have packed in the main compartment, the front compartment will probably be best suited relatively flat items like maps, Clif Bars and so on. The front and main compartments tend to bulge in on each other, so if the main compartment is loaded up, the front compartment becomes a bit of a tight squeeze. Not a big deal, just something to be aware of.
The Kit Bag uses an H harness, generally considered to be more comfortable than the more common X harness, which can dig into your neck. When I first put on the Kit Bag, I was a disappointed with the comfort level--the harness was pinching the sides of my neck, with only a light load. However, the Kit Bag just needed a bit of adjustment--with some repositioning and loosening of the straps, I found the "sweet spot," where the harness fit quite comfortably. Expect to do a bit of playing around to find the right fit for your body. After that, it's quite comfortable, as long as you keep the load light. I found my comfort level is around the 5 pound area...after that it starts getting a bit heavy, though wearing a coat or heavy outer layer helps provide some extra cushion. The load in the pictures weighs in around 6 pounds, including the 1 pound Kit Bag. The HPG guys carry around 7 pounds in their typical load though, so your mileage may vary.
If you're wearing a pack, the Kit Bag comes with a "docking kit" that will hook it into the pack's shoulder straps. This takes much of the weight off of the harness and transfers it to the should straps. Certainly a noticeable difference. The shoulder harness is also removable, and there are enough attachment points to allow for a variety of carry styles, from strapping to a pack, shoulder bag and so on.
With a manageable load, the Kit Bag is comfortable performing a variety of tasks. The HPG guys routinely sleep in theirs when out in the wilds, and I've taken a nap in mine.
The Kit Bag currently comes in four different colors--coyote, ranger green, foliage and multicam. I would personally like to see a black color--many outdoor professionals carry black chest rigs with basic gear in 'em--I've seen rafting guides, ski lift operators and SAR guys all wearing black chest rigs similar to the Kit Bag, and it'd be a nice option to have. HPG also offers two additional models of the Kit Bag, the Runner's Kit Bag--a lighter weight model intended for trail running--and the Recon Kit Bag, which has PALS webbing for attaching modular gear pouches. Both omit the Kit Bag's main compartment, giving them a lower overall profile. Of the models, the Runner's Kit Bag is probably the most "general public" friendly in appearance.
If I could make one addition to the Kit Bag, it would be to include pistol-magazine sized retention elastic inside the pockets of the main compartment. These are useful for retaining mags, multitools, folding knives, and flashlights, all common items you'd carry in a Kit Bag, and they wouldn't add much in the weight. As is, magazines shift and slide around if placed inside the pockets, which is why I've used a magazine pouch to hold them in place.
Overall, the Hill People Gear Kit bag is a solid product for accomplishing its intended task. This kind of carry can work in a variety of scenarios--bugging out with a heavy pack, driving a vehicle or just general use around camp. It's a compromise over other, faster/more conventional carry methods, but keeps the handgun on-body, concealed and readily accessible in situations where you would otherwise have a tough time carrying at all.
The Hill People Gear website has more information and pictures on this model, as well as the other two models of Kit Bags. That's also where you can place an order, too.
The HPG guys are great to work with--if you have any questions, feel free to ask them. We'd like to extend a thanks for providing the Kit Bag for review, too. Expect at least a couple updates from us on the Kit Bag in the near future--stay tuned!