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Gear Diary: Hill People Gear Connor First Impressions

The new Hill People Gear Connor was delivered this week.

 

Hill People Gear Connor

Hill People Gear Connor

 

As I mentioned in the preview article, this new pack is replacing my Tarahumara.  I loved the Tara.  But there’s no getting around dimensional volume and even though it swallowed more than it’s listed specs would lead you to believe, it still was a 750 cubic inch pack.  That made it a niche piece of gear in my arsenal.

The Connor, however, is just shy of 1,400 cubic inches.  That’s roughly the same capacity as the Triple Aught Design Fastpack Litespeed, GoRuck GR0, and Camelbak Miltac HAWG.  The HAWG was a personal favorite that frankly I never should have sold.  It bugged me that it lacked a decent frame sheet but the size and layout made it a very good EDC pack.  So I was curious how the Connor would compare.

I christened it on a 5-mile nature preserve hike after a ice/snow storm. The key to winter hiking is dressing in layers.  You start cold and then add layers if neccessary.  One design feature I appreciated right away was the Connor’s center zip pocket.  It expands outward which helps to limit how much capacity it steals from the main compartment.  It was a perfect place to store a quarter zip micro fleece or a rain shell.

 

 

The center zip, when stuffed to capacity, does press against the dual outer mesh pockets.  It’s not an issue if you use them to store something small like gloves or a trail bar.

 

 

But they can take something as large as 24-ounce Polar Bottle.  If you use them for that purpose, then the capacity of the center zip will be limited.  In that case, something larger but compressible like an Arcteryx Atom Hoody or TAD Equilibrium jacket would be better stuffed in the main compartment (filling out and taking up any unused space).

Now that we’re on the subject, the main compartment is truly what differentiates this pack from the smaller Tara.  It opens flat for full access to the contents inside.

 

 

The compartment is lined with First Spear’s 6/12 PALS cut velcro loop fabric so you can attach both PALS and loop backed pouches to the interior (eliminating the need for a separate Tara Insert).  In this case, I attached a Mystery Ranch Spadelock pouch and HPG’s Tool Roll Admin Pouch to the loop material and dropped in a Source WLPS 3-Liter hydration bladder.  In an urban scenario, I could attach a traditional admin pouch for small item organization.  Bottom line is you can configure it however you want.  

 

 

For any bulky items that can’t fit in the main compartment, there are options to lash gear to the outside of the Connor.  The wand pockets on either side of the Connor are quite shallow for water bottle use but, used in combination with the Hypalon Compression Wings, they should work great to secure trekking or fishing poles.           

 

 

The Wings have a two channel PALS grid cut into them that can be used to attached MOLLE pouches like this Triple Aught Design S1.

 

 

 

The compression straps can also be used to attach items to the pack like Snow Shoes or these Hillsound Crampons

 

 

There are also two bottom compression straps that are long enough for a bed roll or sleeping pad.

 

 

I bought the Connor without the pack kit opting to re-purpose the same harness that came with the Aston House.  As I wrote about in my Aston House review, it’s outstanding.  Especially on a small pack like the Connor.  The straps are wide and do a great job of evenly distributing the weight across both shoulders.  They also come with cord lock bungee tie downs to secure a hydration hose for those who are left or right-handed.  

 

 

At this point, you might be wondering if I found any flaws with this pack.  There were a few minor issues.  The frame sheet with center stay that normally comes with the pack kit is the same one used in the Aston House.  But, it wouldn’t fit this pack out of the box requiring me to trim it about a quarter-inch on either side.  Not a huge deal (it can be done with a sharp pair of scissors) but you’d like to see it fit out of the box if it’s truly the same piece.  Someone else on the Perfect Pack forum ordered the Pack Kit and had the same issue.  I expect it’s something the manufacturer will eventually address but it’s worth noting.  

I wasn’t real happy with how the frame sheet felt when I first installed it.  Based on some guidance from HPG, I reversed the stay so it was facing inward (not directly against my back) with the curve against my lumbar and the area of the frame sheet not reinforced by the stay at the top so it can flex when the load lifters are applied.  Once those adjustments were done, the whole setup was fine.  HPG should probably do a video or include some instructions with the pack kit.  They did do a Youtube video on how to setup the Ute which helped illustrate some of the concepts but a separate one for this pack wouldn’t be a bad idea.  

Other annoyances included having to use ITW Web Dominators and elastic keepers I purchased for strap management versus something being provided with the pack.  

I would have also liked to see Hypalon used on the bottom of the pack, the grab handle, and lumbar area – similar to what TAD does on their Fastpacks.  Yes, I know that would have added more cost but, in my opinion, it would have been worth it.

I also still wish HPG would include a hydration port.  I know the HPG founders prefer bottle carry but many still opt for reservoirs and having a port to route the house without having to open the main zipper would be ideal and a standard feature on most backpacks.     

SUMMARY

Given all it’s features and larger footprint, the Connor is now my reference for a Milspec trail/daypack for single day excursions.  I consider it to be more versatile than the HAWG, GoRuck GR0, or Mystery Ranch ASAP.  It’s also 12 ounces lighter and $40 less expensive than the TAD Fastpack Litespeed.

The Hill People Gear Connor retails for $205 with the pack kit or $148 without.  It’s now available in Ranger Green and Foliage and sold direct from Hill People Gear’s website.

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10 Responses so far.

  1. Blaine B. says:

    Editors Note: Some changes were made to the original article based on some guidance provided by the manufacturer on how to setup the frame sheet. If anyone has additional questions on that, please don’t hesitate to add a comment here. Thanks! -BB.

  2. heavyduti says:

    Interesting pack, very different looking. Is there a pocket on the inside of the flap? That would be useful but I couldn’t quite see if there was a zipper at the top. It looks much better for urban walkies than the Litespeed does with all of those straps and buckles. Among My New Years resolutions is to stop buying Litespeeds hoping that I will somehow tame and overcome all of its extraneous (to me) features. Their original straps with the V2 sized up a wee bit would be better for me.

    I looked at a current HAWG recently but found it much too small for my EDC preference. I probably carry too much but find that everything fits well in my GR1 and I still have room for groceries or other purchases I gather while rambling.

    I picked up a Khard 30 recently and surprisingly find it to be super comfy and easy to use. It’s very light and uncomplicated. If it had a place to stow the waist belt it would be even better. I know you like Arcteryx and suggest that if you haven’t looked at a Khard, whatever size, that you add it to your list.

    Looking forward to your reviews in 2016 and I wish you and yours a healthy and happy new year.

  3. Krew3 says:

    Have you tried attaching one of their smaller pouches to the outside like the pals pocket?

  4. Jeff Davis says:

    Is this the foliage color?

  5. Roberto Pommerening says:

    Hi, which one do you like more/ is better for EDC/Urban use…ASTON or CONNOR?

    • Blaine B. says:

      Roberto, the Aston and Connor have similar features, but, in my opinion, the Aston is the better EDC/Urban use pack. Appearance-wise, the Connor looks like a pack that is more at home on the trail. The Aston is more urban looking… especially if you remove the compression load pocket. You also have more setup options with the Aston House. I found a padded hook and loop laptop sleeve from Blue Force Gear that I can attach to the 6/12 panel and most of my other MOLLE and Loop accessories work with it also. You can do that with the Connor’s main compartment also, but space becomes a limitation.

  6. […] People Gear Connor has been my day hiking pack since I reviewed it late last year. Reference my first impressions post for features and more pictures.  Yes, I know I didn’t post a follow-up review on it.  The […]

  7. […] that’s why I dig this Hill People Gear kit.  It’s like Legos for pack nerds.  The Connor has been my day hiking pack for 18 months now.  I recommended it to a couple of my close friends […]

  8. […] an accessory. I’ve used the Aston Pocket to add more capacity to my Connor backpack (reviewed here and here) since the beginning of the Summer.  So, I thought I would share my thoughts in case HPG […]

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