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Hill People Gear FrankenPack Review: Umlindi, Connor, and M2016

When I was a kid, I loved playing with Legos.  I guess 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 and they carry one now too.

Earlier this year, I was dorking around on the HPG Forum and I saw a post where someone used the new M2016 Buttpack as a top lid on a Umlindi and mounted a Connor without the harness as a compression pocket.  I’ve wanted to try the Umlindi but I was concerned that it would be too short. Using the M2016 as a top lid would solve that issue as the resulting combo would be 23 inches long. Perfect.  Also, I generally prefer panel loaders; top loaders can be a pain if you don’t organize your kit well.  The M2016 would solve that issue too; providing a quick access storage area for grab and go items. Adding the Connor for when I need more capacity was a no-brainer because I already had one.  Orders were placed and the FrankenPack was born.





All kidding aside, the resulting system is extremely versatile.  Total combined volume ranges from 500 to 4000 cubic inches (65L) depending on what components are used.


The Hill People Gear Umlindi with a M2016 Top Lid and Connor Pocket

The Hill People Gear Umlindi with a M2016 Top Lid and Connor Pocket


The Umlindi is a mid-sized pack that measures 19″H x 11’W x 6.5″D with a capacity of 2,000 cubic inches (30L).  It features a removable framesheet with a single 7075 aluminum alloy stay.  There are tabs at the top of the main compartment that can be used to hang accessories…



Like this HPG TaraInsert and Tool Roll to add some internal organization.



The Umlindi features the outstanding Hill People Gear yoke harness, which is removable and so beloved for its ability to handle loads that some buy it to mod other packs.  Load lifters, bungee attachment points for reservoir hose routing, and a sternum strap round out the package.



Unlike the Connor, the Umlindi can accept one of Hill People Gear’s load bearing hip belts and I highly recommend one if your pack weight regularly exceeds 35 lbs.  I plan on picking one up.  HPG claims the Umlindi is rated at 75 lbs without a belt, but I wouldn’t want to do it.  At least not without a really good chiropractor on speed dial.

The Umlindi features dual wand pockets that can hold a USGI 1qt Canteen or this Source Kangaroo 1L Collapsible Canteen.



When used with the compression straps, they also do a great job securing longer items like tent poles, trekking poles, or camera tripods.



The M2016, when docked with a Prairie or Recon Belt, can be used as a go fast Lumbar Pack for exploring away from base camp and/or for day hikes.  It deserves its own review in that capacity and I’ll do that once I invest in a belt.


Hill People Gear M2016 Buttpack

Hill People Gear M2016 Buttpack


In the meantime, it makes for a perfectly serviceable top lid for the Umlindi.  It attaches via top compression straps…



and bottom compression straps using G-Hooks.



The interior features a zippered mesh pocket and a spacious main compartment.



PALS grid material allows for the attachment of Velcro or PALS compatible accessories to add organization if needed.



The Umlindi’s side compression is very effective in keeping things tight when you aren’t running at capacity.



It can also be used to secure any of HPG’s compression panels.  In this case, my Connor with the harness removed; otherwise known as the Connor Pocket. Compression panels are great for clothing or anything relatively flat.  In this case, I’m just carrying my shell.



The inside of the Connor also features PALS grid.  I attached the panel to the Umlindi by using the pack’s bottom compression straps and the included G-hooks…



as well as using Grimlocs to anchor the top.  In this setup, it can detached and the Connor’s full panel opening allows easy access to what’s inside.  The Connor also features an exterior vertical zippered pocket and two mesh slip pockets, which makes it more versatile than the smaller and simpler Tarapocket.




Overall, I’ve been very pleased with how the Frankenpack carries.



With the compression, it’s fairly low profile when you don’t want or need to load it to capacity.



And that I can strip any one of the three components and use them individually or in combination really covers a lot of philosophies of use.



I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention any downsides.  First, running all three products at once adds up to quite a bit of weight.  Just over five pounds empty.  It’s a good thing the HPG yoke harness is so effective because that’s starting out in a pretty deep hole. If you’re looking for an ultralight trail pack because you’re counting ounces, this isn’t it.

The other obvious downside is cost.  I reconcile that by thinking of this as three separate pack purchases with the added bonus that they can be used together.  And I like the Hill brother’s gear. If you’re not willing to go all in and tend to spread your dollars across multiple brands then this probably isn’t right for you.

I hope this has given you a good idea of how these products can be used in tandem.  The Umlindi ($220), Connor ($148), and M2016 ($135) are all available in Manatee Grey and Ranger Green/Khaki and can be purchased direct from Hill People Gear’s website.

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2 Responses so far.

  1. heavyduti says:

    Interesting ideas, any idea what the unloaded weigh is?

  2. I do have the Connor Pack and absolutely love it…Features, the quality and the yoke harness!…but I need a bigger pack and was looking at the Umlindi + Palspocket but the lack of organization and top-loading-only feature of the Umlindi is what turns me off… in my opinion the Umlindi would be the PERFECT all around Pack if they would increase the hight to match the Connor and incorporate all the same features, namely:

    1) top loading flap of the Umlindi with an integrated pocket (like the UTE) +
    2) front clam-shell opening to the main compartment +
    3) the vertical front pocket/ zipper access with the mash-pockets +
    4) Hypalon on the sides…just above the water bottle pockets.

    …all in one pack!

    (As far as organization/ pockets goes, I think that the Kifaru Urban Zippy has a much better solution when compared to the plain Umlindi… but it is smaller, short and I didn’t like the shoulder straps…too uncomfortable…imo!)

    HPG could, at least, incorporate the top lid pocket, maybe a vertical zipper access to the main compartment (like the Tarahumara) and the front mash pockets into the Umlindi.

    The M2016 is way too expensive for what it is…there are a lot of good backpacks you can buy for almost the same money, like the Cannae Phalanx, Dragon Egg, Kelty, etc…

    Anyway, I hope to see my “Dream-Umlindi” in the future or…maybe…just find someone who could do the mod…nevertheless it is a great looking pack with excellent build quality.

Comments and Questions are Welcome!

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