Don’t believe everything you read. I know that sounds hypocritical coming from someone who writes gear reviews, but it’s true. I’ve known about the Hill People Gear Tarahumara Pack for years and until recently I avoided it because I read too many complaints on forums about it being too small and not having enough organization. But, after receiving the Aston House from HPG for review and being so blown away by it, I decided to go all-in and find a gently pre-owned Tarahumara to try alongside the Aston. And I’m really glad I did.
The Hill People Gear Tarahumara is a small daypack made from 500D Cordura nylon. It’s a simple center zip design similar to the Grey Ghost Stealth, but without the rain fly to snag the zipper.
The back panel has quilted padding. There’s a hidden pocket behind it that could be used to hold a tablet, map, etc. Anything more substantial and the pack will not sit flat on the back and the panel will bulge, stealing space from the main compartment.
The Tara features HPG’s outstanding shoulder harness.
The yoke-type harness has a non-removable sternum strap and removable bungee tie downs with cord locks that are very effective at securing a hydration hose or other small items to the straps. The harness can also be completely unbuckled from the Tara and some have re-purposed it for use on other packs that have removable harnesses. For instance, Kifaru owners have replaced their shoulder straps with it and in some cases not without some effort or even modification.
Why would they do that? Simply put – it’s one of the most comfortable shoulder strap designs I’ve encountered on any pack of any size.
The straps are extra wide – about 3.5 inches across. The harness is one unit – not two separate straps sewn directly onto the pack. This helps to spread the load evenly across the back and both shoulders reducing stress on any one part of the body. The key is to adjust the length of the harness straps until the part of the yoke directly behind the neck lays flat. Once I did that, the straps molded to my body and the setup felt like it was custom-made for me.
Stripped of its harness, the Tara can also be used as a large compression pocket for use in other packs.
More on that in our upcoming review of the Aston House.
The HPG Tarahumara has two compression straps. Both of the straps can be completely removed if not needed (leaving very little hardware behind).
Unbuckling the straps and pulling down the center zipper reveals a main compartment that’s slick with no internal organization. During hikes, I prefer to run the Tara with a Source Tactical WLPS 3L Low Profile Hydration System.
The pack is really designed around bottle use. Case in point, they didn’t include a port for the hose. It’s one feature I’m hoping HPG adds to the next version of the pack.
In addition to the Source bladder, I also added the optional Tarainsert. The Tarainsert is a panel that encloses a piece of HDPE in a combination PALS grid / velcro loop field on one side and 500d on the other side. It can be used to attach MOLLE and Hook and Loop compatible pouches and other accessories. For day hikes, I mounted two clear tear-away Mystery Ranch Spadelock pockets to hold snacks, my headlamp, extra batteries, fire starter, wallet, keys, and First Aid Kit.
I also used the external bottle pockets to store another pouch that held my phone…
And my work gloves and folding knife.
If you opt to use the external bottle pockets as they were designed, then each can hold up to a 32-ounce Nalgene or USGI Canteen. They don’t have elastic or retaining straps but I found unless the bag was inverted, the compression straps pulled double duty to hold them in place.
Hill People Gear also incorporated a 550 Paracord retention system on the bottom of the pack to hold an extra layer like my Triple Aught Design Stealth LT jacket.
It’s there to conserve precious cargo space in the main compartment but overall I found the listed 750 cubic inch carry capacity to be understated. The Stealth LT leaves much to be desired in terms of packability and yet I was able to stuff the jacket in the main compartment along with my other kit.
Also, much to my surprise, the Tara didn’t carry “small”. It only measures 17″ H X 9″ W X 4″ D but the harness adds some length and therefore unlike some other similarly sized packs (yeah, I’m talking to you Kifaru E&E), it didn’t feel or look out-of-place on my 6’4″ frame.
Super comfortable shoulder harness
Understated carry capacity
External water bottle pockets
Carries bigger than the dimensions would indicate
Limited use due to overall size
Main Compartment Zipper is not water-resistant
No hydration port
The Hill People Gear Tarahumara is a specialized piece of gear and not suited for people who want one pack that does everything well. It’s ideal for day hikes, trail runs, and (with the addition of the optional Tarainsert) light grab-and-go Everyday Carry for weekend or travel use. If you stick within those Philosophies of Use then you’ll find the Tara to be an outstanding carry option.
The Hill People Gear Tarahumara retails for $125 and is available on HPG’s website and comes in ranger green, foliage gray, coyote, and black.