Hill People Gear Connor Pack Review
– Quality, Fit, Function & Fishing –
Over the years I’ve purchased and tested many different hunting back packs, and then used them for everything else. So with each new pack I went through I’d end up hauling my fishing gear around in a unit big enough to handle an elk quarter! Overkill to say the least. This year I thought I would try something a little different and focus on a pack to specifically meet my fishing needs. Something low profile and light weight, yet big enough to handle the fishing gear and some basic kit.
So the search began for a quality 1000 – 1500 ci pack that was comfortable, allowed for good organization, and had a method of securely attaching and carrying my fly rod tubes. I’d like to say that money was no object but I’m not that lucky so a budget was set at $300.00 CND. For the south of the border folks that’s approx $230.00 USD at the time of this writing. 😉
Fast forward a few days of working Google hard and I ended up very interested in the relatively new Hill People Gear Connor pack. According to the HPG website the Connor pack had replaced their popular Highlander pack, fulfilling the same purpose yet with additional organization, a more robust carry platform, and a bat wing system that looked like it was made to securely snug around my fly rod tubes! Step one completed. Step two: confirm and acquire. Which brings us to customer service …
Hill People Gear Connor Pack Review | Customer Service:
My inquiries began with emails, which were immediately replied to by Hill People Gear confirming receipt and informing me that they would strive to reply within one business day. They delivered. So far so good!
Next came the phone calls. Pictures are great but I was after some details that I could not find answers to online. I remember thinking “poor Brooke”, the very nice lady that answered the customer service line at HPG, as I asked if she could please measure this and that, count tab loops, confirm colours, and so on and so on. She was just awesome about it all, answering all the questions she could at the time and getting back to me in short order with the ones that she needed to dig into. I can’t say enough about the extraordinary customer service that I received from Hill People Gear!
Hill People Gear Connor Pack Review | Shipping:
As an extension of customer service, the shipping was just as outstanding. Hill People Gear shipped the Connor pack on July 1 and immediately provided me with a tracking number via email. It took twelve days for the pack to arrive, but keep in mind that July 1 is a holiday in Canada and July 4 a holiday in the United States. Factor in these holidays, two weekends and border customs and it was still only a reasonable 7 business days later that I was excited to come home to this … 😀
My Hill People Gear Connor pack was shipped via USPS. I mention this because USPS smoothly transfers over to Canada Post at the border, which for those of us North of the 49th parallel can mean the difference between a known shipping cost vs the “blind cheque” approach that some 3rd party carriers apply via brokerage fees.
Hill People Gear Connor Pack Review | Initial Observations:
Quality & Workmanship
The first thing that caught my eye was the high quality of the Hill People Gear Connor pack, both in material and workmanship. I’ve gone through a lot of packs and you get to learn what to look for. Seams, zippers, material and how it’s all put together … check!
Hypalon Side Wings
Something new to me was the use of hypalon in the construction of the HPG Connor pack’s side wings. I didn’t know what to expect but my initial reaction was “man is this stuff thin”. To be honest, at first glance I was actually worried that it would be prone to tearing, especially where the side wings were cut fitted with PALS style slotting.
I immediately grabbed my Mora Bush knife and rammed the hard plastic belt clamp into one of the Connors side wing PALS slots. It took a bit of force to get it in as the edges were a bit rough from where I’d cut the clamp down for the very purpose of fitting into PALS/MOLLE panel configurations, but it eventually slipped into place like it belonged there. Wiggle wiggle wiggle, twist twist twist, pull pull, remove and ……. initial worries averted! That hypalon is some super strong stuff!
The hypalon side wings 2 channel PALS matrix is 10 deep and could be used for a multitude of attachments. I like the way the MORA can be attached internally and therefore become concealed when the wings are buckled shut. Out of sight out of mind but still handy! Water bottle holders or side pouches also come to mind as options for the outside of the bat wings.
Side (Wand) Pockets
Below the Hill People Gear Connor packs hypalon bat wings sit bottom side pockets. These side “wand” pockets are small. Big enough to fit the bases of my fly rod tubes, which meets the requirements of my intended use, but too small and shallow for much else. They will hold skinny water bottles but you have to work to get them in there but as shallow as they are I think there would be a real risk of losing them. I guess they would be OK to hold some light gloves, or maybe some small snacks, but other than that, anchor points for long skinny objects is likely their most practical application.
Along each side of the Hill People Gear Connor pack live 5 tab loops spaced as follows (center to center from top to bottom): 4″ between tabs 1/2, 6″ between tabs 2/3, 6″ between tabs 3/4, and 4″ between tabs 4/5. There are an additional pair of tab loops on both the top and bottom of the pack. All of the tab loops are accessible with the hypalon wings fixed in either the front or back position … more good planning on HPGs part!
Flipping over to the back, or suspension side, of the Hill People Gear Connor pack reveals more of the same … nice seams, quality hardware, material and workmanship.
The shoulder harness attachment point is lower than I’m used to seeing on a belt-less pack and load lifters are present. I have to assume this was a plan to allow for a bit of angle, and therefore functional lifters, something that is almost never seen on smaller size packs like this one; hell it’s sometimes not even seen on the bigger load hauler packs. I’ll will be testing them out later in the “load carry” section but for now all I can say is Bravo HPG, Bravo!
A nice extra noticed, and appreciated, are the elastic keepers on the shoulder harness that could easily be used to stabilize water bladder hoses, or even secure water bottles, small pouches, or what have you. Good thinking here to allow for the attachment of items that you may want to keep handy and accessible without having to remove the pack.
The Hill People Gear Connor pack frame sheet is accessible from the suspension side but you really have to look for it as it is tucked away neatly behind the shoulder harness. Removing it requires removing the shoulder harness. Both operations are easily accomplished and, if you forget how to put it all back together, Hill People Gear conveniently maintains a step by step photo instructional on their website. A big thumbs up here because as much as I thought I had it figured out before I took it apart, I needed to refer to it to get it back together. Good job again HPG!
Once removed the stay can be manipulated to better fit the contour of your back … a step that I would highly recommend to ensure the best fit and function out of the pack.
Back over to the front side, the pack’s main compartment is a front zipper “horseshoe” access revealing a spacious interior. Unique to the Hill People Gear Connor pack, well at least I haven’t seen it anywhere else, is the PALS cut velcro loop liner that backs the full area of this space. “The options are endless” I thought to my self as the wheels began to spin on the different ways that I could set it up to work for my needs.
On top of, or in front of, the main compartment is a smaller secondary compartment which is accessed via a center zipper. Not as large as the main compartment but still quite roomy. The outer material of this section is flexible allowing the compartment to be over filled. It should be perfect for items like rain gear, a light jacket, beanies, gloves, headlamps and must have bush money (AKA toilet paper). You know, things that you might have to get at quickly. 😉
Twin Top Sleeves
Sitting above the secondary compartment, one along each side of the center access zipper, sit two long mesh pockets. Again my brain started to whirl with ideas for their use. Given the lack of sizable side pockets I think these would be you’re next best bet for water bottles. They are not wide enough for full size Nalgenes but the taller, slimmer bike style water bottles fit with no issues and will definitely be held securely. In my case I would be using the side pouches for my fly rod tubes anyway so for now, at least at this early stage, water bottles were the the plan.
The bottom of the Hill People Gear Connor pack has two nice long straps, which I thought was good foresight by HPG as this is most likely where bulkier items like sleeping systems and such might be secured.
All webbing straps appear to be high quality and are neatly cut and sewn. Strap keepers, typically standard on all packs now a days, are surprisingly missing. Personally, although I get their purpose, I actually can’t stand taking the time to unwrap them every time I need to adjust a strap and then wind them up again when done and therefore rarely use them. Needless to say their absence on the HPG Connor pack is of little consequence to me but your mileage may vary.
Hill People Gear lists the Connor pack weight as 1.50 lb, height at 21″, width at 11″ and depth at 4″. If you do the math that equates to 924 CI (cubic inches) but don’t be fooled as the packs capacity fits right in line with most packs rated around 1400 CI’s. As HPG explains on their website …
“… Dimensional Volume (DV) is NOT the number used by manufacturers to denote capacity. To get a cubic inch number that you can use to compare to what you’re accustomed to, multiply DV by 1.5 as a rule of thumb. Bigger packs can use an even bigger multiplier – up to 1.7.”
I was skeptical at first but as I compared actual capacities (how much I could stuff into them) against all my other packs, I found the Hill Brother’s claim to be true. Damn, why can’t everyone just list the numbers as what they actually calculate out to be like HPG does!
The Hill People Gear Connor pack is available in three colours; Foliage Grey, Ranger Green and Coyote Brown. I specifically chose ranger green as it seemed to be closest to other pack components that I already own, and planned on trying to use, with the Connor pack. Regardless of which colour you choose, I like the fact that each is a tactful compromise of wilderness/tactical/urban tones. What I mean by this is that each colour works when trying to blend into the great outdoors but does not make you stand out as a apocalypse zombie warrior in Every Day Carry scenarios.
Made in America
And finally, the Hill People Gear Connor pack is made in America … all of it! And that doesn’t mean American materials assembled somewhere else, or materials from somewhere else assembled in America. It means products supplied from family owned American businesses that use American materials and employ American workers. This may or may not be important to everyone but I know it is important to some and think that it deserves recognition.
Hill People Gear Connor Pack Review | Potential Features:
Things that could have been added …….
Hydration Bladder Hanger & Hose Port: The Hill People Gear Connor pack does not come with a hydration bladder hanger nor a hose port. As far as the hanger is concerned it’s really a moot point as one can simply snap a carabeener into any of the main compartments back panel PALS slots to create one. The lack of a hydration hose port, however, baffles me as I can’t see any disadvantages to incorporating one into the design. The lack of one means that if you use a hydration bladder you will have to slip the hose out from in between the main compartment zippers. Not a huge deal but the question is why? I’m not a big hydration bladder fan myself but by leaving a port out I think HPG missed the boat to satisfy those that are.
Strap Keepers: As already mentioned, the Hill People Gear Connor pack does not come with strap keepers. Not a huge concern to me but, again, a seemingly silly item to omit for those OCD folks that don’t want their straps flapping about … especially as they would presumably be a very low cost item.
Things that should have been added …….
Waist Belt: I’m not sure why, as the Connor packs size really takes it out of load hauler league, but I can’t help but wish that the pack came with a waist belt, or at at least the option to add one. I’m thinking that the decision was made balancing the increase in weight to potential increase in carry comfort, and they probably made the right decision, but it just seems to limit options on an otherwise seemingly limitless pack.
Bigger Side Pockets: Like the hydration port, the Hill People Gear Connor pack’s undersized side pockets also puzzle me as it seems that making them larger would have likely been a low cost endevour for a large gain in utility. As it stands, you are limited to the twin front pockets for external water bottle carry while the tiny side pockets will most likely go unused for anything but anchor points for longer items.
Hill People Gear Connor Pack Review | Adjustment:
Adjusting the Hill People Gear Connor pack optimally for your body recommended and easily accomplished by adjusting the pack height via the shoulder harness adjustment straps so that the curved portion of the frame sheet rests into the curve at the small of your back. If the curve on the frame sheet does not fit the curve at the small of your back then adjust the shape of it by flexing the metal stay located at the vertical center of the frame sheet. You can try to do this without removing the frame sheet from the pack; else remove it, reshape it, and replace it. One accomplished you can use the load lifter straps to pull the load towards you until you can feel the weight transfer into the small of your back.
From a review perspective, adjusting the pack is not difficult, and the benefits of doing so should make it mandatory. Finding this information, however, wasn’t easy and, as important as it is, I would like to see it made more readily available on the Hill People Gear Connor pack webpage.
Hill People Gear Connor Pack Review | Load Carry:
With the Hill People Gear Connor pack now fitted to my body it was time to put it through the standard load carry test – AKA the 20KG (44lbs) salt bag carry. As the Connor pack was not acquired, nor designed, as a heavy load carry pack I initially contemplated omitting this step, but curiosity got the better of me and I proceeded to stuff the salt bag into the pack.
To my amazement, and in support of HPG’s dimensionality claim above, I managed to get the entire bag into the main compartment with the zippers fully closed. And although there was absolutely no more room in the main compartment, I did manage to fit my beanie cap and gloves into the front compartment, and there was still the opportunity to attach items to and under the side wings, strap items onto the front panel, and utilize the still available bottom straps.
I had heard a lot about the comfort of Hill People Gear’s shoulder harness system. I’ve even read where people swap out Kifaru shoulder straps for HPGs and often thought “come on, how can they be any better than Kifaru originals?” Granted I’ve never tried a Kifaru but I have tested Eberlestock, Wilderness Pack Specialties, Badlands, Outdoorsman Pack Systems, Tazmanian Tiger, Mystery Ranch, and a plethora of others, all with the exact same salt bag test, and I can honestly say that the Hill People Gear Connor pack, equipped with the HPG shoulder harness system (sans waist belt), felt better to me than all the others. The one piece harness system seems to better distribute weight across a greater area of my shoulders and back than all the dual shoulder strap systems that I have tried. And if you think about it, it makes sense that it would as it has a much greater surface area. After experiencing the significant comfort difference myself I am left confused as to why more manufactures have not moved to this system.
As for the load lifters, hmm, can I even call them load lifters if there is not a waist belt to transfer the weight to? Well, at first I wasn’t sure but what I discovered was that adjusting them forward did shift the weight towards my torso. You’ll know it when you get there because you can totally feel some of the weight come off your shoulders. So to answer my original question, regardless of whether or not they can technically be called load lifters, I can certainly confirm that they are functional in optimizing weight distribution.
But wait there’s more. What if the main pack was full of gear and I wanted to carry out a load (I know, I know, that wasn’t my original purpose for this pack)? Would the side wings alone, with there lighter 3/4″ straps and buckles, be able to firmly support 44ish LBS of salt (or perhaps a deer quarter or bag of boned out meat)? Again, curiosity overwhelmed my common sense and voila …….
The load felt just as comfortable as when the salt bag was inside the pack and the salt bag was held firmly in place by those two 3/4″ straps; although I’m quite certain that the hypalon wings with their large grippy contact area were a huge factor in making it happen.
I don’t think there’s much more that needs to be said here. The Hill People Gear Connor is one tough pack with a design that makes it extremely comfortable even when overloaded.
Hill People Gear Connor Pack Review | Fishing Application:
It’s taken a while to get here but we’re finally ready to test out the Hill People Gear Connor pack for the purpose in which it was originally acquired. Time to go fishing, and here in the interior of beautiful British Columbia Canada that means fly fishing our prestigious rivers, streams and still water lakes for spunky, silver bullet rainbow trout!
Fly fishing outings like this are typically daily affairs so gear requirements are generally meager consisting of rods, reels, tackle, a basic emergency kit, a bit of extra clothing, water and a bit of food. After a bit of trial and error this is what I ended up with …….
The main compartment is organized with my essentials pouch suspended from the PALS matrix. This pouch is always with me in the great outdoors and consists of basic first aid and survival gear. Along one side of the compartment I’ve tucked in 100′ of 550 paracord. Sitting side by side at the bottom of the main compartment is my rain gear on one side and my cook kit on the other. And finally above those items sit my fly reel and fly boxes. I couldn’t be happier with the setup. Everything is neatly organized, easy to get at, and there is still room for extra gear.
The secondary compartment holds my beanie cap and gloves, toilet paper, soap and hand sanitizer, a headlamp, some snacks (oatmeal/hot chocolate/tea), and a ziplock bag with my tippets, nippers and fly floatant. Like with the main compartment I am totally satisfied with the utility of this stretchy secondary space. All of my “might need it quickly” items are stored securely but remain readily available with room to spare.
I have utilized one of the front twin mesh pockets to secure my canteen and, at this point, the other holds a few Cliff bars. At some point I may use both of the twin sleeves for water bottles depending on how far and long I plan to go. When doing so the additional food will move into the stretchy secondary compartment that, as mentioned, still has room to spare. Accessing the water bottles in this configuration means taking the pack off, something that I don’t mind as I like to take breaks as I go. If that becomes too much of a hassle then there is still room to hang a water bladder under the essentials pack in the main compartment (see pic at left).
My MORA bush Knife is attached to the left Hypalon bat wing via a PALS slot and the base of my fly rod tube is tucked into the right wand pocket and secured with the right hypalon side wing. The hypalon wing does and excellent job of holding the rod tube secure. There is room under the left hypalon wing for another fly rod tube, or more gear, but I didn’t want to load it up just because I could. For longer excursions I could see fitting an axe under the left bat wing but at this point it wasn’t necessary.
The same can be said for the bottom straps. They are there, readily available if needed, but no sense in filling them up for nothing. I envision their main purpose will be to secure shed top clothing layers as the day heats up.
Loaded as shown the Connor weighs in at 5.75 KG (12.7 lbs) and the average distance hiked per trip was approximately 4 KMs (2.5 miles). In each case all systems checked out fine with respect to carry and containment. The Hill People Gear Connor pack remained comfortable and everything remained firm and secure through out.
The extra room was nice to have as I often end up hauling extra gear for my kids when they tag along. And for the days when we decided to keep our catch, they were easily and securely held to the front of the Connor, in between the twin mesh pockets, with the side wing cross straps.
Mission accomplished! The Hill People Gear Connor Pack easily and comfortably held everything I needed to fish to my hearts content, organized and with room to spare!
Hill People Gear Connor Pack Review | Conclusion:
What more is there to say, the Hill People Gear Connor pack met all of my expectations with flying colours and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a pack for similar uses. A few missing “nice to haves but not necessaries” aside, there is nothing negative that I can say about the Hill People Gear Connor pack. Add to that the top notch, made in America, quality, comfort, customer service and more than fair price point, and it becomes a no brainer to highly recommend it to our readers. We are confident that the Hill People Gear Connor pack will not disappoint!
Hill People Gear Connor Pack Review | Where to get Yours 🙂
Thanks for taking time to read through our Hill People Gear Connor pack review. I know it was long but we wanted to be thorough and there is just so much to this pack that we didn’t want to leave anything out. We sincerely hope you found it helpful. If you have any thoughts or comments you’d like to share please do so in the comments section below.