Hill People Gear Kit Bag: Concealed Carry in the Backcountry
Hill People Gear Kit Bag: Concealed Carry in the Backcountry
The Hill People Gear Kit Bag is a platform for concealed carry of a handgun in the backcountry.
Carrying on the waist isn’t an option when you’re wearing a pack with a belt. In order to do its job, the pack belt needs to wrap tightly around the waist, which makes any bulky items between the waist and the pack belt inappropriate. A holster could be mounted to the pack belt itself, but then you drop your gun whenever you drop your pack. If you choose to carry a handgun in the backcountry, you probably want it with you and readily accessible at all times.
The Kit Bag addresses this problem by allowing the handgun to be carried on the chest. It’s supported by its own harness, worn underneath the pack, which allows the user to drop their pack without removing the Kit Bag.
When I first purchased the Kit Bag, I intended to use it only in the backcountry. After I received it, I discovered that not only is it great in its intended backcountry use, but it’s also the best platform I’ve found for carrying a handgun on a bike or while running. I’ve had a Kit Bag for over a year now. I run regularly and commute every day on my bicycle, which means I wear a Kit Bag for some period of time almost every day and have been doing so for as long as I’ve owned one.
Evan and Scott Hill developed their initial concept of a chest-mounted carry platform before Hill People Gear was born. They brought this idea to Kifaru, where Patrick Smith made some changes of his own and began selling the bag as the Kifaru Koala. Later on, the Hill brothers decided to sell their own version, closer to the ligher and smaller pack that they had originally envisioned. They worked a royalty deal with Kifaru and started Hill People Gear, with the Kit Bag being their first product.
All Kit Bags are sewn in the US by First Spear. They are made of 500D cordura and available in Hill People Gear’s standard color offerings of Coyote, Ranger Green, and Foliage Green.
The Kit Bag features three zippered compartments. The frontmost compartment is a flat pocket that provides two internal pockets and two ribbon loops for dummy-cording gear. The rearmost compartment is the handgun pocket. This pocket includes a single ribbon loop on the bottom center, intended to be used to dummy-cord a Raven Concealment Systems Vanguard holster. Current Kit Bag models also include a 1.5″ wide strip of loop material running vertically down the center of the compartment. This allows someone with a small mouse-gun to affix a velcro holster in order to prevent the small gun from bouncing around in the large compartment. The middle compartment is the main organizational pocket. It features two internal pockets with two ribbon loops for dummy-cording gear, similar to the frontmost compartment.
A mesh-backed harness is included to support the Kit Bag. The lower right strap of the harness features a 1.5″ side-release buckle, which allows the harness to be easily donned and doffed.
The key feature of the Kit Bag is its quick access, tear-open gun compartment. This is achieved by aligning the gun compartment zippers in the middle of the right strap attachment point. The zippers for the main compartment are aligned in the same spot. The zipper pulls of the main compartment can then be yanked in the direction of the left hip, which causes the gun compartment to rip open, providing access to the handgun. The setup can be reversed for a left-handed draw.
This process is quick and simple. I don’t think that it will ever be as fast as drawing from the hip (I, at least, haven’t been able to train myself to that same speed), but considering that the Kit Bag is used when carrying on the hip is not an option, it’s an excellent compromise. As with any new holster, it takes some practice to get used to. The only trick to it is to remember to pull your support arm far enough back at the end of the ripping motion that you don’t sweep yourself on the draw.
It is also possible to open the gun compartment without yanking on the main compartment zipper. The gun compartment zippers can be aligned on the right side of the Kit Bag, but with a gap of a couple inches left between them. The user can then jam their hand into the gap, which opens the zippers wide enough to allow the gun to be drawn. This allows for a one-handed draw. When wearing gloves, this method can be a little easier, as you don’t need to grasp the zipper pulls of the main compartment with the support hand. It’s also a little easier to achive in the dark, as you don’t need to see the main compartment zipper pulls.
The Kit Bag includes a Lifter Kit which allows the bag to be docked to the shoulder straps of most backpacks. The straps attach to the pack shoulder straps via slik clips and attached to the Kit Bag via grimlocs.
When using the Lifter Kit, the Kit Bag is initially donned as normal with the included harness. The pack is then put on over the harness, and the docking straps are attached to the Kit Bag’s included grimlocs. When the docking straps are tightened, the Kit Bag is lifted off of its harness and all the weight of the bag is transferred to the pack’s shoulder straps — which, with a good pack, means that the weight is transferred to the hips via the pack frame and waist belt. This makes for a comfortable way to carry the Kit Bag and its contents. It does require that the two grimlocks be opened whenever the pack is dropped and closed whenever the pack is worn, which adds a few seconds to the pack donning and doffing procedure. I prefer to loosen all pack straps whenever I remove my pack, even if it is only for a short time, so unhooking the docking straps does not introduce much of an inconvenience for me.
The Kit Bag remains stable with just the harness during activities like hiking and biking. When running, the bag has a tendency to bounce around annoyingly. Some sort of stabilizing strap is absolutely required.
Hill People Gear sells their own Stabilizer Strap for use when running with the Kit Bag. This attaches via two webbing loops on the bottom corners of the Kit Bag and runs around the user’s back. When I first bought the Kit Bag, the Hill People Gear Stabilizer Strap was not yet available. I opted to make my own out of some shock cord, a cordlock, and a side-release buckle salvaged from an old bicycle helmet. Having used both, I prefer my own stabilizer strap to the Hill People Gear strap. It maintains a lower profile and avoids the bulky 1″ hardware of the Hill People Gear strap. Both straps work to stabilize the Kit Bag equally well.
HPG model on top, DIY model on bottom.
DIY model on the Kit Bag, HPG model on the Snubby
With the stabilizer strap, the Kit Bag itself remains stable on the body while running. I carry a Glock 19, which is significantly smaller than the Kit Bag gun compartment. The result is that, although the Kit Bag doesn’t bounce, the Glock does move around within the compartment while running. This is more of an annoyance than anything else, but it was annoying enough for me to decide to do something about it. My Kit Bag is one of the older models without the 1.5″ strip of loop material on the inside. I chose to sew in my own 4″ x 6″ piece of loop material onto the rear of the gun compartment. This allows me to take an ITS Holster Insert and affix it inside the Kit Bag. Carrying my Glock 19 in the ITS holster prevents all movement and makes for a completely stable, comfortable, and quiet running platform.
The ITS Holster Insert also provides a place for me to carry a spare mag. There is really no good place in the Kit Bag to carry a spare magazine. Any location within the front or middle pocket is difficult to access with the gun compartment hanging open (as it would be if you needed to reload). Affixing it in the gun compartment with ITS Holster Insert is the best compromise that I’ve found.
The Kit Bag which has been discussed thus far is the original model. Hill People Gear has also produced three other models, all based off of the original. The Runner’s Kit Bag is like the original, but lacks the middle compartment. This makes for a bag that is thinner and lighter, but lacks the capacity of the original. The Recon Kit Bag is like the Runner’s, but features a PALS grid on the front. The Snubby Kit Bag is similar to the Runner’s, in that it lacks the large middle compartment, but has smaller overall dimensions. The original, Runner’s, and Recon are all 11.5″ wide and 7.5″ tall. The Snubby is only 8.5″ wide and 6″ tall.
Kit Bag on the Left, Snubby on the right.
Out of the three alternative models, the only one that I’ve purchased is the Snubby. It is just large enough to fit a Glock 19, my daily carry. When running or biking, the most I carry in the Kit Bag is my gun, wallet, keys, and cell phone. I can fit all of this in the Snubby and because it is sized to fit the Glock 19, I don’t need to use a velcro holster to stabilize the gun.
Despite the smaller dimensions of the Snubby Kit Bag, the harness is identical to the other models. This means that the corners of the Snubby are less rounded, which alters the draw slightly. I’ve also found that the small size of the bag causes the zipper that runs along the width of the bag to occasionally run into the rear sight and get stuck. Overall, my draw from the Snubby is a bit slower than with the original Kit Bag. Despite this, the convenience of the smaller platform is such that I’ve barely ran or biked with the original Kit Bag since I purchased the Snubby last August. I appreciate having a more svelte bag. I don’t use the Snubby in the backcountry. In that setting, I appreciate the ability to carry more items in the Kit Bag, such as my compass, GPS, fire gear, and camera. That requires the larger capacity of the original Kit Bag.
Wearing something on your chest will never be as comfortable as wearing nothing on your chest. That said, I think the Kit Bag is about as comfortable as any chest pack can ever be. In hot temperatures it will cause a damp spot to form on the front of your shirt, but I think that’s an acceptable trade-off for being able to carry a concealed handgun with a pack. Between hiking, biking and running I wear a Kit Bag almost every day and am happy to do so. If you don’t intend to carry a handgun and are only considering the Kit Bag for use as a chest-mounted possibles pouch, I would avoid it. Stick with a few pouches attached to your pack’s waist belt for quick access items, and your pant pockets for items that you want attached to your body. The Kit Bag only really becomes appropriate when you wish to carry a handgun and can’t do so on your waist.
Hill People Gear Kit Bag Photo Gallery