When presented with a problem not solved with the gear I have available, I assess the need and search the market for a solution that not only addresses that problem set, but can offer multiple uses. With a trip to Zion planned that included canyoneering, I wanted to have the ability to carry essential tools close to my body that did not encumber swimming and met the multi-use criteria. When you need select items to be easily accessible, a backpack is not ideal. A chest pouch seemed like the easiest way to reach items like maps, GPS, camera, etc. This need brought me to the Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag.
Hill People Gear offer a line of “Kit Bags,” a chest pouch with various pockets and compartments to organize frequently needed items that rides high on the chest and balanced by a H Harness style mounting solution. Popular with hunters and some SAR/Ski Patrol types, I thought the ease of access it offered to first aid, navigation, etc. met my needs to compliment my new backpack. In an attempt to not over engineer the problem, I chose one of their more minimalist versions, the Recon Kit Bag with PALS (aka MOLLE) webbing. According to the website, the 8 channel / 3 Row PALS did not add to the overall weight and the opportunity to add supplemental pouches seemed like a no brainer (mag pouches, first aid, knife sheath). Along with load carry, all the Hill People Gear kit bags offer the user opportunity to carry a concealed handgun and they also sell holsters that complements that type of carry.
The Recon Kit Bag is constructed with 500 denier cordura with robust zippers for each pocket. Based on their “Runners” profile, it is thinner than some of their other options with only two large pockets. The one pocket is a large one cell compartment with dummy cord tabs to tie gear and/or attach a holster. A large strip of hook and loop (Velcro to most) is centered in this larger pocket. I used this to secure a tourniquet. The larger pocket opens into the L position allowing it to fold out as a map case/level surface. The second of the two pockets on the rig has two cells sewn into the interior walls large enough to hold an iPhone 6 in a Magpul protective case or your GPS. The second pocket only opens from the top zipper and will not fold outward in a manner similar to the larger pocket.
The straps that secure the rig to the user are generous in width and are built with light, quick drying webbing. No padding offered on the straps and I found it wasn’t necessary given my load. The H style Harness is met in the back with an ample webbing panel that does not interfere with a pack. The rig is easy to adjust and no needless webbing hangs in the way. Donning is simple and the profile of the Recon Kit is so slim I drove with it on to the trail head without issue. Removal of the rig is facilitated by a large fastech buckle; no quick release offered. Added to the rig, are two Grimloc carabiners to aid in hooking it to a larger pack or secure additional gear. Colors are subdued shades like Ranger Green and Foliage Grey. They also offer it in Coyote Brown and the ever popular Multicam.
Vitals on the Recon Kit Bag:
Weight: 0.81 lb
Length: 1.00 in
Width: 11.50 in
Height: 7.50 in
Dimensional Volume: 86.25 in3
First impressions of the Kit Bag for me started at construction. This is a well made piece of gear with quality stitching and good use of materials to balance durability with weight. The rig sits a little higher than I thought I would have preferred, but using it on the Trans Zion trek (40+ miles in 2.5 days), I found its placement allowed me to move easily, use trekking poles and access all my essentials with minimal effort. In short it did just what I needed. The straps did not get in the way of the pack, did not roll or bunch under other straps and what I carried, weight distribution was good.
With purchase of the Recon Kit Bag in the “Runners” profile, this rig works in a variety of pursuits to include running, day hikes and high angle (rope work) activities. It balances size with performance and doesn’t allow you to overstuff with nice to haves. For skiers and especially SAR/Ski Patrol, having the necessities close at hand without having to fight with your poles or pull off and dig through a pack is a nice option.
From a shooter’s perspective, this rig is not your sub 1.5 second draw answer. It does offer what I feel is critical to backcountry carry. It is secure, balanced, protects your weapon from the elements, keeps it concealed and is close to the body. For a long gun, the PALS webbing offers the option to carry three cell Ten Speed pouches or TACOs. Coupled with slick armor and a good trauma kit, this rig can easily work for an active shooter/preparedness option.
The price of the Recon Kit Bag at $95 dollars and its ability to meet a wide variety of needs and activities and its bombproof construction makes this a must. In looking at the Hill People Gear website one might pigeon hole the Kit Bag as a hunter/shooter item, but applying it to your sport whether kayaking, parasailing or hunting takes little imagination. It meets so many needs with simplicity.