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9/20/2018 12:13 PM

I looked elsewhere but couldn't find anything specific to HPG, please redirect me if this information is readily available.  This is somewhat directed at the Hill brothers as the pack designers, but i'd be interest in hearing other folks opinions on panel vs top loaders as well.

I thought I heard or saw someone state that the Hills generally prefer top loaders to panel loaders.  This was due in part to protecting the zippers, thus providing more reliability in the back country.  This is one of the reasons packs like AHBC and Connor have so much compression.

I tend to lean toward the panel loaders, but even if given a full clamshell only open partially and load from the top.  I guess this must be a hold over from the Jansport days.

Does the panel vs top question distill down to access vs reliability?  Or am I missing another large piece of this?

The reason I was thinking about this is because I recently acquired a Tara.  The vertical zip throws a third variable into that two-way discussion.  I keep looking at it and imagining more of a panel horseshoe type zipper (again likely just holdover from old school days).  What is the advantage of the vertical zip vs a panel zip or top zip?  I imagine a top zip opening wold get pretty small on a pack this size.

The design works, I like it.  And I'll get used to the way access works, albeit some of the thought process will be different than in a pack that can be accessed from the top.  Some of the answers here and thoughts about the design decisions will help me make that switch (that and I'm curious about "why").


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9/20/2018 2:27 PM
First, the Tara is it's own thing with that center zip and a huge part of it is determined by size. One of the biggest reasons we discontinued the old Highlander is that the center zip paradigm didn't translate very well to just a little bit bigger pack.

Overall, I consistently find it difficult to properly load a panel loader. You're always fighting gravity to get things to be where they should for good load carriage. At smaller sizes like the Connor (and with the addition of a velcro organization panel for "fixing" items) it seems to work out OK and I like the Connor. As soon as you get to anything as big as the AHBC, the appeal of a panel loader falls way off for me. People with experience will differ, but I've personally got no use for a panel loader as large as the AHBC. Too difficult to load properly. That's why there will eventually be an AHBC sized top loader. The size is really useful, but I want it in a top loader.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
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9/20/2018 7:03 PM
On a quality pack, zipper failure is one of those things that's commonly talked about (most often just parroting) but much less often witnessed. Irrespective of the probabilities, zipper failure would be mostly an inconvenience in most cases if the pack is well designed and properly featured.

With that presupposition in mind, I see the major difference being one of access vs efficiency of space. While I like being able to retrieve something without "unpacking", you give up a lot of usable space for the access and organization offered by a panel loader. Since I've used both using the exact same gear, I'm guessing you lose about 20% of the usable space with a panel loader vs a top loading pack ..... perhaps even more depending on the design.

The best panel loader I've ever seen or used was offered by the long extinct label; Wookey. I regret selling the one I had quite often.
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9/20/2018 10:11 PM

I'm weird, I love the Highlander. I have 2, and just bought a 3rd off of Fleabay. I think it makes a great compression panel, and the size is perfect for me and my dad duties when carrying the tribe's gear on day hikes/amusement park etc. I had a Connor, and never really cared for it. Some of it was vanity, and how it looked on my back, but the other aspect is that I prefer having the larger water bottle pockets, and having a back slot pocket. Before HPG, I never really liked center zips, but the Highlander's x2 zipper pull design is perfect IMHO.

Kyle: Panel vs Top?
For me, it depends on the size of the pack. I'm pro top loader for anything the size of the UTE and larger. One of my favorite HPG packs is the AHBC which is that hybrid clam-shell design. I like being able to access the gear on the bottom of the pack. With a top loader, I find myself having to dig around, pull items out, etc. For a large expedition size (UTE/Qui-Ya) this isn't an issue as I am at camp, and have the time to take everything out... When I'm in a tree stand 20+ feet up in the air, I much prefer the added accessibility that the AHBC gives, and being able to visualize what I am about to pull out.

Regardless of top loader, vs panel... the one thing that HPG does better than any other company is compression! It allows you to use a much larger pack than you might need, because you can squeeze all that empty space and not have a loose bag flopping around. It astonishes me that there are so many "outdoor" packs on the market, that do not have a single compression strap!
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9/21/2018 9:55 AM

I prefer a top loader, like the Umlindi, for backcountry use but prefer a slim pack for EDC, to be a Panel Loader, like the Connor. I find it much easier to pack and manage the load, in a top loader. I organize my gear by least likely to be used at the bottom to most likely to be used at the top. When I have a larger panel loader, I still use it like a top loader. I like the way a top loader carries the load, and compresses, a lot better. There is a lot more fuss getting the panel loader properly packed and compressed. (In my experience).

A zipper faliure is pretty rare, but I have had it happen with a #10 YKK. That was a real life lesson to why backing up, main compartment, zippers with compression straps is so important. If a zipper fails on a top loader, there is no worry about your gear dumping out, because it is a bucket.

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10/2/2018 6:06 AM
Hey Kevin,
How do you stow a pistol in the Connor for EDC/office carry? I have messed around with a few different options but have yet to find any that are practical or that I like. Bottom of pack vs. Top? Holsters that take up less of a footprint?
I run a couple of the rip-away pouches and a kangaroo style mag pouch for pistol and AR mag. And at the moment I just have my pistol in there in a G-code incog that way if I want/need to wear it on person I can with out to much issue like having an extra holster chilling in the Conner. Thoughts?
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10/3/2018 9:10 AM

I usually do not carry off body. If I was, I would most likely use a dedicated pouch (fully enclosed) to hold the firearm. The firearm would be in a IWB holster with really good retention. That way, If I felt something was up, I could go from off body to IWB carry. It's not a quick draw method, but off body carry is not fast in general. Being able to switch to the IWB will give you that option for immediate access without brandishing the firearm. The time and place has to allow for the transition though. If the pouch was concealed, I would place it somewhere in the top 3rd of the pack.  The other option is to use a velcro backed Kydex holster in the pack, which I am not a big fan of at all. I think there are too many negatives associated with it, like accidently unholstering the pistol, and always having to use the pack as part of the holster.

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10/3/2018 11:30 AM
Ok well it sounds like for off body carry I'm doing it this way anyways and like I said its not ideal.
Thank you
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