Hill People Gear Forums
HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsGeneralGeneralTop Loaders vs Panel LoadersTop Loaders vs Panel Loaders
Previous
 
Next
New Post
12/21/2016 8:49 AM
 

Hey -

So I want to start out and this isn't me trying to "give" you a gear idea. I legit have a question about gear design, why you did what you did, and why some other designs are popular but y'all don't go that way. 

I ran across another gear company, Go Ruck, fairly recently. I have no experience with any of their products, and just stumbled across them while looking into adventure racing. (Obviously they aren't an adventure race...) It seemed that they strongly recommend you to use their own bags if you want to participate in their event, which then made me look up their bags. Their basic model (GR1) seems to be roughly the same size as the Umlindi (12x20x6.75 for GR1, vs 11x19x6.5 for Umlindi), but about $75 more. The Umlindi is a top-loading with zipper, the GR1 is ... Well there's a zipper that goes up one side, across the top, and down the other side. So it loads from the front of the pack. Basically like a really deep PALS Pocket. 

So here's my design question: why go with a top load vs a 3-sided zipper? It seems to me that top-load has fewer points of failure, and if the zipper failed it would be less catastrophic, while the 3-sided zipper would allow better access to everything inside (which is definitely a plus with the PALS Pocket). Is this just a personal preference thing, is there a reason for doing one over the other, and why did you (Hill brothers) choose the one you did? I really can't say I've seen a ton of packs where the front all but zips off, but top loading is the design of practically every outdoor or military pack I've ever used. 

Anyways, just curious. 

- J


 
New Post
12/21/2016 12:20 PM
 
I can see the appeal of a panel loader for a day/EDC pack.  I also think it really isn't needed in a pack the size of the Umlindi.  I'd just say it's a personal preference.   For a hiking pack, I abhor a panel loader as they are impossible to properly waterproof.  A pack the size of an Umlindi will fit under a poncho in a rainstorm, and you won't be carrying a sleeping bag in it any way so that isn't so important, IMO.
 
New Post
12/21/2016 1:51 PM
 
Good call TAK, I hadn't even thought about waterproofness. - J
 
New Post
12/21/2016 1:54 PM
 
Personally, I love panel-loaders but very few have been made with the capacity to serve as anything but a short weekend pack. While some panel-loaders offer great organization features, they just don't make efficient use of their total capacity. In other words, you simply can't carry as much due to not being able to effectively "stuff" the panel-loader like you can a top-loading design of the same size.

Zipper failure with a well designed and constructed pack is pretty much a non-issue, but the largely unfounded assertion simply refuses to die.
 
New Post
12/21/2016 2:07 PM
 
I can see the organization benefits from how I've used my PALS pocket for a light little EDC bag, but hadn't thought about how much space you miss out on in bigger bags due to not being able to stuff it as well, but I can totally see that.

Are zipper failures really rare on well made packs? I've only recently been able to afford well made packs (or been willing to save and spend money on well made packs), so I have not personally had one fail, but it still seems like zipper failure could happen, and if they did you'd really be SOL with a panel loader, whereas the same zipper failure on a top loader would be more of an inconvenience.

- J
 
New Post
12/21/2016 2:37 PM
 
GoKartz wrote:

Are zipper failures really rare on well made packs? I've only recently been able to afford well made packs (or been willing to save and spend money on well made packs), so I have not personally had one fail, but it still seems like zipper failure could happen, and if they did you'd really be SOL with a panel loader, whereas the same zipper failure on a top loader would be more of an inconvenience.

- J

 

Just a quick hit on this question specifically - the zipper is almost always the weakest link. The best available are YKK #10s (what we use almost universally) and they're still the weakest point on the pack. That's why you'll always see straps across main zippers on my designs so you have a backup if the zipper fails in the field. Also a tensioned strap will relieve pressure on the zipper so it is less likely to fail. Don't buy a panel loader that doesn't have straps to protect the zippers. Really, don't buy any pack that doesn't have straps to protect the main zippers. But with panel loaders it's more critical.

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
 
New Post
12/21/2016 5:13 PM
 

Goruck makes a lot of claims about their packs, and I haven't seen one in person yet, but I doubt most of them. As far as I can tell they use #8 zippers and NO compression straps, either one being nearly a dealbreaker by themselves in my book.

Anecdotal observations seems to say that travelers (especially carryon-only "onebaggers") love panel loaders, but most outdoorsman like toploaders. I regularly recommend an Umlindi as a better/cheaper goruck alternative. As TAK says, the short/wide form factor of the umlindi makes it pretty ideal for rifling through from the top.

I've only seen one #10 failure that I can recall, and it was a broken coil that the user said occurred when he was picking up a loaded pack by the zipper pull. The zipper still worked, it just only zipped to that spot on the coil. I've talked to a bike bag maker that said he'd seen failures, but only from massive vibrations abrading the thread holding the coil to the tape (pretty much impossible on a backpack in general, and a non-issue with non-reverse coil zippers like on HPG bags). I've seen several #8 failures, usually the pull goes long before the tape, and usually just from grit that gets worked into the zipper.

 
New Post
12/21/2016 11:13 PM
 
Had a Goruck and sold it. Best travel bag on the market if it didnt weigh 2.5 kilos and had a decent harness and single stay framesheet (mine didnt only a plastic sheet i recall so you could not curve it). They really need to make it in 500d but have chosen to continue with the elusive 'Special Forces Grade' material, oh wait thats 1000d cordura. They should ditch the PALS and design a thin wide harness and blah blah blah.... I could give my thoughts but this isnt a travel bag wanted thread (by the way the aussie company https://www.bogear.com.au/ are better than goruck and solve most of its faults by customization - will even do it in 500d)

But yes, medic bag panel loader good. Travel bag good.

You can have the best of both worlds with a top loader with a vertical zip detachable daypack type pocket on front ala HPG.

 
New Post
12/28/2016 5:35 PM
 
My Goruck GR1 was great for a while and I'll say that it's a pretty well thought out bag for travel and EDC. The lack of compression straps always irked me and I frequently wished for a set. I traveled with it a handful of times and was always glad to have it. Here's my final EDC load out for it other than clothes and an extra layer or something trip dependent. The molle they do have on the outside of the pack is less than useful for things other than carabiners.

[url=https://flic.kr/p/Pp9Byt]
[/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/Pp9Byt]2016-12-27_02-59-56[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/47269634@N00/]veriest1[/url], on Flickr

It's been replaced as my EDC bag by a Tarahumara and an Umlindi because the HPG harness is just that awesome IMO. Everything seen above obviously fits in a Tara with room to spare. Rarely do I find that I need the extra space but if I do the stuff sack that resides behind the insert solves it. Or I'll attach it the Umlindi that just shipped.

What I'm saying is simple - my GR1 was replaced by a Tara as my EDC pack and I'm not looking back.

 
New Post
12/28/2016 8:03 PM
 
Veriest - one of the things I didn't care for when looking at the GR1 were the shoulder straps. I kept comparing them to HPG, and it never stacked up well. Honestly the only thing that I ever disliked about the Tara: I carry a laptop to and form work every day, and it just doesn't fit ...

Hernando - Panel loading medic bags. I hadn't even thought about that when I was comparing Top vs Panel, but that's totally spot on, and probably why I like using a PALS pocket for my version of a medic bag.
 
New Post
12/28/2016 8:33 PM
 
Nothing stacks up well against HPG shoulder system!
 
New Post
1/8/2017 12:21 PM
 
I eyed the Goruck over too--not the most experienced pack guy but the straps attachment w/ no adjustability turned me off.
 
New Post
1/8/2017 5:54 PM
 
I EDC a GR1 everyday and it's one of the best packs I've used to date. I have zero concern about the zippers ever failing, even when packed full. Full clamshell design makes packing and accessing everything a breeze. Shoulder straps are well padded and comfortable. Pack rides high on the back which IMHO is optimal when carrying heavier loads shoulder only. Pack is easy on easy off with the shoulder straps. Laptop compartment is excellent and allows for quick access to laptops, tablets or other flat grab and go items without digging through the main compartment. Pack is not heavy, IMO. Made in the USA. No complaints here.
 
New Post
1/10/2017 12:24 PM
 
GoKartz wrote:
Veriest - one of the things I didn't care for when looking at the GR1 were the shoulder straps. I kept comparing them to HPG, and it never stacked up well. Honestly the only thing that I ever disliked about the Tara: I carry a laptop to and form work every day, and it just doesn't fit ...

 

My biggest gripe with the GR1 are the straps as well. I've got a rather thick neck that was generated by holding my head up off of mats a lot and the straps are just a little to close together for me and all the pressure is in the front of my shoulders with 20 pound loads. The HPG harness on the other hand handles those same loads with aplomb and if I could get a black HPG harness I'd be tempted to to take both to a local seamstress and have them married. With a couple of compression straps added that'd be a pretty ideal travel bag imo. 

Actually, I'd carry a GR1 with a HPG harness and a "sterile" TAD Transporter in a heart beat. Unfortunately that's rather hard to come by and my Tara, with all its versatility, is still rocking along and pulling double duty as my EDC bag.

 
New Post
1/10/2017 6:20 PM
 
msilk - do you have any of the HPG bags to compare how the GR1 carries vs HPG shoulder straps? They look like "normal" backpack straps, and those were always slipping off my right shoulder (it hangs about an inch and a half low from an injury "back in the day"). They have one particular version of the GR1 - coyote with a hook-and-loop interior - that really looks awesome, and is what got me to start this thread. For day to day stuff I'm big on organization, and I really like how panel loaders work for me daily - heck, for a while I carried just a PALS pocket on a pocket harness, but the inability to integrate a water bottle frustrated me. I always carry water, and I'd rather put it in my bag than carry in hand. How does GoRuck's quality compare to HPG?

Veriest - it took me a while to process this, but you replaced your GR1 with a Tara? Is the GR1 that small, or did you not carry it to capacity? I was under the impression it was Umlindi sized. I love the Tara, but can never figure out how to make it work with my laptop. The umlindi always seems like overkill, mostly because if I have space ... I fill it. "If you build it they will come." Which makes me think I "need" a Connor and see if I can get my Aston Insert to fit (it seems like it should based on specs)... But I really gotta stop giving the Hill brothers every spare cent I have...
 
New Post
1/11/2017 2:21 PM
 
GoKartz wrote:
msilk - do you have any of the HPG bags to compare how the GR1 carries vs HPG shoulder straps? They look like "normal" backpack straps, and those were always slipping off my right shoulder (it hangs about an inch and a half low from an injury "back in the day"). They have one particular version of the GR1 - coyote with a hook-and-loop interior - that really looks awesome, and is what got me to start this thread. For day to day stuff I'm big on organization, and I really like how panel loaders work for me daily - heck, for a while I carried just a PALS pocket on a pocket harness, but the inability to integrate a water bottle frustrated me. I always carry water, and I'd rather put it in my bag than carry in hand. How does GoRuck's quality compare to HPG?

Veriest - it took me a while to process this, but you replaced your GR1 with a Tara? Is the GR1 that small, or did you not carry it to capacity? I was under the impression it was Umlindi sized. I love the Tara, but can never figure out how to make it work with my laptop. The umlindi always seems like overkill, mostly because if I have space ... I fill it. "If you build it they will come." Which makes me think I "need" a Connor and see if I can get my Aston Insert to fit (it seems like it should based on specs)... But I really gotta stop giving the Hill brothers every spare cent I have...

You're correct - I never fill the GR1 up because it's so uncomfortable with a full load. The picture above is about all I ever carried in it and all that fits in a Tara. If I want to carry a jacket or insulation layer it either gets strapped to the Tara or, sometimes, stuffed inside the Tara in the case of a down vest.

For longer trips now the plan is to put bulkier items (like clothes and laptop) in my Umlindi and dock the Tara to it. Or I could utilize the GR1 if I still have it at that point. 

Heavier loads that include water or a tripod and the like are what cause the GR1 straps to cause me discomfort. In these situations with small but 20+ pound loads the Tara, or rather the HPG harness, still works well for me. I can dock it to my PB in a pinch and carry close to 5+ liters of water if needed which is something I was never able to do with the GR1.

Here's how I've been utilizing the Tara. Normally I don't EDC a 3D camo suit but you'll get the idea. That's an XL K pullout in there. I do keep a HPG 917 stuff sack hanging behind the Tarainsert for overflow. The 917 is way to big if filled up so I don't do that and just tuck the excess material against the pack body. I guess it wouldn't really be a problem if it extended up higher than the top of the pack though.

[url=https://flic.kr/p/R4pk15]
[/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/R4pk15]2017-01-10_07-04-59[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/47269634@N00/]veriest1[/url], on Flickr

I can speak to GoRuck's quality as well. The GR1s built really well and I think the number of folks who "ruck" with them have proven that in spite of all their weird "special forces" marketing. 

 
New Post
1/11/2017 6:31 PM
 
Well, although I'm glad GR is quality, you confirmed my shoulder strap fears and killed any desire for me to buy one (thank you? haha). Really interesting that although the GR1 is about the size of the Umlindi, you wouldn't load it more than what could fit in a Tara. (I love my Tara and have put some crazy loads in it, and it handles them like a champ.)

I'm kinda curious now - msilk, have you put 20-30lbs loads in your GR1, and if so did you find the shoulder straps to be uncomfortable, or see why someone would think that? I'm sure they work well enough for that, as that seems to be their market, I'm just curious your experience.
 
New Post
1/15/2017 2:28 PM
 
GoKartz -

GoRuck quality is top notch and I have not found a manufacturer or company that beats them. Many companies are on par but I would not say better, quality wise. The shoulder straps do not slip when you lock them in. At least mine do not. I would say that HPG packs carry weight a little more comfortably in terms when they have a stay and it is well fitted to your back, the weight feels "less". However, they GoRuck rides higher on the back and when you cinch the shoulder straps in tight it is more comfortable than many other brands I have tried. For EDC I would choose the GoRuck. It's simply easier to access and carries well enough. For any outdoor pursuits, I would utilize a pack like the Umlindi which has external overload capacity for overnights, etc.
 
New Post
1/17/2017 7:53 AM
 
Hey msilk00 -

Thanks for the thoughts. I really didn't intend for this thread to come off as a GoRuck bash, so I'm glad to see some positive comments about them. I think it was Fowler above that pointed out that EDC bags (or bags people like to use for everyday stuff) tend to be be panel loaders like the GR1, and that's one of the reasons I love using the PALS pocket as a light work bag. They're ridiculously convenient to access most or all of your gear without doing a gear dump.

Anyways, I bring that up again because you prefer the GR for EDC but would pick something like the Umlindi for outdoor stuff... Do you think that part of the reason you went that way was because the GR was panel loader and the Umlindi is a top loader? Or was that choice more based on how they carried?

(We all kinda got side-tracked on the whole Go Ruck thing, but Top vs Panel was the original topic.)

J
 
New Post
1/17/2017 8:17 AM
 
If I have the choice between a reliable/secure panel loader vs a top loader for outdoor use I would still choose the panel loader. That said, the pack for outdoor use has to have the option for overload capacity. That is essential in my mind for an outdoor pack (unless its large enough to hold everything inside). So, the GR1 is a great panel loading pack but it has almost zero overload capacity. Sure, you can rig up something on the molle maybe but its not optimal imho. Then take the Umlindi. ROUGHLY similar in size to the gr1 26L. It is much better setup for outdoor use because it has compression straps on the bottom, top and horizontal. Plus, the size it is, top loading isnt that big of a deal. I could still easily use the Umlindi for EDC with the use of the Aston Insert and some hook/loop pouches. I like packs that I can push into multiple roles, ala get more usage from. A pack the size of the Umlindi, I can use that EDC or I can use it for a weekend camping trip with the ability to add gear to the outside and the inclusion of the Prairie Belt. Now, If I just had 1 bag for outdoor use like the UTE, the top loading would drive me crazy trying to dig through for items since its much larger than the Umlindi. Thankfully, that doesnt have to be the case. I'm fine with a top loading pack for outdoor use when I have options like a Palspocket, Tara, Connor, etc, to mount on the outside to easily access smaller items while all the large bulky items are in the larger pack. That is just how I prefer to run things.....ymmv.
 
Previous
 
Next
HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsGeneralGeneralTop Loaders vs Panel LoadersTop Loaders vs Panel Loaders