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HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsHPGHPGCenter Zipper mod for a Ute? Center Zipper mod for a Ute?
New Post
3/18/2017 8:46 AM
Hi all! 


Has anyone looked into adding, or actually added a center Zipper to a Ute? The pack looks perfect for my needs except for the top loading only. I know people get it done to similar kifaru packs. I have been looking at the 14er and tarryall but I like the utes external attachment options better. 

Is there any technical reason related to the packs construction that makes such a modification not recommended? 







New Post
3/18/2017 9:52 AM
Hi Ken -

I can't comment on adding a zipper, but here's a thread that talks some about pros/cons of having top loaders vs panel loaders. It gets a little off track, but still might be useful.


- J
New Post
3/18/2017 6:43 PM
I think a center zip would be a point of failure, especially with the HPG compression system. I understand the hesitation on a top load only pack, but with the modularity of the HPG system as a whole I find it is a non issue for me.
New Post
3/18/2017 11:10 PM
Interesting. I would have thought the opposite - that the compression straps take strain OFF of the zipper, not make it a point of failure. What am I missing? Is a good quality #10 aquaguard style Zipper really a weak link, practically speaking?
New Post
3/19/2017 8:05 AM
Normally I would agree that compression straps would take the strain off a zipper, but the way I cinch the straps is to first pull to tighten the sides using the pulley system to draw the load toward the back, then come across and clip the buckles. I could be doing it all wrong but I think this first cinching the sides would put strain on a center zipper.
New Post
3/19/2017 9:11 AM
So if that's the most effective/intended use of the compression, maybe a side zip would function better....?
New Post
3/19/2017 9:22 AM
Another thought is if you are using one of the compression panels then it would make using the zipper difficult.
New Post
3/19/2017 11:37 AM
Hi Ken,

So the quality zipper question was one I had as well, and I believe Evan said that ANY zipper, even a quality #10, is the weakest link and a potential failure point. I believe he also said that with a design like you're talking about, when the zipper fails it'll be catastrophic, whereas when a top load zipper fails, it should still be manageable.

I think ccombs brings up a good point about those zippers being difficult to access if you're using the HPG pockets as a compression panel. Which for me is one of the big reasons to use HPG.

What are you wanting to use this for? What size do you need? Why do you want a center zip? When you say center zip, you're talking like a zipper on a Tara right? The reason I ask all that is that it would be fairly easy to stuff food/insulation/shelter in the Ute and then have a pocket on the outside for gear you need to access quick(er). Slapping a Connor on there would make the Ute a monster hauler, and I can fairly easily fit all of my trail gear (so not insulation, food, or water) into a Connor, leaving all of the Ute for food/insulation, in which case I would want or need a center zip or panel-style access. So maybe if you give me an idea of your use and why I can grok better what you're trying to do.

- J
New Post
3/19/2017 11:41 AM
I can't seem to edit my post... second to last sentence should say "would NOT want or need a center zip."
New Post
3/19/2017 2:08 PM
Most of the points have already been made, but to reiterate:

The way the Umlindi/Ute/qui-Ya are designed the back piece of fabric is a compression panel that pulls the entire load into the frame using a pulley system, and that means every time you compressed your pack you would be trying to tear a center zipper apart.

On any well constructed pack the weakest link is the zippers, and most failures in good packs are zippers failing. The YKK zippers are the golden standard, but only because there isn't a better option, and not because they are bombproof. My experience is that the waterproof zippers have tighter tolerances so they are even easier and more likely to be damaged. A zipper should never be placed in a location that makes it a structural part of your pack, because if that zipper fails then you pack no longer has structure, and they should always be backed up by straps to protect them.. None of our packs with the exception of the Tara have any kind of center zipper or even side zip for that reason. The Tara was not designed or intended for heavy loads, despite what folks do so say they can, and as a result the zipper is less likely to fail. The compression is also not pulley style so that when you compress it you would be pulling the two sides together. Picture a center zip that no longer zips, basically you would have to fabricate in the field a new back panel some how. Whereas with the top load style it would bit annoying, but a none issue as would just have flap over it and held in place by the straps.

A minor point, but worth mentioning, a zipper adds a pretty significant amount of weight to any pack. I forget the weights at the moment, but I was surprised.

If you had a center zip there would be no point in running a back pocket as you would basically have to remove the back pocket if you wanted to use the zipper, so there would be no point in the exterior attachment points you like.

Finally, if your load is compressed correctly anytime you removed something through a side or front zipper you are going to have to pull everything out and re-pack anyway to get the load compacted again. The theory is awesome, and back in the late 90s Evan and I were both excited, but found within a day that the zipper was just extra weight that was never used for that reason. Now if you don't compress your load, which is wrong, then you may be able to pull stuff out and put it back, but if you are compressing like you should.... I pack such that everything I need during the day is either at the top of my pack or in a back pocket, which means that there is no reason to be pulling stuff out of the pack throughout the day anyway. The only time I need to get further down in my main compartment is when I am setting up camp, in which case everything is coming out and being used, so again the front or side zipper is basically worthless.

To sum it up zippers are points of failure, putting them in as a structural component is a mistake due to said failure, and if you are compressing the zipper doesn't really provide anything in the way of extra access since you have to unload to repack anyway so you can have a compacted load.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
New Post
3/19/2017 5:47 PM
Thanks again guys! It sounds like I need to examine how the "pulley" compression systems works, I think I will understand better.

There are three main use cases for the pack:
Case 1: 2 day hikes with my young son (summer only, but I need to carry a lot of his stuff too). Would be used in conjunction with a pals pocket or similar.
Case 2: Travel, probably in conjunction with an attache for a laptop.
Case 3: day pack for cold weather hunting.

Basically I like having the compression and multiple attachment points without being super tactical. I'm thinking a pack closer to 50L with good modularity is going to serve me better than a 75L pack that while it could hold almost all my gear inside in more extreme use cases will just be ungainly when I don't need all that space.

I own a smaller kifaru packs already and love it, so I started looking at the tarryall. I like the panel loading and main compartment size but it seems just sort of "watered down" for some reason. No tab loops on the lid to mount anything good up top and the compression is limited.
I am also considering a Xing of course, it has lost of modularity options and panel loading, but the main compartment is only 42 or 44L which is on. The small side. Last option. Is an Arcteryx echo at 55L and a side Zipper, but it is mega tactical and quite tall.

So yeah, that's where I landed at the ute. I guess I need to see if I can envision a pocket system that circumvents my (either real of imagined) need for side access. :)
New Post
3/19/2017 6:58 PM
Ken, like I said I get the top loader thing. Depending on what I'm doing I can be in and out of my pack quite a lot. But with the various compression panels, and recently the Butt Pack that is my new camera bag, it is a non issue for me any more. The Ute with the Connor is a top loader and a panel loader in one.
New Post
3/19/2017 8:04 PM
Hi Ken -

So this is my opinion and my experience, so take it for what it's worth (about what you paid for it).

The Ute by itself is roughly 60L. A Connor is about 20L, a Tara about 15, and a PALs pocket about 10.

Now the great thing I like about the Connor/Ute set up is I can carry just about all my gear in the Connor for quick access. My Ute almost only holds shelter, insulation, and food (if I'm feeling frisky I'll sling a bladder in there too). None of that needs to be quick access. Like you (it sounds like), I prefer to be able to quickly access just about everything. The Connor lets me do that - I love organization, and my only complaint about cavernous toploaders is that digging process. It's manageable, I just like opening the bag and BOOM - everything is there. But the Connor gives me that. The other pockets do as well, I just like the Connor. Obviously, total capacity adds up to something like 80L which is pretty stout, and I'd say plenty. Even if you don't need that room, you can pull the load in by making the Ute smaller.

Here's Connor at about 85% capacity:

The big thing in the middle is a 10x10 set up tarp. Obviously take this and the nalgene out and put them into the Ute and you have a TON of room. Anyways, just food for thought. Everything you need quick access to, in an awesome pocket. Before I had a Connor, I used a PALs pocket, which worked. Connor just gives a lot more room, and depending on how much you want to immediately access it might be worth it. In the pic, I can quickly access shelter, fire, cook kit, med kit, tools, cordage, and even water.

I'm not saying this is THE way, it's just what I like. I hope this was helpful and not just tangential.

- J
New Post
3/20/2017 9:28 AM
Very cool and very helpful! I really appreciate the pics and insights guys.
HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsHPGHPGCenter Zipper mod for a Ute? Center Zipper mod for a Ute?

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When humans first set foot in a new continent, they came in small groups under their own power, bringing only the gear they needed. Most simply called themselves The People. Over time, those who chose the rougher freer life of the up country came to think of themselves as the Hill People.
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