Our products don't happen by accident, and they're not born in a design studio. They're built on years of backcountry, engineering, and quality assurance experience. Inspiration usually comes on the trail and multiple iterations are mentally tested and discarded to the beat of hiking boots before pattern making even starts. Designing things conceptually is par for the course in the software industry where Evan started his career. So is refining a "design pattern" or "design principles" to ensure a consistent and functional product. Here are the Hill People Gear Design Principles.

1912 Singer

Load Carriage

Load carriage is a pretty straightforward discipline if you're paying attention -- basic newtonian physics, vertebrate anatomy, and the dynamics of bipedal locomotion. All items in the toolbox of a guy with a degree in anthropology. Here are the key points we adhere to:

  • Place load center of gravity (COG) close to body COG for stability and efficient skeletal loading
  • Use an effective compression system to keep the load tight and unitized
  • Use adjustable frame and suspension elements to direct the load COG into the skeletal system of the specific individual bearing the load
  • Use wide and contoured suspension elements to minimize impact on soft tissues
  • Arrange suspension elements to avoid putting pressure on nerve bundles

As you might imagine, the military is very interested in efficient load carriage. Here is an interesting study published in 1997: LOAD CARRIAGE IN MLIARY [sic] OPERATIONS: A REVIEW OF HISTORICAL, PHYSIOLOGICAL, BIOMECHANICAL, AND MEDICAL ASPECTS


Human beings have been evolutionarily successful for one simple reason -- adaptability (thanks to our brain). We believe in outdoor gear that is similarly adaptable. "One pack to rule them all" is a holy grail probably forever out of reach -- but "one pack to handle 80% of what you need to accomplish" is very achievable. Here are the principles we use to maintain flexibility in our lineup:

  • Pack sizes from 450ci to 6000ci comprise a modular system allowing small packs to be used as pockets on large packs.
  • Reinforce pack chassis beyond the size of the packbag to allow for burst capacity
  • Compression systems to allow for overflow
  • All tabs and straps placed on PALS spacing for compatibility with multiple systems
  • Epicurean use of PALS and velcro fields to allow the end user to organize as they see fit
  • Very little organization built into the pack itself to allow for flexibility in use

There are two camps right now in outdoor gear with not a whole lot of in between. On the one hand, you have the light and fast gear. A decade ago it was on the fringes, now it's primarily what you'll find at the large retailers. We like it for tents, sleeping bags, and insulating garments. For packs, it's a poor choice. So much attention is given to cutting the weight of the empty pack that you end up with a piece of gear that makes you work much harder than necessary due to poor load carriage characteristics. Furthermore, they're not engineered for much in the way of strength or longevity.

On the other hand, you have overbuilt "tactical" packs slathered in heavy PALS grids that are built for the military and wannabes. Ironically, most of those packs have poor load carriage characteristics as well. And just because they're built with heavy materials doesn't mean they are durable -- you have to engineer for durability with an eye towards failure points and such.

Our goal is to build packs with enough durability to get you reliably through any backcountry misadventure without any unnecessary weight. You'll find that our packs are uncommonly efficient with very low empty pack weights relative to the chassis capability. Here are the principles we use to meet that goal:

  • Made in the US at a very high quality factory that is the culmination of decades of textile manufacturing experience
  • Materials include 500d and 1000d (very little) Cordura, hypalon, mil-spec webbing, and ITW buckles
  • YKK zippers backed up with straps to ease zipper strain and ensure load integrity in the case of zipper failure (frustratingly common with all but #10 zippers which we make extensive use of)
  • Tabs and straps sewn inseam, edge bound, and bartacked for strength
  • Minimal use of zippers
  • Suspension and compression components removable / replaceable