Hill People Gear should need no introduction around here, but for those not in the know, they’ve made a name for themselves as masters of backcountry and bushcraft. The HPG harness is the star of the show across their entire line, and has really catapulted them to the top of their industry in a relatively short amount of time. This praise isn’t unfounded – the gear is all meticulously designed and engineered by the HPG team during hours upon hours of real world use.
The pack we’re looking at today is their Connor V2. While the first Connor was designed to be a dual-use backpack or panel pocket for HPG’s larger packs, this new edition is a fully dedicated backpack, with some added bells and whistles that make it just that much better than the V1 at hauling gear on your back.
|Volume||1600 cu. in.||26L|
|Primary Materials||500D Cordura Nylon, YKK #10 Zippers|
Quality and Comfort
Quality and comfort are two of HPG’s trio of design pillars; specifically listed as load carriage, flexibility, and longevity. Above all else, these are the things apparent in every piece of kit from HPG. Because we’ve covered the harness system in previous reviews, I won’t go into too much of a deep dive on it. Needless to say, it’s what HPG is known for, and it’s what makes their packs seriously unique.
While I thought the harness was comfortable, but overkill, on the Tarahumara, it truly feels at home here on the Connor. The wide back, and perfectly positioned (albeit adjustable) ride height really just lets the pack and harness system hug your body like only a HPG pack can. The magic of the HPG harness in combination with the Connor let me load this thing up without feeling like I had anything on my back at all.
During one of my hikes I loaded up enough water, on top of my dry weight and lunch, for two people and two dogs on a particularly hot day. As I hoisted it on to my back I expected it to really weigh me down. But even after a half dozen miles up and down some steep Finger Lakes trails, I hardly noticed the bag was there at all.
Unlike some smaller packs, like the Tara and Junction, the Connor is the smallest pack in the lineup with load lifters. While this adds some overall complexity to the setup, I found that it really helped with the fit of the system, as I’m someone who always likes their packs riding a bit higher. With this setup, I’m able to drape the harness properly, while still getting the bag to ride where I like it.
You’ll notice in the photo below that the grab handle sits a bit into the neck area. While just wearing a t-shirt, I personally found it a bit annoying, even when tucked underneath the harness. Your mileage may vary here, but I would prefer something a bit more flush against the pack.
Also unlike its smaller brethren, the Connor has full hip-belt support. While it doesn’t come with one, you can grab either the Prairie Belt or the lighter Recon Belt directly from HPG. This bag certainly doesn’t require a belt, but where a belt will come in handy is in extra stability and extra load carriage. If you want ready access to water bottles, or prefer to have a few snacks on your belt, you totally have the option to do that here.
Another thing that I’ve found common with HPG packs is that since they sit lower on your back it can be uncomfortable to move at a brisker pace – anything approaching a jog. With other smaller packs, you can typically pull them up high and tight on your back, but this isn’t really possible with HPG’s harness system. Throwing a belt on will absolutely help with stability in this department, keeping the bag from jumping up and down. TL;DR – If you want to move faster, grab the belt.
The frame sheet you see below is also new to this iteration of the backpack-first Connor. It’s got two aluminum stays, and comes pre-shaped for most body types. I didn’t have to fuss with mine at all, and worked well right out of the box to direct some of the extra weight into my hips. As you can see below, it’s removable, and secured by the hypalon adorned lumbar area. This section is also what secures the belt, should you chose to use one.
If you’re familiar with the Connor V1, there won’t be many surprises here. The entire bag is wrapped in two hypalon compression wings. The closure can be set up in one of two ways – single adjust or dual-adjust. HPG is nice enough to include the proper hardware to run this either way. If you’re like me and hate extra straps, you’re going to want to go with the single adjust, which is what you see in the photos. If you want some more flexibility or want to run larger items in the side pockets, like tripods, then you’re going to want to go with the dual-adjust.
Under the compression wings you’ve got two wand pockets on either side. HPG says these will fit a full size Nalgene, and I believe that, but I found these pockets more useful for things that I didn’t need to get to often or quickly – they take a few steps to access. I preferred storing my hiking poles here, which I could just slide out if I wanted them, my reserve water, or even a travel tripod.
It’s also nice that these pockets don’t block full main compartment access, like on some other packs. More on that in a moment.
As mentioned previously – you might want to opt for the dual-adjust setup if you want to carry larger items in the wand pockets. With just a travel tripod in one, the single-adjust compression straps start running out of room quickly.
The mesh pockets on the very front of the pack are the real water bottle pockets here. They fit any bottle you may consider bike-bottle-sized, or something like the Klean Kanteen you see in the photos below. Whether or not you can slip the bottle in and out while the pack is closed up depends on how tight you’re running the compression wings, and what kind of bottle you’re using. The Klean Kanteen was no problem, but if you have something with more shape to it, it might take some pushing and pulling. There’s no way you’re losing your bottle though, that’s for sure. Also to note, these don’t really have their own volume, so they do take up a bit of room if you’re packing to the brim.
Specifically, the bottle pockets intrude a bit on the front center-zip pocket. This is the quick-access pocket on the Connor. For also not having much volume of its own, you can stuff a good bit in here thanks to the tweave front-panel. It stretches just enough without being sloppy or feeling like it’s going to catch on anything. And thanks to the dual-zips you can choose whether you want to access from the top or bottom without undoing the entire wing setup.
Around the bottom you’ve got typical compression straps. Not much to say here other than that they work as intended. This is where I usually carry my sit pad, or a long dog lead.
The hypalon wings themselves add some load carriage to the Connor. While I wouldn’t put anything heavy here, you can easily add some pouches inside or out, or lash some gear here. One thing I do wish they would have added was one extra PALS channel. Having only the two channels so close to the front side of the pack limits what you can fit here, and how you can situate it. On the flip side, HPG states a reason for this – the team found that a third channel just straight up didn’t work well as it started wrapping too far around the front of pack.
The main compartment is about 95% clamshell. The side wand pockets keep it from being 100%, but the zipper continues down into the depths of the pockets, which is a great feature I’d love to see on basically all other packs with bottle pockets.
Once you open the beefy YKK #10 zippers of the main compartment you’re met with a full length mesh pocket on the front face. Personally, I wish this was a split section with a smaller pocket on top and the larger on the bottom, but HPG intended this to be used for larger items like a puffy jacket or windcheater. Keep your quick access items in the external pockets. The pocket does hold quite a bit; in the photo below I have my entire hammock setup in a dry sack in there – hammock, tarp, bug net, straps, ridgeline, etc. I could definitely use this for an overnighter during warmer months.
The entire back side of the main compartment is lined with First Spear’s 6/12 PALS loop fabric. I really like this setup for a few reasons. It adds minimal weight compared to typical PALS webbing. It supports hook backed pouches and organizers. It supports PALS compatible pouches. And, you can also just ignore it completely and it won’t get in your way.
So, what’s the difference between the Connor V1 and V2? In general, all of the changes were based around making this version a dedicated backpack rather than a dual-use pocket. Since I didn’t own a V1, this information isn’t first hand, but it comes from a good source; Evan Hill. If you think we missed something please let us know.
- Suspension has been upgraded with a frame sheet with two aluminum stays.
- Supports a Prairie or Recon belt, along with the added lumbar support area.
- Depth has been increased from 4″ to 5″.
- Wing length has been increased 1″.
- Wand pockets are deeper and higher to support a wider range of bottles and items
- Compression straps have been upgraded from 3/4″ webbing and buckles to their 1″ counterparts.
- Compression can be swapped from single adjust to dual adjust and back.
- Front panel of the main compartment has a full length mesh pocket.
- It’s really, really comfortable, and the stability is spot on no matter how you load it up.
- Runs incredibly compact and tight if you want it to. Nothing sags or hangs or gets in the way while scrambling.
- Lots of expansion points and ways to increase load carriage.
- It could use a small, zippered quick access pocket.
- The design of the Connor is unique enough where there might be a learning curve in how you wear and pack it.
- The 90 degree binding of the internal mesh pocket sometimes, but not often, snags on the corner of the zipper.
- No dedicated hydration sleeve or port. You may or may not care about this – I did not.
Back when I was looking for a Connor around The Perfect Pack and Hill People Gear Owners Group, I received a DM from Kevin McDowell and he told me (I’m paraphrasing), “Shhh wait for the V2. Also, there’s gonna be a V2.” So, I did, and here we are.
The Connor V2, on paper and in use, is noticeably improved over the V1, especially if you were rocking it as a backpack. This is my first Connor, but it’s not my first HPG pack. Despite that, I was still pleasantly surprised at just how great the harness system works here. This might even be the most comfortable pack I’ve ever used, and that’s saying something. If you’ve owned a Connor before, you owe it to yourself to try it again. If you’ve never owned one, I can’t do anything but recommend it for trail and backcountry use. It could even work for urban and EDC use, but your mileage may vary depending on your definition of those terms.
The Hill People Gear Connor V2 is available directly from HPG in a variety of colors starting at $265.
Editor’s Note: The HPG Connor V2 was provided by HPG for the purpose of this review. The contents of this review was not shared with HPG before publishing. Our reviews are unbiased and never modified to keep a brand happy.