Hill People Gear Umlindi V2: Review

The Umlindi backpack is a favourite from Hill People Gear’s lineup. Adam gets into the fine detail.

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Hill People Gear (HPG) is known for rugged, no-nonsense packs for backcountry users. Their designs are often stripped down and deliberately spartan to ensure they are tough and reliable in the harshest of conditions. They have a wide range of packs form light day packs to heavy haulers, but the one that seems to be the favorite for many users and their staff is the Umlindi.

A highly versatile design that will serve as a capable daypack or for lightweight overnights, the Umlindi was redesigned in 2020, with adjustments to increase comfort and improve access across the pack.

Tech Specs

ImperialMetric
Height19″48.3cm
Width11″27.9cm
Depth6.5″16.5
Capacity2000 cu.in.30l
Weight4.0lbs1.8kg
Specifications taken from http://www.hillpeoplegear.com

Quality & Comfort

The Umlindi is not a standard daypack, in fact, it was designed as a sort of over-sized lumbar pack. As such, it is designed to be carried a bit differently than most might be used to. While it will function stand-alone on the shoulders, it is really best used with one of HPG’s excellent pack belts. HPG supplied this unit with their Prairie Belt.

Hill People Gear Umlindi V2 backpack review shoulder straps prairie belt back panel view ranger green

The Prairie Belt is potentially over-padded for this application, but the design allows removal of part of the foam padding. I ran the belt with the lighter, thinner padding only and it seemed a good match to the 22 lb training load I used in the Umlindi.

To achieve optimal comfort with the Umlindi, the user should cinch down the waist belt first, then pull the delta straps down tight. Once these steps are complete, the pack should be supported fully on the belt and relatively stable. Finally, the user will drape the shoulder harness over their shoulders and tighten them only enough to add needed stability, but not enough to take any of the weight off the hips.

Hill People Gear Umlindi V2 review back panel lumbar pad padded prairie belt ranger green

Once adjusted properly, I began to see why the Umlindi is a favorite. It carries very well and allows a lot of freedom of movement in the arms. It even allows for some ventilation around the back panel. I really was rather impressed to see how well a small pack like this could do sitting on a proper load-bearing belt.

HPG is manufactured in the United States by First Spear, a company known for high end construction and consistently turning out top-tier products. Overall, this sample lived up to that reputation with a couple minor gripes. Inside the front sleeve pocket there is a seam that was left unbound and the Cordura has begun to fray a bit. This is an easy fix with a lighter and should not be a long term issue, but I was surprised to see such an issue on this pack.

The second issue I noted was that the main zipper would drag going around the corners of the top flap. There is no doubt a lot of material contained under that double-stitched binding tape, but it is bulky and impedes the smooth passage of the zipper pull upon use. It functioned better when the pack was more fully loaded, but softening the radius of the top flap might be a worthwhile design change.

Organization & Access

As noted above, HPG deliberately aim to avoid potentially frail features seen on many other packs. As such, the Umlindi is a simple pack when it comes to organization.

The face of the pack has a single full height zipper pocket. This is accessible from the interior of the pack also (see photo below). There are also points on the corners of the bag to affix many of HPGs accessory pockets if more organization is needed.

The sides of the bag feature some of the burliest bottle pockets on the market. These will easily swallow a 1 litre bottle plus a cup and have no problem corralling a 1.5 litre bottle. They cinch up tight and are great for equipment as well. The sides also have the anchor points for a pair of compression straps that encircle the bag.

There is a flat zippered pocket atop the pack and an opening for a hydration hose. There are more anchor points for the included but not pictured top compression straps and a simple carry handle.

The bottom of the pack sports two more removable compression straps and on the front corner a point to attach tools such as an ice axe.

Looking down into the pack the user will note that the underside of the lid is lined in a loop material that will accept hook backed pouches. There is also a velcro strip that allows the user to access the exterior front pocket form inside the pack. The frame sheet and stays are visible here, as are the three hanging loops at the top of the pack used for suspending water bladders or panel organizers.

What’s Perfect

  • Carry Comfort is high. As noted above, it’s a bit different than many will be used to, but this pack really does a good job transferring the weight to the hips.
  • Simplicity is a good feature in this case. As a pack intended primarily for backcountry travel, having a single large bucket with fewer failure points means a more reliable pack.
  • While the Umlindi is a simple pack, it can host quite a large variety of accessories from HPG or other companies. Their larger pockets in particular can add a lot of capability to the Umlindi. But even with the set of compression straps included with the bag, a user can achieve a wide array of configurations allowing for just the right set up for a trek.
  • With the minor exception noted above, the build quality is very high on the Umlindi. Top notch materials and bullet-proof construction means there should be no real issues with this pack under normal or sever use.
  • The belt goes on and off really easily. This is great for travel where a belt is a major snag point in security and overhead bins.

What’s Not

  • The minor QC issue I noted above was annoying on a pack in the $300 range.
  • The zipper snag is really annoying. A no.10 zipper is usually great for smooth use, but it is spoiled here by that chunky internal corner.
  • HPG packs can be a bit “strappy.” That is, a user may feel overwhelmed when opening the box and seeing all the compression straps and webbing keepers and elastic loops on the harness. All one has to do is start stripping things back to suit their needs (or not, a user may need them all), but it’s a lot going on at first.
  • Delta straps are prone to coming unhooked when they are not under load. The ITW g-hooks used on the bet side are notorious for this, and I’m not sure there is a better option for US-made hardware, but this can get rather obnoxious when donning the pack.

Wrap Up

Overall, I was really impressed with the Umlindi. It could become my go-to day pack and will see likely use for day-hunts later in the fall. Its bomber construction and the ability to scale it up and down really make it a versatile solution. I have no issue with quality imported packs, but it’s fantastic to see a really well done US-based and produced company going strong. I trust the QC issues I noted were isolated incidents and will not be present for other users.

If you’re looking for a no-frills, tough-as-nails backcountry day pack, the Umlindi is worth your consideration- I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Disclaimer: The Umlindi was provided by Hill People Gear for use in this review. The content of the review was not shared with Hill People Gear prior to publication. Our reviews are impartial and never altered to keep a brand happy.

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