A quick intro to the High Ground Gear HG-831.
High Ground Gear are an American Company, based in Philadelphia, and they have a simple, but a very effective philosophy – reduce the amounts of steps required to achieve a task – that is, maximum efficiency for minimum effort. You have to love that as a concept.
Constant System Improvement
Those who have already read up my reviews on the Mystery Ranch Mountain Ruck and Crew Cab will know I have a thing for heavy duty modular pack systems. Certainly, the Crew Cab is awesome in that I can use it as a load hauler, then drop off the load cells and fold it up into a daypack. However, if I want to continue to carry the SLR Camera system, I need to also carry the Nice Frame – as the Hazard 4 SLR Pouches are mounted onto the hip belt. I wanted another layer of modularity. Enter the High Ground Gear HG-831.
I think I originally stumbled upon the HG-831 through Soldier Systems and their feature on the HG-830 System. The HG-831 is a combination of the HG-830 Modular Pack and the HG3D 3 Day Pack. I was originally looking at just the 830, but the addition of the 3 Day Pack saved me building something similar out of 3rd party packs anyhow.
Check out the links above to get a quick idea of what the basic kit comprises of – all the photo’s below include additional pouches I have added – I figure showing it off in context is going to make a bit more sense of my use.
The HG-831 synched in tight. It can go smaller, as in photo there is still a pile of gear underneath the pack (like a tripod).
Usage – Hunting and Photography
First off – I am not military, never have been and likely now never will be. So my use is going to be a little different to what they original designers may have intended. From reading on the website, it sounds like High Ground works a lot with JTAC – those guys who get to carry around a massive amount of firepower in the ability to communicate with air and artillery assets, i.e. Radio Operators. As a result – common to most of HGG’s packs are aerial slots and cable routing systems. Not something I am likely to use, however, the modularity that is required from mission to mission is something I do intend to utilise a lot.
The pack has two main uses for me – Shooting (rifle) and Photography. Both usages assuming I am going to be out in the bush for 1 to 3 days as well – so apart from the camera gear / rifle I am going to need to carry sustainment gear – shelter, sleep systems and food.
The HG-831 Stretched Out. You could also another additional pouch onto the PALS webbing on the outside. At that point, though, I would probably be going for a heavier pack system again.
The 3 Day Pack
There is a hell of a lot going on with the High Ground Gear HG-831, so I will start from the top and work my way down. First – the pack itself. The main section has a zip top and bottom – so you can get in through the top, but still access the bottom of the load if you want to without having to empty out everything else.
The main section has dual aerial ports at the top, again, not something I am likely to use – but for the intended military market – indispensable. HGG call the pack 2500 cubic inches. I live in a metric land – so that equates to just over 40 litres. Though, as always, the only way you can tell how much you are going to get into it is to load it up. In my case – I am easily able to get a couple of days worth of gear into it. That’s before I even think about the external pockets. Of which it has plenty.
The top pocket has enough space to carry all those things you like to access regularly during the day. All the zips are high quality and feature a material flap to help keep to water out. This pocket is – just – big enough to fit an iPad without a cover into. It’s a squeeze – but that gives you an idea of size.
The second external pocket is mounted onto a compression panel that also provides a great place to keep the rain jacket nice and handy. On top of the panel is a pile of PALS webbing – just incase you need to put some more storage on there.
The compression panel will open up quite a bit – not enough to stash a helmet into though. On each side of the pack are mesh sleeves – ideal for water bottles, gloves and other quick access items. With a bit of contortion, you can get to them while wearing the pack – but it’s a bit of a stretch and I wouldn’t want to try it while wearing heavy clothing or say, body armour.
Finally, the bottom of the pack contains a small pouch that holds a rain cover – double sided – one side to match the pack the other in blaze orange. As I plan on using this pack hunting, being able to quickly pull out a large panel of blaze is appealing to me. You don’t always want to remain unseen in the bush! Also, even though the pack is water resistant, and anything important will always be packed in a dry-bag – keeping the rest of the pack as dry as possible means you don’t end up carrying about dead weight in the form of water.
The whole of the High Ground Gear HG-831 has a ring of webbing around it – making lashing additional external items easy – think walking/tent poles, sleep systems of even a meat bag. The bottom of the pack has strapping to lock in a sleeping pad if you wish, though I think I will be keeping everything in the pack itself – a shooting mat maybe? The are plenty of compression straps to lock the pack down tight onto the frame. Each strap has a neat little velcro loop on it that makes shortening and tidying up excess strap easy.
A piggybacking pack – the frame
The pack itself has no frame – it is designed to clip onto what is essentially the 830 Frame.
The frame is what I guess you could call and ‘external frame’ – that is, the suspension and strap system is separate from the pack itself – much like the Mystery Ranch NICE frame. The straps and frame on the whole aren’t as heavily built as the NICE – but then, it’s also not designed to carry as much. What is unique about HGG’s offering though – is that once the daypack is removed – you essentially have a blank slate in the form of rows of PALS webbing, that you can then attach your selection of MOLLE gear to. Depending on what you are using the pack for, this could be a rifle scabbard, tripod, breacher tools – HGG even do pouches to hold the Carl Gustav Rounds. In my case – this is currently set up with an Eberlestock Saddle Bag and two of HGG’s breacher tool holders – which also work as excellent tripod holders.
On the inside of the frame is a pouch for a three-litre hydration bottle and the shoulder straps feature zipped channels that are ideal for routing hydration tubes and in the case of radio operators, cabling down. Its a simple and neat system that works well.
The frame itself has a slight curve to it – designed so the pack fits over a military users body armour. Also, foam padding on each side locks the pack over armour and into the pack – Additionally, they serve to lift the pack away from the back – providing a bit of airflow.
I am experimenting with using the pack both with and without the padding – I am not wearing body armour while tramping, so may not need them. I will report back later with my eventual preference.
A sturdy handle sits on top of the frame – which also nicely tucks out of the way when not in use.
The waist belt features a ‘pull forward to tighten’ system – much easier to use than the traditional system, and the additional clips on the outside of those? Well – those are another of the pack’s unique aspects. Unclip both of those, pull the backpack from the rear, and the whole backpack comes off – leaving you with just the waistbelt on you – a battle belt, essentially.
More tricks up its sleeves
The High Ground Gear HG-831 backpack has two long stiff sections that slide up into sleeves on the belt – effectively transferring the weight of the pack to the belt itself. The beauty of this system is the fact that you can remove it very quickly, and still have any pouches that you have attached to the waist belt on your hip. In my case – this is my camera gear. I now have just the essentials with me – and I can leave the pack at camp. I want to take a tripod and some extra gear with me? Easy – pop off the pack and I have my second layer of organisation ready to go.
High Ground Gear also offer a separate assault strap for the High Ground Gear HG-831 – this is essentially another row of PALS webbing that can be clipped to the belt – giving your more mounting points on in the small of your back. I currently have their horizontal compression pouch on there – but options are limitless.
As I mentioned earlier – I intend on using this pack for two main ‘systems’ – a backcountry camera (SLR) system and a rifle system. This pack gives me the ability to walk some distance in, set up camp, drop my first layer (sustainment), head out the next day (daypack), then drop the pack when I am in locale or dropping down to take a shot. At all times, I can keep my essentials on me. It’s fantastic.
It is important when looking at a system like this, that you have some form of plan in mind. This isn’t the sort of pack you just pick up and use. You are going to need to think about it’s implementation, which to be fair, you should be doing when it comes to your equipment anyhow.
At this time, this is the only system I know like this. High Ground Gear have come up with a unique and awesome system that I am going to have lots of fun developing system off. I plan on a couple of follow up articles as a further refine mine.