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Hill People Gear Kit Bag or GunfightersINC Kenai Chest Holster – Get Both!

Our review of the GunfightersINC Kenai Chest Holster is one of the most visited reviews ever posted on this site and we get a number of emails asking questions about it. One of the most common questions I receive regarding the Kenai is how it compares to the Hill People Gear Kit Bag. Well, I happen to be a long time user of both and that sounds like an idea for a post to me!

Links:

Kenai Chest Holster

Hill People Gear Kit Bag

The Same but Different

At the most basic level, the Kenai and Kit Bag are similar. They are both designed to carry a handgun in the most advantageous position for many outdoor pursuits – on the chest. However, the functionality and materials used are drastically different. This leads to different strengths and weaknesses for both, enough that I have purchased and use both depending on the situation.

Both are better than tucking your handgun into your backpack or not carrying it at all!

Background with the Kit Bag

My background with the Hill People Gear Original Kit Bag is fairly long. I’ve owned one since the first or second run. This was before they added a dummy cord loop and Velcro in the handgun compartment. I simply wanted a way to carry a handgun that was comfortable and concealed while backpacking. The Kit Bag worked well for that but I never really completely filled all the carrying capacity offered by the Original Kit Bag. I eventually sold it and replaced it with a Runners Kit Bag.

The Runners Kit Bag is ideal for me. It has the same footprint as the Original Kit Bag but is slimmer overall since the “middle” cargo pocket has been removed. It is large enough to keep my full sized handgun concealed but significantly slimmer while still offering more than enough carrying capacity to carry some basics.

Background with Kenai Chest Holster

I’ve been using a Kenai Chest Holster since late 2015. I find it to be the best interpretation of a “guide holster” available. GunfightersINC used their experience in the outdoors and some modern materials to bring the guide holster concept into the current century. It is slimmer than any traditional leather guide holster could ever hope to be, offers better retention without the need for a strap, creates a better draw stroke, and its modular.

I’ve worn this holster extensively and I find it to be extremely comfortable and extremely easy to draw from. They even designed the harness so none of the adjusters had to be positioned on the back where it could catch on wader shoulder straps or cause hotspots under a backpack. This is the level of thoughtfulness that went into this holster.

Get Both!

For a long time, the Original Kit Bag was the only way I had to carry a handgun on my chest and it worked. When I added the Kenai Chest Holster to my gear bin, I wondered if it would replace my Kit Bag but it hasn’t. It has only highlighted the strengths of both carry methods.

I can’t replace the Kit Bag because it offers three important benefits over the Kenai:

  • It can conceal a handgun without the use of a covering garment.
  • It can carry a huge variety of handguns from small to large.
  • It can carry additional items in a location that is easy to access.

The Kenai is surprisingly concealable under a cover garment but I live in an area that sees triple digit heat in the summer. I can’t always use a covering garment. I’ve used my one Kit Bag to carry everything from a Glock 43 or J-Frame, to a Ruger 22/45 Lite with RDS, to a large frame revolver. Additionally, the Kit Bag is great for carrying items like nav tools (compass, GPS, UTM grid, etc.), basic survival goodies (lighter, some bits of tinder, etc.), and other items you may want close at hand. It may not seem like a big deal but the efficiency of reaching to your chest for gear like chapstick or a GPS unit versus having to stop and remove your pack is not trivial when you are trying to cover ground.

I can’t replace the Kenai Chest Holster because it offers three important benefits over the Kit Bag:

  • It is more compact.
  • It offers a faster, more streamlined draw stroke.
  • It is more concealable.

The Kenai Chest Holster is smaller and slimmer than the Kit Bag that makes it a little easier to dress/pack around. That also means it is cooler to wear and that can be big deal when it is 95+ with less than 15% humidity. The Kenai’s draw stroke is very fast and straightforward. There is nothing between your hand and a full firing grip on your handgun with Kenai. The Kit Bag is fast but the Kenai is faster – how much faster will depend on your specific gear and some training. Finally, if I absolutely need to conceal the fact that I am carrying and the weather permits, the Kenai conceals under a coat easily.

I live in a very rural area that is a destination for outdoor recreation. That means that we have a healthy mix of the NRA crowd and Sierra Club crowd. Our property is on the outskirts of National Forest land that contains Grizzly habitat. My choice for which carry “system” to use often comes down to balancing those factors.

If I am headed to a popular trail, I know I am more likely to encounter the Sierra Club side of the house and prefer to remain discreet in how I carry. I usually reach for the Kit Bag in that case. If I am working or hiking on our own property, I don’t have to worry about concealment and I almost always use the Kenai. If I am going on a very long day hike (or overnighter), I am more likely to reach for the Kit Bag because of the convenience of carrying important items in the outer pocket. If I am going into an area where the grapevine says there was recent bear activity, I am inclined to take the Kenai.

Wrap Up

There are always factors to balance when deciding which gear works for you. If you are knee deep in big coastal brown bears while fishing for salmon you might choose differently than you would if you were knee deep in college kids while hiking the Appalachian Trail. For me, both the Kenai Chest Holster and Hill People Gear Kit Bags have been invaluable and I am glad I have both in my gear box.

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Mountain Ridge Gear Duffel Bags Are Back

Mountain Ridge Gear has been making overbuilt duffel bags in a number of sizes for a long time. In fact, we mentioned them here on Jerking the Trigger way back in 2010! They never stopped making them but they were only available under another well known pack maker’s brand name for a last few years. Now the bags are back under the Mountain Ridge Gear name and they are a still a bargain.

The bags are built from 1000D Cordura with #10 YKK zippers andĀ  available in 4 sizes: Extra Small, Small, Medium, and Large.

 

  • XS: 9″ x 4″ x 4″
  • SM: 13″ x 6.5″ x 6″
  • MD: 18″ x 8″ 8″
  • LG: 23″ x 11″ x 11″

Check out Mountain Ridge Gear’s Duffels at MountainRidgeGear.com.

 

Sagewood Gear Mini Spool Card

You may remember the Sagewood Gear Spool Card that we posted recently. That larger model has now been replaced with the new Mini Spool Card. The Mini Spool Card is about the size of a credit card but still holds 30 feet of #36 bank line with which it comes pre-wrapped. The Mini Spool Card has a lanyard loop and cord retainer slot at each end.

Mini Spool Card at Sagewood Gear

Rugged Maps

If you need a lightweight map that resists tearing, the elements, and can stand up to constant folding and unfolding – take a look at Rugged Maps. Their 34″ x 44″ maps are printed on a durable fabric. Rugged Maps goes so far as to call the fabric indestructible. They offer a variety of maps including USGS 7.5 Minute Topos, Game Management Units, nautical maps, and more. They can even work with you to create a custom map.

RuggedMaps.com

Sawyer Squeeze and Mini Water Filters

When it comes to outdoor equipment (or really anything) the best is rarely cheap. That is exactly what makes the Sawyer Squeeze and Mini Water Filters standout. They are the best trail filters that I have used and they are also the cheapest. That is a tough combination to beat.

Sawyer Squeeze PointOne

I’ve owned a Sawyer Squeeze since before 2013 when they updated the model to include some new fittings and redesigned bags (much needed, the original bags don’t hold up well). That little filter has produced a lot of clean drinking water in that time and it has earned a permanent place in my hiking pack. I have had the Sawyer Mini for much less time but it is equally easy to use, has more versatile connections, is smaller, weighs less, and costs even less (I’ll compare the two later in this article).

Sawyer Mini

Rather than go on and on about these filters, I’ll lay out what I like about both of them. Then, I’ll address them each individually.

What I like about both filters:

  • Compact and lightweight – The Squeeze weighs in at 3 ounces and the Mini at 2 ounces. Both are considerably smaller than any of my previous filters. They are small and light enough to live in my pack – even if I am just on a day hike and carrying all the water I will need.
  • Affordable – These cost between $20-30 for the basic packages. That is less than 1/4″ the cost of my previous ceramic trail filter. The entire filter with bag(s) cost less than just the replacement filters my old system.
  • Durable – These are made from plastic with no ceramic elements. They can take a beating.
  • Reliable Filtering – Both filters boast an absolute .1 micron rating. They get the nasties out.
  • Easy to Use – There is no pumping, no inlet hose to clean, no ceramic filters to clean, and no fuss. Squeeze dirty water through and drinkable water comes out. It’s easy.
  • Versatile – These work with the provided bags but they also thread right onto standard 20 ounce and 2 liter bottles. They can be set up as inline filters on your hydration bladder or as gravity filters on something like an MSR Dromedary Bag.

What I like about the Squeeze:

  • The Squeeze filter has more filter media than the Mini so it is slightly easier to drink from. If you plan to use the simplest set up, which would be to gather unfiltered water in bags/bottles and drink directly from them, the Squeeze works best but…

What I like about the Mini:

  • It is smaller and lighter than the Squeeze and can be used in all the same ways.
  • It has more versatile attachment points built in.
  • It costs less.

The next obvious question is which should you choose. I would (and did) probably just buy the Mini in most cases. It does everything the Squeeze does minus a little flow rate. It’s smaller, lighter, costs less, and a bit more versatile. However, the Squeeze is a bit easier to use in the most straightforward setup so it may be a better choice for cavemen.

Tips:

  • If you are using Sawyer’s water bags, roll them like a toothpaste tube instead of squeezing. They last longer that way.
  • Don’t let your filter freeze (true for all filters, not just these). It can wreck the filter media and there is really no practical way to test the Sawyer filters for damage. Bring it in your sleeping bag at night and tuck it inside your coat during the day to prevent freezing. If you think it froze, replace it.
  • 2 Liter bottles (or any bottles you can scavenge) are great for use with these filters. They are light weight and can be squeezed hard without breaking. Keep the cap so you can squeeze the air out and reseal to take up less space in your pack.
  • I know Sawyer has improved their bags but I have trust issues with them due to my original bags failures. Evernew makes great water bags that have compatible threads. I own several and greatly prefer them to the Sawyer bags. The threads on Platypus bags don’t quite match but some users say they can get them to work.
  • Filling water bags completely full unless you have some tricks up your sleeve. Blow them up with your mouth before submerging or place them under falling water to make filling easier. You can also make a lightweight scoop by cutting the top off of a bottle and capping it. The scoop makes it easy to get the last few ounces of water into the bag.
  • Even if you don’t hike and hate the outdoors, these are so compact and light that they are right at home in a car kit or “bug out bag”. I use a rubber band to wrap a water bag around the filter so it stays compact. You can add a short section of tubing so you can drink right from the source if necessary.
  • They are so small and light, you might even want to carry two – especially in cold weather.

If they were already convenient enough… You can stroll right into most Walmarts and buy them. They are available with a dizzying array of options and even multi-packs. I generally just buy the basic set up and I bought my Mini on Amazon for less than $20.

Sawyer PointOne Sqeeze Water Filter on Amazon

Sawyer Mini on Amazon

Sagewood Gear Spool Card with Bank Line

Bank line is a great cordage to carry for use in the outdoors. It packs smaller than paracord, ties well without slipping, and is very strong. Like any other type of cord, it turns into a tangled mess if you don’t take care of it. That is where the new Sagewood Gear Spool Card comes in.

The Spool Card is designed to hold 50 feet of bank line. It is made from .093″ kydex and features a simple retention notches at both ends of the card. The notches allow you to secure the end of the bank line to ensure it doesn’t come unraveled in your pack. When you need cord, you just spool out as much as you need, cut it, and then secure the end in the closest notch. The Spool Card comes pre-loaded with bank line.

Sagewood Gear Spool Card with Bank Line

Sneak Peek: Updated RMJ Tactical Shrike

When you picture an RMJ Tactical tomahawk in your mind, there is a good chance you picture the Shrike with its distinctive, drop forged construction. We reported months ago that the Shrike was going to see some changes and would be machined from billet rather than drop forged.

RMJ recently released a first look at the new machined Shrike (below). Everything that made the Shrike great is still intact. The thin tanto spike that easily fits inside the hasp of many padlocks is still there. The wicked sharpened beard is still in place. It also looks like RMJ used lightening cuts similar to other machined tomahawks in their line to preserve the Shrike’s balance.

RMJTactical.com

Review: GunfightersINC Kenai Chest Holster Gen 2

I’ve professed my appreciation of the Kenai Chest Holster from GunfightersINC on these pages before. It is a handy holster to have if you spend time in places with large, sharp toothed critters wearing gear like a backpack or hip waders that hinder traditional carry methods. It is, in my opinion, the most modern and best iteration of a classic guide holster… Then GunfightersINC went and changed it!

Lucky for us, they made it better.

Better Holsters Through Better Manufacturing

To understand the improvements in this holster, you have to understand a little bit about how kydex holsters are made. The kydex is heated until it becomes pliable, then it is pressed over a form of some kind and allowed to cool. The kydex (or similar material) then hardens as it cools, retaining the imprint of the form. That is the basic overview but the exact ways all those steps are accomplished has changed over the years.

On the original Kenai, the two holster halves where molded over the form with blocking in place for things like slide stop levers, extended barrels, or anything else that either needed to be accommodated or that would foul the draw stroke. The holster was molded in two halves, roughly equal in depth, and joined together to make an entire holster. At some point, the part of the holster that received the shoulder strap would be reheated (this sometimes shows as a shiny spot on the kydex) to be slightly reshaped to receive the strap. The holster body was finished by polishing edges, adjusting fit, etc. GunfightersINC turned out great holsters using these methods.

GunfightersINC is now improving their processes from top to bottom. They are now machining their own custom molds and using vacuum forming to create their holster bodies. All of the improvements to their holsters have been made possible by these changes and the design flexibility, control, and definition that they make possible.

Original on left, Gen 2 on right

Kenai Chest Holster Gen 2 Improvements

The first thing you will notice when you look at both holster bodies is that the Gen 2 version has much better definition – the lines are more crisp. That translates to a cleaner looking holster and, more importantly, it also translates to improved retention, a smoother draw stroke, and a more distinct click-in/click-out. This kind of definition is really only possible with modern vacuum forming.

When you dive a little deeper, you see improved blocking and molding. My Gen 2 holster body is molded for a Glock 17 so you see things like a channel that allows the slide stop to run all the way out of the holster without touching anything, the slide lock area is no longer molded creating a potential unwanted drag on the draw stroke, the magazine release is partially shielded to prevent accidental release, and theĀ  retention pad in the trigger guard is large and made to a consistent depth.

If you dive deeper still, you’ll notice GunfightersINC taking full advantage of their new manufacturing processes to really get the most out of the Kenai Chest Holster. The accommodation of the shoulder strap is actually molded into the back plate of the holster. This saves a manufacturing step and creates a stronger, cleaner holster overall. Finally, the two halves of the Kenai area actually molded to different depths with the majority of the pistol being molded into the front panel of the holster. This allows the Kenai to lay flatter, closer, and more comfortably against the wearer.

Original on left, Gen 2 on right

Wrap Up

GunfightersINC didn’t just redesign a holster, they redesigned how they make the holster. The result is more control over the end product, easier accommodation of various options, and, most importantly, better holsters for the customer. You can expect to see these manufacturing improvements touching all the holster in the GunfightersINC line up.

See our review of the original Kenai Chest Holster for more information on its background and use. Check out GunfightersINC to learn more about the Kenai Chest Holster or purchase your own.

TIHK HK2 – The Tiny Inconspicuous Handcuff Key Receives an Upgrade

TIHK, originators of the Tiny Inconspicuous Handcuff Key, just released the details of an upgrade to their namesake product. The new TIHK HK2 retains the small size, non-ferrous construction, and integral clip that made the original TIHK so great.

However, the HK2 also boasts two major improvements over the original. Teeth have been added under the clip to ensure that it is stays in place. The integrated clip and it’s ability to hide the TIHK in places that make sense (like behind your back on a belt loop) is part of what made the original TIHK great so improving this feature makes good sense.

The second improvement comes in the form of some changes to the key portion of the TIHK that allow it to work more easily with a wider variety of cuffs. TIHK specifically references the HK2 working better with Peerless style cuffs. My original TIHKs can be made to work with the ASP cuffs but it was difficult. It will be interesting to see if the new HK2 version offers an improvement in function with ASP cuffs.

Check out the TIHK HK2 at TIHK.co

What Is Really Happening to All the Ammo Cans?

It wasn’t that long ago that you could walk into any surplus store or decent gun show and buy stacks of real surplus ammo cans. In fact, resellers where often competing to have the lowest price at the gun show and offering bulk discounts.

Prices on ammo cans have climbed steadily over the years and the explanations for why this is happening varies depending on who you ask. I’ve heard theories as tame as they are being crushed and as conspiratorial as the Obama administration doesn’t want people to be able to easily store ammo long term (which is ridiculous on a number of levels).

Recently, Old Grouch’s Military Surplus weighed in with some actual facts on why there are fewer real ammo cans available and how poor quality, overseas made cans are flooding the market. You can read more in their newsletter. If you are in the market for ammo cans, I suggest you take some caution to ensure you receive actual surplus cans.

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