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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 and  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.

 

Limited Run HPG Kit Bag in Blaze Orange

Hill People Gear has a limited run of their Original Kit Bag V2 in Blaze Orange with Ranger Green accents. This colorway would be perfect for hunters, search and rescue personnel, or anyone trying to stay visible in the woods.

Original Kit Bag V2 at Hill People Gear

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

Sagewood Gear Launches New Site

Sagewood Gear has launched a new website. The new site includes an improved look, improved navigation, and several new sheaths for you to browse.

SagewoodGear.com

TOPS Knives Grandpa’s Ax – Now Available

Apparently cutting tool design runs in the Espinoza family’s blood. TOPS Knives newest tool, Grandpa’s Ax, was designed by Lorenzo Espinoza, father of TOPS Knives President and Chief Designer, Leo Espinoza.

In 2016, a challenge was issued to the employees of TOPS Knives. Whoever can design the best hatchet, tomahawk, or ax will get it approved as a design, be credited as the designer, and TOPS will produce it. This hatchet was the winner of that contest. The winner? Lorenzo Espinoza Sr. Lorenzo is Leo’s father. Leo is the President of TOPS Knives, the main designer, and the guy who approves all outside designs. You know what they say: like father, like son.

Grandpa’s Ax is an excellent mix of size, weight, and chopping capability for a small hatchet. Weighing just under 1.5lbs, this is a tool that can be easily carried long distances, making it excellent for backpackers and minimalist campers. The weight is in the head of the hatchet and its shape leaves it balanced to chop very well for its size.

Specs:

Overall Length: 11.0”

Blade Length: 4.0”

Cutting Edge: 4.0”

Blade Thickness: 0.25”

Blade Steel: 1095 RC 56-58

Blade Finish: Tumble Finish

Handle Material: Green Canvas Micarta

Knife Weight: 22.7oz

Weight w/ Sheath: 27.1oz

Sheath Material: Brown Leather

Sheath Clip: Belt loop

Designer: Lorenzo Espinoza Sr.

Check out Grandpa’s Ax at TOPS Knives.

Review: TacPack July 2017

The July 2017 TacPack has arrived at JTT HQ. I’m just going to say this up front. This is the best one yet. It is full from top to bottom and front to back with stuff I will use. Let’s look inside.

Hopefully you are familiar with the concept of TacPack by now. If not, you can read the reviews of the previous TacPacks for some background on this subscription box.

BreakThrough Clean Kit – I don’t really spend a lot of time cleaning guns but everyone has to grudgingly clean once in a while (I’ll never understand you weirdos who like cleaning guns). If you have a gun, you can use this. It comes with solvent, oil, 2 packets of grease, a doubled ended nylon AP brush, and a microfiber towel (which will change your life if you haven’t used one before). I’ve generally been happy with BreakThrough clean products and I especially like that they are pretty much odorless. This is a useful addition.

EZ Accuracy Gas Block Dimple Tool – Most AR-15 manufacturers offer low profile gas blocks as an option but the majority of them still don’t dimple the barrel as a reference for gas block alignment. This product solves that problem. You back out one screw in your gas block and replace it with the special hollow screw provided in this kit which allows you to center punch the spot to be dimpled with the included punch. The hollow screw then acts as a guide for a 1/8″ drill bit so you can quickly and easily dimple your barrel to ensure that the gas block goes back on in the exact same place should you ever need to remove it. You won’t use this every day but you’ll be glad you have it.

Fusion Climbing Runner/Sling and Locking Carabiner – The hits keep coming with this box! I don’t climb but everyone knows you can use a carabiner in about a million ways. I use them all the time in rigging for all the wood cutting I do. The included steel screw gate carabiner will be put to use right away. If you don’t climb, you may be less familiar with runners (or some people call them slings). They are basically really strong loops used for all kinds of things in climbing. I use them to girth hitch things like snatch blocks/pulleys to trees for redirecting pulls with the come-along winch I use when wood cutting. You can find all kinds of uses for items like these from tying into your tree stand to hanging a bear bag on your next overnighter.

5.11 Tactical Wharn Knife – The 5.11 Tactical value knives are actually solid little knives for the price. Knife nerds won’t get off on the AUS 8 blade steel but knife users know it as a fine grained steel that takes a refined edge easily. The ergonomics on this Mike Vellkamp design will take you by surprise. The blade moves VERY smoothly and it locks up well. This is probably the best knife to find its way into a TacPack yet.

MOAB Patch – And you thought MOAB stood for Mother of All Bombs… Nah. It’s Mother of All Bottlerockets!

I rate these boxes on the basis of whether or not I will actually use the included items. With that in mind, this is easily the best box to date. Everyone reading this right now needs gun cleaning items. Even if you don’t know it yet, carabiners and runners/slings are really handy. You can easily find room in a kit for a knife like this and I never would have known about the EZ Accuracy GBDT if it weren’t for TacPack. It is boxes like these that keep me talking about TacPack.

If you want to try TacPack, you can check them out at TacPack.com. TacPack hints that the August box will contain some Mission First Tactical gear.


Disclosure: I receive this subscription box from TacPack, free of charge, for review.

20% OFF Wilderness and Hostage Escape Cards at Re Factor Tactical

RE Factor Tactical is offering 20% off their Wilderness and Hostage Escape Cards for a limited time. I’ve given several of these as gifts and they are always a hit.

Survival Cards at REFactorTactical.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

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