5 minute project: Hill People Gear to Becker Patrol Pack Mk. II suspension swap

I recently did an article on my initial impressions of the Bongo Gear Becker Mk. II. I like the pack a lot, and as it comes from Bongo Gear it’s a really good pack. I’ve also got a couple Hill People Gear packs, and they have the best suspension I’ve ever used on any pack, both in terms of quality materials and construction but also the way the design is meant to ergonomically work with our bodies. For those unfamiliar with Hill People Gear’s equipment it’s very modular, which can be confusing at first, but once you take the time to learn about it there’s a lot of good things going on with their gear. So naturally I wanted to see if I could put my HPG suspension on my Becker Patrol Pack.

Now I want to preface this with the fact that this is absolutely unnecessary, like I said in the review of the BPP the suspension is adequate and quite comfortable as is. If I didn’t already own a full set of HPG suspension I wouldn’t run out and buy it just to put onto this pack, that would nearly double the cost, but since I have it why not make this pack into a Cadillac?

The factory Bongo Gear suspension, functional and comfortable.

I started with a HPG shoulder harness. This is attached via two load lifter straps at the top and the two shoulder straps at the bottom.

Detail of how the shoulder straps connect to the load lifter buckles
The HPG shoulder harness as ordered. The four straps came with and are for attaching the upper and lower portion of the harness to the pack. The straps have a metal triglide sewn on one end, which is an important feature to note.
To attach the upper part of the harness the metal triglide is used as a toggle in the plastic triglides on the harness.
Remove the factory load lifter straps and feed the HPG straps back through.

Next it was time to attach the bottom two straps to the shoulder harness. Since the factory straps are sewn in I’m going to reuse those. I could just take the 1” QD buckles off the factory strap and run it through the cinch buckle on the HPG harness, but I want to retain the QD function. I went to my stash of buckles and webbing and found a QD buckle with a loop on one end and a ladder lock on the other.

I decided to use my other two HPG straps to create a loop to attach the QD buckles. I cut the sewn tab off one end so I could route this strap easier.
I ran the cut end of the strap down through the cinch buckle so that the metal triglide was caught like a toggle. Then I ran the strap through my QD buckle and back up through the cinch buckle.
Next I routed the webbing through the metal triglide just like you would for any other triglide.
I made sure the loop I created was long enough so the QD buckle wasn’t tight against the cinch buckle. Then I cut the webbing long enough to tuck back through the cinch buckle.
At this point it was a simple matter to swap the other half of the QD buckle onto the factory shoulder strap.

Once I had the shoulder harness on I decided I wanted to see if my HPG Prairie Belt would fit. In my opinion this is the most comfortable hip belt when sized properly, so having this belt on this pack would be a great combination. The factory hip belt is captured in place by two Velcro flaps, so I removed it and laid my HPG belt in. The HPG belt is about 3/4” wider, so the flaps don’t close as far as they do on the factory belt, but most importantly they do close enough to hold it and the Velcro lumbar pad in place.

At this point we’ve added a very comfortable shoulder harness and hip belt and it is fitting really good, but there’s still one more piece I want to try. HPG uses what they call “delta straps” on their larger packs to pull the pack deeper into your lumbar region. This helps get the pack load closer to your center of gravity and it stabilizes the load more. A person could almost overlook these little straps, but they make the pack so much more comfortable that I wanted to find a way to include them.

The delta straps attach to premade loops on HPG packs, but since I’m not using a HPG pack I’ll have to find a different way. Here we can see the attachment loop for the compression strap for the outside pocket on the BPP. It’s in a great position to attach the delta strap buckle except I can’t fit it on the loop in it’s current form. Notice there are two bars on the back of the buckle, one is solid and one is split. On a HPG pack the premade loop slides through and over the split bar. I’d like to do the same here but with the compression strap hardware already there I can’t.
Five minutes later with a dremel and I’ve removed the solid bar, leaving the split one in place.
Now it’s a simple matter to rock the buckle into place on the loop and feed the delta strap through. Notice the orientation of the buckle with the molded lines to the outside.
Here’s a detail of how the delta strap attaches from the pack to the hip belt.
This is me wearing the pack with the hip belt and delta strap tightened.

I’ve now integrated a very good suspension system onto a very good pack and frankly I feel I may have the best of both worlds. Both Bongo Gear and Hill People Gear make great gear, and you wouldn’t be hurting using a full system from either company, but sometimes it’s fun and interesting to see what you can come up with.

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