The guys at Hill People Gear are not your average gear designers, and the company is not your average gear maker either. For a start, they don’t describe themselves as a tactical gear company…
“At Hill People Gear, our focus is timeless designs that solve unsolved problems using the best advantages of modern materials. We think in terms of what will work for someone living close to the land day in and day out over a period of time. Some of our products will appeal to hunters, some of them will appeal to soldiers, and some of them will appeal to folks who are looking for simple, functional, and reliable gear.”
Bearing that introduction in mind, the latest offering from HPG really blurs the line between “tactical” load carriage and load carriage for the hunter or outdoorsman. The historical “Prairie Belt” was the original piece of ‘cross-over’ gear – being a heavy-duty leather and canvas cartridge belt issued to the US Cavalry in the latter part of the 1800′s. The belt was primarily designed to carry rounds for the .45/70 calibre Sharps rifle, but also provided support for a trooper’s revolver and knife and sometimes included a cross-strap to help support the load (as seen below).
The “Prairie Belt” remained the template upon which the individual soldier’s basic combat load carriage was based for many many years in the US military forces – reaching its zenith with the cartridge belt based load carrying systems for the M1 Garand and the Browning Automatic Rifle used throughout WWII and Korea. In fact, it wasn’t until the introduction of the M56 pattern web gear that the set-up was fundamentally altered.
But now Hill People Gear have looked back at these historical forefathers of modern load-carrying equipment and re-imagined them for the 21st Century. HPG’s new modern “Prairie Belt” is a modular system employing PALS webbing for a fully flexible load carrying set-up. The system is based around a belt that can be used as a a stand-alone “battle belt”, as a detachable rucksack waist/hip belt, or as a belt-and-suspenders load carrying system. The text and photos below from Hill People Gear provide further detail:
- lumbar area permanently contains 1/4″ closed cell foam and a thin sheet of plastic at the back for structure
- inner lumbar has domestic equivalent hypalon so it seats well in stand alone mode
- waist pad areas are accessible via velcro closure compartments so you can remove the pads or put in pads of different densities or thicknesses
- includes 1/4″ closed cell inserts and dual density inserts consisting of 1/4″ closed cell on the outside and 1/2″ of a foam something like a closed cell version of memory foam
- cordage in lumbar area works well for strapping a jacket under but disappears when the Prairie Belt is used with a pack.
- the little hypalon loops hanging below the PALS are for putting in a climbing rack using the cord inside of poly tubing method of climbing harnesses.
- the hypalon keepers at front and back of the belt as well as between the PALS rows are for threading in 1″ tubular climbing webbing that can be used for a basic safety harness. there may be a climbing kit in the future with full sit harness, but for now anyone who wants to use the belt in this way already sees how it can be properly rigged or they don’t have any business messing with it.
The example you see here is a final production-ready prototype. Regarding pricing and availability, Hill People Gear had this say:
Pricing isn’t available yet. The Praire Belt will be available on its own before the Ute pack is available. The Ute pack will include the Prairie Belt at a discounted price. If you already have a belt you want to use with the Ute, or already have a Prairie Belt, there will be an option to buy the Ute without a belt for less.
Keep an eye out for more info.