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HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsHPGHPGFirst Day With the UteFirst Day With the Ute
New Post
2/2/2013 12:42 PM

Okay.  I received my Ute order yesterday with the v1 shoulder harness.  I decided to go with the v1 harness because I didn't want to chance not having it when I leave for a four-day trip to the Arkansas backwoods on 13 February.  Anyway...

First impression...  Dang that's a small USPS box (scratching head?)

(light bulb goes off)  Ahhh, smaller things look less expensive and don't trip the wife alarm...  nice.

We need to get these boxes open.  Quick!  To the bat cave!

Okay, all dorkiness aside.  I ordered a Ute, a Tara, and a bottle pouch.  The Ute came in one box and the Tara and pouch in the other.  Everything was as ordered.  The Ute came with an extra 1.5 inch Prairie Belt SR buckle.  The bottle pouch came with an extra Slick Clip (three total.)  And the Tara came with four extra metal, three-bar sliders.  Evan even took the time to infer that I wanted a ranger green bottle pouch instead of the coyote one I ordered, contacted me first, and made it happen, very nice.

First thought, how does this Prairie Belt thingy go on the Ute thingy?  I don't see any Velcro on the Prairie Belt like on the K Omni Belt of my Zulu.  Hmmm...  Does it just slide loose in there?  There's Velcro on the lumbar pad flap that appears to connect with underside of the ribbing panel above the lumbar area.  Hmmm...  Before I forget, I'm gonna trace the curve of these stays for future reference.  I traced them on the surface of my work table with a Sharpie and on the box they came in.  Next I took pictures of how Evan routed all the compression straps, harness straps, etc.

Alright, never mind the Prairie Belt thingy for now.  Where do these stays go in?  Let's open up the top flap.  Nice big zipper here.  I see the top of the white frame sheet, but no stay channels like in my Zulu.  Hmmm... Maybe they're up top on the outside?  Yep they're there but they're stitched shut.  Hmmm...  Are they open on the bottom?  Nope.  Oh... they are open, just nice and tight.  (light bulb again) Ahhhh... that's how the Prairie Belt thingy goes on.  The stays hang out the bottom and slip into the Prairie Belt pocket thingies.  Nice... now I get it.  Let's get the stays in here.

Wow, these stay channels are tight.  Whoops, they're only a third of the way in and they won't go in any more.  Hmmm...  Looks like the stay is getting stuck where the stay channel passes by the mounting point for the 1.5 inch harness strap.  Hmmm... Okay, problem solved.  A little side-to-side wiggling and we're passed this choke point.  Whoops, we appear to be boogered again.  The top of the stay won't seem to go into the last inch of the stay channel at the top of the frame/pack.  Hmmm... Nothing seems to be in the way.  I'm going to use a wadded up towel as padding for the palm of my hand so I can push harder.  I hope I don't bend the stay trying too hard.  Wow... this stay will not go in there.  Ah... I think I see the problem.  There is bar tacking at this point, most likely to reinforce the area, and the zigzag nature of the tacking has reduced the size of the stay channel.  This is keeping the stay from being inserted the final inch or so. 

Wow, this could be a problem.  I could remove the bar tacking.  No, bad idea.  I could file down the width of the top of the stay and polish.  Sure this is doable, but shouldn't have to do that.  Hmmm... It's like twenty degrees outside and this pack is still really cold.  Maybe I could slightly warm up this area with a heat gun and hopefully generate a little more clearance.  This is the least destructive idea and I'm going with the heat gun. 

After 15 to 20 seconds of heat and constantly checking the material with my finger I give it another push.  I still have to push hard, but the stay did move forward.  Okay, the stay is all the way in.  However, I can see hints of bright aluminum where the stitching has been slightly stretched.  This does not look optimum for the long term, but I think it'll ride.  I decide to put in the other stay and manage to get it in too after a little wiggling in the middle and heating up top.

Anybody getting nervous at this point in the story?  I was, but I really wanted this pack to work for the upcoming trip.  So, stays are finally in and the Prairie Belt goes on without a hitch.  The stays fit easily into the two Prairie Belt pockets designed to receive them.  Then the lumbar pad folds back over the belt attaching to the underside of the ribbing panel above the lumbar area with Velcro.  Nice... the Ute is now fully assembled.  The harness looks a little low for my 22" torso, but we'll try it on and see.

Next I dump out my Zulu and proceed to load my gear into the Ute.  It fills up nicely and I finish off the volume with my fleece hoodie and wool sweater to completely fill it up.  Whoops, gotta figure these delta straps out.  Okay, found the upper ones.  Pretty easy to see where they hook into the Prairie Belt with the angled hypalon-like looped material.  Okay, now where are the bottom delta straps?  Oh... there they are way back on the bottom, outer corner of the bag.  Alright, do they just hook into the PALS on the Prairie Belt?  I guess they can.  I remember seeing pics where Evan had them hooked into the Slick Clip straps on the bottle pouches too.  I've only got one bottle pouch.  Hmmm... I'll put the bottle pouch on and put one on the pouch strap and the other on the PALS webbing.  Wow, I'm really digging these G-hooks.  I've never seen them before, but they're really slick and functional. 

Okay, let's get this pack on.  Took me a while to find the other side of the shoulder harness while sliding into it.  I'll have to remember to loosen these harness straps more next time.  Yep, harness needs raised, but let's see how everything else hooks up.  Wow, this power-pull type waist belt setup really locks in tight, unlike the K Omni Belt setup.  I had to use both hand to loosen each side.  I like that.  Feels much more solid.  I got the Prairie Belt, fully padded, centered over the iliac crests of my hips and tightened down like my life depended on it.  Now for the deltas.  Where'd they go?  Awwww... dang it... the G-hooks fell out.  (sigh)  I remember a post about using some pliers to bend the hook part of the G-hook down a little to decrease the strap clearance.  I'll probably have to do that eventually to decrease this type of frustration if it persists.  Got the deltas back in and snugged down.  I noticed there's not much slack left after snugging the upper delta straps.  I'm not sure if this means I'm doing something wrong or not.  Hmmm...  I'm snugging the lower deltas first, then the uppers.  I can feel the change when snugging the lowers, but can't feel much change snugging the uppers.  After standing straight up, my first thought is.... Nice, this feels good.  I tighten up the harness straps to bring the pack inwards.  Then I hit the lifter straps.  Wow, that is nice.  I've never had a pack tall enough to benefit from lifter straps.  And I can tell that a 24 inch frame is a minimum for me to enjoy this feature.  That is really nice.  And the way I can feel the pack flex when I hit the lifter straps, that is really nice.  This pack is gonna be a nice ride, I can tell.

What followed was me monkeying with the Tara as a free-floating compression panel and the height of the shoulder harness.  For what I hoped to carry in the Tara, I think it's too small.  Putting bottles in the wand pockets of the Tara does take up more room inside the Tara than I thought.   But the Tara still seems too small for my needs regardless of the bottle intrusion in the main bag area.  Probably should have got a Highlander for my needs here.  I think the Highlander would be easier to pack and access with my intended amount of gear with extra space.  The only thing I was worried about when ordering was the Highlander hitting my butt while hiking with it as a stand-alone pack.  This is why I didn't order the Highlander to begin with.  I think there is a Highlander coming in my future.

I still haven't got my shoulder harness dialed in yet.  The independence you achieve when the harness is loose between your upper body and the pack is amazing.  Definitely a nice feel there.  I'm careful not to tighten the top compression straps too much over my bed roll so I don't get pulled back into the pack when I hit the lifter straps.  I think I read that in a post by Evan somewhere too.  It seems like, no matter what, the shoulder harness just doesn't come down enough in the front.  It doesn't necessarily feel too bad (keeping in mind I haven't been hiking for an hour or so to create any hot spots.)  This is the only thing that I feel I still have to tweak and "get to know."  The stay bends seem ok so far.  I haven't felt anything rubbing or poking me in the back yet.  So hopefully they won't be any stay bending necessary.

I tried the Ute on with my Kit Bag and all seems well.  I haven't tried the docking straps for the Kit Bag on the Ute.  I'll see how it rides in the field.  If it rides okay, then I probably won't bother with the docking straps.  So far I've got about 45 pounds in my Ute/Tara combo and about five pounds in my Kit Bag.  This is my normal winter load that I've reduced by about ten or so pounds over the years.

Overall, I'm impressed and pleased with my purchase so far.  I'll be following up with Evan regarding the stay channel bar tacking issue and see what he thinks about that.  I'll be continuing my tweaking and report anything worthwhile.  Hopefully I'll get some good pics on my upcoming trip if my irritating camera phone cooperates.  The pics that follow show the packed Ute, Tara, and Kit Bag at their current state of fitting/adjustment.  Any comments or advise regarding how I might better fit or set this gear up are welcome.




New Post
2/2/2013 1:28 PM

Thanks for the detailed run down, it answers my question on the stay slot size. Something just looks "off" to me in the pictures. You look like a big dude, how tall are you? It looks like the harness is all up in the back of your neck. I think your going to have to bend the stays but I cannot give you any good advise because its your body. From the pictures though it looks like you need to bend them more around the upper curve of your back and then at the top of that curve bend them back away from your neck a bit. That may not be the answer but it gives you somewhere to start and  I may just be flat out wrong.' I am sure Evan will get everything sorted out for you. I think I may just to see what other people have to say and perhaps wait till the second or thrid production run to order mine.


New Post
2/2/2013 1:56 PM

I'm six feet one or two inches tall depending how you measure and I have what I estimate to be a 22 inch torso (C7 to iliac.)  I'd been adjusting the shoulder harness up a little every time I tried it on.  The pics above just show the last iteration. 

New Post
2/2/2013 2:48 PM

Wes, I really don't think you can have better stays than the ones the Ute comes with. You might ask McHale why he thinks that 3/4"x3/16" is better than 1"x1/8" if both are 7075. These Ute stays are the nicest I've experienced in any pack. Very happy with them. In any event, 3/16"x3/4" will go into these stay channels more easily than the ones that come with the Ute.

Ok, onto the OP's questions and points. I thought I was clear on bending stays in the original Ute video, but there has been more than one person asking about this. So I already anticipated an instructional video on working with the Ute (that will also be applicable to most internals). There are lots of points to cover and it is going to be mid-week before I have it done. Bear with me. In the meantime, answering questions in this and the other thread will probably be helpful too.

>> bending stays

We ship stays out of the pack so that you have to check fitment before putting them in. Originally, we were going to ship them unbent so you had no choice but to properly fit them. I think the generic bend is easier to work from than something flat, so I think what we're doing is good. When you hold the stays against your back, they should exactly follow the curve of your lower back up to a point a couple of inches below the bottom of the shoulder blades. Everything about how the belt and two additional tensioning straps work is designed to drive the lower part of the stays firmly into your lower back. If those two curves don't match, it isn't going to work well for you. Once you get to the point below the shoulder blades (roughly coinciding with where the padding ends), the stays should continue on the same bend departing from the lumbar area until they are about an inch behind the back at which point they go straight up. The bend that the Ute stays come with will probably be correct overall, but will need deepening or shallowing in the lumbar area depending on how deep your lumbar area is. For example, my lumbar area is deeper than normal, so I have to tweak the stock stays to be deeper in that area, but leave them unchanged otherwise. Unlike what you may have seen elsewhere, you *don't* want the stays to curve back inwards above the shoulder blades. That defeats the whole purpose of an internal. You do get that curve back when you use the load lifters. The flex that you introduce when you use the load lifters to curve the stays back inwards is what absorbs shock, moves the load closer to your center of gravity, and cams the load more deeply into your lumbar area. I'm not sure how that last point works, but it is an observable and useful phenomena. So, before you put the stays in, put them up against your back and look in a mirror. If there is a gap in the lumbar area between stays and back, you need to go deeper. If it looks or feels like the lumbar curve of the stays is driving in too much, you need to go shallower.

>> putting stays in

I'm kind of a robustness freak. The two pinch points you discovered are due to bartacks that reinforce the stay channels. The bartacks may even be unnecessary, but I didn't want to doubt the strength of the stay channels at all. Also, at the top where you got hung up, there is a webbing edge where the folded over top ends and is also bartacked. If, due to production variance, the edge bartacks drift too far inwards, it is going to be a harder thing to put the stays in the channels. In the picture you post of the top ones, I can see where the bartacks are inside of the original stitch lines instead of right on top of them. So many details to inspect on something of this complexity! That is one point I didn't inspect on the Utes that we've sent out so far. Just didn't think to. The ones I have tried have slid in easily enough. I did already send your picture to the production manager and admonished him to keep those bartacks on top of the original stitch lines and not drifting inwards. The stay channels will stretch a little bit once stays have been in them. If you have to use some aggression coupled with some wiggling to get them in the first time, that's OK. After they've been in a while they'll remove and re-insert easily enough. On the use of the heat gun, I'll contact you off line on that one. You're probably OK, but please don't anyone else do that. If you can't force them in without the use of heat, we need to re-do the bartacks. I'm going to consider sending the pack with the stays in, but it is really important for you to bend them properly. I just re-bent a friend's Zulu stays for him -- drastically changed the performance of the pack. Might have cost me a Ute sale, but I can't stand to see an internal being used that doesn't fit! You shouldn't be using an internal with stays that don't match your back.

>> delta strap tension

You can hamper the performance of the pack if you over-tighten the delta straps. Bottoming them out is too much tension in my experience, but it does act as a worst case zero limiter. You want some tension on the deltas but not too much. You can bend the G-hooks a little bit if you want to. (manufacturers have been trying to get ITW to narrow that mouth since they first came out, but ITW is bad about making changes like that)  If you leave some tension on them when your pack is off, they aren't likely to come out. If that continues to be a problem, the bent mouth solves it.

>> bottom tensioner placement

Yes, the bottom tensioners go anywhere you want on the PALS, or on the pouches that are attached to the PALS. This ability to change the attachment point of the bottom tensioner is a feature! When that bottom tensioner is sewn into the belt directly, you lose that PALS real estate or the function of the bottom tensioner. When you have the ability to attach the tensioner to something attached to the belt, you get both. Also, depending on body shape and load, it may work well for you to have them further forward or further backward. If you're using the belt with a pack that has the Dana "magic wands", you have to move the attachment point forward to get the most out of the wands. I find that the bottom tensioners are less important with a fully loaded pack (I rarely even use them in this circumstance), but get really useful with smaller loads. There is also a small tab on the pack (sewn into the very bottom of the hypalon) you can attach those to if you don't want to attach them to your belt.

>> waist belt routing

The way that the side release buckle on the Prairie Belt gets threaded is user preference. It will not budge at all if you have it threaded normally (as pictured). That is a lot of friction! The design intent was not to thread the center buckle normally at all -- just pass the webbing through the loop once so it is a free moving pulley. They got threaded as pictured at the factory and we had sent a few out before I noticed it and started threading them the other way. Really, it is whatever works best for you though. Try it both ways.

>> shoulder harness adjustment

Your shoulder harness adjustment is all off. At your height (and build, which compounds the problem), you would have benefited from the V2 harness. We'll get you one, hopefully before your trip (should be no problem). The bottom of the rear "U" should be 1-2 inches below the nape of your neck as a starting point. Google tells me the nape of the neck is the bottom of the cervical vertebrae in medical terms. The load lifter take off is a fixed point on the HPG harness, and it doesn't really matter where it is on your body because it follows the curve of the harness. As long as it is somewhere forward of the top of your shoulders it is doing its job. I think what you're fighting is the location of your sternum strap. Get the U placed a little below the nape of the neck using the adjustment in back, snug the straps down in front but not so much that the shoulder lifters aren't doing you any good, and then move the sternum strap up until it is ~1.5" below your collarbone. That is going to have the harness buckles digging into your armpits some. This is where the V2 strap comes in. On the Ute it isn't going to matter that much because the shoulder harness will never be carrying that much load. I know of three different guys your height and taller happily using the V1 harness on Kifaru packs without that being a problem. The V2 will be nicer for you though.

I think that's it for now.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
New Post
2/2/2013 3:18 PM

Sorry Evan your right and I am speaking before I have my hands on it. The confusion was coming from the 60lb rating. I have read more on what you have said about the Ute and I understand now. Its not that the Ute won't or can't comfortable handle more than 60lbs its that you recommend that people go to an external if your packing over that weight. I have a set of 3/4"x3/16 stays sitting here for the Ute ready to go and I will test it out. I will let you know the results but your probably right.

I meant no offense by my last line of my previous post. Even with a proven pack changes will be made once your first production run makes its way out and people start to provide feedback. Its not like you can look over every pack thats being produced as FS is another state. I think you understand where I am coming from and the bartacking issue(which might only be this one pack) is not that big of deal. If it was me I would of soaked the area in water and then tried to slide in the stays.

New Post
2/2/2013 3:37 PM

I know you're not a keyboard commando Wes -- no worries.

You're right about manufacturing. I don't anticipate any design changes, but certainly little production tweaks. Making sure the bartacks don't intrude into the stay channels is one of them. In this first run, some of the straps weren't finished off exactly how I wanted and that will be changing as well going forward. The good news about a well run manufacturing operation like First Spear is that once little things like that are adjusted, they stay adjusted. Their QA processes also minimize "Friday afternoon" and "Monday morning" problems. We've been through enough production with them now that we know their defect rate isn't zero, but it is pretty doggone low.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
New Post
2/3/2013 9:04 AM

I didn't think about saturating the area with water.  I wouldn't have thought that it would affect the nylon stuff that much.  I'll have to file that idea away in my mental tool kit for next time.  Guys I really didn't heat this stuff up that much.  I had my bare finger in and out of the area constantly pressing on the material and erring on the side of caution.  Nothing got crispy or melted.  In a day or so I'll take one of the stays out and see if I can get it back in without any extra work.  If it doesn't go back, maybe I'll try WEG's water idea.  Last night was my Monday at work, so life is getting in the way of tinkering again.  I'll post any updates when I have them.

I did not check the stays for fit before installing them and monkeying around with the Ute.  I will be checking the stay fit. 

As far as the delta straps go, I snugged the bottom straps just snug, not a lot of tension.  When I went to do the same with the top deltas, it was like a short, tension free movement that bottomed out with hardly any tension felt.  I'll play with the deltas and report back on what my issue was. 

I'm gonna try the Prairie Belt SR buckle in pulley mode and check it out.  However, I really like the solid lockup it has now.  So I may end up reverting back.

I'll be adjusting the shoulder harness back down a couple inches as Evan described.  I had them there before, but kept moving them up to see what happened up front and maybe get more harness there.  I can see where the lifter strap take-off points are permanent, but didn't know if the tension in the sliders my hold them in a different place or not.

Thanks Evan and everyone for all the comments and advice so far.

New Post
11/15/2013 1:37 AM

 Thank you for the pictures&text; it always gives me great pleasure to see fit and finish well explained:-). Your post pushes the decision to get one, forward....

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