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Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack Review

Review of: Kelty Redwing 50
manufactured by :
Philip Werner
Version:
1

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On November 1, 2016
Last modified:November 14, 2016

Summary:

The Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack is a multi-faceted pack that can be used for day hiking, backpacking, school, or travel with a plethora of pockets and features to keep your gear well organized and accessible. Featuring a new adjustable length frame, its greatest strength is its adaptability for many different kinds of adventures.

The Kelty Redwing 50 is a surprisingly versatile backpack with a torso hugging shape than makes it easy to carry
The Kelty Redwing 50 is a surprisingly versatile backpack with a torso hugging shape than makes it easy to carry.

The Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack (MSRP $139.95) is a multi-faceted pack that can be used for day hiking, backpacking, school, or travel with a plethora of pockets and features to keep your gear well-organized and accessible. Featuring a new adjustable length frame, its greatest strength is its adaptability for many different kinds of adventures. Ideal for growing kids and adults, the Kelty Redwing 50 has a lot of innovative features that make it a great value.

Internal Storage and Organization

The Kelty Redwing 50 has many compartments and pockets that provide a lot of flexibility in how you use it. The main compartment at the center of the pack can be completely pulled back and opened like you would a travel suitcase or duffel (called a panel loader) or you can keep the compression straps attached and just open the top of the pack, through a top hatch pocket like a conventional top loading backpack.

You can use the Redwing 50 like a panel loader by undoing the side compression straps in order to fully pull it open or as a top loader, by accessing gear through the top hatch lid
You can use the Redwing 50 as a panel loader by undoing the side compression straps in order to fully pull open the main compartment or as a top loader, by accessing gear through a top hatch lid.

There’s no organization inside the main compartment except for a hydration pocket, which can also be used to store a large laptop. If you plan to use the Redwing for backpacking or day hiking, you’d store most of your bulky gear in this main compartment, which is large enough to store a sleeping bag, tent, food, or a vertically oriented bear canister.

There’s an open stuff pocket behind the main compartment, and a second closed pocket behind that on the rear of the pack. It has many small open sleeves for organizing school or office accessories, including a padded pocket that’s large enough to store an iPad.

You can slide long objects like trekking poles, a tripod, fishing rods, paddles, skis, etc, behind the upper side pockets
You can slide long objects like trekking poles, a tripod, fishing rods, paddles, skis, etc, behind the upper side pockets.

The most interesting pockets on the Redwing are located above the side mesh water bottle pockets. They’re fairly large, about the size of a bulky pair of insulated winter mittens, but also good for storing a cylindrical cook pot.  What’s neat is that you can slip gear behind them, like a fishing rod, a tripod, trekking poles, or cross-country skis even, and prevent them from slipping out using the side compression straps (top and bottom). I’ve never seen anything quite like them on a backpack, but they’re a wonderful feature for carrying long and unwieldy objects without having to worry about them falling off your pack.

External Attachment and Compression System

The Redwing has two side compression straps on each side, both long enough that you can use them to strap larger items to the side of the pack. It also has two ice axe loops on the rear of the pack, but no shaft holders, so you’ll need to rig something up yourself using elastic cord and some cord-locks.

Daisy chains along the base of the pack make it possible to last a tent or sleeping bag underneath.
Daisy chains along the base of the pack make it possible to lash a tent or sleeping bag underneath the pack.

There are also two daisy chains at the bottom of the pack, making it convenient to lash gear underneath, like a tent or a sleeping bag. You’ll just need to provide your own webbing straps or cords to do this, as none are provided.

The back of the Redwing 50 is covered in mesh to wock away sweat with air channels between the pads to increase air circulation.
The back of the Redwing 50 is covered in mesh to wick away sweat with air channels between the pads to increase air circulation.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Kelty Redwing 50 has a very simple frame, basically a flexible plastic sheet that slots into a pocket behind the shoulder straps, reinforced with a center aluminum stay. The stay runs all the way down the back panel, terminating behind the hip belt’s lumbar pad in the hip belt itself, which is exactly what you want for good load transfer and control.

The combination gives the Redwing 50 a nice balance of stiffness and lateral flexibility, with a frame that can be used out of the box without any additional adjustment, such as bending the stay. I’d rate the upper weight limit of the pack at 30 pounds, mostly limited by the volume capacity of the pack.

Torso length is adjusted by sliding the shoulder yoke up or down. It slides behind the mesh back panel and is controlled by simple webbing straps located near the hip belt
Torso length is adjusted by sliding the shoulder yoke up or down. It slides behind the mesh back panel and is controlled by simple webbing straps located near the hip belt. See video below for a demonstration.

The hip belt is pre-curved with pull forward adjustment straps, and has hip control straps connected to the bottom corners of the pack for lateral stability. The attachment point of these webbing straps makes it impossible to provide any hip belt pockets and unfortunately, there are no webbing loops of any kind to attach aftermarket pockets or gear attachments. Too bad about the hip belt pockets; I really think they provide a lot of convenience for users.

The Redwing’s torso length is adjustable by raising and lowering the shoulder yoke, which slides behind a mesh covered back panel designed to wick sweat away from the wearer’s back. The position of the yoke is controlled by a very simple webbing system that’s lightweight and very simple to adjust, without requiring that you measure your torso. It’s a great idea, actually, to demystify the torso sizing process. The documentation for adjusting the torso length could be better though (there is none), like a link to this video below.

This torso adjustment system works great if you know how a backpack should feel when it’s properly fitted, but less so if you don’t. If you’re new at this, I suggest you get someone to demonstrate to you how the pack should feel when the length is adjusted properly, so you can learn how to do it without assistance.

Recommendation

The Kelty Redwing 50 backpack is a well designed, versatile backpack that can be used for a wide range of outdoor recreational and urban adventures, with storage and external attachment capabilities that support a wide range of gear lists and environmental needs. While its versatility comes with a slight weight penalty (3 pounds, 9.5 ounces), there’s no denying that the Redwing 50’s simple-to-use, adjustable frame system is a tremendous benefit for young adults and beginner backpackers who have a hard time finding a pack that fits them properly with the correct torso length. If you’re looking for a backpack that you can use in the woods, in town, and for travel, I think the new Kelty Redwing 50 has a lot to offer, but it’s also a fine backpack just for hiking and backpacking, and an excellent value for the price.

Likes

  • Adjustable torso length
  • Unique side pocket attachment system
  • Top loading access to main compartment
  • Excellent organizational features
  • Load lifters

Dislikes

  • No hip belt pockets
  • Side mesh pockets are flush with ground and more susceptible to damage

Manufacturer Specifications

  • Volume: 3100 in3 / 51 L
  • Frame Type:  Internal
  • Weight:  3 lbs 11 oz / 1.66 kg (just 3 pounds 9.5 ounces on the Section Hiker scale)
  • Torso Fit Range:  15.5 – 21 in / 39 – 53 cm
  • Waist Belt Fit Range:  One size only. Just barely fits me with a 36″ waist. The padded portion of the hip belt is 29″ long.
  • Dimensions: 26 x 16 x 12 in / 66 x 41 x 30 cm

For a complete list of specs, visit Kelty.com 

Disclosure: Kelty provided Philip Werner with a sample Redwing 50 backpack for this review.

Support SectionHiker.com. If you make a purchase after clicking on the links above, a portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you.

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17 comments

  1. I’m surprised at the relatively low weight limit of 30 pounds. A function of a noodly back panel or is the suspension too soft? I’ve been curious whether the torso adjustment straps ever slip during use – innovative approach they came up with. Those pass-through side pockets can be pretty handy. I recall those on several Mountainsmith packs in recent years and Jansport used to incorporate them on some day packs…seems like there were some external frame packs that did the same.

    • I’m not invested in the outdoor media’s overinflation of comfortable weight limits. So yes, 30 pounds. If you can carry more on a wimpy single stay frame, go get’m tiger! I’m sure you’re in good company.

      I was worried about frame slippage too, but it doesn’t slip. They have a complicated feeder buckle that routes the strap through multiple turns, resulting in too much friction. Pretty innovative I thought. I keep “egging” the UL pack manufacturers to introduce adjustable frames and think this system is light enough to be used in that context. Just imagine.

      Pass-thru pockets. I checked the external frame packs out there and they all have sewn threw pockets, quite unlike these. I really haven’t seen them on other packs. I think they’re way cool.

      Lots of innovative goodies on this $139.00 pack. Who’d have thought, although Kelty has been in this business longer than anyone else!

      • It’s a rare day that I do 30lbs anymore and I’m happy for that! I’d love to see more packs in general and especially ultralight packs incorporate better torso fitting through multiple size options or adjustable systems…one of the most important things but one which has so often been dropped in favor of weight. I guess with much lighter loads it’s somewhat less of an issue but a pack that FITS is so much more enjoyable for sure. Same with hip belts. I haven’t looked at current external frame options in forever except the Vargo Ti, but way back when, I had a Camp Trails bag and a Cabela’s one that was most likely made by Camp Trails and both had those pass through pockets. I did crush an eyelet on a section of fishing pole once using them, via overpacking and carelessness, but very handy and great for all kinds of things. I keep waiting for one of the major players like Kelty to dedicate some resources to UL gear or some higher quality stuff but so many of them seem to be happy with the bread-n-butter car camping crowds or fashionable gear. Maybe best to let the cottage makers keep doing what they do best and stay profitable.

  2. I’m going to have to dredge deep into my memory, but I do recall a pack I had with pass-behind side pockets. This looks like a pretty interesting option for a travel pack.

    • A great option for a travel pack – perfect for the plane/airport and and being able to tuck gear under the pockets is rad. Those trekking poles and fishing rod are not going anywhere! Lot going for this pack. I’m thinking that it will make a good backcountry fly fishing pack with all those pockets when I want to do a 1 or 2 day overnight fishing trip.

      • Agreed. I can see it as handy for a trip west when a friends calls for a fishing backpacking trip and for some fishing forays here in Georgia to trout rivers and streams. Compact enough for short trips and for picking your way through rhododendrons. Also for general travel.

  3. This looks like a great option for growing kids with that adjustability- great value, and the day-to-day versatility is also great for home and hiking use!

  4. That looks like a great cheap/light weekender option, and a good cheap winter daypack too. One question, though. You mention:

    “You can slide long objects like trekking poles, a tripod, fishing rods, paddles, skis, etc, behind the upper side pockets.”

    How wide can the skis be? I have an old Kelty Coyote pack with side pockets of that same type with those ‘pass-behind’ gaps, but the gap can only accommodate very narrow skis (perhaps 65mm wide at most). Wide skis are all the rage these days, even for many cross country skiers, which is why I’m asking. Possible to measure that?

    • I can fit my “regular” cross country skis and my backcountry cross country skis without any problems. Just measured the width of the gap at its narrowest (top point) and it’s 6 inches.

      • And yes, it makes quite an acceptable and affordable winter day pack. Those top pockets fit one liter bottles quite nicely (with socks around them) and are great for packing gloves, food, etc.

  5. Philip,

    Any idea on an ETA for the Crown 2 pack review? Also, assuming you’re doing a hammock trip with a top and under quilt, what size pack would you recommend?

    Thanks!

    • February. The manufacturer has asked me to wait until the pack is available for sale before publishing a review.

      Size – hard to say. Depends how much other gear you need to carry.

      • Is this spam? 75 gallons isn’t a backpacking size….do you mean 75 liters. That’s quite big still. I can’t offer any suggestions without knowing what else you plan on bringing, where you’re going, when, temperatures, etc.

  6. This pack looks interesting for my two granddaughters. A bit more than they need right now but in another year or two, should be good.

    The ZPacks Arc series has optional upper side pockets that also allow pass-through.

  7. At $83 on Amazon Prime, this pack is an incredible bargain. I struggle with the current cost of some boutique brands where you can easily drop close to $1,500 to outfit your “big 3”. Kelty makes well designed, durable products that, with a relatively small weight premium, you can comfortably and safely venture out into the woods without taking a 2nd mortgage. I sent my son and daughter on a trip to Iceland this summer with Redwing packs, Cosmic Down bags and aTeton 2 tent. I paid less than $450 for everything and my kids are now both camping converts. Thanks Kelty!

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