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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Adjustable torso length
- Unique side pocket attachment system
- Top loading access to main compartment
- Excellent organizational features
- Load lifters
- No hip belt pockets
- Side mesh pockets are flush with ground and more susceptible to damage
- 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
Disclosure: Kelty provided Philip Werner with a sample Redwing 50 backpack for this review.
Updated 2018.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.
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