Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Durable materials, lots of organization, relatively lightweight, affordable
Cons: Short, wide design decreases pack awareness, fewer travel features
Best Uses: Adventure travel, light backcountry trips
A 50-liter pack, the Kelty Redwing fulfills the middle ground between travel and backpacking pack. Although it doesn't have as many of the travel-y features as the Editor's Choice-winning Osprey Farpoint 55, it will comfortably allow you to adventure in the backcountry on shorter backpacking trips (we think three-day trips would be pretty sweet with this pack). We liked this pack's numerous external pockets and gear loops. Moreover, its lightweight single-beam frame provides support without packing on lots of extra weight. If you are looking for a lighter-weight framed pack that is suitable for longer backcountry trips on your travels, remember that you can always pick up a standard Backpacking backpack. The Kelty Redwing doesn't come with a detachable daypack like the Eagle Creek Rincon 65, which gives you a perfect excuse to pick up our Top Pick Award winner, the REI Stuff Travel Daypack 22. Overall, we thought this lightweight, inexpensive pack was a great option for travelers on a budget, so we gave it our Best Buy Award. At only $120, this pack was the least expensive of the framed packs and offers more versatility in the backcountry than other packs like the Osprey Porter and Eagle Creek Rincon.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
With its ½-inch padded shoulder straps and wide hip belt, the Kelty Redwing 50 is comfortable to carry whether you're traveling from city-to-city or mixing in a trip to a national park. The pack features a single beam frame that comes with a standard curve, but can be adjusted by bending it gently over the knee. We found it a little tricky to find just the right curvature and noticed that if the frame wasn't just right, we knocked our spine on it when bending over. This pack sticks out a fair bit off the back, decreasing your pack awareness in crowded or heavily wooded areas, however, it's not as challenging to navigate with as the Eagle Creek Rincon. On the positive side, the Best Buy Kelty Redwing has good airflow behind the back and useful load stabilizing straps to help your remain centered. We tested the S/M and found the hip belt to be a little too big for our most petite testers; however, we called up Kelty and learned that we could get a smaller replacement hip belt. If you do decide to purchase this Best Buy Award winner, be certain that you can cinch your hip belt down tightly, otherwise, the weight will probably rest uncomfortably on your lower back and shoulders.
Functionality and Features
The only full-size, hydration compatible pack that we reviewed, the Kelty Redwing has several features designed to make your life on the road and the trail easier. In addition to its plentiful pockets and organizational pouches, it has a vertical daisy chain for clipping gear, an ice axe loop, and two horizontal daisy chains that run along its bottom. This pack also has external compression straps designed to cinch down your load and pull it in closer to the body, which helps increase balance and stability while carrying. Its designers also included two non-padded carry handles and a removable hip belt with ergo pull buckles. While this will protect your hip belt from being damaged by airline equipment, it leaves your shoulder straps exposed. Overall, our testers liked this pack, but found that it was missing several of the key travel-oriented features offered by other bags, and that it wasn't as comfortable as a full-on backpacking pack; however, for just $120 it will meet all your basic pack requirements.
Ease of Packing and Unpacking
Similar to the Eagle Creek Rincon, this pack does not have a zipper that opens up to expose the entire pack. This makes it difficult to access the items in the very bottom of the pack without removing the items above. On the bring side, this pack does have plenty of pockets to keep your gear organized. In addition to the main compartment, this pack includes two mesh drop-in pockets, two water bottle-sized zipper pockets, a vertically zipping external pocket, and a mid-sized compartment that opens up to more than a half dozen additional small pockets. The pack's internal and external gear loops also made for easy clipping. While this pack is five liters smaller than the Farpoint and 15 liters smaller than the Rincon, keep in mind that a portion of the Farpoint's and Rincon's volume is in their daypacks. If you decide to purchase a 22-liter daypack like the Top Pick REI Stuff Travel Daypack, your total packing space will be 72 liters.
Made of 420D Polyester Ball Shadow and 450D Polyester Oxford nylons, the Kelty Redwing is the only pack in this review to use polyester fabric rather than nylon. Since nylon is a stronger material, this pack lost out on a few durability points. On the other hand, this pack has a heavy duty zipper and features a single lightbeam aluminum stay and a high density polyethylene frame sheet for added support. We used this pack on more than a few climbing adventures and didn't experience any wear or tear.
We were pleasantly surprised that this pack seemed so solid, yet weighed in as the lightest framed pack. At 3 lbs, 2 ounces, the Kelty Redwing sacrifices a full frame system for the lighter weight beam and frame sheet combination. It also saved weight by skipping the detachable daypack (which has its own shoulder straps, foam backing, etc.). If you don't mind a little extra weight and would prefer to have a detachable daypack, check out the Editor's Choice, the Osprey Farpoint.
Our Best Buy winner, the Kelty Redwing 50 offers quite a bit of value for its $120 price tag. This pack can perform as a city-to-city pack or as a backpacking pack. Even if you decide to purchase a stuffable additional daypack like the REI Stuff Travel Daypack as an add-on, the Kelty Redwing still rings up at $30 less than the Osprey Farpoint.
The Redwing comes in a variety of sizes, including the Redwing 32, $100, and the Redwing 44, $115. You can also find this pack in a women's specific model, the Redwing 40 Women's, for $115.
— Amanda Fenn
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Most recent review: April 15, 2014
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