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Hands-on Gear Review

Kelty Redwing 50 Review

Travel Backpack

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Price:   Varies from $125 - $140 online  —  Compare at 6 sellers
Pros:  Durable materials, lots of organization, relatively lightweight, affordable
Cons:  Short, wide design decreases pack awareness, fewer travel features
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Kelty


The Kelty Redwing 50 is a versatile pack at a great price. It doesn't have as many travel-specific features as many of the other packs in the review, but it is relatively inexpensive and has many of the features you'll need for short backpacking trips, rock climbing, and traveling. It would have scored higher if it had some way of protecting the shoulder straps when flying. This can easily be remedied by purchasing a travel duffel, but for a pack that's marketed to travelers, we think a duffel or zip up flap should have been included.

The Redwing wasn't as comfortable as the Top Pick Deuter Quantum 70 + 10, nor was it as easy to pack as our Editors' Choice winning Osprey Farpoint 55. The Redwing also doesn't come with a detachable daypack like the Eagle Creek Deviate 60 (this gives you a perfect excuse to pick up our Best Pick Award winner, the REI Stuff Travel Daypack 22). However, the Redwing has a lot of great features and packs a whole lot of awesome especially considering that it retails for $125.

In the 2013 iteration of this review, we gave this pack a Best Buy Award. This year, the Redwing was dethroned by the REI Stuff Travel, but that doesn't make the Redwing any less of a value. If you're looking for a pack to do a little bit of everything and want save money for that plane ticket to somewhere far away, the Kelty Redwing 50 could be the perfect pack for you.

Ladies, be sure to check out the women's specific version of this pack!

RELATED: Our complete review of travel backpacks

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Jeremy Bauman
Review Editor

Last Updated:
June 8, 2015
The Kelty Redwing 50 has the space you need for a variety of activities. It is relatively lightweight for the volume and has enough pockets to stay organized.

Performance Comparison

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Two clients borrowing travel packs during a day of rock climbing instruction. We tested these packs in a variety of locations and activities.


With its half-inch padded shoulder straps and wide hip belt, the Redwing is comfortable to carry whether you're traveling from city-to-city or mixing in a trip to a national park. When used for rock climbing approaches and hiking, this pack was plenty comfortable. Some of our testers complained that the single aluminum stay dug into their back, but this problem was quickly remedied by bending the frame into a more optimal position. 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 on either side, so vigilant spacial awareness is a must, especially when navigating through crowds. On the positive side, the Redwing has good airflow behind the back and useful load stabilizing straps to help you 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 pack, be certain that you can cinch your hip belt down tightly, otherwise, the weight will probably rest uncomfortably on your lower back and shoulders.

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We loved using the Kelty pack for hiking and carrying our stuff to the cliff. It is pretty versatile especially considering the weight and price.


Kelty Redwing 50 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 removing your hip belt will keep it from being damaged by airline equipment and baggage handlers, it still leaves your shoulder straps vulnerable. 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 backcountry backpacking backpack; however, for just $125 it will meet all your basic pack requirements. If you're looking for a travel pack that also works well for short outdoor trips, be sure to check out the Eagle Creek Deviate 60 that won our Top Pick for Outdoor Versatility.

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Without the metal tabs that most zippers have, we found these zippers more difficult to zip and unzip than most of the other packs.

Ease of Packing

This pack does not have a zipper that opens up to expose the entire pack. The front panel opens most of the way, but not nearly as much as the panel of the Pacsafe VentureSafe 65. This makes it difficult to access the items in the very bottom of the pack without handling the items above. On the bright 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 zipped 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 make for easy clipping. As seen below, we had enough room to pack what we needed for a two week trip if you can pack on the light side. People's needs vary as greatly as backpacks themselves, so think about what items you'll need and compare them with the ones in the photo.

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Though it is difficult to see in the photo, we still had room for some small items at the top of the pack.


Throughout all our testing, we rained down intentional wear and tear on this pack. Just two small abrasions were the result of our abusive relationship with this pack. Made of 420D Polyester Ball Shadow and 450D Polyester Oxford nylons, the Redwing is moderately durable and received a score of 8/10. We didn't find it as durable as the Farpoint, but found it comparably as durable as the Deuter Quantum 70 + 10. We used this pack on more than a few climbing adventures and loved it for this purpose. If used as a rock climbing crag pack, we feel like this bag would stand up to years of use.

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Though we did our bet to abuse this pack, it proved to be quite durable.


Relative to the weight to volume ratios of the other packs in the review, this pack earned a 4/10. This score is relatively average for most of the packs in the review. We were pleasantly surprised that it seemed so solid, yet weighed in as the lightest framed pack. At 3 lbs, 3 ounces, this pack 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 Top Pick winning Eagle Creek Deviate 60.

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We used this pack for rock climbing and loved its durability, size, and open front. It always seemed like we could fit just "one more" thing inside.

Best Applications

This pack has the volume and pockets you'll want for traveling; however, the lack of protection for the shoulder straps and hip belt while flying makes it less ideal for this purpose than many of the other packs in this review. We loved using this pack for various outdoor activities because it opens up wide for easy gear access and is relatively lightweight. If you're looking for an inexpensive bag that can do a little of everything, this is the bag for you.


The Kelty Redwing 50 offers quite a bit of value for its $125 price tag and was our Best Buy winner in the 2013 iteration of this review. This time around, the REI Stuff Travel won our Best Buy award because it is a super functional travel day pack that only costs $30. If you're looking for a pack to carry all your travel necessities, the Redwing will certainly be a best buy in your book. This pack can perform as a city-to-city pack or as a small backcountry backpacking pack. We are confident that this pack provides the second best value for the price of any in the review.

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Everything seen in this photo (except for the rocks) fit inside the Redwing 50. This totaled 7 rock climbing harness, a change of clothes, puffy jacket, sleeping bag, bivy, helmet, climbing gear, and food. This was an excellent pack for hiking and climbing approaches.


The Redwing is a versatile pack that lives in the grey area between being a travel pack and an outdoor pack. As is the case with most hybrids, its very difficult to be the best at one thing if you're trying to be good at two things. If you're looking for a durable pack that doesn't cost a bunch and will work swimmingly for travel and occasional outdoor use, this pack takes the cake.

Other Versions

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Redwing 32 and Redwing 44
  • Smaller volume version
  • Ideal for day hikes
  • Many exterior organizational pockets
  • Great for hiking or urban adventures
  • $100 and $120

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Redwing 40 Women's
  • Women's specific pack
  • Ideal for day hikes or around town
  • 40L
  • $120
Jeremy Bauman

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews

Most recent review: June 8, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 100%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)

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Helpful Buying Tips
How to Choose the Best Travel Backpack - Click for details
 How to Choose the Best Travel Backpack

by Jeremy Bauman & Amanda Fenn