Update for 2017
Kelty has confirmed that when this pack is reintroduced in 2017, it will be significantly different than the one we reviewed. This pack will continue to include a large main pocket with a smaller front pocket, a laptop/hydration sleeve, and external waterbottle pockets. The new pack will feature a new design as well as a change in the ventilation and back panel design. We haven't tested this new version yet but will continue to post more information as it becomes available.
The Kelty Redtail is the largest daypack we tested and can therefore carry everything you could possibly fathom taking on a day hike. With the extra organizational capability, the Redtail is also very well suited to double as a briefcase or schoolbag. Plus it has enough cushioning in the back that you don't have to worry about pesky book corners causing you discomfort.
Enjoying a bluebird day hiking in Colorado with the Kelty Redtail.
Photo: Gentrye Houghton
The Kelty Redtail is tailor made with handy organizational features that will benefit you whether you're out on the trail or on the go close to home. This panel loading backpack is hydration compatible, and the hydration sleeve can also double as your laptop sleeve. It's fitted with two large water bottle pockets and is one of three packs we tested that came with compression straps.
The large front pocket has extra organization pouches for your phone, pens, headphones and iPod, etc and was our favorite aspect of this pack. It also comes complete with an ice-axe loop and daisy chain around the front carry handle. Just under the carry handle is an easily accessible zippered stash pocket which is great for a small notebook, passport, or wallet.
The Kelty Redtail has a reinforced, and handy, carry handle located on the front of the pack.
Photo: Ryan Kenney
While this pack is perfect to get you through your school or work day, it also works well for hiking and bringing along the 10 essentials. However, one of the big downsides to this bag is how little structure there is in the back panel for distributing weight. Also, the thin webbing waist belt does not add comfort or stability while hiking with heavy loads.
Although this is not the heaviest daypack that we tested, it is the largest in volume. We like all of the pockets included in this pack, especially for organization while out and about. However, the all the extras do add a bit of weight and bulkiness to an already large pack. Kelty may have sacrificed a more rigorous frame system to shave a little weight; however, at just an ounce lighter, and with greater adjustability, you may prefer our Editors' Choice winner, the Osprey Talon 22.
There is quite a bit of padding all over this pack, and the shoulder straps are wider than any of the others we tested. In general, we recommend this pack for anyone with an average to larger size torso, as this pack tends to engulf smaller frames. We found this especially true with our lady testers.
Also, we loaded this pack down at 15, 20, and 25 pounds to see how it handled under heavier loads. Since there is less of a rigid structure in the back panel than either the Talon or the Gregory Z25, careful attention needs to be paid to how this pack is organized and where the weight is carried. It can comfortably carry up to 20 pounds, yet anything much over that and your body begins to take more of the brunt of the pack's weight.
Our editors loved the versatility and organization of the pack, it's useful for sports and recreation or around town as a brief case or school bag. This pack took us around town more easily than some of the more technical packs we tested, like the Talon or the Kompressor Verve, and transitioned into the outdoors easily.
Jeremy Bauman loads down the Kelty Redtail for a day at the crag in Red Rock Canyon.
Photo: Gentrye Houghton
The Kelty Redtail, along with the Gregory Z25, is one of only two to incorporate polyester materials into their design. While nylon is the stronger material, this pack didn't experience any rips or tears in the hiking and climbing adventures during our testing period.
During our 24-hour water test, everything remained dry after a light drizzle, however, during a lull in precipitation the fabric absorbed the moisture and almost all of the compartments became damp. By the end of testing, the pack's contents were pretty soggy throughout and wet near the zippers. However, the front stash pocket remained dry!
Ease of Use
This pack easily fit all of the items needed in our packing test, as well as comfortably hosting a 13-inch laptop. The large organizational outer pocket can almost act as a wallet replacement, which is a feature our editors particularly enjoyed.
Our favorite feature on the Kelty Redtail was the organizational options that make it useful as briefcase or school bag.
Photo: Gentrye Houghton
Though we tested the Kelty Redtail primarily for use in the outdoors, it seems more compatible as a travel companion and for around town use. This pack would be ideal for anyone needing a solid backpack to carry to school or work, while pretty easily transitioning to the occasional hike or camping trip.
At just under $80, the Kelty Redtail is just slightly cheaper than our Editors' Choice winner, and quite a step up from the REI Flash 18. However, if you're on a budget and looking for a pack with lots of organization and sturdiness, you may also want to consider the REI Trail 25.