User Review: Kelty Super Tioga
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $150
Carries Heavy Loads Great. Good for packing with younger ones, where the burden is on you. Hunters, fisherman, young family backpacker daddies, this is the pack for you.
- Huge volume, and high carrying capacity.
- Hydration in external long pocket, or internal main pocket
- Lots of pockets for small items. 5 external compartments
- 1L Nalgene bottle sleeves behind two packets.
- Through sleeve: fishing rod, gun, trek or tent poles
- Lots of lash points. Huge overstuff bivy and top cover.
- Sturdy material, holds up well.
- Highly adjustable shoulder suspension, torso, and belt
- Stickier zippers (but fixable with bar soap...)
- Really wide and tall, branches beware. Scrabbling no...
- Hip belt dated. Top of Line in '95, just decent in '15
- Needs longer load lifter straps for easier on-back adjust
- Fewer and fewer store staff know how to adjust externals
- I wish pass through pocket had a built in catcher pocket.
- 4.5 Lbs. More like 4.75 with upper and lower straps sets.
- Shoulder straps could be touch wider, but they are OK.
I have had a Super Tioga since '95, and it is still going strong. It is still my go-to pack — but I have finally succumbed to some internal pack use on 1 and 2 day trips with a new REI Flash 65L pack.
I love this pack because I still favor a dry, cool, back- and a more upright walking stance. This pack distributes weight well to your hips, and the shoulder straps are a bowed type, with load lifters straps. Easily adjustable in the torso, but best suited for larger men in the large size. There is a Small/Medium S/M model of the Super Tioga for smaller torsos, but there are not many of the S/M packs out there as the model is discontinued, and the majority of what was sold during production years was the large size.
On external frame packs, load lifter straps work differently than on internal frame packs. The name of "load lifters" was born with their introduction on internal frames. On internals, lifter serve "mostly" to pull the upper part of an internal pack's upper (above the shoulders) load forward, tight on your back. Such packs being soft, with either zero, or just an internal plastic or aluminum frame plate inside the bag, tend mostly just pull the upper back forward, tight onto your back. On internals, tightening the load lifters has the effect of transfering more load to the shoulders, and offloading it from the hip belt.
On external frame packs with load lifters, the effect is mostly different (even opposite), but the same name is used for the straps, as they appear on the same place, as the upper strap going from top of shoulder round on the strap, ideally to a place 45% up and back on the frame. (Sometimes more than 45%, sometimes less depending on your pack and torso size).
On externals like the Super Tioga, to you "tighten" the load lifters to put more weight on the hips, and reduce it from the shoulders. How? You loosen the main shoulder straps a bit (more weight on the hips), and then you tighten the load lifters straps to pull the upper pack "forward", but there is actually a slight gap at the top of the shoulder induced by the tighter load lifter. To move weight to the shoulder, you loosen the load lifters, and tighten the main shoulder strap. It is opposite from an internal frame pack.
Younger staff at stores don't seem to use externals any more (no experience with them), and they don't realize they adjust differently. I wish the load lifter straps were longer, so they were easier to adjust while the pack is on. Adjustable, but it would be easier with longer straps.
On the Super Tioga, the sleeping bag pocket door can be tricky to get a 0 or 20 degree synthetic bag into. No problem for a down bag or a 32 or 40 degree synthetic. If you are just starting, and have a big heavy bag, you can lash it to the top of the pack. (You can put on the bottom), but on an external frame, you should put that load up top. The frame distributes the weight down to hips just fine (the beaty of an external), and this puts the weight over your center of gravity with just a slight forward lean. On the bottom (as required by an internal), or as optional on the Super Tioga, you have to lean more. Some people don't like the weight high, it makes them feel tippy, especially in rock hopping water crossings, etc. Your choice.
The left side long packet had an internal zippered divider. You can make one big compartment, or two smaller ones sharing a single outer access zipper. I now strap my tent to the top rack (weight high), and my old school classic Therm-a-Rest self inflat pad to the bottom. I usually pull the tent poles out and put inside the main compartment using the side passthrough that is available, giving a less wide profile at the top by moving the poles.
I've hiked this pack heavy (60 lbs) for a 2 weeker in the Sierras. All forms of bear canister fit in it. A large canister can fit in the main compartment, or buy a canister carry bag, and lash it high or low on the frame.
This is a great pack for starters because you stuff is probably bulkier and heavier. This bag will carry it, and your weekend load of 45 lbs is well carried.
This is still a great pack for experienced folk with new low weight stuff, or richer newbies, as it carries a 25-35 lbs load in perfect comfort, with lots of VOLUME left to spare. Got a bigger heavier camp ground tent, or a larger sleeping bag, no problem.
If you are really pushing the weight down, this is probably not the pack. With two sets of straps (for older pads, tents, or sleeping bags), its close to 5 pounds. An Osprey, or REI Flash, or like pack can come in around 2.5 pounds. If you are only carrying 25 pounds of new, expensive, lightweight equipement, this pack, at 5lbs, and hence 20% of your load is the wrong answer. At low end weight, I prefer a well ventilated REI Flash or Osprey Atmos pack that is itself very light. But the Super Tioga is very comfortable with a light load as well, with weight on hips, the overall base weight is just higher.
Finally, for fishmen, hunters, trek pole users, or those with longer tent poles, you can use the pass through pocket behind the large external pocket. This is great for longer fishing poles, a rifle, tent poles (but you need a pole bag), etc. Trek poles have better more moden solutions in should strap storage, but this pack does have shoulder strap lash points to allow mounting a skinny zipper bag for poles. (Done with a kids fanny pack with two loops and 2 D-rings).
With tent poles, I wish it had a "catch" open pocket at the button for the passthrough. Lacking that, I have to use a pole bag (a tiny bit more weight), and a bit of cord hold the poles in the pass through. I usually just store poles inside the main bag now, it is so big, I usually have the space.