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Kelty Asher 55

rated 4.5 of 5 stars
photo: Kelty Asher 55 weekend pack (50-69l)

The 55/65l version of the Kelty Asher is an excellent and overlooked option at the high end of beginner/budget backpacking and a great option for those more experienced hikers who prefer simple, classic design. Perfect for weekend to weeklong trips. 4.25/5

Pros

  • Lightweight but decent carrying capacity to 40+lbs
  • Comfortable suspension
  • Good materials + construction
  • Easily field-repaired/modified
  • Low Cost

Cons

  • Not enough external pockets
  • Not enough adjustment for the very slim/very tall
  • No rain cover included

Layout: The Asher is a fairly generic design internal frame pack. Top-loading, sleeping bag flap with straps, 2 water bottle pockets, 1 large zippered compartment with 2 rows of daisy chain, lid pocket + key-retainer, 2 ice axe loops, 1 mesh hip-belt pocket. Load lifters, side adjusters, 2 compression straps per side. Water bladder pouch with a hanging loop and hidden outlet. The 55l model has 14 inches/35cm between the bottom of the loop and the bottom of the pouch. The 80l has a kangaroo pouch, but not mine.

Construction/Performance: Listed as 600d Oxford weave-polyester, feels a bit thin but its held up to nearly a year of use without any major failures. Excellent quality mesh on the water bottle pockets. The belt buckle is a bit flimsy, but I haven't had an cracking or bending.

Suspension/Comfort: The Asher has a good velcro-adjusted suspension system and wire/perimeter-style internal frame with a back board, accessible from the inside. The weight is effectively carried on the hips and the belt, straps, and adjustments are easy to use and durable. There are channels to circulate air and good lumbar support. There is no mesh on the belt or shoulder straps, although I don't find myself sweating or chafing any more than with my previous pack which featured mesh padding on the straps.

Other Features/Criticisms: This is the category where the Asher is weakest. The haul-handle is anemic and the lower straps are just big enough to fit a Thermarest z-folding pad under, but not much more.

On the other hand, the sternum strap adjustment is freely adjustable and has some elastic, which i don't usually see in packs of this price range. The water bottle pockets are a good size and don't have issues with space even if the pack is stuffed to the seams. The weight of this pack may not impress ULers, but at just around 3lbs/1.5kg, it is extremely light for its price range.

The biggest issue I have with this pack is a lack of external pockets. I went from a Bundeswehr knockoff which had two wing pockets and a smaller back pocket to the Asher and it was a tough adjustment on my first 2 trips. The zippered compartment has enough room, but I would prefer three smaller pockets for ease of access/trying to find things at night/reaching for things with my pack on. It is also a single zipper, so you'll have to open the entire flap to reach something on the right side. Another hip-belt pocket would also be a significant improvement. 

Should you get one?

If you are just getting into hiking, or don't go out quite often enough to justify buying an expensive pack or are just plumb broke, the Asher is a great choice. I'm none of those three but I liked its looks and its simplicity, and its performance hasn't let me down yet. If you are really hurting for money, there are packs at 60% the cost of the Asher that will do you pretty well. 

There is a women's version called the Nena, although it is only available in 60l.

The Outskirt and Coyote series are very similar packs with slightly different features or suspensions, but if this pack's specific setup isn't for you, these might be.

Background

This is my 2nd internal frame pack. I've had it for just under a year and used it for several trips in mountainous and arid areas ranging from one to five days. I have not been caught in any major rainstorm, so I cannot yet comment on DWR. I will update the review at that time.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: 140

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Specs

Price Current Retail: $139.99
Product Details from Kelty »

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