Open main menu

Kelty Big Bend

rated 5.0 of 5 stars

The Big Bend has been discontinued. If you're looking for something new, check out the best backpacks for 2021.

photo: Kelty Big Bend backpack


Price Reviewers Paid: $65.00


1 review
5-star:   1
4-star:   0
3-star:   0
2-star:   0
1-star:   0

Great pack, durable and flexible.


  • Great design
  • Carries superbly
  • Rugged
  • 75 liter capacity
  • Great compression


  • A lack of external pockets, unless you count mesh
  • No pocket on the hip belt either

I think I got this pack when the model was discontinued. At least I think it was discontinued, but the lack of offerings in the current catalogs supports this theory.

I have owned a pile of packs in my life and have retired all but three. This is probably the one I now use the most for actual hiking. It is rated for 75 liters with a ten-liter extension sleeve.The maker classifies it as an "expedition" pack. What they mean by that I cannot say.

The pack carries well whether the load is a weekend (my heaviest load was perhaps 30 to 34 lbs) or a long day hike with a cooked lunch. To me this is important. I cannot abide a pack that handles like a one-armed ape with any but a particular load size or weight. The compression straps are about the best you could want.

Hip belt is wide, comfortable, and covered with friction mesh, as is the lumbar pad and the upper (thoracic) pad. The lumbar pad is, by design, particularly thick, designed to get the pack to stand off the owner's back for maximum comfort. The thoracic pad is full width, rather than the more two pad system used by some makers.

Nevertheless by some magic of design, the pad touches my back only on the right and left, proximal to the scapula on each side. The very thick, 2"+ lumbar pad may have a hand in this. The system is effective. I often walk without a shirt when weather permits, but have not yet done so with this pack. I do not think the upper pad will be an issue, but we will see about sweat. The friction mesh does not seem of a type that would offend bare skin.

Yoke and adjustments are very nearly perfect for my 5' 11" long waisted body, but there is extensive room for adjustment. I think someone perhaps 5' 5" would not have an issue, but I cannot testify to this.

Construction is flawless, with not a single thread left hanging, with multiple stitching lines. By some occult system the zippers are entirely protected by flaps, but still allow access the zipper pulls even when completely closed or open. The pack flap completely covers the opening of the main compartment whether fully packed or with a big day load. I find this to be a rare and welcome feature.

One other design issue: It has four external mesh pockets that close in a tentative way with elastic, a bit less strong than a underwear waistband. They are too small for wet laundry so presumably they are designed for water bottles or a fuel bottle. It seems if you get a pack with external pockets these days, they are always mesh and they always threaten to lose the contents. I do not trust any I have ever seen to retain even a half pint water bottle from the convenient store. If you wish these to retain whatever you put in them you will need to alter them in some way.

What ever happened to real pockets? Honestly, this is a personal bugaboo, but pockets used to exist for a purpose. By replacing them with mesh pockets that cannot be securely closed (I am not blaming Kelty for this, as it seems every other maker does the same thing.). The mesh pockets here and everywhere else it seems, do not securely close and cannot be counted to even hold a short water bottle.

I like a big pack, as it allows room for flexibility of gear and load. For the thru hiker willing to carry the weight of a large traditional internal frame (as opposed to the ultra-light packs that are gaining favor), there is room for any resupply load you would want. Unlike the ultra-lights, at the end of the AT you will probably still have a pack that you can use for some years.

I have not at the time I write this been able to find this model being offered, although you might find one on eBay at some point. If the new Kelty packs are all this good, I would not hesitate to patronize any of them. I got this cheaply, which I admit compelled me, but if I had the resources I would have paid far more. 

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $65 (I think) on eBay, discontinued I think.


Thanks for taking the time to share such helpful reviews of your older packs, David. It's appreciated, and always interesting to hear how certain packs have held up over decades of use. I'd love to see pictures of them, if you have any to share in your reviews.

5 years ago
David Williams

This pack was acquired a few years ago rather than ancient days. In fact, it looks essentially new or I would be happy to send a photo. I use it al lot and it isn't even appreciably dirty, even after spilling my minestrone soup on it this fall on the Glastonbury Loop. A passing party had dogs that helped me clean it off. Not even a stain remains.

5 years ago

Thanks for the explanation, David. I'm sure others would still enjoy seeing any pack pictures you posted in your review. Have fun out there!

5 years ago
David Williams

Afterword...I went back to the Glastonbury Loop again yesterday, a friend carried the Kelty, I my Deuter Aircontact. I usual but both performed well.

2 years ago

Thanks for the update, David!

2 years ago

You May Like

Recently on Trailspace

Review Your Gear to Win Kora Wool Activewear worth $660

Gregory Nano Waistpack Review

Iturri MTP Patrol Boots Review

Buff Lightweight Merino Wool Buff Review

Coleman Northern Nova Review

Maine Fall Color - 2 Night GLT East Side