Historic Range: $99.99-$159.99
Kelty’s upscale Redwing 50 Reserve backpack has enough class for city travel and enough toughness to tackle the trail. From its large U-shaped zippered opening to its tough, but posh looking fabric, the Redwing 50 backpack blurs the lines between travel bag and wilderness backpack.
- Dual uses
- Heavy duty fabric
- Storage options
- A little heavy
Fitting a backpack is key for comfort. Kelty uses their Perfect Fit system on the Redwing 50 Reserve. This system allows the pack to be adjusted to a wide range of torso lengths. A sheet of high-density polyethylene plastic combined with a backbone of aluminum gives the pack its shape and structure, while still remaining relatively light in weight. A removable adjustable padded waist belt is used in conjunction with padded shoulder straps to support the loaded backpack.
Ventilation is handled by the use of hex-mesh material on the waist belt, shoulder straps, and back panel. Dual functionality is featured everywhere on the Redwing 50, from the laptop/hydration sleeve to the organizer pocket with a padded tablet sleeve.
Kelty has even installed an RFID-blocking pocket and key ring for security. Heavy-duty aluminum buckles and locking zipper pulls are other features. Two side pockets and a pair of water bottle pockets are some of the additional features of this Kelty 51-liter pack.
From the humble confines of his home garage, Dick Kelty started welding his first pack frames in 1952 using aircraft aluminum while his wife Nena sewed the pack bags. The first year they sold 29 backpacks at 24 dollars each and a company was born. Those first external framed backpacks spawned a revolution in outdoor equipment.
I tested the Kelty Redwing 50 Reserve backpack from the wilderness end of the spectrum. This may be the best-looking backpack on the market from a style point of view. The pack’s 40 denier poly fabric in a stylish gray/black is offset by the bright red of the hex-mesh ventilated fabric and zipper pulls.
Adjusting the backpack using the Perfect Fit system is quite unique. The hip belt and shoulder straps, along with the load leveler and torso adjustment straps are fully loosened to start. The loaded backpack is then put on, the hip belt and shoulder straps are adjusted for comfort. At this point, the torso length is adjusted, and finally, the load leveler straps are tightened. I found this system to work very well; it was easy to properly adjust the torso length in seconds without a lot of fuss.
The Redwing pack’s 51 liters of capacity were up to the task of handling all of my camping gear. The stove and kitchen kit were stored in the side pockets and rain gear went into the outside pocket. The stash space behind the outer pocket came in handy for items that needed quick access. Footwear for crossing creeks, a water filter, and bottle, all slipped in with stash space to spare. The hydration sleeve had plenty of room for my 100-ounce hydration bag and there was a center porthole for passing the hose through the bag.
The side compression straps proved doubly useful for cinching around my Tyvek ground cloth and my lightweight camp chair, as well as tightening up the pack’s main body. Kelty has thoughtfully included sleeves behind the side pockets that allow for the storage of longer items, such as hiking poles or a fishing rod. The top pocket had enough room for keys and a wallet in the hidden zippered RFID pocket, while still providing enough space for a Kindle, smartphone, and three small ditty bags. Though they were not used, hidden daisy chain loops on the outer pocket provide points for lashing additional items.
Throughout my 11-mile test backpack trip with a gain and loss of 2,400 vertical feet, the pack rode nicely and didn’t need to be constantly adjusted. The hex-mesh ventilation worked well and the pack was comfortable moving down the trail.
The Redwing 50 weighed 4 ¼ pounds. While that is a bit heavy for a 50-liter pack, it was to be expected given both the dual nature of its intended uses, the heavy-duty fabric and the abundance of aluminum buckles and zippers. Base weight with all my gear was just over 20 pounds, still well within the lightweight hiker range.
Some additional features which I found to be handy were a beefy top handle and a hidden handle on the outer pocket. The dual nature of its features has me looking forward to using this as a travel pack on my September Tour of Mont Blanc trip. It certainly has plenty of features that will make traveling a breeze.
- Color: Dark gray/Red
- Size: 51 Liters
- Weight: 3lb. 11oz
- Price $159.95
Source: tested or reviewed it for the manufacturer (I kept the product after testing.)