Kelty Redwing 50 Reserve Review
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Multi use backpacks are an enormous market and as a result there are a huge variety options. It can be tough for a pack to stand out from the crowd. Brimming with features including a new internal frame system and tons of well thought out storage options the Kelty Redwing 50 Reserve stands atop the pile.
Redwing 50 Reserve Design:
The whole purpose of a backpack is to pack things. That’s why packs with limited storage options and few external pockets never fare well. With the Redwing 50 Reserve, Kelty covered all of their bases. The pack provides tons of storage options without looking like an over engineered nerd bag. In total the bag has 50L of space which equates to about 3100 cubic inches.
The internal frame of the pack uses a single LightBeam aluminum stay with a HDPE frame sheet. This makes the pack quite light for an adjustable internal frame pack weighing in at only 3lbs, 11oz. Kelty paired the frame with a Dynamic AirFlow back panel. This does an outstanding job providing support while keeping the back well ventilated and cool.
This brings me to what is perhaps the coolest part of the Redwing pack. Kelty designed the PerectFIT system and it does just that. You no longer need to buy the perfect “fit” pack and rearrange the strap system to get a perfect fit. Just pull a couple straps and you are ready to go. It is awesome and very easy to use. Check out the video link to see how it works: Kelty Redwing 50 Reserve. This is a really nice feature if the pack either has multiple users or if you widely vary how much stuff you put in it.
One thing this pack has that merits recognition is a very well thought-out strap system. Many of the clips for compression straps are made out of either of metal or very durable plastic. This is very important because at some point someone will step on a buckle and broken one is big problem on the trail. The waist belt system is also thoughtfully designed. The front buckle is situated so that it is easy to get a tight fit and align clasp in the middle. It is also removable which is really nice if you are packing light and don’t want the excess bulk of a large strap. The pack also features side pulls near the back of the waist strap to pull the base of the pack into your lower back. Similarly, at the top of the shoulders are a set of lift loader straps to raise and lower the ride. Of course there is also a sternum strap.
Redwing 50 Reserve Storage:
Storage options starts with a zipper pocket on the very front of the pack. Inside are a variety of pouches and slots to keep things like work supplies, passport, power cords, an ipad, or a small laptop organized. The zip down flap makes it extremely easy to access on the fly. I recently used it for a work trip and found it handy to set up a little mobile office while I was in an airport.
As it turns out, this front pouch is also tremendously useful when you get out in the woods. For skiing and hiking, all those small little pockets work great for energy bars, maps, or any tool you might need to access in the woods. The pouch is very easy to access with gloves on and because of the shape of the pocket it falls down when unzipped to reveal everything inside. I found that it worked tremendously for all of my avalanche gear, emergency ski tools and a map when I was back-country skiing.
Seated just behind the zipper pouch is a stash pocket with a closure hook. Typically I’m not a huge fan of these. I am afraid things will come tumbling out if I tip it over in the airport or flip on my snowboard. Kelty used a fairly secure closure that will keep most bulky items in unless you really shake the bag when it is upside down. It’s adequately sized to fit anything a couple mid layers or a rain shell, but not quite big enough for an insulated outer layer. Incidentally if you’re touring, it the perfect size for a collapsible shovel if you like having it located externally.
On the very top of the Redwing 50 Reserve is another stash pocket. I’m amazed at how much I used this for the small things I know I’ll need regularly. It was fairly spacious and with a little stuffing you can fit a small fleece jacket in it. Because of its location, I typically found myself sticking my travel documents, a mid layer or a neck pillow in it. On the trail it was a great place for sunglasses or goggles. Inside the pocket is a key clip as well as a small inner RFID blocking pouch for valuables. Its great for a wallet or passport but is actually big enough to fit a small paperback book if you were so inclined.
The side pockets on either side of the Kelty Redwing 50 Reserve pack were tremendously useful. They are easily accessible if you only want to take off a single shoulder strap and grab something while you continue to walk. For business, you can use it for your power cords. Out in the wilderness, they will fit a pair of goggles or thick gloves but are a little too small to stuff a jacket in. They are also the perfect size for a water bottle if you don’t want to use a hydration system. At the base of the back on either side there is a mesh pocket. These are typically used for water bottles but I found them much more useful to hold anything from ski poles to a camera tripods.
My absolute favorite part of this pack is the U-shaped zippers that house the main compartment. For years I’ve owned a pack with similar zippers and love it because unloading at your final destination is so easy. Just undo the two zippers on the Redwing 50 Reserve and it is like opening a suitcase. The inside of this pack is substantially larger than you would guess based on the pictures. If you look at the images below I’d had no problem fitting two tents and a collection of other camping gear inside. Its definitely enough space for a long weekend trip to sight-see in the city or a few days of warm weather camping.
Inside the main compartment there are a number of organizational features to help keep your stuff neat. There are two clips for key fobs to make sure can get home from your latest adventure. On the back portion there are 2 vertical pouches. One can fit an ipad and the other can fit a laptop or a hydration system.
Kelty Redwing 50 Reserve Features:
There are loads of other features that make this pack stand out. The placement of the compression straps is very well done. They compress the load and are also ideally placed to help strap thing to the exterior of the pack. Particularly the ones on the sides of pack are ideal for holding a tripod or ski poles. Kelty designed the side pockets so a tripod or ski poles can slide right behind them, into the mesh pocket and then be secured with the compression straps… Very slick.
There are number of different kinds of closure on the Kelty Redwing 50 Reserve. All but the main compartment uses sturdy zippers with a nice length nylon pull. The main compartment of the bag has small durable plastic lanyards and lockable zippers.
The pack has 2 handles. One on the very top of the pack and one which is hidden on the front. These make it very easy to grab and toss the bag while packing or lugging it. Near the base of the pack are 2 ice axe loops. I found them useful for my shovel handle. At the very base of the bag are number of small loops for strapping external items to the bottom of the pack. They are useful for airport travel but less so for hiking unless you want things hitting you in the butt as you hike.
The Kelty Redwing 50 Reserve On the Trail:
On the trail, the very first thing you’ll do once your pack is loaded down with weight is get it correctly sized. With a PerfectFIT system this is really easy. I literally pulled three straps on each side and was ready to go. It took about 20 seconds. My wife also used the pack occasionally and being able to switch between torso back sizes was really nice. While hiking a few features really stood out. I suspected this kind of adjustable system would slide over time and require constant adjustment. I noticed this happened only minimally under maximal load and is very easily corrected with the quick grab of the straps. The side stash pockets made it very easy to quickly grab the things that I needed. This was really nice both when hiking but also traveling with kids, when you need quick access to a large variety of stuff.
The unique design of the side stash pockets allows you to slide things behind them and lash them to the bag with the compression straps. This was fantastic. I found myself just looking for things to stick to the pack. Most often it was trekking poles which fit nicely but it can certainly accommodate something substantially bigger.
One of my favorite things about this pack is the system Kelty used to prevent straps from flapping in the breeze. This makes the pack very quiet. I’m driven nuts by stuff bouncing off my pack while I’m hiking and I absolutely loved the fact that the straps were easy to tuck away (see picture below). If you’re somebody who isn’t bothered by this you can just chose not to use it and it doesn’t get in the way.
One drawback of the pack is that the padding/strap/suspension system is a little bit bulky if you are packing light. If you’re using the pack for major hikes and carrying substantial weight it’s perfect. If you’re using it for light travel I suggest taking the waist belt off.
On a style note, this pack just looks great. The Redwing 50 comes is different versions and colors but the Redwing 50 Reserve only comes in 1 color. You can see it in the pictures. It gives the bag a classy look without looking too ostentatious on the trails. The paring of the gray/ brown material with red stitching makes for a really sharp look.
Final thoughts on the Kelty Redwing 50 Reserve:
As I have said in other gear reviews I am a bag snob… but I absolutely I love this bag. Kelty did an outstanding job packing tons of features and storage options into a classy medium sized internal frame pack with an fantastic fit system. The concept is great, the details are on point and the execution is near flawless.
Price: $159.95 USD
Volume: 3100 in3 / 51 L
Frame Type: Internal
Weight: 3 lbs 11 oz / 1.66 kg
Torso Fit Range: 15.5 – 21 in / 39 – 53 cm
Dimensions: 26 x 16 x 12 in / 66 x 41 x 30 cm
Body Fabric: 600D Recycled PET
Frame Material: Aluminum + HDPE
Link: Kelty Redwing 50 Reserve