Last Updated: July 1, 2020

Kelty Redwing 50 Review (For Passionate Hikers)

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Kelty Redwing 50

If you’re a passionate adventurer and you need a large backpack to fit all your equipment, then the Redwing 50 is a great choice for you. It has a huge range of pockets and attachment points and some handy access zippers for stowing all your stuff. View Latest Deal

In this Kelty Redwing 50 review you will discover why it’s one of Kelty’s all time bestsellers. And one sign of this pack’s popularity is the fact that it was redesigned several times.

In this review, we will focus on the latest version of this popular hiking backpack – the one that’s available for purchase in 2020. Why? Because this year there are even bigger design changes!

So, if you are considering getting this pack you’ve come to the right place; you can find out exactly what you’ll love and hate about this backpack right here.

Redwing 50: The Rating

I’ll tell you all you need to know about the features of this pack. But first, take a look at the rating the Redwing 50 got, when compared to some other high-end hiking backpacks:

Pros

  • Lots of organisation options
  • Pole holders on the sides
  • Suitable for lots of things (hikes, work, commute, every day)

Cons

  • Not the most stylish backpack
  • A little heavy for a 50L pack

Product Rating

82Overall Rating
Weight
7/10
Comfort
8/10
Organization
10/10
Versatility
8/10
Value For Money
8/10

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 27 x 18 x 10 in / 68 x 45 x 25 cm
  • Weight: 3 lbs 4 oz / 1.47 kg
  • Capacity: 3051 in3 / 50 L
  • Frame Type And Material: Internal; Aluminum + HDPE
  • Compartments: One main compartment
  • Pockets: 7 total, 4 zippered and 3 slip pockets
  • Backpanel: Dynamic AirFlow backpanel for excellent ventilation and comfort
  • Access Type: Hybrid-loading; U-zipper allows for both top loading and panel loading (clamshell style)
  • Compression Straps: 4 total, two on each side

Weight

Well in order to understand why I am unimpressed with the weight of this backpack, you should first know exactly how much it weighs. You can see that, as well as a few other specs of the Redwing 50, at the table above.

The Redwing 50 backpack really is a premium backpack. And it’s actually smaller than it should be – when you compare it to other backpacks with the same capacity, the Redwing turns out to be smaller than most of them. But unfortunately, it’s not lighter.

And I understand why that is; the advanced perimeter frame is a crucial part of the pack’s construction. It’s the reason why this backpack manages to maintain its shape, both when fully packed and when completely empty. And that’s great – packs with frames are easier to fill up, because they’ll stand upright even when they’re empty. Unlike packs without frames, which just collapse into themselves. But, they are also easier to store somewhere when you’re not using them, because they take up much less space when collapsed. And they weigh much less.

I will mention Osprey’s Levity again – it’s my go-to lightweight backpack, and it’s pretty much the same size as the Redwing 50. And it weighs about 2 lbs less than the Redwing, which is why I am mentioning it. It’s living proof that it’s possible to make extremely lightweight backpacks, but which still have a 40-50l+ capacity. Just make them frameless and you’ll shed off 2 lbs.

On the other hand, maybe you prefer packs with frames. And that’s fine; but keep in mind that the Redwing 50 is still heavier than most other backpacks with frames, that are a similar size to it. For example, the Osprey Kestrel 48 is even slightly taller than this pack, and it weighs a few ounces less. And that’s pretty much why I think Kelty could still improve the weight of this backpack.

Now, this is pretty much the worst thing that I can say about this backpack. It’s only going to get better from here. So, if you actually don’t mind that it’s not as lightweight as it could be, I think you’re going to love some of its features!

Comfort

The Kelty Redwing has a lot to offer when it comes to comfort, from a well-padded back panel, to a super-thick padded hip belt. Let’s take a closer look at all of these below.

The Backpanel

kelty redwing 50 back panel harness

The Redwing 50 pack is equipped with a Dynamic AirFlow backpanel. What that actually refers to is the ventilation of the pack. The mesh fabric that covers that backpanel allows it to breathe, and the spacing between the foam ridges helps the air circulate even better. Basically, when you put all of those features together, you get a backpanel that has superb ventilation, and that pretty much guarantees to keep your back cool and dry.

Next, I should say that the backpanel is padded throughout, but I think that’s completely obvious from the photos. The padding is so thick that you can see it, and that’s a good thing. Thick padding means soft backpanel, which means you will be comfortable even when the Redwing 50 is at full capacity.

The Hipbelt

The hipbelt of your backpack plays a huge role in keeping you comfortable. For one thing, hips are the largest muscles in your body, and a hipbelt is designed to transfer most of the pack’s weight to them. And that’s the secret to carrying a 50lb+ backpack for hours and not toppling over or being so sore you can’t get out of bed the next day.

A good hipbelt needs to be padded – no one likes it when the straps cut into your waist. Luckily, the hipbelt on this backpack has some really thick foam padding, which will keep you perfectly comfortable throughout your adventures.

In addition to being padded, it is also completely ventilated, just like the rest of the pack’s harness. That’s also important, since you really don’t want your hips and lower back to get soaked throughout the day. The mesh that covers the entire hipbelt allows the air to flow, so that it doesn’t retain any moisture or odors.

There are also elastic pockets on the hipbelt (which I love on my Osprey Raptor 14 backpack) where you can stash easy to get to items like your phone. Don’t miss those amazing shots anywhere, wishing you could just get to your phone fast enough!

The Harness And Suspension System

kelty redwing 50 fit pro adjustment

One thing to note about the Redwing 50, is that its suspension system differs from the one in the smaller versions of the Redwing backpack. But in a really good way. In fact, this particular pack is equipped with Kelty’s trademarked Fit Pro adjustment system. And that means that every single person who decides to purchase this pack will be able to adjust the harness and the shoulder straps to fit their own body perfectly. All you do is slide the shoulder panel up or down to adjust the back length. Easy as pie! You can see them doing it in the image above (or the video further up).

Organization

The Redwing 50 really excels in this aspect. And yeah, that’s a surprise because it only has one main compartment! I usually prefer packs that have at least one other larger compartment, because that works best for me.

However, this pack has some really fascinating features that completely make up for the lack of an additional compartment. So, if you’re looking for a backpack that will make organizing your stuff a breeze, I’m pretty sure you’ve found it!

The Main Compartment

kelty redwing 50 main compartment

The main compartment of this pack is pretty interesting, for several reasons. First, it has a very unique opening style. It’s primarily a top loading backpack, which isn’t really ideal because you don’t have access to all of your things all the time. But the zipper of the main compartment is U-shaped, which allows you to open up this backpack just like a suitcase (clamshell style). And which also makes it panel-loading.

I really like that you get two options. Especially because packing a clamshell style backpack is much easier and allows for better organization. But the top access is better for on the go, since you can’t really lie your pack flat in the ground whenever you need something out of it.

One more thing to note is that there is only one internal pockets in the main compartment. It is a dual use hydration sleeve, which we’ll talk about later. Mostly it’s intended for your hydration bladder, but it can certainly be used for other things

Front Pocket With Organizer Panel

kelty redwing 50 front-pocket organiser

I think this my favorite feature of the Redwing 50. It just makes separating your stuff that much easier, and especially if you want some of them to be more easily accessible.

The panel has four different slip pockets, which are perfect for important to reach items, or just in-transit entertainment, if you use this for travel. I personally see myself stashing all of my map and GPS, or my crosswords and sudokus here, along with a few Bret Easton Ellis novels. Oh and a tablet can fit in that top slip pocket definitely!

But other than that, it’s also a great compartment for your electronic accessories – you don’t really want to put all the chargers in the main compartment because it’s going to be a nightmare to get them out. Instead, you can keep put them in this pocket, and you’ll be able to get them out in just a few second.

Replaced: Front Quick Stash Pocket With Webbing

Kelty has done away with the front quick stash pocket in this model. It is a shame in some ways because it is a great place to stash a jacket or softshell when the weather warms (or the opppsite when the wind picks up). Instead, you have to put it inside, or in the side pocket somewhere now. Which is a pain.

In place of this, they now have extensive webbing along the front, below the front pocket organiser. There is one larger slot in the top of the webbing, but I personally would not trust my jacket in there for any length of time. It is however great for anyone carrying excess gear, but not much use otherwise.

Zippered Side Pockets

kelty redwing zippered side pockets

Perhaps the reason for the name of the Redwing 50 are its large two wing side pockets. They are very useful, especially because you they are so big!

There are zippered and they are great for any items you would like to have handy at all times. I would say your water bottle, phone, wallet, camera, snacks, GPS would fit perfectly inside these.

But what I like even more than the pockets themselves is that they aren’t completely sewed onto the body of the pack. Instead, there is a space behind them which allows you to pull your hiking or trekking poles through them and into the stretch side pockets. And I think that the large zippered pockets will do a great job at keeping your poles in place – certainly a better job than compression straps would do. However, you can also use the bottom loops and compression straps for hanging your poles, in case you no longer have room!

Stretch Side Pockets

kelty redwing 50 side mesh pockets

These are below the larger, zipper pockets. They are made of stretch mesh, and they’re usually called water bottle pockets. But, as you’ve seen on the photo in the previous section, you could find several different uses for them.

Since there are standard on pretty much every backpack, there’s not much else to say about them. Just that they are slightly more shallow than similar pockets on other backpacks, but not so much that they’re useless. And since you have compression straps that go over these pockets, you certainly don’t have to worry about anything falling out.

The Compression Straps

kelty redwing 50 main compression straps

The Redwing 50 is equipped with four compression straps – two on each side. That’s not a lot, especially when you compare it to the eight straps of the Osprey Kestrel, but it’s perfectly enough.

Compression straps are particularly useful when you don’t fully pack your backpack. They allow you to reduce the size of the pack, and make it easier to carry around. Plus, if there is a lot of empty space inside your backpack, all your stuff is going to get jumbled around. With compression straps you can remove that space, and ensure that everything stays exactly where you put it.

Since the straps on this backpack go over the side pockets, they’re also very useful at tightening anything you put inside them. Or if you actually decide to put your hiking poles or trekking poles behind the large side pockets, the straps will further secure them in place.

Versatility

Versatility is a pretty wide term. But for now, I want to try and cover two types of versatility of backpacks that people care about the most.

How versatile are the gear attachment points on this backpack; are they specifically designed for something, or can you use them for pretty much anything you want?

What about the function of the pack, is it good for anything other than hiking?

And here are the answers.

Function Versatility

Obviously not a lot of people will have a collection of different types of backpack. You ever walk into someone’s closet and they were like, this is my commute pack, my work pack, my hiking pack, my camping pack, backpacking pack etc.? You get where I’m going with this.

That’s because the best products (not just backpacks) are the ones that you can use for multiple different purposes. Like the Redwing 50 here – even though it’s primarily a hiking backpack, there’s no reason why you couldn’t use it for travel. You can fit about 40-50 lbs of gear inside it, which is the maximum allowance for checked baggage anyway. And the pack allows for much better organization than a hardshell suitcase.

If you’re lucky, you could even get away with using it as a carry on. But don’t take me for granted here; we’ve all seen people with huge suitcases inside the cabin. And honestly, that pretty much depends on the mood of the person who’s deciding whether to let you bring your bag inside or make you check it.

Other than travel/backpacking, you could use the Redwing 50 for camping, trekking, biking and pretty much anything else. In my opinion, this bag is great for everything except your day-to-day errands.

Internal Dual Use Sleeve

Internal Sleeve Dual Use

This Kelty backpack features an internal, dual use sleeve. It’s meant for either your laptop or a hydration pack, depending on what you decide to take with on you on that particular adventure.

I’m not a big fan of dual use sleeves, let me just say that. But frankly, I can live with them since I rarely decide to take my laptop on a hike. Or a hydration pack on a trip. Additionally, I like that this is an internal sleeve, since it is more secure for your electronics.

Especially in the situations when your backpack is just laying around – there’s no way someone else will be able to easily access this sleeve.

Daisy Chain Webbing

kelty redwing 50 webbing

The daisy chain is hidden away, but you can easily pull it out if you ever need to use it. I find to this to be a really useful feature for hiking (not so much for travel), since daisy chains allow you to attach any type of gear you want to them. All you need is a carabiner and you’re good to go.

You see the sewn-in stops in the photo? Just pull them apart slightly, and that should expose the chain webbing. And attach a carabiner to it if you want to keep is exposed.

When you no longer need the daisy chains you can just tuck them away, and make you pack look really neat again.

Bottom Loops

Bottom Tool Loops

At the very bottom of the pack you’ll see two loops for gear attachment. This is actually an improvement over some earlier versions of the Redwing 50, since they didn’t have this feature.

The loops are great for any gear that’s too bulky to fit into the main compartment of the pack. You could use them for a sleeping pad, hiking poles or ice axe – whichever gear you tend to carry most often.

Value For Money

The prices of these types of packs can easily go over $200. So, it’s always great to find one that has some good features that you will actually use, and that’s under $150. Like the Kelty Redwing 50.

But keep this mind; if you’re a casual hiker and you’ve never owned a large hiking backpack, I don’t think you need a pack that’s as elaborate as this one. Ease your way into the world of hiking gear – maybe start off with Osprey’s Hikelite, or something that’s of a similar size. Because trust me, if you go hiking occasionally and don’t bring that much equipment with you, then you don’t really a hiking backpack with a 50lb+ capacity. Which also means that you won’t get your money’s worth, unless you really get serious about hiking.

But the more experienced hikers do. And that’s who this backpack for designed for – hardcore hikers who aren’t afraid to spend the night in the woods. They will love all the gear attachment points of this backpack, as well as its spacious main compartment.

So, if you are an experienced hiker looking to get a large hiking backpack that you will use quite often, then you will definitely get your money’s worth if you purchase the Redwing 50. And if you head over to Kelty you can grab last years model at a huge discount!

Kelty Redwing 50: Yes Or Pass?

Like I said in the previous section, this largely depends on what type of hiker you are. If you are a casual hiker and don’t really carry a lot of gear with you, then I would say you can skip this backpack.

But if you’re a passionate adventurer and you need a large backpack to fit all your equipment, then the Redwing 50 is a great choice for you! You’ll love all of its features – the abundance of pockets, the different gear attachment points and the hybrid U-zipper that allows you to open up the pack both from the top and clamshell style.

But most of all you will love how comfortable this pack is going to be when you’re wearing it. The Redwing 50 feature thick padding on its entire harness and backpanel, with foam ridges for improved ventilation. So, even if you manage to fill this backpack to its full capacity, you won’t really feel like you are carrying 50lbs+ of gear on your back.

The best thing about this pack is that it is pretty affordable, especially when you consider all of the cool features that you’re getting with it. I suggest you head over to Amazon and check out the different styles the Redwing 50 comes in, as well as their prices. You’ll be surprised at how affordable this high-end pack is!

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Kelty Redwing 50
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