Last Updated: July 10, 2019

Kelty Redwing 50 Review (For Passionate Hikers)

Kelty Redwing 50 Review

The Redwing 50 is 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 2018. 

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:

Overall Rating

82/100

Weight

3.5/5

Comfort

4/5

Organization

5/5

Versatility

4/5

Value For Money

4/5

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

Not bad, right? And you can read about the reasons for these scores in the rest of the review. If one aspect interests you more than the others, feel free to skip to it with the navigation below. :>


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, right here in this table:

Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack, Black

Dimensions

26” x 16” x 12” 

 Weight

3.69 lbs

Capacity

51 liters

Frame Type And Material

Internal; Aluminum + HDPE 

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 aluminum 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

Redwing 50 Backpanel

Backpanel

Redwing 50 Harness

Harness

Redwing 50 Hipbelt

Hipbelt

A picture can say more than a thousand words. And I think that's especially true when talking about these three pictures. One simple glance at them is enough to realize that this backpack will keep you comfortable even if you manage to stuff half of your apartment inside it. Just look at those foam ridges and the padding on the hipbelt! 

The Backpanel

Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack, Garnet Red

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 Harness And Suspension System

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 Perfect Fit suspension, which is fully adjustable. 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. 

To learn how you can adjust the harness and all the straps, I suggest you check out this step-by-step video tutorial:

One other thing I wanted to mention is that the shoulder straps come with a sternum strap. This is a useful thing because it locks them in place while you're wearing the pack. So once you've adjusted the pack completely, make sure to use the sternum strap to ensure that everything stays in place. 

The Removable Hipbelt

Removable Hipbelt Redwing 50

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. 

And the only thing that I don't like about the hipbelt of this pack is that it doesn't have any pockets. But it's not a really big deal, since it doesn't really impact your comfort. 


Organization

Zippered Side Pockets

Zippered Side Pockets

Front Stash Pocket

Front Stash Pocket

Front Pocket With Organizer

Front Pocket With Organizer

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 Backpack, Ponderosa Pine

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 street whenever you need a spare hoodie. 

One more thing to note is that there aren't any internal pockets in the main compartment. There is a dual use sleeve though, which we'll talk about later. 

Front Pocket With Organizer Panel

Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack, Garnet Red

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 about 5 different slip pockets, which are perfect for in-transit entertainment. I personally see myself stashing all of my crosswords and sudokus here, along with a few Bret Easton Ellis novels. Oh and a tablet 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.

Front Quick Stash Pocket

Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack, Garnet Red

A front quick stash pocket is exactly what it sounds like – an unenclosed pocket that you simply use to quickly put away something you don’t need anymore. Like a spare layer of clothing when you get too hot.

On the Redwing 50, this pocket is actually the space between the main compartment and the front organizer pocket, and it’s held in place by an adjustable hook. Now, that last thing is important because it means that you can actually adjust the size of this pocket. If you’re using it for a thin hoodie then you can tighten the hook strap neatly, to ensure it stays in place.

And if you loosen up the strap you’ll get more space in the pocket and you could even fit a ski-jacket inside it. Or a (faux) fur coat.

Zippered Side Pockets

Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack, Black

I really like that Kelty was thoughtful enough to include these in the Redwing 50. They are very useful, especially because you don't get any hipbelt pockets. 

There are two zippered side pockets on this backpack, and they are great for any items you would like to have handy at all times. I would say your 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. 

Stretch Side Pockets

Stretch Side 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.

Top Quick Stash Pocket

Top Quick Stash Pocket


It's always useful to have a pocket that's hidden away from the eyes of the world. Especially if you're a little paranoid, and don't like keeping any valuable items in compartments that everyone else can easily access. 

Well, this pocket is on the very top of the pack, and the zipper is cleverly hidden away. So much so that it took me a couple of minutes to find it in the photos! Plus, when you wear the pack, this pocket will be a little bit above your head, so there's absolutely no chance someone could get inside it without you noticing.

The Compression Straps

Redwing 50 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

Redwing 50 Internal Sleeve

Internal Dual Use Sleeve

Daisy Chain Webbing

Hidden Daisy Chain Webbing

Bottom Loops

Bottom Tool Loops

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

Hidden Daisy Chain

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 Amazon and check out its price, you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about! :>


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.

Sale
Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack, Twilight Blue
133 Reviews
Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack, Twilight Blue
  • Redwing is a tried & true trail value for all day hikes or a quick overnight, a true multipurpose pack from international travel to a day on the trail
  • Perfect Fit Suspension supplies you w/ customized comfort without the hassle, accurate on body adjustments w/ 3 simple steps for pack fitting success

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!

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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