Kelty Redwing Women's 40L: The Perfect Hybrid Travel/Hiking Pack
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Way back when, I bought a new BACKPACK for my Machu Picchu trek...
And trust me, I get that using a brand new piece of gear was probably not the smartest decision in the world. But, when I had the opportunity to have a hiking pack muled back from the USA for me by a fellow Remote Year participant, I put in my due diligence and researched the perfect one. I was going back and forth. Back and forth. I've always loved hiking and camping, especially after this summer's USA road trip, but I'd never combined the two together. I'd never done an overnight hike! So did I really want to sink a lot of money into "the perfect hiking backpack"? At the same time, though, I was pretty fucking confident that I was going to love overnight hiking and trekking as much as I loved hiking and camping on their own. So I didn't want to waste money on something cheap. I was especially trying to stay within an approximate budget of $150. Ultimately, I decided between the Osprey Kyte 46 and the Kelty Redwing Women's 40.
There were definitely pluses and minuses to both options. Though the Kelty was more affordable, it didn't come with an essential raincover built-in and the hydration sleeve was, inconveniently, located on the interior of the pack, which definitely makes accessing and refilling the hydration sleeve more complicated. Additionally, the Osprey Kyte had built-in adjustability in it's back panel, meaning that I could adjust the pack to my torso length, while the Kelty Redwing had limited adjustability in the model I was looking at. However, the Osprey was also a bit too large to reliably serve as a carry-on, especially on the budget airlines that I would be travelling on, which seemingly get stricter and stricter with their carry-on requirements by day. Ultimately, the perks of the Osprey pack didn't justify the cost and I was too concerned about the potential fees that I would accumulate if said budget airlines forced me to check the Osprey pack. Ultimately, that is why I chose the Kelty backpack. And after trekking Machu Picchu with this pack for 4 days and 3 nights. I can tell you...
I am supremely happy with my choice!
The color is gorgeous. As many people said in their Amazon review of the Kelty Redwing, the color is very different in real-life than the images show in the Amazon description. It looks much lighter, almost a sky blue in the Amazon photos. But, in real life, it's a much deeper teal that is richer and more along the lines of a jewel-tone! It's a beautiful color!
Extremely functional extra pockets. This is an aspect of the Kelty backpack that I wasn't sure I'd like. The Osprey pack is beautifully streamlined, with not a lot of extra pockets on the outside. Aesthetically, I love the look of that pack. I wasn't sure how functional all of the random little pockets on the Kelty pack would be. For clarity, the Kelty backpack includes an extra pocket on the top, above the main pocket, two side pockets, and a pocket on the front on the outside of the pouch. I loved these little pockets, especially while I was on my Salkantay Trek! I used one of the side pockets to stash some of my warm-weather gear (it got cold on our trek!), like my gloves, wool hat, etc. I used the other side-pocket to stash all my first-aid stuff. If you've read my Salkantay Trek post, you know that I had a couple health issues while we were on the trail, so this pocket got a ton of use! It included band aids, an Ace bandage, Imodium, Pepto Bismol, and all my tissues, toilet paper, and wet wipes (a necessity when you're using nature's toilet). The top pocket on the back is where I stashed my raincover, which I bought as an add-on when I purchased the pack. I loved having this top pocket because it made my raincover accessible when sudden downpours struck. The front pocket was wonderful as well, but mostly for travel purposes! It's where I stashed my Kindle, my tickets, etc. and was nice and accessible on the outside of the pack! Quick-access is key when you're traveling! Last, but not least, I love the stash pouch on the front of the pack! It was so important for being able to quickly stash my rain jacket when I wasn't using it, or to stash layers that I took off as we hiked the trail, something that happened damn near every day of the trek!
Perfect amount of space for what I needed. One of the things that made me a little nervous about getting the Kelty over the Osprey Kyte, is that it is a little bit smaller - approximately 6L smaller to be exact. That made me nervous mostly from the perspective of traveling and long-term hiking. If I were to use this Kelty backpack in future multi-day hikes, would it be big enough? When I traveled with this backpack, would I be able to fit everything in it that I needed? Admittedly, when traveling with it for our week in Cusco + Machu Picchu, the bag was very full! But, once I took out some of the non-essentials for the trek, it was the perfect size! Not only was it the perfect carry-on size, and I had absolutely no trouble fitting it into the smaller and stricter carry-on requirements of budget airlines, but even on the trek, it was perfect! The guides may have made fun of me for my larger backpack (most other people had the mules carry the majority of their stuff!), but I didn't mind! I liked having all my stuff with me! The Kelty was the perfect size. Not too big or too small to travel with. Not too small for trekking and hiking.
The laptop sleeve (which fit my sizeable 15" laptop). Whenever something says it fits "most" 15-inch laptops, I get nervous. Will it fit mine? Mine is on the larger size, and for our trip and for our travels, I needed to have my laptop with me! It's my livelihood after all! Well, good news, it did! And not only that, but it's badded and it against a stiff, padded back panel, which makes me feel like my laptop is very protected.
The U-zip. I really enjoyed the kind of hybrid U-zip that the Kelty uses for its main pocket. It's not a full U-zip, meaning that you can't completely unfold the pocket for complete access to your belongings on the interior pocket. However, it was a partial U-zip and I found that accessibility to my belongings within the main pocket was not an issue at all! It isn't a strict top-loader, which I really enjoyed. But it's also not a strict U-zip travel backpack, which isn't exactly convenient for trekking and hiking in my opinion. So, this kind of hybrid makes this pack very useful as both a hiking and travel backpack.
The add-on rain cover. A raincover was a must for me. And I wouldn't have even considered the Kelty backpack if Kelty didn't sell a raincover separately. I grew to like the idea of buying a separate one purely for the fact that I could use the raincover on different backpacks. Though, I will say, they should definitely work on the attachment of this rain cover. My LowerPro rain cover fits so perfectly around my backpack that I have no worries about water finding its way underneath. Because this raincover doesn't seamlessly attach to the backpack, I definitely was occasionally a little concerned about if water was slipping in around the sides. Ultimately, I didn't have a problem and I'm super happy that Kelty sells these raincovers separately. But, I definitely think it wouldn't hurt to install a built in, pull-out rain cover into the Kelty pack. That would definitely make it an even more worthy competitor with the Osprey packs in my book.
The padding was so comfy. Part of what concerned me about getting a brand new pack before doing a 4 day 60+ km trek was how comfortable was it going to be. I didn't want the backpack to be rubbing my shoulders, hips, back, etc. raw. Maybe that is just me being naive about backpacks nowadays, but it was a concern. So, I definitely considered the amount of padding a backpack had in it's sleeves and hip belt when determining which backpack I was going to buy. Fortunately, this one was perfect! Ya, my shoulders and hips were a tiny bit tender to the touch after our two longer days of trekking (26 and 27km, respectively), but each time I put the pack back on, it was incredibly comfortable! Even during those times at altitude when my brain wasn't working properly and I forgot to cinch the hip belt and sternum strap in place! Haha.
The fit was perfect for my frame. This was something I loved. Adjustability and whether or not the backpack would fit were definitely points of concern for me. I did not go to a store and get this backpack fitted, which perhaps is another rookie mistake that I won't repeat when I invest in a larger hiking backpack in the future for longer treks. But, I did research a lot about torso lengths, build, women-specific features, etc. And after measuring my own torso length, I was pretty confident about what packs would fit me and fit me well. Though my 17-18" torso length was a little on the long side for this pack, I found that it fit me perfectly. Note that I'm 5'4", 160lbs with a very long waist, short legs and a very athletic build. I'm basically all muscle (with a little more to love haha). All I had to do to adjust the pack to my torso length was cinch up the straps at the top of the backpack straps and voila. It fit great!
The small details. This backpack has a lot of small details. Things like great zipper pulls, all sorts of straps and daisy chains to clip additional gear onto, etc. These were invaluable while I was trekking. But, perhaps my favorite details were the little rubber bands around the ends of each strap. This tiny detail made it so that, once you had your pack adjusted the way you wanted, you could roll the excess strap up on itself and use the little rubber band to keep the excess strap in place. No big long extra straps flopping around! I can't tell you how nice of a little detail that was!! I also really liked all the cinches on the backpack. It really made it so that you could cinch things down when you had a lot less in the backpack, stabilizing your load and making it even more comfortable! Lastly, I loved the hook at the top of the stash pocket on the front of the pack! I had a baseball hat with me throughout the hike and I loved having the ability to just hook my hat into that loop, without having to put it away! Again - easy of access is so crucial for me and there is so much of that with this backpack!
It's literally the PERFECT carry-on size on budget airlines. I've mentioned this before, but I want to reiterate it again. We flew Viva Air Peru to Cusco, which is notorious for being very strict about carry-on sizes (Note: This airline is also like Spirit, meaning that your ticket only includes a personal item. The additional carry-on costs more.). This pack was legit SO perfect as a carry-on. Even for the strictest carry-on sizes, this backpack fit perfectly! Since our Salkantay Trek, I've been using this backpack as my carry-on on travel/transition day with Remote Year, as well as a carry-on/travel pack for side-trips, namely my side-trip to Cartagena in Colombia!
Now, for the Dislikes:
The interior hydration sleeve pocket. This is probably one of the biggest drawbacks to this backpack being a hybrid hiking/travel backpack and it was something I was aware of going in. It was occasionally irritating having the take out my stuff so I didn't accidentally dump water on it in the process of refilling my hydration sleeve. Also, when the bladder was full, it definitely seemed to cut down on the amount of space I had within the pack. But, given that I was only really carrying my clothes and the porters and donkeys took care of carrying the tents/sleeping bags/cookware/etc., ultimately, this interior hydration sleeve pocket didn't affect me too much on the trek. Ideally, the hydration sleeve would be on the outside, but in this case, since it serves a dual-purpose as a laptop sleeve as well, it worked out fine.
No hip belt pockets. My LowerPro has spoiled me a lot on this front. I missed having hip belt pockets a lot in this pack. With my LowerPro backpack, I use the hip belt pockets as quick, easy storage for my cell phone, my lens cap when I'm taking pictures, some small snacks, etc. The ease of access of hip belt pockets for some of these things is undeniable. I wish the Kelty had hipbelt pockets and though it definitely didn't heavily impact my enjoyment of this pack, that definitely would've been a crowd-pleasing feature to have.
The water bottle pockets are a little shallow. I've mentioned a couple things that I disliked about the pack so far, but honestly, those things are mostly an inconvenience. They didn't affect the function and the day-to-day use of the pack. Once I got used to the features (or lack of), I was able to use the pack quite seamlessly. The water bottle pockets, however, were an irritating problem to have. The water in Peru is not drinkable, so my LifeStraw water bottle was an invaluable piece of equipment to have with me. However, because of the placement of the side pockets and the shallowness of the mesh water bottle holders on the side, it fell out repeatedly during the trek. It got to the point where I had to use the carabiner on the water bottle to clip it to one of the straps so it didn't accidentally fall out and get left behind on the trail. The only water bottles that consistently stayed in the pocket were wider water bottle, ironically, that fit so snugly they didn't have the room to fall out. This was the most irritating dislikes of the pack.
Overall, I'm really happy with this backpack.
Knowing that I have an option of a carry-on that is such a dual-purpose pack is so reassuring! It will be great in the future for day-hikes and even shorter multi-day hikes. I definitely realize that if I find myself doing week long treks or more, I will probably want to buy a new, larger pack and I've already got my eye on a couple options! But, at this time, for my skill level and the amount of hiking and trekking that I do, I think that this is the perfect bag. It's definitely got some minor drawbacks, but for the price, I really think that this backpack is fantastic and I highly encourage the newbie hiker or the person who is looking for a good travel backpack that could double as a day hike backpack (or even a backpack that they can use for trekking while they travel), I highly recommend the Kelty Redwing Women's 40.
Buy yours here: Kelty Redwing Women's 40L (Note: I got the Deep Lake color, which is not nearly as bright and light blue as the pictures show)