Kelty Redwing 2500
After spending a considerable amount of time trying on backpacks I decided the Kelty Redwing 2500 was the best fit for my needs. I bought it in 2006 before I left for an 8 month trip to India. I hoped it would make a good carry-on and weekend bag for my travels during a semester studying in Delhi. As I traveled on the weekends and learned to pack light, this carry-on became the only bag I needed for months at a time. I have also used it for long hikes and for carrying our climbing rack. The past 4 years of use have put their fair share of abuse on the bag but it is still going strong.
The back of the bag has a single titanium support that balances shape and strength with weight. The shoulder and waist straps are padded without being stiff. One of my only complaints about the Redwing is that the back supports are foam padding and provide very little breathability as it sits directly on your back. They use porous “breathable” foam but when it comes down to it nothing really provides adequate airflow unless you get something with the off the back air vent systems.
The same features that limit its breathability also make it extremely comfortable. The foam padding on the back provides good insulation from the contents of the pack. This means you won’t feel the corner of that book you’re carrying dig into your hip. Its single support provides the stiffness to retain the bag’s shape while allowing the pack to conform to the contours of your back.
The best thing about the Kelty Redwing is its flexibility in size. When empty it really doesn’t look like much and the compression straps help keep a low profile on light outings. If you are spending months traveling the world you will not be disappointed at how much you will be able to fit in the Redwing. Rather than expanding upwards like a traditional backpacking backpack the Kelty has a seemingly limitless ability to round out to accommodate whatever souvenir you may have picked up. I always say that this bag can fit just about anything and so far it has proven to be true. When I was traveling by myself this bag made the perfect travel companion. Its modest size means that I can never over pack my way to a massively sore back and limits me perfectly to what will be comfortable to carry wherever I go. When I start to reach those limits it always seems to have a little extra give.
I will admit that the Redwing is not the lightest pack. But given that I’m not counting ounces for fast and light trekking it wasn’t an issue for me. The official weight is almost 3 lbs and seems to be centered around the harness system with its thick foam.
Having abused the Redwing for the last 4 years and counting it is beginning to show some wear and tear. It is still holding up at crucial seams and zippers which is a testament to the quality products that Kelty makes. Soon after I bought it the outside left and right pockets began to have zipper issues. This is likely due to the shape of the zipper. It is rounded in such a way that makes it hard to zip and un zip making the zipper likely to fail. In addition, the top inside of those pockets has worn through from overstretching (I did say I can fit anything inside, didn’t i?) but this just leaves a small opening to the main pocket and hasn’t affected its usefulness. Other than that there is little visible wear on the backpack itself and no exposed threads at any seam.
Without a doubt this bag gets 9 out of 10. If the zipper and hole didn’t develop I would be giving this a 10. But given that I have dragged it on Indian buses, toted it on scooters, dragged it up to mountain tops, and thrown in the dirt at the crag it is still has yet to disappoint. Due to its age and my fondness of buying new gear I considered replacing it before we set off on our multi-year trip. I looked around and realized that nothing would suit my needs as well as the Redwing. Replacing the Redwing with a new Redwing seemed silly as she still has plenty of fight left in her. I am happy to report that she remains my travel bag of choice and continues to accommodate all my belongings no matter what ridiculous things I may drag around the world.
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