Reviewed by em from Boston, MA on Saturday, February 23, 2013
I officially love the Kelty Redwing 50. I bought it to replace a 15 year old travel backpack that no one has ever heard of made by American Tourister, which was essentially a large squishy, boxy carry on size suitcase with two backpack straps. That old pack, boxy as it was, spoiled me for travel packs forever and went around the world with me several times over. It recently developed a terrible smell from getting something spilled on it in a cargo hold somewhere then marinating on a tarmac - anyway, time for a replacement.
My main criteria for a pack was that it had to fit two weeks of clothing (though I travel pretty light) so >3000 cubic inches of volume, but also be carry-on friendly, and be easy to pack/unpack quickly - which effectively meant front/panel loading, and be sturdy enough to get thrown on & off bus roofs and the like, get wet on camping trips, get dragged around a bit, but not SO sturdy that it weighed > 4.5 lbs or so. Tough order to fill!
I got the Redwing 50 in size small (torso size, all the packs have the same load volume regardless of what torso size you order) in the Apricot orange color. When I pulled it from the delivery box I already knew it was going to be good - the material is sturdy but light, the compression straps are well-placed and solidly made, the padding is just enough to keep you comfortable without being too puffy. The velcro on the pack is TOUGH. It's an effort to pull apart, but this is exactly what you want for the purpose on this pack (the velcro is behind the side zip pockets, effectively forming another pocket, or can be used for carrying walking sticks/poles as a pass-through). The design, pocket placement and interior material have all been well thought out. There are some organizational compartments, but the bulk of the interior is just clean space to pack in. I will probably never use the internal bladder/hydration feature, so can't comment on that except to say that it's not intrusive of the internal space. Don't let the shape of the pack fool you - this is not "school backpack" size, but "internal frame weeks-long backpacking trip" size. It's big.
Packed with all my gear and cinched with the compression straps, it makes a tight, small bundle perfect for carry on. But the front pocket - organized quite a bit like a school backpack - makes it easy to remove things for airport security (so the remainder can stay compressed and unopened if possible). I have a small laptop, so managed to fit it in that front pocket. It fits in the upper airline bin space perfectly, with room to spare. The daisy chain loops on the bottom of the pack are great for hanging extra shoes or a rolled up blanket and pillow.
There are so many well thought out thumb loops, pull loops, grab handles and the like, that each time I reach for something there is a perfectly placed loop to grab. The zippers are solid and zip freely with big pull tabs. It can be locked with an airline friendly lock if you need to (just the main compartments, not side). And to be completley shallow for a minute - the orange color is just right! Not so bright that it screams "new backpack!" but eye catching enough that I can spot it immediately in a batch of other people's luggage. It already looks very much like a favorite "old faithful" even though it's still relatively new. I've just bought another one for my daughter from Sierra Trading and the sale price makes this an unbelievable bargain.