Kelty Redwing 50 Review: Hiking Backpacks

American-based Kelty has a reputation for making quality, functional, long-lasting backpacks. Find out in our review whether this particular bag will be lightening your load or holding you back.

Written by: | Reviewed by: Kieran James Cunningham
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Kelty Redwing 50

Our Rating: 3.8/5

Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack, Twilight Blue

There may not be such a thing as the perfect backpack, but the Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack comes closer than most. Hailing from a company with a legendary reputation for quality, this pack lives up to expectations and will survive countless trails, road trips, and international flights.

The Redwing performed well across a range of criteria, but stood out particularly for it’s comfort, ease of use and extra features.

With an impressive number of features such as Kelty’s signature PerfectFIT™ Suspension, and compartments which have been cleverly designed to let you carry and access gear more easily than in larger packs, the Redwing 50 will become your go-to backpack for both urban and outdoor adventures.

Key Features

  • Well-padded and ventilated back panel with LightBeam aluminum stay removable padded waist belt
  • Kelty’s PerfectFIT™ Suspension system
  • Integrated padded hydration sleeve doubles as laptop sleeve
  • Side compression straps
  • Front organization pocket, water bottle pockets, and tent pole/hiking pole pockets

Category Scores

Weight to Volume
Ease of Use
  • PROs

    • Stuff pocket for jackets or other bulky items
    • Hybrid U-shaped main compartment zipper allows access from top of pack and sides
    • Hidden daisy chain and hook to attach additional gear
    • Fantastic suspension system that allows a highly customizable fit
  • CONs

    • Fabric choice cuts down on weight but is vulnerable to punctures and rips
    • Very tall or very short individuals may have difficulty with the suspension
    • Chest strap is weak and prone to breaking

Kelty Redwing 50 Hands-on Review


Internal frame backpacks traditionally suffer from one significant disadvantage: to properly distribute the weight of your gear, they must be correctly fitted. This usually means getting professionally fitted or knowing your torso and waist measurements to purchase the correct pack.

Kelty’s PerfectFIT™ Suspension system makes it possible to create a custom fit with just a few strap adjustments. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you will be carrying your pack for more than a few minutes at a time, you’ll appreciate being able to readjust the weight distribution of your pack on the go.

This pack’s internal frame, well-padded yet breathable back panel, and removable padded hip belt also go a long way to making the Redwing 50 easy and comfortable to carry.

Weight & Volume

The Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack is 3100 cubic inches (51 L). This makes the Redwing 50 suitable for weekend to multi-day hiking trips depending on how minimalist you travel. The Redwing 50 doesn’t feel like it’s compromising either features or comfort to stay at this middling size.

Thanks to a lightweight internal frame and 420D polyester fabric, it weighs in at a comfortable 3 lbs 11 oz (1.66 kg). This makes the Redwing 50 heavier than most ultralight hiking backpacks, yet lighter than similarly sized tactical backpacks and laptop backpacks.

When fully packed, it is 26 x 16 x 12 in. Many people have noted that the Redwing 50 feels like a much larger backpack, and you’ll be able to carry more gear than in other similarly sized packs. However, thanks to the side compression straps this pack can fit in a typical carry-on airline compartment, even when full.


Besides the comfortable PerfectFIT™ Suspension system, the Kelty Redwing 50 boasts a long list of useful features. A small pocket at the front has a handy organizing sleeve that can accommodate maps or paperwork and pens.

A cleverly hidden daisy chain loop that allows you to attach additional gear lurks behind a flap on the front pocket. The side pockets allow easy access to smaller clothing or gear and have an open pass-through slot behind them. This slot can hold trekking poles, ice axes, fishing poles, or tent poles. There is an internal pocket that can accommodate either a hydration bladder which is padded so that it can be used as a laptop pocket.


There are a lot of backpacks that try to be a do-it-all workhorse, but unlike other packs, the Redwing 50 has the kinds of features that allow you to use it for just about any activity.

Whether you’re using the Redwing 50 as a trail pack, as a travel backpack, or if you simply need a reliable, well-made laptop backpack with a little more space than a typical daypack, the Redwing 50 truly delivers the kind of versatility that can take you anywhere.

The suspension system alone makes it more versatile than similar packs since you can adjust the fit throughout the day to accommodate either a mostly empty pack or a full load. The many pockets, daisy chain gear loop, and stuff pocket also help make this pack uniquely adaptable to a variety of uses.

If you need a high-volume multi-day hiking backpack, you’ll find the Redwing 50 a bit of a tight fit, and may not have room for all of your gear, especially during fall or winter hikes.

Ease of Use

One of the best things about this pack is its accessibility. Not only does it have a useful number of smaller pockets, but the stuff sack for coats and other bulky items and the external pocket for tent or trekking poles are useful touches.

The main compartment, however, is what sets this backpack apart from its competitors. The unique U-shaped zipper allows you to access the pack’s contents from the top like in a traditional hiking backpack, but also unzips along the sides as well almost like a clamshell carry-on suitcase. This means quick and easy access to the gear at the bottom of your backpack and makes packing easier.


Overall, Kelty has a well-deserved reputation for producing high-quality products. The Redwing 50 is no exception, and for the most part, its streamlined design and high-quality component allow it to hold up well to average use.

Two items could use improvement, though. Some users have noted that the 420D polyester fabric which is used for the exterior of the pack is vulnerable to punctures and rips. The lightweight fabric should handle regular use well, but if you plan to use the pack daily or for an extended trip, be aware that you should keep a patch kit on hand.

The other concern is that the plastic buckles on certain straps are prone to breaking. The sternum strap and the compression straps seem to be less durable than the larger buckles on the shoulder strap and waist. Other than these two concerns, the pack meets expectations. The seams, zippers, frame, and other components of the pack are well-made and dependable.

Technical Specifications

Best UseHiking
Bag StyleBackpack
Frame TypeInternal Frame
Gear Capacity (L)51
Gear Capacity (cu. in.)3,100
Weight3 lbs. 11 oz.
Weight – Metric1,497 grams
Adjustable TorsoYes
Fits Torso15.5 – 21 inches
Fits Waist/HipsUnavailable
Material(s)420-denier polyester
Frame MaterialAluminum + HDPE
Number of Stays1
Pack AccessTop
Number of Exterior Pockets6
Dimensions26 x 16 x 3 inches


If you’re looking for an expedition backpack or simply need a small laptop bag, the Kelty Redwing 50 will probably fail to meet your expectations. It’s larger than most school backpacks and laptop bags, which can make it awkward to use on a daily basis if you don’t need all of the extra space.

Serious hikers who need a multi-day pack for a long trek into the wilderness may find the Redwing 50’s size limiting, and may also find the suspension system less comfortable than a purpose-made hiking backpack. But for just about every other application, it’s worthy of consideration.

Best Applications

It’s probably best suited as either an overnight camping backpack or as a carry-on travel bag. The daisy chain on the front doubles as a grab handle and the hip belt detaches to make it easier to carry this bag through security lines and baggage carousels.

Similarly, there’s plenty of room for camping gear for a day or two of outdoor exploration. The suspension system and well-padded straps and back mean that you’ll be able to comfortably carry your gear for mile after mile. The Redwing 50 also serves well as a daily carry bag. If you are a student or commute to work by foot, bike, or rail, this pack allows you to safely carry your laptop and has enough room to fit plenty of layers of outerwear during unpredictable weather.


Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack, Twilight Blue
  • Redwing is a tried & true trail value for all day hikes or a quick overnight, a...
  • Perfect Fit Suspension supplies you w/ customized comfort without the hassle,...
  • Features: Top Loading,Zippered side pockets, front pocket w/ organization,...
  • Suspension Features: Perfect Fit Suspension, HDPE frame sheet, Hex Mesh back...
  • Dimensions: Size (L x W x D) 26 x 16 x 12 in, Weight 3 lbs 11 oz, Volume 50 L,...

Kelty packs tend to be more expensive than other brands, but it’s clear to see where the extra dollars go. The quality of these packs is legendary, and you can be sure that a Kelty pack will last for years or even decades.

Other Versions & Accessories

The Redwing 50 is the largest pack in the Redwing line of Kelty packs that share a similar design but come in a variety of sizes denoted by the number in their name. The smallest is the 1,950 square inches (32 L) Redwing 32 followed by the Redwing 44.

Kelty also produces a Women’s Redwing 40 which has a special suspension system and hip belt which are specifically designed for a woman’s frame.

If you like the practicality of the Redwing 50 but are looking for extra features, the Redwing 50 Reserve offers fashion fabric, an RFID-blocking pocket, locking zippers for use during travel, and durable metal buckles.

Be aware that the Redwing 50 underwent a redesign between 2015 and 2016, and that some details differ between the models. The daisy chain, for instance, is more prominent on the older model.

Kelty also offers a range of backpack accessories that you may want to consider such as a rain cover, compression stuff sacks, and water bottles which are compatible with all of the Redwing backpacks.​




Osprey Packs Women's Kyte 46 Backpack, Grey Orchid, Small/Medium

The Kyte 46 offers women an alternative to unisex backpacks. The torso length is comparatively shorter, and the hip belt and straps have been specifically designed for a woman’s frame.

Like the Redwing 50, it is a versatile pack that can be used for hiking but is equally useful for travel or daily use. Unlike the Redwing 50, it lacks a true laptop sleeve, and the top opening for the main compartment is more cumbersome to use. But it does have an integrated rain cover and is typically more comfortable for shorter women than other 40-50L backpacks.



SwissGear 1900 Scansmart TSA 17-Inch Laptop Backpack, Black, 19

If you are a student or commuter who simply needs a rugged backpack to carry your laptop and other daily essentials, the ScanSmart Backpack is an excellent choice.

Its unique laptop compartment zips open in such a way that makes airport security scans a snap and it has a clean look making it ideal for business travelers.

This pack is much smaller than the Redwing 50, but this may be a plus if you have no need for extra space, and the compact design of the ScanSmart makes it a better choice for public transportation.



OutdoorMaster Hiking Backpack 45L - w/Waterproof Cover - Blue

If the Kelty Redwing 50’s price is intimidating, but you like the flexibility it offers, the OutdoorMaster Hiking backpack may meet your needs.

It has a higher carrying capacity than an average backpack and can be used for camping, travel, or simply as an everyday backpack. Its straps are relatively comfortable, and you’ll find plenty of pockets for your gear.

If you are very tall or very short, this pack may rub against your neck, and some users have reported quality issues such as broken zippers or tears along seams. Overall, it is a solid choice for an inexpensive backpack.

Last update on 2023-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Brian has been an avid hiker and backpacker since he was a small kid, often being taken out into the wilderness on trips with his father. His dad knew everything about nature and the wilderness (or at least that's how it seemed to a ten year old Brian).

After high school, he went to university to read for both a BS and MS in Geology (primarily so he could spend his time outside rather than in a classroom). He's now hiked, camped, skied, backpacked or mapped on five continents (still need to bag Antarctica) & 30 of the US states.

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