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Kelty Redwing Backpack

The backpack that I used for traveling from 2006 to 2011 is a Kelty Redwing that has a carrying capacity of 2650 cu. I must proclaim that this bag has been the best that I have ever traveled with . . . and I have tangoed with many different kinds of bags while tramping down [...]

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The backpack that I used for traveling from 2006 to 2011 is a Kelty Redwing that has a carrying capacity of 2650 cu. I must proclaim that this bag has been the best that I have ever traveled with . . . and I have tangoed with many different kinds of bags while tramping down the Open Road.

From a full on “backpacker’s” backpack to a ratty old hand-made leather satchel, I have tried out, used, and discarded dozens of different kinds of traveling bags. Some bags hung from the shoulders, some from my hands, and some just rode on my back like a turtle’s shell.

Through trying out all of these various designs, I have returned to these obvious seeming conclusions:

  1. The back is the best place to carry the bulk of my load.

  2. The standard hiker’s backpack design with a think waist strap, stiff, well-contoured frame, and padded straps, is most suited for handling this load.

  3. The bag should be as small as possible. If I wish to travel efficiently I need a backpack that is only a little larger than that of a school child’s. In point, I need to be able to slip it around under my arm and reposition it at a moments notice. I also need to be able to sit it in my lap while riding in a crowded bus. I do not want to be bulked up and weighted down by my backpack.

Kelty backpack

I once heard an old traveler adage somewhere that went something like:

“No matter how big your bag is, you will fill it.”

I believe that this is true. The size of the bag is your carrying capacity, you simply cannot go beyond it. Carry a small bag, you carry a small load. Goodbye socks, spare pants, and undershirts — do I really need two pairs of underwear?

The Kelty backpack that I have been using for the past two years is only 2650 cc. This is not very big, but I feel it is the perfect size for traveling. It fits Old Faithful, my books, and my clothes without a hitch, and I am still completely mobile. This is all I need.

While traveling, there is simply not much that I really need. If I wash a few articles of clothing every time I shower (go to Wash Your Laundry While You Shower), I have found that I only need 1-2 sets. I find absolutely no reason to have more than two pairs of pants (I often times only travel with the ones that cover my body). If I wash them at night and ring them out really well, they are usually almost dry by the time I need them in the morning. The same goes for shirts. I met a girl the other day who was concerned that she ONLY brought nine pairs of pants to Costa Rica with her. Her traveling bag must be huge! The Kelty Redwing is probably not for her.

Other than its perfect size, the Kelty Redwing has every other feature that I need it to have:

  1. It is well made. The seems are double stitched, the material seems to be durable.

  2. It is extremely comfortable and distributes weight better than any backpack that I have ever used before.

  3. It is dark colored. I do not want to be tramping with a bright orange backpack.

  4. It has five pockets that are well placed: a big one, a medium one, small one, and two side pockets who’s zippers are so poorly designed that I do not use them.

  5. It has zippered pockets so that I can open the bag like a suitcase and get things that are at the bottom. I do not like top-loading backpacks because I have to dump out everything in the bag to get anything out of it.

  6. It has a lifetime warranty from EMS (sporting goods store) if I have the receipt, so when the zippers finally bite the dust, I can send it home and get my money back. Then I can just get a brand new one.

  7. It costs $80- 100.

The only drawback to the Kelty Redwing backpack, besides the side pocket zippers, is that the zippers have cord tabs, rather than metal, so they cannot be locked securely. Look at the photo. I have found a way to work around this by locking the top carrying handle to the top of the daisy chain. This would make it really difficult to squeeze out Old Faithful, but I still would prefer Andy’s Padlock Hasp Slider locking mechanism.

In all, the Kelty Redwing backpack is perfect for long haul travel. It has almost everything I need, in a package that is the perfect size. Until Andy chases down his windmill and makes the perfect travel backpack, I will proudly use the Kelty Redwing.


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Filed under: Travel Gear

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3720 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

3 comments… add one

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  • Craig January 22, 2011, 1:04 am

    Thanks for this. I was on the fence about getting this bag. I was also considering the bigger 3100, but this post made up my mind.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 22, 2011, 1:56 am

      Good choice. I travel with a wife and kid now and still use the 2600. Though now I sort of need the bigger bag haha. But when I was a single traveler, 2600 cc in a zip around backpack is enough room — and is still small enough to carry on buses. Though if you want to really live out of a backpack — meaning carrying a stove, pots, pans, water filer, essential living necessities — I recommend the larger bag.

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  • Filipe A. Ramos March 11, 2011, 5:38 am

    Your article also helped me making my choice between the 44 (2650) and 50 (3100) models, I chose the first!
    Besides, I always remember when I used my father’s backpack (looks similar to the Kelty´s 50 (3100) and got stuck on the train door due to the “turtle effect”. lol =)
    Botton line, I use a light backpack that is the same height and width of my back. ; )

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