04 October 2012

Kelty Redwing 50- Bag Of Evil worthy?

Over the last several months, I have had the need for a pack that did not scream tactical.  After reading tons of reviews and debating what my needs really were, I settled on  the Kelty Redwing 50.  I was looking for a bag that I could EDC, and when doing so, would remain about 75% empty.  So, by adding the contents of my Jeep Box(we will get to that later) and some clothes, I would be good even in the middle of the woods for several days.  My thought process is that if I can do several days in the woods based on my resources, then I could go longer in an urban environment. 
After taking receipt of the Kelty approximately two months ago, I fell in love with it right away.  It was comfortable, even for me at 6’2, 290 lbs, and carried well.  Everything in the Bag Of Evil is 2nd line gear, or stuff that I need to have within arms reach, but is too big for my pockets.  The things I wear and carry are my first line gear which includes-

Cell Phone
Keys (Photon Light, Gerber Artifact, BSA Firestarter, Whistle, P38 Can Opener, and 12 feet of paracord)
Kel Tec P3AT
Chris Reeve Sebenza or Strider Suspect SMF
Tuff Writer Pen
OLIGHT I1 Flashlight

Now onto the Bag of Evil (2nd line gear) contents-

Hill People Gear Kit Bag (Compass, Whistle, Signal Mirror, Aquamira Water Straw, Contractor Bag, Bank line, sail needle, fire kit)
Glock 19
So Tech Viper IFAK (contents for both trauma and Boo Boo)
Proper Rain Jacket
RX Glasses in Civilian Labs Capsule
Space Blanket (with a bungee and three tent stakes)
Leatherman Super Tool
Petzl Headlamp
(2) Bandanas
Lansky Rod Sharpener
Bahco Laplander Folding Saw
Hand Sanitizer (100 mph tape wrapped around it)
Watch Cap
Zip Ties
RX Meds
32 OZ Stainless Steel Nalgene Water Bottle
50 OZ Nalgene Bottle
Mechanix Gloves

The Jeep Box contains 3rd line gear, stuff that is seldom needed unless I am heading to the woods or in case of an emergency.

Inner bag of USGI Sleep System & Hill People Gear Serape
Hip Belt for Kelty Redwing
DIY USGI Poncho Liner Underquilt
Jet Boil Stove
Grand Trunk Ultra Light Hammock
Two MREs
50 OZ Nalgene Bottle
Foam hunters seat cushion (for sitting, standing, kneeling, and fanning coals of a fire)
Spare socks

Until a few days ago, my theory of using the right bag to blend my 2nd and 3rd line gear together, was just that, a theory.  Then my training partner, John Pavoncello of Pho-Tac, and I headed to the Hammersly Wilderness Area in Clinton County PA, near the town of Cross Forks for a three day trip.

Our trip was a planned destination hike. We were going five miles into an established site on the Susquahanock Trail System.  With the exception of my Crawford Survival Staff,  a pair of PT shorts, spare Alpaca socks, LL Bean Windbreaker, and some trail snacks, I went into the woods with exactly what you see listed above.  As is my habit, I left my Kel Tec P3AT at home because I was going to be carrying my Glock 19 in my Hill People Gear Kit Bag.  The Glock 19 is usually carried in the #4 pocket of the Kelty using a trigger guard holster and a Tactical Tether.  Also moved from the Kelty to the Kit Bag was my Leatherman and Headlamp.  I also put the hip belt on the backpack.

The first leg of the trip was a 1000 climb to a ridge line.  Having never been there before and not knowing the water situation, I was carrying 132 oz of water.  This gave me a good indication of how the bag was going to feel when carried full in difficult terrain.

Once arriving at the ridge line, we did about another 1.5 miles in meadows with scattered Pines, before descending another 1000 feet the other side to our campsite.  At times the trail was so narrow that I could not put my feet side by side.  My Crawford Survival Staff proved worth it’s weight in gold.

We were walking on a logging road, about 100 yards from the site John had in mind, when we saw a tent was already on the site.  Just then we heard dogs barking and before we knew it we were being rushed by two big dogs.  We both pulled our Hill People Gear Kit Bags open and accessed our pistols.  A combination of us standing our ground and the owner calling them back stopped the dogs in their tracks.  They turned out to be friendly, but the situation could have had a different ending.  As far as I am concerned, there is no better carry/concealment/deployment option for the outdoors as the HPG Kit Bag.

We found another great campsite close by and settled in.  After getting our hammocks up, (John was in an Eno), we used our stoves to make a Mountain House Meal John had brought and to make coffee.  Afterward, we decided to work on fire in the established fire ring.  I used my BHK Bushcrafter and ESEE Fire steel to spark a piece of cotton ball covered in Vaseline.  It was going pretty good when I had my face about 8 inches from the little twig bundle when I can only imagine was a little rock exploded into my face and extinguished the fire.  John said it sounded like a 22 LR going off.   Had I not been wearing my RX glasses there is no doubt that my eyes would have been peppered with burning debris.  This provided John and I good conversation about what he would have done if I have been blinded in both eyes.

We were pretty tired and decided to go to bed early and work on fire the next day, when it was achieved after a heavy rain during the night with another Cotton Ball and Vaseline with the addition to a Ranger Band made of a bicycle inner tube.

While John tried to land some fish with a little $10 fishing pole from Wal Mart, I took the pictures for this article.  He came back proud, after catching a few, but let them go after snapping some pictures.

Here are some of the items that I found indispensable on the trip-

Space Blanket
Jet Boil
BHK Bushcrafter and ESSE Firekit
Bahco Laplander Saw
American Kami Ti Spork
Leatherman (pliers to get water bottle out of the fire when sterilizing)

After using John’s, I am definitely feeling the need to add a Steripen to my 2nd line gear and will do so in the future.

We got lighter rain the second night, but we managed to stay high and dry.  After making sure to Leave No Trace on the third day, we headed out for a very slippery 1000 foot climb back out.

My impressions on the pack, it was not a long hike as we only covered 10 miles all together, but the terrain was very difficult and I purposely had the pack bursting at the seams so to speak. 

Since I was in the Army, I have always had a hard time finding a comfortable pack, especially so under heavy load in difficult terrain.  Add wet leaves on top of rocks to that and I think I have a good idea what I can expect from the Redwing and I am liking it.

Once on, adjusting the pack is very easy.  First pulling down the shoulder straps, the pulling the belt adjustments to the front, and then doing the same thing with the smaller straps that attach the belt to the pack.   Once the sternum strap is leveled out and tightened, the pack becomes part of you.

Let's take a look at the bag features.  I will number the pockets for sake of reference.

#1- is a pocket with a vertical zipper in which I keep my Civilian Labs Eye Glass Case

#2 is the organization pocket.  Well thought out, this pocket give you a place for all the things that I otherwise would put in a pouch.  This includes notebooks, pens, etc.  Several of the compartments have a fuzzy interior lining to protect electronics.  My So Tech IFAK usually rides inside the pack, but on the trail it was moved here for faster access.  It slipped in nicely even with the regular contents in place.  In the bottom of the pouch, below the individual compartments, is a little “trough” where you can stuff other stuff.  This also helps keep stuff from falling out when you are working out of the bag.  The top of the outside panel features another little zippered compartment where I usually carry my RX meds and headlamp.


#3- the main compartment is well…cavernous.  In the very top, you can see the hydration port for using water bladders.  Just below that is a strap that has two hooks for holding your water bladder up.  The bladder (not included, and not used yet) slides into an elastic pocket to separate it from the other gear in the main compartment.  Prior to this trip, I had never had anything in the bag above the axe loop on the outside.  I just kept stuffing things in there, and they just kept fitting.  One reason I did that was because I had read that people complained that if the main compartment was full, you could not make use of the side pockets.  I did not find this to be the case.

#4 & #5- for EDC purposes #4 contains a pouch with a sundry of everyday items like mints, cigar cutter, lighter, etc.  #5 since it is closest to me when I am driving, contains my Glock 19.  On the trail, #4 held my Jet Boil Stove and #5 my Proper Rain Jacket.  And as far as it being tight because of the main compartment, I had room to spare in both pockets.

#6 & #7- To me these open top pockets are the cat's ass.  For EDC they hold anything I shove into them.  For the trail, one held the Bacho Laplander Saw and the other all the tent stakes for my shelter.

#8 & #9- I have never been a fan of netting on packs.  My thought was that it would just get ripped, losing gear.  But these are different; they are huge as you can see here.  That is a 50 OZ, not a 32 OZ, Nalgene.  Once the lower compression straps are pulled over them and cinched down, they are not going anywhere.

Handles-  the pack has the obligatory grab handle on top, as well as what I would refer to as a luggage handle on top, allowing it to be laid flat, picked up and carried like a suitcase.  I really like this.

Loops- you can see the axe loop at the bottom of the pack, as well as the small loops on each side, to which my gloves are secured using a bungee and a cord lock.  There are other smaller ones along the handle.  You can see that I have attached a small Nite Ize light to one of them.

The Light Beam Aluminum stay is capable of being bent to adjust it to your body.  It comes from the factory in what they believe is the most common angle and I used it that way and found it comfortable.

Features from website

Packbag Features:
  • Hydration compatible
  • Panel loading
  • Zippered side pockets
  • Reservoir sleeve
  • Mesh water bottle pockets
  • Side compression straps
  • Ice-axe loops
  • Daisy Chain
  • Key fob
  • Large front pocket with organization
  • Carry handle

Suspension Features:
  • Single LightBeam aluminum stay
  • HDPE frame sheet
  • Padded waistbelt
  • Removable waistbelt
  • Padded shoulder straps
  • Ventilating backpanel
  • Wicking back panel
  • Load-lifter/ Stabilizer straps
  • Sternum strap
  • Scherer Cinch (US Pat# 5,465,886)
The ballpark price for this pack seems to be around $100.  I think I got mine in (color Cypress) for $88.

No matter how many pictures you look at or how many reviews you read, it is always hard to tell whether or not something will work for you.  When it comes to Kelty Redwing 50, I lucked out.  It's functionality allows me to go from the street to the woods and exploit the continuity of my gear.
Remember, your gear is only good if you can get to it and know how to use it.


  1. I echo your opinion that the Kelty Redwing 50 is a versatile pack. I can fill it up with groceries and walk, skateboard, or cycle back home, or spend a few days in the woods, putting in miles on foot. Good pack choice :-)

  2. I've been going in circles for a while now between three different packs; the new Camelbak Mil Tac HAWG, the 5.11 Rush 24, and this bag here.

    It seems the Kelty is really fitting what I want it to do and your post here was the most in depth and realistic. Most reviews I come across are just a bunch of videos or write ups about someone putting some crap in the bag and making their way through the features. You packed it up with stuff, found you could cram more into it, spoke about your previous military experience (Hooah, soldier!), and gave a pretty solid experience report from a hike.

    I do not live close enough to the types of stores that carry the bags I am looking for so I'm unable to go and try them on myself; these reviews are all I have in my attempt to make the best choice.

    I notice your write-up was from October of 2012, does your recommendation still stand?

    Well done and thank you.

    1. Asketes - I'm sure George will agree, you really should find a retail location where you can be fitted for the pack. I see and hear lots of first time hikers crying the blues because their shoulders or back is killing them a few hours into a hike because their pack is too big or isn't set up properly. There are online resources on how to measure your back and properly set up a pack but nothing beats having an experienced hiker or store associate set you up right the first time. REI or Eastern Mountain Sports are both great stores with knowledgeable staff

  3. I just made my own survival belt - thanks to a friend who loved those DIY sites and videos. I love how easy it is and how extremely useful this paracord belt is. I made sure I had the full ensemble by learning how to do some bracelets, lanyards and keychains. I was able to do quite a number so I gave it to my friends who were grateful for it. For more information on this, check: http://myoutdoorslife.com/diy/paracord-survival-belt.html

  4. We love your style. Which Redwing boots are you wearing in the photo? ... Newer Post Older Post Home. read the full info here