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Before leaving for my first long trip, I spent months researching the best travel backpack. I wanted something that was spacious enough to pack for months of travel but small enough to work as a carry-on. The Kelty Redwing 44 travel backpack was just what I needed. In this Kelty Redwing 44 review, I’ll share the pros and cons of my go-to travel backpack.
Current Kelty Redwing Backpack Models
Unfortunately, I’m not able to find the exact model I purchased in 2017 online anymore. Kelty has released some similar versions with comparable features and sizes that I’ll link below. These vary slightly in design and size than the bag I’m referencing in this post.
- Kelty Redwing 44L Tactical: Check prices and availability
- Kelty Redwing 40L Women: Check prices and availability
- Kelty Redwing 50L: Check prices and availability
My Experience Traveling With My Kelty Redwing 44L
I’ve been using my Kelty Redwing 44L as my sole travel backpack since I got it in 2017. Together, we’ve survived rainy European winters and scorching Caribbean summers. My Kelty has been neatly placed in hotel closets, slug into wooden boats, tied precariously to the top of buses, and strapped onto motorbikes.
Even now, it’s still going strong.
Choosing this backpack was not easy. In the months before I left, I read Amazon reviews back to the 33rd page. I watched youtube videos where other travel bloggers talk about their bags and show you up close how each and every zipper works.
I even went to REI with a friend and tried on every travel backpack in the store while she loaded me down with 30-pound sandbags and made me do squats. You know, to test the comfort level.
Ultimately, I decided on this bag because I liked the way it looked, it didn’t have too many external pockets, and it felt amazing when I tried it on.
Also, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this, but it came in my favorite color. Like, my exact favorite shade of green. It had to be a sign.
I need to stop buying things just because they are green. But in this case, it worked out fantastically well!
Quick Look: Kelty Redwing Backpack Review
|Kelty Redwing 44L Pros||Kelty Redwing 44L Cons|
|Top Loader or Suitcase Loader||No Waist Belt Pockets|
|Well Organized & Useful Pockets||Non-Locking Zippers|
|Comfortable for Long-Term Wear||Rain Cover Not Included|
|Durable for Consistent Use|
|Color and Style|
Kelty Redwing 44 Backpack Pros
There’s a lot to love about the Kelty Redwing line of backpacks.
You Can Fill It Two Ways
This backpack can be loaded up with all your travel gear in two ways. You can fill it like a top-loading camping backpack or it can be unzipped all the way down like a normal suitcase.
I like having both options – the top loader style is great for grabbing something quickly on the go and the full zip option makes packing and unpacking way easier.
It’s well organized with large pockets.
The large main compartment of this bag is roomy and it has a pouch for a laptop or water bladder. Having a special laptop compartment makes this an awesome digital nomad backpack option.
In addition to the main compartment, there are two large outside pockets on either side, one medium-sized organizer pocket on the front, and a deep zipper pocket on the top.
There are also two mesh non-zipper pockets on either side of the bottom of the pack.
The large zippered side pockets were roomy enough to hold all my toiletries on one side and all my chargers/tech gadgets on the other. The organizer on the front of the bag fits an iPad, my bullet journal, and smaller travel supplies.
The roomy top pocket honestly usually ends up as the “dirty laundry” compartment. The mesh pockets on each side can hold a water bottle, umbrella, or other skinny tall items.
But There Aren’t Too Many Pockets
While this bag has a fair amount of extra pockets, it isn’t excessive and it doesn’t look too campy. Camping backpacks with a million pockets on them make me nervous. I just know I would put something important in one of those pockets and never find it again.
Then they’ll find my sunglasses in some teeny tiny side pocket of a bag five thousand years from now during an archaeological dig.
It’s Comfortable For Long-Term Wear
This Kelty backpack feels like a hug when I wear it. I tried on tons of bags before buying and this one just fit the best. I’m pretty tall (5’11) and the back panel and straps were adjustable even for a taller frame.
When I wear it for long periods of time, the waist belt takes most of the weight off my shoulders like it’s supposed to.
It’s Extremely Durable
Even after heavy use, the backpack has held up quite well. The zippers are all intact despite me regularly testing their limits by packing slightly too much stuff. All the seams are holding up nicely too. No rips or tears so far.
UPDATE 2021: I’m still rocking this same backpack and it’s in great shape. The only signs of wear are some superficial little tears on the outside pockets, probably caused by me bumping into walls and falling down, which seems to happen a lot. The tears are so small they don’t impact the usability of the bag.
The Color Is Beautiful
The Kelty Redwing comes in a rich green color that just makes my eyes happy. And it’s called Ponderosa Pine. How divine and glamorous is that? It also comes in blue, red, and a snazzy gray (the gray is only available at the 50L size).
Kelty Redwing 44 Backpack Downsides
Even though I’m overwhelmingly satisfied with this bag, nothing is perfect. In this section we’ll take a look at some features that the bag doesn’t have.
I Wish It Had Waist Belt Pockets
I wish the waist belt had pockets on it for quick-grab items like boarding passes, cell phones, snacks, passports, etc. I’ve seen this on other bags and I wish the Kelty Redwing 44L had this too.
Lockable Zippers Would Be A Plus
It would be great if the zippers had the ability to lock. Lockable zippers add another layer of safety and security when traveling. On this pack, the zipper pulls are just rope material.
No Rain Cover Included.
This bag doesn’t come with a rain cover. While the material is water-resistant, it isn’t waterproof. A bit of light rain is no problem, but I would not want to be stuck in a downpour with no rain cover.
I bought this Kelty Rain Cover separately (size large), but it would have been nice if it were included or if the bag were made of waterproof material.
Kelty Redwing 44 vs 50
One of the best parts of this backpack is the size. I struggled for a long time about whether I should get the 50L or the 44L.
After reading every Kelty Redwing review I could find, I ended up ordering both from REI because they have a fantastic return policy (up to 100 days!). I planned to try them both on and practice pack in them before deciding which one to keep.
When they arrived, the 44L felt like a better size for me. The 50L was a little bigger than I needed. There were times when I would have liked to have the extra space, but in the long run, I’m glad I went with the slightly smaller one.
When fully packed, the Kelty 44 backpack was well within the carry-on weight and size limits for most airlines.
You could probably also get away with the 50L as a carry-on if it weren’t too overstuffed. I’ve seen 50L backpacks being carried on before but any larger than that might be cutting it close.
Kelty Redwing 44 Carry On: Best Travel Backpack
This bag works great as a simple travel backpack since it doesn’t allow me to overpack. You only have room for the essentials and it forces you to really look at what you need and don’t need on your trip. And I promise: you don’t need nearly as much as you think you do.
Kelty Redwing 44 Backpack Review: Final Thoughts
This Kelty travel backpack is a winner in my book! It’s roomy with plenty of organization without being too complicated. It fits all my ridiculous techy devices yet still qualifies as a carry-on. And it’s one of the better-looking bags I’ve seen out there.
This bag has been my faithful sidekick for several years of continuous travel and I plan to keep using it for many more.
Read More Packing and Gear Posts
- Packing for Winter in Europe in a Carry On
- Women’s Southeast Asia Packing List
- 15 Inexpensive Carry On Essentials
- Digital Nomad Gear and Technology Packing List
- Best Electronics Organizer Bag Review