Kelty Redwing Backpack

End Of An Era: After 12 Years, It’s Time For A New Backpack

Derek Fiji, Travel Gear, USA 116 Comments

Kelty Redwing Backpack
Let me start with this. It appears that my upcoming Fiji trip is no longer happening. Unfortunately, this South Pacific nation has been hit with some severe flooding over the past week due to a series of storms, including a cyclone, that passed over the area. As a result, the country is not in any condition to host a group of travel bloggers as they deal with much more pressing matters.

Actually, the press trip hasn’t been canceled. It’s just been re-scheduled but because of some other commitments I have back in Europe, there’s a good chance I won’t be able to participate with the new dates.

So to begin with, I want to send my positive thoughts to Fiji and to wish its people a quick recovery from these floods. Hopefully this situation will be over with as soon as possible and normal life on the islands will resume. I’ll certainly be keeping Fiji at the top of my list of potential destinations and hope to make it there at some point in the near future.


Of course, upon hearing the news that the Fiji trip would not be going ahead as scheduled, and despite the reason being perfectly understandable, I still felt quite bummed out as I had traveled all the way to the US specifically for this trip. However, there is one thing that always cheers a traveler up and after a few minutes of moping around my friend’s apartment, I immediately decided to partake in this therapeutic activity myself. It was time to buy some travel gear!

More specifically, I decided to buy a new backpack, which, admittedly, is something I would have had to do anyway given the decaying condition of my current backpack. But once the Fiji trip was called off, this mission suddenly took on a sense of urgency, transforming itself from something I needed to get done eventually into a vital session of healing.

My trusty Kelty Redwing 2900, that backpack that has traveled with me all over this planet for the past twelve years, finally reached the end of its career. But twelve years is a long time for a backpack to be in use, especially when you consider that my backpack is my life and it is constantly by my side, whether I’m backpacking in Asia, working on board cruise ships, living in Mexico, traveling around the Middle East or whatever I happen to be doing.

Great Ocean Road, Australia

In fact, this backpack served me so well that it absolutely deserves to spend the rest of its days relaxing on a beautiful beach in Hawaii. It’s actually going to spend the rest of its days sitting on the top shelf of a closet, but at least it’s warm in there and you can hear the water passing through the pipes.


My search for a new backpack started off with a trip to Paragon Sports, a well-known sporting goods/outdoor shop in Union Square here in New York City. I spent about an hour inside, unzipping, re-zipping, inspecting, stuffing, un-stuffing and trying on as many different backpacks as possible. I’m a bit picky though, and so by the time I left the store, my list of possible winners consisted of only two backpacks.

After Paragon Sports, I returned to my friend’s apartment, sat down at my laptop and conducted some more research. I studied the benefits of traditional backpacks versus duffel fusion packs versus backpacks with wheels. I contemplated long and hard about sizes, styles and yes, even colors. And my eyes read over hundreds of user reviews for every backpack I came across.

It was a painful experience indeed but sure enough, about three and a half hours into this research, I eventually had that moment of genius that I had been waiting for my entire life.


I suddenly realized that if my Kelty Redwing 2900 had treated me so well, and the newer version of the same backpack received such extremely high ratings on every website I checked, and this newer version also made my short list when I was in Paragon Sports, then I should naturally purchase this new version, the Kelty Redwing 50.

Feeling ever so proud at having reached such a brilliant conclusion, I then did what came naturally. For some reason, this involved turning off my laptop and walking down the street to Bagel World, where I devoured a super-soft pumpernickel bagel piled high with chicken salad, tomatoes and extra pickles, and in the process, seemed to completely forget about backpacks altogether.

When I returned to the apartment after my meal, I did some work, played around with my friend’s bongo drums, juggled for a bit, cut my toenails and then, well, took a nap. Only after I woke up from this delightful rest a couple of hours later did I sit back down in front of my computer and continue my backpack shopping, feeling the need to check the internet one more time before making a decision.

(My guess is that I was actually feeling very sad about having to say goodbye to my old backpack and I had trouble pulling the trigger on a new one as a result.)


Finally, at 5:52pm, and with a hint of a tear in my eye, I logged onto and made my purchase, having indeed chosen the….

Kelty Redwing 50 Internal Frame Pack (Charcoal color)

Kelty Redwing 50 Internal Frame Backpack

So, why did I choose to stick with the Kelty Redwing series?

  • Durability – These packs can easily handle the rigors of constant world travel as proven by my Redwing 2900 which remained strong for over 4400 days of travel, through 76 countries, on 100+ flights and despite being slashed open with a knife at the hands of Austrian customs officials.
  • Organization – Still by far the best zipper/compartment system I’ve seen. As one of the only backpacks on the market that offers panel-loading, once you unzip the main compartment, you have access to everything as if it were a proper suitcase. I don’t like top-loading backpacks where you have to stuff everything inside and then remove all of your possessions just to find a pair of socks at the bottom.
  • Size – The capacity of my old backpack was 2900 cubic inches / 47 liters and while Kelty doesn’t make that size anymore, I went with the 3100 cubic inches / 50 liter version this time around. This is still small enough to take as a carry-on when flying, yet has more than enough space to carry everything that a long-term traveler could possibly need.
  • Simplicity – If there’s one thing I don’t understand, it’s a backpack with dozens of very random compartments, dozens of straps with purposes that are impossible to figure out and hundreds of inexplicable zippers all over the place. The Kelty Redwing series ignores that trend completely, offering backpacks that are straightforward and simple and thus, in my opinion, the most intelligently designed of them all.

And for those very reasons, I am excited to fly back to Europe in a couple of weeks with my new Kelty Redwing 50 by my side, or better yet, on my back.

Before I end, I must also say that moments after I purchased my new backpack, I sat down next to my old Kelty Redwing 2900, massaged its shoulder straps and whispered a few words of gratitude. I then tried my best to express to it the importance of our friendship before I lifted the backpack ever so gently and placed it inside of that closet. It was a tough moment, but I shall have only wonderful memories of the time we spent together during this most remarkable era of my nomadic travels.

Any thoughts on backpacks? Do you have a particular favorite? Or if you’re in the market for a new backpack, any questions?

Since 1999 I've been traveling and living around the world nonstop. Sign up below for personal stories, real advice and useful updates from my adventures. Only good stuff, no nonsense.

Are you ready to earn money and travel?

How to Work on a Cruise Ship and Travel eBooksClick above and get started!

Comments 116

  1. Erin

    This post was exactly what I needed to read, I absolutely love my Redwing 2900! However after many years of trips it is time for her to be retired. I’m pleased to see how much you like the Redwing 50 and am planning on making the plunge before my next trip. Thanks for your advice!

  2. Paul J

    Had to leave a comment on this post. Just picked up this very make and model at a local thrift store. Been looking for a backpack for a while now. t’s virtually ‘as new’. The price????………………………………..$1.99!!!

    1. Post
  3. Danny

    Hi Derek,
    Deeply between the Kelty Redwing 44 and Osprey Porter 46. Are you still in full love with your Kelty? My main against it is the lack of lockability as it seems. What is your position on security and locking?
    Thanks a lot,

    1. Post

      Hey Danny – Yes, I still over the Kelty and find it to be more portable than the Osprey. It’s such an easy bag to just grab and go, yet still has plenty of space. As for security, to be honest, in 18 years of traveling around the world, I’ve never locked my bag and never had anything stolen anywhere. So I don’t really think about that too much. You can buy a simple lock to loop through the metal holes of the zipper though.

  4. Pingback: How To Travel The World On Any Budget: The Definitive Guide

  5. Mauro

    Hi, what do you think about a 44 instead 50, for short trips, weekends and daypack purpose ?

    I was meaning to buy a 34 lts, Osprey, but when I saw your video, I changed my mind.


    1. Wandering Earl

      That would work. I’m sure I could use the 44 for all my travels so using it for shorter trips would definitely be doable.

  6. Alan

    Hi Earl,

    Thanks for the breakdown and its nice to hear from such a well experienced traveler. I am about to buy the Kelty Redwing, but not sure to get the 44 or the 50. The 50 claims to not be carry on size, but you say its okay? Have you had any trouble with it at customs?

    Thank you!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Alan – I’ve never had a problem with the 50 liter. I think if you stuff it until it’s absolutely as full as it can get, maybe they would notice and say it’s too big. But mine is normally quite full and I’ve always taken it as a carry on without any issues.

  7. Pingback: How To Travel The World On Any Budget – The Only Travel Hacking Guide You’ll Ever Need | Ajwalton

Leave a Reply to Mauro Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *