A Toast to My Kelty Redwing 2900 Backpack

Derek Travel Gear 10 Comments

Back in late November of 1999 I purchased a backpack without giving it much thought. I was about to leave for Southeast Asia and I needed a backpack. I walked into an REI store in Boston, wandered up to the grand wall of backpacks, unhooked the first one that caught my attention and tried it on.

Moments later I walked out of the store carrying my new friend, a Kelty Redwing 2900. At the time, my only hope was that the backpack would survive a few months of traveling around Asia. I expected nothing more than that.

Grayish in color with a bold black trim, my Kelty Redwing 2900 has more than proven itself over the years. At the time I bought it, I had absolutely no way of knowing how dependable, practical, fearless, faithful and wise this backpack truly was. And now I simply refuse to go anywhere without it.

Since that first day, we have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles. We have journeyed together by plane, bus, train, jeep, camel, elephant, taxi, tuk-tuk, rickshaw, bicycle, motorcycle, metro, helicopter and a variety of different ocean-going vessels to almost 60 countries.  From Australia to Afghanistan, Croatia to Chile, Jamaica to Jordan, our strong bond has held firm through every challenge and every obstacle we’ve faced.

I remember when we were both kidnapped late one night by a gang of taxi drivers in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It was Redwing who actually saved us. Here’s what happened. While we sat locked up in a crumbling, cockroach-infested room in the slums of Dhaka, I refused to sleep as my mind raced back and forth, trying to come to terms with the situation. But when I looked to Redwing for advice, he just sat there on the floor in silence. At first I was frustrated by his response but before long, I understood the complexity of his message. So I concentrated on quieting my mind as well, a tactic that did in fact help me fall asleep and get some much needed rest.

And I believe that it was this rest that kept my mind sharp enough to take advantage of the first opportunity we had to escape two days later.

After we did escape, I decided never to travel without Redwing by my side.

And this past May, after my backpack suffered two violent knife slashes at the hands of an Austrian customs official, it still refused to quit traveling. (As a side note: I am offering a $500 reward to anyone who can bring me the official that attacked my backpack. It happened on May 25th, 2009 in the Vienna airport.)

In fact, this backpack is by my side this very moment right here in Mexico after surviving our recent travels through Central America.

I now wish to raise my glass for a toast to Mr. Kelty Redwing 2900, a travel companion, protector, guru and friend. As long as he is willing to accompany me on these adventures, into no other backpack shall I pack my possessions.

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Comments 10

  1. NTripping

    Hey, I bought the Kelty Redwing 44 a couple of months ago and had it with me during several trips already. It’s really fantastic, very comfortable, very light weight and fits perfectly as a carry on. What I love the most about it is how well thought all the compartments are. The U-shaped opening is great, I’ve always hated top load backpacks! Thank you so much for this recommendation! 🙂

  2. Dani

    Do you like the new Kelty Redwing 50? Does it provide enough back support for a very full bag?

    I have had previous bags that did not provide the right back support. I was looking at Deuter bags, but they’re twice the price and none of them really are front loading, which is something I want.

    Also, is it too long to get into the carry-on boxes that measure for carry on bags?

    1. Earl

      Hey Dani – Yes, I love my new Kelty Redwing backpack. The back support has been great for me so far, although my pack is rarely heavier than 8kg so it’s not so much weight I carry around. This pack has a unique curved ‘spine’ so that it really ensures the weight of the pack is on the hips and not on the back. And I’ve taken it as a carry-on on about 8 or 9 flights so far without any problems…it fits the measurements as long as it is not overstuffed 🙂

  3. Whitfit

    I have one of these too! Had it for years – since at least 2002, and it is wearing out.

    I want a new one, but the new one’s don’t look as good (what the heck is the use of a pocket on the front with a vertical zipper?!? Unless you want to lose your stuff…).

    I bought this pack on discount without much thought, and over the years have come to realize it is one of the most useful, thoughtful, and all round best packs ever!

    I use it to go grocery shopping, short backpacking, carry on, all over the world and down the street. It is a hidden gem, and if I find a source I would buy 5 so I can use them for the rest of my life!

    1. Earl

      @Whitfit – It’s always a pleasure to ‘meet’ another Kelty Redwing fan 🙂 I too would buy a bunch if I could find the same version of what we’ve both owned. The new ones are not only different in style but they seem to be more cheaply made. I’m not sure if I’ll ever find another backpack that will be as loyal and durable a travel companion as the one I have now, which, luckily, is still in great condition and going strong!

  4. Michael

    Hi Earl, I can’t find the post linked with the text: “two violent knife slashes” – I’d like to read that post! I’m looking to buy a backpack myself 🙂

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  6. david clinton

    I’m leaning toward the Redwing 2900 for an extended trip through SE Asia, S Asia and the Middle East. Is it small enough to pass as a carry-on?


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