Today’s post is about travel backpacks. I’ve actually had two over the years: first, an Osprey Kestrel 38, which I probably used for about 5 years before selling it in order to buy the Kelty Redwing 44, which I have been using for about 2 years. Osprey backpacks are well known and highly regarded, but the more I traveled the more I learned what kind of features I wanted in a backpack, and after gaining some experience I realized that the Osprey Kestrel really isn’t very well suited for traveling at all.
Both of these backpacks are actually hiking backpacks, and I do think that hiking backpacks are good for traveling because they have an internal frame system, which makes them able to carry heavy loads comfortably. However I don’t think that the Osprey Kestrel is very good for hiking either, and in my opinion the Kelty Redwing is just a much better pack all around.
The main reason why I prefer the Kelty is because of how the pockets are laid out. The Kelty Redwing has a main pocket, an outside pocket with some pockets for organization which is large enough to carry at least two or three novel-sized books, a top pocket, and two long narrow side pockets. The large number of pockets makes it very easy to organize and divide your belongings, but more than that the design of the pockets is simply better on the Kelty. The Osprey Kestrel also had a top pocket, but the pocket folds over the top of the backpack, which means that as soon as you open the zipper, half of your belongings immediately fall out. And instead of an outside pocket, the Kestrel had a stretchy mesh pocket, which was small and also lost its elasticity over time, and because it didn’t have a zipper things could fall out.
There are some other design features of the Kelty which I think are just better thought through than on the Osprey. The Kelty allows you to place items between the side pockets and the main backpack, and I usually shove my water bottle into that space, which keeps it from falling out of the water bottle holder. I also prefer the fact that the Kelty Redwing closes with a zipper rather than a drawstring. I think that some purists like the top-loading drawstring closure for its durability, but the Osprey Kestrel had a zipper closure on the bottom which kind of undermines that school of thought. Besides, I have never had any issues with the quality of the zippers or other materials on my Kelty, and believe me I have seriously overloaded it on more than one occasion. The ‘panel-loading’ design of the Kelty is great for traveling because it easily allows you to access your gear, but I prefer it for hiking as well for the same reason.
Finally, I think that the waist strap is more comfortable on the Kelty. Osprey waist straps are very thick, but so much so that they can be uncomfortable because you have to tighten them so much in order to keep them on your waist. The Kelty straps, while thinner, actually grip your body more and so are more comfortable.
An added bonus of the Kelty is that it is a lot less expensive than the Osprey. I paid $120 for the Osprey Kestrel, sold it 5 years later for $80, and bought my Kelty on sale for $90. I think that that’s a pretty good deal! The Kelty is still available online for about $100-$110, while the Osprey Kestrel currently sells for a whopping $160. That is almost twice what I paid for my backpack and I think that that price is obscene. I would never pay that much for a backpack, but I guess with all of the brand recognition and hype Osprey gets online they can get away with that price.
Of course there are usually negatives to any product but there are very few bad things about the Kelty Redwing 44. My one complaint would be that I think the side pockets are a little small-it would be really cool if they were long enough to fit a water bottle, but they are just a little bit short. But besides that there isn’t really much to say. The quality is great, the size is perfect as a carry on (it’s actually a little big but I have never had a problem because it is squishable), and the pocket layout allows you to organize everything perfectly whether you’re hiking or traveling.