If Kelty were a car company it would probably be Hyundai. Not as fancy or expensive as other brands in its class, but a good value for what you’re spending. Take this Redwing Backpack that holds 3100 cubic inches or 51 liters, is loaded with features, and has a list price of $109. That’s half the price of many other packs it’s competing with on the market. (Update – this pack has been renamed the Kelty Redwing 50, as in 50 liters.)
Sure there are a few trade-offs here and there, but not many. I just used this Kelty Redwing for a week, actually having it on my back for six hours a day as I rode my bike on the Katy Trail in Missouri. It was comfortable and had plenty of pockets for keeping my gear organized. At a shade less than 3.5 pounds, it doesn’t add much weight to your load either.
It’s got all the things I look for in a travel pack: padded adjustable waist strap, adjustable sternum strap, side pockets for a water bottle or other items I may need to get to without removing it, and compartments for all the little things that get lost easily. The back is padded too and there’s an aluminum stay running the length of the back to keep it stable and this can be adjusted to the shape of your back.
This pack didn’t feel quite as rugged and well-made as some I’ve used from other manufacturers at a higher price point and the zippers are not top-end ones, but this Kelty pack should last quite a while: the main fabric is 600D polyester ripstop and the company offers a lifetime warranty against Chinese factory defects in materials or workmanship. That won’t help you in cases of “exhausted zippers” or “natural hazard damage,” but I think they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. The only feature of consequence I missed on this that you get in some other packs are the little straps connecting the top of the shoulder pads to the pack—that helps a little with heavy loads.
In short, it would be hard to find a better backpack for under a hundred bucks at retail. I’d give pretty good odds that this would make it through a year-long backpacking trip okay and am quite confident it would be fine for years’ worth of weekend hiking and camping trips.