No zippers, more organization, easy access. These are the cornerstones of the Kelty PK50’s design philosophy. The PK50 ditches zippers in favor of roll top enclosures and Velcro scattered throughout the pack. The backpack has individual compartment for the sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and your tent, being it’s part of the Kelty Trail Logic System.
The pack weighs in at 3lbs 2oz, including an included rain cover, and provides 50 liters of storage capacity. The pack comes in two sizes, two colors, and provides a woman’s option as well.
What I liked
The pack is quite light, and provides more padding around the hip than most packs of similar weight. Solid, thoughtful construction provides for a tough pack, and the quietest I’ve ever tested. The single vertical beam frame was pleasantly supportive. Instead of bulging against your back when overstuffed, the sturdy center frame kept all of my equipment in place, while allowing for better ventilation than most packs. The pack was comfortable, and quite stable.
The pack opens up wide, revealing every pocket and cranny, including the tent compartment, at hands reach. You’ll no longer have to dig throughout a backpack full of gear to pull your sleeping pad out of the bottom. Plenty of pockets make for lots of options as far as organization. Most compartments close by using a roll top system similar to waterproof dry bags and stuff sacks. Your primary equipment hull lies just behind the tent compartment, and has it’s own access directly through the top of the pack. The backpack also works great for equipment outside of the Kelty Trail Logic system, so you can use other tents, sleeping bags, or pads if you want.
No zippers makes for a great conversation starter. The zipper-less pockets are quick to access, with a quick release of a couple buckles or Velcrow.
What I didn’t like
There is a learning curve here. You’ll have to experiment the first time you use the pack to determine how to properly pack it. Stuffing everything in works fine, and you can use the pockets in any way you wish (even if designed otherwise), but you may end up with a lumpy, ugly looking bag.
Having no zippers is nice, but there are a few points on the pack that just beg for a zipper. The top of the bag for example, where most people keep items they’ll need often, has no instant access. Instead, you’re three buckles and a vertical flip away from your equipment. It’s quick to get to, but it feels like they sacrificed usability so they could say “zipper free”, when a zipper is exactly what was needed. The “wings” as I call them which are used to compress the pack do a good job of securing the pack, but the built in pockets are nearly useless. Anything more than a wallet and a couple packs of snack crackers causes the “wing” to bulge out in an unsightly way.
The pack is 50 liters, which is plenty, but I found myself wishing for a larger model for longer trips. No external straps means no overloading the pack with external pads and tents.
The Ketly PK50 is a light weight, comfortable backpack with better than average support and ventilation for it’s weight class. Opening up the pack allows for instant access to everything, including the tent, sleeping bag and more, but having no immediate access to a small external pocket leaves you with an odd aftertaste. While the initial learning processing of packing the pack can be a little frustrating, once you figure it out you end up with a fantastically organized pack. While I have mild reservations due to somewhat limited pack size and a lack of immediate access to internal pockets, it’s a great pack for anyone who wants quick access to the larger items inside.
Recommended, with reservations.
Thanks to the manufacturer for providing this product. For full disclosure, see our about me page.
3 thoughts on “Kelty PK50 Backpack Review”
How comfortable would you say this backpack is? I’ve got a 21 1/2 inch torso and worry the suspension system may not be sufficient for me hiking up to 10 miles fully loaded (at about 40 lbs).
Great question. I would put it at about middle of the road on the comfort level. If you’re packing 40 lbs, you might be more comfortable with something a bit more robust.