It’s been 55 years since Dick Kelty first put a backpack on the market, welding aluminum tubes together in his garage while his wife, Nena, sewed and fit the fabric onto the frame. The result was an innovation for its time, and at $24 each Kelty’s packs sold like proverbial hotcakes.
Fast forward to 2008 and Dick Kelty’s eponymous company is still going strong, this spring debuting a new line of backcountry packs that promise “a blend of new materials, innovative ventilation, and unique suspension systems” never before seen from Kelty. Here’s a quick run-through of the new wares. Warning: They now do cost more than $24 a pop. . .
The Radii 27 model (pictured above) is a 1,650-cubic-inch pack with Kelty’s “AeroFly suspension system,” which keeps your body ventilated with a breathable waist-belt, shoulder straps, and a mesh backpanel that allows air to circulate freely. It will cost $120. Zippered waist-belt pockets and a 2 lb. 7 oz. weight make the Radii nice for fast-and-light feats, though with enough support to carry loads up to 30 pounds.
Kelty’s Locus 40 (pictured below) is a supportive 2,500-cubic-inch model I have in testing right now. Like the other models, the Locus 40 incorporates a light internal frame and a meshy back panel area—the “four-way ventilated AeroFly suspension system”—to keep your mid-spinal region in contact not with nylon but mostly with air. The top-loading pack has an adjustable torso length to accommodate different size hikers, an easily-accessible “shove-it” pocket for on-the-move stowage, hydration-system compatibility, and highly water-resistant construction. Weight is 3 lb., 5 oz. Available in a men’s and women’s model for $150.
For overnight trips with a bit more gear, the Span 60 (not pictured) has 3,650 cubic inches of storage and a separate sleeping bag compartment. A secondary low-profile hood provides volume-changing versatility, and the AeroFly suspension system (again) can help keep you cool. Adjustable torso length. Available in men’s and women’s models for $180.
The men’s Slider 65 and women’s Arch 65 (pictured below) are 4,000-cubic-inch packs made for long trips into the backcountry. They have a ventilated back, torso adjustment, and meshy three-layer shoulder straps to add padding. Constructed with stretchy PU laminate panels, these packs can expand to accommodate larger loads. The side pockets are waterproof. MSRP: $230
Finally, the biggest of the big (pictured below) are Kelty’s men’s Beam 82 and women’s Course 82, packs with a cavernous 5,000 cubic inches of storage space. As with the Span 60, these models have a low-profile hood configuration for reducing volume when all that space is overkill. Stretch fabric in the front and side pockets accommodates bulky items while still keeping them handy on the go. MSRP: $250