Updated April 2017.
Are you searching for a comfortable backpack for weekend and multi-day backpacking and hiking tours? This Kelty Catalyst 65 review is exactly about such a pack, with an innovative on-tho-go adjustable suspension system which will allow you to carry your load comfortably, and with a detachable and convenient 10-liter day pack. Read more below.
Key benefits & unique features
- Great price.
- A bonus 10-liter roll-top day pack.
- Extra side access to the main compartment.
- Perfect fit suspension system: on-the-go, on-body adjustment.
- Unique side entrance to the bottom sleeping bag compartment.
Where to buy
- The best place regarding the price and shipping conditions is usually Amazon.com.
Kelty Catalyst 65 – Description
The Kelty’s Catalyst series includes packs of 80, 65, and 50 liters for men, and the corresponding 76, 61, and 46 liters for women. This is a relatively new series which appeared in the beginning of 2015.
In this text, you can read about the 65-liter version. This is one-size pack, but its suspension is such that it will fit any torso length, see more below.
This is a top loading pack with a classic but movable (floating) lid and a spindrift and expandable collar, which will give you some more volume if you need it.
You will notice a long zipper on the left side of the pack, it is visible in the picture above, which represents an additional side entrance to the main compartment. This can be convenient in some cases, you do not have to deal with the buckles on the lid and with the cord on the collar to access your stuff; you have this quick side entrance.
Removable day pack
Among other great features, this pack includes a removable 10 L daypack which is attached on the front and easily removed when you unclip the two buckles on the top. It is additionally fixed with two horizontal straps that run across the front of the pack, and you can use them to attach some extra gear as well.
This small pack has its own shoulder straps, it is with an interesting roll-top closure and it is hydration ready. It has one zippered pocket on its front, very useful indeed. The smaller packs in this Catalyst series do not have this day pack.
I guess you will not find this day pack particularly attractive, but it is functional, with padded straps, with an innovative roll-top closure, and with a zippered front pocket.
Completely on the bottom of the main pack, you have dual daisy chains for attachment of items. On the front side, you have dual attachment loops for poles or ice axe. You will combine them with the horizontal straps higher up to fix the items attached to the loops.
The usual dual compression straps are on both sides of the pack, for equipment attachment and to cinch the pack in the case of less load inside.
A completely unique feature in the design of this pack is also the side access to the bottom compartment. This is the first pack I have seen with such an unusual entrance. There is a removable divider between the two compartments.
Catalyst 65 is hydration compatible, you have an interior pocket in the main compartment, and a tube port.
The suspension system
What you have here is Kelty’s unique system, so-called PerfectFIT adjustable suspension based on dual hollow aluminum stays, an HDPE frame sheet, and an HDPE reinforced waist belt.
So you can tweak the harness while you are on the move, and you can feel how the pack sits on your back and therefore you can adjust it in the best possible way. This is all done in seconds, easy, efficient and simple. Hence the name of the system, quite appropriate indeed. You will see this in the video below.
The Catalyst 65 PerfectFIT is suitable for torso lengths in the range between 15.5 and 21 inches (39 – 53 cm).
The waist belt is HDPE reinforced, and it comes with a nice two-layer padding, and the same pleasant padding you have on the shoulder straps and on the back. The lumbar padding is very generous as well.
The sternum strap is adjustable, and you also have the usual load-lifter straps and belt stabilizer straps. This is a great system in every sense.
In total, you have them 8 in this pack. I would start with those on the hip belt, you have two of them, zippered and nice size, very useful and nicely designed.
The dual side stretchy mesh pockets are rather large, with angled top access, again something very convenient on this pack.
The lid comes with a large external zippered pocket and one pocket on the underside of it with a velcro closure, quite unusual, I do not remember seeing this type of closure in any other pack.
You remember that the mentioned detachable pack serves also as a huge front pocket, and it has an extra zippered pocket on its own front.
Some general features used in all packs from this Catalyst series you can see in this video by Kelty:
Here are a bit more features in this short video by Kelty:
Pros & Cons
This is a great pack but I still have some objections; here is my summary:
I love to have side zippered pockets, and some models from Kelty do have them, like Kelty Coyote 70, or Kelty Redwing 50. But in the present design, you have the mentioned side zipper which took the space on the side of the pack.
There is no rain cover and it can be ordered separately. This is an extra expense, but you will notice that the price of this pack is a real bargain, so adding a bit for the cover if you need it should not be a big deal.
The Catalyst 65 backpack has received exceptionally high rating everywhere. On Amazon, it has received 4.8/5 average rating by Amazon customers.
- Volume: 3970 cub in (65 L).
- Weight: 4 lbs 14 oz (2.2 kg).
- Dimensions (L x W x D): 32 x 13 x 15 in (81 x 33 x 38 cm).
- Torso fit: 15.5 – 21 in (39 – 53 cm).
– Body fabric: 420 D polyester ball shadow.
– Reinforcement fabric: 450D polyester oxford.
– Frame: dual hollow aluminum stays & HDPE frame sheet.
- HDPE reinforced waist belt.
- PerfectFIT adjustable suspension.
- Top loading.
- Top lid.
- Main compartment access zipper.
- Dual belt pockets.
- Dual stretch mesh water bottle pockets.
- Dual ice axe/trekking pole loops.
- Great lumbar support.
- Two layer padded waist belt and shoulder straps.
- Front clothing compartment converts to a removable day pack.
- Hydration compatible.
- Side access sleeping bag compartment.
How Kelty Catalyst 65 compares with competition
See some great models from other top brands compared with the Catalyst 65 backpack:
|Zippered side pockets||no||no||no|
|Hip belt pockets||yes||yes||yes|
|Metal internal frame||yes||yes||yes|
The prices at the moment of writing the text are: $200, 190, 145. So Kelty is here again with a great pack and the price which is hard to match. This holds even if you add a price of the missing rain cover. I feel my rate for this pack is fully justified.
Kelty does not stop to surprise us with their packs, many of them are quite unique, just have a look into Kelty PK 50 described in this site. This Kelty Catalyst 65 review shows yet another pack with a very original and great design.Many things are nicely done in this pack. The PerfectFIT suspension is used in several others packs of Kelty, and you have it here again, very convenient, easy to use and simple.
I guess one of the issues you might have with this pack is its exceptional design: as you realize, its bottom compartment is completely unique. So if you are more traditionally oriented you might dislike it. But this is a completely functional and modern design, one should get used to new trends. This pack combines new and traditional in a very effective way. If you need a larger version from this series, please see this Catalyst 80 pack.
As I mentioned above, this is a model for men; the corresponding version for women is Catalyst 61 pack with the same features but with a few women-specific features in its design. Yet another pack for women is Kelty Reva 60, from a new series launched in 2017.
See one more video by Kelty, only about their PerfectFIT suspension, enjoy it: