Updated April 2017.
This Kelty Catalyst 80 review is about the largest pack in this Kelty’s series with some truly unique features. This is a great pack for extended backpacking and hiking tours and for travel.
Why Kelty Catalyst 80 – Key benefits
- Great price.
- Bonus detachable 10-liter daypack.
- Dual entrance to the main compartment.
- PerfectFit suspension system: on-the-go, on-body adjustment.
- Several unique features.
The Catalyst series by Kelty includes several sizes in two different lines for men and for women. They all share a number of common features but there are also some differences between them. For example, the common feature for all of them is the PerfectFit suspension system.
The Catalyst 80 is a true giant and the largest pack in this series. You have a huge space available here and a number of features so unique for this series. The pack is most suitable for extended backpacking tours and expeditions, as well as for travel.
This is a top loading pack with the classic lid and collar underneath the lid. But you also have an extra zippered entrance to the main compartment on the left-front side of the pack. This side entrance is visible as the yellow zipper on the side in the picture above.
The lid is floating type, so you can move it up and down, dependent on the load in the main compartment, and you can remove it as well.
Side entrance to the bottom compartment is yet another unique feature which you will see in this series only and nowhere else. So this is a huge zippered opening on the right side of the pack. You can see its yellow zipper on the side-view picture below.
There are no many compression straps, for example, the usual bottom compression straps are missing. I am sure many might be disappointed with this. The two front straps (described below) cannot serve the purpose of the classic bottom straps.
Also on the sides of this huge pack you only have the upper straps, one on each side.
The pack is hydration compatible, with the sleeve inside the main compartment.
The material used in the construction of the pack are durable and high quality, 420 and 450 D nylon, not so frequently seen in the packs nowadays.
The suspension system
This PerfectFit system, as they call it with all good reasons, is based on dual aluminum stays that run vertically along the back, they are visible in the picture right. The harness can be moved up and down along these stays to fit your body shape.
This all can be done with the pack on your back and when you are on the move. All you have to do is to pull the two straps on the sides, see the picture right. You will see this in the video below.
This allows for the torso fit in the range 15.5 – 21 inches (39 – 53 cm). There is also an HDPE frame sheet which gives the structure to the back of the pack.
On the back, you have foam padding, and the shoulder straps, the hip belt, and the lumbar zone are also really nicely padded. The hip belt is additionally reinforced by HDPE stiffeners that are added inside of it.
Additional adjustability options are the side straps on the belt, load lifters on the top of the harness, and the adjustable sliding chest strap.
One large zippered pocket is on the top of the lid and another one is underneath of it.
One small zippered pocket is on the front of the pack. But this front pocket is, in fact, the part of something totally unique again.
The pocket is on the body of a large front “pocket” which is connected to the pack through two buckles on the top, and it can be removed and used as a separate day pack, see it in the picture right.
It is with a roll-top closure (something unique again), and equipped with its own padded straps so that you can carry it as a normal small 10-liter daypack.
There are two horizontal straps with buckles on the front of the pack (see the pictures) which additionally secure this removable section and cinch it down to the rest of the pack.
On the sides, you have dual zippered pockets, something I particularly love to have in my packs. They are surprisingly small, probably smaller than what you have in Kelty’s Redwing 50 pack. But you will notice that smaller packs in this series do not have them, see for example Catalyst 65 pack in this site.
The usual mesh stretch pockets are on both sides of the pack, and if you are puzzled, yes, the one on the right is positioned on the bottom compartment opening.
On the hip belt, you have the usual dual quite large stretch mesh pockets.
You can see some of these features in this short video by Kelty:
Pros & Cons
Here is my summary, this is a great pack but I still have some objections.
The absence of the rain cover may not be essential for you, but for the Alps, this is something one must have. The rain cover from the same brand can be ordered separately. In view of such a great price of the pack, this is really not such a big deal even when you add the price of the cover.
Kelty Catalyst 80 pack has received exceptionally great reviews everywhere. On Amazon, the average rate for this pack is 4.7/5.
- Weight: 5 lb 2 oz (2.3 kg).
- Volume: 5000 cub in (80 L).
- Size (L x W x D): 34 x 13 x 16 in (86 x 33 x 41 cm).
- Torso fit: 15.5 – 21 in (39 – 53 cm).
– Body fabric: 420 D polyester ball shadow.
– Reinforcement fabric: 450 D polyester oxford.
– Frame: dual hollow aluminum stays.
- Top loading.
- Front loading – zippered access.
- Side access sleeping bag compartment.
- Top lid.
- PerfectFIT adjustable suspension.
- HDPE frame sheet.
- HDPE reinforced waist belt.
- Lumbar support.
- Two layer padded waist belt and shoulder straps.
- Load lifter straps.
- Dual stretch mesh belt pockets.
- Dual stretch mesh water bottle pockets.
- Dual side zippered pockets.
- Hydration compatible.
- Front clothing compartment converts to a removable day pack.
Comparison with other brands
I have mentioned the great price of this pack. If you are not familiar with packs of this size, it is best to see this comparison table and below I also give the current prices. Note, these all packs are absolute top in this industry. You can follow the links to see more and to check actual prices in the moment of reading this text:
|Removable day pack||yes
The current prices for these packs are, respectively, $150, 319, 310. Now you may understand my high rate for the Catalyst 80 pack, with all the features and the price taken together.
To conclude this Kelty Catalyst 80 review, what you have here is Kelty at its best: plenty of unique features, unique design, great price, and quality materials. These are all good reasons that make Kelty so popular, and this has been so for several decades already.
This pack stands out with its suspension system and with its truly unique bottom compartment design. If you want something exceptional this is it. I can fully recommend this pack.
If the pack is too big for you, please check the 65 liter version described in the site. Note that there also exist packs for women, Kelty Women’s Catalyst 61 Backpack, and Kelty Catalyst 46 liter backpack for women.