Updated April 2017.
In this Kelty PK 50 review you can read about a backpack with a completely unique construction and with features which you will not see in any other pack on the market. This is a pack without any zippers, convertible from 50 to 35 liters, and much more.
- Completely unique design and features.
- Rain cover included.
- Converts from 50 to 35 liters, so you effectively have 2 packs in 1.
- Very good price.
Best price and place to buy
- The best place regarding the price and shipping conditions is usually Amazon.com.
The unique design of PK 50 includes the fact that this is a convertible pack which can be reduced to 35 liters. It is due to the following.
On the front, you have a front pocket-panel which can be un-clipped and completely removed as you will see in the video. This element alone has 15 liters volume. You can see it in the picture below.
This pocket-panel has a roll closure in the middle, and yet another one on the top of it where you have a separate pocket. One thing that comes to mind is that you can use this element as a pillow once you are in the tent.
When this 15 liters panel is removed, what is left behind is a 35 liters pack. This separate part has a very large stretch mesh pocket on the front, you can see it in the picture below right. So this pocket is normally sandwiched between the mentioned external pocket-panel and the rest of the pack when the structure is set together. This is indeed a design not seen anywhere else.
So from now on, I am speaking about the main 35 liters parts. On both sides, you have flaps which keep the mentioned pocket-panel in place with the straps that run horizontally along the front. And now in these flaps, you have very deep and big pockets, one on each side, where you can store tent poles and trekking poles.
There is, of course, the main compartment, with a roll-top closure (yes indeed, one more again), see the picture on the right.
The pack is hydration compatible, there is a sleeve in the main compartment and you can store a water bladder up to 3 liters.
If you think you have finished with roll-closures, wait, there is one more. You have a sleeping bag compartment on the bottom of the pack with yet another roll-closure here as well. There is a removable divider between this section and the main compartment above. It is secured by some hooks and you can remove it to have a single and large main compartment.
On the bottom, you have a single ice-axe attachment loop, and below it, you have a separate pocket with a velcro closure for an integrated rain cover.
The suspension system
The harness is fixed in this pack, so you have to choose between the two possible sizes in the moment of purchase.
Like everything else in this pack, the suspension is also quite unique. It is based on a single central stay which runs along its back. In addition to this, you have a HDPE panel which gives some rigidity to its structure.
The shoulder straps are contoured and rather modestly padded, and a very similar padding is on the hip belt.
A quite pleasant padding with a die-cut foam is on the upper portion of the back and in the lumbar zone. But I do not think that this construction gives much air flow and ventilation, you should be prepared for this.
This is completely unique pack and it comes with the dual hip belt pockets with flaps instead of zippers, I love to see them here in any case. In addition, you have very big stretchy mesh pockets for water bottles on the sides of the pack.
In the specifications below you will see data for the two sizes of this pack, S/M, and M/L. These are sizes for men.
There is also a specific smaller size version for women with slightly different padding and hip belt structure suitable for women’s body.
Its volume is 2930 cubic inches (48 liters) and the weight is 3 lb (1.36 kg).
All these exceptional features you can see in this nice short video by Kelty:
Pros & cons
My summary is as follows:
I have seen some customers complaining that various elements of the pack do not fit best when you add stuff in it. This may be so but note this is a 50 liters pack, which implies maximum weekend tours; this is not a backpacking tool. So do not use it as a 70 liters pack.
There are complaints about the durability of the stretch pockets.
About the idea of a zipper-less pack: I do not have a problem with zippers in general. Yes, I know they add weight, but they add a lot of functionality as well. In mu view, those hip belt pockets are such that I would not put anything valuable there. Without zippers, they simply do not look secure enough.
The Kelty PK 50 backpack has received a rather good rating by Amazon customers, you can see this in the links given here.
Here is one more video from Kelty which will help you to fit a pack:
Specifications – models for men
- Best use: hiking overnight and weekend tours, travel.
- Two sizes: S/M and M/L.
– Size (L x W x D): 26 x 12 x 10 in (66 x 30 x 25 cm).
– Volume: 3050 cub in (50 l).
– Weight: 3 lbs 2 oz (1.4 kg).
– Torso fit: 14.5 – 18.5 in (37 – 47 cm).
– Hip belt fit: 30 – 48 in (76 – 121 cm).
– Size (L x W x D): 28 x 12 x 10 in (71 x 30 x 25 cm).
– Volume: 3175 cub in (52 l).
– Weight: 3 lbs 3 oz (1.5 kg).
– Torso fit: 17.5 – 21 in (44 – 53 cm).
– Hip belt fit: 32 – 54 in (81 – 137 cm).
- Fixed harness.
- Body fabric: 100 D Robic Dobby.
- Reinforcement fabric: 200 D Nylon.
- Top loading.
- Roll-top opening.
- Roll-closure sleeping bag compartment.
- Removable front clothing compartment.
- Top pocket.
- Converts from 50 l to 35 l.
- Compression wings.
- Long wing pockets.
- Stretch mesh belt pockets.
- Stretch mesh water-bottle pockets.
- Stretch mesh front pocket.
- Single ice-axe loop.
- Key fob.
- Integrated rain cover.
- Hydration compatible.
- Single LightBeam aluminum stay.
- HDPE frame sheet.
- AirMesh shoulder straps, waistbelt, and lumbar zone.
- Colors: 2.
Comparison with competitors
Here is a comparison table with the best packs on the market, from the same size range. See how Kelty PK 50 stands in comparison with them:
|Deuter Futura Vario 50+10||Osprey Aura 50 AG||Kelty PK 50
|Zippered side pockets||yes, 2||no||2, not zippered
*This is for the S/M size.
My rating is just the matter of preference, I love traditional packs. However, I do have a very high opinion about Kelty’s packs in general. They usually come with the price tags that are hard to match, but this is never on the account of quality. On the other hand, some of the models here in the table are the absolute top on the market and it is hard for any other pack to come close to them in the rating. For example, my rating for the Deuter’s pack is the highest ever given to any pack in this site.
So how to summarize this Kelty PK 50 review? If you are a person who likes innovative and radically different designs, this is the right pack for you. You will not find anything similar to this here in site or anywhere else, so do not look further. There is nothing similar on the market.
This pack is very functional and it has a lot of exceptional features. When you remove the 15 liters front panel, you still have a fully functional 35 liters pack for day tours. The integrated rain cover adds a lot to the value of this pack. The price tag is also exceptional, very hard to match, just compare with the models given in the table above.
Note that there are several great packs from Kelty described in this site. One more traditionally shaped and with the exactly the same size is Kelty Redwing 50. There are also versions of 40 and 44 liters from the same series.
If you prefer a classic design with a lid and collar, please see this new model from Kelty, the Revol 50 pack.
Hopefully, this review has been useful to you. If this is so, please share it with others. Thank you and have a most pleasant day.