Kelty Rally 45 Backpack review
I had a chance to visit the Kelty booth at last summer’s Outdoor Retailer convention here in Salt Lake City. They were showcasing a wide array of products, but the ones that excited me the most were the brand-new “Agile Series” backpacks. Needless to say I was very happy when the Kelty Rally 45 arrived at my door for testing this spring. Kelty’s backpack line needed an update, and I put the Rally through the paces to see if it is worthy of carrying during your next adventure.
The 45 in “Rally 45″ stands for, you guessed it, 45 liters of space, or 2,745 cubic inches. These dimensions put it right in the midrange area: not a trekking pack, but surely enough for multi-day adventures. Both the small/medium and medium/large sizes have the same dimensions, which is a rarity these days. Both sizes also weigh in at 4 lbs 1 oz. The Rally is a sharp looking bag with all the standards you’d expect on a backpack: large central storage area, hydration sleeve, floating top lid, side bottle pouches, hip belt pouches and additional zippered compartments on the outside for more storage. The main compartment features a separate storage area on the bottom for a sleeping bag, but a zipper allows you to combine it into one large space. Kelty also includes a rain cover that’s accessed by a zipper on the bottom of the backpanel. Okay, the pack looks nice, but read on for how it performed in the field.
My biggest praise for this pack is the suspension. Kelty’s AGILE Suspension System uses a single lightweight aluminum stay combined with aluminum wires to provide vertical stiffness within the pack while still allowing the frame to flex with your body. The spring loaded mesh backpanel allows air to flow freely between your back and the main compartment, making sure you don’t overheat on hot days with heavy loads. That all sounds rather technical, so here’s the bottom line: during a multi-day backpack in the Uintas I carried over 35 lbs of gear (way more than my usual load) and stayed comfortable throughout the 6.5 mile hike. The shoulder straps allowed me to escape the adventure with only minor collarbone pain, and my hips felt great. Kelty nailed it with the hipbelt: just the right amount of padding and it combines with the main suspension to ease the burden of heavy loads. The mesh backpanel was also quite nice; scapula and lumbar pads kept my back feeling good while air flowed in and stopped me from becoming a sweaty mess. That’s the good news, but it ain’t all peaches and cream with the Rally 45.
My biggest gripe with the pack is the extra zippered compartment on the outside. At first, I was pumped: unzip it and hidden within is a key ring, several small sleeve pockets for additional gear storage, and some extra room for stuffing things you might need to access quickly (first aid kit, warm hat, snacks, etc). Seems like a good idea to me. The problem is that when the main compartment is fully loaded it’s difficult at best to get to your gear. With a full load and this “bonus” pocket stuffed, I could barely get to my journal and pen to take some field notes. There is also a secondary zipper within this area that allows access to the main compartment. Again, a good idea in theory, but in reality it is simply too tight to be useful. The rain cover is also lackluster: while it is easy to access it did an inadequate job of covering the pack’s sides and bottom. There are no adjustments save for the cinched fabric, which made it all too easy for rain to soak any exposed areas.
Despite these shortcomings the Kelty Rally 45 proved to be a very capable backpack. I stuffed a ton of gear into it and my body felt good carrying it. All the zippers and cinch straps are tough enough to withstand a good backcountry beating. The pack has enough adjustment points to transition seamlessly between one nighters and multi-day outings. While scrambling over loose rock and tough terrain the Rally never threw me off balance; I even found myself crossing slippery, narrow logs over a stream on two occasions. The sub $200 price is competitive, as many similar sized packs outweigh it or don’t carry gear as comfortably. Available in both men’s and women’s versions, the Rally 45 is a much-needed addition to Kelty’s backpack lineup.