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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Kelty Lakota 4000 Pack > Test Report by David Wyman

Kelty Lakota 4000
Test Series by David Wyman

Picture of pack from website
(image from website)

Test Phases:

Initial Report - March 28, 2010

Field Report - July 6, 2010

Long Term Report - August 25, 2010

Tester Information

NAME David Wyman
EMAIL wyman(AT)wymanhq(DOT)com
AGE 31
LOCATION Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
HEIGHT 5' 10" (1.78 m)
WEIGHT 175 lb (79.40 kg)

While I've been camping for years, I've only been backpacking for a short time. I'm trying to find the right equipment, alternating between tent and hammock. My dog usually comes along on the longer hikes, and my wife and toddler join me on the shorter ones. I tend to carry more gear than I need resulting in a heavier pack, but I'm working on that. When I hike with my dog and/or my wife and son, we take it a bit slower, stopping frequently to enjoy the forest. I rarely hike fast unless I'm trying to make up time.

Initial Report - March 28, 2010

Product Information

Manufacturer Kelty
Product Kelty Lakota 4000
Year of manufacture 2010
MSRP US$144.95
Packbag Features
(from website)
* Hydration compatible
  * Front-panel access
  * Top loading
  * Sleeping bag compartment
  * Large front pocket
  * Reservoir sleeve
  * Mesh water bottle pockets
  * Side compression straps
  * Load compression strap
  * Spindrift collar
  * Daisy chain
  * Ice-axe loop
  * Lash tabs
  * Key fob
  * Carry handle
Suspension Features
(from website)
* Single LightBeam™ aluminum stay
  * HPDE frame sheet with occipital
  * Ventilating waistbelt, backpanel, and
   shoulder straps
  * HDPE reinforced waistbelt
  * Dual density foam waist belt
  * Removable waistbelt
  * Wicking backpanel
  * Padded backpanel and shoulder straps
  * Load-lifter/Stabilizer straps
  * Sternum strap
  * Belt stabilizers
  * Scherer Cinch™ (US Pat #5,465,886)
Weight: Listed: 4 lb. 4 oz. (1.9 kg)
  Measured: 4 lb. 3 oz. (1.9 kg)
Color Tested: Woods Green
Other Colors: Spice

Initial Impressions

front and back views
Front and Back views of the pack

The first thing I noticed was how clean the design of the pack is - the green and grey colors are somewhat muted and complement each other well. The pack is well-made and didn't have any manufacturing defects that I could find. The aluminum support stay in the center of the pack's back panel jumped out at me immediately. I expected to be able to feel it while wearing the pack but was pleasantly surprised to discover that I didn't notice it at all. The internal support is created by the use of a moldable plastic sheet. The included instructions detail how to adjust the different areas of the plastic sheet to fine tune the pack's fit. I was a bit apprehensive about bending the plastic sheet, but after first figuring out and then following the directions, the pack did seem to fit a little better.

At the very top of the pack is a pouch that covers the top opening of the pack. The pouch has quite a bit of room and is attached to the rear of the pack with three straps and to the front of the pack with two vertical compression straps that run all the way down the outside of the pack.

main compartment
Top and Front access to main compartment

The main compartment can be accessed two ways - either by opening the spindrift collar on the top of the pack or through the zippered opening behind the front pocket. The top opening is fairly large, but one of the curves in the plastic sheet from the interior support system obstructs the opening a bit making it a little difficult to access anything other than the very top layer of gear.

The front opening, however, is very well placed and sized. It is very easy to access most of the pack's interior without having to unpack a lot of gear.

On the front of the pack, there are two daisy chain loops, a large grab handle, and an ice axe loop.

Sleeping bag compartment
Sleeping bag compartment

On the bottom of the pack are two sleeping pad straps that have enough length to hold any of my sleeping pads, including my old, giant roll of foam padding. The sleeping bag compartment is located behind the straps which requires me to remove the sleeping pad before I can access the compartment - it would be nice to have easier access to this compartment. The sleeping bag compartment has an interior flap which separates it from the upper portion of the main compartment. This flap is sewn to the rear of the pouch and is secured to the front of the pouch with three toggle loops. This allows the flap to be moved out of the way and converts the interior into one large compartment. When the flap is in place, there is still room on the sides for lengthier items to extend from the upper compartment down into the sleeping bag compartment. It also allows smaller items to slip down out of the upper compartment if they are not packed carefully.

front pouch
Inside of front compartment

There is a large compartment located on the front of the pack. This compartment is separated into three sections. The main portion of the compartment is very roomy and can hold two of the large, 32 oz (.95 L) Nalgene bottles. A sleeve at the rear of the compartment creates a second section of the pouch and a key fob/lanyard hangs from the top of the compartment. The third section of the front compartment is a zippered pocket located on the inside of the flap and is large enough to hold my wallet, keys, and cell phone.

hip belt cinch system
Scherer Cinch™ system

This pack uses Kelty's patented Scherer Cinch™ system to make tightening the hip belt a very easy process. Each side of the webbing for the hip belt starts at the hip belt and runs through the buckle that clips in front. The webbing then doubles back on itself and slips through a plastic ring. This allows the ends of the webbing to be pulled forward (out in front) rather than pulling them back and to the sides. This gives added leverage and makes it very easy to tighten the hip belt.

hip belt cinch system
Straps on upper rear portion of pack

The main issue I have with the pack is the number of straps located along the upper rear portion of the pack. The upper side compression straps are located on the left and right. Next are the left and right straps used to attach the top pouch to the pack. Moving towards the center, the next two straps are the left and right load lifter/stabilizer straps. Lastly, the center strap is the third strap used to attach the top pouch to the pack. All of the straps have extremely long free ends and, when the pack is on my back, they get jumbled up and it is a bit difficult to figure out which straps to pull to tighten up the load lifters.

Field Report - July 6, 2010 Trips Taken

This has been a pretty slow start to my summer and I've only had the pack out for one short, overnight trip to Raccoon Creek State Park. The trip was a pleasant one with temps in the 80s (upper 20s C) during the day and the 50s F (10s C) at night and no rain at all. The pack weighed in around 30 lbs (13.5 kg) with my hammock, tarp, bag, extra food and water. This is more than I needed but I wanted to see how it handled a mid-weight load. In addition to the overnight, the pack has accompanied me and my family on several day hikes.

Thoughts and Impressions

This pack hasn't had much of a chance yet to show off, but it's worked well so far. It's really been nice on the day hikes with the family as it has enough room to carry extra clothes, food, and water for me, my wife, my two kids, and our dog. This frees my wife up to carry our daughter in a kid-carrier pack without carrying any gear.

On the solo hike, I packed my hammock and sleeping bag in the bottom compartment but soon found that the fabric divider did not do a very good job keeping smaller items from slipping down from the upper compartment. The toggles used to secure the fabric leave too much room for things to get past them. One area I did like, however, was the use of the compression straps. They allowed me to keep the pack cinched down very evenly no matter how much (or little) gear I was carrying. The only straps that seem odd so far are the load-lifter straps. They slide up underneath a piece of webbing which seems to reduce their usefullness. I'm trying them out a few times like this to see if I change my mind on them. If not, I'll slip them out from behind the webbing and see if they do better that way.

On the hip belt, the Scherer Cinch™ system works very well. Tightening up the hip belt requires much less effort than other packs I'm used to using. The aluminum stay in the rear was a little annoying when I first started using the pack but I'm getting used to it the more I wear it.

Long Term Report - August 25, 2010 Trips Taken

Work has been keeping me incredibly busy but I managed to squeeze in 3 day hikes and one overnight backpacking trip.

Early July saw a nice and simple 4 mile (6.4 km) hike through North Park, a local county park. My dog and I got an early 6am start to avoid the heat and the crowds. We hiked a mile over well-maintained gravel trail and stopped to make a quick breakfast before branching off on a much less used footpath. I wanted to test out a heavier than normal load so I had close to 40 lbs (18 kg) in the pack. After doing a 2 mile (3.2 km) loop, we returned to the car via the same gravel path we started on. Temperatures stayed comfortably in the 70s F (low 20s C) and we were lucky to avoid any bad weather.

End of July was a bit hectic but two more day hikes found their way into the schedule. The first was in the southern portion of Pennsylvania in Ohiopyle State Park. This was a 5 mile (8 km) loop with the second half of the loop along the Youghiogheny river. My wife, three year old son, and one year old daughter came along on this hike. My daughter rode in a kid carrier pack on my wife's back. My son was a trooper and walked most of the hike on his own, with a few trips on my shoulders as well. The entire hike was under a very thick forest canopy which was a blessing as it kept the temperature down to around 80 F (27 C). It was a very humid hike though and, since I carried my son on my shoulders a few times, I was glad that I'd kept the pack down to about 15 lbs (7 kg) of gear - extra clothes, first aid kit, small stove, extra food and water.

The second end of the month hike was a 4 mile (6.4 km) portion of the backpacking loop in Raccoon Creek State Park. With temperatures in the mid-90s F (mid-30s C) and only sporadic canopy cover, this hike was a bear. I had just over 20 lbs (9 kg) of gear with me (I was hiking solo so I brought enough stuff in case I felt like staying over night and calling in "sick" to work the next day!)

Despite work doing its best to keep me busy, I took advantage of a free weekend in August and did an overnight trip up in Allegheny National Forest. Hiked just over 3.5 miles (5.5 km) to the Hopewell campsite. Good news was the temperature didn't climb over 80 F (27 C) and didn't drop below 70 F (21 C) during the trip. Bad news was that it rained most of the hike into the site. I had planned for this and had everything in my pack inside a large dry sack so I didn't bother with a pack cover. After the rain stopped, I cooked dinner and then relaxed in my hammock until I drifted off to sleep. The next morning was a nice sunny hike back to the car.

Thoughts and Impressions

This pack has certainly grown on me the more I've used it. I did end up tweaking the load-lifter straps so that they were out from behind the webbing and that definitely made them more useful. During these two months I carried the pack with weights ranging from 15 lbs (7 kg) to 40 lbs (18 kg) and it was up to the challenge every time. With the lighter loads, the compression straps worked very well and kept the pack compressed down, limiting the shifting of the items. Under the heavier load, the pack did a decent job distributing the weight to my hips and, after modifying them, the load-lifter straps did a good job of pulling the pack into a better position.

The reservoir sleeve was large enough to hold my 100 oz (3 L) CamelBak reservoir and, after a little trial and error, the drinking tube ran easily out of the pack and over my shoulder. Due to its size, however, the reservoir made it a little awkward accessing the main compartment from the top. I was very happy to have a front access flap for just this reason - made it very easy to get to items in the middle and bottom of the pack with a full 100 oz (3 L) in the CamelBack.

Despite working very well, the Lakota is not perfect and has a few things I'd change. The flap separating the sleeping bag compartment from the upper portion of the main compartment is just a flap of fabric secured with a few hooks. If care isn't taken in packing the upper 2/3 of the pack, small items can easily slip down into the sleeping bag area. Another issue is that when I use the straps along the bottom to hold a sleeping pad, they block easy access to the lower zippered access point. This is fairly minor as I always had the pad out and in my hammock before I needed access to that section, but it would be nice to have an easier option available. The final issue I have with the Lakota is the placement of the compression straps and load-lifter straps. The load-lifter straps, the spindrift collar compression strap, the side compression straps and the compression straps for the top pouch are all in the same general area and, when wearing the pack, it's easy to grab the wrong set of straps. More separation between the straps would go a long way towards fixing this issue.


  • Lightweight
  • Multiple ways to access main compartment
  • Many attachment points on the exterior
  • Straps have too much extra length
  • Too many straps around the neck area
  • Fit adjustment process for the moldable plastic sheet is a bit confusing

This concludes my test of the Kelty Lakota 4000 backpack. Thanks to and Kelty for this opportunity.

Read more reviews of Kelty gear
Read more gear reviews by David Wyman

Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Kelty Lakota 4000 Pack > Test Report by David Wyman

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