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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Kelty Lakota 4000 Pack > Test Report by Edwin L. Morse


INITIAL REPORT - March 19, 2010
FIELD REPORT - June 25, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - August 20, 2010


NAME: Edwin Morse
EMAIL: ed dot morse at charter dot net
AGE: 72
LOCATION: Grawn, Michigan USA
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

I started backpacking in 1979 with two weeks in northern Michigan along the Lake Superior shore. My gear was cheap, heavy and sometimes painful. My starting pack weight was 70 lbs (32 kg) with food but no water. Since that first time I have made one and two week trips in Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Last May I did a 2 week hike in Northern Minnesota. My starting pack weight was 35 lbs (16 kg), including 10 days of food and 2 qt (2 l) of water. I am slowly learning what lighter gear works for me.



Manufacturer: Kelty
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: US$144.95
Listed Weight: 68 oz (1938 g)
Measured Weight: 68 oz (1928 g)
Other details: The Kelty Lakota 4000 is a top loading pack with front panel access. It has a top pocket and a good sized front pocket. The pack comes in two colors: Spice and Wood Green. I ordered and received the wood green.

The pack is top loading with an arc shaped zipper giving front panel access. It is hydration compatible with a bladder reservoir sleeve and hydration tube openings in the spin drift collar on the upper right and upper left. There is a sleeping bag compartment with zipper access near the bottom and a good sized front pocket. In addition to the usual grab loop at the top of the pack there is a daisy chain on the front of the pack with a sturdy carry handle at the bottom end of the daisy chain. The following picture shows what I assume to be a carry handle. I've never used or carried an ice ax but I am assuming the ice ax loop is the loop below the carry handle.
8) Carry handle
8) Carry handle

The pack is described as internal suspension which, to me, looks like a shaped plastic sheet enclosed in the back panel and a single outside aluminum stay. The stay should be visible in the next picture, in the center between the padded back panels.
9) Aluminum Stay
9) Aluminum stay


My first impression was that the Lakota 4000 is a big, heavy duty well constructed pack. I thought it might be canvas but the website states that it is 600D polyester and 600D polyester oxford. I could find no dropped or crooked stitches. All seams were straight and even. Here are two pictures of the pack as received.
1) As received 1
1) As received front
2) As received 2
2) As received back

All the straps were pulled tight and the hip belt was wrapped around the pack and fastened tight.

The top pocket is relatively roomy. All the zipper pulls, except the two for the front pocket, have an equilateral triangle shaped 1 inch (2.5 cm) long by about 0.25 in (0.6 cm) piece of metal over the cord that loops through the zipper. I could not get a picture to show the triangular shape. The metal zipper pull is visible on the right side of the open top pocket in the next picture below.
3) Top pocket
3) Top pocket

At the bottom of the pack is a roomy sleeping bag compartment. This will easily hold my quilt and mattress. The material separating the main and bottom compartments can be unfastened at the front with two toggles, one of which is visible in the next picture.
4) Sleeping bag compartment
4) Sleeping bag compartment

The front pocket is about 13 inches (33 cm) deep and 8 inches (20 cm) wide. There are two interior pockets inside the front pocket. The one on the front has a zipper and holds my wallet and a few other small items. The pocket on the back side is open. There is also a snap hook hanging from the inside top of the front pocket that will keep my car keys in one place.
5) Front pocket
5) Front pocket
10) Front panel opened
10) Front panel opened

Another zipper is just visible in the picture to the left. This is a front panel opening to the main compartment which is shown much better in the picture on the right showing both the front access panel and the front pocket open.

The Kelty Lakota is a top loading pack with a large top opening to the main compartment. In the picture below the top of the hydration bladder pocket can be seen as the horizontal black line. My 2 liter Platypus pushed in empty, sticks out just a little. In the upper right I clipped a pocket knife in the opening for the hydration tube. There are hydration tube openings on both sides.
6) Main opening
6) Main opening


When I opened the top pocket I found an instruction book.
7) Instruction book
7) Instruction book

The first page and a half consists of warnings. Most of the warnings are just good things I learned long ago. Next there is a section on care and cleaning - mostly just common sense (someone once told me they call it common sense because it isn't). Next is a section describing the suspension features. The next three and a half pages are instructions for custom fitting the pack. The last page is tips on packing the pack and a description of the Kelty lifetime warranty. This is the kind of warranty that makes sense to me. I read it to mean that if Kelty did something wrong they will fix or replace the pack and if I abuse or wear out the pack I can pay for repairs or replacement.


I tried the pack on and it seems to fit quite well. I expected it to fit since the torso fit range is 17.5 in - 19.5 in (44-49 cm) and my torso measures right in the middle of the range. I played around with all the straps and buckles to see how they work.

I won't really learn how most features work until I can load the pack and hike for several days.


The Kelty Lakota 4000 is the biggest pack I've had in about 10 years. I've been trying to lower my pack weight for years but now I'm looking at options besides just backpacking. With a volume of 4000 cu in (65.6 L) and the well padded shoulder straps and hip belt I assume the Lakota can handle more weight than my other packs. If this is correct I can add luxuries or different ways to backpack and travel. I'm looking at packrafting as an addition to backpacking, if my finances work out in the next two months. The compression straps should allow me to carry either small or bulky loads. It will be a challenge learning all the ways I can use different features.

This concludes my Initial Report.



I've been on three day hikes on which I used the Kelty Lakota 4000: May 8, 2010, May 19, 2010 and May 26, 2010, all in the Pere Marquette State Forest which is south and east of Traverse City, Michigan. The first hike started at the Lake Dubonnet campground and I followed the Lost Lakes trail which is a mostly flat area. The temperature was a cool 38 F (3 C) with a strong wind. The rain, which soon turned to snow, started just as I got out of the Jeep. I put on the rain suit before I even started hiking. I only carried the Kelty to see how it handled with a light load. I kept this hike short because it was the first attempt since I first experienced too much leg pain to hike at all. I walked just over three miles (5 km) total.

The second day hike I parked at the Parking lot for Sand Lakes Quiet Area. This is a very hilly area which includes six lakes and over 20 miles (32 km) of trails and a State Forest campground at the first lake. The temperature was 74 F (23 C) when I put the Kelty Lakota pack on. In addition to my lunch and standard day hike gear I had an Alpacka Yukon Yak packraft inside the pack with the four section paddle under the side compression straps. I hiked about two miles (3 km) around to the second lake and found an area of mostly sandy shore. I got the packraft and accessories out of the pack, then blew up the packraft with the inflating bag. Then I switched shoes and took off the hiking pants so I was just wearing swim shorts, Crocs, tee shirt and Tilley hat. I packed the trail runners and pants in a water proof bag in the Kelty. I fastened the Kelty pack to the front of the packraft. I waded out a ways and climbed into the Yukon Yak. I paddled around the small lake for about two hours and a distance of three miles (5 km). Here is a view from my seat in the packraft.
view from my seat and packraft
view from my seat and ready packraft

It got up to 85 F (29 C) while I was paddling. Back where I got in the raft I unloaded and deflated the raft, then hung it up to dry while I changed clothes and shoes. By that time the packraft was dry and I packed it in the Kelty for the hike back to the car. I had walked a total of four miles (6 km) and paddled about three miles (5 km).

The third day hike was actually a trail work day. Four of us were mowing sections of trail with two mowers and two men with each mower. Since my back has not healed enough to use the brush hog my job was to walk ahead and move or trim anything that would be a problem. I had several small tools along in the pack. I also carried paint and blazing tools on a two mile section where hikers had been missing turns. Here is a picture after I painted the last blaze needed.
new blaze
new blaze

I pulled all six compression straps, two on each side and two on the bottom, as tight as possible on the day hikes to keep the load contained.

I also did three short overnight hikes; May 14 & 15, 2010, June 5 & 6, 2010 and June 19 & 20, 2010. All three overnight hikes were in the Manistee National Forest.

The first overnight hike was also my first attempt at backpacking since I started having severe leg pains which was diagnosed as a ruptured disk in my back. I planned and packed for this hike in the morning, then I drove to the TH and started hiking soon after noon. I had selected a hilly piece of trail and planned to camp away from any source of water. It was cloudy, very windy and 54 F (12 C) when I started hiking. I had all my quickly packed gear (including all the water I would need overnight) in the Kelty Lakota 4000 pack, which weighed 31 lb (14 kg) when I left home.

I hiked about three miles (5 km) south from the small TH. I walked very slowly, using hiking poles to keep my weight off my legs as much as possible. Then I walked about 200 ft (61 m) west from the trail and found a place to camp. The pack carried very well and I had most of the weight resting on my hips.

The second overnight started with a work day. I met the group at the edge of Sterling Marsh southwest of the village of Baldwin, Michigan. We're in a multiyear project building boardwalk through the marsh. After the work day was finished I changed shoes and put on my trail runners. I had all my over night gear in the Kelty Lakota 4000 pack. It was very cloudy and a warm 75 F (24 C) when I left the work site. I parked off the Forest Road and hiked about a mile (1.6 km) into the woods and set up camp. The Lakota carried well bushwhacking through relatively open woods. I was using a tarp and hammock on this outing so my total pack weighed 30 lb (14 kg). I had just got the tarp up and it started to rain. I got everything under the tarp and finished setting up. The mosquitoes came in force soon after I had the hammock up. Temperature was 68 F (20 C). It continued to rain all night, quitting about sunrise and still warm at 54 F (12 C).

The third overnight hike also started with a work day but I left right after lunch. I parked at a Forest Road rather than a trail head parking area. I picked a hilly (for Lower Michigan) section of trail and started with sunny skies, 80 F (27 C) and 25 lb (11 kg) in the Kelty Lakota 4000 pack. I had been told by a Physical Therapist that it would be OK to backpack if I could keep most of the weight off my shoulders and back so I had the hip belt tight and the shoulder straps loose. When I started going up and down hills the top of the pack bounced around. I tried to tighten the load lifters and could get no effect. I took the pack off to find the problem. The strap went under a neat cross strap retainer which I had noticed before. I unfastened one side and pulled it out of the retaining strap. Then I fastened it again and put the pack on. That worked so I took a picture and then redid the other load lifter strap the same way. Here is a combined picture, the left one showing the way the load lifters were when I received the pack and the right one showing how I changed them.
change before and after
change before and after

I'm still finding features I didn't particularly note at first. I got to my intended campsite after hiking four miles (6 km). After I got the tent set up and the pack empty I blew up my short air mattress and put the pack at the end for my feet. This was only the second time I had used this idea and it seems to work well. The next morning I woke to 53 F (12 C) and started packing about 5:30. I packed most of the stuff inside the tent. Outside I hung the pack on a tree, ate breakfast and cleaned up. Then I took down the tent and finished packing, ready to hike out.


The pack is working well for me. I was probably not carrying over 15 lb (7 kg) on the day hikes and work days. The compression straps allow me to tighten the pack so it doesn't bounce around. The first two overnight hikes I carried about as much weight as I wanted to pack at the time with my body condition. The Kelty Lakota allows me to shift most of the weight to my hips so I don't make my back problems worse.

I was a bit puzzled when the load lifters did not pull the pack closer to my shoulders as I started the last over night hike. I soon remembered that the strap went under a cross piece before the buckle. After changing this detail I could loosen the shoulder straps to put the weight on my hips then tighten the load lifter straps to keep the top of the pack closer to my shoulders. When on longer backpacking hikes I like to frequently shift the way I carry the pack weight. I generally start with the weight evenly between my hips and shoulders. Then after a few miles I shift most of the weight to my hips, eventually rotating the weight from hips to shoulders and back to an even distribution. Now I know the pack will work this way.


Although the Kelty Lakota 4000 pack has more volume capacity than I've used in a long time it also has all the features I want and a few I have not considered. I'm still looking for ways to use some features. I've used the Lakota for short overnight hikes and it has done well. I have also used it on one day hike on which I carried the packraft to a lake and back after paddling for a few hours. My next overnight hike will include the packraft and accessories.

Overall I am pleased with the Kelty Lakota. The pack is heavier then I prefer but I knew that from the beginning. The only negative I see is that my broad brimmed hat bumps the top of the pack regardless of the load.

This concludes my Field Report.



I've managed to do three backpacking trips during the Long Term report period.

July 2 & 3, 2010 this even shorter hike was in the Pere Marquette State Forest east of Traverse City, Michigan. The terrain was easy hiking with a few hills, mostly down to the river and back up and down to the lake where we camped. The forest was mostly oak with stands of cedar along the river and pine near the lake. This was my first family backpacking in nearly 15 years, the first backpacking for my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter. My son had said his daughter could only do about three miles (5 km) and his wife asked for a lake. I planned an easy hike of just less than 4 miles (6 km) from the trail head to Dollar Lake. It was a sunny 83 F (28 C) when we started hiking. Since it was a short hike to a lake I also carried a packraft, the four section paddle and my PFD (Personal Flotation Device, sometimes called a life jacket).

July 16 & 17 & 18, 2010 I planned to push myself to see what I could do while (hopefully) recovering from a herniated disk. The hike was in the Manistee National Forest with mostly hilly terrain covered with hardwood forest. I combined the very popular Manistee River Trail with the North Country Trail for a loop hike. I extended the loop by adding miles to the south end. I hiked 10 miles (16 km) the first day, 15 miles (24 km) the second day and only 5 miles (8 km) the third day. The first two days were sunny and warm with a high of 85 F (29 C). The third day was dark and threatening and a cool 52 F (11 C) when I woke. The rain started as I was taking down my tent. It was a steady downpour by the time I started hiking.

August 3 & 4 & 5, 2010 this was a group hike planned and led by the man who laid out the route and led the trail building crew. We were mostly strangers until we met for dinner the first night. The days were sunny and warm with highs of about 85 F (29 C) and lows in early mornings of 64 F (18 C). The terrain was glacial moraine mostly covered with hardwood and stands of pine in the Brule State Forest south of the small town of Brule, Wisconsin. The first day was a short 0.8 mile (1.3 km), the second day was 10.7 miles (17.2 km) and the third day was 11.5 miles (18.5 km).


The Kelty Lakota 4000 has performed very well for me on my three backpacking hikes during the Long Term Report period. The larger volume (my other three packs are about 3000 cu in (49 L)) makes packing for an overnight and carrying packraft, paddle and PFD in addition to camping gear easy enough. Here is a picture with me standing between my daughter in law and my granddaughter. I have the packraft on top of the pack, the four piece paddle on sides under the compression straps and the PFD on the front of the pack.
Tara, Ed and Nan
Tara, Ed and Nan

I find that packing the Lakota just for straight backpacking very easy. While I'm definately not a light weight backpacker, for several years I have carried all my gear for up to 10 days in smaller packs. None of my smaller packs have all the features of the Lakota. I pack the small items I might need quickly (such as my small first aid kit, trowel, TP and hand cleaner) in the top lid packet. My rain gear is packed in the front zipper pocket. My bug dope (DEET) and more hand cleaner is carried in the side pockets. Everything else goes in the large main compartment. The panel between the main and sleeping bag compartments allows me to pack everything else then wrap my quilt or sleeping bag in a trash sack and pack it last. In order to compress the whole load more I then unfasten the front buttons on the separater panel. any last minutes items can be added through the front access zipper near the top. Then I tighten all six compression straps.

Here is a picture from the two night group hike in Wisconsin. This is the first group hike for me when I had one of the lightest packs. Only the young lady behind me had a lighter pack.
Tim, Ed and Laura
Tim, Ed and Laura

I'm trying hard to keep most of the weight off my right leg to relieve the pain caused by a back problem. All the adjustments available on the Kelty Lakota 4000 allow me to hike with most of the pack weight on my hips.


The Kelty Lakota 4000 is a very easy pack for me to use. The six compression straps allow me to hike with just the gear for a day hike or load it up for several days including the packraft and accessories. There only two negatives I can find. First, small pockets on the hip belt would be nice. Second, and very minor, the pack weighs a whole pound (0.45 kg) more than the next heaviest pack I own. On the other hand the greater volume and all the handy features more than make up for the weight.

This concludes my Long Term Report on the Kelty Lakota 4000.

My thanks to Kelty and for the opportunity to evaluate and test this pack.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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