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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Kelty Pawnee Pack > Test Report by Nathan Kettner


INITIAL REPORT - March 14, 2009
FIELD REPORT - May 31, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - July 26, 2009


NAME: Nathan Kettner
EMAIL: kettnernw "at" yahoo "dot" com
AGE: 31
LOCATION: Colorado Springs, Colorado
HEIGHT: 6' 1" (1.85 m)
WEIGHT: 175 lb (79.40 kg)

I'm a medium weight backpacker, meaning my pack usually weighs 30-35 lb (13-16 kg), and I generally hike a moderate pace and mostly in mountainous terrain. I almost always use a tent (lightweight when backpacking, wall tent when hunting). I'm a weekend backpacker and make lots of day trips and single night outings, plus a few week-long backpack trips. All of my outings have been in the beautiful and rugged Rocky Mountains of Colorado and Wyoming since I started backpacking in 2004.



Manufacturer: Kelty
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: US$ 129.95
Listed Weight: 3 lb 9 oz (1.6 kg)
Measured Weight: 3 lb 9.6 oz (1.63 kg)
Volume: 3300 cu in (54 L)

Listed Dimensions:
Volume: 3300 cu in (54 L)
Length: 32 inches (81 cm)
Width: 14 inches (36 cm)
Depth: 14.5 inches (37 cm)
Torso Fit Range: 18.5 - 21 inches (47 - 53 cm)

Color Tested: Nite Sky

Materials (from Kelty's website):
Body Fabric: 600D polyester ripstop and 600D polyester oxford
Reinforcement Fabric: 610D polyester cordura

Packbag Features (from Kelty's website):
• Hydration compatible
• Front-panel access
• Top loading
• 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 Kelty's website):
• Single LightBeam II™ aluminum stay
• HDPE frame sheet
• Ventilating waistbelt, backpanel, and shoulder straps
• Dual density foam waist belt
• Removable waist belt
• Wicking backpanel
• Padded backpanel and shoulder straps
• Load-lifter/Stabilizer straps
• Sternum strap
• Belt stabilizers
• Scherer Cinch™ waist belt (US Pat #5,465,886)


Kelty classifies the Pawnee 3300 as a 'day trip' pack, but at a quick glance, I would think it is too large for that category. But I'm not complaining, the bigger the better as long as it isn't excessively heavy, which the Pawnee certainly is not.
Kelty Pawnee 3300


Kelty provides a fairly detailed 8 page set of instructions that include safety info (a backpack could cause you to lose your balance and they are flammable), feature identification (diagram with arrows to aluminum stay, shoulder straps, etc.), fitting (how to adjust the straps to comfortably fit my body), and even shaping (how to bend the stay to remove pressure points). The pamphlet says that "bending and re-bending the stays won't hurt them," which sounds unbelievable to me. I guess my real concern would be that I would never get it back to the original shape, which is supposed to be "an average curve" from the factory.
Aluminum stay.

A few things worth noting about the instructions are that the Care and Cleaning section specifies that soapy water is not a good idea for this pack because the coatings on the fabric could be affected. I assume the coatings are what make the pack waterproof. Secondly, under Zipper Care, the instructions specify that I should spray them periodically with "a non-greasy, non-staining silicone spray designed for fabrics," which I doubt I will ever remember to do unless or until I have a problem with one of the zippers. Lastly, the instructions show how to adjust the waist belt up or down. Although I can feel the hook and loop attachment, I don't see much room for adjustment. Perhaps this part of the instructions is generic and intended for a different pack.


Since I've been backpacking for several years now, I think I've finally gotten the hang of adjusting a backpack to fit me fairly quickly. The Pawnee's buckles made the adjustments very easy because the straps slid tighter without much effort and then stayed where I wanted them without slippage. The Scherer Cinch™ waist belt was the most noticeably easy to adjust compared to other packs I've used, even though it doesn't look remarkable at all.

The loops on the fronts of the shoulder straps look like great places to hang a GPS unit, 2-way radio, or even a pair of sunglasses.
Front of shoulder strap.

The zippered pocket on top of the hood is very spacious and easy to access even for someone with large hands, like myself. One of the best features I've found so far is the zippered access to the main compartment. This will make it easier to reach small items that were stuffed into the main compartment without having to completely empty the pack from the top.


After playing with the Pawnee for a couple hours it looks to be a well-designed pack for those medium range trips which I take more frequently than any other type of trip. Right now, I can't think of anything that concerns me with the design or function and I'm truly looking forward to putting it through its paces.

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.



I've had the Kelty Pawnee out on two long day hikes and one overnight backpacking trip. The conditions on these hikes were as follows:

Day Hikes:
In the foothills of Pikes Peak in the Front Range of Colorado there are many trails from which to choose. One of my favorites is St Mary's Falls which is a single-track dirt trail rising from Gold Camp Road at 7,900 ft (2,400 m) to about 8,800 ft (2,700 m) over about 2.5 mi (4 km). On the days that I hiked this trail it was sunny and 70+ F (21 C).

Overnight Backpacking Trip:
In central Colorado the South Platte River flows north towards Denver picking up water from countless lesser streams running down small valleys or "gulches." One such gulch is Northrup Gulch, which is about 2.5 mi (4 km) long. There is an old, washed-out dirt road that makes a very easy-to-follow trail from the nearest Forest Service Road at 8,100 ft (2,500 m) down to the South Platte River at 7,000 ft (2,100 m). The former roadbed is really just decomposed granite (commonly known as gravel) which is very abundant in the local terrain. The beginning of the hike found temperatures around 75 F (24 C), but down around 40 F (5 C) when a thunderstorm broke over the valley late in the afternoon. On the second day, the temperature started around 50 F (10 C), but rose quickly to about 70 F (21 C) when the sun broke through the clouds midmorning.


My wife and two children (five and seven-years-old) accompanied me on my day hikes and this pack was more than sufficient to carry rain jackets, snacks, water, and assorted other equipment (camera, GPS, etc.) for all four of us. This amount of gear did not really stress the limits of comfort due to the relatively light weight, but did allow me to become more familiar with the pack. One discovery was that the loop on the front of the shoulder straps is ideal for holding the water line from my Camelbak, but the pocket for the reservoir is too far down in the main compartment of the pack to make the bite valve easily accessible
Tester and Son near St Marys Falls, Colorado

Reservoir sleeve is too low.

My family joined me again for the overnight backpacking trip down Northrup Gulch. This time, I totally maxed out the interior capacity of the Pawnee, and when I ran out of space, I started strapping equipment onto the outside. For starters, I stuffed a four-person tent and two adult-size mummy sleeping bags into the main compartment, which filled it to the brim. In the zippered hood pocket on top went my folding knife, titanium kettle, 8 oz (0.24 L) bottle of fuel, headlamp, toothbrushes, small tube of toothpaste, matchbox, journal, pen and probably a few other small items. In the zippered pocket on the back of the pack went all our snacks (trail mix, granola bars, Tootsie Rolls, etc). I carried a 20 oz (0.59 L) bottle of water and a dog leash in one of the elastic pouches on the side of the pack and a small camera and small fishing tackle box in the elastic pocket on the other side. On the outside of the pack I strapped two foam sleeping pads, a small spincast fishing rod and three (one adult and two kids) rain jackets. When I weighed the full pack (minus the water bottle, camera, and rain jackets, which were added later) the loaded pack weighed 27 lbs (12.25 kg), so I would estimate that the final weight was closer to 30 lbs (14 kg).
Fully loaded pack at Northrup Gulch, Colorado

That is way more stuff than this pack was designed to carry, but it didn't feel bad at all. The Pawnee felt more comfortable than any other pack I've carried with similar weight, but since the hike was only about 2 hours long each way, it may not be a fair comparison to larger packs that I've carried for 6-8 hours a day.

While we were searching for the ideal campsite near the South Platte, a thunderstorm bore down on us, seemingly from all directions. Just as we approached our final destination the wind gusted to about 40 mph (65 km/h) and started lashing us with a steady rain. In the ten chaotic minutes spent trying to set up the tent, my pack lay partially open in the downpour. When we were all safely in the half-assembled tent, I inspected the sleeping bags and other contents of my pack and found them all completely dry. This inspired enough confidence in me to use the Pawnee as our food bag to be hung from a high branch (black bears are common in the area) overnight without worrying about the contents getting soaked.
Pawnee as a bear bag.

The elastic pouches on the sides of the pack were ideal locations to store a water bottle (although the 20 oz bottle was a little too tall and fell out once) and camera which my wife retrieved frequently for snapshots. The inverted-U-shaped zippered pocket on the back of the pack also worked well because the zippers came far enough down the sides of the pack that I could access the all-important snacks without even removing the two attached sleeping pads.


The Kelty Pawnee has performed well in all the conditions I have used it. Its light weight has made it a useful tool for long day hikes as well as short overnight trips. So far my only complaint is the water reservoir sleeve is too low in the main compartment to make it useful, although it may have been designed for a reservoir with a longer water line.

This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.



This has been a great summer for me for camping and backpacking. I've taken the Pawnee on two car camping trips and two overnight backpacking trips since my Field Report. I'll only discuss the backpacking trips in the report below because they definitely put the Pawnee to more of a test than the day hikes associated with my car camping trips.

The first backpack trip was up to Salmon Lake in the rugged Eagles Nest Wilderness of central Colorado. The elevation at the trailhead is 9,500 ft (2,900 m) and I hiked about 10 mi (16.10 km), almost to tree line, or about 12,000 ft (3,700 m). The trail is mostly packed dirt, with occasional rocky sections and stream crossings. Since I was there in early June, there was snow starting with just scattered patches and increasing to deep drifts for the last 1,000 ft (300 m) of elevation. The temperature during the day at lower elevations was near 70 F (21 C), but the night up on the mountain was definitely below freezing (the lake had fresh ice on it in the morning).

Salmon Lake, Eagles Nest Wilderness, Colorado

The second backpacking trip was down to Douglas Creek in the Platte River Wilderness in south-central Wyoming at the end of July. On this trip I started with a descent from the trailhead around 9,200 ft (2,800 m) and ended 2 mi (3.2 km) later at the river near 8,200 ft (2,500 m) elevation. The trail I tried to follow is not much of a trail at all. On the way in and on the way back out I saw maybe half-a-dozen tree blazes delineating the route. For the most part, I was bushwhacking cross-country trying to find my way through the deadfall and trying to avoid the thick underbrush along the drainage I was following.

I didn't have any precipitation worth mentioning on either trip.


This pack handled the trips I took it on with no problems. On my 2 night trip I carried over 30 lbs of gear including:
- 2-man tent
- Small pillow
- 2 sleeping pads (strapped to the outside)
- Small stove
- 8 oz (0.24 L) fuel can
- Small kettle
- Sleeping bag
- Water filter
- 2 water bottles
- Bear spray (hung on waist belt)
- Hatchet (hung on waist belt)
- Fishing vest with tackle
- Fishing rod & reel
- Miscellaneous (Lighter, Matches, Spoon, Compass, Headlamp, Stocking hat, Bug spray, Sunscreen, Pocket knife, Parachute cord, GPS, Map, Journal & pen, Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Raincoat, Camera, Extra AA batteries, Toilet paper, First aid kit, Ibuprofen bottle,
- Food (2 Dehydrated meals, 4 packets oatmeal, Hot chocolate, Snacks)
- Spare set of clothes
- Wading shoes (strapped to outside)

I used the Pawnee pack as a bear bag again, stringing it up in a pine tree with the parachute cord at night and while I was away fishing. The tree I selected had dead branches below the one I was hanging the bag from, so when I tried to lower it, the dead branches snagged the bag every time. I was afraid it would rip the mesh pockets, but it made the trip up and down three times without any damage. Of course, if something were going to rip it would have probably been because of the numerous branches scraping by me on my off-trail treks, but so far, I can't see any signs of wear.

If I were asked for suggestions to improve the design of the Pawnee, I would recommend facing the opening to the zippered pocket on the hood towards the back of the pack. Currently, it faces forward and when I lay the pack on the ground I can either access the hood pocket by laying the pack on its back or I can access the large compartment by laying the pack on its front, but I can't get to both at the same time.


As I have gotten to know this pack, I've come to appreciate it for what it is - a sturdy, well-designed, relatively lightweight backpack. It's perfect for a one to two night backpacking trip, or for just a long day trip. It is durable, water resistant (at least in the limited precipitation I encountered), and quite comfortable, even when overloaded.


I plan to use the Kelty Pawnee in years to come for every day hike and overnight backpacking trip I take unless I require something with more capacity due to the length of the trip or because of the extra equipment I need to carry for my young kids.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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