KELTY RED CLOUD 5600 BACKPACK
BY CHAD POINDEXTER
December 15, 2009
cg-77 (AT) hotmail (DOT) com
Corinth, Alcorn County, Mississippi, USA
5' 10" (1.78 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
I am a fairly new hiker and have hiked a section of the Appalachian Trail in north Georgia and at a few state parks in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama. As a fairly new backpacker I have obtained mostly heavy gear, but dream of going light. I sleep in a tent and like a warm drink in the morning, as well as a warm meal at night. Since I'm still new my distance is around 10 mi (16 km) or less per day, depending on terrain. I usually hike with my fiancée or my son but wouldn't mind a solo hike.
|Image courtesy of Kelty|
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: www.kelty.com
MSRP: (US) $199.95
Listed Weight: 5 lb 10 oz (2.55 kg)
Measured Weight: 5 lb 11 oz (2.58 g)
Volume: 5600 cu in (92 L)
Frame Type: Internal
Fits Torso Lengths: 16 in to 22 in (41 cm to 56 cm)
Suspension: CloudLock 2 adjustable suspension
Frame Material: Lightbeam II Aluminum stays with HDPE framesheet
Access: Top Loading with Front Panel and Sleeping Bag Compartment Access
Color Reviewed: Nite Sky (Also available in Khaki)
Body Fabric: 600D polyester ripstop and 600D polyester oxford
Reinforcement Fabric: 610D polyester cordura
An internal frame pack that balances performance, durability and affordability. This is the summation of the Kelty Red Cloud 5600 backpack (hereafter referred to as the "pack" or "backpack"). The pack is a large volume internal frame backpack with lots of extras! With so many extras, it's hard to find a place to start.....
The first thing to know about a pack is "How is the pack going to feel on my back?" With this in mind, the Kelty Red Cloud 5600 features the trademark CloudLock 2 suspension system, LightBeam II dual aluminum stays and an HDPE (High-Density PolyEthylene) frame sheet. The contoured HDPE reinforced, removable waist belt is comprised of dual density foam, and features the patented Scherer Cinch, which mimics a pulley system to double the tightening force, enabling the pack to ride securely and effectively on the hips. Furthermore, the torso length is easily adjusted by moving the back panel / shoulder strap yoke up or down along the dual aluminum stays by means of an adjustable rip-and-stick system, which ensures proper fit and maximum comfort while carrying this pack. Also, the shoulder straps are anatomically curved, forming an S-shape which conforms to the upper torso properly, while both the shoulder straps and the back panel are padded for extra comfort. An adjustable sternum strap is also present to aid in the prevention of chaffing around the shoulders and chest area. This pack concludes its core suspension system with a wicking / ventilating waist belt, back panel, and shoulder straps to keep me dry when I work up a sweat.
Kelty didn't stop at the suspension when designing the Red Cloud 5600. There are also many features throughout the pack that provide and promote various load-hauling capabilities, as well as easy convenient storage / access points. Furthering the packs ability to comfortably haul large loads, load-lifter / stabilizer straps have been added to relieve stress that may come to the shoulders after long hours of carrying heavy loads. On the other hand, when loads are smaller, compression straps have been added along the sides to compress the loads, assuring a tight, balanced load that will stay in place while in delicate positions. Kelty takes it one step further with the Red Cloud 5600, giving the lid the ability to be removed and converted to a fanny pack for those small day hikes from base camp.
Yet still, there are many other features to speak of! The packs main compartment can be accessed at three different locations, through the top loading spindrift collar, through the front access panel, or through the sleeping bag compartment located at the bottom of the pack, making it very easy to get to any particular space in the pack quite simple, and more importantly, without having to unpack everything. However with the two side pockets, front pocket (with organizer), two hip belt mesh pockets, and the two pockets located in the lid (all of which are zippered), there is plenty of room to keep everything very organized. There are still two more large mesh water bottle pockets located on either side of the pack at the bottom. The pack also has a daisy chain running down the center of the pack to lash extra gear to, as well as two ice-axe loops. The pack also features a carry / hang handle and is hydration compatible, complete with two exit ports at the top of the pack for the tube. And to give it that classic backpacker look, there are two straps that run across the bottom giving it the option to secure a sleeping pad, or tent or whatnot to the bottom of the bag.
The Kelty Red Cloud 5600 is loaded with extras to keep any trip in order, and plenty of space to do it in!
WHERE I USED THE PACK SO FAR
CHICKASAW STATE PARK, SOUTHWESTERN TENNESSEE. Once I received my pack this was the first place that I was able to take it out and use it! My family and I went on an overnight trip to this state park and I filled my new Red Cloud 5600 up and hauled it along with me. This state park has less than 4 miles (6.44 km) of hiking trails, but between both of those days, I hiked it all at least twice while wearing this pack. The elevation for this state park is listed at 480 ft (146 m) and I do not believe that the elevation varies much throughout the hiking section of the park. The trails loop around a large lake for the most part. There is one trail that extends out from the lake and loops back, but the elevation only changes slightly. The temperatures were around 62 F (17 C) on both days out and the skies were clear and beautiful, but I still managed to work up a little sweat. The trails were pretty well maintained and consisted of hard packed dirt farther from the lake, and nearer the lake the ground consisted of loose sand.
BIG HILL POND STATE PARK (BHPSP), SOUTHWESTERN TENNESSEE. Here my son and I ventured out on our first overnight trip. This is the first trip that I had to actually consider what I packed inside my pack because this trip wasn't car camping! I carried all of our gear, including food, except for my son's sleeping bag, which he carried in his pack. The general elevation listed at BHPSP is 500 ft (152 m), and as the name of the park suggest, there are some elevation changes throughout the park's 40+ miles (64+ km) of hiking trails. The temperatures ranged from around 50 F (10 C) at night, to around 65 F (18 C) during the days. Here the trails were more maintained on particular sections of the trail, while others were quite grown over. The trails were made up of hard packed dirt mostly, however in some sections there are long wooden planked bridges that can be as long as 1 mile (1.6 km) long.
APPALACHIAN TRAIL (AT), NORTH GEORGIA. This trail is what made me decide that I wanted to backpack. I had planned this trip even before I had purchased this pack. My fiancée and I embarked on our first multi-day hike this past September in the mountains of the AT. We spent five days and nights on the trail. We hiked 40 miles (64 km) from Amicalola Falls State Park Visitor Center to Neel's Gap. The terrain was strenuous, in both of our opinions. We had not hiked on any trails that could compare to this. Elevations rose and fell, from 1,770 ft (539 m) where we stepped on the trail to 4,450 ft (1,356 m) where we stayed our last night out, atop Blood Mountain. The path is well maintained, and consists of mostly very rocky ground. However, we also hiked on paved, wooden, and gravel portions. A few times we even got to trek across small streams. The temperatures were as high as 85 F (29 C) during the days and reached as low as 61 F (16 C) during the nights, so I had plenty of opportunities to sweat a little under the weight of my pack.
SIPSEY WILDERNESS (SW), NORTHWESTERN ALABAMA. This has been me and my son's most recent trip. We spent three days exploring the wonders of SW. Our distances were short, but our adventures were grand! The elevation is listed at 1,020 ft (311 m), and while SW has its ups and its downs, it is nowhere near strenuous, rather very moderate. The trails are well maintained, however, with a few downed trees creating obstacles in a few places. The ground is mostly hard packed dirt, but next to the river areas can be made up of loose sand. We did a few small stream crossings as well as two river crossings. The temperatures reached a low of 28 F (-2 C) at night and highs around 50 F (10 C) during the day, so I did not have an opportunity to do much sweating. On the day in, as well as on the day out, I carried my gear, our shared gear, and our food. He carried his own gear in his pack. On the second day I used my backpack as more of a daypack to carry simply our water and food, and other essential items.
MY PROGRESS WITH THE PACK
I agree with the advertisements stating that this is a well rounded pack where performance, durability, and price is concerned. When I bought this pack, I thought I was shelling out the big bucks, and I found it on sale. When I first got the pack, I was in awe. It was mine, all the pockets, and the adjustments, and straps! It was great. Then I did more research on backpacks in general, and I found out that this wasn't the "expensive" pack, and it wasn't the lightest! However, this still turned out to be OK for me.
When I got the pack I played with it, a lot. I moved the straps, played with the zippers, and then I crammed it full of whatever I could find around the house just so I could put it on while it was stuffed out like in the pictures. I didn't really mess with the adjustable shoulder strap system because it felt fine where it was at. However I did bend the dual aluminum stays near the bottom, causing them to arch into my lower back more, so that it felt natural while wearing.
On my trip to Chickasaw state park I loaded it down again, and carried it for two days, around 4 miles (6.44 km) a day. The pack weighed probably around 25 - 30 lbs ( 11 - 14 kg) and yet again, it was packed with whatever I could stuff it with, which was mostly small lap blankets, and the little bit of gear I had at the time. The pack carried well, and I got to really play with some of the adjustments, such as the hip belt, shoulder and sternum straps, and the load lifter straps.
A couple of weeks later I had all my normal gear and was able to load the pack the way I thought it should be. My son and I took off to Big Hill Pond state park for an overnight trip. This time, with water, food, and all our gear except for his sleeping bag, the pack weighed right around 50 lb (22.7 kg). We hiked around 7 miles (11.27 km) in and set up camp for the night. I really got to see how the pack did on this trip. I found out that I was carrying the pack on my shoulders more than my hips, so when I returned home I did readjust the shoulder strap system. I also learned to tighten the hip belt down plenty.
By the time that I hiked out on my AT trip I almost had the pack just right. I had noticed that the dual aluminum stays were rubbing my lower back kind of sore after a few hours of wearing the pack with 55 lb (25 kg) in it, so the first night at camp I completely emptied the pack out and laid it across my knees. I bent the aluminum stays back out so that they would not be so deep in the arch of my lower back . After I made this adjustment, I have had no complaints with the way the pack carries, even with close to 60 lb (27.2 kg) riding in it after a long day's hike!
Durability. This pack is pretty tough, in my experiences thus far. It has carried heavy loads very well, without any signs of damage to the seams, or anywhere else on the material. While the zippers can sometimes be tough to zip / unzip, they have not shown any signs that they are planning on busting loose, even when crammed full. None of the pockets have failed, nor straps broken. I have had to somewhat drag the pack behind me through mud between tight crevices, and have tossed it at times without care upon sharp rocks and hard ground. I have used it to set on while at camp, or for a quick stop for a snack on the trail. I have had to clean it once and I did so by soaking it in a bathtub full of warm water and simply scrubbing it with my hands and fingers. After this I let it hang dry for a day and it looks as good as it did the day I bought it!
Function / Performance. Once I got the pack's shoulder straps and the dual aluminum stays properly fit to me, the pack is great. It feels almost like part of me while wearing, even on long days and with heavy loads. And the pack was very simple to adjust, once I figured out that it was tough enough and I wasn't going to break it! Also, once I got the straps figured out I was able to really have full control of the pack, which increased the comfort level while carrying heavy loads.
As far as bells and whistles, in my opinion this pack has them! Nine pockets, organizers, daisy chain, hydration compatible with two separate exit ports, the packs loaded. However, these are some of the reasons that the pack is the weight that it is. I must admit, I use all the pockets, except for the two hip belt pockets. I use the daisy chain to strap my water / camp shoes to the outside, and the straps at the bottom for my blue closed cell foam pad. I am also very grateful for the hydration sleeve located inside the pack. I have not used the lid converted as a fanny pack because I usually just use the entire pack for even the small hikes, and use the compression straps to make the bag tiny.
It's hard for me to say how well the back panel, shoulder straps and hip belts ventilate because after wearing the pack for an extended time, my back is usually wet, as well as underneath my shoulder straps and hip belts. However, after lugging around 55 lb (22.7 kg) all day, I expect to be a little wet! I can say that the back panel, shoulder straps, and the hip belt do dry out very fast after taking the pack off though. I can say that the padding in these pieces are very efficient though. They provide a nice comfortable fit, even under heavy loads. I do wish that the padding on the hip belts extended farther around the front though, as it is the padding stops right at the edge of my hips in the front. It almost feels like it doesn't completely cover my hips, however, it is not necessarily uncomfortable, just feels short.
I have found that I only use one of the access ports, and that is through the spindrift collar. I don't use the separator between the main compartment and the sleeping bag compartment, and I never open the front access compartment. With all the pockets available, I am able to keep whatever I may need outside the main compartment, and whenever I get to camp, I unload the entire pack anyway.
Price. Like I said earlier, when I bought the pack, I thought I was shelling out the big bucks. Then I looked at other packs and realized that there were definitely more expensive packs to be had. And now that I have had the pack for quite a while, and even more importantly used the pack in a few different settings, I am very happy with the price I paid for the pack. It's durability alone so far has been worth it!
The only thing I would change about this pack is to extend the padding on the hip belt, if only 1 in (2.5 cm) extra on each side. Other than that, I am pleased with it. If I were to start taking away things that I didn't use, or altering it in any way, then I may as well buy another pack. This has been a great starter pack, and I plan on keeping it for many more years to come. But not only keep it, but plan on using it as well. Sure, I want to go lighter, and when the time comes I will, but until then, I am very pleased to have this as my backpack.
Here is a picture of me wearing it at one of the intersections of the Appalachian Trail and the Benton Mackaye Trail this past September.
WHAT I LIKE
1. The pack is very tough.
2. It fits me like a glove.
3. The price.
4. The pack's versatility.
5. It's comfortable, even under heavy loads.
WHAT I DON'T LIKE
1. The pack is heavy.
2. The zippers can be tough to work when the pack is filled.
3. The aluminum stays are exposed near the bottom and can rub the lower back.
4. The padding on the hip belt needs to reach farther around the front.
Chad Poindexter "Stick"
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
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