KELTY SIRA 45 PACK
TEST SERIES BY NANCY GRIFFITH
August 06, 2017
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT
Northern California, USA
5' 6" (1.68 m)
128 lb (58.10 kg)
My outdoor experience began in high school with a canoeing/camping group which made a 10-day voyage through the Quebec wilds. I've been backpacking since my college days in Pennsylvania. I have hiked all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. My typical trip now is in the Sierra Nevada in California and is from a few days to a few weeks long. Over the past few years I have lowered my pack weight to a lightweight base weight of 15 lb (6.8 kg) while still using a tent, stove and quilt.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Year of Manufacture: 2017
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.kelty.com
Listed Weight: 2 lb 13 oz (1.28 kg)
Measured Weight: 2 lb 13.3 oz (1.28 kg)
Women's One Size Only
Fits Torso Range: 15.5 - 17.5 in (39 - 44 cm)
My Torso Length: 18 in (46 cm)
Pack Volume: 45 L (2745 cu in)
Optimal Load Capacity: 25 - 30 lb (11 - 14 kg)
One Color Only: Teal Blue with Gold back panel
Made in Phillippines
The Kelty Sira 45 backpack is a 45 L internal frame pack designed for women. The shoulder straps, hip belt and back panel are made to fit a woman's body. The pack is made of nylon 66 330D Mini Rip PU and has a steel wire support and an HDPE frame sheet. The Featherfit suspension keeps the back panel away from my back and uses mesh on the back panel, straps and hip belt for additional cooling.
|unzipped center zip|
Besides the unique suspension, the most notably different feature is the shark's-mouth opening at the top for loading gear which has a drawstring closure to cinch it down. This opening along with a center zipper allows for a large access area from the front and not just from the top.
The center zipper has a snapped strap across the top of it to keep it from inadvertently unzipping. The center zipper extends about 3/4 of way down leaving a lower section of the pack which can only be accessed from the top. It is about the size of a tent or sleeping bag stuff sack.
The pockets are numerous and conveniently located. They include two stretch-mesh front pockets on either side of the center zipper which can be accessed from either the front or side of the pack. There are two stretch-mesh angled water bottle pockets at the sides of the pack just above the hipbelt pockets and two zippered hipbelt pockets.
At the top of the back near the backpanel is a hydration sleeve for a water reservoir which has external access. There are two small hooks at the top to hold the water reservoir in an upright position and to keep it from sliding down into the pocket.
The lid of the pack has a zippered pocket. There are zipper pulls on all of the zippers including the main center zipper, the hipbelt pocket zippers and the lid pocket zipper.
There are two upper side compression straps, two lower compression straps and one front compression strap down the middle. On either side are loops and attachment straps for an ice axe or trekking poles. The sternum strap is adjustable up and down and there are load lifter straps. On the back is a large lift loop for picking up the pack.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & TRYING IT OUT
My initial impression was how the pack has a stiff suspension system. When I unlatched the hipbelt I had to firmly push the sides away from each other. It was as if there was a spring holding the hipbelts into a body-forming configuration. When I tried on the pack I immediately noticed the women's-specific fit. The shoulder straps are narrower, the hipbelt doesn't completely cover the front of my hips and the torso length stops so that the hipbelt sits right on my hips. I'm so used to men's packs that don't exactly fit me right that my first reaction was that the pack was too small. But as I looked at it in the mirror, I could clearly see that it fits great! And it feels great!
I was able to easily reach the water bottle pockets and notice that the hipbelt pockets zip upward with closed being with the zipper pull close to my side.
The trekking pole attachment loop is unique in that it has a slot to hold the cord which then can be easily and quickly released.
I tried to fit my full-sized bear canister into the pack. I was able to fit it upright down the center but the center zipper barely closed around it. I'm not sure it I'd be stressing the zipper too much to carry it like this. Then I put it at the top of the pack and the shark's mouth swallowed it but I wasn't able to close the lid down completely over it. I'll plan to experiment more with it and see what works best. With this nice suspension and ability to carry 30 lb (14 kg) comfortably, I would like to be able to use this pack with a full bear canister.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The pack comes with a hangtag listing some of the key features like the external hydration sleeve, the center zip, the shark's mouth opening and the Featherfit suspension.
Inside the pack is a tag with cleaning instructions. It says to use a sponge dampened in warm water to remove any surface spills and for interior cleanup. Then it notes to not use any detergents or cleaning agents on either the interior or exterior fabric. Hang to dry.
I'm surprised that no detergents are to be used. I don't often wash my backpacks but when I do, I use some type of mild detergent. I'll have to remember that this pack doesn't recommend that.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I carried the Kelty Sira on two backpacking trips for a total of eight days and nearly 100 mi (160 km) over the test period. Temperatures ranged from below freezing to nearly 90 F (32 C). Skies ranged from clear blue to thick fog to snow.
|Mojave Desert on PCT|
The pack was fairly full but not overstuffed at the start of both trips. On the PCT trip I started with a lot of food and extra water so the contents' volume varied a lot by the end of the trip.
Shadow Lake, Sierra Nevada, California: overnight trip of 10 mi (16 km); 6,327 to 7,264 ft (1,928 to 2,214 m); 28 to 52 F (-2 to 11 C); sunny and clear; 10 to 15 ft (3 to 4.6 m) snow depth. Pack weight was 19 lb (8.6 kg).
Pacific Crest Trail, Section F, Southern California: 6 days; 86 mi (138 km); 3,773 to 7,003 ft (1,150 to 2,135 m); 29 to 87 F (-2 to 31 C); clear sunny skies to dense 'raining' fog to snow to howling winds. Pack weight was 27 lb (12.3 kg).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The first overnight backpacking trip was a snowshoe backpacking trip in very deep snow conditions to a high mountain lake. Weather was clear and spring-like but overnight temperatures were below freezing and the only available drinking water was melted snow. So I needed to carry a lot of extra winter gear such as warm clothing, closed-cell foam pad in addition to my air mattress and a heavier stove/fuel set-up for melting snow. I was a little concerned that I would be able to get all of this into this size of a pack without having to rely on my husband to carry the extra load. But the Sira swallowed up the extra gear with no problem and had enough strapping options for hanging gear outside like my closed-cell foam pad.
|Extra pad strapped on|
How I packed:
I typically carried a large stuff sack in the bottom of the pack which was filled with clothing (both mine and my husband's). This put it in the section below the zipper which was perfect because I didn't expect to access this sack during the day. Atop that I placed my cookset, first aid kit, toiletry bag, water filter, water bottles and food. On the Shadow Lake trip I didn't have any water in the collapsible water bottles but on the PCT trip I had 2 liters inside the pack and multiple days' worth of food. Just for clarification, my husband had the tent, sleep gear, water and some food.
In the outside mesh pockets I'd typically carry a hat, jacket, umbrella, map and laundry. In the hip belt pockets I'd usually carry a snack, lip balm, sunscreen and sun gloves. The hip belt pockets are fairly roomy and I'm able to keep all of the small things that I need handy.
I've been using a more minimalist pack style for several years now so the improved suspension was welcome. The Sira has been very comfortable and does a great job of supporting and balancing the load.
Pack stands by itself
|Pack stands by itself|
The pack hip belt is stiffly formed into a round shape that curves around my hips. This stiffness is amazingly useful when setting down the pack because it helps to keep the pack standing upright when it is sitting on the ground. I love to not have the pack falling over!
The only comment on slight discomfort has been with the fit of the hip belt. The ends that curl around my hips end a little too soon and they don't exactly fit the curve of my body. So there are times when I'm fiddling with the strap adjustment to get it all seated better. In the end it fits fine and I'm in a comfortable position for all-day hiking.
The suspension design which keeps the pack away from my back seemed to work well. My back still was hot and sweaty but did seem less so than with my packs that sit directly on my back. Also having the pack sit slightly away from my back didn't at all impact the stability of the pack and didn't pull me off balance.
Center Zip/Shark's Mouth:
It was easy to use the center zipper and shark's mouth drawstring for packing. However, it took some practice for me to unpack without the entire pack contents falling out on the ground. For instance, we'd stop for a break and I'd unhook the lid and loosen the drawstring. But inevitably whatever I was looking for was lower in the pack requiring me to unzip the center zipper. If I wasn't careful with the orientation of the pack, i.e. the zipper facing uphill, then once I started to unzip it would self-unzip even more and before I knew it everything was falling out. I found that the tab with the snap which goes across the top of the zipper is crucial for keeping the zipper up. Otherwise it would work itself unzipped. So, once I unsnapped this tab, it was important for me to realize this would happen and orient my pack appropriately. It's no longer a problem but definitely took some getting used to.
So, with that learning experience under my belt, I fell in love with the ability to access items that were close to the bottom of the pack without having to unpack everything like I'd have to with other packs. This was particularly useful in bad weather when I wanted to dig out some rain gear but didn't want the other pack contents to fall out on the wet ground. And try as I might to put things that I want to access near the top, there are just too many things in that category to be able to have everything at the top.
|Full of food and water|
|Cooling back panel|
Pockets and Straps:
I found the lid to be a little disappointing in that the way it is attached to the top of the pack makes it unable to expand. So if the main compartment is jammed full and extends up higher, the space available in the lid is limited. This is particularly a problem if I want to store something crushable in the lid pocket. I simply can't do it. Between the interference with the main compartment contents and the pressure from hooking down the lid, things get crushed. So in the end I only store things that I rarely need like my headlamp, notebook and wallet. This seems to defeat the purpose of having a highly accessible pocket. I have better results with lids that have adjustable straps to hold them on rather than a permanently sewn attachment.
I loved the outer mesh pockets for drying my socks and underwear after washing which dried pretty easily by just rearranging them at each stop. The pockets were really useful to keep my hat, a light jacket and the map ready for use at a moment's notice. The opening from both the top and side of the pockets allowed for quick access to items without having to dig around to find something.
The side water bottle pockets are convenient and easy to reach. I have become a fan of carrying my water bottles on my pack straps so that they are right in front of me. And they help to offset the load on my back by having a little load on the front. However, these side pockets are so roomy and easy to reach that I now much prefer them. They would hold a much larger bottle but I used them for 20 oz (0.6 L) bottles, one on each side.
I used the compression straps as the trip progressed and I had less food inside my pack. They worked really well to help tighten up the load and keep it better-balanced. I used the trekking pole straps multiple times in the desert where I like to use an umbrella. So I'd trade one trekking pole for the umbrella and store the pole on my pack. The upper cinch has an easy-to-use system.
Durability and Weather-Resistance:
|Beading up water|
The durability of the pack has been very good with no noticeable snags or abrasions despite crashing through thick brush with the pack on.
One day where there was such thick fog that it was technically raining from the trees and soaking everything. The pack beaded up the water nicely with no breach to anything inside my pack. I don't expect the pack to be waterproof and store everything inside my pack in waterproof sacks or plastic bags. However, no water got inside so far.
For Next Time:
I didn't yet get to try the pack with a bear canister on a trip. However, I did try to fit it and was able to get it zipped inside the main compartment. It did seem to really take up a lot of the space so I'm not quite sure how it will work with my other gear being packed alongside. I'm hoping to finalize that question in the Long-Term Report.
I didn't use the hydration sleeve for a water reservoir since I prefer water bottles, but I will try to use that for the next report maybe on a short trip just to test it out.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During this test period I carried the pack on one dayhike and one eight-day backpacking trip.
With a weeklong trip, I was carrying quite a bit of food so at the start the pack was fairly full. It wasn't overstuffed and allowed me to carry some compressible foods at the top of the main compartment.
On the dayhike I carried a hydration bladder and bear canister. Inside the main compartment was lunch and a windbreaker. I tightened down all of the compression straps for this smaller load.
Pacific Crest Trail Section P, Trinity Alps, Castle Crags Wildernesses, Northern California: 8 days; 100 mi (161 km); 2,157 to 7,426 ft (657 to 2,263 m); 52 to 90 F (11 to 32 C); clear to partly cloudy skies with evening thunderstorms and hail; pack weight 27 lb (12 kg)
Rubicon Trail, Loon Lake, Sierra Nevada, California: 5.3 mi (8.5 km); 6,200 to 7,000 ft (1,890 to 2,134 m); 75 to 80 F (24 to 27 C); clear sunny skies; some off-trail scrambling
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I got a little more used to the shark's-mouth and zipper opening toward the back rather than the traditional top direction. I have to say that it grew on me but required some learning on my part to remember to lay the pack down on the front. This way when I opened the drawstring and unzipped the pack, all of the contents wouldn't fall out on the ground. Even with my getting used to the design, I still found myself packing items in front of the zipper to help to block contents from falling out. The shark's-mouth opening made it much easier to stow items mid-hike or stuff something in that I had forgotten about. There always seemed to be enough room left to get another item inside. I typically packed a waterproof clothing stuff sack at the bottom of the pack so all of my other contents were easily accessible once the mouth was open and zipper unzipped. This was incredibly convenient since there always seems to be some reason for needing a piece of gear that is at the bottom of the pack. Even if I needed to get into my clothing bag mid-day, it wasn't a big deal to slide it up from the bottom.
|Blocking the zipper opening|
I continued to really dislike the lid pocket finding it to be nearly useless. Everything in the pocket gets so squeezed that I could only store hard non-compressible items. This limited what I could put in the pocket and didn't give quick access to some items that I'd have liked to store in the lid. In fact, there was so much compression on the items inside that on the first night of the backpacking trip, I found my headlamp had been on all day and the new batteries were now dead. And that was with the headlamp lock feature engaged, so the pressure managed to unlock it and keep it on all day. Bummer. Also, if I stored heavier items in the lid like my wallet, headlamp, battery pack and note pad, then every time I opened the pack, the lid wanted to flop down. This put it right in the way for trying to load the main compartment of the pack. I would really like to have a floating and possibly removable lid on this pack.
I found the pack to be very comfortable especially with heavier loads. The suspension is very good and despite the heavy (to me) weight of the pack, it was a welcome compromise when I needed to carry extra water or gear and food for a long trip. Having the back panel suspended did provide some cooling. Certainly, there was more airflow than with a typical pack sitting directly on my back. I was able to put my hand between the pack and my back so there was quite a bit of space for air.
The durability of the pack was super despite off-trail scrambling through brush, scraping on granite and snagging on bushes. There are no noticeable wear points, snags, abrasions or anything of the like. I managed to get a few pine sap stains on it but that will easily be removed.
I continue to prefer the use of water bottles and love the orientation of the pockets. I did try the pack on a dayhike using a hydration bladder and it worked just fine. The sleeve is convenient since I could insert the bladder even with a full pack. The strap at the top secured the bladder in place.
I also carried my full-size bear canister on that trip just as a test. It is a tight fit but doesn't seem to stress the zipper. The bear canister seems to take up nearly half of the pack volume but could really work well if I hang a few items from the pack for additional space. The thing that I like the most is that with the mesh suspension keeping the pack contents away from my back, I can't feel the round bulge of the bear canister against my back. With other packs, the diameter of the canister pressed directly into the center of my back eventually causing discomfort to my shoulder blades.
I carried some water shoes and a solar-powered lamp on the outside of the pack. It was easy to find loops or straps for attaching a carabiner for these items. They stayed secure and didn't flop around while hiking.
The Kelty Sira 45 pack is designed specifically for women and includes some unique features.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.
Location of water bottle pockets
Center zipper can self-unzip
Lid pocket isn't very useful
This concludes my Long-Term Test Report and this test series. Thanks to Kelty and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in this test.
Read more reviews of Kelty gear
Read more gear reviews by Nancy Griffith