by Kaleb R.
Final Update: 11/26/17
The Black Mountain Crest Trail follows one of the highest ridge lines east of the Mississippi, linking the East’s highest peak, Mt. Mitchell, with some of it’s 6000+ foot siblings. I tackled this somewhat technical and strenuous trail the weekend before Thanksgiving, with low temps, snow, and high winds in the forecast. It was the perfect trip for a final test of the Kelty Revol 65 Backpack.
I usually only get in one or two winter backpacking trips per year, so I tend to overpack when temps are at or below freezing since I am out of practice. I figured this would be a good chance to test out the packs 65 L capacity, so I didn’t concern myself too much with weight when planning this trip.
I will start this final review with some takeaways from the trip I just got back from and then end with some final conclusions about the pack.
convenient and secure storage
I was never concerned about dropping anything from the pack on the trail, and I always knew where everything was in my pack.
I found the design of the external storage features of the Revol 65 to be simple and secure. There are some packs on the market that have a spider web of external pockets with multiple external zippers that access various internal compartments of the pack. This seems nice in practice, but I have witnessed the frantic scramble of zipping and unzipping of every pocket on a pack to find a piece of gear stowed deep inside the pack. In my mind, all of these storage options can be more distracting and actually provide less utility to the pack. That’s what I liked about the Revel 65: the front pocket, “shove-it” pouch, top stash pocket, and trap door sleeping bag compartment are more than adequate and simple enough that you know right where your gear is for easy access.
Another aspect I liked about the pack was that I didn’t worry about anything dropping from the pack while on the trail. The pockets and pouches all proved to be secure and gave me a peace of mind that I wouldn’t have to back track to retrieve any gear (which I’ve had to do in the past).
Too Short for a Tall Pack
We hiked about 17 miles over a couple of days on the trail. As it’s name suggests, the trail follows the crest, meaning that there were some rocky crags that got a little tricky to traverse with the dusting of snow and ice from the night before. It was a strenuous trail that was very taxing on the whole body. That meant that balance was key, especially with the wind gusting over the top of the ridge. One of the issues that I have had with the Revol 65 is that the pack can be top heavy when fully packed. The pack is essentially a long, narrow tube (more narrow than other packs I have used in the past). Since I’m only 5’7″, a fully stuffed Revol 65 has a higher center of gravity since the backpack is taller rather than wider.
One of the benefits of being short on the trail is that I don’t have to duck down as often as my taller friends to avoid my bag getting snagged on limbs and other brush. One of the negatives about this bag is that I found myself getting snagged, and having to stoop down below brush that I don’t usually have to stoop for. This may sound trivial, but being agile under a heavy pack helps me make up for my shorter stride.
The pack has held up well with the exception of the one of the clips on the lower compression straps snapped off when synching down some gear tightly.
Overall this is a capable and comprehensive pack from Kelty. This pack does all of the things that a 65 L pack should do. While it may lack a few of the bells and whistles that have become commonplace with other manufacturers (whistle on chest strap, integrated rain cover), it does employ some features that I haven’t seen in other packs (one size fit’s all PerfectFit adjustable suspension).
A word of warning for those of small stature: I am on the shorter side (5’7″) and this pack does’t fit me as well as I would like. By utilizing the PerfectFit suspension, Kelty can accommodate a wider range of heights, but this could come at the expense of heights on the extremes. I would suggest trying the pack on in person to make sure this one-size-fits-all works.
Thanks again to Kelty and 4 AllOutdoors for the chance to test and review this pack!
First Update: 8/5/17
I was able to take the Revol 65 on a 3 day backpacking trip into the Shining Rock Wilderness in Pisgah National Forest in Western NC. The terrain was fairly strenuous as we hiked up (started at 3400 ft), hiked to a ridge line (~5000 ft) and hit a few peaks around 6000 ft.
First, let me highlight a few of the features that I mentioned in my initial review (at bottom of page) and how they performed:
Hip Belt and Fit: The pack was surprisingly comfortable. I had my doubts for mainly one reason: Kelty decided to go with one-size-fits-all sizing for the pack. This made me nervous since I am not the tallest guy (5′ 7″). However, after I adjusted the pack, it was actually pretty comfortable. I’ve been on many trips with different kinds of packs where the hip belt would bruise and batter the soft tissue around my waist where the pack rests. I was waiting for that to happen with the Revel 65, assuming that this pain and bruising was just a given with all packs. However, it never happened. It was almost like I didn’t tote a 30 lb pack around for 17 miles (short of some tired legs).
Hip Belt Pockets: Hip belt pockets are one of those things I never knew I needed until I had them. The hip belt pockets on the Revol 65 are easy to access and have enough capacity to store a variety of “things.” These “things” tend to be whatever I need the easiest access to in that moment. On this trip, I carried the following items:
- Cell phone
- Clif bars (2)
- Pocket knife
- Apples (we found an apple tree in one of the gaps on the trail. I popped 6-7 in my hip belt pocket for a treat later on in the day).
If I had one gripe about the hip belt pockets, it would be the starting position of the zipper when the pocket is zipped close. The zipper position a little low and requires that I pull slightly backwards towards my back to get it moving freely. It’s more of an annoyance than anything, but this annoyance is compounded the more you use the pockets.
Reservoir Sleeve: One of the issues I have encountered in the past with internal reservoir sleeves is that it’s easy to pull an empty water bladder out of the sleeve, but after I refill it, I have to remove a majority of the contents of the pack, in order to slide the bladder back in. The external reservoir sleeve of the Revol 65 aims to do away with this issue. I filled my CamelBak once during the trip. The issue with the external sleeve isn’t having to remove contents of your pack, but rather actually accessing the sleeve itself. The sleeve has a very narrow opening that makes it difficult to get the water bladder in and out. There are a couple of clips inside to hook the bladder to so that it doesn’t slide down to the bottom, however, because the sleeve opening is so narrow, it’s difficult to even navigate that feature.
Water Bottle Sleeves: I know that these are basic on almost any pack out there, but I wanted to note how easy these were to access. This may not seem like a big deal, but being able to easily reach back and grab a water bottle and then put it back has immeasurable value when logging miles on the trail.
Conclusion: I was very impressed with the Revol 65. It was comfortable and had a lot of features that made my trip enjoyable (I highlighted my favorites above). I have another trip planned for the end of November. I’ll be packing more weight and volume with me then and will be able to test the pack out some more. Check back early December for my final update on the pack.
Initial Review: 10/5/17
The Revol 65 is an internal frame backpack that was intended for multi-day backpacking trips (3-5 nights).
Kelty has been around since 1952 and has been making backpacks since it’s inception.
Weight: 4 lbs 3 oz / 1.9 kg
Volume: 3950 in3 / 65 L
- Body fabric: Robic Nylon 210D Dobby Ripstop
- Reinforcement fabric: Poly 420D Small Back Stafford
- Internal frame material: Aluminum + HDPE
Dimensions: 30 x 12 x 10 in / 76 x 30 x 25 cm
I was impressed when I first got a look at the Revol 65. If I’m being honest, I have usually associated Kelty with the old school external frame packs, so to see the sleek design of the Revol 65 was surprising, but in a good way.
A slender and tall design, this pack is easy on the eyes. Easy on the eyes, however doesn’t always mean easy on the trail. I’ll make sure to note if the aesthetics carry over to it’s utility during field testing.
The pack has the standard features that I have come to expect (hip belt pockets, external sleeping bag access, etc) as well as a few that you won’t find on other packs (PerfectFit system and Kenesis Belt). It also lacks a few features that have become more commonplace on packs these days such as an integrated rain cover and even the whistle on the chest strap clip. I’ve detailed some of these features below.
I plan on using the pack on multi-day backpacking trips where I will be packing a tent, sleeping bag, food, etc. in the backpack.
Top loading: an integrated draw string can be synched down to keep items inside the pack.
Front pocket: this pocket is accessed via arc shaped zipper. It has a couple of pockets inside and extends to the bottom of the pack.
Front “shove-it” pouch: a place to stash your rain jacket or anything you can fit there, this pouch can be accessed with or without releasing the straps which clip to the top of the bag.
Top stash pocket: accessible via a zipper from the exterior of the pack, this pocket also includes an internal zippered compartment
Side and lower compression straps: straps allow you to compress the gear inside pack or just decrease the overall capacity if needed.
Trap door sleeping bag compartment: a great feature of many packs these days, this lower compartment allows to access to the sleeping bag without having to remove all the other gear on top.
External hydration sleeve: Accessible from the exterior of the pack, this sleeve is theoretically supposed to allow you to remove and fill your hydration bladder without having to remove anything from the pack. Curious to see how this functions in the field.
Dual pick-up handles: a couple of straps on each side of the pack allows access to pick up and move your pack securely when it’s not on.
Water bottle sleeves: standard to all packs, the Revol 65 has elastic sleeves for water bottles.
Hipbelt pockets: for me, these are an absolute must-have when it comes to packs and the Revol 65 has them.
PerfectFIT™ adjustable suspension: Kelty has designed this pack to be one-size-fits-all thanks to it’s adjustable suspension. Obviously there are many body types and sizes so I am curious how my 5’7″ frame will work with a pack that also has someone who is 6 foot plus in mind as well. The perfect fit straps allow the back panel of attached to the internal frame to shift up and down.
Kinesis™ Hipbelt: this innovation is supposed to allow the hipbelt to move with each step of the body by pivoting on a central point at your back. The theory is that if the belt moves with your body, it will be more comfortable and allow better maneuverability with the pack on. I’ll make sure to take special note of this when I test it out on long hikes, especially in some of the more technical areas.
Lumbar adjust: with what appears to be some kind of integrated sliding velcro system, the lumbar padding on the pack can be adjusted up and down to form better to the contours of your lower back.
Check back in about a month with my second of three reviews – an update on how the pack has performed in the field.
Thanks to Kelty and 4AllOutdoors for the chance to review this pack!