Review – Kelty Tioga external frame backpack


Like perhaps many of us, the Roaming Parkers got their first backpacking gear as hand-me-downs.  When our oldest son first got into Scouts a retired Scoutmaster gave him a backpack, saying it’d seen a lot of use when he and his boys had been in Scouts. It was an old Kelty Super Tioga!

He’s used that pack and I’ve used that pack and now it has stood up to a good bit of use from the Roaming Parkers without showing any ill effects.  In fact, I’d be kind of surprised if this pack is not just as functional 100 years from now as it was when that Scoutmaster bought it for his kids.  This is one durable pack!

In the past few years I have tried several packs, and I keep coming back to this particular Kelty as not only the most durable but also the most functional and the most comfortable.

I have watched video reviews of the Kelty Super Tioga (or just plain Tioga) in which the reviewers said that the Tioga is out of production and is difficult to find.  Sure enough, I couldn’t find them for sale on Kelty’s website, but I have been able to easily find them on Amazon.

If you click on the photo of the Kelty Tioga backpack, it’ll take you to an Amazon page where you can still buy one – and the Roaming Parkers might get a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Even if Amazon sells out of this pack and you cannot get one there, you’ll be able to look for these features to choose a newer design.  If you can’t find a Kelty Tiogayou might try a Kelty Yukon, which appears to have many of the same features

  • The Kelty Super Tioga External Frame Pack is a 5500 cubic inch (90 liter) pack.  That’s really big!  So big, in fact, that between the pack itself and the external attachment points, you can easily put more weight on it than you could ever possibly carry.  The lesson there is twofold – 1) The Kelty Tioga has all the carrying capacity you could possibly ever need, and 2) be careful not to over pack and injure yourself trying to carry this thing!
  • The aluminum frame is adjustable in length.  You generally want the lifters  (straps that hold the shoulder pads to the frame) visible above your shoulders while the hip belt is sitting just above your hip bones and below your navel.  The frame has a mesh backing to create airspace between the pack bag and your back to make for a cooler carry.  The pack is attached to the frame with 1 inch nylon straps and aluminum pins (of which there are a couple of spares included.)
  • One of the most awesome features of the Kelty Tioga is the abundance of pockets! The main inside compartment is divided into top and bottom sections  with a drawstring closure so it can be one compartment or an upper and lower.  The upper compartment is further divided front and back to provide a small compartment perfect for a water bladder.  The main pack cover has an inside map pouch and an large outside pocket.  The main body of the pack has a large pocket on the front of the main upper compartment and pockets on either side, including two mesh pockets big enough for 32-ounce Nalgene bottles, a long pouch with a zipper divider, and a pass-through pocket for long things like an axe, a rifle, or a fishing rod.
  • And of course, there’s the real specialty of external frame packs – the ability to strap additional loads to the frame outside of the pack. For this purpose there is ample frame above, below, and on either side if the Kelty Tioga.  If you decide you need to strap stuff to the outside of the pack you’d do well to invest in some good 1″ webbing.

Sure, internal frame packs are all the rage now, and external frame packs are considered so old school as to almost be totally yesterday, but for carrying capacity you can’t beat an external frame pack and for versatility in an external frame pack I haven’t seen anything better than the Kelty Super Tioga External Frame Pack!

Categories: Camping, Hiking, Reviews

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