Massive Fail!! Kelty Coyote Backpack Travel Gear Review.

By Posted in - Budget Travel & Camping & Europe & Featured Post & Travel Gear on March 10th, 2011

We were approximately 1 day (yes, the very first day) into the big trip when Randy’s backpack suffered an irreparable and massive fail.

The hip buckle broke.

Busted flat in Reykjavik, waitin' for a bus. First day of a camping trip through Europe the backpack buckle snapped.

We have no idea why, but he put it on and it just snapped. Since it took 4 hours just to find simple black thread in Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik, we didn’t even attempt to find a replacement.

Saved by – My father’s ancient wheelie luggage thing.

One of my father’s pride and joys in life is his ability to pack luggage in the smallest, most compact way. He’s a genius at this! I have totally taken on this trait as well and I’m sure it drives Randy nuts, because I take my time packing and I make sure everything is done in the most aerodynamic way I can think of. Because of my father’s luggage pride, my parents have a large and strange assortment of luggage and luggage accessories.

Ancient luggage wheelie thing saves the trip!

One of the oldest things in this collection is this little luggage wheelie. Seriously, this thing is from the 80’s. I remember using this on family trips before wheeled luggage was invented. Yes, I am dating myself, but I know other readers on this site must remember the old days before luggage actually had wheels on it. At that time, travelers strapped their suitcases and duffel bags on these fold up carts and lugged them around airports & cities. Once wheeled bags hit the scene these thing got dropped like a hot potato in a snowman’s hand.

Fortunately, the day before we left the U.S. I asked my father if I could borrow one of his luggage wheelies. With all our camping gear and my photo gear, our bags were a bit heavy and I was nervous I might not be able to carry my backpack on my back for the entire trip. Because I was a little anxious about this, I remembered this ancient rolling goodness and the blue bungee cords from our family trips when I was a teenager.

My father dug it out of the closet and quickly it became the subject of conversation in the last 24 hours before we left. Everyone had a different opinion about bringing it. Most of my family said I shouldn’t bring it, because it would just be one other thing to lug around. My brother in law said it would be a disaster on cobblestone streets in Europe. Then, my dad said I should bring it and if it was a pain I should just leave it wherever I was and give it to someone else that might be able to use it.

Good thing we didn't have to lug it around uselessly for long - this is as small as they could make 'em in the 80's!

So I brought it. Thank God I brought it!! After the epic Kelty fail on day 1, Randy had no way to carry his backpack around. Without the hip belt for extra weight distribution it was too painful to carry the bag on his shoulders only.

Enter little life-saving wheelie luggage thingy circa 1989.

This thing saved the trip. We strapped Randy’s bag on it for the rest of the trip and it wasn’t bad because we would trade off carrying the other backpack which really helped. I think maybe they just made things better in the 80’s, because this thing wheeled like a champ over all types of ground cover including asphalt, cobblestones, grass, sand & even the rocky dirt driveway at the farm in Tuscany.

Of course the first thing I tried to do was stuff both bags on here so we wouldn’t have to carry either of them.

On our last day in Iceland, we decided to save ourselves the $10 ride and walk the 20 mins to the bus terminal in Reykjavik. You should have seen the way we huffed andΒ  puffed through the streets. I came up with a variety of ways to push and pull what had to be like 80 lbs of luggage through the city. I even started using my scarf to pull it over my shoulder. In a few minutes we had ditched our heavy jackets and started sweating. At one point we were walking downhill and couldn’t stop! The wheelie thing broke free and crashed into a bush. I have no idea why I was hell bent on making it work but it didn’t — about 50 yards from the bus terminal the bungee cords broke from all the weight.

The engine that could - but not totally. Two backpacks is one bag too many! But didn't I do a nice job stacking them? πŸ™‚

You can imagine our frustration at this point.Β  Luckily, it was an easy fix. I took off my bag and jimmy rigged one of the cords, which amazingly lasted for the rest of our time in Europe. The set up worked like a charm for the rest of the trip. We used it to carry Randy’s bag, the tent and an extra bag I had for photo gear.

The only other bummer about using this on the road was whenever we encountered a set of stairs it had to be picked up. We couldn’t pull it up or down because inevitably the carefully constructed backpack, tent and camera bag conglomerate would start falling apart until everything was a jumbled mess on the floor. It seemed this always happened when we were running down subway stairs late for a train. After doing that a few times and looking like total idiots in the process, it just became obvious that Randy would have to pick up and carry the entire ensemble up and down any flight of stairs we happened upon.

It wasn’t a big deal until we got to Venice.

We got lost in the maze of Venice streets right off the bat going up and over what had to be at least 100 small bridges. Each time we came to a bridge Randy had to pick this 45lb contraption up, carry it over the bridge and then put it back down again. Rinse, Repeat. We were lost for 3 hours and we went over an insane amount of bridges during this time. Randy was not a happy camper and at least a few foul words were muttered over every bridge. Looking back at it now really makes me laugh, although, at the time it wasn’t funny at all, at least not to him.


The Kelty Coyote backpack. It's cool but doesn't live up to a life on the road.

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to write this review for a while because the Kelty didn’t hold up on the road at all! If you’re in the market for a backpack you might want to try some other brands out before you settle on this one. This bag was about 1.5 years old and had only been used on a couple local trips previously. We bought it early on because of a great sale – it was marked down $100 to only $99. It was basically brand new when we brought it on the big trip. If we didn’t have the wheelie from my father, then I don’t know what we would’ve done. Most likely we would’ve had to buy a new bag on the road somewhere, which would’ve been a blow to our budget. It’s too bad because Randy really liked this backpack and it had a lot of great pockets. In all other aspects he loved this bag but a backpack without a working hip belt is like having no backpack at all.

Luckily, we bought it at REI and it will be getting returned. In the meantime, Randy is going to need a new backpack or piece of luggage for the next upcoming leg of our trip. If any luggage/bag distributors think their gear can live up to a life on the road and if you are open to having your gear reviewed give us a shout out – Randy is open to accepting luggage or a backpack in exchange for a few reviews of your bag on our blog. πŸ™‚

Advice needed from our fantastic readers – do any of you have recommendations for a sturdy, budget friendly bag? Randy is also considering a wheeled suitcase instead, so if you have any opinions on wheeled luggage for budget travel in Southeast Asia or South America (good or bad idea?) please chime in. Thanks!


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(14) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Adam @ SitDownDisco -

    March 10, 2011 at 3:16 am

    Love a good negative review. Not enough of them!

    I wouldn’t travel in south east Asia without a proper backpack as the wheelie varieties are more than often enable to be wheeled due to uneven surfaces. I have seen people struggle with proper suitcases before though and it’s possible… Just not easy.

    • bethany -

      March 10, 2011 at 6:14 pm

      Thanks Adam! I have been wondering about this and we def. appreciate your input. @Adam @ SitDownDisco,

  • Monica -

    March 10, 2011 at 3:28 am

    The same thing happened to a friend of mine while travelling. He bought an expensive bag, over Β£100, and it broke as soon as he arrived in Bangkok. He then bought a really cheap bag from a market in bangkok, less that Β£10, and it lasted him over a year! Don’t worry about the price, just buy the cheapest thing you find. And then if it breaks, you won’t care anyway.

    • bethany -

      March 10, 2011 at 6:15 pm

      Good advice! I know we bought fairly expensive bags based on comfort. I paid a lot for my bag but it’s a great bag and saves my shoulders from a lot of pain but this bag randy had totally wasn’t worth the money at all. Maybe he should just look around once we get to SEA – that’s a great idea. @Monica,

  • Ayngelina -

    March 10, 2011 at 8:21 am

    I swear by Mountain Equipment Co-Op but you have to come to Canada to get one πŸ™‚

    • bethany -

      March 10, 2011 at 6:16 pm

      Thanks Angelina! If we head to Canada anytime soon we’ll check ’em out. πŸ™‚@Ayngelina,

  • Vi -

    March 19, 2011 at 2:23 am

    I am happy with my MEC backpack too πŸ™‚
    But I am not sure if I ever will buy another backpack. I wrote about that 1.5 years ago
    and now I am even more confident that I could easy live without backpack if I wouldn’t have one already.

    • Bethany -

      March 20, 2011 at 9:08 pm

      Thanks for commenting Vi. That’s what Randy is trying to decide on now – real luggage or another backpack?? hhmmm…@Vi,

  • Kelsey -

    April 8, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Have someone direct you to a sewing store. Buy some strap webbing and sew on an extra length of webbing to the belt on each side, then use them to tie it shut where the buckle used to be. It’s less comfortable, but it’s cheap.

    • Bethany -

      April 8, 2011 at 5:26 pm

      Oh that would’ve been a good idea but we couldn’t find any thread that could handle that. In fact in Iceland it took 4 hours (of several people telling us where to go) to find a store that sold thread. it was kinda funny. hahaha… Anyway we don’t have to make due anymore we are actually reviewing a piece of luggage from Hartmann that they have given us due to the Kelty failure – we are really excited about it. πŸ™‚

      • Kelsey -

        April 8, 2011 at 5:38 pm

        @Bethany, When you can’t find thick thread, compensate for it by practically plastering the thing with stitches. Even crappy thread will hold if you stitch it enough.

        I’m glad to hear that it’s no longer needed, however!

  • […] posting our story about my Kelty backpack strap failing on our travels through Europe, Hartmann Luggage contacted us and stated simply that its luggage […]

  • Joey -

    May 26, 2011 at 7:28 am

    I know this is an old posting, but since it’s still out in the Internets, I thought I’d weigh in on this failed Kelty story. The pictured buckle has all the appearance of having been stepped on or crushed. I know first hand from having a buckle on my Mountainsmith fanny pack get crushed in a car door that these plastic buckles can take a tremendous amount of strain in one direction, but if you step on it, it will shatter like crazy.

    I now make it a practice to buckle the waist strap whenever the the backpack is not on my back. That makes it easier to keep track of the buckle and not step on it.

    Just my two cents! Thanks for all the other tips and workarounds though. This is a great site.

  • Bethany -

    May 27, 2011 at 8:19 am

    @Joey, Thanks for writing Joey. Glad you enjoy the site. I never thought of it, but maybe the buckle had been stepped on or cracked slightly before we bought it and we hadn’t noticed it.