Hauling gear, food and clothes into the backcountry for anytime longer than a few days is a huge undertaking. In addition to logging serious millage on a trip of that length, it’s also easy to get bogged down with a heavy pack that puts added strain on your body. The Kelty Women’s Catalyst 76 backpack has the space to carry all the extra gear you need when you’re on an extended adventure, and then some. While I packed the Catalyst for a 5+ day summer trip, this beast of a pack would also be a great option for winter treks that require bulky clothing and a bigger sleeping pad.
The pack’s signature Perfect-FIT Suspension system makes it easy to dial in the weight distribution to make a pack of this size manageable. It’s worth spending some time wearing the pack around before you venture out on the big trip to get the adjustment right. If you have a full length mirror, it helps to look at yourself with the pack on to get it fitted correctly. Adjusting the Perfect-FIT suspension is as simple as pulling the two straps behind your hips until you feel the right support.
Standard sternum straps, waist belt and load lifting straps can all be easily adjusted to find the right fit. Sternum straps can give us ladies some trouble, but the placement here seemed to be fine for my body type. Great padding on the waist belt helped me comfortably carry the load on my hips, giving my neck and shoulders a rest. Padding on the shoulder straps is adequate and comfortable even when hiking in a tank top. The aluminum internal frame is light, but provided good support and structure, especially when the pack was maxed out and towering high.
The Catalyst is top loading, but also has a side access sleeping bag compartment and main bag access zipper that mean you don’t have to fully unload your gear to get to the bottom of your pack. This is a huge plus with a full 76L pack. Stretchable mesh belt pockets and side pockets are also perks of this pack, providing quick access to small goods like a camera, water bottle or snacks. A light raincoat could also easily fit into a side pocket for easy access. Because of the placement of the side pockets, while your water bottle is easy to grab, it’s a bit trickier to put away.
There’s a zippered top lid on the Catalyst, standard to most packs, for whatever you want to have easy access to, like map, sunscreen, headlamp, bug spray, or rain cover (not included). There is such a huge amount of room in this pack, be careful not to over pack just because you can. It’s easy to expand to fit your space, and, on long trips, your pack will fill up plenty full on its own, so be mindful that you’re not stashing extras in all of the awesome nooks and crannies just because you can.
I was able to fit my tent, poles, pad and sleeping bag internally, but there are straps on the outside should you need them. The 10L detachable daypack is one of my favorite features of the Catalyst. It’s easy to snap on (though it took me a bit longer to figure out reattachment the first time) and hydration compatible. It’s essentially a small, roll-top bag great for day hikes that take you away from camp. This is a huge plus. I should mention that the main pack is also hydration compatible, so there’s easy access for your bladder and hose there as well.
Kelty makes solid products, and this pack is solid, too. It sits comfortably on my hips and doesn’t pull back on my shoulders. A pack of this size, however, is meant for the long haul trip. Make sure that’s what you’re planning to use it for, or you’ll end up with way more pack than you’ll need or use.
Date available: now
MSRP: US $199.95
Dimensions: 76L, 32 x 13 x 15 in
Weight: 5 lbs
Kelty Women’s Catalyst 76$199.95
- Lots of storage in main compartment
- Easy to adjust
- Small, organized outer pockets
- No pressure points
- Detachable day pack
- Water bottle sleeve hard to reach
- May be too large for regular use