You want to pick a backpacking pack that fits your hiking and camping needs. It can be intimidating with all the different styles and price points. And you don’t want something that will hurt to wear and make you dread hiking.
The classic design is the external frame pack, which has proven to withstand the test of time. But if you have been hiking recently, you most likely didn’t see an external frame pack. You probably noticed that the trails are flooded with people using a fancy internal frame.
When I picked out a backpacking pack for my 70 mile Sawtooth Wilderness hike, I hopped on the bandwagon and got an internal frame pack. I have done lots of hiking and camping, but nothing like what I had planned for the Sawtooths.
I thoroughly researched packs. The main criteria I was looking for were:
- Comfortable fit
- Affordable price
- Capacity to carry around 60 pounds of gear
- Accessible outer storage pockets as well as a pass-through pocket for a fly fishing pole
These may sound like simple demands, but most packs are now being built as minimalistic as possible to save weight. It was an almost impossible combination to find all these qualities in a pack.
I persevered and landed on the Kelty Coyote internal frame backpack. Read on for my review of that and how it compares to the Kelty Tioga external frame.
Kelty Coyote Internal Frame Pack
After doing my research, I landed on the Kelty Coyote, which hit all the bullet points. It came at a decent price, could carry up to 70 pounds, and had the best storage pocket design I had seen. It was also the only pack I could find with a through pocket for packing a fishing pole.
Testing the Pack
At first glance, this pack seemed perfect. I took it on a couple of 5-mile test hikes with all my weight loaded (60lbs), and it wasn’t too uncomfortable. Eventually, I took it on my first big hike, being around 50 miles.
This pack truly feels as if it is attached to your body, which makes it an excellent scrambling pack. It adjusts easily for different torso sizes between 15.5 and 21 inches in height.
The belt pockets are also very nice. They give you a spot for easy access to a snack when you don’t want to stop. Overall this pack is just amazing with its storage. It’s super easy to pack and unpack.
However, the lack of comfort killed me. After testing this pack on an actual hike, it proved to be miserable. I ended up with bruises from the belt and a sore back.
Though let me explain, I’m 6’3″ and extremely skinny, so my body type played a significant part in making it uncomfortable. Besides, it’s hard to make any 60lb pack comfortable.
Kelty Coyote Review
Before buying this pack, I read plenty of reviews that claimed it was a very comfortable pack for someone my height. But for my build, the weighted pack was just too uncomfortable. That said, I would still recommend this pack to people with different body types.
The Kelty Coyote is one of the best internal frame backpacking packs on the market. Having three different holes to access the main compartment (most internal packs only have two) is extremely useful, and it’s the only pack I could find with a pocket for a fly fishing rod. Coming in at 105 liters, this pack is enormous, easily large enough to pack in a week’s worth of supplies.
- No shortage of storage pockets
- Easily accessible main compartment
- Through pocket for a fishing pole
- 105 liters is plenty of volume for extended backpacking trips
- Thick belt padding
- Very durable
- Perfect pack for scrambling
- Uncomfortable for someone tall and skinny
Kelty Tioga External Frame Pack
After a couple of weeks of backpacking in the mountains with the Kelty Coyote, I returned to civilization for a few days to resupply. During this supply run, I felt I had to look into a new pack. The Kelty Coyote had made the hike miserable for me so far, and it was recommended that I should look into an external frame pack.
The only problem with this is that external frames are an older design. Not too many companies make them for hiking anymore, though you can find external frame hunting packs quite easily.
After searching for a few days, I landed on the Kelty Tioga. This is one of Kelty’s long-standing external frame pack models that has been updated, of course, with modern materials.
Testing the Kelty Tioga
I love this pack! I have only hiked 20 miles with it but have found it much more comfortable than the Kelty Coyote.
Carrying the same weight (60lbs) as when using the Coyote, I had no problems with the belt bruising my hips. I found it to be much more breathable with good airflow between your back and the pack as well. However, it isn’t as adjustable, which resulted in sore shoulders one day.
When it comes to scrambling, this pack does make it more challenging since it’s more top-heavy. But the difference was not drastic, and I would still recommend this pack even when scrambling.
Kelty Tioga Review
The major disappointment with this pack is the lack of exterior pockets when compared to the Coyote. Most older external frame packs had numerous exterior pockets, and it’s disappointing that a classically designed pack like this would have fewer pockets than their internal pack, the Kelty Coyote. It also lacked the through pocket that Kelty is known for, so I had to mount my fishing pole differently. However, it makes up for the lack of pockets because you can tie equipment to the frame itself.
Another downside to this pack, compared to the Coyote, is that it only has two points of access to the main storage compartment. It is smaller in volume but does come with a place to store a sleeping bag in the main compartment. However, I found it worked best to tie my sleeping bag on the frame at the bottom of the pack. This freed up room for other supplies for a week-long hike.
- Easily adjustable
- 90 liters plus external storage on frame provides ample capacity for long trips
- Good external pack for scrambling
- Tie on points on the outside of the pack
- No through pocket for a fishing pole
- No belt pockets
If I could go back in time a few months, I would recommend the Kelty Tioga to myself as a new backpacking pack. Though it lacks accessibility when compared to the Kelty Coyote, it makes up for it in comfort.
I will continue to use the Kelty Coyote because it is still an amazing pack and excels in scrambling. And when compared to other internal frame packs on the market, it’s hard to beat the price.
From now on, when it comes to doing a long-through hike, the Kelty Tioga is my new go-to pack.