Kelty Asher 35 Backpack Review

The Kelty Asher 35 Backpack has a capable harness system and plenty of gear space for your next outdoor adventure, but you'll have to add internal organization.

Our Verdict

7.3 /10
Good info






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  • Compression straps hold bottles, mats, and tripods in place
  • Stretchy front pocket good for holding damp and bulky gear
  • Quick-access pocket is accessible while wearing the bag


  • Hip belt lays against back panel and must be pulled out each time you wear it
  • Lots of excess straps hanging around
  • Materials feel and sound rather crunchy

Technical Details

27 %

Carry-on Compliance

View 39/145 Airlines

61 %

Like the Look

Polled on Instagram

  • Capacity


  • Weight (lb)

    1.8 lb (0.8 kg)

  • Dimensions

    21.5 in x 12 in x 9.5 in (54.6 x 30.5 x 24.1 cm)

  • Notable Materials

    Polyester, YKK Buckles, YKK Zippers, PFC-free DWR Coating

  • Manufacturing Country


  • Warranty Information


Buying Options

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Full Review

If you like exploring the outdoors, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Kelty. Begun by Asher “Dick” Kelty to get more people into the backcountry without fuss and with fun, the brand is synonymous with hiking, climbing, and other outdoor adventures, whether you’re a weekend warrior looking to get away for the day, a parent looking to bring their tot to explore the trail, or someone more hardcore. So, it’s probably fitting that they named a backpack meant for day hikes off the beaten path for their founder. After all, if that’s what he intended with his products, why not honor him with a bag tailored to do what he loved?

Kelty Asher 35 Backpack Side 2
Kelty Asher 35 Backpack | Where will you take it?

You might not know what a good hiking backpack entails or if the Kelty Asher 35 Backpack has enough capacity to be the right travel backpack for you, fellow adventurous traveler. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to find out. Just keep reading!

External Components

Kelty makes Asher backpacks in a wide range of sizes, from 18 liters to a whopping 85. We’ve got the 35L version here, which seems like a great Goldilocks happy medium. What we mean is that it’s good for a long day of exploring but may not have enough room for everything you need if you plan to be off-grid for more than a few days. Or you might—it depends on how adept you are at packing.

Kelty Asher 35 Backpack Brand
Kelty Asher 35 Backpack | It’s made with durable materials.

Whatever you stuff inside will be protected with the 600D polyester Oxford material over the outside of the bag. It includes a CO DWR coating, which is an environmentally friendly durable water repellent. You can connect gear all over the bag, too, since two daisy chains of attachment points run down the front of the bag, and two loops to hold ice picks or trekking poles hang from the bottom.

There’s one carry handle at the top, which is just a webbing strip. While carrying it by this strap for a long time gets uncomfortable, it’s great for hanging the pack up.

Kelty Asher 35 Backpack Zipper
Kelty Asher 35 Backpack | YKK zippers have large cord pulls to make them easy to find and grab.

We’re also happy to see YKK buckles and zippers throughout the pack because it’s a brand we trust for durability. All of the hardware across this bag works well: adjustment slides stay put yet are easy to use, and the zippers all have long cords that make them easy to grab. Surprisingly, the zippers do not have an AquaGuard coating for weather resistance, so if you plan to hike in damp weather, you may want to include a rain cover.

As for branding, the Kelty name and logo are printed on the bottom left of the quick-access pocket, and the Asher 35 model name is printed vertically along the left side of the pack. If you go with the Beluga/Stormy Blue colorway that we have here, the logo and zippers are blue, while the rest of the bag is gray. On the Winter Moss/Dill colorway, the dominant hue is a medium shade of green, while the zippers and logo are lighter.

Kelty Asher 35 Backpack Tripod
Kelty Asher 35 Backpack | Compression straps cinch the bag while also holding gear in the side pockets.

There are also four compression straps—two on each side—that serve the dual purpose of cinching down the bag when you carry less and holding taller gear or thinner bottles in place in the side pockets.

Kelty Asher 35 Backpack Strap
Kelty Asher 35 Backpack | A sternum strap, hip belt, load lifters and good padding keep the bag comfortable.

Flipping around to the back of the bag, you’ll see that it has a quite comprehensive harness system, as we think a backpack of this size should. The shoulder straps have a nice amount of soft and dense padding and are curved to fit nicely around your body. They also include small loops where you can lock down a hydration tube. Load lifters help support the weight of the bag, as does a sternum strap on a sliding rail. There is also a padded hip belt, a structured back panel with firm padding, and a rigid frame sheet.

Kelty Asher 35 Backpack Harness System
Kelty Asher 35 Backpack | The harness system includes a ventilated back panel.

The hip belt, the undersides of the shoulder straps, and part of the back panel are lined with breathable micromesh, while the center of the rear panel has a more open mesh. Kelty calls this an “AMP-Flow ventilated back panel,” and we like the efforts made to reduce a sweaty back. While it’s probably unavoidable in late summer, you’ll stave off sweat through more of your hike through the Smoky Mountains than you would without it.

If this all sounds like a lot, you’ll want to be aware that none of it can hide away or is removable. However, we like that so much care is taken to lighten the load on a pack of this size.

Fit Notes

Kelty Asher 35 Backpack Side by Side
Left: Kristyne Defever, Height: 5’5” (165 cm), Torso: 17” (43 cm) | Right: Eric Hergenreder, Height: 6’0″ (183 cm), Torso: 18.5” (47 cm)

When you put it all together, the harness system works well to make the Asher 35 Backpack comfortable. Shorter users will find this a very tall bag, especially when you tighten everything up and rest the hip belt in the right place. It’s not as much of an issue unless you’re rocking a low hair bun, but it’s something to know if you have a smaller torso. Also, the hip belt padding naturally wants to fold in on the back panel, and we have to actively pull it away while already wearing the bag to get it to the right place. However, once you get everything in place, it’s quite comfortable to wear, even when loaded with snacks, extra clothing, hydration, and more.

There are also a lot of loose straps hanging off this bag—10, to be exact, and that’s not counting the two large front loops. Now, at least four of those will get shorter when the bag is full to the brim, and larger users will use more of the slack than smaller ones, but there are no keepers to contain the excess if all that dangling drives you nuts.

When you put that all together, you’re looking at a package on the outdoorsy, adventurous side of the spectrum. It isn’t going to blend in on city streets, and it’s probably not something you’re taking into the board room unless you’re working for a sporting goods or outdoor outfitter company. On the other hand, it’s less likely to get scuffed or torn than something more posh-looking.

Inside The Pack

Before we head inside, let’s check out the places to pack gear around the outside of this bag.

Kelty Asher 35 Backpack Front Mesh Pocket
Kelty Asher 35 Backpack | Use this stretchy mesh pocket for bulky or dirty gear you don’t want inside the pack.

You’ll see some stretchy mesh on the front and sides, creating three pockets. The front pocket is taller and comes to a peak at a buckle that you can use to hold bulky gear in place. We find that it’s a great place for travel rain jackets, the rain cover for your bag if you have one, trail maps, winter gloves, hats, etc. Basically, anything that you may put on and take off multiple times during your hike or that you don’t want next to the rest of your clothing and other gear because it’s a little dirty or damp. The opening is so large that we don’t typically need to undo the buckle to access it, yet it’s nice to have this buckle and its adjustable strap to hold the pocket shut if you shove something super bulky inside.

Kelty Asher 35 Backpack Water Bottle
Kelty Asher 35 Backpack | You can fit a really wide water bottle in the side pockets, and a compression strap holds thinner ones in place.

The mesh on each side is also for pockets, which have the polyester Oxford fabric at the bottom for extra durability so that your walking stick doesn’t poke through the holes in the mesh. The pockets are on the shorter side and very wide, so standard mouth travel water bottles have lots of room to wiggle. Luckily, the bottom compression strap on each side angles into the pockets, so you can lock down your 18-ounce Hydro Flask without worrying that it will fall out along the trail. The straps do an excellent job of keeping gear of any width in place, and they line up nicely with the top compression straps so that you can easily hold travel yoga mats, camera tripods, and other such gear in place as you travel from place to place.

Kelty Asher 35 Backpack in Use
Kelty Asher 35 Backpack | Toss your phone, wallet, and keys in a quick-access pocket on the lid.

The Kelty Asher 35 also has a top pocket for quick-access items, so you don’t have to dig deep into the depths of the pack to get your phone. It’s a good size for that phone, along with your wallet, keys, sunscreen, and lip balm—arguably all gear you’ll want to access on a hike. Depending on your level of flexibility, you may even be able to reach into this pocket while the pack is on your back; some of us can, and some cannot, but if you can’t, have your travel companion reach in for you!

Kelty Asher 35 Backpack Empty
Kelty Asher 35 Backpack | It has a really large, clamshell-like opening to get to the main compartment.

A double-sided zipper runs nearly all the way down each side of the front of the pack to give access to the main compartment. It’s almost a clamshell opening, but not quite, although we keep forgetting to undo the top compression straps for full access. So, learn from us and unbuckle those first—then you can see how widely it opens!

Kelty Asher 35 Backpack Hydration
Kelty Asher 35 Backpack | This pouch holds a hydration bladder in place.

Against the back panel is a pouch topped with elastic with a stiff hook-and-loop fastener hanging above it. This allows you to slide in a hydration bladder and hold it in place. Right above the hook-and-loop fastener is a small piece of material that opens to the outside of the bag, where you can slide the tube through and then run it down either shoulder strap to be ready for sipping throughout your activity.

Kelty Asher 35 Backpack Packing Cubes
Kelty Asher 35 Backpack | There is room for a lot of gear, so pack it in!

As for any other organization inside the backpack, “That’s all, folks!” The world, er, bag, is your oyster, and you can pack it however you want, whether it’s with packing cubes, a small cooler, a travel towel or picnic blanket, and more. It’s right there in the name: the Kelty Asher 35 Backpack is a 35L bag, so you’ve got a lot of space to fill and a capable harness system to handle it all. So, if you’re tramping off the beaten path for the entire day, you’ll have room for extra water, food, more layers, and even a pair of travel shoes and a swimsuit. If you’re planning a trip to the Rocky Mountains and want to use this as your carry on bag on your flight to Denver, you can fill it with packing cubes full of clothing and your toiletry bag and then also use it to carry your gear (and maybe your friends’!) on your outdoor excursions.

Usage Timeline

Initial Usage

Condition: Excellent

  • Like the gray on the Beluga/Stormy Blue colorway
  • Frame sheet seems extremely stiff; interested to see how that feels
  • No laptop compartment since this is meant to be a hiking backpack
2 Weeks of Use

Condition: Excellent

  • It’s pretty tall and can bump up against a bun or hood on shorter users
  • Like using the compression straps to hold thinner and taller gear in place
  • So much space in the main compartment that it can be hard to fill
By Kristyne Defever
Created January 5, 2024 • Updated January 5, 2024
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