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Kelty Tioga 5500 Classic External Frame Backpack

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Kelty Tioga 5500 Classic External Frame Backpack

By Steven

Enwild Gear Specialist

The Enwild Difference

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A trail-tested workhorse, the Kelty Tioga 5500 Classic external frame backpack offers heavy load hauling capability, convenient access and fit adjustability. An array of features adds to the pack's reputation for reliable backcountry performance.


A trail-tested workhorse, the Kelty Tioga 5500 Classic external frame backpack offers heavy load hauling capability, convenient access points and fit adjustability. An array of features adds to the Tioga 5500's reputation for providing reliable backcountry performance.

The Tioga 5500 Classic's rigid aluminum frame provides excellent stability and support. In fact, if you're carrying heavy loads over well-maintained trails and even terrain, it's hard to beat an external frame pack. However, it is important to remember that the rigidity of an external frame can hamper flexibility for off-trail scrambling.

A fully adjustable suspension system accommodates torso lengths ranging from 16-21". The Tioga 5500 Classic's ventilated backpanel, adjustable dual-density waistbelt and padded shoulder straps work together to further enhance fit. Belt stabilizer straps help to transfer weight onto the hips and load-lifter straps let you adjust the "ride" of the pack. The Tioga 5500's adjustable sternum strap fine tunes the positioning of the shoulder straps across the chest to prevent chafing under the arms.

Equipped with many zippered pockets, the Tioga 5500 Classic allows you to separate and organize gear while providing quick and easy access to whatever you might need while on the trail. An integrated spindrift collar on the top-loading main packbag enables you to carry even more gear.

Other features found on the Tioga 5500 Classic include an enclosed sleeping bag compartment, a lid pocket, zippered side pockets, a mesh water bottle pocket, a daisy chain attachment system, lash points and an ice-axe loop. A lined internal sleeve makes the Tioga 5500 Classic hydration system (sold separately) compatible.

    Packbag Features:
  • Hydration compatible
  • Top loading
  • Sleeping bag compartment
  • Top lid pocket
  • Multiple zippered side pockets
  • Daisy chain and lash points

  • Suspension Features:
  • Adjustable suspension
  • Ventilating waistbelt, backpanel and shoulder straps
  • HDPE-reinforced waistbelt
  • Sternum strap
  • Belt stabilizers
California residents: view proposition 65  Warning

Technical Specs

Best Use
Top Loading w/ Lower Sleeping Bag Compartment
Detachable Daypack
Item Dimensions
31" x 23" x 16"
Fits Torso
Frame Material
Hydration Compatible
Sternum Strap
Yes; Adjustable Position
Torso Adjustment
5500 cu in
External Frame Backpack
Item Weight
5 lb 9 oz

41 Reviews

4.63 / 5

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Rye Guy


Old Skool Street Cred for the Sticks


The stares of admiration from millennials & Gen Z who have only heard or read about external frame packs seems to lighten the heaviest load. Also, it’s nice to have the pack away from your back. With an internal frame pack, I always felt like my back was smothered by a sack of wet cement.


What’s not to like about the Tioga? I was OK with it not coming equipped with a rain cover. Also, I knew going into it the belt doesn’t have snack or water pouches. Be a man among men, get yourself one of these.

Anthony M.


Great cant say anymore


lots of room for packing, with separate compartments for organization and very easy access. I love external frame packs and this is outstanding. Plenty on places to add tie downs and lash items to the outside.


wish the rain cover came as part of the bag, but no big [email protected]





Very adjustable, very durable, and handles heavy loads comfortably. A good external frame pack


Key ring fasteners that come with the pack to attach the bag to the frame are loud, should be replaced with cotter pins. No storage on belt

John O.


Slight Upgrade from the Old


Has the volume for what I like to take and adequate organization for those items. After it is adjusted it seems to carry the weight well. It will be fine on the trail. Make sure to do your adjustments at home, and not on the trail.


I am not a fan of the belt buckle system, the pockets on the sides are not as big as I was expecting, the top adjustable cross bar seemed flimsy when extended. Okay, I am an old geezer that bought this pack hoping for a substantial upgrade from my old Kelty Serac Expedition that I have used from the mid 1980's. That bag is like a walking tiny house with a volume of 115 liters, so the 90 liters of this bag was not overwhelming to me. I bought the Tioga 5500 to make sure that I would still have an external frame pack for extended backcountry trips and for carrying heavy loads for hunting trips - as these types of packs are no longer in vogue. I was not as impressed with the Tioga 5500 as I was hoping I would be, considering it is 30+ years new and improved over my old Kelty Serac Expedition. The old Kelty belt buckle system is far superior to the one on the Tioga. with not as many side roomy pockets. I assume that those changes were made to make the Tioga lighter, and cheaper to manufacture. It is tough to beat the quality of those old Kelty bags; they were tough pack mules.





Lots of space. The hip belt accommodated larger sizes (I’m 5’11” and 230lbs).


No pockets on hip belt.



A classic


External frame; internal capacity. Side Note: The team at Enwild are awesome. Their customer service is above and then beyond.



Chad W.


Classic, and still the best


Every backpack on the market is going internal frame and small capacity. Not here! This is the Classic Kelty that will allow you to carry everything you blend for those long haul back country hikes. Kelty strong and will last forever!


Lack of color choices.

Evan S.


Straightforward Large External Frame Pack


Lots of adjustability Lots of room Comfortable


The divider between the sleeping bag compartment and main compartment can not be completely removed. You unzip and loosen it, but the straps that support it can not be unclipped.

Dan D.


Handles Weight Well


Bought this for weight training (doing lunges with 50-60 lbs in pack) and for handling heavier loads (hopefully boned out meat) on backcountry hunting trips. This pack was the most comfortable I've ever been with 45 pounds on a backpacking trip (20 plus miles through rugged, steep terrain). Comfortable ride, lots of space, great adjustability, and arrangement of pockets allowed for good balance. If you want to carry weight in comfort, this is the pack for you.


Not so much a dislike as reality: going off trail with external frame is more challenging than internal. It will be harder to bushwhack and creep through thick woods quietly. But you buy this pack for its space and weight handling, not to be a ninja.

Marcus A.


I wanted one of these for a long time


Load distribution is key. Air on the back for ventilation. Compartments are ideal Adjustment is fairly easy Durability is exceptional


Not sure yet. Need more time on the trail. Maybe too big for a three day trip. Not so great for scrambling.

Brian A.


Great Pack


Lots of room. Very adjustable Good air flow to your back.


I wish Kelty incorporated a water bottle holder on the belt.

Daniel S.


Good product if you like External Frame


Plenty of space for everything you may need. Smart layout with a good mix of large and small pockets. Easy to customize through multiple compression straps, carabiner loops, internal components, and a frame that can be extended. A good buy for those who don't mind shouldering a few more pounds.


The design does not permit water bottles to be easily accessible while wearing the pack, though I was able to jury-rig a 1-liter bladder onto the top right pouch relatively easily.