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Backpacker Magazine – April 2009

Editors' Choice 2009: REI Flash

Want a one-pack quiver? Get this versatile lightweight.

by: The Backpacker Editors

REI Flash 65 (Steve Howe)
REI Flash 65 (Steve Howe)

See more gear that made the cut in our 2009 awards.

video icon VIDEO REVIEW:
See the REI Flash backpack in action as our testers put it through the ringer in Wales.

Wrong question: Who should get this pack? Right question: Who shouldn't? Every tester who carried the Flash 65–whether for fast-and-light weekends or long-and-overloaded weeks–thought it worked perfectly for the job. And that's just the start of its versatility. Rough terrain ahead? A rigid plastic framesheet controls the load, and the back-hugging fit eliminates sway. Long day of trail striding? The wide hipbelt and shoulder straps wrap with gratifying comfort, and the broad backpanel provides welcome cushion and ventilation, thanks to a cover of mesh and foam.

The top-loading packbag (with floating lid) is deceptively large: In Wales, when one tester's pack didn't arrive with our baggage, another tester was able to compensate by overfilling the Flash with extra gear. "It swallowed everything without a hiccup," he said. And the storage options will please organizers and minimalists alike, as the pack has smart but unobtrusive details, like a large shove-it pocket, low-profile lashing loops, and hipbelt pocket–and the whole thing cinches down with quick-release straps for a balanced, streamlined load. The sweet price-to-performance ratio makes it appealing whether you're buying your first pack or tenth. Bonus: Hydration clips accommodate all major reservoir brands. $149; 3,966 cubic inches; 3 sizes each for men/women; 3 lbs. 2 oz. (men's reg.);

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Reader Rating: -


Dec 29, 2009

Dec 21, 2009

Took this backpack to Isle Royale this summer and absolutely loved it (it replaces my REI Venus). Put about 42 miles on it; no problems with zips or straps. Holds a lot, distributes it well, and fits great -- very comfortable. My Venus top lid detached as a day pack -- a nice feature that I miss with the Flash. Otherwise, I'm very pleased.

Dec 16, 2009

I too am disappointed in Backpacker for giving this pack such a high review. The pack failed on me half way through a five day backpacking trip when the load lifter straps broke at their connection with the shoulder straps. I managed to rig up something with rope but I could not believe it when it broke--I wasn't carrying all that much weight, and it was the pack's first trip! Not only that, but I noticed at the same time that the entire pack frame was sewn off-center so the whole load felt like it leaned to one side. Poor workmanship and bad design--I loved this pack until I noticed these MAJOR issues, but you can't have a brand new pack break on you halfway through a five day trip! Unbelievable. Wait until they fix the design!

Benjamin Keister
Dec 03, 2009

Hiked the whole JMT this summer and the hip belt failed on my way up the mist rail in Yosemite I am taking it back and I am extremely disappointed in this magazine for giving it such high esteems.

Tmothy @ Good Nature
Aug 18, 2009

I bought this on pack sale @ REI for $109.

Good bag, even though I am not a fan of top loaders.

We hiked 46 miles last weekend, and I felt like the REI Flash did pretty well. I am not sure what the load lifters in the back are supposed to do. They cinched down and did provide some stability, but I was expecting the pack to cling to me, more like my friend's Granite Gear Vapor Trail.

The guy @ REI who showed me how to adjust the bag saved a sale last spring. He showed me how to set the pack on my back, how to adjust it as the day's hike goes by.

And for most of two long days, I hardly felt the pack at all.

I would like to see a zipper to the bottom of the bag for easy access.

This backpack is a good find-- and Backpacker pulled it out of the fog of gear I was looking at. So thanks.

best fishes,


Aug 09, 2009

Jul 21, 2009

Just bought this pack to replace the REI Pinnacle since I am not doing much climbing/ racking right now. I am excited to try this pack out as I am doing a 3 day/ 2 night hike this weekend. Will report back on its success since I am sure it will perform superbly.

Michael A. Trafton
May 24, 2009

Just returned from a six day trip on the AT. Hot Springs NC. to Erwin TN. Thei pack worked great. Gave me a better idea of what size I realy need for a 6 day trip. The pack was great but for one thing. Not enough padding on the hip belt. Sholders were ok. I found after 4 to 5 hr. of hiking that the belt dug into my hips, so I had to tighten the sholder straps and remove the belt untill this became uncomfotable. then back on with the belt to take the presure off sholders. An extera oz or two in the hip belt would most likly fix this, and for me anyway it would be worth the extra oz.

May 08, 2009

This pack doesn't have ventilation for your back. Will not buy.

May 04, 2009

I was excited by Backpacker's review and went to my local REI to try this pack. They're right in saying its lightweight and swallows anything put into it. I decided against the purchase, though, do to the placement of the lid straps (under the that finding them/tightening them becomes a pain) and the lack of compression straps for the bottom of the bag (which makes it seem as if it is swaying on you back if there is any weight it it...the top of the bag, however, does have compression straps. Other than these two annoyances its a nice bag....

May 01, 2009

Really like the video review! I am a subscriber, have the "best of" gear issue, and my next purchase will be an upgrade from my external-frame pack that is probably over 15 years old. My other gear is MUCH old pack's just built like a tank...but it weighs as much as one too! The reviews in the magazine are great, but it's really nice to see it in use/visually through this video. The magazine and the video compliment eachother nicely. Love doing the research on my gear, and this helps a LOT! Looks like this may be my next purchase. Thank you!


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