Gear Guide 2012: REI Flash 62 Backpack

This pack handles heavy loads without compromising your ability to move efficiently, offering improved suspension and great versatility.

[Editors’ Choice update]

Yosemite climbers are tough on packs: Thin wallets and big expectations make them harsh critics. But the upgraded Flash passed muster. Our team of Valley testers liked the pack’s ability to handle heavy loads without compromising their ability to move efficiently (and safely) over treacherous terrain.

Like its predecessor (which won an Editors’ Choice Award in 2009), the new Flash 62 is immensely versatile, from overnights to thru-hikes. After 75-plus days in the field, the top-loader’s new suspension earned high praise. A tester who’d logged time in both models reported, “It felt more molded to my back, but I didn’t get sweaty, even carrying 45 pounds.”

The secret? A new tubular aluminum frame that improves weight transfer via stays that extend deep into the hipbelt. The molded, mesh-encased foam backpanel is also thicker, with giant cut-out vents that kept our tester dry when he was hiking up Yosemite Falls Trail in 90°F temps. Gripe: The tall framesheet interferes with a helmet. $189; 3 lbs.; 62 liters; rei.com