Whether your loved one is into fast-and-light weekend trips, long-and-overloaded weeks, or a combination of the two, the Flash 65, 2009 Editors’ Choice, is up for the job. A rigid plastic framesheet controls the load, and the back-hugging fit eliminates sway, making it the master of rough terrain. Long day of striding ahead? 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 that’s just the beginning of the storage options and smart but unobtrusive details integrated to this pack. For organization, there’s a large shove-it pocket, low-profile lashing loops, and a hipbelt pocket, and the whole thing cinches down with quick-release straps for a balanced, streamlined load. Bonus: The price is right. $169; 3 lbs. 2 oz. (men’s reg); 3,966 cubic inches; 3 sizes each for men/women; rei.com