REI Flash 18 Pack Review

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The REI Flash 18 is an excellent little daypack capable of taking on relatively heavy loads. It lacks an internal frame but the waist belt and chest straps help disperse the weight. Users rate it high for comfort and versatility; it packs down small and can be turned inside out for use as a stuff sack.

The REI Flash 18 (starting at $30) is the smallest and cheapest backpack among our top picks and one that attracts legions of fans. In REI Flash 18 reviews, users rave about the price, the weight, and the versatility. Reports posted in reviews on the company's website indicate the backpack works just as well for day hikes as for travel and life on campus. One user says the pack's slim profile makes it easy to navigate narrow aisles on an airplane, another stuffs it with climbing gear, another packs it with books, and still another takes it jogging. The pack was an impulse buy for one reviewer, who writes in a hiking backpack review on Trailspace that its capacity to hold a first aid kit, compass, camera, jacket, food, and water made it the perfect choice for day trips and summiting from base camp.

We also come across a few mild critiques. Several users grumble about weak daisy chains (couldn't hold a helmet and shoes, for example) and the lack of compression straps to help stabilize the contents. An expert REI Flash 18 review on Outdoor Gear Lab laments a top-loading design that isn't sealed off against rain or snow and makes it hard to get at supplies packed inside.

This is an 18-liter pack that sports waist and chest straps to help disperse the weight of your load (no metal frame or shoulder harness on this one), and a pouch and exit port for easy hydration with a water bladder, two daisy chains, and a tool loop. The 140 denier ripstop nylon is coated with polyurethane and should prove durable. The REI Flash 18 weighs a mere 10 ounces, which isn't quite light enough for some die-hard hikers. A discussion thread on Backpacking Light relates tales of users cutting off the daisy chains or the waist belt in order to lop off an ounce or two; one hiker says his pack now weighs 6.84 ounces. This pack comes in black, pewter, ocean, nettle, and beet juice.

Minimalist features and overall utility, which includes serving as a stuff sack and compressing into a fist-sized ball, clearly make the Flash 18 a standout daypack.

Maralyn Edid

Maralyn is a veteran reporter, writer, researcher, and editor. From her early years at Crain's Chicago Business and the Detroit bureau of Business Week, then on to a long-term stint at Cornell University's ILR School and now at Cheapism.com, Maralyn has been -- and remains -- committed to getting ...

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