Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Affordable, REI guarantee, light, packable
Cons: Not durable, hard to access contents while on a climb
Best Uses: Multi-pitch rock climbing, summit pack, day hikes, around town
This pack is a minimalists dream day pack. The Flash 18 scored the best of all the packs in three ares: weight, packed size, and versatility. It also was surprisingly comfortable when loaded. All this, and it only costs $30! If you don't want many compartments for padding, this pack is an awesome light pack at a really low price. The only category it scored poorly in was durability; it is unquestionably the least durable of the packs we reviewed.
The Flash 18 is less of a hiking specific pack than any of the other packs tested, but it certainly functions fine for the occasional multi-pitch, and actually climbs fairly well due to its narrow profile. This earns the Flash 18 the Best Buy award, if you are on a budget and need one pack to do it all, the Flash will get the job done in style.
If you have $20 more to spend and want a more durable, climbing-specific pack that is also very versatile, consider the Black Diamond Bullet.
If money is not your primary concern, but rather you are interested in the lightweight nature of the Flash 18, consider instead the Cilo Gear 20L worksack. The Worksack is a better pack for light and fast mountain adventures. It is certainly much more weatherproof, and also a bit more durable.
If you need a pack more for urban life than for mountain life, but want to keep your options open and keep yourself on a budget as well, then the REI Flash 18 is the pack for you.
Check out our full Day pack Review to see how this stacks up against other climbing day packs.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The REI Flash 18 is the lightest pack we tested, weighing in at only 283 g/10 Oz. The pack is made of 140 denier ripstop nylon, with a top draw-cord closure system that is quick and easy to use. The pack wears well; it conforms well to your back and the shoulder straps are a great balance; lightweight but with enough padding to be comfortable, even with a full load.
The Flash 18 has an internal and external daisy chain, ice axe loop, hydration pouch, and two internal mesh organization pockets. The daisy chain design allows you to attach items both on the inside and on the outside of the pack, shoes and a nut tool, say, on the outside, and a watch on the inside. The waistbelt could also be fed back around and clipped through the daisy chain to get it out of your way while climbing.
The Flash 18 functions very well as a stuff sack inside a larger pack (when turned inside out), and is a great option for a three-season summit pack.
The Flash 18 really shines in its versatility. It works great to bike with, hike with, run to the grocery store with, you name it. It also packs down to the size of a baseball when not in use and is $15-45 cheaper than all the other packs reviewed. Plus, you have an array of colors to choose from, so you should have no problem finding the right Flash 18 to fit your style!
The biggest drawback to the Flash 18 is its durability. The 140 denier, super light nylon is not reinforced on high wear areas at all, so the bottom and front of the pack show signs of wear and tear quickly. The daisy chain is not reinforced, just stitched through one layer of the 140 denier material, so any pull or tug on hanging items will likely rip out the bar tacking.
There is no security pocket (the only pack without one), and no key clip, which definitely reduces its utility while climbing or for other outdoor pursuits. These two features, while seemingly insignificant, are very useful and have become the norm for this style of pack. The pack also has an oversized waistbelt, which seems out of scale with the rest of the lightweight package and does not noticeably improve comfort or weight distribution.
The sternum strap attachment is not fixed to the entire shoulder strap, just to a piece of nylon strapping, so it pulls off of the pad when tensioned. This puts these plastic pieces directly against your chest instead of being buffered by the pad. The pack also has no good handle or clip in point; the handle is part of the shoulder strap and is insecure and awkward when clipping the pack into an anchor. If you were ever going to haul this bag, you would have to go through the hydration port and the makeshift handle in order for it to be sufficiently strong.
The Flash 18 is the least weather-ready pack reviewed due to its draw-cord opening. Even with a small flap designed to cover the tightened top panel, water gets in through the small opening. This takes away from its utility for winter pursuits as well, snow and ice would surely work its way inside.
There is an ice axe loop on the bottom of the front of the pack, but no upper attachment point, so you would have to invent something there. The loop seems mostly for show.
The packs long, narrow dimensions and small opening makes reaching contents at the bottom of the pack difficult without pulling everything out. This can be a big problem if you didnt pack smart and are at a hanging belay!
This pack is perfect for day hikes, summit bids, grocery shopping, school, the gym, and/or the occasional multi-pitch rock or ice climb.
The Flash 18 is the cheapest of the packs reviewed ($30), but it is also the least durable for abusive mountain conditions, and the least climbing specific. Regardless, this pack is very versatile and backed by the REI 100% satisfaction guarantee, making the Flash 18 our Best Buy.
The REI Flash 18 comes in a gamut of different colors, including black, red, yellow, magnesium (gray), and ocean (blue).
The Flash series also includes 30L, 50L, and 65L packs, all designed with the same lightweight material and minimalist approach.
— Dan Sandberg
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: June 5, 2013
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