Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Convenient pockets that are just the right size, convenient large mesh side pockets, comfortable, inexpensive.
Cons: Least breathable back panel, no loops on shoulder straps for hydration tube.
Best Uses: Summit pack, day hikes, around town.
At almost half the price of all the other day packs in this review, the REI Trail is a useful, versatile pack that performs surprisingly well. It wins our Best Buy Award for being the most ideal pack for outdoor enthusiasts on a budget. It has some excellent features such as huge, stretchy side pockets, dual hydration hose ports, a tow loop, and a blinking light attachment. Its main downside is that the back construction is the least ventilated of the packs we reviewed, having no mesh at all. Where the Gregory Z30, the Osprey Stratos, and the Osprey Talon each have their own highly ventilated construction that holds the bulk of the pack away from your back, the REI Trail has no real frame. This keeps the pack relatively light (1 lb. 10 oz.) and flexible for packing in a larger pack, but makes it sweaty on your back while hiking. The shoulder straps also do not have any loops for holding a hydration bladder hose, which is a small but significant feature. If you prefer a pack loaded with features ideal for your activity, check out the Gregory Z30 or the Osprey Talon. If you want the pack with the best organization options for traveling, the Patagonia Refugio is the standout pack in that category. If you like the flexible nature of the REI Trail, and want something even lighter and simpler, go with the Deuter Speed Lite. Don't forget to check out how this bag did in our Mountainboard Adventure.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The REI Trail, though basic, has pockets in all the right places without being too busy. It has one main compartment and a secondary compartment with organizational pockets for if you use this bag around town or for commuting to work. It lacks a whistle on the sternum strap, but it has an extra attachment for a blinking light if you are biking with this pack and it also has a tow loop.
It has a nice slot for a hydration bladder. However, it also has two huge mesh side pockets perfect for a one-quart water bottle, the largest side pockets of any pack in this review. While hiking you can reach back and grab your bottle, making it simple to ditch the bladder if you prefer.
Other notable features are that the sternum strap and waist belt can be removed to save weight and annoyance.
At 1 lb 10 oz, this bag is average in weight, and the second lightest to the Deuter Speed Lite. While some extra features add weight to it, the lack of frame keeps it from being heavy.
The Trail has a padded back and ergonomic shoulder straps with easy slider adjustments for the sternum strap. The back is not as breathable as the ventilated backs on the Osprey packs, but it is not uncomfortable. The waist strap is light and not padded, but keeps the pack in place while hiking, or it can be removed.
The REI Trail has just the right features to be useful for almost any application where a small pack would be helpful. The hydration bladder compatibility make it work for sporty activities, and the organizational pockets in the front compartment that fit phones and pens make it useful as a school or work bag.
This pack is made from recycled ripstop, which is a durable and reused material. During our testing period the pack showed no significant signs of wear. The good news is that if it did, REI's return policy would allow you to exchange it for another one.
Ease of Use
Since this pack is relatively simple, it is easy to use. It doesn't have the cleverness of some of the features on the Patagonia Refugio or the Gregory Z30, but its simplicity adds another type of attractiveness. It easily fit all the important items in our pack test and had plenty of extra space.
The REI Trail is the basic of basic day packs. It has two main compartments, some organizational pockets in the inside, and a simple waist belt. This makes it useful for any application be it hiking, biking, or running errands around town.
For under $60, this pack is a steal. Most other day packs hover around $100. This is almost half the price, but just as functional as any of the other packs, which is why it wins the Best Buy award. If you are on the budget, this pack will get the job done.
— McKenzie Long
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: September 7, 2012
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