Hands-on Gear Review

Compare day pack ratings side-by-side >

REI Flash 18 Review

   
Best Buy Award

Day Packs

  • Currently 4.1/5
Overall avg rating 4.1 of 5 based on 12 reviews. Most recent review: April 18, 2014
Street Price:   $35 | Compare prices at 1 resellers
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
User Rating:     
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (4.1 of 5) based on 11 reviews
Recommendations:  91% of reviewers (10/11) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   REI
Review by: Dan Sandberg ⋅ July 4, 2012  
Overview
This pack is a minimalists dream daypack. 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 daypacks.

Compare top rated competitors side-by-side >

  • Photos
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge


OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Likes
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!

Dislikes
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!

Best Application
This pack is perfect for day hikes, summit bids, grocery shopping, school, the gym, and/or the occasional multi-pitch rock or ice climb.

Value
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.

Other Versions
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

Compare this product side-by-side to top competitors >

Where to Buy?

Seller Price  Shipping Cost Visit
REI $34.50

Thinking about buying some gear we've reviewed? Help OutdoorGearLab out if you do. Just click on any of the above seller links and if you make any purchase, the seller will contribute a portion of the sale to help support this site. It won't cost you anything extra, and it's a simple way to help us fund our gear reviews. Thanks!

*Most retailers free shipping offers apply only to lower 48 US states using ground/economy shipping. See retailer's website for details.


OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: April 18, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (4.1)

91% of 11 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
12 Total Ratings
5 star: 25%  (3)
4 star: 67%  (8)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 8%  (1)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 11 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
Write a Review on this Gear

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Jul 31, 2012 - 10:00am
vairboy · Hunter · Currently, CENTCOM AOR
This is a great little pack, the review nailed the versitality. I use it frequently around town to carry whatever and it fits quite a bit. The best application for the pack, however, is to bring along on a longer backpacking trip as a daypack. Use it as a stuff sack for the main hike, then when at a base camp or rest day, this is perfect for throwing in the water bottle, lunch, and a towel to run over to the lake for the afternoon.

I've used it reasonaly often for 3 years with no durability isuses. I agree that it probably won't take abuse, but works perfect for light — but regular — use.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Dec 2, 2010 - 11:26am
Jay Wood · Climber · Land of God-less fools
Think of it as a stuff sack with shoulder straps-

I use this to carry essentials on multi-pitch climbs. Small, light, out of the way.

I cut off the waist strap and inside pockets, and sewed on a webbing strap to clip in at anchors or hang down while in chimneys.

Now into the second one, the first lasted a number of years and is still in use as a stuffsack.

Excellent.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Apr 18, 2014 - 11:27am
WML · Climber · Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
I'm not sure I've owned a more versatile piece of equipment than this pack. I've taken this thing backcountry skiing in the spring, alpine soloing in the summer, mountain biking during shoulder seasons, and used it as a "Second" pack on multi-pitch rock routes. It excels in all of those roles. Only after having mine for 4 years has it started to develop some holes at the bottom, nothing big, but enough it is no longer my multi-pitch pack. Now it's a mountain biking pack, and I'm not sad about that - 4 years of heavy use is plenty good service in my book.

The pack is simple and not many frills, so if you can deal with that and don't tend to bring a bunch of crap, you'll be fine. Not to mention, the price point on this thing is always awesome.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Jun 5, 2013 - 12:02pm
FortMental · Climber · Albuquerque, NM
A good idea in principle, but it's just too damn small and the closing/opening mechanism always makes me pause: do I pull the cords, the small tab, or the the large tab?

I like the idea of a small lightweight un-framed summit pack but there's no reason this pack couldn't have been made expandable so that it could at least fit a pile jacket and a pair of climbing shoes. I know that you can just lash your stuff to the exterior daisies, but that kind of sucks when 4th classing through brush. The closing mechanism also should be simplified with just a simple draw cord and lock.

On the plus side, it's very useful as an airport carry-on!

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Jan 22, 2013 - 10:51am
simply_light · Backpacker · Midwest, Indiana
This pack has its place in my lineup. I've used it on 3 day hikes and it performed well. It is very minimalist and pretty small, but with proper packing and utilizing ultralight gear, it is possible.

The biggest draw back to using it for more than a day pack is just its small nature. So, unless you are seriously into ultralight backpacking, don't try to use it for more than a day pack.

The price tag is also quite nice. Usually runs about $35 new, but you can usually find a used one for around $25 and every once in a while I've seen it on sale for $25 at REI.

Jared M. Baker
Simply Light Designs

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Sep 8, 2012 - 12:55pm
rantia · Climber · Atlanta
The review is spot on.

Very light, tradeoff is that it is only moderately comfortable. Wish it were more waterproof (i.e. a waterproof Outdoor Research stuffsack with straps).

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Jul 21, 2012 - 12:29pm
climbphx · Climber · Cave Creek, AZ
Just bought a second one for my girlfriend since I got tired of carrying her shoes and water when I was leading on multi-pitch. I used the first one for two years for multi-pitch and sometimes for sport climbing if I don't have to haul the rope. The pack has a few small rips in it, but I still haven't had to duct tape it yet. Some of the tears happened on the first time out and haven't gotten any bigger. It takes practically no room in your pack so you can stuff along with gear, rope, helmet, water, etc and then take it with you on multi-pitch with couple Nalgenes, shoes, snacks, headlamp, wallet, keys, etc in zipped enclosure (which is now included in the updated version). In addition to the zipped enclosure, the new version has a thin back padding that can be removed. Obviously, this won't hold up if you constantly climb chimneys and offwidths, but I've worn and hauled mine up quite a few. I may need to replace my first one in the next year. Bottom line is the reason it is so easy to pack is the reason it isn't durable.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Jul 19, 2012 - 02:20am
sol_dog · Climber · Berkeley
This little pack fits a surprisingly large amount of stuff. I use it as my main backpack around town, on airplanes, and for my lunch and water when I am climbing. It is super light, and rolls/folds up into nothing. It is also easy to open it and close with one hand which is super nice. Good pack!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Jul 4, 2012 - 04:07pm
Vegasclimber · Climber · Las Vegas, NV.
I find the Flash 18 to be a great pack for light duty multi-pitch climbing.

It's already been stated that the pack is prone to damage from the light construction, and mine also has some light nicks in it from use. If you need to make a repair, ripstop tape patching will extend the life of your pack.

The low price of the pack makes the Flash fairly cheap to replace, but I have been using mine for 3 years now and it's still quite serviceable. Adding a haul loop is recommended if you are prone to climbing chimneys.

Overall, it's light weight and doesn't take up much space in a gear bag. I use mine to haul a water bladder, food, camera and approach shoes if needed.

If you are prone to climbing in adverse weather, this pack is not for you. But as a light duty bag, the Flash is hard to beat.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Dec 10, 2010 - 01:59am
Tfish · Climber · La Crescenta, CA
I just got the flash 30. I haven't used it yet but it seams really legit. I got the 30 so I can carry an extra rope for raps or to bail on all day mulit pitch climbs. The 30 has more features than the 18, like a top pocket and pockets on the hip belt. It's really thin so I know I have to be careful, but like what the other guy said you can just return it to REI. Bottom line is Im pretty stoked on it.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Dec 5, 2010 - 06:58pm
traverpen1 · Climber · Fresno, Ca
Reinforce or don't use the daisy chain! Other than that it's a good dry weather pack or throw a dry sack in it if you need to keep stuff dry. Works well as a stuff sack or folded up in your back pack. If you destroy it, you can always return it to REI for another one. It is hard to get stuff from the bottom at belay stations and there is no good and secure clip point. But you can solve all the problems with a sewing machine and an imagination.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No


Have you used the REI Flash 18?
Don't hold back. Share your viewpoint by posting a review with your thoughts...

Write a Review on this Gear
The REI Flash 18
The REI Flash 18
Credit: www.REI.com
Where's the Best Price?
Seller Price
REI $34.50
Compare prices at 1 sellers >

*Help support OutdoorGearLab. If you click on one of the seller links and make a purchase, a portion of the sale helps support this site
Related Best-in-Class Review
Helpful Buying Tips
How to Choose the Best Daypack - Click for details
 How to Choose the Best Daypack

by McKenzie Long
Get More OutdoorGearLab
Follow us on Twitter, be a fan on Facebook!
Subscribe to our Newsletter
Related Gear Reviews