REI Co-op Flash 55 Review
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REI Co-op Flash 55
$139.29 at REI
|$200.00 at Amazon|
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$229.00 at REI
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|Pros||Light-weight, comfortable, easily personalized, inexpensive||Comfortable, great cushioning, adjustable torso length, tons of organization options||Very lightweight, comfortable suspension, good value, great features||Comfortable with heavy loads, affordable, good pockets, easy to use, durable||Inexpensive, bottom access, included pack cover|
|Cons||Not the most durable, low maximum load weight||Only comes in one size, heavier for its volume||Not very adjustable torso||Heavier than most||Difficult top lid access, minimal features, heavier than expected|
|Bottom Line||It may not be a heavy load hauler, but for moderate loads, this pack is comfortable and has a great set of features, all at an affordable price||This is a great choice for an affordable pack with tons of pockets and three ways to access the main compartment||This is an awesome lightweight pack that can carry a heavier load and has a very comfortable mesh-trampoline back panel||This is a comfortable and affordable backpacking pack, but it's on the heavier end of the weight spectrum||An entry-level pack at an entry-level price, but without any standout features|
|Rating Categories||REI Co-op Flash 55||Deuter Aircontact C...||Gregory Focal 58||REI Co-op Traverse 60||Osprey Rook 65|
|Ease of Use (25%)|
|Specs||REI Co-op Flash 55||Deuter Aircontact C...||Gregory Focal 58||REI Co-op Traverse 60||Osprey Rook 65|
|Measured Weight||2.8 lbs||5.2 lbs||2.7 lbs||4.3 lbs||3.6 lbs|
|Weight per Liter (oz/L)||0.81 oz/L||1.11 oz/L||0.74 oz/L||1.15 oz/L||0.89 oz/L|
|Advertised Volume||55 L||65L + 10L||58 L||60 L||65 L|
|Organization Compartments||Lid, front mesh pockets, 2 side pockets per side, hip belt pockets, shoulder strap pocket||Lid with two zippered pockets, front mesh pocket, side water bottle pockets, hip belt pockets, sleeping bag compartment||Lid, front mesh pocket, side water bottle pockets, hip belt pockets||Lid, front pocket, side water bottle pockets, hip belt pockets||Lid, front mesh pocket, side water bottle pockets, hip belt pockets|
|Access||Top||Top, front, bottom||Top||Top, bottom||Top|
|Sleeping Bag Compartment||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Materials||Main Body: 100D ripstop nylon
Bottom: 420D nylon
|Main: 235-denier polyamide
Bottom/high-wear areas: 500-denier textured polyamide
|100% Nylon||300D recycled ripstop nylon||600D nylon ripstop|
|Measured Volume (main compartment)||45L||52L||(not measured)||(not measured)||(not measured)|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The REI Flash 55 is a cleverly designed pack, giving the user a way to personalize the feature set. This pack is a great option for a wide range of users. For being such a lightweight pack, we were surprised by how comfortably it carries a backpacking load.
The Flash 55 is quite comfortable. We found this pack hugs your body well. As long as the load is under the 30-pound weight limit, we never complained about how this pack felt, even on our longest days on the trail. It feels solidly planted on your back, and the frame effectively disperses the load between the hip belt and shoulder straps.
Instead of having a hard plastic frame sheet and aluminum stays, the Flash 55 uses a spring steel perimeter style frame that feels as though it moves with you while supporting the pack's load comfortably. The 3D contoured back panel and waist belt have carefully positioned padding to keep the pack comfortable and supportive yet allow air to flow through gaps in the padding. The hip belt and shoulder straps also have this same dense foam padding. It feels solid but still provides enough cushion on your shoulders and hips. The foam used on the back panel, shoulder straps, and waist belt is also perforated. These small holes in the dense foam allow air to flow through. The perforated foam, combined with the 3D contoured back panel foam, keeps your back cool on long, hot hiking days.
The shoulder straps, intended to support less weight than the hip belt, have slightly less-dense foam cushioning. They feature breathable mesh both against your body and on the outer face of the straps for maximum breathability.
Ease of Use
REI's Packmod design utilized in the Flash 55 is excellent. It has a handful of clever features that can be removed or adapted to help make packing for any trip a breeze. The modular aspects of this backpacking backpack include two hip belt pockets (one mesh, one ripstop), a mesh shoulder strap pocket (seemingly made specifically for a smartphone), two side compression straps per side, a top lid, and a tool attachment loop.
We especially love that the lid on this pack can be removed in a way that doesn't feel like an afterthought. The main pack body is closed with a roll-top closure to help compress the load to the right size, keeping the contents stable underneath the lid. If you go without the lid, the buckles used to secure it can double as side roll-top closure buckles. Simply move the buckles intended to hold the lid down to the back of the pack to hold the roll-top closure down instead.
The hip belt pockets on the Flash 55 are also very easy to use. Both pockets zip shut and are large enough to hold a smartphone or enough bars to keep you snacking all afternoon. They'll easily hold a map and compass, a headlamp, snacks, or any other small items you may want on the go. If you're trying to strip weight, these pockets can also be removed from the waistbelt altogether. One of the pockets uses a durable mesh, and the other is made with ripstop nylon.
We love the removable mesh shoulder strap pocket. This pocket is the perfect place for a phone so it can be ready when you need it. As it is made of mesh, it isn't waterproof, but if it does get wet, it won't stay that way for long. It has a velcro closure, so your phone won't fall out when you bend over. Here again, this pocket can be removed completely or switched from the right shoulder strap to the left. The side compression straps can easily be repositioned up or down the side of the pack to get the optimal positioning to secure any load. Following the theme of this customizable pack, if you don't want them at all, they can be removed.
Everyone loves a good breathable, stretchy mesh front stash pocket, and the Flash 55 doesn't disappoint here. They go a step further by offering two more cavernous external ripstop pockets, one on each side between the side bottle pockets and the front mesh pocket. All these pockets are super handy for layers, lunch, a water filter, etc. The less we have to open the main compartment on a hike, the better, and these extra pockets allow for nearly unlimited packing options.
The Flash 55 is hydration compatible, but no pack is complete without a set of side bottle pockets, and these are some of the best-executed bottle pockets we've seen. They hold wide-mouth bottles with ease. And with the help of a strap that can be snapped partially across the opening, these pockets can secure narrow-mouth bottles without flopping around. To keep bottles easy to grab, many pack makers let you load the bottles in from the side. However, certain bottles put in this way can get in the way of your natural arm swing. The Flash 55 keeps bottles in the vertical orientation, but because they are positioned so far forward, they are still easy to grab for even those who may not have the most flexibility.
The Flash 55 uses one main pack body rather than incorporating a separate sleeping bag compartment. There are also no straps on the bottom of the pack for stowing a closed-cell sleeping pad, but you could easily strap one under the brain on top if you want. With all the Packmod items and their versatility, the Flash 55 is one of the most feature-packed bags in our lineup.
We loved how lightweight the Flash 55 is. With the weight as low as it is, you'd think it wouldn't carry weight very well. But this backpack carries an average backpacking load better than packs nearly twice its weight.
This pack is extremely comfortable on long days when the sun gets low and camp can't come soon enough. The Flash is one of the lightest we tested at well under 3 pounds for 55 liters of packing space. If you remove the lid and many optional pockets and straps, it's even lighter.
The newest version of the Flash features an easy way to adjust the torso length to be taller or shorter. This way, you can fine-tune the fit to make the pack more comfortable.
This pack comes in 4 sizes: small, medium, large, and large torso with a small hip belt. Each size has enough adjustability to ensure you get a good fit even if you are on the border between two sizes.
The waist belt padding is fixed in place on this pack. While the webbing on a medium will allow for up to a 50-inch waist, the padding will only reach around so far, making the pack less comfortable for those on the larger end of the size range. Overall, assuming you get the right size, the fit on this pack for most people is excellent.
Should You Buy the REI Flash 55?
The Flash 55 offers great usability for a low cost, making it a high-value item. For those looking for a lightweight, comfortable, user-friendly, and reasonably priced pack, this one is worth a look. It may not be the most durable, but the lightweight ripstop fabric will last plenty long enough if you take care of it. At this price, this pack has a lot to offer.
What Other Backpacking Backpacks Should You Consider?
The Flash 55 is an incredibly light, comfortable, versatile, and low-priced backpacking backpack for those looking to keep things streamlined and lightweight. If you want a serious load hauler, check out the Osprey Aether 65. If you're looking for an even more streamlined, ultralight, and long-trail-tested backpacking pack, check out the thru-hiker favorite Ultralight Adventure Equipment Catalyst. If you're looking for a seriously comfortable pack with fewer pockets, check out the Granite Gear Blaze 60.
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