REI Co-op Flash 45 - Women's Review
Cons: No torso adjustments, hip belt is uncomfortable, not bear-can-compatable.
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
Our Analysis and Test Results
The REI Flash 45 stands out when it comes to weight. For a little over two pounds, you get a removable brain, plenty of compression straps and a roomy main compartment for a 45-liter pack. Overall we love some of the features on this pack, but it's lack of adjustability meant that it chaffed and didn't fit quite right, leaving us plenty sore and bruised the next day. The smaller pack volume also means that your adventure options are limited.
Comfort and Suspension
Unfortunately, this was one of the least comfortable packs we tested, mostly because you can't adjust the pack. Essentially, you buy one of the limited size offerings, and it either fits or it doesn't. This strategy was chosen to save weight on the overall design, but when you are a half-inch between sizes, this is the difference between chafing and not. Hip belts and torso heights aside, the back panel offers a mix between mesh and foam padding, which does a decent job at keeping moisture at bay. For such a minimalist pack, we were impressed by the Flash's thick and well-padded shoulder straps.
The Flash also has an ultra-light Activflex LT wireframe that keeps the pack rigid when weighted down. The suspension system doesn't do the best job at delivering the pack's weight to your hips; our testers had sore shoulders after testing. However, this might be because the tester was in between sizes.
At just a hair over two pounds, the Flash is one of the lightest packs in our lineup. However, without any adjustment systems, we felt that REI went a bit too far with this one. Trimming out any options for adjustments in the suspension system didn't do any favors to win us over with this pack. Other similarly light models in our test offer more comfort and adjustment.
When it comes to features, the Flash 45 offers some great opportunities to adjust your kit. For example, The Flash offers an array of attachment points for compression straps that offer a wide variety of configurations to fit your needs. REI also advertises this pack as coming with two additional straps (although these did not come with the pack we tested). This setup allows for a range of adjustability that makes this smaller-volumed pack work with you. Where the Flash misses the mark is with fit adjustability. It simply doesn't exist. There is no way to extend or shorten the torso height, so you either fit into one of the three offered size options, or you don't. Our tester fell between sizes and ended up with bruises and chaffing after one day of use.
The simple nature of the Flash means that there are not a lot of extraneous pockets. There are two exterior side pockets (non-zippered) on each side of the pack that helps hold a tent or shelter, an extra layer, as well as a water bottle. There is also an additional, roomy mesh pocket on the front of the pack, as well as a fairly spacious (and removable) pack brain.
The main compartment only has one access point through the top. We didn't find this to be too cumbersome, as long as you packed thoughtfully. This pack may present a few challenges for the beginner backpacker, but once you have your packing order nailed down, you can quickly get things in and out of the pack. The small pack volume of the Flash means that this pack doesn't play well with extra items such as helmets, ropes, and bear cans. This pack is best suited for the backpacker that doesn't need any special gear and has a more streamlined setup.
The Flash falls under $200, making it one of the more budget-friendly options for a lightweight backpacking pack. You get quite a fair amount of bang for your buck with this pack, and you can buy with confidence backed by the REI 100% satisfaction guarantee.
At a great value, the REI Flash 45 is a great, no-frills pack if the torso fits you. If not, we recommend checking out a few of our higher-rated, budget-friendly models.
— Meg Atteberry