REI Co-op Trail 25 - Women's Review
Cons: Hipbelt is only a strap, poor ventilation, lots of dangling straps
Our Analysis and Test Results
The REI Co-op Trail 25 is a lightweight-for-the-size daypack with lots of room and lots of features. It's made with lightweight nylon and weighs 31 ounces. It comes in one size only (17-19 inch torso length).
We rated this pack fairly low for comfort, mostly due to the lack of a proper hip belt. The shoulder straps are well-padded and comfortable, but all of the weight in your pack ends up on them. There is a one-inch webbing hip belt, but it does little to transfer the weight off of your shoulders and on to your hips. There's a reason why most other packs that we tested have a 3-4 inch padded hip belt, and it's time REI did too! Webbing hip belts like this one help prevent the bag from shifting around too much, but that is about it. REI even states that this pack is rated to hold up to 30 pounds, but there's no way you'd want to carry that much weight without a hip belt. The 40L version of this pack does have a proper hip belt, and we'd love to see that on this model as well. If you plan on carrying a lot of weight on your day hikes, look to something like the Gregory Jade 28. It has a frame suspension and a well-padded hip belt, which helps take the load off of your shoulders.
While there is a bit of framing in the back of the Trail 25, it's easily pushed outward, particularly if you have a full hydration bladder in the sleeve. That means that you'll feel like the pack is pushing into you once it's full, which is both uncomfortable and reduces airflow. The back is made of mesh to help with ventilation and keep you less sweaty, but compared to the open mesh back of the Osprey Sirrus 24 and the Deuter Futura 22 SL, this pack was not as good as ventilating.
The Trail 25 had some great features that we loved and only a few that we weren't so excited about. We liked the stowable rain cover, which is low profile and doesn't take up too much room in the bottom of the pack or stick out like the Osprey Sirrus 24's does. The trekking pole fasteners work well and double as ice axe holders as well.
What we weren't so excited about was all of the straps. There are straps on the bottom, for securing a sleeping bag or pad, and more at the top for the same. There are also dual daisy chains sewn onto the outside for ten more attachment points. With the large internal volume and ability to attach tons of gear on the outside, you could easily take this pack on an overnight trip, but without a proper hip belt, your shoulders would not be too happy! Frankly, it's a little too much on the external strap option, and we'd rather see a full hip belt instead.
This pack weighs 31 ounces, landing it in the middle of the "pack" weight-wise. It's great that REI was able to keep this pack on the lighter side, particularly considering that it's also one of the largest packs that we tested, though some of that weight savings undoubtedly come at the expense of a load-bearing hip belt. A lighter option to consider that does have a hip belt is the Lowe Alpine Aeon ND20,. Even lighter than the Aeon is the Mammut Lithia Speed 15 (19 ounces), which also comes with a hip belt but can't carry quite as much as the Trail. The heaviest packs in this review, like the Osprey Sirrus 24 and Gregory Jade 28, have padded hip belts, external frames, and open mesh backs, which make them more comfortable and breathable. They're 10-12 ounces heavier, but we feel like that extra weight is worth it.
Ease of Use
We think this bag is reasonably easy to use, with helpful organizational pockets both inside and outside the bag and easy access zippers. This daypack does lack a little in adjustability though. It comes in one size only and has a 17-inch torso length. REI says that it fits 17-19 inch torsos, and it did indeed fit our main tester and her 19-inch torso. In fact, this pack might feel a little large on shorter ladies. (The one bonus to no hip belt is that the exact sizing of the back is not quite as important.) The shoulder straps have no load-lifting tensioners, which aren't super useful without a weight-bearing hip belt anyway. If you are a petite hiker, you might find a better fit in the Osprey Tempest 20.
We didn't experience any durability issues during our testing period but did notice some complaints about the Trail series in other online user reviews, including seams blowing out and zipper quality issues, and our score reflects that a little. The body of the pack is lightweight rip-stop nylon, but the bottom is slightly thicker nylon, which we appreciate as it is a high-wear spot in most bags. We also had to take into account that REI only warranties its product now for the first year against defects — after that, you are out of luck. Other companies, like Osprey, offer a lifetime guarantee, which is something worth paying a little extra for if you are notoriously hard on your gear.
This is a great daypack for those who either pack super light or don't like to use hip belts on their day hikes. While there are enough extra attachments on the outside of the REI Trail 25 to carry gear for an overnight trip, it's hard for us to recommend it for that purpose, as your shoulders probably won't be very happy if you load this pack down and then hike for miles in it. Light day hikes are the way to go with this model, and we found it particularly useful when heading out with some young kids. We were able to stuff three rain jackets and extra layers in it along with snacks without it being too heavy.
This pack retails for $80, which is a real steal in a category full of $130-$150 packs. If you're getting into hiking and laying out a lot of money for all of the gear you need (shoes/boots/clothes/camping equipment, etc.), you can save a lot of money on this purchase and still get a decent bag. If you're still not stoked on that price tag, consider the $37 Gonex 35L, our Best Buy award winner. It's an untechnical bag that still has some great features - including a wider hip belt - and is a lot cheaper, though it may not last you years and years.
The REI Co-op Trail 25 has a lot going for it, including comfortable shoulder straps, great features, and lightweight construction. If it had a proper hip belt, it would be a stronger contender but unfortunately, that compromised its comfort a bit. Hip belts aren't for everyone though, and if you're the type of hiker who rarely does theirs up on a day hike, then this might be the best choice for you.
— Cam McKenzie Ring and Maggie Brandenburg