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REI Co-op Ruckpack 18 Review

This crossover travel and hiking pack is a solid offering. It lacks a few nice features, but what it has performs well
REI Co-op Ruckpack 18
Photo: REI
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Price:  $65 List | $64.95 at REI
Pros:  Durable, sleek, comfortable
Cons:  Heavy, few external carry options
Manufacturer:   REI
By Dan Scott ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 25, 2020
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61
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 16
  • Comfort - 25% 5
  • Weight - 25% 6
  • Versatility - 25% 7
  • Ease of Use - 15% 6
  • Durability - 10% 7
RELATED: Best Daypack

Our Verdict

The REI Co-op Ruckpack 18 is a burly, travel-oriented daypack with mountain-ready features that tuck away for commuting use and commuting features that also work fine outdoors. It's a nice blend of function and durability, and while it's a bit heavier than we'd like for such a small pack, it should last a long time. We weren't super impressed by the narrow profile of the main compartment and lack of external carry options for bulky items. However, if you're looking for a small, sleek pack for work and play, the Ruckpack is a solid offering.

Compare to Similar Products

 
REI Co-op Ruckpack 18
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award  
Price $64.95 at REI$139 List$189.95 at Backcountry$129.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$139.95 at Amazon
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Pros Durable, sleek, comfortableComfortable, stabilizes heavy loads, thoughtful design, modular, recycled fabricsComfortable, ultralight, versatile, effective featuresTons of features, fully adjustable, comfortable, well ventilated, separate hydration compartmentGreat range of motion, excellent external carry, durable, well-executed side access
Cons Heavy, few external carry optionsNon-adjustable frame, only decent ventilationLacks ventilation, lots of cords, steep learning curveRuns small, side mesh pockets are debatably smallNo lower compression straps, not water-resistant
Bottom Line This pack does is functional enough for day hikes and comes in a sleek package that's presentable at the officeA function-over-form backpack for carrying big loads in any conditionsThis daypack transitions seamlessly from running to scrambling or winter travel, all the while staying comfortable and easy to useTime tested and a top pick for versatility, this pack wins our Editors' Choice awardWith durable fabric and a comfortable carry, this pack is stellar for mountain adventures
Rating Categories REI Co-op Ruckpack 18 REI Co-op Traverse 35 Salomon XA 25 Osprey Talon 22 Black Diamond Bolt 24
Comfort (25%)
5
10
10
9
9
Weight (25%)
6
7
9
7
6
Versatility (25%)
7
7
5
9
7
Ease Of Use (15%)
6
8
9
7
8
Durability (10%)
7
9
7
7
8
Specs REI Co-op Ruckpack... REI Co-op Traverse... Salomon XA 25 Osprey Talon 22 Black Diamond Bolt...
Weight (ounces) 22.63 53.69 15.25 27.44 33.13
Measured volume (liters) 15.7 48.34 29.4 22.56 25.8
Back Construction Contured, foam pad Spring steel Vented EVA foam Vented, contoured OpenAir back panel for airflow
Hydration Hydration sleeve with hook Internal hydration sleeve Internal hydration sleeve, 2 included 500ml soft flasks Externally accessed sleeve, holds up to 3L, bladder not included External hydration sleeve
Hipbelt Removable webbing 3D Contoured hip belt Thin webbing, nonremoveable Broad, padded, with pockets Padded, with pockets
Number of pockets 5 9 10 9 7
Description of Pockets 1 main zippered top-loader, 1 internal zippered mesh, 1 internal open mesh, 1 external side zippered, 1 internal side zippered 1 main top loader, 1 outer flap with nylon/stretchy-mesh, 1 outer zippered, 1 top lid zippered, 1 top lid mesh, 2 side stretchy mesh, 2 hip belt 2 front stretch, 2 front flask pockets, 2 front top-of-shoulder stretch, 2 front zippered, 1 main roll-top, 1 large back stretch mesh with clip 1 main compartment zippered, 1 stretchy mesh shoulder strap, 2 waist zippered, 2 side stretchy mesh, 1 back stretchy mesh, 1 top zippered, 1 open hydration reservoir pocket behind back panel 1 top-loader main, 1 zippered lid, 2 side stretchy mesh, 1 raincover pocket (raincover isn't included), 1 hipbelt pocket, 1 outer crampon/stuff pocket
Materials 210D nylon ripstop Recycled 200D ripstop nylon, recycled 400D Oxford packcloth 82% Polyamide, 18% Polyethylene Nylon 210D ripstop
Outside Carry Options Concealable trekking pole lash points, concealable daisy chain Ice axe loop and bungee holder, 12 attachment loops along bottom and sides of pack perimeter double-cinched cord for poles/axes, pole carry on front or back Bungee helmet tab, Blinker light patch, ice axe loop and bungee holder, front-side pole carry bungee loops Trekking pole lash points, ice axe attachments, daisy chains, bike light clip
Whistle Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Key Clip Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Other Notable Features Lockable zippers Uplift compression straps really tighten down the load, included raincover Running-vest style suspension, comes with soft flasks which fit into strap pockets on chest Blinker patch, front-side pole carry loops Swing-arm suspension
Weight : Volume (oz/L) 1.44 1.11 0.52 1.22 1.28
Weight : Volume Ranking Midweight Midweight Ultralight Midweight Midweight

Our Analysis and Test Results

The REI Ruckpack is a thoughtfully-designed travel pack. It's more outdoorsy features, like axe/pole carriers, can tuck away for a sleeker profile, and its zipper opening is easy to use. It has plenty of organizational pockets, and while it struggles to carry bulky objects, it does fine for lighter loads.

Performance Comparison


We enjoyed the ruckpack for hiking.
We enjoyed the ruckpack for hiking.
Photo: Dan Scott

Comfort


REI seemed to draw from its experience with other small, minimal packs when designing the Ruckpack. It has well-contoured shoulder straps, a flexible foam back panel, and a minimal strap-only hip belt. The memory-foam-like back panel is very comfortable, and the suspension overall is appropriate given how little this pack can carry. We never found it weighing too heavy on our shoulders.

Unfortunately, the suspension isn't all that breathable, and the lack of compression straps make the load slightly unstable. In our calisthenics testing, we found the main compartment to shift around a lot. That's probably alright for just day hikes and commuting, but we wouldn't use this pack for high-energy or dynamic activities.

The suspension is adequate for the size of the pack, but the load...
The suspension is adequate for the size of the pack, but the load can shift more than we usually prefer.
Photo: Ellen Daugherty

Weight-to-Volume Ratio


The Ruckpack is made of mostly thick, durable materials, and this adds to its weight. Coming in at almost 1.5 lbs and with a weight-to-volume ratio of 1.44 oz/L, it certainly isn't light.

While most small packs have daisy chains or stretch mesh pockets to expand their volume, the main compartment and a few small side pockets are really all you get with the Ruckpack. That makes its weight a bit more disappointing, as you can easily fill the main compartment with just a bulky winter coat.

This is a midweight pack, but its lack of external carry makes that...
This is a midweight pack, but its lack of external carry makes that weight a bit more than we normally prefer given how little you can carry.
Photo: Dan Scott

Versatility


As a crossover pack, the Ruckpack 18 is well suited for day hikes, commuting, and travel. We wouldn't hesitate to take it as our daily pack on vacation, but we'd prefer a more technical and lightweight option for dynamic or high-energy activities.

We really liked the removable foam back panel to make this pack easy to stuff in tight spaces, but we missed having the ability to throw a jacket onto the outside. For travel and commuting, we felt limited in colder climates, as our layers usually took up most of the space inside the main compartment. There's also no daisy chain, a small addition that would have solved this problem. That said, the lack of external straps and doohickeys also makes this pack sleek and stylish for an urban environment.

We enjoyed the Ruckpack on this winter hike, and had just used it a...
We enjoyed the Ruckpack on this winter hike, and had just used it a few days previously for commuting to work - it's a versatile daypack.
Photo: Ellen Daugherty

Ease of Use


The Ruckpack 18 has an excellently performing set of features. Its main U-zipper makes it easy to dump the main compartment, and its side pocket features a nice organizational compartment (Although it also has a hidden, felt-lined, inner side pocket, maybe for electronics, but also very tall and skinny - we never figured out its intended purpose).

We liked the secure pole holder, and the cinch straps near the top of the pack hold objects tightly without coming loose. The side water bottle pocket just barely fits a Nalgene, but we much preferred stretchy mesh pockets on other packs.

The features on the Ruckpack work well - we missed a few key...
The features on the Ruckpack work well - we missed a few key features like a large stretchy stuff pocket, but liked using the features that came on the pack.
Photo: Ellen Daugherty

While we missed having a daisy chain or large outer stuff pocket that could hold some layers, we did like that most of the external straps tuck away when not needed, leaving a very slick, stylish exterior.

Durability


The Ruckpack is well-constructed of thick, durable nylon. While it uses a zipper opening that may be a weakness, we found no issues with durability in our months of testing. With little mesh on its exterior, this pack will likely remain fully functional for years of use.

In our rain testing, the Ruckpack unfortunately let in a lot of water, typical of other zippered top-loaders. With no zipper covers, water easily penetrates the main and side compartments. We'd recommend buying a pack cover if you live in a rainy environment.

The Ruckpack can easily handle abrasion without showing damage.
The Ruckpack can easily handle abrasion without showing damage.
Photo: Ellen Daugherty

Value


Like most of REI's products, the Ruckpack 18 is very reasonably priced.

It's a versatile option for commuting, travel, and use on the trail, and for its price, you'll get years of use in a wide variety of environments. It's missing a few features that keep it from being a great pack, but if it works for your style of activities, it will deliver excellent value.

Conclusion


The REI Co-op Ruckpack 18 is a burly, functional commuter and hiking daypack. It's a bit small for colder environments but will work well with light loads. It's comfortable enough, and its features work well. For someone looking for a great, top-loading crossover pack for work and play, the Ruckpack fits the bill well.

The Ruckpack presents a decent feature set in a durable, sleek...
The Ruckpack presents a decent feature set in a durable, sleek package.
Photo: Ellen Daugherty

Dan Scott