REI Co-op Ruckpack 18 Review
Cons: Heavy, few external carry options
Compare to Similar Products
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Dan Scott