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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 | Check Price 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 13
  • Comfort - 25% 5
  • Weight - 25% 6
  • Versatility - 25% 7
  • Ease of Use - 15% 6
  • Durability - 10% 7

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.

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Pros Durable, sleek, comfortableLightweight, only the necessary features, comfortable suspension for the weightSeven days a week versatility including hikes on the weekendAffordable, minimalist design, lightweight, super packableLightweight, external accessed hydration or document compartment, breathable back panel and shoulder straps
Cons Heavy, few external carry optionsUncomfortable with heavy loads, not durableSmall for cold or technical day pursuitsFew features, thin shoulder straps and hip beltOnly 2 compression straps limits lashing opportunities, no ice axe loop, size is a bit small for long days, water bottle pockets are small
Bottom Line This crossover travel and hiking pack is a solid offering. It lacks a few nice features, but what it has performs wellThis pack is an excellent value, providing all-around performance for light and fast activities at a bargain priceA dual purpose hiking and laptop backpackA simple pack that's easy on the wallet, ultralight, and super popularThis is a simple daypack with everything you need for short hikes and for traveling
Rating Categories REI Co-op Ruckpack 18 REI Co-op Flash 22 Osprey Daylite Plus REI Co-op Flash 18 Osprey Daylite
Comfort (25%)
5.0
6.0
6.0
5.0
6.0
Weight (25%)
6.0
9.0
7.0
10.0
7.0
Versatility (25%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
5.0
Ease Of Use (15%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Durability (10%)
7.0
5.0
6.0
4.0
7.0
Specs REI Co-op Ruckpack 18 REI Co-op Flash 22 Osprey Daylite Plus REI Co-op Flash 18 Osprey Daylite
Volume (liters) 18 L 22 L 20 L 18 L 13 L
Measured Weight (ounces) 22.6 oz 12.6 oz 20.0 oz 9.0 oz 16.0 oz
Back Construction Contured, foam pad Simple foam pad Mesh over vented foam Simple foam pad Mesh and soft foam
Hydration Compatibility Hydration sleeve with hook Internal hydration sleeve Externally accessed sleeve, holds up to 3L, bladder not included Internal hydration sleeve Sleeve for 2L bladder or tablet, bladder not included
Hipbelt Removable webbing 3/4" webbing removable 3/4" webbing, removable 3/4" webbing removable 3/4" webbing, removable
Number of pockets 5 5 6 2 3
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, 2 side stretchy mesh, 1 top lid zippered, 1 outer zippered 2 stretchy mesh side, 1 interior padded laptop sleeve, 1 back zippered with internal mesh dividers and key clip, 1 back expandable waterbottle, 1 back zippered. 1 main top loader, 1 outer zippered 2 side mesh pockets, 1 front pocket
Materials 210D nylon ripstop Nylon Nylon Nylon 210D nylon and 600D packcloth
Outside Carry Options Concealable trekking pole lash points, concealable daisy chain Ice axe loop and bungee holder, daisy chains, attachment loops around back panel Side compression strap 1 exterior daisy chain 1 strap on each side, small water bottle pockets
Whistle Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Key Clip Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Other Notable Features Lockable zippers Removeable foam back panel doubles as sit pad, removeable sternum and hip belt straps, attachment loops to add compression cords Compatible as an attachment to other Osprey packs Removeable foam back panel doubles as sit pad, removeable sternum and hip belt straps Attaches to several large Osprey backpacks

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