We've tested a ton of packs over the course of decades here at OutdoorGearLab. They get steadily better, at better and better prices. While little is currently notable about the REI Trail 25, we have the long view. We are happy to report that it is the culmination of many years of development, drawing from across the entire business. The design and shape are that of what would have been, 15 years ago, one of the more sophisticated packs on the market. The price, though, is virtually bargain basement. For the subtle upgrades available in, say, the Editors' Choice Osprey Stratos 34 or the Osprey Talon 22, you will pay two to three times more. The Trail 25 does everything that many folks need at a very reasonable price. For this, it earns our Best Buy award.
REI Trail 25 Review
Cons: No padded waist belt, heavy for the volume
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Our Analysis and Test Results
All iterations of the REI Trail 25 have pleased us. The latest version makes minor tweaks but maintains the value, quality, and usability we like. The Trail 25 scores higher than many packs that cost a lot more. For this optimization of price to value, the Trail 25 earns our Best Buy award.
A daypack's comfort is, primarily, a function of the load. Some carry just a water bottle and windbreaker in their day pack. For that, the most basic construction is appropriate. Others, though, are carrying cold weather clothing, some technical equipment, 12-hours worth of food and water, and associated emergency supplies. That weight adds up to a heavy load that taxes a body.
Comfort under the heaviest loads requires more support than the Trail 25 provides. The thin waist belt and soft back panel simply won't support beefy loads as well as more sophisticated designs. That said, many on our test team have carried expedition loads in packs that aren't much different, in terms of comfort, than the REI 25. This isn't the most comfortable pack, but it will do the job.
The soft back panel pads and webbing waist belt design of the REI Trail 25 is essentially the same as the suspension system of the Osprey Daylite, the Deuter Speed Lite 20, the Arc Teryx Brize 25, and the Mountain Hardwear Scrambler. This configuration does the job. Of course, the more rigid, structured, and contoured back panels of the Editors' Choice Osprey Talon 22 and Osprey Stratos 34 will be more supportive and vent perspiration better.
The Trail 25 weighs 26 ounces. The pack is made of relatively thick fabrics, with more than average zippers and pockets. Balancing these weightier attributes is the fact that the pack has a simple, low key suspension system and isn't super large. The weight of the REI Co-op Trail 25 isn't notable, one way or another.
This weight threshold marks a line dividing, more or less, packs that have padded waist belts and those that do not. This pack and those lighter have webbing waist belts, while those that are heavier have padded waist belts. There are exceptions, in that there are heavier packs with webbing waist belts. There are no packs lighter than the Trail 25 that have padded waist belts. Interestingly, the pack that is currently the heaviest in our test is exactly twice the weight of the Trail 25. This is the Editors Choice Osprey Stratos 34 at 52 ounces. The lightest pack in our test, the Top Pick Marmot Kompressor 18, is less than half the weight of the Trail 25 at 10 ounces. The Top Pick Osprey Daylite Plus is similar in weight.
A pack's versatility is inversely correlated to its rigidity. Less rigid packs work better for all the things you might do with it that aren't hiking. Cycling, rock climbing, and commuting/traveling are all best done with packs that are less rigid. With that in mind, we dig the versatility of the Trail 25. Other variables that influence versatility are weight, features, and durability. A versatile pack is one that is durable, of reasonable weight, with minimal specialized features. Again, the Trail 25 strikes a good balance, further enhancing its versatility.
For multi-sport and all-around use, we'd put the Trail 25 in the same, upper category with other products that are made with thick fabric, no rigid frame, and relatively simple construction. That short list includes the Arc Teryx Brize, the Top Pick Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30, and the Editors' Choice Osprey Talon 22.
Ease of Use
Nothing about the Trail 25 stands out, in terms of ease of use. It is simple and clean, with zippers and straps that work as intended. It isn't particularly convenient nor is it particularly cumbersome to use. It is just a basic backpack. Two of the accessory pockets are a little weird/difficult to use regularly, but this isn't a huge deal.
We wouldn't say that it's the easiest to use, but it is good enough. Like the Osprey Talon 22 and the Gregory Zulu 30, no straps cover any important zippers. In short, the Trail 25 is simple and its function only enhances the product.
REI doesn't specify the type of fabric used on the Trail 25, but by feel, it is fairly typical pack cloth. Our experience with this pack, as well as with other packs with fabric like this, suggests that it will last years and years. Depending on your usage patterns, it is possible that the zippers will begin to fail before the fabric does. And this takes thousands of cycles to do. Style, hobbies, and lifestyle moves will come and go well before this pack wears out on you.
The fabric of the pack is the primary determinant of its durability. We once awarded our Best Buy award to the REI Co-op Flash 22. The Flash pack is comfortable and straightforward, at a great price. However, the Flash pack is made of thin, flimsy fabric. It wears out real fast. This compromises its value, as compared to a similarly priced pack made of thicker fabric. The Trail 25 is the answer to that dilemma. It is a little more expensive but will last a lot longer.
We hardily recommend this backpack to anyone seeking an all-around daypack at a reasonable price. It does all you'll need for three season day hiking and is just right for travel, commuting, and light-duty technical outdoor travel.
The price is reasonable, the performance is adequate, and the construction will last you years. This is essentially the definition of our Best Buy Award, in general terms. Granting this award to this backpack was easy. That REI backs it up with a widespread distribution system and an easy warranty and return policies only sweetens the value deal.
Widely available at a reasonable price, the Trail 25 is a basic, no-frills day pack for all kinds of users. The construction is simple but handy. The soft-backed design is versatile, but not as supportive as a more rigid design would be. There are more sophisticated packs and cheaper packs. However, none strike the balance of performance and price that the Trail 25 does.
— Jediah Porter