Are you looking for a daypack that can jet-set as well as perform on the trail? With lots of pockets to keep you organized on the go and a few hiking specific features, the REI Trail is a versatile pack. It has a larger hydration compartment that doubles as a laptop sleeve and uniquely placed mesh side pockets, which allow the cross-over between recreational adventures and travel better than most of the packs we tested. The Patagonia Refugio have slightly more organizational specific features, while the Trail utilizes a few more hiking specific features. If you're looking for a frameless design that excels when in the woods, try the more streamlined Deuter Speed Lite 20.
REI Trail 25 Review
Cons: Low ventilation, no compression straps
Our Analysis and Test Results
The REI Trail offers some clever pocket options to keep you organized both during travel and on the trails. This was our favorite pack we used for air travel, and easily transitions to use around town as well as on your next outdoor adventure.
The organizational options on this pack are a perfect fit for a travel companion, with pockets in all the right places. There are two lid pockets, one outside and a mesh inner pocket, with opposing zippers so when you flop open the main compartment, the inside mesh pocket is always on top.
However, one of the bigger downsides to the Trail is that all of the organization features somewhat limit this pack. The trekking pole specific attachment does not double as an ice axe holder, and with a z-style trekking pole the bungie attachment does not fit around all three pieces. Yet, there is a taller side mesh pocket that takes proper care of trekking poles. Also, the lack of compression straps on this pack forced it to hold weight awkwardly at both light and heavy loads.
This bag neither excelled nor failed in this category; weighing in at 1lb 9oz it's not the heaviest pack we tested, nor is it the lightest. There are lots of bells and whistles to this pack in the way of organization, which we love for travel, but that add to the base weight when hiking. The lack of a frame keeps it from being too heavy.
When loaded correctly and within the appropriate weight range, this pack is pretty comfy. It has broad padded shoulders and a cushy back panel that proved to be comfortable to a wide range of body types. However, if you get it out of its comfortable weight range or load the pack incorrectly, it loses some of its comfort. The fatter webbing used for the hip belt is more pleasing around the waist and more useful in weight distribution than many of the thinner belts on other packs we tested.
The slightly wider, padded shoulders make this pack more comfortable carrying 20lbs than the Gregory Z25; however, anything much heavier in this pack and the back paneling collapses. Due to the frameless structure, it collapses easily.
If you're looking for a great travel companion, or a school or work pack that you may do a bit of commuting with and could take out on a hike with friends, then you should consider this bag. We loved air travel with this pack, as all the additional pockets provide flawless organization. The inner side mesh pocket is great for keeping chargers separated from the magazines, tablet, notebooks, etc. kept in the main compartment. Opposite that pocket is an outside zippered side pocket that is great for wallets or boarding passes. A 13-inch laptop fits easily in the hydration compartment, and it can fit up to a 17-inch with no problem.
Made from sturdy nylon, this pack held up for the duration of our testing. We took it all over, from desert hikes in Arches National Park to the gulf beaches of Alabama, without much wear and tear.
During our 24-hour water test, this pack sat out in drizzling rain and overnight enduring snow. Everything remained dry after a light drizzle; however, during a lull in precipitation the fabric absorbed the moisture and almost all of the compartments became damp. This pack's contents were only slightly damp by the end of testing, though it was evident that water definitely seeps through the zippers. The good news is, this pack comes with a rain cover that stows away in its very own pocket, so you won't have to subject yours to the same kind of abuse.
Ease of Use
This pack easily fit all of the items used for our packing test, as well as a 13-inch laptop with plenty of room to spare. We love all the pockets for organization, but feel that some of the extra features limit this pack, such as the trekking pole attachments on the daisy chains.
The REI Trail 25 is one of our favorite carry-on travel packs that we used for this review. It's a perfect companion to keep you organized on plane or train, while transitioning from the tarmac to seeing sights or hitting the trails.
At just under $80, this pack offers a much sturdier option that our Best Buy winner, the REI Flash 18. Though if you're not as concerned about price, and are looking for a pack better suited to the office or classroom, you may also want to consider the Patagonia Refugio.
— Gentrye Houghton