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REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 Review

With its tapered shape and backpacking pack structure, this is the perfect bag for the outdoor adventurist that doesn't want to spend an arm and leg
REI Co-op Ruckpack 40
Photo: REI Co-op
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $149 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  Tapered for easy loading, comfortable harness system, adventure friendly, very light
Cons:  Does not sit upright, laptop sleeve unpadded
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
By Hayley Thomas ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 25, 2021
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83
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 13
  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Features - 25% 8
  • Packing & Accessibility - 25% 7
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 15% 10
  • Durability - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The tapered backpacking pack shape of the REI Ruckpack 40 makes it the perfect piece of travel gear to wear straight from the airport to the base of a rock climb. Two zippers that span from the top to the bottom of the face make it very easy to get in and out of. The tapered shape allows heavy gear to fall to the bottom while the organizational side pockets provide space for your plane snacks and electronics. What the pack lacks in business travel features, like a padded laptop sleeve, it makes up for with outdoor features like a water bladder pocket and daisy chains. The Ruckpack does push the limits of acceptable carry-on size, but the harness system tucks away with ease if it must be checked.

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REI Co-op Ruckpack 40
Awards Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $149 List
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Pros Tapered for easy loading, comfortable harness system, adventure friendly, very lightVersatile, sleek, camera box, vented wet shoe compartmentVersatile, duffel-like ease of use, simplistic features, max volume carryGood suspension, lightweight, affordable, gobbles gearRemovable day pack, durable, excellent weight per volume
Cons Does not sit upright, laptop sleeve unpaddedNo waist belt or sternum strap, no water bottle holder, back panel not very breathable, tallSoft body sags when not stuffed, harness system not fit for long adventuresSquare design protrudes from back, too big for some airlines checked baggageBulky, shallow water bottle pockets, too many dangly bits
Bottom Line With its tapered shape and backpacking pack structure, this is the perfect bag for the outdoor adventurist that doesn't want to spend an arm and legWith its convertible camera cube, ventilated shoe compartment, and padded device sleeve this travel bag was made for the outdoor photographer on the goA well thought out, user-friendly, and versatile pack fortified by an Ironclad guarantee and cutting edge company ethicsThis is a durable and easy to pack travel backpack, but may be bulky for some airlines or usesThis two-in-one pack is the perfect lightweight option for the adventurer looking to be ready for anything
Rating Categories REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 Mammut Seon Cargo 35L Patagonia Black Hol... Osprey Porter 46 Osprey Fairview 55
Comfort (25%)
9.0
8.0
5.0
7.0
6.0
Features (25%)
8.0
7.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
Packing & Accessibility (25%)
7.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Volume To Weight Ratio (15%)
10.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
10.0
Durability (10%)
8.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
Specs REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 Mammut Seon Cargo 35L Patagonia Black Hol... Osprey Porter 46 Osprey Fairview 55
Volume of Main Compartment 40L 35L 45L 46L 55L
Measured Weight 2.10 lbs 2.10 lbs 3.35 lbs 3.23 lbs 3.10 lbs
Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better) 19.05 16.67 13.43 14.24 17.74
Detachable Daypack? No No No No Yes
Dimensions (inches) 24 x 13 x 10 24 x 14 x 9 22.8 x 8.6 x 14.5 21 x 14 x 12 24.6 x 13 x 11.8
Carry-on Size? (22 x 14 x 9 in) No Yes Yes, if squished Must be cinched down No
Dimensions When Stuffed (inches) 22 x 9 x 14 24 x 14 x 9 22 x 14 x 10 22 x 14 x 12 25 x 8 x 14
Fabrics recycled nylon ripstop and recycled polyester lining (bluesign approved) 600D waterproof polyester, 840D ballistic nylon Polyester ripstop with TPU laminate 420D nylon hex diamond ripstop, 420HD nylon packcloth 210D nylon mini hex diamond ripstop
Frame Type Ventilated mesh Foam padding Foam backpanel Stiff foam Padded, venilated mesh
Access Type Top loading Panel loading Clamshell design Panel loading, zips all the way open Large U-zip
Number of Pockets 6 zip, 7 no zip, 2 water bottle 3 small zippered, 1 ventilated, 1 camera comparment, 1 main 9 zip, 8 no zip 7 zip, 8 no zip 5 zip, 2 water bottle
Laptop Sleeve Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Waist Belt Type Padded None None Padded Padded
Sternum Strap Yes Yes Yes Yes, whistle Yes
Different sizes? Yes No Yes No Yes
Volume Options 18L, 28L, 40L, 65L 35L 26L, 45L 30L, 46L, 65L 40L, 55L, 70L

Our Analysis and Test Results

The comfortable Ruckpack 40 will get you from the airport to the crag without having to unpack your bag. With its thick foam back panel, hip belt, and slightly curved shoulder straps, you'll find that you can carry quite the hefty load without feeling weighed down. Its backpacking pack shape and front-loading option allow for maximum gear carry potential while its organizational features offer just enough places to put your snacks and electronics for a flight or a road trip. The harness system tucks neatly into a zippered flap, which we appreciate as it pushes the limits of carry-on size.

Performance Comparison


The REI Ruckpack is the perfect pack for the outdoor enthusiast on a...
The REI Ruckpack is the perfect pack for the outdoor enthusiast on a budget.
Photo: Hayley Thomas
.

Comfort


When we first placed the Ruckpack on our shoulders, we felt as though the hip belt sat a little high, and the rigid padding on our lower backs was too hard. This left us feeling tender after hauling heavy gear around for extended periods of time. It wasn't long until we realized that this pack is like a nice pair of boots; it just requires a little time to break in. Within one week and a few long hikes, it fit like a glove. Similar to memory foam, it form-fits to the body. Like a good backpacking pack, the harness system takes a little tweaking, but once the adjustments are made, it is very comfortable, even when loaded with gear.


The padded shoulder straps have a slight S-curve, which redirects them closer to your neck rather than far out on your shoulders. This ensures that there is no unnecessary choking of the armpits or forcing of the shoulders back. The adjustable sternum strap helps redistribute some of the weight from your shoulders to your chest, and the generous hip belt is firm yet flexible. Once you get used to the placement, it is quite comfortable, but if you can't stand high waist belts or you have a particularly long torso, then this pack may not be right for you.

The newest version to the ruckpack no longer bumps into the back of...
The newest version to the ruckpack no longer bumps into the back of your head when stuffed to the gills.
Photo: Hayley Thomas

The back panel is padded and breathable. The mesh portion on the top two-thirds consists of four ridged foam sections, covered by mesh squares to allow for optimal airflow. The bottom third, which sits on the lower back, is made up of two hard foam squares. These are a little less breathable, but their function is to offer ample support to your lower back since that is most likely where your heavy gear sits. After a few hikes with heavy climbing gear in the base, we found ourselves very grateful for the harder foam sections. The Ruckpack 40 comes equipped with a removable plastic frame placed inside a zipper compartment in the back panel, which doubles as a laptop sleeve and a space for a water bladder. This plastic frame offers a little more structure to the pack and keeps items from poking you in the back.

The hard foam at the base of the pack proved very comfortable after...
The hard foam at the base of the pack proved very comfortable after breaking it in.
Photo: Hayley Thomas

REI made this pack gender-specific. While we only performed hands-on testing with the women's version, they do have a men's version, which we did a bit of research on. The men's and women's versions really only differ in the way they fit larger and smaller frames. If you are a larger framed human, you may consider the men's version, and if you are more on the petite side of the spectrum, go for the women's. We had humans of all genders and sizes try the women's pack, and as long as you are okay with the hip belt sitting a little high, most of our testers found it very comfortable.

The hip belt of the women's pack sits a little high on our main...
The hip belt of the women's pack sits a little high on our main testers 5'10" frame, but after acclimating, we found it to be quite comfortable!
Photo: Hayley Thomas

The Ruckpack is tapered in shape, which allows for heavy items to fall to the base and stay there. We took this travel backpack out climbing and camping with us and just loved how everything heavy stayed close to our body at the base of the pack. Not only is this the most comfortable and efficient way of carrying hefty gear, but it helps to keep lighter, more fragile goods like snacks and electronics happily floating out of harm's way at the top of the pack.

The tapered shape of the REI Ruckpack allows for heavy gear to fall...
The tapered shape of the REI Ruckpack allows for heavy gear to fall to the bottom of the pack.
Photo: Hayley Thomas

Features


REI kept it fairly simple and minimalistic as far as features go, but they did a great job of supplying the Ruckpack with all the necessities. From easy access pockets, to mesh zippered compartments and a full side of mini organizational pockets for smaller travel trinkets like pens, phones, and earbuds, this pack has just the right number of nooks and crannies. One feature a lot of travel-to-outdoor-adventure packs lack is a secure, easy-access pocket for valuable on-the-go items like passports or wallets, but the Ruckpack snuck one in. We would have preferred a more padded laptop sleeve, though.


This bag is packed with well-placed pockets. One of the side panels opens up to a wall of smaller, more specific sleeves. Within the side panel, there is also a hidden zipper for your valuable on-the-go items like cash or your passport. The fact that it is a pocket within a pocket offers additional security. The water bottle pockets have been improved upon significantly as well since the last update. They are deeper and stretchier than before. The brain pocket is a great place for small snacks on the road or on a hike. There is a smaller, more secure mesh pocket on the underside of the brain, which can only be accessed from the main compartment which is great for your valuables. The main compartment also has a laptop/water bladder sleeve. If you choose to put your laptop in here, we recommend that you place it in a separate padded sleeve first as the one built into the bag is quite loose and lacks cushioning. The main compartment is one big bucket-style space, which we love for gear travel. There is also one more large mesh zippered pocket which spans the entire opening flap of the main compartment. This is a great spot for dirty clothes, undergarments, and swimwear or, if you are packed to the gills with gear, you can stuff all your clothing in there to keep it separate.

The Ruckpack has plenty of nifty organizational features for all...
The Ruckpack has plenty of nifty organizational features for all your favorite travel necessities, we especially love the cable keepers.
Photo: Hayley Thomas

The Ruckpack has a few other notable features like its lockable zippers, daisy chain, and a rainfly. The daisy chain is a great place to clip your stinky climbing shoes or muddy hiking boots while out camping. The rainfly is hidden in a velcro pocket on the underside of the pack. This is also where the harness system cover lives.

Details like the hydration bladder straw holder and the tuck-away...
Details like the hydration bladder straw holder and the tuck-away back panel sleeve really give the Ruckpack a leg up.
Photo: Hayley Thomas

Packing & Accessibility


This pack is the perfect balance of easy access and security. It is definitely geared toward the outdoor enthusiast, so if you are looking for a solid business travel backpack, then you might want to take a look at some of the other options we reviewed. The plethora of intuitively placed compartments are easily accessible, and the option to top or front load proved useful time and time again. The tapered shape allows for full visibility into the pack when top loading and who doesn't love a hidden wallet pocket?


Front-loading just makes sense for travel bags, but sometimes top loading is better when you're hauling gear. The Ruckpack does a great job of offering you both. The zipper on the front of the pack zips all the way down to the base from the top, which is where the front-loading option comes from. This option is great for packing or searching for something you haphazardly threw in the main compartment. The option to top load the pack comes with the compression straps on the sides. Both sides, right above the water bottle pockets, have compression straps that cross over the main compartment zipper. During our research, we came across mixed reviews regarding these straps. Some people feel that they are in the way and create more work to get into the pack. We, on the other hand, love the placement of these straps because they allowed us to only half-open the front-loading main compartment when we wanted to top load.

When fastened, the compression straps block the zippers from fully...
When fastened, the compression straps block the zippers from fully unzipping, allowing the us to top load rather than front load the pack.
Photo: Hayley Thomas

The tapered shape of the Ruckpack allows for heavy gear to gather in the base organically. This is generally the part of the pack closest to your body and allows for lighter stuff to sit on the top. This shape, paired with the easy access brain pocket and the front or top loading option, are our three main reasons we like this pack for traveling with gear. The soft sac-like body of the Ruckpack allows for the user to really stuff it to the gills, and small organizational pockets surround the main compartment making them very easy to access. It is very important to ensure that your valuables are safe, but sometimes you need them to be accessible when traveling by air. We love the sneaky yet easy access zipper pocket in the side panel for our passport, cash, and cellphone.

This sneaky zipper pocket is a great spot to hide your valuables.
This sneaky zipper pocket is a great spot to hide your valuables.
Photo: Hayley Thomas

Volume to Weight Ratio


The Ruckpack scores very highly in this department. It weighs in at a whopping 2 pounds and offers 40 liters of packing space, making it one of our best performing in the Volume to Weight metric. This is a significant improvement from the previous version, which weighed roughly 4 pounds.


When the hip belt, shoulder, chest straps, and — most importantly — the load lifters are properly adjusted, the Ruckpack feels even lighter, which is great considering you're probably carrying a bunch of heavy gear.

This pack is light as a feather, which is a big improvement from the...
This pack is light as a feather, which is a big improvement from the previous Ruckpack
Photo: Hayley Thomas

Durability


The Bluesign-approved recycled nylon shell and recycled polyester lining may not be as durable as some of the other fabrics in our test suite, but it definitely gets the job done, and good on REI for using the trusty YKK zippers, which prove durable time and time again.


From our experience, this pack did great. The only reason it receives a slightly lower score in comparison to the higher-rated packs in our lineup is because of fabric choices. If you are looking for a pack that is going to last you a lifetime, this may not be the right one, but depending on how you treat it, this pack could keep you company on many adventures to come.

The Ruckpack may not have been built to last a lifetime but it sure...
The Ruckpack may not have been built to last a lifetime but it sure held up to what we put it through!
Photo: Hayley Thomas

Value


This versatile and thoughtfully constructed travel backpack is a great deal. Our gear sat nicely in the base of the pack, while our valuables stayed tucked away in their designated compartments. For those looking to go the distance via plane, car, or bus, and then get a little further off the radar by foot, this pack is a great option that won't break the bank.

Conclusion


The overall design of the REI Ruckpack 40 makes it a more than viable option for those who travel in search of outdoor adventures. The front and top-loading options work flawlessly for packing and carrying outdoor gear, and all the nifty pockets make finding your belongings a breeze. This pack teeters on the line of acceptable carry-on size, but you can check it worry-free, as the harness system will be safely tucked away behind its designated zipper flap. This pack is a great option for those seeking outdoor adventure on a budget.

If you're in search of a pack that looks good in the city and...
If you're in search of a pack that looks good in the city and functions well in the outdoors then look no further!
Photo: Hayley Thomas

Hayley Thomas