The REI Flash 18 Pack is an extremely lightweight and versatile piece of travel gear. After using the pack for several months, I decided to write my very own REI Flash 18 Pack Review. I’ve been using the Flash 18 as a secondary backpack along with my Kelty Redwing 50. (You can read my review of the Kelty Redwing 50 here.) I usually travel with the Flash 18 on short day trips, tours and to school. The REI Flash 18 Pack can hold various travel gear such a jacket or a hydration system.
The main reason I bought the Flash 18 was because of its price, weight and size. It weighs 11 ounces, has a capacity of 18 liters and costs $35 on REI.com. The Flash 18 Pack is a lot like a more durable and comfortable version of a drawstring bag. Here is a list of things that I liked about the pack.
- Good for day trips
- Good price
- Sternum strap has a whistle
- Has a sleeve for holding a water bladder
- Fits a MacBook Air and other random things
- Appropriate for both urban and rural environments
- Has a little pocket in the front
- Really adjustable straps
I have read reviews where people have said that the pack isn’t durable, but I haven’t had any problems with it after 5 months. Also the material of the backpack is water resistant. It has been the perfect size for me to put my 13 inch MacBook Air along with a jacket, snacks and school stuff. I chose the black color, because I didn’t really want to stick out while traveling. When the pack is not in use I can easily roll it up where it won’t take up much space.
There are a lot of things that I like about the pack, but there are still improvements that can be made. Here’s a list of what I didn’t like or improvements that I think could be made.
- Rain can go in through the top
- Not very comfortable with loads heavier than 10 pounds
- Waist belt is not padded
- Only 2 pockets in the whole bag
- Straps aren’t extremely comfortable
- I would prefer it to be panel loading and with a zipper
- No compression straps
- No back air circulation
Almost always, good things come at costs. In this context, in order for the pack to be lightweight, luxuries such as more padded straps and more pockets are sacrificed. The light weight is mainly due to it being frameless and not really padded. The straps of the REI Flash 18 Pack have a very minimalist feel. They are like mesh, but are comfortable as long as you don’t overpack. This is the suspension view of the pack:
I am a fan of panel loading packs mainly because they make it easier to access the stuff on the bottom. Unfortunately for me this pack is top loading. I’m also not a huge fan of the closing mechanism. If the string thing were to break then it’s game over, and the pack won’t be able to close. My Flash 18 hasn’t broken, but I would just put that into consideration. The current closing mechanism always leaves a small hole on the top, which can allow water to get inside. A zipper would be easier to use and would also not allow any water to get inside the pack.
There are only two compartments and the water sleeve in the whole bag. There is the main compartment and a small mesh pocket in the inside of the bag. When the little pocket in the front is packed to the max it covers the opening of the pack making you have to take stuff out of the pocket to get large items out of the main area. It’s not a major problem, but it’s just a bit annoying. Here is a picture of the little pocket. (The pack is flipped inside out.)
Here is a picture of the sleeve.
The waist belt isn’t padded, but it’s fine for me. Being not padded saves weight.
Overall I would highly recommend this backpack. It doesn’t have that many features, but it is extremely good at being lightweight and useful. I did have some concerns with the pack but they were all minor ones.
Where to Get it:
REI Flash 18 Pack Ratings
Since I reviewed the Flash 18, REI has introduced a newer model, which improves the closure of the pack to prevent water from getting inside and to make it more weather proof in general. I haven’t tested the newer model, however I believe it is still generally similar to the version which I own. It’s been over a year and I’m still using my original Flash 18, which is more durable than I expected.
Do you have any questions about this pack? Leave your comment below and I’ll try to answer it as soon as possible.
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