Here on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state, we had record-breaking wet weather for the start of 2016. Once Mother Nature finally took a break from flinging back-to-back low-pressure systems at our part of the world, an opportunity to tryout the REI Flash 65 pack came together.
My partner Lauren and I took advantage of a three-day weather window to test out the Flash 65 pack along one of our favorite wintertime haunts: the Bogachiel River, in Olympic National Park. So we headed west and hit the trail with enough gear to allow us to live comfortably for a few days. (Note: Our weather window consisted of rain showers, an optimistic change from floods and landslide warnings.)
With the Flash fully loaded to its 65-liter capacity (size medium), I was quite surprised with how well the side straps compressed and stabilized the load. The REI Uplift™ system not only pulls the weight in but up, closer to my center of gravity so it stayed comfortable after many hours of hiking each day.
Additionally, the harness consisting of the REI Packnit™ suspended back mesh panel, 3D contoured hip belt and padded mesh shoulder straps was appreciated for carrying a full load. At 5'10" with a 32" waist, I found the medium-size pack fit me very well. The REI Flash 65 does have an adjustable torso; however, with my build no adjustments were needed.
The pack stayed comfortable after many hours of hiking day after day. Interestingly enough, there was one time something didn’t feel right…The time when Lauren loaded it with 10 pounds of rocks, when I was wasn’t looking! (For better success with this prank, it’s better to add the rocks slowly, not all at once, but you didn’t hear that from me.)
There are several other features that stand out in the well-thought-out design of the REI Flash 65. The combination of lighter-weight 100-denier ripstop material throughout the body and beefier 420-denier nylon fabric on the bottom keeps a balance between durability and a low weight. An internal reservoir sleeve, two routing ports and a hose clip on the shoulder strap are all designed to accommodate a hydration system. My standard 100-ounce hydration bladder fit nicely into the dedicated sleeve.
Twin tool loops and tool keepers are strategically located on the back. In my situation I carried my pack-raft paddles with these keepers. Ice axes, tripods, trekking poles and anything similar could be attached with the user-friendly tool-keeper design. Spacious hipbelt pockets are constructed of a stretchy mesh and easily fit a phone, snacks or headlamp.
My favorite feature besides the load-carrying abilities is the J-shape zipper on the front panel of the main compartment. The J zipper lets me pull something from deep within the main compartment without having to undo the top lid and buckles. Last but not least, there is the ever-so-important key keeper clip on the underside pocket of the top lid.
So there you have it, a very good pack that is lightweight yet also durable and comfortable, and which balances and secures a fairly heavy load. Just remember that if heading out with a potential prankster, make sure to occasionally check all pockets if leaving your pack unattended. Get ready to take advantage of your next decent weather window.
Shop the REI Flash 65 pack only at REI.com.