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REI Co-op Flash 55 - Women's Review

A good option for quick overnight hikes and ultralight expeditions where weight matters
rei co-op flash 55 for women backpack review
Credit: REI Co-op
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Price:  $199 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  Lightweight, easy to access side pockets, removable pockets and straps
Cons:  Fixed torso length, rigid feeling hip belt
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
By Elizabeth Paashaus ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Sep 3, 2020
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
63
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 12
  • Comfort and Suspension - 45% 5.0
  • Organizational systems - 20% 8.0
  • Weight - 20% 9.0
  • Adjustability - 15% 4.0

Our Verdict

If you are looking for a lightweight pack to go with your weight-conscious tent and sleeping bag, the REI Flash 55 is a comfortable and versatile option. Very few packs give you the option to add and remove features to suit your personal packing style as the Flash 55 does. With removable pockets and straps, ultralighters will delight in being able to cut down their ounces even further and organization lovers will appreciate the fully loaded feature set. The Flash 55 is well-suited to lightweight trips and may not be the best for longer adventures unless the rest of your kit can stay under 30 pounds.

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Pros Lightweight, easy to access side pockets, removable pockets and strapsUltra comfortable, roomy, inexpensive, durable, can fit a bear can horizontally, low center of gravity, airy mesh frameComfortable and supportive, fully-featured with pockets and access points, adjustable torso and hip beltDurable, comfortable even with heavier loads, streamlined features, great attachment points at outside of pack, integrated rain coverTwo water bottle holsters, durable, lid converts to a daypack, includes raincover
Cons Fixed torso length, rigid feeling hip beltNot many bells and whistles, set torso adjustment points, no back stash pocketMesh pockets lack durabilityMain compartment is a little narrow, water bottle holster is awkward, requires thoughtful packingRigid foam padding on back, limited torso adjustment settings
Bottom Line A good option for quick overnight hikes and ultralight expeditions where weight mattersThis simple pack combines comfort, volume, and price; it will take you anywhere and won’t break the bankA comfortable and supportive suspension, a comprehensive feature set, and adjustability all in a lightweight packageA small, but mighty pack, built for high abrasion pursuits, with the comfort to help you to tackle rough terrain with easeUnique, simple, and thoughtful features make this pack a great pick for beginner backpackers and veterans alike
Rating Categories REI Co-op Flash 55... Osprey Renn 65 Gregory Maven 65L Osprey Kyte 46 REI Co-op Traverse 60
Comfort and Suspension (45%)
5.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
5.0
Organizational systems (20%)
8.0
6.0
7.0
6.0
9.0
Weight (20%)
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
5.0
Adjustability (15%)
4.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Specs REI Co-op Flash 55... Osprey Renn 65 Gregory Maven 65L Osprey Kyte 46 REI Co-op Traverse 60
Measured Weight 2.7 lbs 3.6 lbs 3.4 lbs 3.6 lbs 4.2 lbs
Volumes Available 55 liters 50, 65 liters 45, 55, 65 liters 36, 45 liters 32, 60 liters
Organization Compartments Lid, double side pockets, front pocket, hip belt pockets, shoulder strap phone pocket, main compartment Lid, side pockets, hip belt pockets, main compartment Lid with two pockets, front pocket, side pockets, hip belt pockets, main compartment Lid, mesh side pockets, hip belt pockets, lid pocket, front pocket, main compartment Lid, side pockets, hip belt pockets, main compartment
Access Top Top, bottom Top, side, bottom Top, bottom, both sides Top, bottom
Hydration Compatible Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Rain Cover Included Yes Yes Yes Yes
Women's Specific Features Women's specific fit Women's specific fit Women's specific fit Women's specific fit Women's specific fit
Sleeping bag Compartment No No Yes Yes Yes
Bear Can Compatible Yes - Vertical Yes - Vertical and Horizontal Yes - Vertical and Horizontal Yes - Vertical, barely Yes
Main Materials Ripstop nylon; Oxford nylon (bluesign® approved) 600D polyester Nylon 210D x 630D Nylon Dobby 300D recycled ripstop nylon
Sizes Available XS, S, M One size, with adjustable torso XS/S, S/M XS/S, S/M XS, XS Torso x M Hipbelt, S, M

Our Analysis and Test Results

REI often dabbles with ultralight equipment, and we think they have done a pretty good job with the REI Flash 55. While there are lighter packs on the market, this one serves a niche of people who appreciate the low 2.7-pound weight but don't want to sacrifice organizational pockets and straps. The Flash not only has the pockets, but many of them are removable for trips where you want to shave off every ounce you can.

Performance Comparison


rei co-op flash 55 for women backpack review - fall overnight trips are a great use for the rei flash 55.
Fall overnight trips are a great use for the REI Flash 55.
Credit: Adam Paashaus

Comfort & Suspension


For a lightweight pack, REI has incorporated a strong, stable suspension system. When fully loaded with up to 35 pounds, the weight is well distributed to the hips and doesn't sag onto your shoulders. Our testers feel that the padding is adequate but rigid and can cause discomfort when you aren't used to it. Some users love the prominent lumbar curve and find it supportive, while others feel like there is a watermelon pushing into their backs. As with many packs, comfort is going to depend on your unique body shape.

rei co-op flash 55 for women backpack review - this light pack carries close to the body and distributes loads well.
This light pack carries close to the body and distributes loads well.
Credit: Adam Paashaus

Organizational Systems


Organization versatility is where the Flash 55 shines. Our testers love the ability to take off the pockets that they find unnecessary and keep their favorites. Some people don't use hip belt pockets or exterior straps, and this is one of the only models that give you the option to take them on and off.

rei co-op flash 55 for women backpack review - the shoulder strap phone pocket is large enough for all but the...
The shoulder strap phone pocket is large enough for all but the bulkiest phones.
Credit: Adam Paashaus

The phone pocket on the shoulder strap is a bit of a novelty that some people seem to love and others don't care for. It is highly water-resistant, making it a very convenient place to keep your phone if you listen to music on the trail or use navigation apps. Still, we found that the top flap that secures with a magnet was continually opening itself up, doing away with any water protection that it had.

Water bottle side pockets are notorious for being hard to get bottles in and out of while wearing the pack, but the Flash has found a good solution. Instead of one pocket on each side, they have included two. One is smaller and sits closer to your back with a slight angle that helps you slip your bottle back in without angling so far forward that you bump your elbows.

rei co-op flash 55 for women backpack review - in all of our testing over the years, this pack has done the best...
In all of our testing over the years, this pack has done the best job with an angled bottle pocket. It's angled enough to help get the bottle in but not so angled that it interferes with your elbow.
Credit: Adam Paashaus

Weight


At 2.7 pounds, this model is lighter than most but still has a strong enough frame to carry moderate loads up to around 30 pounds. While the materials used are lightweight, they aren't so thin that we are concerned about durability. The only durability issue we have run across in testing and reading others' reviews is with the mesh water bottle pockets. They tend to tear somewhat easily, so be careful what you rub up against.

rei co-op flash 55 for women backpack review - for such a light pack, the suspension is sturdy and well-padded.
For such a light pack, the suspension is sturdy and well-padded.
Credit: Adam Paashaus

Adjustability


The Flash 55 has minimal ability to adjust, so you'll need to make sure it fits just right when you buy it. The torso length is fixed, so we recommend getting sized at your local outfitter. The shoulder strap padding is nice and long, meaning that even on broader chested women, there is enough padding to wrap under the arms.

Like many lightweight packs, the hip belt length is fixed as well. The padding comes fairly far around the pelvic bones of average-sized women, but larger-hipped women will find that it stops short of where they would like for comfort. The 1.5-inch webbing on the hip belt is better than thinner webbing but will still dig in uncomfortably if the gap between the hip padding is too long.

rei co-op flash 55 for women backpack review - while the padded section of the hip belt isn't extendable, the...
While the padded section of the hip belt isn't extendable, the 1.5-inch wide webbing is nice and long leaving a wide range of fit.
Credit: Adam Paashaus

Value


The mid-range price on the Flash 55 offers entry into ultralight gear for those not yet willing to drop the big bucks to save a few ounces. While you can find many packs that are lighter and carry just as well or a bit better, they typically will cost more. If you are ready to go lighter weight but can't justify the investment, check out this model for an option that might hit all the sweet spots for you.

Conclusion


The REI Flash 55 is a great entry-level ultralight pack due to its low price and comfort under loads that might be heavier than intended while you work out how to transition to ultralight backpacking. This also makes it a good choice for shorter trips when you may not have all the lightest gear, but your food weight is lower.
rei co-op flash 55 for women backpack review - the rei flash 55 is a budget option that approaches the ultralight...
The REI Flash 55 is a budget option that approaches the ultralight realm.
Credit: Adam Paashaus

Elizabeth Paashaus
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