REI Co-op Flash 55 - Women's Review
Cons: Fixed torso length, rigid feeling hip belt
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
Compare Similar Products
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Elizabeth Paashaus
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is commited to honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year. We buy all the products ourselves. We won't accept manufacturer's freebies. No ads. No "sponsored" content. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing.Learn More