REI Co-op Flash 22 Review
Cons: Uncomfortable with heavy loads, lacks durability
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REI Co-op Flash 22
$59.95 at REI
$79.95 at REI
|$70.00 at Amazon|
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$39.95 at REI
|$64.95 at Amazon|
Compare at 2 sellers
|Pros||Lightweight, only includes essential features, comfortable suspension for the weight||Simple, durable, versatile, inexpensive||Simple, lightweight, versatile||Affordable, minimalist design, lightweight, super packable||Lightweight, external accessed hydration or document compartment, breathable back panel and shoulder straps|
|Cons||Uncomfortable with heavy loads, lacks durability||No padded waist belt, heavy for the volume and features||A little small, lacks high-end features||Few extra features, thin shoulder straps and hip belt||Only 2 compression straps limits lashing opportunities, no ice axe loop, size is a bit small for long days, water bottle pockets are small|
|Bottom Line||This pack is an excellent value, providing all-around performance for light and fast activities at a bargain price||A simple, durable backpack for the casual to enthusiastic day hiker that is also suitable for commuting and multi-sport use||A simple and lightweight hiking backpack that serves a dual purpose with a laptop sleeve||A simple pack that's easy on the wallet, ultralight, and super popular||This is a simple daypack with everything you need for short hikes and for traveling|
|Rating Categories||REI Co-op Flash 22||REI Co-op Trail 25||Osprey Daylite Plus||REI Co-op Flash 18||Osprey Daylite|
|Ease of Use (15%)|
|Specs||REI Co-op Flash 22||REI Co-op Trail 25||Osprey Daylite Plus||REI Co-op Flash 18||Osprey Daylite|
|Volume||22 L||25 L||20 L||18 L||13 L|
|Measured Weight||14.0 oz||30.9 oz||20.6 oz||9.5 oz||16.0 oz|
|Back Construction||Removable foam pad||Contured, foam pad||Mesh over vented foam||Simple foam pad||Mesh and soft foam|
|Hydration Compatibility||Internal hydration sleeve||Internal hydration sleeve||Internally accessed sleeve, holds up to 3L, bladder not included||Internal hydration sleeve||Sleeve for 2L bladder or tablet, bladder not included|
|Hip Belt||Broad, not padded.||3/4" webbing||3/4" webbing, removable||3/4" webbing, removable||3/4" webbing, removable|
|Number of pockets||5||6||6||2||3|
|Description of Pockets||1 main compartment, 2 mesh side bottle pouches, 1 side zippered pocket, 1 top pouch||3 stretchy mesh side, 1 top zippered, 1 main compartment zippered, 1 bottom zippered for rain cover||2 stretchy mesh side, 1 interior padded laptop sleeve, 1 back zippered with internal mesh dividers and key clip, 1 back expandable waterbottle, 1 back zippered.||1 cinched main compartment, 1 outer zippered||2 side mesh pockets, 1 front pocket|
|Materials||Nylon||Nylon||Nylon||Nylon||210D nylon and 600D packcloth|
|Outside Carry Options||Tool loop and bungee holder||Daisy chain, ice axe, pole loops, sleeping pad straps (bottom and top)||Side compression strap||1 exterior daisy chain, ice-axe loop||1 strap on each side, small water bottle pockets|
|Other Notable Features||Removeable foam back panel doubles as sit pad, removeable sternum, removeable Packmod bungee||None||Compatible as an attachment to other Osprey packs||Removeable foam back panel doubles as sit pad, removeable sternum and hip belt straps||Attaches to several large Osprey backpacks|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Through months of testing, we found that no feature on the Flash 22 was extraneous. The pocket arrangement, suspension, minimalist frame, and lightweight materials all function well together. While we wouldn't recommend it for loads much greater than about 15 pounds for regular use (although we've carried more in our Flash packs), it works great for trail running, hiking, mountain biking, climbing, and even commuting, as it fits a 14-inch laptop snugly in the hydration sleeve. For travel, the abundance of pockets and loops makes it perfect to use as a personal bag that can be tucked away in a larger bag when needed. The updated version of this pack includes a lid pocket, a wider fabric hip belt, and moved from webbing-based daisy chains to thin cords.
The Flash 22 is a one-size-fits-most pack, but we found that it fits fine on testers ranging from 5 feet, 5 inches tall, and 110 pounds to 6 feet, 5 inches tall, and 225 pounds. We liked that we could cinch it way down and clip the hip belt around our midsection to stabilize the pack for running, or let out the shoulder straps a bit and place the hip belt around our iliac crest to take some weight off our shoulders for hiking.
The Flash 22 makes some improvements over its younger sibling, the Flash 18, primarily featuring a more robust suspension and padding. The Flash 22 shoulder straps and back panel feature a set of mesh pads that provide good padding at a lightweight, but only minimal ventilation. The shoulder pads are fairly thin but have wrap-around edge support to disperse the load and keep the fabric from folding or bunching up. This wrap-around padding on the shoulders also acts as the sleeve for the hydration hose. The sternum strap is removable like the previous version, however, the hip belt is not non-removable. The hip belt comfortably forms atop your iliac crest and takes some weight off, more comfortably than the thin webbing hip belt typical of a pack in this weight class.
The Flash 22 doesn't ventilate well as well as most other daypacks, unfortunately. Packs with trampoline-style mesh back panels ventilate much better. The overall lightweight design and affordable price help make up for the lack of ventilation.
The Flash 22 has no built-in compression straps for adjusting the load, unlike other similarly sized daypacks. However, it does have four perimeter loops around the back panel, two upper daisy chains, and one lower loop on each side of the back of the pack. These allow you to add cordage or straps for compression and carrying bulky items if desired. We loved all these loops for carrying things, but don't expect this pack to be able to compress down well. Because the pack is so small, we didn't find the lack of compression to cause shifting or slipping during dynamic activities. However, with bulky loads, we did wish for some compression to bring the load closer to our backs. We added a small bit of cordage to test this out and found that while it works for holding bulky objects, the pack doesn't have a stiff enough frame to compress without buckling.
The outside attachment loops on the Flash 22 can be outfitted with some useful cordage to add functionality for compressing the pack or strapping on bulky items like camera tripods. Using some thin cord and a few knots the daisy chain points on the pack can create a makeshift compression system. Using a bowline on one end, weaving back and forth through the daisy chains, and finishing with a double half hitch or truckers hitch is about all you'll need. This same cord can be round through gear, over it to secure to pack, or clipped to add to the simple versatility of this ultralight daypack.
The Flash 22 is an ultralight daypack, with thin materials, small buckles and straps, and only the necessary features. It weighs in at a scant 14 ounces for its 23-liter volume, for a super low weight to volume ratio of 0.60 ounces per liter.
This pack saves weight by allowing you to add on what you need with all the modular loops and daisy chains but doesn't force you to carry unnecessary bells and whistles. For this price, we would normally expect a very simple pack with few features, but the Flash 22 delivers lots of nice touches that don't add much weight.
We used this pack for running, hiking, cycling, and as a carry-on flying cross country. We appreciated its pocket design for all these activities, and its lightweight and slender profile kept it in a nice concise package.
For outdoor pursuits, we could usually stuff this pack with all the layers, water bottles, and gear we needed. However, we hesitated to bring this pack snowshoeing, or when we had to carry gear for other people, as it quickly became uncomfortable with heavy loads. This limits it to activities like mountain biking, hiking, scrambling, trail running, climbing, and other generally fair-weather or light-and-fast adventures. We liked the versatility of the Flash 22 over more running-specific ultralight packs, which didn't work as well for things like commuting or longer hikes.
We appreciated the light and flexible frame on the Flash 22 for the freedom of movement it provided. It narrowly edged out most of the other light packs in this review in terms of freedom of movement during our standardized calisthenics testing due to its thin and light shoulder straps. For biking or climbing, this pack stays out of the way and lets you do your thing.
We love the REI Co-op Flash series of packs for travel. The Flash 22 stuffs easily underneath an airplane seat, can be rolled up and stuffed in a carry-on for more baggage-restricting airlines, and has two zippered pockets in addition to the main compartment for organization. We strapped it to a car headrest for a couple of weeks camping in New Zealand and used it as our day-to-day gear organizer and closet.
Ease of Use
The REI Co-op Flash 22 benefits from years of design refinements to REI's pack lineup. The mesh stretch pockets are easy to get into and hold things well. The more secure zippered pockets are small but work well for organizing small gear like headlamps or water filters. While it lacks hip belt pockets, it's easy to slip this pack on and off to get to the zippered or mesh pockets while the pack is still on.
The outer attachments on this pack were some of our favorite of the packs we tested. The daisy chains and ice axe holder securely hold an ice axe or trekking poles, but could also run through the loop of a Nalgene clipping it in to secure a water bottle stuffed in the mesh side pocket.
The main compartment is equipped with a hydration sleeve capable of holding up to a 3-liter hydration bladder (although 3 liters of water takes up a lot of space in a pack this small). There are also two small pockets and a keychain clip on the hydration reservoir pocket. We liked these small pockets, but our larger testers had a hard time fitting their hands into them.
For commuting, we were able to slide our 14-inch laptop into the hydration sleeve easily, and we appreciated the two small zippered pockets for holding a notebook and pens. At crowded meetings, we could slip this bag under our chair, while other, bulkier bags just got in the way.
The Flash 22 now features a new side zippered pouch. A rather hidden feature but easy to access by swinging the pack around the front to access the pocket. This hidden spot may be helpful to store more sensitive items like a phone or a wallet, though not big enough for small tablets or books.
REI uses the same thin ripstop nylon on both the Flash 18 and Flash 22, with some thicker nylon pack cloth on the bottom. The outer pocket creates two layers of material on the outside of the pack, and the lid adds another two layers to the top, making this packable to take a little more abuse than the Flash 18.
Most other packs in this review use much burlier nylon that will probably last longer. Unless you plan on canyoneering or hauling this bag over rock, it should hold up just fine through normal use. And if you do tear it up, its simple design makes it easy to patch with some Tear-Aid or Tenacious Tape.
In our hose testing, we found that the top lid of the Flash 22 worked only slightly better than the Flash 18 at keeping out water. Without an included rain cover, and without the structured frame to support one, this pack is alright for short rain showers but will get your gear drenched in a long rainstorm. Think of it as being a pack that dries out very fast, and, as a top-loader, works great with a dry bag pack liner or garbage bag to keep your gear dry on a rainy day.
We were blown away by the performance of this pack given its low price. After many years, REI has really dialed in the design and feature set, and we can honestly say that we hope it doesn't change much. At an ultralightweight, it delivers top-tier performance, features that we find ourselves using frequently, and the versatility to accompany day after day in the mountains. All these positive characteristics come at an absolute steal, making this a solid choice for our Best Buy award.
Our Best Buy award winner performs well in all metrics other than durability, and at a lower price than the vast majority of packs in our review. After years of refinement, the Flash 22 offers functional and streamlined features, a remarkably comfortable suspension considering its minimalism, and a useful design, all at a crazy lightweight.
— Jacob Clark
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