REI Co-op Traverse 32 Review
Cons: Non-adjustable frame, large size for minimalist outings
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
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REI Co-op Traverse 32
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|Pros||Comfortable and stable, intuitive and functional design, modular set-up, utilizes recycled materials||Tons of features, fully adjustable, comfortable, well ventilated, separate hydration compartment||Lightweight, only includes essential features, comfortable suspension for the weight||Simple, lightweight, versatile||Affordable, minimalist design, lightweight, super packable|
|Cons||Non-adjustable frame, large size for minimalist outings||Runs small, side mesh pockets are debatably small||Uncomfortable with heavy loads, lacks durability||A little small, lacks high-end features||Few extra features, thin shoulder straps and hip belt|
|Bottom Line||Top comfort and stability make this pack the right fit for hauling your gear on any outdoor excursion||This pack offers a time tested versatile design that is ready for any adventure||This pack is an excellent value, providing all-around performance for light and fast activities at a bargain price||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|
|Rating Categories||REI Co-op Traverse 32||Osprey Talon 22||REI Co-op Flash 22||Osprey Daylite Plus||REI Co-op Flash 18|
|Ease of Use (15%)|
|Specs||REI Co-op Traverse 32||Osprey Talon 22||REI Co-op Flash 22||Osprey Daylite Plus||REI Co-op Flash 18|
|Volume||32 L||22 L||22 L||20 L||18 L|
|Measured Weight||41.0 oz||30.7 oz||14.0 oz||20.6 oz||9.5 oz|
|Back Construction||Contured, foam pad||Vented, contoured||Removable foam pad||Mesh over vented foam||Simple foam pad|
|Hydration Compatibility||Internal hydration sleeve, hook and loop attachment point||Externally accessed sleeve, holds up to 3L, bladder not included||Internal hydration sleeve||Internally accessed sleeve, holds up to 3L, bladder not included||Internal hydration sleeve|
|Hip Belt||1 3/8" webbing, countoured padding, ventilated outer layer||Broad, padded, with pockets||Broad, not padded.||3/4" webbing, removable||3/4" webbing, removable|
|Number of pockets||7||10||5||6||2|
|Description of Pockets||1 main combo top-loader/side panel zip, 1 internal mesh w/ overlap closure (inside of lid), 1 external zip on top of lid, 2 mesh side bottle w/ button closure/expansion, 2 oversized hipbelt zip||1 main compartment zippered, 1 stretchy mesh shoulder strap pouch, 2 waist zippered, 2 side stretchy mesh, 1 back stretchy mesh, 1 top zippered, 1 open hydration reservoir pocket behind back panel, 1 internal mesh compartment zipper||1 main compartment, 2 mesh side bottle pouches, 1 side zippered pocket, 1 top pouch||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|
|Outside Carry Options||Trekking pole lash points, ice axe attachments, daisy chains,attachment loops, compression straps||Bungee helmet tab, blinker light patch, ice axe loop and bungee holder, front-side pole carry bungee loops||Tool loop and bungee holder||Side compression strap||1 exterior daisy chain, ice-axe loop|
|Other Notable Features||Steel frame w/ 1 internal stay, hydration tube holder on shoulder strap, included rain cover, water bottle pockets angled forward to allow on the go access||Blinker patch, front-side pole carry loops||Removeable foam back panel doubles as sit pad, removeable sternum, removeable Packmod bungee||Compatible as an attachment to other Osprey packs||Removeable foam back panel doubles as sit pad, removeable sternum and hip belt straps|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The REI Co-op Traverse 32 brings a lot to the table as a new contender. Built with the same ideas behind the existing Traverse line of packs, the Traverse 32 takes a tried and true piece of equipment and adds some upgrades, making this an easy choice for a hiking backpack. This model is designed with big-pack features in a small, well-balanced package. It is well thought out to handle hardy loads and to stay comfortable and ergonomic during any number of activities and movements, just like its larger predecessor but manages to do all of this in a smaller, more streamlined package. During short backpacking trips, winter treks with snowshoes and crampons, huge day hikes, and even tossed in some commutes and beach trips, we found that this pack was able to be there for whatever we needed.
This pack leads the way in comfort and stability. With a strong and light wireframe and an internal perimeter hoop, and ample but not overdone padding, you can feel confident bringing this one along all day.
Replacing the Traverse 35 in the REI lineup, the Traverse 32 switches up the formula and evolves the existing designs into a highly functional and solidly streamlined pack. REI chose to replace the mesh suspension back panel with a padded and shaped foam system when updating the previous model. While this might sound like old styling in a world of new tech, it does wonders for the pack's comfort. The well-planned placement of the vented padding allows much of the pack to rest off the back, even leaving open channels and spacing between the sections of padding on the shoulders and in the lumbar, creating airflow and reducing hotspots.
This pack hugs the body and moves with you, keeping everything stable all the while. When you get into sketchy terrain, you can feel fully confident as you bend and shift that the pack will make those same movements with you. Handling moderate to heavy loads with ease, you can push it on your excursions, no matter where they take you.
The Traverse 32 is a bit heavy compared to some of the other daypacks we've tested. That being said, even with a full load, the weight distribution and pack stability help us overlook that fact.
The 300-Denier recycled ripstop nylon used to build this pack might be heavier than the more minimalist designed contenders, but with that comes peace of mind that the Traverse can take a beating and come back swinging another day.
While the Traverse 32 has the comfort and capacity to go almost anywhere, it often might not be the best suited for more specialized usages. If you are doing serious climbing, riding a bike, or taking the subway, this may not be your first choice. This pack can be your best friend on any of your trekking style excursions, no matter the season, but should you really need a use specific gear hauler on your back; another choice could be best.
We will say the Traverse 32 is more versatile than its predecessor, the Traverse 35, and can be handy in limited use in your climbing, cycling, and commuting needs. While the rigid frame may hinder these applications, the other features allow for a far greater range of motion than expected for a pack of this style and size. The hip belt has a separation in the center, allowing each side to swing with your movements separately while the shoulder harness allows for good mobility without feeling restriction in the arms or the neck. Still, this pack is best for carrying those medium to heavy gear loads, and while it can be used for many purposes, those aside from straightforward seasonal trekking might be best in limited capacities.
Ease of Use
Having a full feature set without becoming too technical or complicated is a fine line to walk for an all-purpose daypack, and the REI team found that sweet spot when making the Traverse 32. Attention to detail and ergonomics make this pack an absolute pleasure to carry.
The features of the Traverse work smoothly as a system, unencumbered by one another and straightforward to operate. This has pick-up-and-go practicality that makes it a pleasure to use. Smaller features like a clip for a hydration bladder tube on the shoulder harness are nice perks for minimally added weight that make you realize REI truly thought this one through for the end-user in their design process. While this pack does have top loader access and functionality, it also adds a full side zip for the main compartment. On fully loaded outings, the little bonus makes getting in and out of your gear a smooth process on the go, never having to fully unpack to get to something you may need. If extra external zippers are a concern for water resistance, there is no need to fret. REI includes a very effective rain cover that is smartly designed with elastic loops to attach over each side of the hip belt, and a back pad strap, all of which combine to keep your rain cover perfectly in place while still allowing lip and top loader access when needed along.
One of our favorite features that stayed with the Traverse as it transformed anew from the previous model is the stretch side pockets. Forward-facing at an easily accessible angle, these pockets allow for on-the-go reach to water bottles on either side. The luxury of not having to remove your pack or struggle to reach your arm at an inhuman angle for your water while on an excursion added big points to how easy to use the Traverse is. Additionally, these two pockets also have a snap button partial closure which secures a larger 32-ounce bottle in place or allows for a nice snug fit of a small or soft-sided bottle. The hip belt pockets have an outer stretch mesh that is a very generous size. You can fit a ton in there, including a lot of larger smartphones and GPS units, leaving you able to have some of your most important small gear or snacks right there with you on the fly.
With boatloads of attachment points, the Traverse allows for a wide array of gear to come along for the ride. While you may want a mountaineering-specific pack for serious alpine outings, the pack can still hang for some more casual summits. An ice axe loop doubles as a holder for trekking poles when coupled with an elastic hook closure higher up on the pack. Daisy chains along both sides, an ample external stretch pocket, a traditional lid with straps connecting to the body, and the remaining modular straps let you add what you need where you need it, making the Traverse an easily customizable and easy to use pack.
Tough nylon materials make this a durable tough as nails build. We have tested packs with similar materials over the years, and they can always keep up with whatever we seem to throw at them. Where the previous model combined 200 and 400-Denier materials, the Traverse 32 makes things simple and brings the main body built of only 300-Denier recycled ripstop nylon, keeping the pack strong all around. Another change comes from REI removing most of the mesh from the Traverse 35, including the suspension back panel, leaving the Traverse 32 far more durable and streamlined. The new kid on the block brings some well-thought-out durability, and we think this one is made to last. While we noted that REI is utilizing recycled materials, it should be mentioned that these are also bluesign® approved materials. Seeing conscientiously inclined efforts from outdoor manufactures is a great trend, and we encourage everyone to do their part in making greener decisions in their outdoor lifestyles.
We took the Traverse through the snow and ice, through heavy rain, and even a slip or two into moving water. That wasn't enough, and we like to really test our gear to the limit, so we gave this pack a nice long shower. With the rain cover on, it really performed well, both with smaller and full loads. Without the cover, the main compartment stayed dry very, other than the side zip of the main compartment. While top loaders offer more ample rain protection, the hybrid of having this convenient zipper created a bit of a weak point, but it was still surprisingly effective even with this minor downside.
REI offers the Traverse 32 for a very reasonable price, considering what you are getting. This is a solid piece of gear that will treat you well and is full of big-pack features for your daypack outings. Bringing years of design and experience, this pack holds up with much pricier comparable gear.
The Traverse 32 was an easy selection for our Editors' Choice Award in our latest round of reviews. Being able to go anywhere and do it all with a huge variety of loads, this daypack is a great grab for your everyday adventures.
— Trevor Everts
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