REI Flash 22

flash_22For years I have been using an extra backpack that I had laying around for all my day hiking. It’s a sturdy old Timbuk2 bag and works fine, but it is heavy and lacks a chest strap or any of the other features that a good daypack might have. I’ve been a fan of REI’s Flash series for years. I use an old model that I got on the cheap for backpacking. My hiking buddy uses one of the small Flash 18 packs for his day hiking. I wanted a bit more in the way of features so I decided on the Flash 22.

I picked the pack up on sale, using one of the coupons that I receive regularly as part of my REI membership. I thought that the retail price was a bit high, but now that I’ve used the pack a few times, I’m of the opinion that it is worth every penny.

As usual, I did most of my window shopping on the interweb. This pack looked nice, with mesh pockets on the outside and good attachment points. The pack seemed to come in decent bright but non-garish colors. When I went in to the store to see it in person, it didn’t disappoint. I bought the green version and took it home.

It was a while before I had a chance to take it out on the trail, my opportunities for hiking being as irregular as they are. The first thing that I noticed about the bag is the weight. I’ve been using a super-rugged urban pack with heavy padded straps and a padded laptop compartment and a bunch of other features that I didn’t need, yet added to the weight. This new bag is very light by comparison, with only minimal padding.

I carry a lot of water when I hike. I really don’t like running out, so I usually have a bottle to drink from and two more bottles as back-up. The pack handled this like a champ. I put the two heavy (40 oz.) bottles in the mesh side-pockets and hung the smaller bottle on a carabiner from one of the shoulder straps. The bag does have accommodations for a hydration bladder, but I don’t like to drink from plastic, so I’ve never tried it out.

The pack has a pretty standard pair of daisy chains down the back. On one side there is a loop at the bottom and a clasp at the top to make it easy to attach a trekking pole. One of my few complaints is that the bag is only designed to hold one pole and not two. Though I rarely carry poles when I day hike, when I feel the need I bring a pair. I would have liked to have a built in capacity to carry both of them.

The interior of the bag has plenty of room to carry a jacket (or maybe even a change of clothes) and a lunch. I usually only carry an extra layer and my lunch inside and the bag feels pretty empty. Even when I have my camera and a few other items inside, there is plenty of room to spare. I could probably do an overnight in this bag if I didn’t want a tent. There is a nice little mesh pocket that works perfectly for my keys and wallet and another compartment in the top flap.

There isn’t much padding on this bag, which saves a fair amount of weight, but I’ve found it very comfortable, even when carrying a full load of water. The shoulder straps are made of a thin padded mesh material that allows air flow. The back panel has just enough padding too, especially with the addition of a semi-rigid foam sheet which does a nice job of smoothing out any lumps in the load that might otherwise be poking you. For people who quibble about ounces, the sheet can be removed, but I honestly don’t see why.

Overall, it’s a lovely pack. It can easily carry everything that I need for a 10+ mile day hike and more (For the pictures, I stuffed it with a bulky fleece blanket and put my big 40oz water bottles on the sides). Again, REI reminds me why I am such a fan of their house brand gear. The pack is designed with an attention to function and price point, making it the equal of many bags that cost twice as much. If you’re in the market for a hiking pack, take a look the Flash 22 (or any other bag in the Flash line for that matter). This is a good one!

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