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REI Co-op Flash 45 Backpack Review


Jen

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The REI Co-op Flash 45 is a backpacking pack designed for the weekend warrior that has a great set of features at an appealing $149 price point, and that can from time to time be combined with REI discounts to get the price even lower. The top-loading REI Flash 45 features a large main compartment that closes with a drawstring, a hydration compartment and opening, two side water bottle pockets, hipbelt pockets, an exterior mesh pocket, and a zippered lid compartment.

REI Flash 45 Backpack Review

Women's Flash 45 in Seattle Mist trim

The entire backpanel, which is minimally padded in typical “Flash” style, is also ventilated. With the multitude of storage options one can easily find the right spot for anything on their gear list. The pack features a somewhat flexible steel internal frame that brings the load carrying capacity of the pack to a suggested 20-30lbs,  and coming in at about 2lbs 12 ounces (the provided weights might be with tags; the pack here came in one ounce under spec) the pack is quite light. The 420 denier, ripstop nylon used seems very water resistant to proof, but with all the seams on the pack, non-waterproof zippers, and the drawstring type closure (vs a roll top) you’ll still want to be sure to use a pack cover or liner like a trash compactor bag.

Ventilated Backpanel and Hipbelt

The bottom of the pack is further reinforced with heavy duty fabric. The pack features compression features outside, load lifters, and an adjustable sternum strap complete with a built-in whistle. Per its name, the pack features about 45 liters of storage. The shoulder straps also attach to the pack body with a large patch of Velcro, as such, even though the Flash 45 is offered in 2 torso sizes, by adjusting the shoulder strap attachment point each size can be adjusted a bit up or down for a perfect fit. Both men's and women's versions (as reviewed here) are available.

REI Flash 45 Backpack Drawstring Closure
 
Organization is good on the pack, and the contents of your pack are easy to see as well with the light grey color women's model shown here. With limited space however, you might need to strap your tent or other bulky items in between the lid and the top of the main compartment or at the bottom of the pack using additional straps (loops are provided). The dedicated hydration sleeve and hook inside the pack make getting your sipping setup all set easily, or this pocket can be used for even more organization of other items if you prefer bottles - which can easily be grabbed and re-stashed without removing the pack. In fact, the water bottle pockets are partially attached to the sides of the hipbelt to help keep your bottles within reach.

Flash 45 Hydration and Bottle Setup

One hip belt pocket is zippered for security, and one is more of an open stretch stash pocket for ease of use. The lid offers another place to keep things you might need during the day (and also has a hook for your keys), and the mesh outside pocket offers some additional space, with a detachable hook and loop at the top for full access if needed. However, this mesh pocket would be a little nicer if it were larger, or made from stretchier mesh. Trekking pole / ice axe holders can be found on the outside of the pack as well and multiple points of compression help keep everything solid.

Using the Flash 45 Lid and Top Strap to Carry Tent
 
While the pack carries well up to around the 30lb mark, the hipbelt is a bit minimal not in thickness but in coverage, something more substantial here would have been a nice to have especially at higher weights for a more complete interface with one’s hips. However, this pack is on the small side, and unless you are packing very heavy it’s simply tough to find the space to pack more weight than the pack is designed for – which might be a good thing! With a feature set that’s just right for those quick trips and with a price that’s right as well, the pack has also served well as a loaner pack for friends and family who might not have a backpacking specific pack. The pack is also a great size when backpacking into a location is in your plans with dayhikes from there as the pack makes a good option for carrying gear for a group for a day. For longer trips myself, I’ll still stick to a ULA Circuit.

Backpacking with the Women's REI Flash 45

The Flash 45 served as a great loaner pack on this 2 night, impromptu backpacking excursion.

The REI Flash 45 backpack is perhaps best suited for shorter, up to long weekend trips or so, or for group trips where gear like a tent will be shared. For these types of trips however, the Flash 45 is a great choice and size that offers a nice set of features while keeping both the weight of the pack and the price point low.

Two sizes of the pack are available depending on your torso and hip size. The REI Flash 45 retails for $149 and is available in both men’s and women’s specific versions and in several colors. Take a look at each here at REI.com.

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