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71185OWNER REVIEW - REI Flash UL Pack

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  • Keith
    Aug 3, 2006
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      Owner Review:

      REI Flash UL Pack

      Date: July 25, 2006

      Reviewer information
      Name: Keith Hultman
      Age: 27
      Height: 5'7" (170 cm)
      Weight: 155 lb (70 kg)
      Torso Length: 20 in (50.8 cm)
      City: St. Louis, MO USA

      Backpacking Background:

      My first backcountry experience was a high school canoe trip to the
      Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in northern Minnesota. Since then,
      my camping exploits have been mostly car camping, usually near rock
      climbing areas. I have become more interested in backpacking this past
      year after several weekend trips in Missouri opened my eyes to the
      beauty of getting away from urban life. Most recently my girlfriend
      and I just finished a week long trip in Rocky Mountain National Park.
      This was truly a wonderful trip and reminded me of the solitude that
      originally got me excited in the outdoors.

      Product information:

      Manufacturer: Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI)
      URL: http://www.rei.com
      Product Name: Flash UL Pack
      Product Number: 718352
      Year of Manufacture: 2005
      Size: One size fits all
      Listed Weight: 10 oz (283 g)
      Weight as Measured: 9.3 oz (265 g)
      Capacity: 1,050 cu. in. (17 liters)
      Pockets: 4 + hydration sleeve
      Features: reversible stuff sack / ruck sack, hydration compatible,
      sternum strap with integrated whistle, waist strap, top loading, cinch
      closure, tool loop, daisy chain.
      MSRP: $25.00

      The REI Flash UL Pack (herein referred to as the Flash) is the
      smallest of REI's line of UL (ultra light) packs. With 1,050 cu. in.
      (17 liters) of space weighing in at 10 ounces (283 g) it is one of the
      lighter frameless daypacks on the market.

      The Flash is designed as a reversible stuff/ruck sack. With the straps
      on the inside of the sack, it can be used as a stuff sack while
      backpacking. Turning it inside out transforms the Flash into a light
      daypack for shorter jaunts. I immediately recognized the benefit of
      this for an upcoming basecamping trip. During the hike into camp I
      could pack my clothes in the stuff sack, and pack this in my larger
      backpack. Then use the rucksack feature as my daypack for hikes and
      peak bagging to carry my hydration bag, rain jacket, lunch, and other
      essentials. This was more appealing than carrying along a dedicated
      daypack because of its lightness and versatility.

      Field information:

      I've used the Flash as a pack on a handful of dayhikes, as a stuff
      sack for clothes and other items while backpacking, as a gym bag, and
      even while rock climbing. My testing report is based mostly on a
      3-night outing to Rocky Mountain National Park where I used the Flash
      as both a stuff sack and a ruck sack. Temperatures varied from 52
      degrees at night to 83 degrees during the day. Conditions included
      sunny mornings, daily afternoon thunderstorms, and very windy nights.
      Elevations between 9,000 and 12,500 feet.

      As Stuff sack:

      I have used the stuff sack for clothes and kitchen items. Both times
      the sack was only half full. I haven't used the pockets because I
      worried that items would either be lost (pockets are external in stuff
      sack mode) or wanted to have access to them while backpacking.

      I also placed some clothes into the stuff sack and then placed this
      outside the tent under the vestibule. During one of the daily
      thunderstorms, rainwater flowed under the vestibule and then under the
      sack. Because I had heard that silnylon could be used in drybags, I
      was surprised to find damp socks and long underwear inside the bag. I
      didn't expect this to be a dry bag, but I did expect better protection
      in slightly wet conditions. I suspect the water seeped in at the
      bottom of the sack were there is double ripstop nylon instead of
      silicon-infused nylon, or at the seams where the two types of nylon meet.

      Another issue I had was after making camp, and then using the Flash as
      a ruck sack, I no longer had a spare stuff sack for the kitchen items
      that were previously stuffed in it during the backpack portion of the
      trip. This was easily solved, however, by using my sleeping pad stuff
      sack for kitchen items while at camp. No stuff sack went unused, which
      pleased my aesthetic reductionist mind.

      As Ruck sack:

      Although the shoulder straps for the Flash are narrow, they are very
      comfortable for carrying less than 10 pounds. The sternum strap can be
      adjusted by connecting it to one of 3 horizontal loops on the shoulder
      straps. Because there is no framesheet, the waist strap does not
      transfer much weight to the hips, and I have mostly refrained from
      using this strap. I have been tempted to cut it off to save weight and
      space, however it has been useful in keeping the weight of the pack
      from shifting while rock climbing and scrambling. Placing an insulated
      camelback 2 liter "unbottle" bag in the hydration pocket of the Flash
      helped add support for weight distribution.

      I am very pleased with the bag's simple and versatile design. The
      hydration compatibility is simply a sleeve to slide a bladder into.
      There are no bulky clips for the drinking hose. Rather, the 3 loops
      for the sternum strap mentioned earlier can be used to attach the
      drinking hose to the shoulder straps.

      The pockets are useful for those smaller items. However, it can be
      difficult to find which pocket your chap stick is in when the bag is
      full. I have found that placing a heavier item in the larger pocket
      will help with distributing weight to the middle of the pack and close
      to the body (else everything will sink to the bottom).

      The first time I saw the adjustable tool strap on the bottom of the
      sack, I thought it looked weak and useless. I am really glad I
      refrained from cutting it off, because I did find the tool strap
      useful for lashing my trekking poles in moderate terrain when I wasn't
      using them (see photo).

      [picture of author wearing the Flash pack]

      With many materials for outdoor gear there is a trade off between
      light weight and durability. The Flash is definitely on the
      lightweight side of the scale. While the pack carried adaquately while
      rock climbing, I would not recommend this use because of the delicate
      nature of the materials. Because I usually wear this pack hiking, I
      would rather it be lightweight than durable, and the materials are
      well chosen for this purpose.

      I have two requests for improvements. While wearing the pack, the top
      closure does not completely close. This is fine most of time, but
      rainwater can easily get inside this way. Because I did not want my
      fleece to get wet inside the Flash while hiking in the rain, I wore my
      rain jacket over the Flash. I would redesign the top opening by adding
      a semicircular flap over the opening, so that when cinched, the
      opening folds underneath this flap, shielding most rain from the
      inside of the bag. When in stuff sack mode, this flap would be an
      internal flap helping keep the contents in the bag. The other
      improvement I would like to see is better water proofing. A seam
      sealer treatment might also help with this and I will be applying some
      for my next outing.

      Overall, I am very pleased with the Flash. It carried as well or
      better than my partner's camelback daypack. Although, since she had an
      external pocket, we could place items we would need fast access to
      (e.g. bug dope and sunscreen) in her pack. If you were looking for a
      lightweight daypack to use while "base camp" backpacking, I would
      highly recommend the REI Flash UL pack.


      Pros:
      Lightweight
      Hydration compatible
      Versatile
      Comfortable
      Small tool loop

      Cons:
      Not very water resistant
      Top of bag is open even when cinched.
      Difficult to access small items when full.
      Lack of ruggedness
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