REI Flash UL Pack
Date: July 25, 2006
Name: Keith Hultman
Height: 5'7" (170 cm)
Weight: 155 lb (70 kg)
Torso Length: 20 in (50.8 cm)
City: St. Louis, MO USA
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.
Manufacturer: Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI)
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.
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.
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.
Small tool loop
Not very water resistant
Top of bag is open even when cinched.
Difficult to access small items when full.
Lack of ruggedness