MSRP $199, www.REI.com
Let’s start with the fact that the REI Flash 60 pack perfectly matches the blue blaze of the Superior Hiking Trail. I know, I know, coordinating with your local trail markers isn’t even on the pack-features priority list, but I’m counting it as a plus—one of many.
REI recently retooled its house brand, checking in with outdoor adventurers to discover what’s important in their gear stashes. They used that info to guide development of their new product lines; the Flash 60 was one of the results. I loaded the pack up with 30 pounds of gear for a weekend hiking trip, and for both comfort and utility it gets two big thumbs up. It’s roomy enough to fit all the essentials without a lot of wasted space. This makes it feather light compared to my other pack, tipping the scale at just 3.5 lbs empty.
The strap system and waistbelt were easily adjustable (and comfortable—no sore spots after the weekend), and it has lots of thoughtful touches: slanted side water bottle pockets for easy access while the pack is on, both stuff and zip pockets on the front, and a generous j-zip for easy access to the main compartment. The waistbelt pockets perfectly fit snacks (for me and the dog) on one side, and my phone on the other (essential for all the photo ops, of course).
As far as techy details, the pack boasts REI’s trademarked UpLift technology—straps that, when tightened, lift the load up and in, moving the weight closer to your center of gravity. Tightening the UpLift straps made a noticeable difference in the feel of the pack’s load. (This is a blessing and a curse because hey, maybe I can pack in more stuff!) And again, you’ll be perfectly coordinated with the best hiking trail on the North Shore—coincidence? I think not.—Kate Watson