REI FLash 22 Lightweight Backpack Review
Check out the video review or keep reading for the old fashioned way… Thanks.
I’ve got daypacks, klettesacks, backpacks, knapsacks, shoulder bags, messenger bags, laptop bags and camera bags, but I never, for some reason, seem to have the perfect bag for any one thing. A few years ago Leah and I bought a couple REI Flash 18 backpacks for some light trail running. They’re good little bags, they hold a water bladder plus a little food and some light clothing. Perfect, right? No. Because I lost mine. Sure, maybe I loaned it someone or someone borrowed it without asking and never returned it… I don’t know. It’s gone. That much I do know. As much as I love Topo Deisgns bags, none of them are really lightweight and none of them are set up to accommodate a water bladder. I’m usually fine with a water bottle on a hike, but if I’m running I like to have a bladder. It’s easier to access and easier to carry and often it’s lighter once it’s empty – it certainly takes up less room once it’s empty than a water bottle does.
At any rate I started shopping around. Bad idea. Now I’m pretty sure in the not too distant future I’ll have a Nathan’s Vest and an Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20 in addition to the REI Flash 22 I ordered. I settled on the REI Flash 22 mainly because of price. It’s cheap. Not necessarily cheaply made, but it’s certainly an affordable bag. I ordered it from REI as a year end closeout and got it for about $38.00. Much cheaper than anything Ultimate Direction is offering.
I waffled back and forth between the REI Flash 18 and the Flash 22 for a little while – the 18 was even cheaper than the 22, but I’d had it (and secretly I hoped (still hope?) that I’d find it again) and decided I wanted a little more room in the pack department. The 18 is (I believe) so named because its capacity is ~18 liters, and the 22 is ~22 liters, so it’s a little larger. Also I was hoping for something that’d do double duty as stuffable, but full-featured daypack for travel. I wanted something that I could put a bladder in and go for a run, but that I could roll up and stuff in a larger bag to travel with – kind of a destination backpack that wouldn’t take up as much room or weigh as much as the 1000 Denier Cordura Topo Deisgns Pack that I usually take with me.
I originally ordered the gray Flash 22, but only because the black was out of stock. I’ve got a thing for black bags. Most of my bags are black and I wanted one that matched. No luck though, as the closeouts were only available in gray. I ordered the gray one and a couple days later I noticed the black one was back on the sale list so I ordered it as well. My original thought was that I’d just return the gray one and keep the black one. I was quite surprised a week later when the black one was going back – not the gray one.
The gray one is so much easier to look inside. One can open the top of the bag and actually see the contents. The black one is dark enough to qualify as a black hole. Anything you have in the bag will never escape the event horizon of it’s mouth – not due to gravity but simply because you won’t ever be able to find anything in the dark. After looking inside both bags (a feature that I tried to show in the above video) I opted to keep the gray one.
It’s a good bag. It’s lightweight, it’s easy to use, and it fits well. It doesn’t bounce too much when running, but it’s not as secure as an ultrarunning style race vest would be. I’ve run with my Camelbak bladder about half full and while I find the sloshing noise annoying, it’s secure enough. The main compartment holds a jacket and some camera gear – enough to keep me reasonably happy. It’s a decent lightweight daypack at an affordable price. I tend to prefer stuff that costs five times as much, comes with some pseudo-ethos and is made in the USA, but this is essentially just what I was looking for, and it was cheap.
Thanks for reading, stay safe out there.