REI Flash 22 Review: Best budget hiking pack for 2023?

Table of Contents

If you value a lightweight pack, an array of features, or using recycled materials, the REI Flash 22 has all three.

This pack gives you:

  • Enough carrying capacity for almost any day hike

  • A versatile option for the trail, the gym, work, and travel

  • A day pack that is under 1 pound

  • The option to carry a hydration bladder or water bottles

  • A versatile option for the trail, the gym, work, and travel

Versatility and value are what you get with this pack, perfect for someone who loves nature and traveling.

REI Flash 22 Overview

REI Co-Op Flash 22 Overview

Specs

Capacity: 22 Liters

Weight: 14 oz.

Materials: Nylon (recycled)

Max Load Weight: ~ 15 pounds

Hydration Sleeve: Yes

Pros

  • Versatile

  • Carrying comfort

  • Good Value

Cons

  • Only one size

  • No front mesh pocket

  • Durability

REI Co-Op Flash 22 Ratings

Comfort (Fit)

REI Flash 22 comfort rating

The fit for the Flash 22 can be hit or miss because of there being just a single size. If you are on the shorter or taller end of the height spectrum, you may run into an issue.

Though, I would estimate that anyone between about 5′ 1″ – 6′ 3″ shouldn’t run into much of an issue with the pack not fitting.

The hip belt, shoulder straps, and sternum strap are all adjustable, so you have a wide range of fits that can be achieved.

All in all, the fit is designed to accommodate a wide range of body types, which is great! The trade-off is that the fit is just going to be good for that range; rarely will an amazing fit be achieved. Packs that offer multiple sizes can achieve a great fit for a wider range of people.

I found the fit of the Flash 22 to be good, but I never really felt one with the pack.

Carrying Capacity (Carryability)

REI Flash 22 carryability rating

REI does not list a maximum recommend weight capacity, but I estimate it to be about 15 pounds. I carried around 10 pounds in it, which felt fine, but I would estimate another 5 pounds would be about the max that you’d want to carry in this pack.

If you are just using it as a daypack for hikes or general use, it will be good and is comparable to others in its class.

Shoulder straps. The shoulder straps are fairly basic and common. They are lightly padded and adjustable; I think they are adequate for carrying lower weights. I fought the shoulder straps to be rather non-intrusive. They were padded enough but not to the point of feeling overkill for a daypack.

Sternum strap. Like the shoulder strap, fairly basic and adequate. It has a whistle built into the buckle, which is always nice. There is a fairly nice range of tightness that can be achieved with this strap, so it should fit a wide range of chest sizes. One thing that I really like about this pack is that the sternum strap is easily removable. That accommodates wider-chested people, but also I find that I don’t always want one with a daypack. Sometimes I feel that these just get in the way more than they really help, so I like the option to take it off.

Hip belt. Like the other straps, the hip belt is commonplace for daypacks. It is an upgrade over the previous model of the REI Flash 22 by adding a wider mesh material around the hips before transitioning to a nylon strap around the midsection. This gives a more comfortable fit around the hips, whereas a nylon strap style of hip belt can feel tight and restrictive.

While the hip belt cannot be removed, it can be stowed away in pockets on the back of the pack. This allows you to get the strap out of the way if you opt not to use it. Personally, I don’t like using a waist belt on a day hike since the pack is pretty light.

Back pad. The Flash 22 has a back pad that also doubles as a removable sit pad. This is a nice feature that also works to improve the comfortability. As a back pad, it serves nicely to give yourself a little bit of padding along the back panel. Being able to remove it, via a zipper pocket, and utilize it as a sit pad is a nice convenience. Being able to hike out and having a padded seat to sit atop a rock overlooking a gorgeous lake is blissful.

Durability

REI Flash 22 durability rating

This is the category that has some variance depending on how you plan to use the Flash 22.

If you are doing off-trail hiking or commonly hiking in areas that are prone to snagging your pack, you may want to explore more durable hiking pack materials.

If you are using it for general use or on buffed-out trails with little overgrowth, this pack should hold up fine.

My usage so far has been consistent with more buffed-out, commonly used trails. And I have not run into any issues with the durability. The stitching and attachments appear to be sufficient for multi-year usage.

I foresee this pack lasting 3-5 years of semi-regular use. Obviously, getting snagged on a branch or getting worn down from poorly packed sharp objects on the inside would shorten the lifespan; but probably about 80% of users will get 3-5+ years out of this pack with standard usage.

Features

REI Flash 22 features rating

Hydration sleeve

The internal sleeve can accommodate a hydration bladder of up to 3 liters. It has a hole in the top of the pack that allows the hydration hose to be routed over either shoulder.

This is nice, as you can have the hose routed to whichever side that is most convenient for you.

Side Pockets

The side pockets are a change up from the previous model of the Flash 22.

The updated version of the pack has more durable pockets. That said, I prefer the previous version’s mesh pockets. I had better luck accessing them while having the pack on, and I have a soft spot for the versatility of mesh pockets.

The new pack has deep pockets that are perfect for holding water bottles, and the nylon material is more durable and more resistant to snags and abrasion.

Closure

The Flash 22 features a fairly standard drawcord, cinch type of closure for the main compartment, and a top lid with two buckles.

The top lid is a switch from the last version, as it had only one buckle. In my opinion, the single buckle is preferable because it is sufficient for the weight load out and reduces the change of gear failure. (the more attachment point on a pack increases the chances that one breaks)

The top lid has a nice sized zippered pocket in it. The lid pocket is perfect for storing items that you will need throughout your hike or items that you would want to access quickly.

Value

Considering you could pay 2-3 times the price for a comparable pack, the Flash 22 presents an excellent value.

I put it into a “good at many things, great at nothing” category, but that is not a negative. For 90%+ of day hikes, this pack will do the job.

I would easily consider this among my short-listed day packs for beginners. You will get a lightweight pack, some nice features, a comfortable carry, and all at a reasonable entry-level price point.

Overall

The REI Flash 22 fills a great spot on the day pack spectrum. It provides value to new and experienced hikers alike.

For someone just getting into hiking, it is a versatile pack for day hikes and everyday general use that won’t break the bank. It can comfortably carry 1-2 liters of water, some snacks, a rain jacket, and some camera equipment.

For more experienced day hikers, it provides an affordable pack that fits well as a “do-it-all” type of pack. I use it for day hiking on maintained trails during ideal weather conditions. For most, this encompasses the majority of their hikes. I would not use it in inclement weather or on day hikes that require carrying a larger load-out. (I.e., cold weather gear, gear for multiple people, etc.)

Pros And Cons

REI Flash 22 pros and cons

Pros

  • Affordable

  • Versatile

  • Stowable hip belt

  • Removable sternum strap

Cons

  • No mesh exterior pockets

  • One size

Is This Pack Right For Your Next Day Hike?

bridge on day hike

Yes. The Flash 22 should be on your list of options if you are considering getting a new day pack.

Some exceptions are:

  • your torso length is outside of the advertised range (16″-21″)

  • you plan to regularly carry heavy loads (15+ pounds)

  • you plan to do a lot of hiking off-trail or in overgrown areas

Outside of these exceptions, the Flash 22 will provide a good option for day hiking.

To be clear, this pack is not for backpacking trips as the volume is just too low to carry a tent, sleeping bag, etc.

Conclusion

If you are looking for your first day pack or an affordable option for your quiver of packs, the REI Flash 22 is well worth a look.

The Flash 22 is:

  • Lightweight

  • Hydration bladder compatible

  • Durable enough to last years

  • Made from recycled materials

  • Oh, and yeah, it’s as affordable as any other pack in its class

REI has done an excellent job over the years to up its own brand of gear, and the Flash 22 fits that trend.

This pack will get you excited to get out the door for your next outdoor adventure!

picture of rock island in lake from a hike

 

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