As much as I was tantalized by the idea of buying all new gear for this overland journey, I resolved to buy as little as possible and took my old REI Flash 18 pack as my day bag. In the post-car portion of the trip, I traveled only with this and my Osprey Kestrel 48 as my main backpack. I’m glad I did. The Flash 18 is light, durable, compressible, and too small to indulge my tendency for overpacking.
A low weight meets a low price in this entry-level REI pack.
Coming in at just 10 ounces, this pack rivals other super light daypacks from Osprey and Granite Gear. However, with reduced weight comes a reduction in features. The Flash is essentially just a rip-stop stuff sack with shoulder straps, a hydration pocket and one internal mesh pouch for smaller items. For me, this was the perfect form of forced simplicity in a journey that demanded it. If you are looking for a day pack with all the bells and whistles, it may not be your best bet.
Comfort without structure
Being light and compressible, the Flash has no structure or weight management to speak of. However, carrying my 12-inch MacBook in the hydration sleeve, I was able to add a stable back panel for location-to-location travel. I likewise used a rain jacket or similar item in the hydration pocket for similar support on day hikes when I wasn’t carrying my MacBook.
Low Profile and Durable
After 2 years of use and six months of constant travel, this pack still looks good as new. Some of the DWR has begun to wear off in the loading area near the drawstrings but dirt, rips, and holes are nowhere to be found. To confront any muttering, I have not gone easy on this thing – just check out posts on the Quilotoa and Salkantay Treks, both of which the Flash served as my primary pack.
For city travel, I have found the small size along with black and grey color scheme to blend in and not scream “tourist” so much as my orange Talon 22 had prior. For someone looking for a light and fast, versatile travel pack, the REI Flash 18 comes highly recommended.
Note: Along the trail, I have run into countless other travelers with newer versions of the Flash 18. REI has made some great improvements to increase the bag’s durability and ease of use without adding any undue weight.