REI Flash 50 and Flash 65 Backpack Review

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable REI Flash 50 and Flash 65 Backpack Review

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    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies

    Companion forum thread to:

    REI Flash 50 and Flash 65 Backpack Review

    John Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Midwest

    Once again thanks for a great review.

    David Ure


    How would these compare to the Granite Gear Nimbus Line in terms of comfort, load stability, and load transfer?

    Frank Deland


    Locale: On the AT in VA

    Another nice review. Perfect timing for me especially as regards to the Women's fit chart. My wife is looking for an internal frame, and I was just in REI yesterday. They print a "Product Info" pamphlet comparing packs.
    Others close to the Flash 50:

    Osprey Exos 58 3500 cu in 2 lb 3 oz

    Others slightly less volume:
    REI Venturi 40 2441 cu in but heavier 2lb 11 oz.
    Osprey Exos 46 2800 cu in 30 ounces

    Dave, The Nimbus Ozone is one sack with an extended color and only two outside pockets which are mesh and along the sides. It also has compression straps. No zippers.
    pictures of Nimbus Ozone

    Bob Bankhead
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon, USA

    "New for spring 2009, the REI Flash backpack series consists of four packs with volumes of 18, 30, 50, and 65 cubic inches."

    18 cubic INCHES has to be the smallest full-featured backpack in history. IMO, this alone makes these packs rate a Highly Recommended rating.

    Other than this small editing error, great review.

    Joe Clement
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southwest

    I really liked the compressions system on my UL Cruise 60, I wonder why they got rid of it?

    Matt Lutz


    Locale: Midwest

    Backpacker mag gave the Flash 65 an editor's choice award in their March (Gear Guide) issue. Although my opinions about Backpacker are clear from other threads, I trust that they beat the hell out of gear they test. Good to see some corroboration of their findings.

    Great review again, Will. Do you ever get to use gear that you are not testing on trips?

    Douglas Frick
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wyoming

    Thanks for the review. Our REI UL 45 (Womens Small 40L) has held up well under kid abuse, and the Flash UL is my favorite day/summit pack.

    Editing note: the photo captions beginning with "Notable features" and "Contoured spacer" need to be swapped to match the correct photo set. When you fix that, you might as well also correct "Mountatins" in another photo caption.

    Mark Thompson


    Locale: So-Cal

    Yet another insightful review by BPL.

    Thanks guys and gals.

    Tyler House


    I bought both recently and ended up keeping the Lite-Speed. Both have similar features and specs (removable framesheet, volume, weight, etc.) and both fit well (with a slight edge to the REI Flash's hipbelt synch-system). I might have kept the Flash had it not been for the great price and the more durable feel of the materials of construction of the Lite-Speed. Also the Lite-Speed seemed less bulky for the volume (due to its intended adventure racing market).

    Moosejaw has the Lite-Speed on sale for about $70 right now, which is well under the Flash 50's asking price.

    All and all, as in the review, the Flash is a great pack, though not the best for everyone.

    Will Rietveld
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southwest Colorado

    Hi all. I would like to answer your questions as best I can.

    David: The suspension on the REI Flash packs is less cushy and adjustable compared to the Granite Gear Nimbus packs. Basically, the extra weight in the GG Nimbus packs is pure comfort.

    Bob: We corrected the error on the pack sizes; the numbers are definitely liters and not cubic inches. We also switched photos 4 and 6 to agree with the captions.

    Joe: REI's internal compression system and Rip and Stick torso adjustment on the Cruise UL60 were definitely nice and I hate to see them go. They gave this pack a complete makeover and I would say that the new pack is more versatile. Nice photo of you at Skyline arch.

    Matt: Yeah, we are consistent with Backpacker's review on the Flash. I note that they are less concerned about weight, and thus their Editor's Choice award versus our slightly lower Recommended rating.

    Best regards,

    Ashley Brown


    I'd just like to say thanks for the comparison pic with the Osprey Exos.

    It would be helpful if BPL chose a "standard" comparison pack, such as the Exos 46 or Aether 60, and shot a picture of each newly reviewed pack sitting next to this "standard". It makes a tremendous difference to being able to properly get a perspective on the real-life size of the pack.

    Nikii Murtaugh


    Locale: Northeastern Oregon

    As a female with narrow shoulders, my advice is to make sure the REI Flash fits you in this area and that the pack rides well. I bought a Venus (yes, I know now this was a heavy pack) in 2006 and jettisoned it after less 100 miles for an Osprey Ariel. I haven't looked back. Love my Osprey so much that I recently bought an Osprey Talon for short overnight and weekend trips.

    Kathy A Handyside
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeastern Michigan

    I'm a short woman with a torso size of 15". I would have to buy the women's small. The problem is that the waist size on the small is 26-31 inches. That's ridiculous! Especially if I want to wear several layers for winter packing, that waist belt is far too small. I'm tired of manufacturers thinking that ALL outdoor women are a tiny size 4. Get real.

    If they offered swap-out waist belts, I might consider it. For now, I'll stick with my Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone with FULLY ADJUSTABLE EVERYTHING. It's a few ounces heavier, but it fits!

    Ken Helwig
    BPL Member


    Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA

    I need a pack with just a little more volume for the summer with the ability to carry a cannister. I was in the Saratoga REI the other day and played with the pack. I really liked it. My birthday is next month, guess what I am getting

    Roleigh Martin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Founder & Lead Moderator,

    Will, slight nuance, at the lowest end of the Nimbus packs by Granite Gear is the Nimbus Ozone which is the same weight, 3 lbs, as the Flash. It is an extremely comfortable pack, one that I have not yet been able to give up (I have tried 2 lb packs but just have not found one that makes the hike as comfortable as the Nimbus Ozone).

    Michael Reagan


    Locale: Southern California

    FWIW, I have the REI Flash 18 which is the baby of the line, advertised as a stuff-sack that converts to a summit pack. I use it as a daypack to haul my daily carry stuff around town and for weekly trips to Disneyland (annual passes rock). It's probably the best pack for this purpose that I have ever owned. It's extremely light and comfortable, has internal pockets for organization, and even a hydration sleeve and port for my 1.8-liter Platypus! If one were truly SUL, I'd bet this pack could even be used for summer overnighters.

    I can't speak for the bigger packs in this review, but I love my little Flash 18.


    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    I've looked at the men's Large Flash 65 and my take is that I got the better pack in the 2007 Cruise UL 60 predecessor.

    My UL 60 has the original X'd drawstring compressor tunnels that easily and rapidly compress the load with two top drawstrings, one for front compression , one for back. Nice.

    Also, and most important, my UL 60 has NO framesheet but, instead, two tubular aluminum stays, and a Velcro attatching shoulder harness/backpad that I can adjust exactly where I want, depending on the amount of clothing I'm wearing, etc..

    I've expanded the cargo space of my pack by adding two REI side pockets for items I'll need on the trail like my toilet and water treatment mesh bags. These side pockets have two vertical compartments each and I've never entirely filled them but it's nice to have the space if needed.

    So, yes, I'm happier with my "old" REI lightweight pack than I'd be with the Flash 65. Some things are better left alone.

    I DO like the floating, detatachable top lid and bigger belt pockets on the Flash 65 but I'm seam-ripping off my UL 60 top pocket and adding plastic ladder buckles to it and webbing straps to my pack. Then I can detatch the lid and use it as a fanny pack for day hikes by sewing two strips of webbing on the underside of the lid for my belt.


    Hamish McHamish
    BPL Member


    Locale: USA

    I recently bought the Flash 50 after trying the Exos. Both have the volume & features I wanted. I hike LW, not UL. As a wilderness EMT I just don't roll with 2 feet of duct tape & 3 squares of toilet paper for my medical kit. Also I wind up being a pack mule for my wife sometimes due to her lumbar back troubles. So I need a little more room and support than most frameless packs allow.

    The things that pushed me towards the Flash 50 were:

    – the trampoline back of the Exos puts the load further from your center of gravity and I hate this feeling.

    – I have wide, powerful hips & butt from decades of strength training, and I found the bottom edge of the Exos frame digging in a bit back there. Yuck.

    – I like the flexibility of stripping down the Flash 50 to a sub-2lb pack as I experiment with lighter tactics.

    So far I am happy with the Flash 50.

    Ed Collyer


    Locale: East Bay Area

    I have had my Flash 65 for well over a year now and it performs well in many categories. I recently went on an off-trail bush excursion in Henry Coe through some of the thickest buckbrush and poison oak i've ever been in. We were crawling on our bellies, rolling ON TOP of trees and there isn't a single tear in the fabric. Since I only have one pack, it is large enough to use on my minter trips with the use of a pulk and for lightweight 3-season trips. It comfortably holds 30 lbs of gear and water. I do wish the pack didn't flop around so much and had a better load stabilization. Overall, I would recommend it to friends.

    put put


    Locale: Hawaiian Islands

    To Ed Collyer or others who own the Flash 65. How is the fit relative to your torso length? I know the pack is nonadjustable but it comes in SM, MD, or LG. Curiously, it is only listed as fitting a 17" thru 19" torso. I wonder if that is for the size MD or if SM=17", MD=18", LG=19". But that seems like too small a range between the three sizes.

    If that is not the case, anyone know what size torso a LG would fit (Please say 21")?

    James McDaniel


    You need to look on the description page(at the bottom). They just put the med size on the spec page. They do that with a lot of things.

    I contacted them last year requesting that the make their packs to fit larger torso's. I find it a little unreasonable they top out at 20.

    Specifications based on size Medium. Specifications for Small and Large torso / waist and hips / base volume / weight are as follows:
    Small: 16 – 18 in. / 28 – 34 in. / 3,783 cu. in. (62 liters) / 2 lbs. 14 oz. (1.3 kg.)
    Large: 18- 20 in. / 34 – 40 in. / 4,150 cu. in. (68 liters) / 3 lbs. 3 oz. (1.45 kg.)

    Adan Lopez


    Locale: San Gabriel Valley

    I really like the Flash 65. I'm 6'4" and I think I have a 22" torso but I'm not positive. When it's really loaded up, 40lbs or more, then I did feel like it was a bit short. But my loads rarely get that big now, with 35lbs or less it seems to fit very well, comfortable all day. I removed the lid, the front pocket is plenty big for all my small items.

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