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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > REI Flash 18 Pack > Owner Review by Rick McQuet

REI Flash 18  Pack

Owner Review by Rick McQuet

Date: January 25, 2013


Reviewer Information

Name: Rick McQuet

Age: 44

Gender: Male

Height: 6' 5" (1.9 m)

Weight: 180 lb (82 kg)

Email address: rmcquet (at) yahoo (dot) com

City: Chicago

State: Illinois

Country: USA


Backpacking Background:  I went on family backpacking trips every summer from the 3rd grade through 8th grade, including hikes within the Trinity Alps and Sierra Nevada in California.  In the past 5 years, backpacking has included multi-day trips to the Ventana Wilderness, Desolation Wilderness, and Tahoe National Forest, all in California.  In addition, I attend several Boy Scout camping trips each year in Illinois and Wisconsin. Each summer, I go on multiple day hikes from our cabin in McCall, Idaho.  I endeavor to be a light (but not ultra-light) backpacker.


Product Information

Manufacturer:  REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.)

Year of Manufacture: 2012

URL: http:\\

Listed weight:  11.0 oz (312 g)

Weight as delivered:  10.9 oz  (309 g)

Listed Length: 18 in (457 mm)

Listed Width: 9.5 in (241 mm)

Measured Length:  19 in (483 mm)

Measured Width: 10.5 in (267 mm)

Capacity: 1,100 cu in (18 l)

Color:  Light Grey (available in several colors, including red, gold, blue, purple and black)

MSRP: $34.50 US


rei flash18.jpg

Figure 1: Flash 18 (photo courtesy



Production Description:

The REI Flash 18 Pack (hereafter, Flash 18, or the pack) is a lightweight frameless, top-loading daypack.  It is the smallest of the Flash series made by REI.  The Flash 18 is made of 140 denier ripstop nylon.  It has a single opening at the top, with a single drawcord closure.  The adjustable shoulder straps are nylon mesh.  There is an adjustable sternum strap and an unpadded waist strap, both made of nylon webbing and with quick release buckles. Both the sternum strap and waist strap are removable.  The outside has two nylon straps running lengthwise along the pack, sewn in a daisy chain fashion.  At the bottom is an additional tool loop.  There are no external pockets.


flash18 front.jpgflash18 back.jpg

Figure 2:  Flash 18 Front (left) and Back (right)



Inside the pack there are two pockets.  The first is a single zippered mesh pocket (6 in by 9 in, or 15 cm by 23 cm) for securing things such as keys, wallets, cell phones and other small items.  The second is a large internal sleeve designed to hold a hydration reservoir. A single exit port for the reservoir hose runs out from the middle at top of the pack.

There is also a piece of closed cell foam padding, about a quarter of an inch thick (6 mm), that sits in an interior sleeve on the back of the pack.  This has a hook-and-loop enclosure that keeps it securely closed. 


flash18 zippered pouch.jpgflash18 hydration sleeve.jpg

Figure 3: Mesh Pocket (left) and Hydration Reservoir (right)


Field Information:

I have used the Flash 18 extensively across a variety of different uses, about 25 to 30 times total:

-        Six days as both a summit pack and pillow on summer hikes in the Ventana Wilderness and Tahoe National Forest (Castle Peak area) in California.  I just rolled it up and stuffed it into my main pack while hiking.  As a pillow, I stuffed my clothes into it.  I did not experience any rain or snow during these trips.

-        Approximately ten day hikes in Idaho during the summer, where I typically carry two liters of water in a hydration reservoir, lunch for two people, a windbreaker, camera and maps.  Elevations ranged from 5,000 ft to 7,500 ft (1,500 m to 2,300 m). Temperatures were moderate, approximately 70 F to 80 F (21 C to 27 C).

-        Ten days of skiing during the winter in Idaho, from cold, sunny days to wet, snowy days.  Five of the days were cold and sunny, with temps ranging from 5 F to 25 F (-15 C to -4 C).  The snowy days were between 25 F and 32 F (-4 C to 0 C).  Elevation ranged from 6,000 ft to 7,500 ft (1,800 m to 2,300 m). I used it both for downhill skiing and backcountry skiing.  For downhill, I would carry extra gloves, an extra layer, and a small lunch.  For backcountry, I carried extra layers, skins, extra gloves, two liters of water, camera and a small lunch.

-        Several times while running in Chicago.  I often run from work to a gym four miles (6.4 km) from my office, so I will carry a change of clothes in the pack.


flash18 selfie.jpgflash18 rolled up.jpg

Figure 4:  Wearing Flash 18 (left) and Rolled Up (right)




I first learned about the pack from a friend of mine, who is an experienced hiker and mountaineer.  He used it for a few day hikes we did together while in McCall, Idaho.  I really liked how light it was, and yet it seemed to have a lot of room.  I purchased mine at the REI store in Northbrook, Illinois.


Overall, after using it in many different ways and on different trips, I really like the Flash 18.  I have not had any problems with the fit of the pack, with the adjustments or durability.  The drawstring locking mechanism is straightforward.  The loop in the hydration sleeve that was added to the most recent version of the Flash 18 prevents the hydration reservoir from sagging to the bottom of the bag as it empties.


The padding provided protection against any zippers or sharp edges in my gear.  However, my opinion is that the padding in the pack is not absolutely necessary. It is possible to remove the existing padding and replace it with something thicker.


In addition, the Flash 18 carries loads very well and feels quite stable while hiking or even scrambling across boulders. I found the shoulder straps to be comfortable, and I could adjust the sternum strap higher or lower depending on the load I was carrying.  I did not weigh it, but I estimate the pack was comfortably carrying approximately 10 lb.


I also really like the versatility of the pack.  In general, I could use it as a stuff sack for a sleeping bag (though I have not tried that yet), or as a bear bag for hanging food (worked well for this use).  I have used it as a pillow, and even as a bag for going to the gym.   


My only complaint (and it is a small one) is the mechanism that is used to tighten the drawcord.  If I open the bag too quickly, the cord can get twisted and then stuck.  To avoid this, I simply have to make sure that the drawcord is not twisted up as I go to open the pack. 



Things I Like:

-        lightweight

-        durable

-        compresses to a small size

-        versatile

-        inexpensive


Things I Do Not Like:

-        the closure mechanism



I am very happy with my Flash 18 and would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend.


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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > REI Flash 18 Pack > Owner Review by Rick McQuet

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