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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > REI Flash UL Day Pack > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

REI Flash Pack
By Raymond Estrella
June 07, 2007


NAME: Raymond Estrella
AGE: 46
LOCATION: Huntington Beach California USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or fiancée Jenn.

The Product

Manufacturer: Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI)
Web site:
Product: Flash Pack
Size: One size
Year manufactured: 2006
MSRP: $ 25.00 (US)
Weight listed: 10 oz (283 g) Actual weight 10.2 oz (289 g)
Volume: 1,050 cu in (17.2 L)
Torso length: N/A
Color: Sage/Magnesium
Warranty: 100% Guarantee for the life of the original purchaser

Flash front

Product Description

The Flash pack is a light green and silverish top-loading frameless pack. It is the lightest and lowest volume of the company's UL Series Packs. It has been positioned for use as a summit pack and can be used as a sleeping bag stuff sack.

The body of the pack is made of sil-nylon. A cord runs around the top of the pack and through a cord lock, allowing the top to be drawn shut. A daisy-chain runs down the center of the pack in the back, terminating at an ice ax loop with a cord lock on it. There are no external pockets on the Flash, everything must go inside or be clipped to the loops of the daisy-chain.

On the inside of the Flash are a multitude of pockets, ten to be exact. They are all positioned on the side of the pack that sits against my back. The largest is the hydration pocket, although it can be used for other things too. The other pockets vary in size from 6 in (15 cm) wide and deep to little 2 in (5 cm) pockets that would just fit some food bars or MP3 player. Here is a picture of the Flash turned inside-out with some goodies in the pockets.

inside out - pockets

The contoured shoulder straps are made of open weave mesh netting with nylon piping on the edges. They have an adjustment strap at the lower end of the shoulder strap that pulls the pack higher onto my shoulders and back. Each shoulder strap has an elastic nylon loop on them also. I keep my knife clipped to one of them.

A sternum strap that connects with a quick-clip buckle crosses the between the shoulder straps. It is mounted on a sliding connection. The buckle doubles as an emergency whistle. It works OK, but I still carry a much louder one with me when using the Flash. A waist belt helps to hold the pack against my torso. It does not give any support, and sits a bit high on me because of my height.


Field Conditions

The Flash pack has been along on a May "winter conditions" hike/climb to White Mountain in the Bristlecone Pine Forest in California. The temperatures encountered on that trip ranged from 28 F to 50 F (-2 to 10 C). Elevations ranged from 10,000' to 13,200' (3043 to 4023 m). The terrain was a mix of packed snow, rocks, dirt road and ice. Here is a picture from that trip.

White Mountain

I also used it as a day pack on the Momyer Trail in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. I carried four quarts (4 L) of liquid along with my lunch, first aid kit, snake-bite kit, and wind shirt. It got up to 82 F (28 C) that day. I have used it a few times in the San Jacinto Wilderness, mostly in winter or early spring for dayhikes.

I used the Flash pack in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah for one week in December. The temperatures there ranged from 5 to 28 F (-15 to -2 C) There was about 3' (1 m) of snow, with some fresh powder a couple of the days. I was snowed on during one day of hiking.


I bought the REI Flash pack in April of 2006 to use primarily as a summit pack. I hate having to carry a giant pack up a steep icy slope, not only because of the unneeded weight, but it gets in the way trying to glissade back down! I also use it as a day pack once in a while.

On the trip to White Mountain in May 2006 I used the Flash pack as a stuff sack for my 0 F (-18 C) sleeping bag. The company suggests turning the pack inside out during this use, but I felt that I would rather be pushing the down filled bag past the interior pockets rather than all of the buckles and straps. So I left it right-side out for stuffing purposes.

It works very well for this use. It is larger than the stuff sack I would normally use but if I am taking my Bora 95 pack I have plenty of room for the slightly less compressed bag in the Flash.

On summit day I put my crampon case, Red Ledge Elite Parka and Pants, Phantom down jacket, a Platypus hydration bladder and a couple of LaraBars inside of the pack. On the outside I attached my Raven Pro ice axe and climbing helmet (see reviews). It all fit quite well, and was not uncomfortable. My brother-in-law was a bit jealous of me, as he was carrying a stripped down Bora himself with the same type of load. That gave me about a five lb (2.3 kg) lighter pack, thank you very much.

Because the pack is made for normal height adults the sternum strap was almost up to my neck. That bugged me a bit. When I pull the pack higher to help negate this effect, it made the waist belt ride higher on my stomach. Oh well, I will blame it on Mom. (She is tall too.)

The day I carried the four liters/quarts of water the pack was hanging a bit funny from all the weight. I doubt that REI ever thought it would be used with so much in it, so I don't count that against it. It was a lot more comfortable once I drank half of the liquid.

The funniest use that the Flash was put to was on a week-long trip on the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada. The area is a bear-canister required zone. Dave, who is an ultra-light hiker did not want to bring a pack big enough to hold one of our BV 400 canisters. So he borrowed my Flash pack to keep his food in and wore it everywhere with him. He figured the two pound (0.9 kg) difference and the miniscule amount of room that it took in his pack was worth having to live with a week's worth of food on his back at all time that we were in camp. (And no, this is not a practice that the forest service checked off on…)

Using it as a day pack for local hikes has proven satisfactory. My Platypus Hoser fits in the pocket, but does take the entire length of the pack. As it does not have a hydration port for the hose I just ran it out the top and through the loop on my right shoulder strap. This is over two pounds (.91 kg) lighter than the Camelbak pack I normally took on day hikes.

I was going to cut the little pockets out of the inside to further reduce weight but as I started using it for day hikes I realized that I like the ability to keep some stuff where I could get at it easily without have to dig through the pack.

I took it to Utah to use as a daypack because it took so little room in my luggage. I used a 2 liter/quart Platypus Hoser in it with an insulated hose coming out the top of the pack. Inside I carried lunch for my hiker-girl and I, my Flurry jacket, a pair of shell pants and a cap also. Here is a picture of it in use in Utah.

Wasatch winter wonderland

The only thing that I do not like about the Flash Pack is the cord locks. They do not hold at all. I have to tie a quick-release knot in the cord to keep the top closed, and the one on the tool loop is useless. I have to twist the loop around my ice axe to take the slack out of it as the lock will just let it slip immediately if I don't. Hopefully future versions of this neat little pack will address this issue.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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