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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > REI Lookout 40 Pack > Owner Review by alex legg

REI Lookout 40 Pack
Owner Review by Alex Legg
September 25th, 2011

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Reviewer Information:

Name:  Alex Legg
Age:  29
Gender:  Male
Height:  6'4" (1.9 m)
Weight:  195 lbs (88 kg)
Waist:  38" (97 cm)
Torso:  21" (53 cm)
Email address:  alexlegg2 AT yahoo DOT com
City, State, Country:  Tucson, Arizona, USA

Backpacking Background:

I grew up backpacking in the Rockies.  I hike ranges near Tucson, Arizona during winter, Colorado during summer.  I carry a light pack, mostly water.  I tend to camp with a tarp whenever possible to reduce the weight of my two person tent.  Primarily I do day hikes, but I am known to spend 5 days out.  Temperatures range from extreme winter to 100 F (38 C), and elevation from 2000' (600 m) to 14,000' (4,300 m).  I bag a mountain every weekend, and walk my dogs daily through deep sand and overgrown mesquite trees in our local washes.

Product Information and Specifications:

Manufacturer:  Recreational Equipment, Inc (REI)
Year of manufacture:  2010
Listed weight:  3 lb 3 oz (1.5 kg)
Actual weight:  3 lb 2 oz (
Torso:  18"-20" (46 cm - 51 cm)
Volume:  2,563 cu in (42 L)
Size: L
Available sizes:  M, L
Color:  black and grey
Available Colors:  All black, Indigo and grey, black and grey
MSRP:  $89.50 US

Product Description:

Initially I liked the fact that the REI Lookout 40 Pack is made from 100% recycled fabric.  The manufacturer's website refers to the material as a PET polyester fabric, and claims that each of these packs keep twenty-six 16 oz (473 ml) bottles out of landfills!  They also say that the internal frame is composed of a high-density polythylene framesheet and a single aluminum stay to support heavy loads and protect my back from pointy objects.  I have no idea what that means, but the internal frame is sturdy and strong, and I don't seem to get poked in the back ever.  The back panel of the pack is an egg crate foam design, it has an orange logo that says Free Flow where it makes contact with my back.  REI claims that this will circulate air to keep your back cool and dry.  This is funny because a dry back does not exist for me in the hot weather when I am sweating regardless of the fancy gear I have on.  In the cold I have not had such problems.  The back panel is well padded and generally comfortable.  The shoulder straps are nicely padded in a contour design and can be adjusted from the top or the bottom.  There is sternum strap that reaches across my shoulders and chest, connecting to a clasp near my right shoulder.  When connected it keeps the contoured shoulder straps in their optimal position.  When it's not connected the pack has a much looser feel.

The waistbelt support is composed of two flaps, one on the left and one on the right of my hip.  There are multiple adjustment options to fit my body.  There is an adjusting belt on the far right and far left of each of the flaps, as well as one that attaches the two together.  There is a mesh zippered pocket on the right side of the belt that fits my camera perfectly.

My hydration system packs well into the internal sleeve that rests against the back panel on the inside of the main compartment.  It takes a little balancing and stuffing skill, but it gets in there.  It is important to pack my hydration system first or it will be impossible to fit in.  The water hose can be directed out through dual exit ports over both the right and left shoulder straps.  The exit ports are clearly marked with a blue water drop that has been applied to the fabric.  

The main compartment of the pack opens very wide at the top, and slims down toward the bottom of the pack.  This annoys me, sometimes I find that an item is very easy to stuff into the top of the compartment, but doesn't  fit to the bottom.  Through shoving and cursing, I have learned to adjust my packing organization to accommodate this issue.  The main compartment is of good size in my opinion for this being just a day pack.  There are two zippers so that it can be opened and closed from both sides.  

The smaller front compartment is also accessed by two zippers, one on each side.  Upon opening it I find that there is a zippered mesh compartment on the inside of the outer flap portion.  It also has a mesh compartment with two organizational slots on the inside.  Although there are no zippers on this portion, I still find it very useful for packing smaller items that I don't want to misplace.  

On both sides of the pack there is a vertical zippered pocket to provide for additional storage.  These pockets run parallel to my body from around my hips to near my arm pits.   I generally find myself sticking maps in one side and the occasional empty beer can in the other, but they can fit most anything I can stuff in them.  Just below them on either side of the pack, the standard mesh pocket perfect for carrying a water bottle resides.  It can accommodate thin bottles as well as stretch out to fit a wide mouth drinking bottle.  When I'm in the desert it is always carrying water.  When I'm in cooler climates I use these pockets for extra storage.

On the top of the pack above the main compartment, there is what the manufacture's website refers to as a stash pocket.  I'm not sure how they came up with that name, but it turns out mighty useful.  This compartment has a 9" (23 cm) long zipper that opens horizontally to a relatively small pocket.  It is great for storing sunglasses or in my case an extra granola bar and a water proof box.  Just above this compartment is a loop that I use to hang the pack while it sits in a closet at home dreaming of the trail.

The bottom of the front panel of the pack is where I find two loops that would fit trekking poles very well if I only carried them.  It may one day prove to hold an ice axe or even a hatchet if I'm lucky.  Just inside these loops are two nylon straps with fasteners used to strap on a sleeping pad or a small tent to the bottom of the pack.  Just below them sits a pocket marked with three grey water drops, two small and one larger.  This is where I find my built-in rain cover.  It wraps over the entire pack excluding the shoulder straps and does a pretty good job of keeping the contents of my pack nice and dry.
Field Conditions:

The REI Lookout 40 Pack has been in my possession for about a year and a half now.  It has seen some diverse terrain from the alpine tundra of Rocky Mountain National Park, to the Sky Island mountains or the Arizona Trail starting at the Mexican border.  I have carried this pack in temperatures ranging from -15 F (-26 C) to 110 F (43 C).  Altitude has varied from 2,000' (610 m) along the San Pedro River to 12,500'  (3,810 m )in the Rocky Mountains .

As I started out at the border fence where the Arizona Trail begins I had a full hydration bladder and an extra 1 gallon (3.8 L) of water in the main compartment.  This was to be a long one day trip, around 24 miles (39 km) to the top of the southern most 9,000' (2743 m) peak in the United States.  The weather started out warm around 88 F (31 C), and tapered off to 75 F (24 C) as I climbed to the 9,466' (2,885 m) summit of Miller Peak.    

I carried this pack while in Rocky Mountain National Park hiking on many trails.  I completed several day trips while wearing it, overall covering more than one hundred miles (161 km).  This pack has proven to be a great day pack for me.  It is smaller than some I have had in the past, but the size and organization of the pockets prove to be valuable for conserving space and carrying out waste.  I found in the cooler weather which ranged from -15 F (-26 C) to 55 F (13 C), that I experienced no sweat on my back and no heat exhaustion!  I love hiking in cold weather.  I pulled the rain cover over the pack more than ten times and it did a great job for the majority of the time.  Elevation I covered in the park ranged from 8,000' (2,438m) to 12,500' (3,810 m).  The pack held its own and kept me comfortable while providing packing convenience once again.

On a two day trip in the Rincon mountains east of Tucson, the REI Lookout 40 Pack served as a small backpacking pack.  I don't like to carry more than I need, so the big pack stayed home.  I managed to attach my two person tent to the straps on the bottom of the pack with a little help from a bungee cord for added support.  I carried enough food for two people in the form of freeze dried products I had been holding onto for years.  I carried a full hydration bladder as well as two gallons (7.6 L) of water in the main compartment.  I stuffed rain gear and a beanie into the pack in case of weather.  Over the course of 33 miles (53 km) and two days the temperature ranged from 65 F (18 C) just as the sun came up, to 95 F (35 C) as the days wore on.  Again I noticed a good amount of sweat building up on my back, but I was much happier to blame the desert than my REI pack.  The pack carried my essentials from 2,500' (762 m) up to 8,482' (2,585 m) over the course of the trip.


I have carried this pack with enough food inside for two people for two days and nights.  Due to the separate mesh pockets in the front compartment and the vertical side pockets on either side, organization of food and supplies was simple.  I have loaded up as much a one 3.1 US Quart (3 L) hydration pack and two one gallon (7.6 L) water jugs into the main compartment.  Still, I have found room for rain gear and occasionally a tent.  

The waistbelt and sternum strap are great.  The waistbelt keeps the weight off my back when I need it to, and the sternum straps keeps the shoulder straps in their best position.  In hot conditions, I have found the Free Flow technology of the outer back panel to be cushy and soft, but not providing near enough air circulation to keep the sweat from forming into a river on my back.  I was covered in sweat whenever I was in high temperatures, but I feel that is to be expected on very warm days.  Of the many times I had to use the rain cover, I only had one issue where excessive saturation caused water to be absorbed from the shoulder straps into portions of the upper main section of the pack.  Even when this occurred, the contents inside the pack remained dry.  This is a generally comfortable pack. The shoulder strap padding provides ample cushion and good adjustment options for the long trips.  I often change the combination of strap length and waistbelt tightness to shift the strain of the weight from long trips.  Both of these things are very quick and easy with this pack which keeps me a happy camper.  


I am happy with this pack.  I have given it some tough tests in some inhospitable climates and it has done what I needed it to.  The storage capacity is of good size for a small day pack.  I like the organization of the compartments and the pockets within them.  It is as comfortable as can be expected, and has quick and easy adjustment features.  The rain cover works moderately well in my opinion, as it has not always performed ideally.  Over all I think that it is a good day pack that can serve as a backpacking pack for short trips as long as I am alright with leaving the first aid kit and all the other things I don't need at home.


1.  Great storage capacity
2.  Easy adjustments
3.  Convenient pocket organization


1.  Rain cover not 100% effective
2.  Back panel can get sweaty
3.  Can't I just beam all my gear to the campsite

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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > REI Lookout 40 Pack > Owner Review by alex legg

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