Review: REI Flash 55 backpack

The REI Flash 55 backpack is a budget friendly backpack that’s also lightweight and feature-rich. Redesigned in 2023, the Flash 55 now has more sizing options and an adjustable torso length.

REI Flash 55 backpack review

Features

Lightweight

At just 2 lbs. 12 oz, the Flash 55 falls into the category of lightweight backpacks. If you are looking to reduce your overall backpack weight, this pack has some features that make it stand out amongst similar backpacks.
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REI Flash 55 backpack review

Comfort

The Flash 55 features thick foam padding that contours the body and can carry up to 30 lbs. For most people, this will likely be a very comfortable backpack, but I find that comfort is very subjective based on each individual’s body and what works for them. I have lower back issues and after a couple of trips, I found that this pack pressed into my lower back in a way that ended up not working for me, so this review is based on my friend Klara’s experience with the pack. She’s been using the original version of the Flash 55 for a couple of years and tried the new version on a recent trip we did together.

REI Flash 55 backpack review

Organization

In my opinion, the pockets on this backpack are the most outstanding feature that make this pack shine in comparison to similar packs.

Most backpacks have small water bottle pockets on each side and a front pocket for stashing items for easy access, but the Flash 55 features two additional pockets on each side that are generously sized for carrying bulky gear such as a tent, poles, foam pads, or a chair. I usually have to carry my tent on the outside of pack attached to the bottom, so this is a feature that I really like in the Flash 55.

The placement of the water bottle pockets makes them more useable than most – allowing you to easily reach them without removing the pack. They also include snaps for keeping the bottles from falling out while you’re hiking. And the front pocket and hip belt pockets are also larger than those on most packs.

Adjustability

A unique feature not found on most backpacks in the Flash’s Packmod system. The compression straps are moveable (and removeble) so you can use them wherever you want by attaching to different points on a daisy chain of loops running vertically on the pack. The top lid, hip belt pockets, and an included shoulder strap pocket are also removable in case you want to trim down the pack to the basics. While I kept all of the pockets and lid on the pack, I did like being able to remove and reposition the compression straps.

REI Flash 55 backpack review

Durability

I used this pack on a couple of backpacking trips as well as several day hikes, and Klara used it on a backpacking trip. So far, there are no signs of wear on the pack and the materials used are high quality, so I don’t see any potential issues with durability. However, longer term use will determine how well it holds up over time.

Specs

  • size availability, women’s: XS, XS with medium hipbelt, S, M
  • size availability, men’s: S, M, L, L with small hipbelt
  • capacity: 53-57 liters, depending on size
  • weight, women’s: 2 lbs. 10 oz. – 2 lbs. 12 oz.
  • weight, men’s: 2 lbs. 12 oz. – 2 lbs. 14 oz.
  • fit, women’s: torso lengths from 15″ to 19″
  • fit, men’s: torso lengths from 17″ to 21″
  • price: $199

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MY REVIEW POLICY

This backpack was provided to me by REI for testing. However, I’m under no obligation to give it a favorable review. As an independent gear reviewer, my policy is to review only items that I have used on multiple outdoor trips and that I feel are quality products worthy of recommending. If I don’t like a product, I send it back and don’t review or recommend it.

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