The REI Flash 65 is a big backpack with 65 liters or about 4000 cubic (3966) inches of carrying capacity, but it is very lightweight. Fully configured it only weighs 3 lbs 2 oz in a size medium, but you can remove its floating top pocket and internal frame sheet to drop it’s base weight to a featherlight 2 lbs.
Flash 65 Features
In terms of features, the Flash 65 shares all of those present in the lower capacity Flash 50, including:
- A rear shovel pocket, open at the top, for gear or food you want to access during the day without having to open the pack’s main compartment. On the back of this pocket there is a large pocket with a waterproof zipper.
- A cavernous main compartment which is big enough to hold all of your gear, and all of your kids’ gear.
- A floating top lid that has an large pocket on the top and a smaller flat pocket on the bottom of the lid, facing the top of the main compartment. This top lid is detachable from the rest of the pack when it’s capacity is not needed or you want to reduce the pack’s weight.
- Ice axe loops at the base of the backpack and cord locks for securing the shafts on the back of the pack.
- Lots of external attachment points on the back of the pack and on top of the floating lid pocket for attaching gear, such as bear canisters, sleeping pads, or snowshoes to the outside of the pack.
- A heavy duty haul loop
- An internal frame sheet and stays that can be adjusted to fit you. The internal frame is housed on a pocket inside of the pack’s main compartment and can be removed when carrying lighter loads.
- Anatomically shaped shoulder straps that are fixed to the back f the pack providing greater durability.
- Load lifters, hydration hose retainers, and an adjustable sternum strap on the shoulder pads.
- An external mesh pocket on the right hip belt for carrying smaller items.
- External straps for securing a water bottle or GPS receiver on the outside of the left hip belt.
- Wicking mesh padding on the hips belts, shoulder pads, and back of the pack.
- Side mesh pockets on each side of the pack.
- Additional straps on the bottom of the pack for securing a sleeping pad or long, rolled up tent.
Inner and Outer side Mesh Pockets
Besides capacity and weight, the only difference between the Flash 65 and the Flash 50 is that there are 2 additional side mesh pockets on either side of the pack, that are taller than the bottle pockets, and situated directly behind them. These inner pockets are better for carrying long this items like tent poles where a higher pocket is needed to keep them secure.
Unfortunately, the inner mesh pockets don’t have complementary compression straps located above them to secure long gear to the side of the pack, and while the side straps of the shovel pocket provide some additional security, they’re really not designed for this purpose.
Removable Frame Sheet / Stays and Floating Lid Pocket
One of the nice things about the Flash 65 is that you can remove some of the pack’s components to reduce it’s base weight, including the floating lid pocket (4.1) oz and the frame sheet /stay (11.4 oz) which is located in a zippered pocket on the inside of the pack’s main compartment. Doing this can be very desirable if you’re carrying supplies into a base camp or if the contents of your pack can be configured to provide some internal rigidity by themselves.
Unfortunately, you can’t substitute the framesheet with a sleeping pad as you can in ultralight packs like the Gossamer Gear Gorilla because the framesheet pocket narrows into a v-shape instead of a rectangle. Perhaps REI will reconsider this design in the future.
Load Testing – 3 Season Gear
I packed the Flash 65 with several different combinations of gear to figure out the best way to organize a load for maximum comfort and carrying efficiency. This is something I recommend that do with any backpack you are considering buying. While you can bring all of your gear to the store, I prefer doing it at home since I use different gear selections throughout the year and I want to take my time and evaluate what I learn during the process.
The Flash 65 is quite similar to the Flash 50 when it comes to packing gear, and I’d make the following recommendations:
- Don’t use a water reservoir with this pack because it strongly pulls the pack backwards, throwing you off balance and increasing the load on your shoulders.
- Pack the main compartment before you pack the shovel pocket or the side mesh pockets. When full, these push into the space used by the main pocket and will limit it’s capacity.
- If you need to carry a long tent, break it down into pieces you can ball up and pack in the main compartment. Then slip the poles in a side mesh compartment or attach them to the top or base of the pack.
Winter Backpacking Compatibility
When I saw how large the Flash 65 was, one of my first questions was whether it would be a good backpack for winter overnights, when you need to carry gear that is higher in volume and weight than the gear you carry for 3 season backpacking. In addition, I was interested in how well the Flash 65 would be at carrying backcountry and mountaineering gear such as snowshoes, crampons, an avalanche shovel, and an ice axe.
While the Flash 65 is plenty big for carrying all of your extra winter clothing, a heavier tent, larger sleeping bag and other gear needed for winter camping, it’s probably not the right backpack for full-on mountaineering trips because the shovel pocket is not deep enough to carry medium sized snowshoes.
While you can attach the snowshoes or a shovel to the outside of the pack using the attachment points that run around the perimeter of the pack, I wouldn’t recommend it, because the additional weight will pull you backwards, fatiguing you more quickly. Ideally, you want to attach snowshoes and other heavy mountaineering gear to the sides of a pack, over your hips, as close to your core as possible. However, this in not possible because the external attachment points are only sewn onto the back of the pack and don’t also run along the sides.
After thinking about this pack for a few more days, I realized that the Flash 65 is configured quite well for 3 season family or partner backpacking, where one person has to carry most of the shared gear for the party, or for backpacking if you have a larger sleeping bag filled with synthetic material. If this describes the situation that you need a backpack for, then the REI Flash 65 is going to be ideal for your needs. However, if you don’t need the extra capacity that this pack provides, you’re probably better off getting its smaller cousin, the Flash 50 backpack
Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.