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REI Flash 62 Backpack Review

REI Flash 62 Backpack
REI Flash 62 Backpack
Flash 62 - New Front Zipper
Flash 62 – New Front Zipper

Storage Capacity

The REI Flash 62 has a total storage capacity of 62 liters or 3,784 cubic inches making it a good-sized backpack for weekend or multi-day trips with frequent resupply stops. The bulk of the closed storage is inside the top loading main compartment, but the pack also has a number of other zippered storage pockets, including:

  • A top pocket which doubles as a floating lid. There are two zippered pockets inside this as well as a pass through flap that lets you reach through the pocket to access items in the main compartment. This is a nice feature because it reduces the amount of time it takes to reach bulkier items inside the pack. There is an additional zipper at the base of the pack which provides access to the bottom of the main compartment, as well.
  • A zippered front compartment that is large enough to stash your rain gear and food for the day. Unfortunately the zipper is water-resistant but not waterproof.
  • Two mesh storage pockets on the hips belt, which are obviously not waterproof, but are big enough to hold a compact camera and food bars.
  • Two mesh side water bottle pockets.
  • An internal hydration reservoir sleeve and dual hydration ports.
Front Shovel Pocket with Waterproof Zipper
Front Shovel Pocket with Waterproof Zipper
In addition to closed storage, the Flash 62 has many many different options for lashing additional gear to the outside of the backpack including:
  • Six external loops (shown above) that can be used to rig up shock cord or lash extra gear to the outside of pack.
  • A shovel “open” pocket between the main compartment and the front pocket for storing loose jackets. Very handy. The size of the pocket is controlled by the side compression straps.
  • The floating lid pocket which can be raised to make the pack taller and compress bulky wide items against the top of the main compartment (see this post about floating lids.)
  • Six gear loops on the top of the floating lid.
Ventilated Backpad
Ventilated Backpad

Compression System

There are three primary points of compression on the Flash 62, at the top, sides and bottom of the pack.

  • There is a top compression strap that runs over the top of the main compartment, just under the top pocket (shown below.) In addition, to providing compression, it can be used to secure a rope to the top of the pack, which can be further stabilized by the floating lid. This compression strap has a second independent connection to the top of the shovel pocket.
  • There are two side compression straps toward the top of the pack that are connected the pack frame  at one end and to the sides of the shovel pocket on the other. Not the best design because a full shovel pocket will negate the force that can be applied to compress the sides and back of the load in the main compartment. A better design would eliminate the shovel pocket altogether and replace it with a front mesh pocket that can hold gear but does not interfere with the ability to compress the main compartment.
Two Piece - Top Compression Strap
Two Piece – Top Compression Strap
  • The final point of compression are the quick release straps located at the bottom of the pack and intended for attaching a sleeping pad under the main compartment. When used alone, these can be used to compress the bottom of the main compartment by pulling the back of the pack closer to the front. This ceases to be the case however if they’re being used to attach gear to the bottom of the pack. A better design would be to eliminate them altogether and put a second tier of side compression straps on the inside of side mesh bottle pockets.
Quick Release Straps
Quick Release Straps

Suspension System

The 2012 Flash 62 has a perimeter frame, a small diameter tube of aluminum that runs around the periphery of the packbag.  As REI describes it, “the design achieves the load-carrying excellence of an external design. It rides close to the body like an internal, only without the added weight of internal support stays and a back-protecting polyethylene framesheet.”

Unfortunately the perimeter frame design does not perform well when the Flash 62 is loaded with more than 30 pounds of gear, and it’s load carrying performance gets consistently worse as more weight is added to it, up to it’s suggested comfort maximum of 45 pounds.


The perimeter frame on the Flash 62 does not form a continuous loop around the periphery of the pack and there is a gap at the bottom of the frame where it attaches to the hip belt. The attachment points are two narrow sleeves on the outside back of the hip belt, on either side of the lumbar back pad. Vertical extensions of the perimeter tubing slide into these sleeves. If someone is wearing the pack correctly with 60-70% of the load on the hip belt, all that weight is focused on those two rods, with all of the force being carried by the bottom of the sleeves.

Flash 62 Frame-to-Hip Belt Sleeves
Flash 62 Frame-to-Hip Belt Insertion Sleeves

The bottom of these sleeves is about 3 inches lower than most other backpacks that have a center stay or a framesheet, where the load transfer is distributed across a wider horizontal area such as the width of the lumbar pad or the width of the framesheet. Focusing all that weight on just two points on the hip belt makes the hip belt fail, forcing more of the pack’s weight onto the shoulders of the wearer. This could be mitigated (by transferring the shoulder load back to the frame) if the pack had additional horizontal frame stabilizers, but these are absent in REI’s perimeter frame system.

Even worse, the hip belt on the Flash 62 consistently loosens by itself with heavier loads and slips down the hips, putting almost all the weight on the shoulders. Under heavy load, the frame inserts transfer all of the load to the bottom rear of the hip belt, and not higher up on the “lumbar shelf” of the wearer’s back.

A better design would be to complete the perimeter loop so there’s no gap in the frame and have the hip-to-load transfer occur in or behind the lumbar pad of the hip belt system, not in front of it. That would distribute the load across a wider area and help prevent the back of the hip belt from forcing the front of the belt below the illiac crests.

In terms of use, don’t try to carry more than 25 pounds with this backpack. That’s the approximate threshold where the hip belt starts to fail, shifting most of the pack weight onto your shoulders.

Overall Recommendation

I’m usually a big fan of REI gear, but the Flash 62 is a shockingly mediocre backpack. Although it’s loaded with features and relatively lightweight (3 pounds), the 62 is not an ultralight backpack as REI claims and does not have the ‘comfort range” of 25- 45 pounds indicated on the product tag attached to the pack. If you buy this pack anyway, my advice is carry 25 pound or less with it, but if that’s all you’re carrying, go get yourself a truly ultralight backpack that weighs under 2 pounds and can carry that kind of load comfortably.


  • External gear loops on front  of pack for rigging custom shock cord and lashing extra gear
  • Hip belt sizing accommodates people with big hips in all torso sizes
  • Top compression strap for lashing rope or gear to top of main compartment


  • Very poor weight transfer to hips
  • Over-rated maximum load recommendation (45 pounds) – no way
  • Hip belt doesn’t stay tight when pulled taught
  • Annoying plethora of external straps

Features and Specifications

  • Anatomically curved shoulder straps with ventilated padding and cooling mesh
  • Load lifters and a single haul loop.
  • Adjustable sternum strap with emergency whistle buckle
  • Forward pull hip belt adjustment
  • Mesh covered hip belt with a pair of zippered mesh side pockets and hip stabilizer straps
  • Mesh covered ventilated back pad
  • Lightweight aluminum frame
  • Dual ice-axe loops with elastic shaft holders.
  • Quick release straps (non-removable) at the bottom of the pack to attach a sleeping pad.
  • Fabric: Ripstop nylon with a PU coating
  • Colors: Snot green (porpoise)
  • Sizes (Capacity, weight, torso length, hip belt length)
    • Small: 59 liters / 3600 cubic inches, 2 pounds 14 ounces, torso 16-18 inches, hips 28″-42″
    • Medium: 62 liters / 3783 cubic inches, 3 pounds, torso 17-19 inches, hips 30″-44″
    • Large: 65 liters / 3996 cubic inches, 3 pounds 2 ounces, torso 18-20 inches, hips 34″-46″

Disclaimer: SectionHiker.com (Philip Werner) owns this backpack and purchased it using his own funds. 

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  1. Sadly I couldn’t agree more with your review. Once again REI has created the perfect product and then gone and completely ruined it. I’m really dissapointed…

  2. BTW Looking at their new packs the new Stoke 29 actually looks like a solid UL pack!

  3. I too have always liked REI and I try to support them, but they keep shooting themselves in the foot with repeated redesigns of good products into worse products. They have done it with their tent line; their backpack line; and in many cases their clothing lines. I think REI is simply willing to ignore the lightweight market and I have to admit that true lightweight gear is not going to fit their 100% return policy very well. Personally I get most of my gear now from the cottage industries who show true product innovations.

    • I think it’s a organizational and product development bias not specifically aimed at lightweight backpacking. The place seems to have been taken over by fashionistas who think that the gear has to change on the same marketing cycle as the clothing. Whatever. It’s still a convenient place for me to buy isobutane canisters and I like giving talks in their conference facilities.

      • Hmmm, have to say I find the Flash 62 very comfortable and versatile. I backpack while carrying 25-30 lbs and had no problem with the belt slipping and in fact I hardly noticed I had a pack on, which is an achievement at 30 lbs. There are more straps than I need but they don’t bother me at all. Back ventilation was very good.

        I won’t ever load this up with 40+ lbs and if I need to carry weight like that I’d switch to my old heavy Gregory.

  4. That Stoke 29 might be the pack for my grandson in a year or two. Right now, he’s using an REI Flash 18.

    I can tell you’re still in Austin. Those prickly pears aren’t exactly New England flora.

    • You read that right! Mother comes home from the hospital today and I am making good use of my limited free time, hauling heavy backpacks up and down these hills.

  5. It’s a pity that they’ve messed this design up – for marketing reasons and to have a “ventilated” back. The flash 50 was one I consistently recommended to the scouts – and have used. I know several scouts who did 108 miles in Philmont with one last summer. Being an REI pack was sort of important as the parents were uncomfortable ordering a pack online.

    The flash 50 worked well as carry on when flying because it doesn’t have a lot of things to get caught in the overhead bin and is smaller than some of the wheelie bags “road warriors” use. I used one when attending a meeting in Asilomar California – came a day or two early for a cheaper price and instead of vegetating in a flea-bag hotel backpacked in Henry Coe state park. (check in things you can replace, the TSA doesn’t like (tent stakes) or don’t absolutely need, and take the rest carry on).

    Oh well, sic transit gloria mundi

  6. Flash 50 was the pack I began using when switching to UL Backpacking. Of course, I had to remove the insernal frame and lid to get it to a respectable UL weight. Now my sone uses it as I have moved on to a CDT from ULA. However, I also have nothign but praise the the pack. The only thing it never had I wanted was the belt pockets. Solid bag and plan on passing it down to my other son next.

  7. Thanks for the review. I have owned many heavy packs but after getting my baseweight down to about 16-18 lbs I started using the Flash 65. I found it very comfortable but after a couple hundred miles on WA PCT it is ripping out inside at the bottom of the framesheet so last summer I purchased the Exos 58. I had planned 500 miles of PCT in CA and needed a pack to carry a bear canister plus up to 35 lbs at the start of a resupply or water for a dry camp. Due to heavy snow in the Sierras we ended up in Oregon & I found that the Exos is only comfortable up to 25 lbs. After that, the bottom bar slides down and digs into my backside. If I tighten up the waist belt trying to get the weight on my hips the buckle pops open. So I will return the Exos to REI and was planning on replacing it with the new Flash. I also own the old REI Ridgeline which is heavy but comfortable and has the same peripheral bar system. I thought the new Flash would be a great marriage of the heavy Ridgeline and light Flash. I guess I will still be looking for a pack in the 3 lb range that will carry a BV500 horizontally and be able carry up to 35 lbs. I had shoulder surgery and need to carry most of the weight on the hip belt.

    • Try Gossamer Gear’s Mariposa series. I’ve not used mine in your league, but it’s done a couple hundred miles and I’ve carried it way overloaded (40lbs or so) without much discomfort. While I sang praises of the Flash 50 above, the mariposa is my goto pack.

      • 40 pounds is pushing the Mariposa’s limit for me. GG has some changes planned for it though that will likely raise it’s load limit a bit. I’m currently pretty keen on the Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian for 40-50 pounds loads. Stay tuned for a review tomorrow. Always nice to hear from you Rob!

  8. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that too many of REI’s house brand products suffer from feature creep – I wish their designers would keep things simple, and focus on making products that work properly. I had one of their first generation “ultralight” packs, and it suffered from the same problem of a slipping hipbelt buckle…

  9. Full disclosure: I am an REI staffer and the primary writer for REI’s blog. I enjoy reading Section Hiker posts and think it’s a fine site. Wishing to provide an alternate viewpoint, I’d like to present my impressions of the REI Flash 62 pack.

    I had the opportunity to borrow a production model of the Flash 62 last September and use it on a pair of four-day hikes in Washington, one into the Pasayten Wilderness (close to the Canadian border) and another into the Glacier Peak Wilderness to report on a major new trail bridge installed on the Pacific Crest Trail: http://findout.rei.com/blog_detail/?contentid=8463417032037980783.

    On both occasions I found the pack to ride comfortably and perform well. I estimate my pack weight for both trips was in the 30-pound range. My gear was compact and average in weightt. Bigger items included a Mountain Hardward Phantom +32 bag, an Exped UL 7 Synmat, a Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 tent, a Jetboil Sol stove, a SteriPEN and, because I love to eat, a Garcia bear canister crammed with eats. (Always my downfall: too much chow.) The Garcia was a bit of a squeeze but not a troublesome one. It was all a good fit.

    To me, the Flash 62 carried all of this plus incidentals with ease. I was pleased, even delighted, with its performance. I also own a Flash 65 and prefer the 62 due to more a substantially cushioned lumbar pad. My boney backside likes the extra cush of the Flash 62.

    I could do without the zippered sleeping bag compartment and some of the exterior straps, but customer feedback indicates that lots and lots of people love those add-ons, so I shrug and accept them. Just last week I purchased a Flash 62 of my own and look forward to tromping with it, because my personal on-trail experience with it last fall was quite positive.

    • “zippered sleeping bag compartment”

      Just purchased the Flash 62 at the member’s sale price, and haven’t found this compartment yet!?

      My old Vaude had one. I was going to use the bottom compression straps to carry my bag (in a waterproof stuff sack of course) … would love to see pictures of loaded packs to learn how experienced hikers use it.


      • I think he as referencing the bottom main compartment zip…
        I only learned to like this option when I cleaned out the pack for the first time ;)
        I wasn’t elbows deep in the bottom wiping it down like my old pack.

  10. Terry – thanks for the feedback. As you know, pack performance is very dependent on personal preference, body type, and the weight of the load carried. I am completely willing to believe that the Flash 62 performs well with lighter loads in the 30 pound range, especially when one can “shoulder” more of the load, but it was a real challenge for me as I piled in more weight up to it’s stated max recommended weight of 45 pounds. Few lighter weight packs (under 3 pounds in weight) can handle that kind of load comfortably, and I was surprised that REI rated it so high.

  11. That’s such a shame. I wanted to buy a Flash 65 last year, but I couldn’t get over the lack of a true suspension frame. A friend brought one on a week long trip, and as much as I liked the features of the bag itself, I could see how the full load really distorted the pack because it didn’t have aluminum stays.

    So I bought a Ridgeline instead. It carries heavy loads very well, but it’s a little on the heavy side and has some useless features. I was really excited to see that they were now making the Flash with an aluminum stay system. Too bad they dropped the ball. Kind of a head scratcher – they could have just used the same stay design from the old Ridgeline and it would have worked great. It seems like a lot of pack designers these days fail to recognize that 65L of gear and food is pretty much going to weigh 40-45lb., no matter how ultralite your stuff is (if you were truly going ultralite, you wouldn’t need 65L of space to fit all your stuff). I had the same problem with my 1st generation Osprey Aether 60.

    I guess I won’t be putting the Ridgeline on Craigslist just yet. I hope that next year they fix the problem. I think the Flash bag mounted on the Ridgeline suspension would be fantastic.

  12. I feel like I should make a couple of comments since I have tried/used most of the equipment mentioned in the comments.

    First of all, I agree, if you need all 65L of space you’ll end up with 40-50 pounds in weight. From this perspective, old flash 65 didn’t cut it for me, the “frame” kept bending out when the pack is loaded. Exos 58 feels good with about 25 pounds but that’s about it.

    Granite Gear rocks. I have tried Blaze A.C. and Nimbus Trace both rank among the most comfortable packs I ever tried (particularly Nimbus) and both are relatively light.

    I still have Ridgeline 65. Yes, it is 4 pounds. But it feels fairly comfortable with 40 or 50 pounds and can be overloaded. Great backpack, REI made it worst (IMHO) for the second iteration and then killed off the line altogether two years ago. But, REI sometimes gets it right. Old Quarter dome UL 2 was a solid tent but new Quarter dome T2 is amazing.

  13. I have had this pack for a few weeks and done 3 training hikes, all about 10 miles with 3k gain each.

    Hike1 was with 42lb. The pack carried great and it didn’t feel like 42lb. But, at the end of the hike the hip belt rolled under and slightly dug into my hip.

    REI replaced the pack.

    Hike2 was with 37lb. It was flawless. This was a technical trail and it carried very well.

    Hike3 was with 30lb. It was a day hike snowshoeing up to San J. It carried the snowshoes well until i needed them. Again-flawless.

    I need this pack for a JMT trek this summer and NEED it to carry 40lb well for 7 days… So the jury is still out.

    Besides the first pack -defect- I am very happy with the pack.

    One note… Be sure you size it well. I am 5’9″ and 175 and the small was the only one that fit me well. I spent 3 hours at rei trying on every light pack they sold and this one fit the best and carried the 35lb test weight better than any – on me. I think iso much depends on your body shape.

    I am generally very happy so far.

  14. This review is exactly correct regarding the hip belt loosening and sagging down on the hips (I bought a pack, tested it for a week, and returned it for that reason alone). This pack simply should be avoided.

    • Glad I wasn’t imagining that – thanks for the comment!

    • I simply haven’t had any problems with the belt loosening. It also has been an amazing pack regarding how “light” it carries the weight.

      I have a 34″ waist, am 5’9″ and use a small. The medium was just too big on me, but my other two packs are mediums. If you buy it too big, I bet it would slip.

      If you do try this pack, make sure you fit it properly, and step down one size.

      I just did a couple days this weekend in San Gorgonio and even though I had ~35lb on my back, it felt like 25. I am very happy so far.

  15. I’ve had up to 35 lbs in mine. At 25-30 lbs, which is what I normally hike with, I had zero belt slippage. I noticed at 35 lbs I had to tighten the belt once an hour or so.. not tragic but I can see where the slippage might come in at heavier loads.

    I’m 5-9, 34″ waist. WIth 30 lbs of gear this is the most comfortable and stable pack I’ve ever owned, and that’s my weight (or less) for most trips. Ventliation, stability, comfort are all awesome. For times when I need to carry 35 lbs or more, I’ll just switch to my old Gregory, which is a monster but does carry heavy loads well.

  16. I purchased the Flash 62 about three months ago. I have now put about 120 miles on it and my son another 65 or so. I really like the pack except for the belt slipping issue. My son experienced the same problem over this past week. For my needs it holds the right amount of gear; it holds a large bear can, sleeping bag, a few clothing items and a shelter. I am going to replace or modify the hip belt and try it again. The belt removes easily so it should be simple enough to correct but if I continue to have problems I am going to purchase another pack. I hope I can get the problem corrected but if I can’t the Hyperlite Mountain Gear is looking pretty good.

  17. Just finished a 5-day trip in the North Cascades with the Flash 62. Worked great, lighter is definitely better. I did notice some hip belt slip, but didn’t mind adjusting from time to time. Maybe that’s because I upgraded from my 1973 Kelty…everything new seems pretty great!

  18. This review is most appreciated. I have carried my 2004 Osprey Aether 60 with great satisfaction and many miles of comfort. Alas Osprey has done the same thing to this once excellent design by changing an excellent formula of super light weight, excellent fit, and performance. Osprey has added a full pound to this model. Mine weighs in at a svelte 3.5 lbs and carries 35 lbs like a dream. The new models maybe just as comfortable, but why add the unnecessary weight?

    I was seriously considering the REI Flash pack to replace my Osprey. The search continues for a full featured comfortable pack around 60L and is under 4 lbs. I am seriously considering the Gregory Savant. Any observations on this modely would be most appreciated. On paper this pack looks great. I have yet to try it on.

  19. I would like to add that I own a Flash 65 and have used it on 3 section hikes on the A.T. There were also numerous day hikes and camping trips where I took it with me as my pack of choice. It seemed versatile at first and even withstood a few big loads up to 40-ish pounds. I’ve really only put about 250 miles on it.

    The seam ripped out on my last section hike right where the hip belt meets the bottom of the pack and the internal frame sheet ripped right out of its sleeve. The darn thing just started falling apart when I hiked the A.T. from Atkins, VA to Damascus, VA.

    I’m not surprised the Flash 62 is not measuring up to the 65 since the 65 turned out, in my opinion, to be a dud in the long run.

  20. I just purchased the Flash 62 (on sale at REI) and used it on a 7 day AT hike in the GSMNP. I loaded it with 43 pounds (including water) for the start. I liked the versatility of the pack, but I too noticed the slippage down the hips and the concentration of the weight at the two hip belt points. This caused me hip pain problems beginning on the 4th day of the hike. I will use it on our next sectional and that one likely will be shorter and thus less weight, so I will hold out my final decision. I appreciate this review and found it quite helpful.

    • You bet! You can’t believe the shxt storm I’ve endured by criticizing an REI product. Hip belts shouldn’t slip at the published load rating. If they do, get yourself another pack.

    • I have been using a Flash 62 for over a year now and have also endured the slippng hip belt. I solved about 95 percent of the slipping problem by adding a second buckle that I tighten down over the buckle that came with the pack. I have used the pack many time since adding the second buckle and it seems to work well.

      It is a pretty cheap fix, that and keep your pack weight down.

  21. The only difference in these reviews seem to be 1 lb.
    I have used the flash 52 on only three 48mile treks. @150miles. Imho the only trouble was with the ink. This pack should be rated @ max 35 lb. However, that being said I love this pack. I am packing in southern az. This is the first pack to truly keep my back and hips dry and ventilated. It takes a load like a dream at the end of day one after I have consumed @ 3L of water and total pack to 33 lb’s. My first 2 trips where the same bcs I had assumed ( incorrectly) that I had just needed to “break in” this new pack. This made me analyze what I was packing in and lower my over all weight with 5L of water to 34.2 lb’s. Sadly my old marine gortex bivy did not make the cut, very painful as it has been a great companion.
    I truly think the designs in the flash 52 are stellar (if you change the ink) for a max 35lb pack. The problem was probably something along the lines of…. its to heavy @ 3 lb to market to the ul crowd and does not carry 40 lbs well at all. Maybe they need to call it the “desert flash 52”. I look at that extra lb (when comparing this to other 30-35 max packs) as pure comfort that forced me to change/dump my overall weight. I have never been an avid REI fan… until now. I actually bought a membership card bcs of this pack. I will be through hiking the AT in 2014 with this lovely fat (1 lb over other ul packs) pack that made me lighten my load.
    Sorry about being long winded however, both sides are correct in this product review and I wanted to state how much I love this pack and why.

    Safe trails,
    Jess “Dracma” D.

    PS pls tell ppl that are dropping down to the 15-20 lb weight before consumables to not just grab the trendy gosimer or other ul pack until they give this comfy fat girl a fitting at their local REI.

  22. Good review. I got this at a good price, and used it this weekend for a short hike, camping. Thank goodness I didn’t use it on a longer hike, it was so uncomfortable! Just as you pointed out, the hip strap loosened constantly, so the pack was killing my shoulders. I honestly do not think that I could have done the 18 mile round trip that I had planned, I would have had to bow out.

  23. Totally agree with this review. Got the pack for 60% off so I still like it because of the other features. Would you think if I changed the Hip Belt to the “XT 85” it could improve the amount of weight? I went up a hike with 30 lbs (felt okay until I added more H20). I came down after spending a rainy night with 35-40 lbs…miserable on the shoulders.

  24. Does the XT 85 accept the external stays like this packs normal hip belt? I wouldn’t think so…

  25. Hi Philip,

    Do you plan to review the new 2016 REI Flash 65?

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