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REI Flash 65 Backpack

REI Flash 65 Backpack

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.

Flash 65 Side Mesh Pockets

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.

Removeable Framesheet / Stay and Floating Pocket

Removable Frame Sheet / Stays and Floating Lid Pocket

Ultralight Configuration

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3.  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.

Flash 65 with Snowshoes

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.

Family Backpacking

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.

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  1. I think you're very lucky in the US to have REI – a manufacturer of very reasonable own-brand kit who also supply a breathtaking variety of outdoor kit for wide-ranging disciplines (I recall looking at REI for whitewater kayaking stuff some time ago). They tend to be reasonably priced too. By all accounts, they also seem like a good stop for advice. I like Cotswold Outdoors in the UK but they certainly don't come close to REI in the US. Makes me wish I lived in the US – imagine pottering around an REI store on lazy afternoon – bliss…

  2. It would seem to me that expansion to the UK would be a reasonable business strategy for REI. You are a nation of walkers, where people prefer to exercise outside rather than in gyms. Moreover, there is a strong predisposition to support the co-op movement – as REI is a co-op with 6 million members. I think they'd seize the market, even if they just opened up stores in the major metropolitan areas.

  3. Costco is very popular and seems to operate on a similar principle. Think you're right and I'd manage the store for them!!

  4. Great review of the Flash. I took a look at it a while back in a store, and for the money, it's a pretty good deal. Unfortunately, I found it to be really uncomfortable. It seems to be one of those packs that if it fits you, you're on to a winner.

  5. I love my flash 65 and have always been amazed at how much it can carry. Even when I think it's full..,I can still fit more in.

  6. Moore hiking backpac

    I believe that REI Flash 65 Backpack hiking backpack is the best one for me. I really like the features of this backpack such as rear shovel pocket, cavernous main compartment, floating top lid, Ice axe loops etc. I'll buy this thing for my next hiking vacation.

  7. I've been recommending the REI Flash packs to people, but I'm beginning to worry about them. On the last day of our 50 mile Boy Scout trek in the Sierras two summers ago, the hipbelt ripped off of a Flash 55.

    Last summer, on the last day of our 50 mile Boy Scout trek in Philmont, the hipbelt ripped off a Flash 65. Hmm.

    REI took them both as returns, but we were really lucky it was on the last day both times. I'm not sure I want to risk a third time.

  8. That's surprising. Were they heavily overloaded? Where they being carried by scouts or scout masters?

  9. Miska – the 65 is really large. Should be fine for winter camping. I put all my winter gear in it and still had extra space left.

  10. Walter,

    I noticed some reviews on the REI website that complained of stitching coming loose. I assume this is what lead to the hip belt catastrophes? It worries me a bit…I carry very heavy loads (sometimes as much as 50 pounds) in my flash 65. I will have to go inspect mine for loose stitching.

  11. I have the flash 50 and find it perfect for 2-3 day trips. Really light, has everything you need, nothing more, cheap. I tried on all sorts of expensive packs, Gregory, osprey, etc, but this one fit me the best, go figure. I plan to use it for winter day trips soon, and thinking of getting the 65 for winter camping, but not sure it will be big enough.

  12. Both packs were carried buy Scouts. I don't think they were overloaded. The Flash 65 was carried by my son, and his starting weight was 42 pounds, including four days of Philmont food and three liters of water (about 14 pounds).

    The last day was a 9 mile dry hike (Tooth Ridge), so he carried more water, but only lunch. I expect it was around 40 pounds at the start of the day, but more closer to 30 when it broke just before lunch.

    The Scouts can be rough on their equipment, my son broke some buckles on his Gregory Z55, but I can't see how you'd weaken a hipbelt, even if you do drop your pack on the ground instead of setting it down gently.

    My son is a pretty experienced backpacker. Philmont brought him to 95 nights camping in 4.5 years with the troop.

  13. The hipbelts failures were not gradual. They ripped loose during backpacking. The construction was slightly different with the two packs. With the Flash 55 in 2009, the belt was separated from the pack. With the Flash 65 in 2010, the belt detatched from the frame but was still attached to the packbag. That didn't really help for carrying weight.

  14. Great review, and tip on the snowshoes and heavy gear. I have this pack and have used it for a year with not a single issue. The backboard is not the easiest thing to put back in, but the pack is awesome, and will last a long time. I can afford to put it through some heavy use :)

  15. That backboard is a pain to re-insert but a little brute force seems to work.

  16. question about carrying a sleeping bag…did you find it difficult (or annoying) to have to pull everything out of the bag to get to the items in the bottom. I'd most likely put the sleeping bag at the bottom and wonder if that would be more annoying than a bag with a sleeping bag zipper at the bottom?

  17. Josh – I'm not a big fan of sleeping bag zippers. The first thing I do when I get to a campsite is to pull all of my gear out of my pack, so it doesn't really matter to me that it's at the bottom. If it's raining for instance, I want it there until after I set up my shelter. The reason to put your sleeping bag at the bottom is so that the heaviest part of your load sits on top of it, next to your back, as close to your hips as possible. That's where your carrying power is.

  18. Iver the Backpack Dr

    Why do you say carrying a water bladder will pull the pack backwards? Isn't the location (high and next to the inner wall, i.e. closest to your back) typical for a bladder pouch on a backpack?

  19. It is, but most backpack designers will also tell you that they only put hydration reservoir pockets into backpacks because they are a perceived market requirement, not because they actually work in the desired way.

    When I put a hydration reservoir in the flash 65, I felt the pack noticeably tugging back on me, more than on other packs. If I were to buy this pack for my own use, I'd but water bottles in the side pockets, but for another reason altogether.

    Have you ever tried to get a refilled bladder into a full backpack. It's impossible without repacking it. Using water bottles externally avoids the issue entirely and ensures that you can resupply your water when it is pouring rain outside without getting the gear inside your pack wet.

  20. I have had better luck with the hydration bladder when I keep it in the sleeve, but I refill it via the Katadyn hiker pro filter pump adapter. So I do not take it out of the pack, because as stated earlier, its difficult to squeeze in a soft pouch container into an already tightly packed backpack.

  21. wanting to purchase a new lighter pack than my mountainsmith. Been looking at the flash 65 and the flash 62. can’t make up my mind . getting ready for a week on the AT and trying to lighten my load.any suggestions.

    • It’s very hard to make a recommendation without knowing how big of a load you’re carrying. I’d pass on the REI packs and try an Osprey exos 58 or a Gossamer gear mariposa plus instead. I prefer the latter (I own 3 of them) but the Exos is also quite good though heavier.

  22. Hi Phil Have you or do you know anyone who have removed the back sheet to reduce the weight of the Flash 65. I am looking to reduce pack weight but at this time in my life, 76, I don’t want to spring for a new pack. I section hike with hikes anywhere from 30 to 100 miles on the AT. Thanks

    • Do you realize that is is a very old model of the Flash 65, not made anymore? REI changes the design almost every year.
      Read the article. If you have this version, the frame is easy to remove.

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