The Flash 65 by REI ($150) is fairly elusive to the eye. It seems like just another backpack with nothing special to offer. Fortunately, this pack is loaded with smart features and the fit is awesome.
Designed to be a lightweight pack at two pounds (sans frame sheet), the Flash 65 is extremely comfortable. One of the ways it saves weight is by doing away with excessive adjustment straps. By adding in pre-curved shoulder straps, waist belt and frame sheet, it doesn't need to be very adjustable. The different sizes vary enough that most anyone can get a good fit. I am 5'11" and tried out the medium with great success.
If you're into light-and-fast backpacking, this pack is for you. Much of the lightness comes from the frame sheet which, while removable, is just a thin sheet of perforated plastic with two aluminum stays on either side. Strangely this combination is quite rigid so I highly recommend removing it more for comfort than for weight savings. The bonus of removing it is that you can stuff this pack into a dry bag for a boating trip or a suitcase for long trips when you might want a larger day pack.
The only thing dangerous about this pack is that its eyes are too big for its stomach; it can hold more than it should at 3,966 cubic inches. The hip padding was sufficient for most sub-week camping adventures, but because of the bag's size, it would be painfully inadequate on the trip where you brought too much stuff. You could easily stuff 120 pounds into it and get a half an hour down the trail to realize you're not going much farther. The support for big, heavy loads really isn't there.
On the upside, the Flash 65 is inexpensive compared to similar packs but still features all the bells and whistles you need like pockets, lash points, and compression straps everywhere. There's a little pocket specifically for your keys, a giant beaver tail-like stuff pocket, a removable top compartment, attachment points all up the sides for awkward loads, bottom straps for your sleeping pad and loops for your ice tools or trekking poles. It even makes a great carry-on bag if you take the chimney compartment off for plane travel
--Keith Mortensen is a guide with Kokopelli Raftingon New Mexico's Rio Grande and has been guiding on rivers for eightyears. His favorite memories of adventure include hiking the SinaiPeninsula with gear camels, poppy fields, and AK47s; snowboarding intons of powder in Lebanon; and coming across 42 bears in the BoundaryWaters while canoeing.
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