Back in January we told you about REI’s efforts to streamline its line of products while also reducing consumer confusion in the process. At the time, the company was set to introduce new backpacks and rain jackets that were specifically built to work together with the goal of creating a tightly knit gear ecosystem. The plan was that this move would help customers to select the best gear to meet their personal needs, while also eliminating redundant choices from the REI gear catalog. Since then, the outdoor gear retailer has moved ahead with its plans, releasing these new products to consumers. We’ve had a chance to take a look at a couple of items in the new Flash line of gear, which is intended for outdoor enthusiasts who like to travel lighter and faster. After putting these items to the test, we definitely came away impressed.
Flash 65 Backpack ($199)
Buiilt to be lightweight, yet still very comfortable, the Flash 65 backpack delivers some interesting innovations, not the least of which is REI’s very own UpLift Compression technology. This feature comes our way courtesy of a new take on compression straps. Rather than just having them pull vertically to help cinch our gear into place, the straps on the Flash 65 pull diagonally instead. As a result, the center of balance for the load you are carrying shifts nicely to the small of your back, allowing you to move with more confidence and agility on the trail. And when combined with the proprietary Packnit suspension, the wearer benefits from increased ventilation too, increasing the overall level of comfort that much higher.
Inside the main compartment, the Flash 65 has plenty of room to carry all of your essential gear, and since that gear can be access both from the top and via a side access zipper, it easier than ever to get to the specific things you need without without completely rearranging the contents of the bag. A spacious external stuff pouch on the front of the pack is perfect for holding an extra pair of shoes or wet clothes, while a large zip front pocket provides quick and easy access to important items that you might want cloase at hand as well. As you would expect, there is also a zippered pocket in the lid, which comes in handy for organizational purposes too.
The list of features on the Flash backpack goes on and on. It includes an adjustable torso to dial in just the right fit for a variety of back lengths, as well as a very well padded and contoured hipbelt complete with two more zippered pockets. The pack even has twin tool loops for holding trekking poles, ice axes, or any other long items you may need to take with you on the trail, as well as nicely padded shoulder straps that help lighten the burden even furhter. You can even integrate the Flash 65 with REI’s Flash 18 daypack for added carrying capacity as well.
Meant for those who want to travel a bit lighter and faster, the Flash incorporates durable fabrics, belts, and straps that don’t add a lot of weight to the bag, but are still durable enough to survive just about anything you throw at them. If you’re looking for a new backpack for some upcoming outdoor adventures, this is a bag you should consider. It is extremely well made, carries a load without missing a beat, and is affordable at $199.
Rhyolite Rain Jacket ($189)As mentioned, all of the products that fall under the “Flash” line or gear from REI has been designed to work well with one another, and that includes the new Rhyolite Rain Jacket too. This is most easily seen in the high placement of the hand pockets, which were built to sit above the hipbelt on the Flash 65, allowing the wearer to access the interior of those pockets without having to adjust or remove the pack. The seam-free shoulders were also specifically designed to eliminate discomfort that might come from backpack shoulder straps as well.
The Rhyolite uses eVent fabrics to create a waterproof shell that still offers a relatively high degree of breathability. This helps to keep the wearer warm and dry in the worst of conditions, while also allowing body heat and perspiration to vent out as needed. When tested in a steady downpour, the jacket shrugged off all the moisture that was thrown at it, keeping the interior completely dry, but without causing the wearer to overheat in the process. That isn’t always an easy feat to pull off and when a jacket does manage to do so you know you have a winner.
REI claims that the Rhyolite is also windproof in gusts of up to 60 mph, which means the jacket will come in handy in a variety of weather conditions. It also comes equipped with a media pocket complete with a cord management system, adjustable cuffs and hem to help keep rain at bay, and a hood that can be quickly and easily adjusted with the use of just one hand too. Taken on their own, none of those features is anything to necessarily get excited about, but together they help to add versatility to a jacket that already performs very well.
Priced at $189 the Rhyolite is competitive with other high quality performance rain gear, which should make it a favorite both on and off the trail. It is available in three different colors, and comes in small, medium, large, extra-large, ane extra-extra-large sizes.
Find out more about these products, and others in REI’s revamped gear cataglog, and REI.com.