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Spring/Summer Gear Guide: REI Flash 18 Pack

I try to stay a minimalist when it comes to outdoor gear — single, very high-functioning pieces of equipment that will last years and cover multiple bases.

For quick day hikes, however, my decade-old 30-liter pack is overly roomy and fussy.

I’ve been settling for cramming layers atop the bladder in my hydration pack or, worse, suffering through hand-carrying water and hoping everything else fits into my pockets.

The REI Flash 18 Pack: deceptively simple, damn good looking. Photo: Courtesy of REI
The REI Flash 18 Pack: deceptively simple, damn good looking. Photo: Courtesy of REI
The REI Flash 18 Pack ($39.95) has been a game changer. It’s the simplest design ever — just one pouch-style, drawstring-closure main compartment coupled with a small zippered pocket on the side for easy access to the essentials.

At just 10 ounces, it weighs next to nothing for being able to hold 18 liters of stuff ‘n’ things.

Big enough to fit the basics, but with removable chest and hip straps that are thoughtful design no matter the bag’s volume, this thing held everything I wanted to reach for while ripping around Iceland for two weeks, chasing hot springs and glacier hikes and black-sand beaches.

A typical load looked something like this: snacks, water, camera, phone, journal, sunscreen, wallet, postcards, beach towel, flip-flops, bikini, beanie, headlamp, batteries and a fresh pair of leggings and a long-sleeve to change into post-soak.

The back panel is padded and the shoulder straps 100 percent mesh for a little extended-wear comfort, and if you want to throw a hydration bladder in there, there’s a sleeve for it inside and a port to pop the hose through up top.

Happy Skittles colors, even happier back and shoulders. Photo: Courtesy of REI
Happy Skittles colors, even happier back and shoulders. Photo: Courtesy of REI

The pack is made from ripstop nylon and proved durable on all kinds of surfaces, from dirty airport floors to damp caves to snow fields.

Plus, it turns into a stuff sack when you flip it inside out, and you can use the back insert as a sit pad.

Less, in this case, is most definitely more. Welcome to the rotation, little buddy.

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