REI Flash 22 best day hiking backpack

We were going to write a blog with the 5 best day hiking backpacks but the fact is, the REI Flash 22 has been our favorite backpack for 5 years and really is the only day hiking backpack that we will buy again.

So instead of overwhelming you with lots of options and features of 5 different backpacks, we are just going to tell you why we think the REI Flash 22 is the best day hiking backpack and why you should consider buying yourself one.

Best day hiking backpack, REI Flash 22

For us to say the REI Flash 22 is the best doesn’t come lightly. I mean, we are hardcore day hikers. If there is an epic hike that we want to do and it’s 20 miles or less, we always choose to day hike it instead of backpack it. After all, we love those alpine lakes and summits, but we like our glass of IPA and a big burger after a hard hike even more.

So we’ve put our REI Flash 22 through the wringer over the past 5 years. I can’t say exactly how many, but this backpack has probably seen over 3,000 miles of trails with us. Yeah! That’s a lot of hikes!

best backpack REI Flash 22

Other Day Hiking Packs We’ve Tried

We’ve also had REI’s other Flash backpack, the Flash 18, for 4 years and while it still is dependable and comfortable, it doesn’t have feature #2 and #4 listed below which makes it not quite as great.

We also tried the super lightweight and packable Matador backpack. And while I do love that it is lightweight, it’s nowhere close to as comfortable as the Flash 22.

We’ve also tried to be creative and get each kid their own inexpensive, foldable backpacks from Amazon, each in their own color, but every one we’ve tried is so poorly made that either the seams rip or the zipper constantly gets stuck when zipping it up.

best backpack REI Flash 22

So now, 5 years later, I’m taking the bold stand and telling you the 5 reasons we are die-hard REI Flash 22 fans.

#1 Reason we love the REI Flash 22: Comfortable Straps

I know, it’s not sexy, but having a backpack that is comfortable for a ten-hour hike makes such a difference. Instead of us complaining who has to carry the backpack, we happily take turns carrying it because you barely realize it’s there. The straps are thin but sturdy without being bulky.

#2 Reason we love the REI Flash 22: Top Zipper

What’s one constant for almost every hike? You need a place to put your wallet, car/RV keys, and chapstick when you go hike. I love that the REI flash 22 has this separate zipper where I put the stuff that I really don’t need often on the hike, but is easy to get to while we are hiking.

This zipper is built tough too. I mean 5 years and hundreds of hikes and the zipper has never got stuck or broke. It’s also spacious so you can just keep stuffing it full of the miscellaneous necessities and there’s always more room.

best backpack REI Flash 22

#3 Reason we love the REI Flash 22: Hidden Front Zipper

Okay, we have a hilarious story about this secret front zipper that you can read here. But long story short, there is a separate pouch in the front big enough to hold 7 passports, but hidden enough that you forget it’s there when the backpack is full of all the toiletries you are going to carry onto the plane! Anyway, this is a nice feature. We keep our phone, maps, permits, and kleenex up in the front zipper for ease of access.

#4 Reason we love the REI Flash 22: Two Side Water Bottle Holders

The two mesh elastic water bottle holders on the side are so dependable. They are slightly bigger than many backpack’s side water bottle holders which makes it easy to take your water bottle in and out, but secure enough that I never worry about a water bottle falling out.

I personally don’t like drinking water out of those plastic water bladders and I like that I can easily carry two large water bottles on the side, leaving tons of space inside the backpack for other valuable items. However, if you do like carrying a water bladder, there is a pouch inside the REI Flash 22 backpack and a hole for using the sip tube.

best day hiking backpack, REI Flash 22

#5 Reason we love the REI Flash 22: Functional Main Pouch

I really like the space efficiency of the REI Flash 22’s main pouch. It easily fits in our hiking snacks, my packable Patagonia down puff (the only jacket I hike with), and a camera cube. The dimensions of the REI Flash 22 makes it easy to stack cubes so everything fits comfortably.

Best Day Hiking Backpack For Kids

I want to add that REI also sells the best day hiking backpack for kids, the REI Co-op Tarn. Tatiana has used her Tarn 12 Pack for 4 years and it has held up well, is super comfortable on long hikes (seriously, we often make her hike 12 miles a day!), and holds a lot. Now that she is 9 years old, she’s ready for the Tarn 18 Pack, although since she doesn’t mind drinking water out of a bladder, the Tarn 15L Hydration Pack is going to be her next upgrade.

As you can see, I’m pretty stoked about these REI backpacks. After 5 years of hikes and epic adventures, I am a die-hard fan of REI’s Day Packs. If I wasn’t such a minimalist, we’d own 7 of these.

If you do decide to buy yourself an REI Flash 22, it would be awesome if you clicked this link to purchase it. Not only will you get a rad backpack that will help you achieve so many epic memories, but you’ll also help us buy our beer and burgers after our next hike.

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REI Flash 22 best day hiking backpack