Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gear Review: REI's Flash 18 Daypack

I got to thinking about the best piece of gear I bought this year. The realization that I didn’t buy much gear made me slightly happy (from a fiscal perspective), until I realized that plenty of my gear needs to be replaced (ala the worst pair of waders I have ever owned). Still, I did pick up one excellent piece of gear: a daypack.

I spent a couple of seasons looking for a good daypack to improve my time in the backcountry. When I go backpacking, I do so (mostly) to fish. I enjoy fishing miles away from the nearest car, the nearest power line, and the nearest building. My backpacking trips usually go like this: hike in, set up a base camp, day hike to various fishing locations, fish like crazy, hike out.

But such an itinerary requires a decent daypack. I tried a chest pack, but there was no place for the water bottle or lunch. And I didn’t want to carry a 3-pound daypack in my big pack, taking up valuable space and adding pounds.

Eventually, I found REI’s Flash 18. It weighs ten-ounces (or somewhere close to that) and doubles as a stuff sack (when its turned inside out). Really, its kind of a stuff sack with a pocket for a water bladder, shoulder straps, and a light hip belt. So it doesn’t eat pack space or add much weight. Its big enough to carry plenty of gear (rain gear, lunch, water bottle, maps, reels, tippet, and fly boxes) so that when you make that 6 mile day hike, you have what you need to catch a trout or two.

Ever since I broke it in this summer I have started using it more and more for non-backpacking fishing trips. I like to walk when I fish, I like to get away from the car and other anglers. So the Flash 18 has become standard gear containing lunch and a water bottle, a rain jacket, all that same stuff that is needed in the backcountry. Its bigger than the back pocket on my fishing vest and so light I sometimes forget I am wearing it.

The only real drawback is that its not waterproof so the gear can inside get wet. Beyond that I am quite happy. Its an excellent piece of nonfishing gear that turned out to be the best piece of gear I bought all season.

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