If you are planning a trip, you need to make sure that your bag is comfortable and has the essential features. The REI Ruckpack 40 Travel Pack was designed with these needs in mind, and I put it through its paces when I went on vacation recently.
We’ll be looking at the REI Ruckpack 40 in this review, a one-bag travel pack with a basic design and a lot of versatility. And, unlike most of the groups we review, we’ll be talking about two versions of this one since it’s available in both men’s and women’s sizes.
If you’ve never heard of REI before—perhaps because you’ve been living under a rock or deep in the jungle for several decades—you should know that they’re a fantastic business. They’re an outdoor cooperative that offers everything you might need for outdoor activities, as well as a lot more, including urban travel gear. They also provide a lot of money to conservation and work hard in their company to attain ethical and environmental excellence.
And in addition to selling gear from a range of firms, they also create their own. Their equipment is proven cost-effective and practical, and the Rucksack 40 matches that description wonderfully. It maintains REI’s technical expertise, but many features have been tailored to urban travel.
Aesthetics & Materials
The Rucksack 40 is available in various colors and sizes and a men’s and women’s versions at the time of this review. Black and dark army cots are available for males, while black, cocoa, and seaweed are available for ladies.
Naturally, we chose black since, well, it’s black. Did you expect we’d “go off the deep end” or something? Of course, not. We have no idea what it implies.
We’ve loved the low profile from an aesthetic standpoint, and our Instagram followers seem to agree. We conducted a survey and discovered that 76% of our users enjoyed the aesthetic of this bundle, while 24% did not. That’s a nice set of statistics, and we’d have to agree with most of them.
REI has kept things simple when it comes to branding. There is a muted logo on the front of the pack, a little logo on the strap, a small label showing the pack name and capacity, and a tag indicating if the group is for men or women. There’s nothing out of the ordinary here.
REI has included some excellent materials across the board from a materials standpoint.
- YKK zippers are used throughout, including a #8 Racquet Coil zipper in the main compartment.
- ITW plastic hardware is used everywhere, and the firm manufactures a lot of buckles for the military, so it’s excellent quality.
- The outer is composed of 210D ripstop nylon, which is less denier than we generally see on this pack, but the ripstop will help prevent tiny tears from becoming more prominent.
- Finally, the pack has a spring steel internal frame that helps to give it the rigidity that the lower denier fabric lacks.
Components from Outside
We’ll start with the harness system before moving on to the external components. It’s also worth noting that the harness system is the crucial difference between the men’s and women’s versions of the Rucksack.
First and foremost, the straps are unique. The straps on the women’s version are somewhat thicker, while the men’s are narrower. Each one is also fashioned uniquely. The women’s harness is anchored a little lower than the men’s version, which is done to optimize the pack for smaller torsos—it also rests a little higher on your back since it’s tethered lower. While this helps to spread the weight more evenly, it also means that a ponytail or longer hair may get caught in the rear of the pack.
The straps themselves feature some excellent padding that aids in carrying comfort. There are several load lifter straps towards the top that will allow you to modify the pack to suit your body type and maximize where the weight is on your back.
These load lifters, on the other hand, are a touch strange. Because the anchor is roughly midway down the strap, pulling and tightening the load lifters might cause the belt to crumple up. We’re unsure what REI’s thinking process was since most packs would attach them a little higher. It’s hardly the ideal situation, but it gets the job done.
There’s also a sternum strap with a built-in safety whistle, so you can grab the attention of just about everyone within a half-mile radius if you get into trouble. (We haven’t tested this, but a half-mile sounds reasonable.) This gadget makes a lot of noise.) The straps also include two elastic loops that may be used to hang a carabiner or attach anything else you choose.
Finally, at the bottom, there’s a wonderfully cushioned hip belt. This hip belt is ideal for city travel since it’s not too large yet gives enough support. However, it is not detachable nor concealable, which is a great disappointment. It’ll merely flap about at your sides while not in use. This has irritated us; thus, we prefer hip belts that are detachable or hideable so you can tighten them up when you don’t need the additional support.
We like that the hip belt has an elastic keeper for strap control. However, we wish these elastic keepers were included on all of the bag’s straps. The sternum strap and shoulder straps don’t have any strap management, so you’ll have some hanging straps on different sections of the pack.
Moving on, there’s a very substantial back panel with mesh and solid foam. This adds stability to the bag, but it takes some getting accustomed to—you can clearly “feel” it on your back. We thought it was strange at first, but as we used the bag more and more, we grew to like it. It helps with airflow as well as the structure, which is fantastic.
Although the hip belt cannot be hidden separately, the full harness system may now be hidden. If you wish to check your luggage on a flight, this function will keep all of the straps tucked away while it’s being loaded aboard the aircraft. Simply un-Velcro it from the bottom, unravel the flap, then zip all of the straps away to utilize the system.
It might be a little tough to position the velcro correctly, but with experience, you’ll become better at it. There’s always an exposed zipper on the exterior of the pack, which is a little gripe. Some packs have a lining to conceal this, and we sort of wish they had done so here. It merely looks strange, despite the fact that it has no bearing on the functioning. (Are we really fussing about a visible zipper? We are, of course. It’s what we’re good at.)
There’s a sewn handle on the top of the bag that you may use for well, anything you like. We usually use these straps to hang packs in less-than-ideal places, such as a public restroom with an inch of water on the floor for no obvious reason. (How come this happens so frequently?)
The pack also has two handles on each side, which are useful for removing the bag from the overhead bins or transporting it to a taxi. Because they’re tethered towards the rear and side of the bag, the weight isn’t equally distributed, and the pack will be a little skewed, they’re not necessarily optimum for lengthy-distance travel. So, with these things, stick to short travels.
The side pockets, which are also known as water bottle pockets, are roomy, collapsible, and well-designed. And if you’ve been reading Pack Hacker for a while, you’ll know that we don’t say “expertly designed” very often, so pay attention.
Each pocket features a little cinch strap made of nylon gusseted material and elastic mesh that allows you to comfortably insert big or small water bottles and a range of other goods. Diagonal compression straps can assist you in putting certain longer objects in here, such as a tripod, and a jacket can be easily stuffed in here with little to no effort. Compression straps may also be used as compression straps. They’ll do the trick if your pack is empty and you want to compress it a little.
Two nylon loops above the compression straps may assist keep in taller things. Unless you’re fastening anything tiny that can slip through the loop, you’ll generally want to use a carabiner.
Now for some of our favorite features on this pack that offer it a high level of practicality while maintaining a minimalist design (#backpackgoals): First and foremost, each side of the bag has a secret daisy chain. If you wish to utilize the lash straps, this is great—but what we appreciate about it is that when they’re not in use, they’re completely covered by a flap of cloth.
In addition, where the lash straps go, four little pockets are great for keeping hiking poles or other longer goods. Store them away to maintain a low profile when you’re not using them. This is ideal for city travel since you won’t have a lot of loops dangling from your bag, catching on doorknobs, and who knows what else. (If you’ve ever been seen in a congested doorway, you’ll understand why this is vital.)
We believe REI did some excellent thinking with the side pockets, daisy chains, and compression straps, and we appreciate this item’s usefulness.
The last exterior component is a rain fly, kept in a separate zip pocket on the bag’s bottom. This pack is weather-resistant, but adding a solid rain cover, such as this one, adds an extra layer of protection. It’s simple, deploys fast, is relatively easy to toss on the bag, and stays put—everything you’d want in a rain cover. If you’re inventive, you might even squeeze some other stuff in that rain cover pocket, such as filthy clothing or sandals if you have tiny feet.
Inside the Bundle
Starting with the top quick access pocket, we’ll go on to the inside of the pack. This item completely opens up in a horseshoe shape, enabling you to swiftly get to whatever’s within. (Isn’t that a great name for a pocket?) Although there isn’t much structure, we like these compartments and believe the location here is ideal.
Next, there’s a side access pocket with a lot of organization on the right-hand side. The YKK zipper is combined with a little pull tab that makes opening the side pocket a breeze which may seem trivial, but it’s one of those minor features you didn’t realize you needed until you had it. We adore it.
We’re reminded of the Eagle Creek Global Companion pack or the Peak Design Travel series by this whole side access mechanism. And although we like the organization in this compartment, we wish there was something similar in the top pocket, albeit to a lesser extent.
The soft lining of the top sleeve on the side pocket is ideal for the tech—anything with a screen. It may store pens, pencils, styluses, sporks, and portable chopsticks in the four compartments. The bottom has one huge divider compartment and a zip pocket behind the whole organizing system.
Because it’s hidden between two layers of zippers, the zip pocket may be a suitable spot to keep your passport or other valuables.
The left side pocket is unique in that it only zips halfway down the bag and features an internal mesh stretch pocket for a water bottle or other longer/flatter things. We’ve had fantastic luck with putting a portable keyboard in there. We appreciate what REI did with these pockets since they seem to be symmetrical from the outside yet serve quite distinct purposes. Something beneficial, something with a clean, minimalist style.
Moving on to the pack’s main compartment, it’s worth noting that the zippers are locked, which is a great security feature. Our second point is that the main room may be accessed via the mesh side pocket, which does not have a locking zipper. So, although this isn’t a perfect method, it’s certainly better than nothing. If you’re looking for something a bit more secure, a Pacsafe bag could be the way to go. We evaluated one, and they prioritized security while building their packs.
The main compartment’s zipper placement gives a beautiful, top-down view of the main compartment after unzipping it just a tiny bit, which we enjoy. Compared to many other clamshell bags we’ve examined, this one has a fantastic design. Although most clamshells open entirely, you’ll need to unzip them to see what’s happening in your bag.
When you fully unzip the pack, you’ll have to unbuckle the side compression straps, which is inconvenient. It’s not ideal, but it’s not as awful as some bags since there are only two on each side, rather than the customary four. It becomes a relatively spacious, open area ideal for storing cubes when this compartment is opened. Although REI produces its packing cubes, any brand will suffice. Because of their low weight and outstanding durability, we recommend the Eagle Creek Pack-it Specter Cubes—but use your discretion! You may get away without packing cubes, but things would rapidly become a shambles.
A meshy, stretch pocket with a little bit of depth is located on the top of the main compartment. If you like it, there’s also a plastic key clip. If you’re not using packing cubes, there’s a broader mesh compartment underneath for flatter items or smaller items like underwear and socks. Finally, there is a laptop pocket on the rear of the pack that also serves as a storage area for a water bladder. If you take that way, the bag has a hydration port on each side, allowing you to pick which side you want the hose to exit from.
A cushioned laptop sleeve is highly recommended while utilizing this compartment for your laptop. Unfortunately, there isn’t much structure or cushioning, and the general fit is loose. You may have seen a little blue tab on top, only a tiny tab that helps secure your laptop more, but the whole sleeve is still not as “structurally sound” as we’d like.
Finally, there’s a strange zipper above the laptop compartment. This is where you access the frame sheet, so it’s not exactly a pocket, but you could cram some items down there if you wanted to. It could come in handy if you have a large sum of money or some top-secret papers to sneak past customs. (Which isn’t a good idea at all.) Please refrain from doing so.)
Testing & Durability
We tested both the men’s and women’s versions of this bundle for one week each at this review. The fit of this bag is excellent, albeit it does take some getting used to. We don’t have anything more to say but that. Overall, it’s a fantastic bag, and although it’s not the most robust pack we’ve tried, it should last a long time. Suitable materials, a stylish appearance, and a high level of usefulness. Everything you’re looking for in a travel bag.
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