<p>There’s a saying that what you don’t know you carry on your back, but this sentiment is a bit masochistic. We’ll take our sleeping pad, thanks. And our granola. And our tent and toothbrush, too. And we’ll carry them in the new REI Flash 65, which leads an overhaul of the co-op giant’s pack line and offers some smart new ideas for carrying a week’s or weekend’s worth of gear.</p> <p>The first new feature, and maybe our favorite, is how REI’s designers have reengineered the compression straps to cinch diagonally from the outside bottom of the back to the inside top. This tucks the load closer to your center of gravity, right in the small of your back, instead of flattening the contents the way most packs do, which makes the Flash feel more like a part of your body and enables far more dynamic use than plodding down the trail. You probably wouldn’t boulder-hop with 35 pounds on your back, but this pack fits so well you might be tempted. The angle of the straps still allows access to side water bottle pockets, too—an oversight we’ve seen on competing packs.</p> <p>The pack suspension is what REI calls a hybrid trampoline, which brings the weight closer to the back while still allowing ventilation. Combined with a hip belt that uses body-mapped foam, the Flash is a pack that fits better, hugs the body closer, lets you carry more weight comfortably, and keeps your spine cool. Winner!</p> <p>$199; <a href="https://www.rei.com/product/893906/rei-flash-65-pack">rei.com</a></p>

Backpack: REI Flash 65

There’s a saying that what you don’t know you carry on your back, but this sentiment is a bit masochistic. We’ll take our sleeping pad, thanks. And our granola. And our tent and toothbrush, too. And we’ll carry them in the new REI Flash 65, which leads an overhaul of the co-op giant’s pack line and offers some smart new ideas for carrying a week’s or weekend’s worth of gear.

The first new feature, and maybe our favorite, is how REI’s designers have reengineered the compression straps to cinch diagonally from the outside bottom of the back to the inside top. This tucks the load closer to your center of gravity, right in the small of your back, instead of flattening the contents the way most packs do, which makes the Flash feel more like a part of your body and enables far more dynamic use than plodding down the trail. You probably wouldn’t boulder-hop with 35 pounds on your back, but this pack fits so well you might be tempted. The angle of the straps still allows access to side water bottle pockets, too—an oversight we’ve seen on competing packs.

The pack suspension is what REI calls a hybrid trampoline, which brings the weight closer to the back while still allowing ventilation. Combined with a hip belt that uses body-mapped foam, the Flash is a pack that fits better, hugs the body closer, lets you carry more weight comfortably, and keeps your spine cool. Winner!

$199; rei.com

Photograph courtesy REI

Gear of the Year: Spring/Summer 2016

Slip into a new hiking boot, and you can feel the freedom of the trail even miles from the trailhead. Grip new handlebars, and the wind practically whistles in your ear right there in the bike shop. Stuff isn’t going to make you happy, but it’s going to make the activities that make you happy safer, more comfortable, and more fun—and you won’t find a more advanced, better-designed, or more delightful mix of stuff than this season’s gear of the year. —Steve Casimiro

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