REI Trail 40 Review

by | Nov 13, 2015 | 6 comments

REI Trail 40 Review

Be sure to check out my full around the world packing list for all the up to date gear I’m using!

The REI Trail 40 is the new kid on the block for 2015 and the current travel pack that I am using. Don’t let the “Trail” in the name scare you, this is definitely a worthy travel pack.

The REI Trail 40 comes in 3 colors (Black, Blue Storm, and Deep Red) and a male/female version with 2 sizes each.

For the guys: The medium size should fit 17-19 inch torsos and the large size is 18-20. If you happen to fall right in the 18 inch range (as I do) make sure to check the waist belt length ranges to help you select medium or large. Medium is 28-44″ waist and large is 30-46. My waist is on the smaller side (yay me!) so I went with the Medium.

For the girls: The small size should fit 16-18 inch torsos and the medium size is 17-19. Once again, if you fall in the middle range here (~17 inches) then look to the waist belt sizes to help choose. Small fits a 26-38″ waist and medium 28-40″.

My previous pack was the Osprey Farpoint 40 which Kate actually still uses. It’s a great pack too but has some annoying (to me) downsides. Mainly the water bottle holder and laptop sleeve placements. The REI Trail 40 has much better placement!

Lets dive in!

REI is known for making quality rugged gear and the Trail 40 is no exception. The exterior is a tough water resistant nylon with an internal perimeter spring steel frame. Yes, this has an internal frame similar to a hiking backpack for excellent support yet still weighs in at a scant 2lbs 14 oz!  The back also has an external slot and hook for a water bladder (not included).

rei trail 40
The hip belt is thickly padded with a stash pocket on each side. The stash pockets are a really good size. For example, I can easily fit my iPhone 6+ in them with room to spare. Really convenient for throwing your phone/passport/wallet in when cruising through security checkpoints at the airport or just for quick access to essentials out in town. One side is breathable mesh and the other side is full closed nylon.
rei trail 40 left hip pouch
rei trail 40 right hip pocket

The shoulder straps each have two elastic loops sewn in that were likely placed for strap management, but I always like this feature as I typically hang my sunglasses on them.

rei trail 40 shoulder strap

The back pads, hip belt, and shoulder straps all have nice padded mesh for breathable carrying comfort.

rei trail 40 padding

As with most REI packs the sternum strap has a safely whistle built in.

rei trail 40 whistle

The REI Trail 40 features side stretch mesh water bottle (or whatever else) holders on both sides. The left side has a single holder and the right side has dual holders. The mesh stretches to fit whatever size water bottle you have. I routinely carry a 32oz Nalgene or a 40oz Hydroflask! One of my biggest complaints about the Osprey Farpoint 40 was the placement of the water bottle holders. The REI Trail 40 has a much better design.

rei trail 40 right side mesh
rei trail 40 left side mesh

The left side of the pack also has a 10-inch zippered side pocket. The pocket isn’t very deep and is taken up somewhat by the frame, but it’s still a nice organizational pocket.

rei trail 40 side pocket

The front of the pack has another zippered mesh compartment. It’s not quite as cool as the front stuff pouch on the Patagonia Fuego 32 (my favorite week long business travel pack), but I love that its zippered for security and mesh so you can put wet things in it that you want to keep separate from the rest of your gear. Think shower flip flops, damp pack towel, stinky socks, etc.

rei trail 40 front pocket

Down the sides of the front mesh pocket reside a series of gear loops, reminiscent of climbing packs. I always find great utility in these. I’m not typically a “Christmas Tree” kind of pack wearer but boy do I see lots of people who are. Grab a couple of biners and you can hang all sorts of stuff from your pack that either won’t fit inside or you just want to keep separate.

rei trail 40 gear loops

Attached to each of the bottom gear loops is a piece of metal with a hole in it. These are used for trekking poles. You can place the tips of the poles through the holes and then attach them through the elastic bands that reside above the top gear loop. Due to airline carry-on regulations, I don’t currently travel with trekking poles, but I’ve gotten to places and borrowed or purchased a cheap pair to carry and these holders are awesome for when you’re not using the poles. Note: if you do decide to carry poles, they will likely interfere with the rest of the gear loops. Not saying you can’t do both, but it may be awkward.

rei trail 40 trekking pole loop
rei trail 40 trekking pole top

The REI Trail 40 comes with its own “built-in” rain cover. It’s actually just a REI rain cover that’s made for this pack and has a separate pocket on the bottom of the pack. It’s not attached to the pack in any way, but this is still a great feature so you don’t have to go out and pay extra for a compatible rain cover. One cool thing is that the rain cover does not take up all the room in the bottom pocket so you can stash some other things in there if you desire. Or if you didn’t feel the need to carry a rain cover (bad idea IMO) you would have a whole extra pocket.

rei trail 40 rain cover pocket
rei trail 40 rain cover

There is also a large top zippered pocket for easy access to gear. There is no organization inside the pocket but it also does not expand into the interior which helps save valuable interior space.

rei trail 40 top pocket

Even though this is a front loading (panel loading) pack, one of the unique features is the 4 zipper enclosure, meaning the main cargo area has 4 zippers. This makes the front loading pack even better in that you can open it from the top or the bottom to access your gear. Super convenient! The zippers themselves are big and tough, however, they do lack the feature of being lockable. Yes, you can still lock them through the loops in the zippers, but they do not have the dedicated locking holes built in. Also, due to the design of being 4 zippers, you actually need two pack locks to lock it properly.

rei trail 40 four zippers
rei trail 40 zippers

Once inside the pack, we are presented with more great features. There is a laptop sleeve right against the back suspension which is exactly where it should be for proper weight distribution. You should be able to carry up to a 15″ laptop in here, however, personally, I recommend traveling with the 11″ Macbook Air or the new 12″ Macbook.

rei trail 40 inside

Down the center of the laptop sleeve is a bungee compression system. Not exactly compression straps, but will keep things in place and pressed up against your back.

On the right side of the pack, you’ll find an interior mesh pocket and on the left side, you’ll see the interior of the external zip pocket mentioned earlier.

On the front flap is another zippered mesh pocket that makes a great pocket for easy to access items.

rei trail 40 inside cover

The rest of the interior is just 40 liters of open space to pack all of your essentials which we’ve learned should not be that much! I am happy to report that the Trail 40 does fit in overhead compartments even on small regional jets!

The REI Trail 40 retails for just $109 which is considerably less than a lot of packs out there, while still maintaining great craftsmanship and a TON of great features. This is one of my favorite long-term and around the world travel packs!

Are you interested in being ultra-light? If so, check out ULA packs ⬇️ Made in the USA!

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