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Pick Your Pack: REI Trail 30 & Trail 40

Pick Your Pack: REI Trail 30 & Trail 40

The REI Trail 30 and Trail 40 backpacks are a secret being well kept by this big store we love. I (Andrea) basically stumbled upon the bright red Trail 40 by accident. I was in need of a hiking pack that would allow me to carry lots of gear - mostly photo stuff. I was also thinking about a couple of upcoming flights I had, and was hoping to avoid dragging luggage through the airport. As we normally do, we headed over to our local REI to see what we could find.

While perusing the options, this bright red beauty just caught my eye. The bag is basically a big black hole for stowing stuff, plus a couple of nice smaller pockets to stash little stuff. The biggest plus for me with this bag is that its a panel loader, not top loader (which I personally dislike). I tested it out in the store, determined it was a good fit, and headed home. The pack went on one very brief hiking trip, and one impromptu backpacking overnight in Joshua Tree and I knew I had made a mistake. It was slightly too big for my torso, so with heavy camera gear, it got uncomfortable, really fast. But I wanted to love it - it seemed like a dream come true. Huge front opening, water reservoir, huge side stretch pockets, two stash pockets on the top/front, and a cool color! Plus it held a ton of stuff! 

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We got home and I decided to try to pack it for a trip on an airplane. While it is right inside the dimension limits of my airline, once I had it packed for a weeklong trip, it was quite large and quite heavy. All in all, the Trail 40 is an excellent bag, but it was just overall too big for me. 

I headed back to REI and chatted with them about my conundrum. They kindly allowed me to return the bag and get resized. I didn’t know what to get though! We left and I went back to using my super old Osprey pack that was just getting past it’s good years, and I hauled a suitcase through the airport on my trip. I wasn’t thrilled with this, and conveniently, REI had a garage sale the weekend I got home. 

We always go to their garage sales, frequently with the intention of finding that ONE thing we need… and leaving with arms full of things. On this fateful REI Garage Sale journey, we came up quite empty at first and ended up just wandering around. Suddenly, I saw a familiar shape and form over in a corner by the shoes. Upon closer inspection, it was a green REI Trail 30. I got excited, then sad, assuming that this bag would fit just the same. 

Big surprise, it didn’t. Enter my beloved Trail 30. This bag measures just slightly too big for my torso, but fits super comfy! It’s a slightly smaller version of the Trail 40, which is perfect for keeping the weight under control and not letting me totally overload my back. This “green monster” has been shoved in overhead bins, under airplane seats, wedged in my backseat, hauled all over California and Canada and Kansas City and St. Louis and more. It holds a magical amount of stuff, just like its bigger sibling. It’s great for holding my camera gear, hiking gear, or everything I need for a long weekend. Without me noticing, the bag has become my “go to” bag for just about every trip. So, into the details!

Features Quicklist:

  • Capacity: 30 liters in the 30 // 40 liters in the 40.
  • 30 Dimemsions: 19.75 x 13.375 x 9.75 inches // 40 Dimensions: 21.625 x 13.125 x 10.5 inches
  • Included raincover stows in its own zip pocket.
  • Huge, amazing U-shaped panel with 4 zipper sliders offers quick access to gear and total access when fully open - you can reach anything in the bag from top to bottom just by picking one of the 4 zippers to move.
  • Padded, mesh-covered straps, belt and back panel - firm at first, but they get more flexible as you wear the bag more.
  • Side “hidden” zip pocket and interior mesh pocket for stashing some smaller items.
  • Side mesh pocket with elastic closure offers quick access to water bottles or gadgets.
  • Top has a zip pocket on the underside and the topside - great spot for phones or sunglasses, and a secure spot inside for keys, etc.
  • Trekking-pole attachments on the back, not “quick access”, but easy to get to if you take the pack off.
  • Zip hip-belt pockets are great for snacks and are pretty roomy - not iPhone roomy, but will still hold your standard trail bars, and smaller items.
  • The Trail 40 has a front mesh pocket that zips the length of the front panel - a great stash pocket. This is missing on my Trail 30.
  • It may be worth noting, this bag also comes in a 25 size. There are Male and Female versions - I only had the Men’s. Also, the colors seem to be going through some changes, so my green option has been replaced by a brown and blue.

What I Love:

  • The almost all around zipper which allows you to get to just about any spot in the bag without unpacking things. So smart! I want to buy a beer for whoever thought of this zipper system.
  • I have worn this pack for hiking several miles, sprinting through airports, and urban exploring - I haven’t had sore spots or an achy back from it at all!
  • There are small metal “stays” along the zipper that serve two purposes for me - 1, they secure a trekking pole, and 2, they prevent the zipper from opening while you’re moving about. Smart!
  • While the straps on the top and bottom allow for only minimal compression, they are great for attaching things to the pack externally. In one situation, we had to unexpectedly hike out to camp, and I was able to cram tent, sleeping back, and a ton of other gear into a relatively “small” bag, and attached those bigger items to the outside with the straps. It was great!

What I Don't Love:

  • The straps are hefty - great for lots of padding, but they can be a little large and abrasive while wearing a tank top. Some softer fabric covering them would help a ton!
  • It doesn’t have an amazing suspension and ventilation system like most bags these days, but it still rides incredibly comfortable, though my back tends to sweat a little more than with other bags.
  • There aren’t a ton of compression straps, so when the bag is not very full, it’s hard to control the load from sagging 
  • The hydration pack pocket is super tight! I ended up just putting my water reservoir inside my bag, in the little pocket on the bag inside.

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