Gear Box: REI Traverse Pack Review

In recent months I’ve been in search of the Holy Grail of daypacks. Something that I can use for travel, everyday use, and on the trail as well. Sure, I have several excellent backpacks in my gear closet already, but none of them were versatile enough to pull off what I needed, and they were all either a little too large or too small to fit my needs.

The issue was exasperated in April when I went to the Amazon and needed a carry a DSLR with lenses, a video camera, my netbook, rain gear, and more. I ended up using a pack that was best designed for use around town rather than around the jungle. While the pack worked, it was less than ideal in that environment, and I came home vowing to not make another trip under the same conditions.

Fast forward a month, and I was preparing to go to Australia. I had a new, larger DSLR, and the need for a new pack was even more evident. Enter the REI Traverse Pack, a 30-liter daypack that came hydration ready, sporting six separate compartments for my gear and a back panel specifically designed to allow for airflow, keeping me comfortable in various environments. In short, it was exactly what I was looking for at the size I needed.

Loading up the pack for my trip, I was immediately impressed with how much I could get inside. Not only did I get my various cameras and lenses, my netbook, iPod, and other assorted travel gear into the Traverse, I had plenty of room left over for more, and better yet, the pack was still comfortable to wear.

On top of that, it’s made out of a polyester fabric that is tough, durable, and resists moisture very well, meaning that it can withstand the rigors of the rainforest while doubling for day to day use in an urban setting.

On my Australia trip, the Traverse was my carry-on item while flying and then became my daypack for wandering around town and hitting the trail. The pack was used on the beach, rainforest, and the outback. It sailed the Whitsunday Islands and across the Great Barrier Reef and survived seven flights. It did all of that while keeping my gear safe and sound, and dry, and riding very comfortably over my shoulder or on my back.

As you can tell, I found a lot to like about the Traverse Pack. It was easily adjustable for fit and comfortable to wear for extended periods. The pack is well constructed, and even though it was abused on the journey, it showed no signs of wear and still looks as good as when I received it.

I was especially impressed with the deep main compartment, which held a ton of gear and remained easily accessible and simple to pack. The shoulder pads and hip belt, which has a small yet convenient pouch, were well padded and added to quality overall. All of this for just $79 at any REI store, which seems like a great bargain for this bag.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, the Traverse Pack also happens to be eco-friendly. The polyester fabrics that I mentioned above are largely made up of recycled materials. REI is fond of pointing out that every Traverse Pack keeps 24 plastic water bottles out of our landfills, which is certainly to be applauded.

The company has dedicated itself to protecting the environment, both with its stores and the gear they sell, and that is very evident in this backpack, which was designed from the ground up to be a great piece of gear that also happens to have a very minimal impact on our planet.

Great pack at a good price. Tough and versatile enough to be used just about anywhere, and comfortable, even with a full load carried over an extended period of time. If you need a new daypack, you could do much, much worse than this pack, but you can hardly do better.

Update: In my exuberance over the Traverse pack, I completely forgot one of the best features of all. Thankfully, reader Beate reminded me in the comments section.

The Traverse comes complete with a built-in rain cover that stows away neatly in a small compartment along the bottom of the pack. It’s such a simple yet ingenious design. When the rain starts flying, you simply unzip the compartment, pull out the rain cover, and extend it up and over the pack.

It’s on your back, and you’re moving again in no time, without missing a beat, and the contents of your bag stay very dry. While I didn’t need that feature much in Australia, it would have been beneficial in the Amazon.

Kraig Becker

8 thoughts on “Gear Box: REI Traverse Pack Review”

  1. This is a great recommendation. We are always looking for new packs to test out on our Overland trips – and we also recently discovered this pack and have been recommending it our overland tourists. Its pretty study which is good for goiong accross Africa.

    Its good to see someone else has seen the light 🙂

  2. I agree, it is a very sturdy pack and perfect for longer trips. I'll definitely be recommending it to anyone who is looking for a versatile daypack in the future.

  3. LOL! You know what, I did notice it, but completely forgot to mention it. I'm going to update the review now and thanks for reminding me! You're right, it is an incredibly useful feature.

  4. May I ask what did you use to protect your DSLR inside the Traverse? I'm thinking about buying a Traverse and carrying my DSLR as well.

  5. I usually just drop in the pack with the rest of my gear. That sometimes means I have a jacket of some kind in there for it rest on, but for the most part, I don't worry about it too much, and just pack everything well.

    Of course, you can't just toss the pack around though. Still have to be a bit careful when I have my camera gear inside.

  6. I have a macbook 15 inch,
    do you think it can fit in nicely into the bag like your netbook…



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