REI Rucksack 28 Pack Review

Practical, functional, and understated, this bag is a winner.
Build Quality
Extra Features
The Good
Well thought out compartments offer many organization options
Rigid foam backplate and ridges keep contents in place and your back from sweating
Great color choices and smooth styling
The Bad
Buckle hardware feel a bit lightweight
Design decisions could turn off those highly concerned with security
Final Rating
Get It

REI is highly regarded and loved in the outdoor community, but will I love their new Rucksack 28? It 28L of capacity, it’s versatile enough to be used for hiking, travel, or everyday use around town. Let’s take a look at the bag and see if it’s worthy of the REI brand.

REI Rucksack 28 Specs

Capacity28 Liters
Exterior Pockets2
Laptop CompartmentYes (max 15 inches)
Carry-On SizeYes
Weight2 lbs 11 oz
Dimensions20 x 11 x 10 inches


The Rucksack 28 is geared as a day pack for hikers, but I find it stylish enough to be used as an everyday bag for any situation. The overall look of the bag from the back is smooth and streamlined. The straps are certainly more hiking-style and the hipbelt can be tucked away into the pack to keep them hidden when not in use.

rei rucksack 28 straps

The way the pack is designed, the water bottle pouch has a strap around it that allows you to set how loose or taught the side pocket is. If kept taught, the water bottle will slide in more towards the center of the backpack which really helps keep the smooth look to the backpack as it doesn’t jarringly jut out from the side. If storage space is at a premium in your pack, you could always loosen the strap and allow the bottle to sag out more.


The pack has an overall balanced, monotone look to it – the same color nylon is used throughout the pack and all components with some slight variations on minor components depending on the color choice.

Below you can see the 4 available color choices for 2017/18 –


I particularly like the “Tawny”, the khaki color reviewed here which is a nice neutral that could really go with any outfit.

Carry and Comfort

The REI Rucksack 28 is really well designed for comfort. The back plate has a rigid foam base plate which forms a nice even base and ensures items in your bag won’t shift around too much and you won’t end up having some random item poking you in the back during your travels.

Another really nice feature is the breathability this bag offers to your back. Four ridged foam plates covered in mesh keep the majority of the pack from being in direct contact with your back which keeps channels open for air to move between the bag and you, wicking sweat away and keeping both your back and the bag from getting soaked in sweat during your long hikes.

rei rucksack 28 straps and back

The straps themselves are lightly padded and have a woven mesh covering to them. The design of the pack along with the stiff foam frame keeps it sitting nicely even when fully packed. There’s not much sag to the bag from added weight, and given the slight taper that happens from the top to the bottom of the main compartment, items tend to stay where they are put – there’s no sinking or shifting that can lead to an unbalanced bag.

rei rucksack 28 packed

Layout and Design

I’m a big fan of the Rucksack 28’s design. This pack gives you a ton of versatility without making the pack ugly – no small feat for a hiking bag.

Let’s start at the outside of the Rucksack 28 and work our way in, covering how this bag is designed for comfort and practicality.

Exterior Components and Pockets

Looking at the back of the back, a few things pop out. The first is the hiking stick loop system. On each side of the pack there is a bungie system that you can stick a hiking stick through and then cinch it taught, and near the bottom of the pack there’s a nylon loop the tip can stick through and catch on to your snow/mud basket.

I found this system worked pretty well for light hiking/transporting, but if you’re moving around too much it’s not that hard for the mud basket of your trekking pole to slip out of or through the hoop.

rei rucksack 28 full review

On both sides of the bag there’s a pretty deep pocket (roughly 7.5 inches) which you can store a water bottle. In the photo above and below you can see how a standard 32 ounce Nalgene bottle fits.

One really nice feature about this pack is the strap that goes around this pocket. As mentioned in the fashion section, you can tighten or loosen that strap which will press your water bottle in more to the center of your bag (great for when you need to keep it the most secure or don’t want a bulky backpack profile) or let it sag more out from the bag (perfect for if you’re accessing your bottle frequently or if you need the main compartment of the bag to have more room to expand).

water bottle in rucksack

The next exterior pocket is the top of the pack’s zipper pocket which is quite large and perfect for items you would want to access without having to disturb everything that’s in the main compartment of the bag.

rei rucksack 28 top pocket

One one side of the pack, we have a zipper compartment that opens up to store some of your everyday items. There’s an internal zipper pocket where you might keep important like a wallet or passport, and then layers of pockets where you can put a pen, small flashlight, etc. Overall this entire compartment is about 12 inches tall.

rei rucksack28 side pocket

The top most layer of these pockets has a cloth lining and measures roughly 6 inches deep – perfect for storing a cellphone during your hike or anything else you wouldn’t want to get scratched like a watch or jewelry.

rei rucksack cell phone pocket

There’s a shot of the lined pocket from above with my Samsung S6 in there. It fits down it pretty securely and I even the biggest phones on the market would have no problem sitting nicely. I was even able to fit my Kindle Paperwhite with a case in this pocket.

All of that being said, you may wonder if there’s any way to lock this compartment since it only has a single zipper. After all, what good is traveling with your precious items in that lined pocket if it’s unsecured?

At first I didn’t see a practical way to do that and I was bummed. Then I realized you can actually lock the zipper to the dark green hooks that are hidden under a flap right next to the bungie cable that comes out of the bag as seen below –

rei rucksack 28 side zipper

I tested this with a standard TSA-approved Master Lock and found it fit just right. This loops are made of pretty strong nylon, so I don’t imagine they would be easy to cut and especially not easy to cut discretely as they are pretty well hidden under the flap of the outer shell of the bag.

Here’s a closer look at those green loops that can be used to attach a carabiner, lock, or any other item you can think of.

rei rucksack loops

Main Compartment

On to the main compartment of the REI Rucksack 28. Here you’ll find a section with a hook-and loop-system for securing a laptop, a mesh-zipper pocket, and a side zipper pocket (more on that later).

rei rucksack main compartment

The laptop pocket has an elastic top to help keep things secure and measures roughly 10.5 inches wide by 13.5 inches deep. The entire main compartment is about 17.5″ deep. It has a slight taper to the compartment, so the mouth is wider and things get a bit more narrow near the bottom of the bag.

This compartment could also be used to store a water reservoir – the hook and strap could be used to help secure the reservoir, though I’m not certain what models it would be compatible with. On both sides of the bag there is a slit that you could run a tube through but only the right shoulder strap has a clip to hold a drinking tube in place.

rei rucksack laptop collage

Pictured above is a Surface Pro (13.5 inch screen) sitting in the bag, though not fully pushed down to the bottom. The nice thing about this bag is the stiff foam backplate acts as a sort of cushion and protection for your laptop.

On the other side of of the main compartment you have a mesh zipper pocket. Inside of the pocket is a short leash with a clip on the end of it, a nice spot to keep your keys or some other important items as you travel.

rei rucksack inner zipper

Now, there’s one other aspect of this bag that may seem a little strange. One of the sides of the bags allows you to unzip the side of this main compartment so you can access it through the side rather than from the top as seen below –

rei rucksack 28 side unzipped

Pretty interesting, right? I’m not yet sure how I feel about it.

On one hand, it lets you access the main compartment from the side and it could be easier to get at items near the bottom of the bag without taking everything else out.

On the other hand, this seems like a liability in many scenarios. You don’t want this to accidentally come unzipped and start dropping items out of your pack, and you don’t want a thief to easily access the inner portion of your bag. As a result, you’d definitely need a lock for this zipper that ties into the loops sewn into the bag as I talked about in the exterior pocket section above.

Here’s a better look at this side flap – there’s also a narrow but long zipper pocket that can be easily accessed when this flap is open.

rei rucksack 28 side flap zipper pocket


Now let’s dive into some of the features of the Rucksack 28 that I didn’t get to mention elsewhere. The first would be this neat little emergency whistle built into the chest straps – it works pretty well!

Another must-have for travelers is locking zippers, which this bag does have on the two zippers on the main compartment section of the bag. Of course because the bag opens from the side as well, you truly need 2 locks or a longer cable to secure the main compartment.

rei rucksack 28 features

The final feature to mention about this bag is the built-in rain cover that comes with it, stashed discretely in it’s own pocket in the bottom of the bag.

When not in use, this provides some nice padding for the contents of your bag. When you need it, you can pull it out and stretch the elastic edges around your bag, keeping your stuff safe from the rain.

You can also completely remove the cover as it’s only velcro’d around a hook in the bag. The cover also has some velcro straps to help you situate it around your gear however it’s required.

rei rucksack 28 rain cover

The Verdict

Overall, I’m very impressed by the REI Rucksack 28. A ton of thought went into all the different compartments and features to make this a go-to day hiking bag. If you’re a minimalist, you may find this bag to be a bit bigger than you want for a daily carry when you’re traveling.

The style of this bag really spoke to me, and I think it would look great both hiking and traveling around a city. It doesn’t scream “rugged”, it has a very nice and simple color scheme and looks pretty streamlined and smooth throughout.

The drawbacks of this bag could be that side compartment flap – some people may see it as more of a liability than an asset. Also, the plastic hardware seems to be a bit more on the cheaper side of things when we’re talking about the buckles used in various places. Otherwise, the components and materials feel high quality.

I would recommend this bag to anyone looking for a mid-sized bag they can take on short hikes, day hikes, or even overnight hikes. I also think it can be your perfect “one bag” to use in any situation, travel or hiking, if you find the style as appealing as I do.

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