REI Traverse 28 Pack

REI Traverse 28 DayPack Review

Recently there has been a trend in daypacks that I fully support – the inclusion of a real frame. The REI Traverse 28 Pack is an example of this new breed of pack. While I appriciate a light load I always prefer a pack that has the ability to carry additional weight when needed. This could be extra water for a long day hike, your friends gear if their pack breaks or they become hurt, or maybe you find a treasure chest in the woods… what are you going to do? Leave it behind? IT’S A TREASURE CHEST! Along with the rigid frame this day pack sports a number of other features that could make this your go to daypack.

Overall I’d say this is a pretty solid pack. Loaded with weight (I tried it out with up to 30 lbs.) it is quite comfortable for a small pack. I wouldn’t want to hike for miles with that much weight but if I needed to I could. The frame transferred the load quite well to the hipbelt thanks largely, I believe, to REI’s unique UpLift compression system. Rather than using purely horizontal compression straps the UpLift system uses a vertical compression strap connected to the front bottom corners of the back on one end and the upper frame on the other end. It almost functions like those chairs that turn a Therm-a-rest (or other inflatable pad) into a camp chair. The compression straps also do a very good job scrunching the pack down to a very small silhouette when fully compressed.

REI Traverse 28 Pack Uplift Compression Strap

You can see how the light grey UpLift compression strap creates a structurally sound triangle. This triangle shape produces a very stable load hauler.

What this pack could use is a beefier hipbelt. The Traverse really lacks the padding required to support heavy loads. This shouldn’t be a huge issue since the times you will carry this pack loaded to max capacity should be minimal. The Traverse 28 also employs a mesh back panel to assist in its breathability. One note, the lumbar support built into the back panel is quite pronounced. Enough so that I would recommend trying this pack on and giving it a really good test before you purchase it. The lumbar support has a strong possibility of either causing you lower back pain or rubbing on exposed skin (if your shirt rides up) and causing irritation. You will either love or hate the lumbar support.

Another cool feature is the trekking pole holders. In addition to the ice ax loop and retention bungie’s most of us are accustomed to REI added these small plastic clips that can be tucked away when not in use. When you do use them they perfectly hold the pointy end of your trekking poles allowing you to easily carry your trekking poles strapped to your pack. Unfortunately, this system (like many other dedicated trekking pole retention systems) functions poorly with the Z-Pole style trekking poles. If you do use Z-Pole’s you are still in luck because this pack boasts some excellent side water bottle pockets you can use to stash your trekking poles. There is also a rear stuff pocket for a jacket or other random gear.

REI Traverse 28 Pack Trekking Pole Holder

You insert your trekking pole tip into this clip to secure the bottom of the pole and then use the traditional ice axe bungie system at the top of the pack to secure the other end.

The biggest drawback of this pack is the super small main pocket opening. The top of the pack zips horizontally from shoulder to shoulder to expose the main pocket and, combined with the very curved back panel, the resulting opening is quite narrow. While you might be able to support the weight of a watermelon you are not going to be able to fit it through the top opening of the pack. This is very disappointing because the internal main pocket is actually quite large but with a narrow opening digging around in the pack to find what you need is very difficult. To negate this issue REI could have included a side zipper to access the main pocket or just extended the zipper down the pack further. Unfortunately this is a bit of a deal breaker for me because the ability to locate the gear I need quickly is a priority in any pack I use.


The Traverse 28 DayPack from REI is a streamlined, nicely sized daypack with a number of attractive features that suffers from one critical drawback. This might be a great backpack for you but I would look at several other options before you settle on this one.

Recreational Equipment, INC.

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