REI Co-op Commuter Pack Review

The REI Co-op Commuter Pack cleverly incorporates a top loader for on-the-go access with a clamshell design for easy packing.

Our Verdict

7.6 /10
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  • Notably lightweight for a 25-liter backpack
  • The external side pocket is a convenient spot for extra accessories
  • Main compartment's clever design opens like a clamshell or a top loader


  • Thin top handle isn’t comfortable for long-term carrying
  • Key leash is inconveniently located inside the main compartment
  • Gear can spill when opening the main compartment with the top pocket open

Technical Details

87 %

Carry-on Compliance

View 126/145 Airlines

78 %

Like the Look

Polled on Instagram

  • Capacity


  • Weight (lb)

    1.63 lb (0.7 kg)

  • Dimensions

    18 in x 11 in x 6.5 in (45.7 x 27.9 x 16.5 cm)

  • Notable Materials

    Nylon, Meets bluesign® CRITERIA, Duraflex Hardware, Woojin Hardware, YKK Zippers

  • Manufacturing Country


  • Laptop Compartment Size


  • Warranty Information

    REI Return Policy

Full Review

The daily commute can be tough. Sure, one daily commute isn’t very taxing on your gear, but do it enough over the years, and the collective experience will lead you to that conclusion, as we have. That’s why finding a reliable and functional daypack warrants a serious look at the many options. One option is the REI Co-op Commuter Pack, and though it may blend in among the sea of other daypacks, it’s got some clever design aspects under the hood.

REI Co-op Commuter Pack Pocket
REI Co-op Commuter Pack | Your next commute partner?

We’re primarily interested in how this bag opens, blending the ease of packing its fully clamshell design with a top loader option for convenient access on the go. If that sounds like a bag fit for your commute, read on!

External Components

The main material on the outside is a nylon Oxford packcloth with a durable water-repellent finish. It feels slick and light, but we’re glad it’s not overly shiny, like some other coated fabrics. Not content with this fabric’s water resistance, REI also included a rainfly in case you have to brave a sudden downpour. As for the colorway option, there’s only one available at the time of writing, and that’s the Asphalt one we’re sampling for this review. It’s not the most eye-catching colorway out there, but it’s a nice balance of classy and outdoorsy.

REI Co-op Commuter Pack Logo
REI Co-op Commuter Pack | The gold-ish color scheme is tastefully implemented.

Off to the sides are compression straps. These are for cinching down the bag to keep the weight as dense and centered as possible. Yes, they do go over the main compartment’s zipper track, getting in the way of opening the bag. However, that’s not such a bad thing, as we’ll explain in the last section of the review. REI also says you can use the compression straps to hang your bike helmet. It’s not as elegant as the bespoke solution on Osprey bags (like the Osprey METRON), but it gets the job done.

At the front is a loop where you can attach a bike light loop. It’s a nice feature for those who regularly ride a bike to work and already use one. However, for those not yet invested in one, the loop itself is shiny and can reflect some light. We wouldn’t rely on it if you plan to bike regularly at night, though.

REI Co-op Commuter Pack
REI Co-op Commuter Pack | Hang any accessory you like.

Located between the shoulder straps is a rather thin top handle. While you’d be forgiven for writing this off as an uncomfortable afterthought of a handle (and you’d be right to a certain extent), we find its thinness a perk. We often encounter bathroom stalls with really shallow hooks, and while thick handles like the ones on travel backpacks are more comfortable to hold, they’re sometimes impossible to hang on such hooks. Thin handles, though? Very easy to hang on shallow hooks. Plus, the Commuter Pack isn’t so big as to warrant thick grab handles anyway.

On that note, lightness is a key vibe we’re getting from the Commuter Pack. None of the materials are flimsy per se, but they’re also not so beefy that they add significant weight to your overall load. Put another way, most of the weight you feel will come from whatever gear you’re carrying.

REI Co-op Commuter Pack Carry Handle
REI Co-op Commuter Pack | The handle is very thin, but ideal for hanging on small hooks.

The harness system is fairly comprehensive for a commuter backpack. First off are the shoulder straps with a decent amount of padding. However, the overall thickness isn’t encouraging, and our initial impression was that it was just the right amount of padding for a bag of this size. Meanwhile, the back panel features the same type of padding. Though it looks flat, there are four sections of lightly colored raised padding, while the entirety of the back panel is covered in very breathable mesh.

The sternum strap is mounted on a sliding rail, the type we’re most fond of. It allows a great degree of adjustability, allowing us to dial in the right fitment whenever we’re on the move. This wouldn’t be possible without the excellent choice of hardware. REI opted for a mix of Duraflex and Woojin, both reliable brands we’ve frequently encountered with other brands. The sternum strap’s buckle also doubles as a whistle, just in case you need to call attention to yourself or another person.

REI Co-op Commuter Pack Harness System
REI Co-op Commuter Pack | The water stain is our fault.

Before we move to the fit notes section, you may have noticed the weird water stain on our sample’s back panel. The one time we accidentally left a half-closed water bottle inside the main compartment, the water seeped all the way through to the back panel. The Commuter Pack does have a water bottle pocket, but our 40-ounce bottle wouldn’t fit. In other words, the stain is all our fault (oops), and we paid dearly with a water-soaked MacBook Pro (double oops).

Fit Notes

REI Co-op Commuter Pack Side By Side
Left: Eric Hergenreder, Height: 6’0″ (183 cm), Torso: 18.5” (47 cm) | Right: Lauren Maternowski, Height: 5’6” (168 cm), Torso: 16.5” (42 cm)

In addition to being light, the Commuter Pack is quite pliable and, as a result, contours well to the shape of your back, contributing to the carry comfort as much as the cushioning of both the back panel and the shoulder straps. On that note, both provide adequate support for the Commuter Pack’s size and weight as a daypack, while the hip belt only grants additional support for activities that require you to move a lot. It doesn’t really take any weight off your shoulders and shift them to your hips, so we removed it and left it at home for most of our testing.

REI Co-op Commuter Pack Strap
REI Co-op Commuter Pack | One of our Pack Hacker Pros also owns this bag, and she likes it.

Further attesting to the Commuter Pack’s carrying comfort is Pack Hacker Pro Rachel S. She took it to the Azores, where she hiked up Mt. Pico—an all-day activity which, we can safely assume, was quite strenuous to both Rachel and this bag. “It also gets massive points for me for being about 17” in length, so very comfortable to carry for a slightly shorter/smaller frame,” says Rachel. This aligns perfectly with our findings when we tested the bag on the smaller-framed among the Pack Hacker crew. In fact, we’ll add that the Commuter Pack, conversely, looks almost comically small on larger frames, though the feel still isn’t too bad.

Inside The Backpack

As we mentioned above, there is a simple water bottle pocket on the left side of the bag. It has a stretchy gusset in charge of firmly holding bottles in place and keeping the pocket flush against the bag when it’s occupied. Though it can fit a 20-ounce Hydro Flask without any issues, the gusset isn’t stretchy enough to keep it in place when you flip the bag upside down. That said, you can use the compression strap above to anchor your bottle’s handle if it has one.

REI Co-op Commuter Pack Side Profile
REI Co-op Commuter Pack | The stretchy gusset isn’t that strong.

On the right side of the bag is a crescent pocket containing two mesh pockets stacked on each other. The smaller one in front fits the included rainfly perfectly (it’s where we initially found it), while the rear one also zips in a crescent fashion. You can take out the rainfly and use both pockets to store everyday carry items. For context, the mesh pocket at the back fits an iPhone 14 Pro Max just fine. For storing items like these, we like that the pocket is on the side rather than at the bottom, where most rainfly compartments are.

REI Co-op Commuter Pack Side Pocket
REI Co-op Commuter Pack | This pocket’s fairly out of the way so it’s not crushed by other gear.

The front pocket is deep enough to hold bulky accessories, like an extra layer, a packable hat, a pair of gloves, a buff, etc. If you don’t plan on packing anything extra like those, the pocket stays composed and doesn’t sag despite the gussets allowing it to expand. Something worth noting is the pocket’s flap uses hook-and-loop patches to keep it closed. We’re just glad to see that REI went with a flap cover design like this instead of a drop pocket that would’ve had those hook-and-loop patches on the inside—we hate grazing those whenever we’re reaching for gear.

REI Co-op Commuter Pack Top Pocket
REI Co-op Commuter Pack | This is where daily carry accessories go.

For items we frequently use daily, we use the top quick-access pocket. It’s roomy, so we don’t have a problem tossing keys, a wallet, a power bank, and a smartphone inside. The only downside is that, because of how the main compartment opens, you have to remember to keep this pocket closed. Otherwise, the gear inside will spill out once you open the main compartment and the front panel flips down.

REI Co-op Commuter Pack Side Profile
REI Co-op Commuter Pack | The stretchy gusset isn’t that strong.

With all that said, we like how REI designed the opening of the main compartment. Fully undoing the zippers will give you a full clamshell opening, making it easy to pack large bulky gear and see everything inside. The compression straps do get in the way. However, they also act as zipper stoppers, limiting the main compartment’s opening to a top loader. You can tell this was purposely designed this way since folding down the top hatch presents the inner mesh pocket neatly, allowing you to take whatever accessories you’ve stored there. It reminds us of how the Patagonia Black Hole Pack 32L and—to a lesser extent—the Chrome Industries Volcan Backpack opens.

REI Co-op Commuter Pack Side Pocket
REI Co-op Commuter Pack | This pocket’s fairly out of the way so it’s not crushed by other gear.

That mesh pocket also has a ton of room, almost mirroring the top pocket positioned adjacent to it on the outside. Interestingly, REI opted to have the key leash here instead of that top pocket. We would’ve preferred it in an exterior pocket for more convenient access whenever we’re coming home or arriving at the office (this is a commuter backpack, after all). Instead, we toss keys in the top pocket while using the inner mesh pocket for toiletries.

REI Co-op Commuter Pack Top Angle Cube
REI Co-op Commuter Pack | A top loader opening like this is convenient when you’re on the go.

There is also a laptop sleeve on the back side that’s big enough for a 13-inch laptop. It’s a simple sleeve with no padding except for the incidental cushioning it gets from the back panel. While we wouldn’t fault the bag for the accidental spill we’ve experienced, we have to wonder if a separate laptop compartment—which would’ve put more fabric between the laptop and the spill—would’ve made a difference. Considering this is a commuter bag, it would have been nice to see some emphasis put on tech protection. In short, learn from our mistake!

Also worth noting is that this bag can double as an outdoor bag, highlighted by the option to attach a water bladder on the loop above the laptop sleeve. Those attachment loops along the shoulder straps? You can use those to route the drinking tube.

REI Co-op Commuter Pack Front Pocket
REI Co-op Commuter Pack | This pocket is ideal for gloves and other warm-me-up accessories.

Overall capacity is enough for a weekend trip, though your mileage may vary depending on how much clothing you wear regularly. Loading up the Commuter Pack with large packing cubes and pouches is easy thanks to the full clamshell design, while accessibility is also great since we have the option for a partial top loader opening while we’re on the move.

Usage Timeline

Initial Usage

Condition: Excellent

  • Digging the main compartment access—reminds us a lot of Patagonia
  • Pocket access feels intuitive out the gate
  • Harness system is pretty basic, but it seems like it’ll be comfortable
2 Weeks of Use

Condition: Excellent

  • Super lightweight, which lends itself to a comfortable carry even when the bag is full
  • Material holding up well, though we have a slight water stain on the back panel from a leaky water bottle—user error on our part!
  • Like that the raincover is hidden away on a side pocket rather than on the bottom because it doesn’t create a lumpy look underneath the bag
By Lauren Maternowski
Created March 22, 2024 • Updated March 22, 2024
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