INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: I sort of ended up with the REI…
Design: Top Loading Internal Frame
Size: 4,800 cubic inches 79 liters
Number of Pockets: Four plus main compartment
Max. Load Carried: 44 lbs.
Height of Owner: 5' 9"
Price Paid: $145
I sort of ended up with the REI Galaxy pack by accident. I had bought another manufacturer's pack through REI and when it arrived I didn't like it at all. I returned the pack to REI and chose the Galaxy as a replacement on a whim. The REI people were helpful as usual and fitted the weighted pack to my torso. I really didn't pay much attention to the features of the pack at first, it was chosen primarily on the strength of the feel of the pack on my back. When I brought the pack home and took a closer look I was pleasantly surprized at the arrangement of the pockets and the overall design.
A few of the features immediately impressed me: I liked the large, separate sleeping bag compartment. I found that I could easily fit my goose down bag plus my clothes into this cavernous pocket leaving the other pockets free for misc. gear. I like the suspension system...it's easily adjusted and well designed. I found that it was easy to position the majority of the weight of the pack on my hips as intended. Many other packs fall short in this department. The materials seem sturdy and well assembled and the color of the pack is an unobtrusive muted green and gray.
The right external pocket has a hydration tube aperture making it easy to set up a hydration system. I hate reaching and fumbling for water bottles while walking and I especially hate trying to get them back into elasticised pockets. You have to be a contortionist to accomplish this feat with some packs. The side pockets are roomy and the space behind them is useful for sliding a fly rod case behind a side pocket and securing the rod case bottom in the pocket. The clip attachments of the pack are well placed and worked easily but the zippers are a little sticky around some of the sharper bends.
On the trail the REI Galaxy is a dream to carry. My load of just under 40 lbs. was well balanced, secure and held close to my back without any annoying points or spots that can dig into your back or neck and ruin a day on the trail. The pack as loaded was not top or bottom heavy and the gear that I needed quickly was easily accessed via the top and side pockets. The pack was fairly weather proof. I hiked for two hours in a torrential downpour and only had the odd drop or two of water invade the interior. The bottom of the pack did get wet when placed on wet grass or ground which led me to put my clothes, sleeping bag and its stuff sack into a garbage bag inside the bag compartment.
The stitching and other stress points of the bag held up well to hard use over a 28 mile stretch of the Continental Divide Trail in Southwest Colorado. I found the pack easy to load and unload even in the rain and the main compartment had plenty of room for all of my main gear.
Overall I liked the REI Galaxy pack a lot and I will certainly use it on upcoming treks.
Noteworthy points: Have this pack or any pack that you are considering professionally fitted to your torso. This simple step can make the difference between a pleasurable and a miserable backpacking experience. This pack is an excellent choice for adults. The torso adjustment range may be a bit long for kids or smaller adults.