REI Co-op Flash Air 2 Tent Review

REI is known for their focus on value, and their ultralight backpacking tent carries the torch

Table of Contents

The year before, REI made a serious effort to enter the ultralight market, launching their Flash Air tent. The design ticks all the requirements for an UL shelter that has lightweight fabrics, a non-freestanding structure as well as a hybrid single-wall design. Based on our experiences using Flash Air 2 Flash Air 2 while backpacking in Patagonia What most impressed us was its ease of use. The tent is simple to set up, has a large inside, and ideal for two backpackers, with two doors on the sides and vestibules. The Flash Air 2 is also a great value for the price of $299. Below, we’ll go over our experience using Flash Air 2. Flash Air 2. For a look at how it compares to other tents read our review on the top tents for backpacking.

95

83.3 sq. ft.

1P, 2P

28.7 sq. ft.

Legitimately ultralight yet easy to set up and use; excellent value.

Lacking in interior storage; foot-end pole can be difficult to insert and remove.

Performance

Weight and Size of Packed

With a total weight of two tons 8.2 pounds on the scale (0.2 pounds more than what’s described) it’s clear that the REI Co-op Air 2 is an ultralight design. If you’re hiking using trekking poles, it is possible to reduce further 3.4 grams by using them instead of the straight-torque poles. Whatever the case its weight is at the same level as a variety of other popular models, such as the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 (2 lbs. 8 oz.) in addition to Fly Creek HV UL2 (2 pounds. 4 oz. ) The Nemo’s Hornet 2P (2 2 lbs. 6 oz. ) and the REI’s Quarter Dome SL 2 (2 pounds. 14 oz.). It is possible to go lighter by using a shelter such as the less than 2 lbs Zpacks Duplex and Hyperlite’s Echo 2, but those use Dyneema fabrics which significantly raise their costs. When you consider that the REI costs half the cost of the Zpacks mentioned above, and provides good living space and complete features, we believe that its 2.5-pound weight is an impressive achievement.

The Flash Air’s stuff bag measures 16 x 7 inches, and it’s flexible enough to accommodate less than perfect packing. The design features a minimalist pole structure, a hybrid single-wall construction (meaning that the rainfly is attached to the body of the tent) as well as thin materials make it easy to pack everything into a small space and we have did not have any issues packing it into our bags (which included 55-63 Liters). In terms of weight, the dimensions are in line with other big sellers, such as Big Agnes Tiger Wall (18 x 5.5 in.) Big Agnes Tiger Wall (18 in. x 5.5 inches.) and Nemo Hornet (19 x 5.5 in.). If you are worried about space it’s possible to divide parts of the carrying responsibilities with your friend or even store stakes and poles in a separate location from the tent’s fly/body.

LIVABILITY as well as Interior Space

Large internal dimensions are a standard feature of REI tents which is why Flash Air 2 is no exception. Flash Air 2 continues the trend. It’s listed at 52 and 88 inches in length (like most tents however, the actual dimensions are smaller) The Flash Air 2 is spacious enough to accommodate a 20-inch standard width pad and one 25-inch-wide mat together with no overlap. In addition, our group used the standard and long camping bags as well as quilts and did not have any problems when our heads or feet met at either end. It’s not a perfect width for two backpackers. it’s not possible to fit two 25-inch pads without having some overlap, but it’s an issue that’s common among backpackers.

As for its roofline, as with the majority of trekking pole-supported and non-freestanding shelters The Flash Air has a tall high point that slopes down towards both the ends. It does restrict the amount of space you can live in to some extent, but the most high point is located towards the front and the camper provides the feeling of being open in the event that you sit down. Additionally, there’s plenty of room over your head (and between the sides due to the walls near vertical) when you sleep to prevent the feeling of claustrophobia like we’ve experienced in other models with low slung. However, due the low ceiling at the lower end it’s difficult to be able to lie comfortably on your back with your partner.

Durability

In all cases, reducing the weight of a tent can cause certain compromises in longevity. For this model, the Flash Air, you get 15 denier (D) nylon flooring, which requires gentle attention to avoid the development of holes as time passes. If you’re camping on any kind of rough terrain, it’s wise idea to buy your flash Air 2 footprint or utilize a type or ground cloth (Tyvek as well as Polycro are two well-tested options). A similar 15D polyester material is utilized on the bathtub section of the floor as well as on the rainfly, and the mesh parts of the body of the tent are 20D. Overall the fabrics’ thicknesses are fairly standard for UL tents as well as a variety of models that are smaller. The 7D floors on the Big Agnes Platinum line is a prime instance. It’s also worth noting that nothing in the tent felt particularly flimsy or vulnerable. Even the thin DAC stakes and poles did not seem to cause us to worry about.

Weather Protection

Our excursion to Patagonia in the latter half of January/early February was right in the middle of the summer of australity, however we had enough rain to experience the first glimpses on the flash air’s safety. The tent is fully equipped for three seasons with a rainfly that covers the entire area, a elevated bathtub floors and a sturdy pole-supported structure. There was no issue with leaks of water throughout a whole day of rainfall, it stayed well and didn’t move even in light winds. To be fair, we were in fairly secure campsites — a frequent occurrence for Patagonia with winds that can prove brutal, but the tent stood out as one that we could trust under moderate conditions. One minor issue we did encounter was that the rainfly isn’t able to fully reach the ground, and the bath floor is rather low, and we ended up getting slightly sprayed with dirt when winds whipped across the room one evening. However, this is common among mesh-heavy UL tents for backpacking and isn’t an issue.

Ventilation

The buildup of moisture is a weak factor in single-wall designs which is why Flash Air is no exception. Flash Air is not immune to this. It’s a big issue that REI provides tips for keeping dry on their product page, which includes choosing your camping spot carefully and not placing wet gear inside. Furthermore, they’ve accomplished an excellent job of restricting the single-wall sections to the central part in the camper. Mesh covers all side walls that are above the bathtub floor and the exposed fabric extends over a portion that cover the roofing. Additionally, you get vents that are deployable within the rainfly that are over each door, which are protected enough to remain open even in light rain to create a chimney-like look. So far, it appears to be working since we’ve never woken up to see condensation drip off the walls like we did all too often in the Tarptent Double Rainbow.

Storage and Vestibules

We love the convenience of a two-door-and-vestibule design, and that holds true with the Flash Air. It has 16.8 square feet of vestibule area that is divided equally across both sides the space is just big enough to provide enough space to set your bag down without needing to restrict access to the doorway or put it up against the tent’s walls. You can certainly find bigger vestibules, for instance REI’s Quarter Dome SL 2 includes 21.5 square feet, but we discovered that the Flash Air to be sufficient to meet our needs (and importantly, it’s priced well with the other designs in its weight category).

The interior storage isn’t as good. The only triangular compartment close to the door on both sides. The pocket isn’t just tiny–a map or headlamp is all you’ll find there, but the shape’s open and loose structure impede its value. We think they’d have been better off putting a couple of huge rectangular mesh pockets on the wall at the end.

Setup and Take Down

The area where it is that the REI Co-op Flash Air 2 truly sets itself above the rest of the freestanding market is its easy-to-use set-up procedure. The majority of shelters require lots of practice in order to get everything straight and in place however we were able to achieve an almost flawless pitch using the Flash in our first try. REI provides written instructions for the stuff sack, but here’s the brief outline of how to do it: take the gray cord which is connected to the top of the tent, and put the pole that is shorter into the sleeve with a grommet on the bottom. Attach the an angled hubbed pole inside the sleeve underneath the vestibule. Connect either an existing trekking pole as well as one of the straight poles into the bottom of the hub made of plastic (repeat to connect the opposite side). Complete the process by taking out the vestibule, securing the other rainfly cords at the corners, and then tightening the entire thing. The entire process can be accomplished in just five minutes.

If you are moving from a traditional semi-freestanding or freestanding tent, such as the REI Quarter Dome SL, it can be a quick learning curve. However, the weight savings is worth it. Flash Air 2 saves you 6 ounces over it’s predecessor, the SL 2 while offering much more space for floor–and REI has done a fantastic job of making the process as easy as is possible. The main complaint we had with setting up was that the tiny pole at the foot fits very snugly inside the grommet and sleeve which required quite a bit of force to join. The fabric did appear to be able to loosen a bit as time passed but it’s important to note that you may keep the pole in place when you are tearing down the tent in order to avoid any future steps.

Additional Capacity Rei Co-op Air Flash 1

REI has introduced its Flash Airline in two capacities: the 2P model that costs $299 we have tested, as well as a Flash Air 1 that is priced at $50 less. If you choose to go with the 1P model, it gives the same hybrid single-wall design but with a slimmer form. The interior area shrinks by 28.7 cubic feet down to 21.3 (the length of 88 inches remains but) The only difference is the vestibule and side door, and the weight of the package drops to 1 one-pound 10.5 ounces. If backpackers are on their own and considering either of the options, it’ll probably come down to whether you think the 13.5-ounce loss in weight will be worth the loss in space inside.

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What We Love

  • The lightest tent REI has ever made is a huge hit. It’s comfortable, well-made, and extremely light at just 2 pounds and 8 ounces in total.
  • A simple set-up procedure for a tent that is not freestanding. It is simple and quick to learn.
  • With two doors, vestibules and doors, 28.7 square feet of flooring, and near-vertical side walls, the tent can accommodate two backpackers quite well.
  • With a price of $299 for the Flash Air 2 (the Flash Air 1 costs $249), this is an amazing overall value.

The Things We Do Not

  • The interior storage is minimal The two triangular side pockets are tiny and thin.
  • Like any single-wall tent, the possibility of moisture build-up could be a problem. But, REI did a nice job in incorporating ventilation with lots of mesh inside the tent’s body and in the deployable roof vents.
  • Flash Air Flash Air is undoubtedly light however, it’s not able to compare to those of Zpacks Duplex Big Agnes Fly Creek or the Nemo Hornet.

Comparative Table

TENT2 PRICE WEIGHT AREA FLOOR Height DOOR(S) CAPACITIES
CO-OP Flash from REI Air 2. $299 2 lbs. 8 oz. 28.7 sq. ft. 15D 42 in. 2 1P, 2P
Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 $400 2 lbs. 8 oz. 28 sq. ft. 15D 39 in. 2 2P, 3P
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 $450 3 lbs. 2 oz. 29 sq. ft. 20D 40 in. 2 1P, 2P, 3P, 4P
Nemo Hornet 2P $370 2 lbs. 6 oz. 27.5 sq. ft. 15D 39 in. 2 1P, 2P
REI Co-op Quarter Dome SL 2 $349 2 lbs. 14 oz. 28.7 sq. ft. 20D 38 in. 2 1P, 2P
Tarptent Triple Rainbow $299 2 lbs. 9.8 oz. 30.6 sq. ft. 30D 40 in. 2 1P, 2P
Zpacks Duplex $599 1 lb. 3 oz. 28 sq. ft. 1 oz./sqyd 48 in. 2 1P, 2P, 3P

 

The Contest

We’re thrilled to find REI moving into the ultralight market and particularly with high-quality products and an affordable cost. With regards to competitors there’s a competitive market that includes both cottage and mainstream brands. One of the most popular designs can be found in the Big Agnes Tiger Wall. In parsing out the differences, the Tiger Wall has a semi-freestanding design that sets up a little easier than the non-freestanding Flash Air, but comes in at the same 2 pounds 8 ounces and has a similar two-door-and-vestibule layout. Both tents are also made of thin 15-denier materials for their floors, however the REI is slightly larger inside and beats the Flash Air in cost by more than hundred dollars. That’s more than enough to provide it with an edge in our opinion.

Following following the Big Agnes brand, their Copper Spur is our current most highly-rated backpacking tent. We tried the most recent HV Copper Spur UL2 model together with Flash Air. Flash Air, and the two models were our absolute favorite during the trip. Both have strengths the Copper Spur goes up very quickly due to its freestanding design Its pole structure provides an open-air interior. the tent is awash with features, including plenty of storage space, excellent ventilation, and premium materials throughout. The area where REI surpasses Copper Spur is Copper Spur is in weight (by 10 grams.) and cost (by $151) as well as being as good in its the build quality and usability. We think that the majority travelers will be drawn to the comfort and familiarity with the Copper Spur’s well-tested freestanding design and airy interior however, Flash Air is a great alternative. Flash Air is a great example of why being ultralight doesn’t have be a nightmare with a lot of compromises.

A different option that is well-known one is the Nemo’s Hornet. The first time it was launched, the tent attracted a lot of attention because it was able to compete with its predecessor, the Big Agnes Fly Creek in weight, while also offering the convenience of having two vestibules and doors. It’s still the case and is still a leading weight-lifter with a weight of 2 pounds and 6 ounces (2 2 oz. less than REI). If you don’t want double-wall construction due to its pole structure and more airflow We believe that the Flash Air is the superior overall design. It’s a lot roomier in the interior (the Hornet is even snugger than the Tiger Wall above), offers larger vestibules, folds down much smaller, and costs $71 less. It was a time when the Hornet was an elite model However, this Flash Air is now the best choice for us.

Prior to there was the Flash Air, REI’s lightest two-person model was the Quarter Dome SL 2.. The tent mimics its counterpart, the Big Agnes Tiger Wall above with its semi-freestanding construction with lightweight fabrics (15D for the flooring and the fly) and two doors on the sides. Like similar to the Tiger Wall, the Quarter Dome is a better air-conductor and its pole design allows the tent to feel more spacious than the Flash Air. However, the SL does not have the same weight, but it doesn’t have anything more in terms of floor space. If you’re considering both REI tents The Quarter Dome has a more well-known setup procedure and superior storage (both inside and in the vestibule) however it’s the Flash Air wins out among the ounce-counters.

As we move into the cottage tent market and the Tarptent Double Rainbow could be considered to be the most direct Flash Air rival. Both tents are $299 and use non-freestanding structures that weigh around similar (the REI is lighter by about 2 oz.). Additionally the single-wall constructions of both result in them being a bit more susceptible to moisture accumulation however, based on our experience we’ve found that the REI to be a better air-conductor. This Flash Air also is a more refined product It has an improved feel and feel. Additionally, Double Rainbow is a bit more expensive. Double Rainbow requires you to seal the seams by yourself, or shell out an additional $35. It’s also somewhat uncertain in the case of Tarptent as it is common among small outdoor companies. Both are excellent choices, however, the REI is the one we think of as the more complete option.

In the ultralight community among ultralighters, the Zpacks Duplex has gained an enviable following. It’s a frequent spot along the PCT and AT and has a good reason for that with a weight of just 1 pound and 3 pounds and 3 ounces (not with stakes) it’s one of the lightest two-person tents ever made. Zpacks achieved this feat by using a trekking pole that is supported non-freestanding design, a the hybrid single-wall construction, and using the ultralight Dyneema fabric. It’s a huge price, and at $599, this tent is more expensive than the REI. Additionally, the Zpacks require a lot more time to master the setup procedure as well as its Dyneema materials aren’t very breathable. These compromises are worthwhile for many minimalists and thru-hikers However, the Flash Air’s easier setup and affordable cost make it an attractive alternative.

Editor’s note: We typically provide a live price comparability table in our reviews of outdoor gear however, Flash Air is sold exclusively by REI Co-op. Flash Air is only sold through REI Co-op. It is possible to check out the Flash Air 2 page here and help us out in the process. Thanks!