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REI Co-op Flash Air 2 Review

An ultralight non-freestanding shelter for those looking to cover big miles
REI Co-op Flash Air 2
Photo: REI Co-op
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Price:  $299 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  Very lightweight, packable
Cons:  Feels very cramped, limited storage pockets, not adaptable
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 26, 2020
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58
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 13
  • Comfort - 25% 4
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 4
  • Weight - 20% 9
  • Durability - 10% 6
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 5
  • Packed Size - 10% 9

Our Verdict

The REI Co-Op Flash Air 2 is a non-freestanding ultralight tent that will save the long-distance backpacker a noticeable amount of weight and space in their pack. It can be pitched with either the included poles or a standard set of trekking poles if you want to shave even a few more ounces. The primary drawback of this model is the tight dimensions, which make for a very cozy night's sleep for two people. One of the other tradeoffs is diminished versatility — since it needs to be staked out to stand up, it requires the right site selection. However, if you are all in on an ultralight tent, this is one worth keeping in mind.

Compare to Similar Products

 
REI Co-op Flash Air 2
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  
Price $299 List
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$500 List
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78
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Star Rating
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Pros Very lightweight, packableExcellent balance between weight and features, many storage pockets, large vestibulesTwo large double doors, good headroom, excellent balance of interior space and weightLightweight, good lateral headroom, large side doors, large overhead pocketGenerous dimensions, large vestibules, good balance between weight and durability
Cons Feels very cramped, limited storage pockets, not adaptableTapered foot, pockets are high upExpensive, delicate materialsSmall vestibules, tapered footprint reduces interior spaceSmall doors, expensive, zippers don't always open smoothly
Bottom Line An ultralight shelter that can be pitched with included poles or trekking polesAn exceptional choice for both front and backcountry adventuresThis tent balances the key aspects of a backpacking tent better than all other modelsThis tent offers enough room for three, without weighing you downA tent that offers comfort and quality at a good weight
Rating Categories REI Co-op Flash Air 2 NEMO Dragonfly 2 Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 NEMO Dagger 2
Comfort (25%)
4
8
8
7
8
Weather Resistance (25%)
4
8
8
8
8
Weight (20%)
9
7
7
7
6
Durability (10%)
6
8
7
7
8
Ease Of Set Up (10%)
5
8
8
8
8
Packed Size (10%)
9
8
9
9
6
Specs REI Co-op Flash... NEMO Dragonfly 2 Big Agnes Copper... Big Agnes Copper... NEMO Dagger 2
Packaged Weight 2.49 lbs 3.16 lbs 3.09 lbs 3.88 lbs 3.76 lbs
Floor Area 31.7 sq ft 29 sq ft 29 sq ft 41 sq ft 31 sq ft
Packed Size 16 x 7 in 19.5 x 4.5 in 19.5 x 6 in 21 x 6 in 19.5 x 6.5 in
Dimensions 88 x 52/42 x 42 in 88 x 50 x 41 in 88 x 52 x 40 in 90 x 70 x 43 in 90 x 50 x 42 in
Vestibule Area (Total) 16.8 sq ft 20 sq ft 18 sq. ft 18 sq ft 22.8 sq ft
Peak Height 42 in 41 in 40 in 43 in 42 in
Number of Doors 2 2 2 2 2
Number of Poles 4 3 1 3 2
Pole Diameter Not provided 8.7 mm 8.7 mm 8.7 mm 8.5/9/9.6 mm
Number of Pockets 2 3 3 5 2
Gear Loft No No No No Sold separately
Pole Material Aluminum DAC featherlite NFL DAC featherlite NFL Aluminum DAC featherlight NSL
Guy Points 12 5 4 4 10
Rain Fly Material Ripstop nylon 20D nylon ripstop 15D 1200mm silicone nylon ripStop proprietary patterned random rip-stop nylon with 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating 15D Sil / PU nylon ripstop (1200mm)
Inner Tent Material Polyester 15D nylon ripstop [Body] 10D polyester mesh, [Floor] 20D nylon ripStop proprietary patterned random rip-stop nylon with 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating [Body] 15D nylon ripstop / No see um mesh, [Floor] 30D PU Nylon Ripstop (3000mm)
Type Two door semi freestanding Two door freestanding Two door freestanding Two door freestanding Two door freestanding

Our Analysis and Test Results

This tent is about as light as they come before you start to transition into the world of tarps and other non-quite-a-tent shelters.

Performance Comparison


This super lightweight tent is also an affordable option for deep...
This super lightweight tent is also an affordable option for deep backcountry travel.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Comfort


This tent underperforms its dimensions on paper. With an 88" length and a 52" width, it seems like this model can hang with the best of them. However, floor space is only one part of the equation. Even with a peak height of a respectable 42", the interior volume is still severely lacking. The gently sloping ceiling, narrow peak height plane, and heavy taper at the foot all combine to create a somewhat claustrophobic interior. We found that it is not particularly enjoyable for two people to be sitting up at the same time.

There is a surprising amount of headroom in this tent at peak height...
There is a surprising amount of headroom in this tent at peak height but it tapers quickly toward the feet.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

We do appreciate that there are two side doors. However, the poles occupy a space right outside of the tent such that the size of those doors has to be considerably smaller and slightly unconventionally located than a typical 2P. The two side storage pockets also just whisper their existence.

The storage pockets in this tent are very small.
The storage pockets in this tent are very small.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Weather Resistance


Though it is perfectly adequate for light to moderate rain, the Flash Air will struggle in severe weather unless it is really well guyed out. The shallow ceiling can sag in a downpour. We also struggle with how close to the ground the door runs. There is very little 'lip' like you might see on a more traditional double-wall tent; the door zipper all but touches the ground, leaving the tent susceptible to moisture and debris.

As long as you are at a site where the tent can be pitched taut, the...
As long as you are at a site where the tent can be pitched taut, the rain fly performs admirably.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

One feature worth noting is that it is a single wall tent. That is, the fly is attached to the tent body and there is no mesh ceiling. The benefit of this is that the fly is permanently attached; if you get to camp in the rain, the inside of your tent is protected as you set up. The downside is that the fly is permanently attached; there are two tiny fly vents, but most of the meaningful airflow is going to come from tying back the fly doors.

The vestibules are plenty large enough for a pack and footwear with...
The vestibules are plenty large enough for a pack and footwear with room to spare, however, no matter how or where the tent is pitched, there is a large gap between the ground and the bottom of the fly.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Ease of Setup


If you haven't pitched a non-freestanding shelter before, there is a steep learning curve for this model. It comes with three poles — two identical side poles for support over the doors, and one single-segment pole to expand volume at the foot. You have to start by staking out the tent, and then moving on to poles (either the included set or trekking poles). If you are going to encounter inclement weather, we recommend using the additional guyline to firm up the structure.

This model has the versatility to be pitched with the included poles...
This model has the versatility to be pitched with the included poles or with trekking poles, as pictured.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

One of the primary drawbacks of a model like this is that it requires the right kind of site selection. The setup has to be just right for staking — even one loose corner will lead to a minor collapse. The other consideration is that even though the floor dimensions of the tent are perfectly average, the guyline to stake out the corners requires quite a bit more additional ground space, meaning that the total footprint for pitching is notably larger than the actual footprint of the tent.

The single pole segment at the foot increases interior volume but is...
The single pole segment at the foot increases interior volume but is also fairly difficult to pop into place.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Durability


This super lightweight tent comes at the expense of durability. The thin ripstop nylon floor and fly both require reasonable care. The fly and tent door zippers are also more delicate.

As far as ultralight shelters go, the parts and pieces seem fairly...
As far as ultralight shelters go, the parts and pieces seem fairly durable. If you are using the included poles, our primary concern is how easily they flex (visible at left) under the tension required to keep the tent standing.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

It won't stand up to abuse the same way that a 68D polyester tent would, but it is notably thicker nylon than other models in the 2-pound range, making it one of the more durable ultralights.

Weight and Packed Size


Of course, all of the knocks against this tent outlined above are design sacrifices made so that it can weigh as little as possible. Coming in at two pounds, eight ounces, it is, indeed, a very lightweight tent. If you opt to leave the included poles behind and use a pair of trekking poles, the weight drops to two pounds, two ounces.

One of the ways that this tent cuts down on weight is by forgoing...
One of the ways that this tent cuts down on weight is by forgoing the mesh canopy at the very top and integrating the fly into the ceiling.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Unsurprisingly, the Flash Air also packs down extremely well. The entire thing can easily be carried by one person with plenty of room to spare in a 60L pack, especially if you leave the poles behind.

Value


As far as value is concerned, we think that it is quite good. We have outlined how this tent falls short, but its shortcomings are not especially unique to this specific model; it is more a function of the style of a single wall, non-freestanding tent. With that in mind, it comes in at a relatively reasonable price point and offers enough durability that the value is there in the long run.

Conclusion


The REI Flash Air 2 is meant for the hiker that isn't quite ready to go full tarp but still wants to minimize weight as much as possible. We think if you have already made the choice to prioritize weight savings above all else, this model should remain in contention.

This model is great for one or two people to travel light on a...
This model is great for one or two people to travel light on a longer backpacking trip.
Photo: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Ben Applebaum-Bauch