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REI Co-op Flash Air 2 Review

An ultralight non-freestanding shelter for those looking to cover big miles
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Price:  $299 List | $299.00 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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61
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#14 of 14
  • Comfort - 25% 4
  • Weight - 25% 9
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 4
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 5
  • Durability - 10% 6
  • 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

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 backcountry travel.
This super lightweight tent is also an affordable option for deep backcountry travel.

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 but it tapers quickly toward the feet.
There is a surprising amount of headroom in this tent at peak height but it tapers quickly toward the feet.

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.

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 rain fly performs admirably.
As long as you are at a site where the tent can be pitched taut, the rain fly performs admirably.

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 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.
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.

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 or with trekking poles  as pictured.
This model has the versatility to be pitched with the included poles or with trekking poles, as pictured.

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 also fairly difficult to pop into place.
The single pole segment at the foot increases interior volume but is also fairly difficult to pop into place.

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 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.
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.

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 the mesh canopy at the very top and integrating the fly into the ceiling.
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.

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 longer backpacking trip.
This model is great for one or two people to travel light on a longer backpacking trip.

Ben Applebaum-Bauch