REI Co-op Flash Air 2 Review
Cons: Feels very cramped, limited storage pockets, not adaptable
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
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REI Co-op Flash Air 2
|Price||$299.00 at REI||$399.95 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Very lightweight, packable||Excellent balance between weight and features, many storage pockets, large vestibules||Two large double doors, good headroom, excellent balance of interior space and weight||Lightweight, good lateral headroom, large side doors, large overhead pocket||Exceptional headroom for its size and weight, two large side doors, lightweight|
|Cons||Feels very cramped, limited storage pockets, not adaptable||Tapered foot, pockets are high up||Expensive, delicate materials||Small vestibules, tapered footprint reduces interior space||Odd tent and fly zipper configuration, rain can splash underneath fly onto tent|
|Bottom Line||An ultralight shelter that can be pitched with included poles or trekking poles||A exceptional choice for both front and backcountry adventures||This tent balances the key aspects of a backpacking tent better than all other models||This tent offers enough room for three, without weighing you down||A surprisingly comfortable, lightweight tent|
|Rating Categories||REI Co-op Flash Air 2||NEMO Dragonfly 2||Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2||Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3||Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2|
|Weather Resistance (20%)|
|Ease Of Set Up (10%)|
|Packed Size (10%)|
|Specs||REI Co-op Flash...||NEMO Dragonfly 2||Big Agnes Copper...||Big Agnes Copper...||Big Agnes Tiger...|
|Packaged Weight||2.49 lbs||3.16 lbs||3.09 lbs||3.88 lbs||2.56 lbs|
|Floor Area||31.7 sq ft||29 sq ft||29 sq ft||41 sq ft||28 sq ft|
|Packed Size||16 x 7 in||19.5 x 4.5 in||19.5 x 6 in||21 x 6in||18 x 5.5 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||86 x 52 x 39 in|
|Vestibule Area (Total)||16.8 sq ft||20 sq ft||18 sq. ft||18 sq ft||16 sq ft|
|Peak Height||42 in||41 in||40 in||43 in||39 in|
|Number of Doors||2||2||2||2||2|
|Number of Poles||4||3||1||3||3|
|Pole Diameter||Not provided||8.7 mm||8.7 mm||8.7 mm||8.7 mm|
|Number of Pockets||2||3||3||5||3|
|Pole Material||Aluminum||DAC Featherlite NFL||DAC Featherlite NFL||Aluminum||DAC featherlight NFL aluminum|
|Rain Fly Material||Ripstop nylon||20D Nylon Ripstop||15D 1200mm Silicone Nylon RipStop||proprietary patterned random rip-stop nylon with 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating||Silicon-treated ripstop nylon|
|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||Silicon-treated ripstop nylon|
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch