REI takes the hassle out of putting together a complete and protective hammock camping system with the Flash Air. And with a price tag like this, it's hard to beat, which is why we've dubbed it the Best Buy for a Complete System. This hammock is comfortable to snooze in and keeps us protected from the hot sun and stiff wind. Though it's a bit more complicated to set up than other hammocks, REI conveniently printed directions inside the storage bag. Once you get the hang of how it works, it's pretty easy! We also love the simplicity of ordering a complete system with a single purchase, no more buying all the pieces separately only to forget an integral part of your camping trip. With its reasonable weight, great price, and a system that includes every piece you need to stay protected, we find it hard not to love this complete set up from REI.
REI Co-op Flash Air Review
Cons: Low capacity, trunk straps are short and irreplaceable, small space
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
Comparing an expedition model hammock like the REI Co-op Flash Air to simpler open design hammocks like the Kootek or Skyloft is a bit like comparing potatoes to yams — they're similar enough at a glance, but they're meant for different occasions.
As we tested the Flash Air, we noted how it stacks up to other complete systems like the Warbonnet Blackbird , Hennessy Ultralite Backpacker, and Hennessy Expedition. To see how the REI Flash Air compared, read on!
The REI Flash Air scores lower in our comfort tests. It's designed for you to sleep end-to-end rather than on the diagonal, making it very hard to achieve a flat position and to avoid hyperextended knees. The sleeping pad straps are a great feature, but because they only hold the pad in position lengthwise, they further inhibit the user's ability to sleep diagonally.
A sleeping pad does help flatten the hammock side to side, giving you more sleeping width, but it can't overcome the end to end curve. A tighter pitch reduces this curve but only so much, and many users will find the curve uncomfortable for a full night's sleep. Without a sleeping pad, shorter users can lay slightly diagonally, but anyone over 5'6" will find their feet confined in the narrowing end of the hammock, which pushes you back off the diagonal.
For shorter folks who prefer to sleep in a curled position, the Flash Air may prove comfortable. The 3.5-foot width and 9.5-foot length are just too small for most to enjoy overnight.
The Flash Air is more comfortable than we expected based on our first inspection, but there is a narrow window of comfortable positioning. It takes practice to be able to sleep well reliably. Those that would like this hammock best are people under 5'8" who don't mind a slight banana sleeping position. For medium and larger users, the Flash Air may not be the best pick for comfort. Check out the larger asymmetric Editors' Choice Warbonnet Blackbird or, for a more moderate price, the Best Buy for Backcountry Shelter Hennessy Ultralite Backpacker.
Our testers couldn't sit up in the Flash Air due to its low and tight bug netting. And because of its narrowness, changing clothes inside is an acquired skill that takes a gymnast's flexibility. Nevertheless, it's obvious that REI put great thought into this hammock's design. The small tent-pole-like spreader bar holds the bug netting off your face and creates the perfect amount of tension to keep the netting from dropping or touching you at all. The bug netting can also be rolled up and tucked away in a pocket at the foot of the hammock. This makes it easier to sit up. Even so, sitting around in this narrow hammock is much less enjoyable than in a wide model like the Kootek or Sea to Summit Pro. The Flash Air is better suited to overnight adventures.
While this isn't the heaviest complete system we tested, at 44 ounces, it's pretty hefty! At just under three pounds, this system is still lighter than many backpacking tents — until you start getting into ultralight systems, of course. The weight falls right in the range of the other backcountry models we tested like the Blackbird and Sea to Summit Pro system at 42 ounces and the Hennessy Ultralite at 32 ounces. The reason we feel lackluster about the Flash's weight is that we expected more coverage or comfort for its 44 ounces. The other systems all offer something more for the same or less weight.
Durability and Protection
The REI Flash Air scored in the middle on our durability and protection tests. A system with a fly and bug net will protect you much better than an open model or even a hammock with only a bug net and no tarp, but the rain fly is smaller than that of other models like the ENO Sublink and Sea to Summit Pro system. The seams are reinforced and seem quite sturdy. Though there are more potential areas for failure, as there are more seams in general, the Flash Air seems pretty durable overall.
Even the ends of the hammock have extra material covering the gathering point to keep out the most persistent mosquitos. We also liked that it has corner loops to create easy underquilt attachment points, which can add extra warmth on a chilly or breezy night. The rip-stop material is a nice touch, which is something we only saw in a couple of other hammocks, like the Sea to Summit Pro.
The Flash Air's weight capacity is pretty low, at only 250 pounds. A camper weighing more than that is unlikely to find comfort in this smaller hammock system, but it also makes it hard for lighter users to sit in this hammock with a friend. Only kids may be able to pull that one off.
The Flash Air also has an integrated ridgeline in the bug net, which helps keep it suspended comfortably above your head. This ridgeline has a break where the zipper that lets you remove the bug net crosses. When the bug net is in use, there's a small plastic clip on the inside just under the zipper to hold the weight of the ridgeline without straining the zipper. While this all makes perfect sense, it also seems like a potential fail point — whether from the strain of use or because it's easy to forget to clip this hidden clasp again when setting up your hammock. If you do decide to use this system, make sure you remember to use this vital piece when the bug net is zipped up! Those minor complaints aside, we are quite pleased with the overall protection and durability of the REI Flash Air
Ease of Set Up
An involved expedition hammock will never be as easy to set up as a simple clip-and-hang version. However, for an expedition model, this hammock is pretty straightforward! There are large instructions helpfully printed inside the storage bag, just in case it's been a while since you used it last and you need a reminder.
All the components are included and efficiently organized, to cut down on the amount of time you spend untangling lines or suspension systems. Fly tie outs have a handy velcro loop to keep them wrapped up and untangled during storage, and there's even a separate pouch inside the storage bag to hold the dirty stakes away from the rest of the hammock! The clips are small (aka weight-saving) and have no moving parts. They slide together at a right angle to attach the hammock to the tree slings. Even the whoopie sling adjustment is reasonably straightforward, with a toggle that's easy to grab and a tag on the line, reminding you how it works.
We found this set-up pretty idiot-proof! It doesn't have a sharp learning curve like the Warbonnet models, and the picture directions from REI are undoubtedly more straightforward to follow than Hennessy's wordy written instructions.
One major downside of this system is that the tree slings themselves are relatively short, and can't wrap around even medium-sized trees. Since the slings are attached to the whole hammock adjustment system, you can't just swap them out for longer slings, and REI doesn't sell a longer suspension.
It was also a bit of a mission getting the whole system back into the storage bag when we were ready to pack up and leave camp. It does fit, but narrowly and it requires more time and finagling than any of the other hammock models or systems we tested. With a little extra time and practice, this system isn't significantly more or less work than you'd put into pitching your average tent.
For an expedition-style hammock, the Flash Air retains a decent amount of versatility. Being able to roll the bug net and tuck it away allows you to sit sideways fairly comfortably. Importantly, the zipper attaching the bug net is double sided, meaning you can set up this system to open on the right or left side, to match the zippered side of your sleeping bag. This is not the case for the asymmetrical models like the Warbonnet Blackbird or Hennessey models.
There are also a lot of little loops and pockets on the Flash Air, for hanging underquilts, small towels to dry, or other light gear items. Five small interior pockets help you to stay organized inside this hammock. We liked being able to put a headlamp in the pocket above our head to read at night, then placing our book into the more substantial pocket to fall asleep. The Flash Air also has an undersling for larger gear. We liked using it as a place to store our shoes at night to keep out the nighttime stalkers (think spiders and scorpions!). Unfortunately, you can only use it if you don't have an underquilt.
If you're searching for a hammock that you can use to lounge with a friend in the afternoon and sleep under the canopy on a starry night, you might enjoy an open model with a bit more versatility, like the Kootek or ENO Doublenest. You can add bug nets or rain flies to these if you so choose.
If you need to be able to lie flat, you'll likely have better luck in a large model where you can achieve a diagonal lay, like the Blackbird or Sea to Summit Pro. If you're a side sleeper, you might be able to find comfort in the Flash Air, but you might also consider our Top Pick for Ultimate Comfort, the Warbonnet Ridgerunner.
Based on the style of this hammock, you can probably guess that its best use is for camping — no surprise there! We also feel that this total system is a great intro into the world of hammock camping for smaller campers. It provides the same protection and usability in a relatively straightforward setup, much like a tent. If you are under 5'8," you will likely find a comfortable position in the Flash Air, and everyone can appreciate the low cost of this 100% complete set-up!
Other total systems can cost tens or hundreds of dollars more when you start adding in bug nets, rain flies, ridgelines, stakes, lightweight carabiners, and underhanging storage — all of which come standard with the REI Flash Air! All you have to add to this system is whatever you're sleeping in (aka the sleeping pad and bag you probably already own). With a lower price tag than any other comparable hammock camping system we've seen, we think the Flash Air is an excellent buy to retain the protection of a tent while blissfully suspended.
If what you're after is a complete setup that makes hammock camping a cinch and won't break the bank, then the REI Flash Air is an excellent choice. We found this hammock to be comfortable for shorter folks, simple to set up and to have all the right do-dads and whizbangs to keep us organized and sheltered from the brunt of the elements. And the price is hard to dispute for what you get!
Other Versions and Accessories
REI does sell an underquilt that we did not test with the Flash Air. They made their underquilt for a slightly more involved tent/hammock that we also did not test, the REI Co-op Quarter Dome Air Hammock. However, the REI Co-op Flash Air has corner loops specifically mean for an underquilt.
— Elizabeth Paashaus