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REI Co-op Flash Air Review

This system includes everything you need to stay protected for a low cost.
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Price:  $180 List | $179.95 at REI
Pros:  One easy system, great price, simple to use, good protection
Cons:  Low capacity, trunk straps are short and irreplaceable, small space
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
By Elizabeth Paashaus ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 7, 2019
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56
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#16 of 18
  • Comfort - 40% 4
  • Weight - 20% 8
  • Durability and Protection - 20% 6
  • Ease of Set Up - 10% 7
  • Versatility - 10% 5

Our Verdict

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.


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Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $179.95 at REI$155 List$210 List$64.93 at REI
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Pros One easy system, great price, simple to use, good protectionSpacious, comfortable, easy to set up and use, integrated bug net, customizableThe comfiest/flattest sleeping surface, optional integrated bug net and double layer bottom, large gear pocketsLightweight, spacious, easy set up, versatile for day use or backcountry shelterAsymmetric design for an easy diagonal lay, lightweight, includes suspension, tree straps, bug net, and rain fly
Cons Low capacity, trunk straps are short and irreplaceable, small spaceSuspension sold separately, can't remove bug net completelySuspension sold separately, not for the lightweight crowd, vulnerable to tippingAll components sold separately, can only use branded suspension system, pricey for the full systemMore complicated to set up, bug net isn't removable, smaller tarp
Bottom Line This system includes everything you need to stay protected for a low cost.All the features and comfort in a lightweight package.The Ridgerunner is a luxurious and innovative hammock with spreader bars for a super flat lay, an integrated bug net, and lots of storage.Not willing to sacrifice on versatility in a comfortable, lightweight hammock shelter? The Pro Double is an excellent balance of all three!A fantastic combination of lightweight and backcountry features, the Ultralite Backpacker from Hennessy provides a unique and versatile hammock camping experience.
Rating Categories REI Co-op Flash Air Warbonnet Original Blackbird Warbonnet Ridgerunner Sea to Summit Pro Double Hennessy Ultralite Backpacke...
Comfort (40%)
10
0
4
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
6
10
0
7
Weight (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
9
Durability And Protection (20%)
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
Ease Of Set Up (10%)
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
5
Versatility (10%)
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
5
Specs REI Co-op Flash Air Warbonnet Original... Warbonnet... Sea to Summit Pro... Hennessy Ultralite...
Capacity (weight) 250 lbs 350-400 lbs depending on options selected 200-250 lbs depending on options selected 400 lbs 200 lbs
Hanging Straps Included ? Yes no, can add onto purchase for extra $ No, can add onto purchase for extra $ No yes
Hammock Size 9.5' x 3.5' 10' x 5.25' 10'1" x 3' 10' x 6'2" 9'10"x4'11"
Size Compact 17" x 6" 10" x 4" 15" x 7" 4" x 6" 4"x6"x9"
Connectors Aluminum hooks Whoopies/straps or buckle/webbing (sold separately) Whoopies/straps or buckle/webbing (sold separately) Buckles Webbing straps and spectra ropes
Material ripstop nylon (fly is 15D Nylon) 40D or 70D Nylon (depending on options selected) 1.1oz/30D Nylon Double Layer 70D nylon ripstop 70d Nylon Taffeta
Construction 15D Nylon construction with bug netting. Rigid slide in spreader pole End gathered, asymmetric hammock, single or double layer fabric, zipper along 1 side, integrated bug netting. Storage shelf and foot box Bridge style hammock made with one or two layers of 30D Nylon, bug net optional. Ripstop nylon, double interlocking stitching End gathered, asymmetric hammock, integrated bug netting and suspension system
Sizes / Colors 1 size, 1 color 27 colors, 3 fabric layering configurations 12 colors, 2 fabric layering options 2 sizes, 4 colors 1 color
Measured Weight - Package (ounces) 44 oz 27 oz hammock, bug net, webbing/buckle suspension 36 oz hammock, whoopie sling suspension, bug net 16 oz 24 oz (hammock, bug net, suspension, stuff sack)
Measured Weight - Hammock Only (ounces) 21 oz 26 oz hammock, bug net, webbing/buckle suspension 35 oz hammock, whoopie sling suspension, bug net 16 oz 22 oz (hammock, bug net, suspension)
Measured Weight - Hammock and Suspension (ounces) 29 oz 26 oz hammock, bug net, webbing/buckle suspension 35 oz hammock, whoopie sling suspension, bug net 19 oz 22 oz (hammock, bug net, suspension)
Measured Weight - Shelter System (no stakes) 44 oz 42 oz with Mini Fly tarp 52 oz with Mini Fly tarp 42 oz (hammock suspension, bug net, tarp) 32 oz with included tarp
Capacity (height) Not stated 6' Up to 6' 4" Not stated Up to 6'
Accessories (compatible, not included) Underquilt Rain flies, bug net, carabiners, fish hooks, under quilts, top quilts, suspension systems Rain flies, bug net, carabiners, fish hooks, under quilts, top quilts, suspension systems Suspension straps, Rain fly, bug net, gear sling, wider tree protection straps, Longer webbing straps (free upgrade), Larger Rainly, hammock pad, insulation system, hanging pockets, snakeskins
Accessories (included with hammock) Gear sling, rain fly, detachable bug net, stakes, spreader bar, tree sling system Guylines, bugnetting, storage shelf, continuous loops (for attaching suspension system to), stuff sack Stuff sack, continuous loops (for attaching suspension system to) Continuous loops Tree hugger tree protection straps, suspension cord, rainfly, bugnet (integrated), stuff sack, rainfly guy lines, hanging storage pocket, rain collectors
Extra Accessories Tested none Mini Fly tarp, webbing with buckles suspension, Mini Fly tarp, bug net, double layer fabric, whoopie slings, tree straps Rain fly, ultralight suspension straps, bug net Snakeskins

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!

Performance Comparison



A bit more involved than a simple hammock  the REI Flash Air allows added protection from both bugs and the elements.
A bit more involved than a simple hammock, the REI Flash Air allows added protection from both bugs and the elements.

Comfort


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.

Straps let you secure your sleeping pad in the middle of the hammock. You can also remove these straps if you don't want to use them - or if your sleeping pad is integrated into your sleeping bag  like one of our testers' sleep system.
Straps let you secure your sleeping pad in the middle of the hammock. You can also remove these straps if you don't want to use them - or if your sleeping pad is integrated into your sleeping bag, like one of our testers' sleep system.

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.

Some hammocks  like the REI Coop Flash Air  only span a maximum of 20' while others could easily stretch 30'. Throwing some extra webbing in your pack expands your hanging options.
Some hammocks, like the REI Coop Flash Air, only span a maximum of 20' while others could easily stretch 30'. Throwing some extra webbing in your pack expands your hanging options.

Weight


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.

The REI Flash air falls right in the middle of the weight range of hammock shelters we tested.
The REI Flash air falls right in the middle of the weight range of hammock shelters we tested.

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.

An extra flap covers the end of the REI Flash  helping keep those persistent bugs at bay.
An extra flap covers the end of the REI Flash, helping keep those persistent bugs at bay.

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

You need to clip this small plastic buckle to hold the ridgeline taut and protect the zippers and netting from excess force. We see this as a potential fail point.
You need to clip this small plastic buckle to hold the ridgeline taut and protect the zippers and netting from excess force. We see this as a potential fail point.

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.

The interlocking clips on the REI Flash are easy to use and help save overall weight.
The interlocking clips on the REI Flash are easy to use and help save overall weight.

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.

Secure the bug net along the midline for easy access in and out of the REI Flash.
Secure the bug net along the midline for easy access in and out of the REI Flash.

Versatility


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.

With FIVE interior pockets  we think you'll be well on your way to staying organized inside this hammock system from REI.
With FIVE interior pockets, we think you'll be well on your way to staying organized inside this hammock system from REI.

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.

You can roll up the bug net on the REI Flash Air to get that extra breeze on a bug-less day.
You can roll up the bug net on the REI Flash Air to get that extra breeze on a bug-less day.

Best Applications


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!

With the bug net stowed away  sitting in the REI Flash is easy!
With the bug net stowed away, sitting in the REI Flash is easy!

Value


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.

Feeling fancy with this shoe caddy/stuff holder underneath the REI Flash.
Feeling fancy with this shoe caddy/stuff holder underneath the REI Flash.

Conclusion


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!

While the Flash Air only fits smaller users comfortably  it is one of the most well thought out full shelters we tested.
While the Flash Air only fits smaller users comfortably, it is one of the most well thought out full shelters we tested.

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