REI Flash 1 Air Tent Review

REI Flash 1 Air Tent Review

The REI Flash 1 Air Tent is a one-person ultralight trekking pole tent that weighs 20 oz and costs $249. It’s a single wall tent with a side entrance and a large vestibule for gear storage. Myriad venting options increase airflow to help reduce internal condensation and the interior has enough space for one person, their sleep insulation, and some of their gear. The tent is seam-taped and well outfitted with guylines, tensioners, stakes, and extra guy out points that let you tailor the setup for different conditions and anchor the tent in windy weather. Overall, it’s an original design with a lot of useful innovations that I think people will enjoy using.

Note: A lightweight tent pole is also included with the Flash 1 Air Tent for people who don’t use trekking poles, so anyone can use it for backpacking or camping. A two-person REI Flash 2 Air Tent is also available with similar design elements and features.

Specs at a Glance

  • Capacity: 1 Person
  • Intended use: 3 season
  • Minimum Trail Weight: 20 oz (spec), 20.5 oz (actual, minus long pole)
  • Tent body including cordage (minus poles, stakes, sacks): 18.8 oz
  • Number of poles: 3 (the long pole can be replaced with a trekking pole)
    • Long pole: 38.5″ / 98 cm (1.7 oz)
    • Brow pole (REI calls it a hub): 15″  (1.2 oz)
    • Foot end pole: 12.5″ long (0.5 oz)
  • Minimum number of stakes required: 5, but you’ll want to carry a few extras for wind and other configurations
  • Type: Single-wall
  • Doors: 1
  • Materials: 15 denier ripstop nylon. Probably PU-coated.
  • Footprint Included: No
  • Seam-taped: Yes
  • Dimensions (actual)
    • Peak height: 43″ (spec), 37″ (actual)
    • Width: head end – 35″ (actual), foot end – 24″ (actual)
    • Length: 88″ (spec), 87″ (actual)

Single-Wall Tent

The REI Flash 1 Air Tent is a single-wall tent so it’s pitched as a single unit without a separate inner tent or rainfly. It can be pitched in the rain without getting the inner tent wet, which is one of the advantages of this design. However, there’s an increased chance of internal condensation transfer to your sleep insulation if you rub up again the walls and the surface fabric is wet.

There are many techniques to prevent internal condensation (See How to Prevent Tent Condensation) but the most important factor, apart from good campsite selection, is to have good ventilation and airflow through your tent, which the Flash 1 Air Tent has in spades. Still, unless it’s pouring rain, you’d be advised to sleep with the vestibule rolled back and the mesh wall of the tent exposed.

One side of tent is solid mesh for airflow. There are additional vents in the walls and ceiling
One side of the tent is all mesh for airflow. There are additional vents in the walls and ceiling

Tent Poles

The Flash 1 Air Tent comes with three poles: a vertical pole that can be swapped for a trekking pole, a 15″ horizontal brow pole (REI calls it a hub) used to create interior width and headroom, and a 12″ pole to increase the height of the foot end of the tent. I recommend leaving brow pole and the foot end pole in the tent when you take down the tent each morning. They’re short enough that they don’t compromise packing the tent, they’ll be harder to misplace that way, and they’ll speed setup the next time.

The horizontal pole slots into a sleeve in the top of the tent.
The horizontal brow pole slots into a sleeve in the top of the tent, under the fly.

The horizontal brow pole slots into a fabric sleeve in the ceiling of the tent. It has an adapter at the end that is compatible with trekking pole tips or the vertical pole included with the tent. A hook from the tent to the adapter holds the pole in place. The sleeve that holds the horizontal pole can be hard to distinguish from the rest of the tent because they’re the same color. My advice is to leave the horizontal pole in the sleeve when you take down the tent in the morning. This makes subsequent set up much faster and helps ensure that the interior stays dry if it’s raining.

The brow pole adapter has two holes in its base: one that fits the long pole included with the tent and one for trekking pole tips. 
The brow pole adapter has two holes in its base: one that fits the long pole included with the tent and one for trekking pole tips.

The sleeve that the horizontal brow pole slides into is a potential point of failure if you use the tent a real lot. I think REI could have made it much more robust, but it’s not a showstopper. I plan to seam-grip the stitches that attach it to the mesh as a precaution because I expect to use the tent a lot this year.

A short aluminum pole slots into a grommet at the foot end of the tent
A short aluminum pole slots into a grommet at the foot end of the tent

The tent also comes with a 12.5″ pole that is slotted into a grommet at the foot end of the tent. It’s designed to increase the height of the foot end of the tent to keep it off your sleeping bag or quilt. If you want, you can use your other trekking pole, a piece of cord, and a tent stake to replace it, or a stick for that matter. It only weighs 0.7 oz. My advice would be to leave it in place permanently so you don’t lose it.

The corners of the tent extend out beyond the bathtub floor creating awning for vents underneath
The corners of the tent extend out beyond the bathtub floor creating awnings for vents underneath

Awnings

As a single-wall tent, the Flash 1 Air doesn’t have a separate rainfly like a double-wall tent. But you’ll notice that the top of the tent extends out beyond the walls like awnings at the corners. These awnings cover vents in the head and foot end of the tent that facilitates airflow even when the vestibule is closed. The awnings also markedly improve the tent’s wind resistance and stability. They share stakes with the corners of the bathtub floor.

Basic setup with a half vestibule
Basic setup with a half vestibule

Setup

The REI Flash 1 Air Tent is very easy to set up once you do it once or twice.

  1. The first thing to do is to stake out the four corners of the bathtub floor, using the grey-colored fixed-length cords connected to it.
  2. Next insert brow pole into its sleeve to the top of the vestibule, and insert a trekking pole or the long pole into the adapter at the end of the brow pole.
  3. Loop the orange cords attached to the awnings around the same stakes as the bathtub floor and lightly tension them.
  4. Stake out the vestibule door.
  5. Then walk around the tent and tension all the guylines.
If you’ve never used a trekking pole tent before it’s going to take a little practice to get a really taut pitch. Make use of the extra guylines that come with this tent to help expand the interior and prevent the wind from flapping the tent walls when the door is unzipped.
Setup with both vestibule doors rolled back
Setup with both vestibule doors rolled back

Alternative Setups

You can also roll back the entire vestibule to enjoy even more airflow. There are many guy out loops on the top and side of the tent to facilitate this and extra reflective guylines are included with the tent for this purpose. The outfitting of the tent is quite exceptional in this respect. I’ve had this tent out in significant wind and its been very easy to add guylines for extra stability.

Ceiling rolled back for stargazing mode
Ceiling rolled back for stargazing mode

Interior

The Flash 1 Air is one step up from a bivy tent in terms of livability. There’s enough space inside that you can change your clothes and even store some gear beside you in addition to your sleep system, but you’ll probably want to store your pack outside under the vestibule.

The length of the tent is good at 87″, with a width of 35″ at the head end tapering to 24″ of width at the foot end. (My specs often differ from mfg specs because I measure the usable space inside the tent when it’s set up.) The peak height is 37″ under the brow pole, but more importantly, there’s good headroom above your head when you’re lying down on your back looking up at the ceiling. The same goes for the foot end, where there’s still space between the ceiling and the top of a sleeping bag or my 0-degree quilt.

There are small awning-covered vents at the head and foot ends of the Flash 1 Air Tent
There are small awning-covered vents at the head and foot ends of the Flash 1 Air Tent

There are two small vents at the head and foot end of the tent that help vent warmth and moisture if the vestibule is closed as well as a large kickstand roof vent in the ceiling that reachable while you’re in the tent. There’s also a gap between the vestibule doors and the ground to facilitate airflow underneath them, which is a common technique used by lightweight tent designers to help reduce internal condensation.

Overall, I find the Flash 1 Air to be a very comfortable tent to sleep in, on par with the Tarptent ProTrail or the Dan Durston X-Mid-1 in terms of interior screened-in space.

Comparable UL Trekking Pole Tents

Make / ModelPeopleTypeMaterialWeightPrice
Tarptent Notch Li1Double WallDyneema DCF18.7 oz$599
REI Flash Air 11Single WallSil/PU20 oz$249
Gossamer Gear "The One"1Single WallSil/PU20.6 oz$299
Tarptent Protrail1Single WallSilnylon26 oz$229
Six Moons Lunar Solo1Single WallSilpoly26 oz$230
Dan Durston X-Mid 11Double WallSilpoly28 oz$200
Sierra Designs High Route1Double WallSil/PeU28 oz$300
Zpacks Duplex2Single WallDyneema DCF19.4 oz$549
Tarptent Stratospire Li2Double WallDyneema DCF26 oz$689
Yama Mountain Gear Swiftline 2P2Single WallSilpoly35.3 oz$395

Recommendation

The REI Flash 1 Air Tent is a cleverly designed one-person, single-wall tent good for three-season backpacking that can be set up with a single trekking pole or a collapsible aluminum pole included with the tent. Setting the tent up is very easy and it packs up small and light, with a trail weight of 20 oz. The side entrance and vestibule make getting in and out of the tent easy, vestibule storage doesn’t block the door, and there are several different ways to roll back the vestibule doors for enhanced views and ventilation. Priced at $249, it’s a very credible tent that will help increase demand for lighter weight backpacking gear and give consumers access to a product that they can see in an REI store (one would hope) before they make a purchase.

While you can view the Flash 1 Air as a competitive threat to products made by smaller manufacturers, I think this tent will be purchased by customers that smaller companies have been unable to reach because their products are too expensive or because they have a high learning curve. I think REI and the Flash 1 Air Tent can make everybody’s boats float a little bit higher by legitimizing ultralight backpacking gear with a much wider audience and creating more potential customers in the process.

Disclosure: The author purchased this tent.

Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

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50 comments

  1. Awesome review Philip. I’ve been looking for a lightweight tent for a while but couldn’t see shelling out $500 for something I couldn’t return. This looks like a good place to start. Have you tried the two person version yet?

  2. Philip,

    As someone such as myself who backpacks primarily in the Whites for 2-4 days at a time only, do you think this tent is worth adding to my collection? I’d be getting the Flash Air 2 not the 1 . I currently have a Nemo and a BA Copper Spur HV UL2 . So I’d be saving only 8 oz. I also use tent platforms at times.

    I would love to check it out just not sure if it’s worth it over what I currently use.

    • It’s your money, but no, I don’t think you need a third tent. If you enjoy using the other two, why add another? This also has a lot less internal volume than a tent with curved poles. I think your better of with a freestanding inner tent on a platform.

      • Always the voice of reason Philip, thank you.. I’m covered as far as big 4 is concerned. I will probably just use all my dividend and gift cards on base-layers, socks, or maybe a Microlight Jacket , who knows, lol..

  3. evan eisentrager

    Thanks for this review. Which do you like better between this and the Gossamer Gear The One? The One looks like it would have more head room (but maybe not), and might more stable in the wind. I like the foot end pole on this one and the fact that it is cheaper and lighter, and can be had at member sales at REI. Plus it would be easier to return if one didn’t like it.

    • The Gossamer Gear One is more spacious in terms of headroom and vestibule space, although I think the REI Flash is more stable in wind. I’m actually really impressed with its wind performance. I like them both to be honest, but I understand why people would prefer to buy a tent from REI.

      • Evan Eisentrager

        Thanks Phillip. Good to know you like the wind resistance in the Flash, I would have thought the The One was better at that having two poles. This info has me leaning toward the Flash.

      • The One is a pretty big target.

  4. You mentioned the Pro Trail and X Mid being similar in interior livable space. Which of the others you listed for comparison would you say are in the next group up in this regard?

    • The Notch/Notch Li, the Lunar Solo, and the Gossamer Gear One.

      • Which of those groups do you think the High Route falls into? I’ve always had a soft spot for Sierra Designs tents. Cool designs and generally fit tall people well.

      • I think it’s bigger “feeling” than both of those groups.
        I personally liked SD tents a lot more when Andrew and Casey Sumnicht worked for them and were innovating on original designs.
        After they were acquired by private equity, which got rid of the team, the design quality and competence has been diminished.
        They can’t even publish accurate product specs anymore, which means it’s all outsourced.
        The High Route is one of the few exceptions held over from those days.
        We’ll be publishing a review of the updated High Route next month.

  5. Any chance of a roundup review of 2-person UL tents?

    • There are 3 really goods ones listed right there. Do you want more?

      • This time I don’t have even the excuse of not knowing the right search terms!

        Counting the 2-person version of the REI, that’s four options.

        Thanks for including them.

      • I’ll fix it when I get back from hiking. Thanks for the heads up.

  6. I’m curious, do you know how these compare to the Lightheart Gear Fire Fly and Six Moons Design Trekker? They seem similar, other than weight, but it’s hard to tell.

    • Yep. Both of those tents have walls that slope in. They require two trekking poles to set up and you need to insert a “tube” in between them to create a flat ceiling/ridge. I’d recommend the you look at the lightheart tent setup videos which give you a pretty good idea how to set them up.
      https://youtu.be/wxqPifOGxrk
      I’ve used the skyscape trekker which is very similar and not been blown away by it. The Lunar solo is so much better in terms of ease of setup and internal space. I wouldn’t be that keen on using them anyplace where it rains a lot. I’ve never dug into the details but I believe there have been lawsuits between the two companies about copying tent designs. Maybe a reader who knows more can fill in the details.

  7. Thanks for doing this review. Looks like an interesting tent with some nifty features. It would possibly suit me for overnight trips. I like the pull back fly…at least in theory…which seem quite unusual for this style of tent. I would prefer to have the option to keep my pack inside but it’s not a show stopper keeping it in the vestibule so long as I get a significantly smaller foot print in return…at least for good weather.

    The headroom looks better positioned than most pyramid style single trek pole tents. The upside down trekking pole bothers me slightly but carrying the provided pole anyway is not unreasonable and there are other solutions to that.

    A photo showing it packed next to some other similar tents would be helpful. Generally I stuff my tents rather than fold them so leaving the poles in place seems like it could be annoying…not as much as losing them…but annoying.

  8. Great review, I appreciate all the details. Do you have a picture of the tent packed up or know the packed size?

    Thanks!

  9. Hi Phillip,
    Thanks for the review.
    Do you find that the tent material sags as sil-nylon will sag overnight? Also, it seems to withstand wind, but is it drafty with the open vents?
    Thank you.

    • It stretches a little, but it’s really no big deal. The whole “silnylon stretches” bugaboo is wildly blown out of proportion IMHO. It’s never been an issue for me in the past 25 years.

      No, the vents are not big enough to be uncomfortably drafty. But you do want them to provide some airflow if you have the vestibule closed. But if they feel too cold to you, you could just block them with a jacket….

  10. Here is a reply from REI on the website to a customer question I found useful: “The integrated rainfly is made from a ripstop nylon. The outside of the fly is treated a silicon based durable water repellent finish (DWR). The inside of the fly is treated with a polyurethane waterproof coating. The hydrostatic rating is 1,200mm.”

    • I think what they meant to say is that its PU-coated silnylon. There’s no such thing as a silicon based DWR.

  11. Just read your review of the Flash and Protrail. How would these single wall tents be in humid Kansas? Worried about bad condensation in them. I plan on using them for bikepacking so I like them for pack size and weight.

    • I’d get the protrail. It has better ventilation but it will be chillier. You just have the figure out how to set it up without trekking poles.

      • Now that I think about it, something double wall might be better for me. Something like the Big Agnes Fly creek or tarptent moment.

  12. I just bought the REI Flash Air 1 to complete my UL set up. I plan to use it on my first UL backpacking trip at relative high altitude at Haleakala National Park (~6000-7000 ft elevation) in Hawaii around Thanksgiving this year. Would you recommend using this tent at that altitude with the typical weather unpredictability that comes with that (high winds and potential heavy storms, sub 30F temps, etc)?

    • I suggest you use it before then to work out the kinks and get some practice using it before your big trip. For those conditions, I’d advise you to bring extra-long tent stakes for holding power and extra guylines to pull out the panels since the walls will bow in in heavy wind. How much experience do you have in finding wild, protected campsites, assuming you will not be staying at prepared tent sites? There is a certain amount of skill required to use lighter weight gear comfortably…but I expect I’m preaching to the choir. Hard to know though online.

      • Phillip, thank you for the quick turnaround replying. I definitely plan to use it before my trip to Haleakala, but I doubt that I can replicate the high altitude conditions since I live in the gulf coast of the US (southeast TX). Your advise on bringing in extra-long stakes is duly noted, thank you. I will be camping on designated campsites, but since they are in a dormant volcano crater, they are definitely not protected. This will be my first experience in these type of conditions as most of my backpacking trips are in TX state parks with a max of ~2000ft elevation so I don’t have a lot experience at high altitude. I am most interested in learning your experience with this tent in high winds and rain.

      • Altitude by itself really isn’t the issue. It’s the prevailing weather pattern you need to consider and the direction that the wind blows. After looking up the park, which sounds pretty incredible, dust would probably be my main concern. If it’s as windy as they say think about pitching the narrow part into the wind and not the side to be more aerodynamic. I’ll be curious how it turns out.

  13. Thank you Philip. I will be sure to post comments with an update upon my return home.

  14. How does this tent stand up in rain? As a single wall tent im concerned about the ability to shed water.

    • Trekking poles tents are generally very strong. I wouldn’t worry about rain too much. What matters is the shape and pyramid-style structure will have no problem shedding rain.

  15. Thx Phillip for the quick reply. Enjoyed the review.

  16. Hey Philip great review as always. Interested to see your gear warehouse!

    You pelted to a comment regarding Sierra Designs being bought and changed a bit. I agree they had some innovative gear for a while then changed, I absolutely love my Tensegrity 1p and I believe you reviewed it as well. I hiked many miles on PCT with it and really like it. The wide top trapezoid design with foot arch pole gave great interior space for its weight. (Stilllooking for a used 2p version) This has a similar feel to it.

  17. Thank you Phillip for the great review. I just got home from REI with the Flash 1. I am planning on setting it up in the yard tonight or tomorrow. My son and I are going to the Sawtooth Mountains July 20th for a 35 mile 5 day trip. I will be using the Flash 1. I was on the fence with the Gossamer Gear The One but couldn’t pass up the REI sale $176! It looks like it will work for me!

  18. Thank you for this excellent information. It is exactly what I wanted to learn before buying a light 1-man tent. The comparison table saved me hours of research. I have confidence REI Flash 1 Air will work well for me. If I’m wrong, well it’s from REI so it can go back.

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