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)
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
The REI Flash 1 Air Tent is very easy to set up once you do it once or twice.
- 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.
- 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.
- Loop the orange cords attached to the awnings around the same stakes as the bathtub floor and lightly tension them.
- Stake out the vestibule door.
- Then walk around the tent and tension all the guylines.
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.
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 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.
Comparable UL Trekking Pole Tents
|Make / Model||People||Type||Material||Weight||Price|
|Tarptent Notch Li||1||Double Wall||DCF||18.7 oz||$599|
|REI Flash Air 1||1||Single Wall||Sil/PU||20 oz||$249|
|Gossamer Gear "The One"||1||Single Wall||Sil/PU||20.6 oz||$299|
|Tarptent Protrail||1||Single Wall||Silnylon||26 oz||$229|
|Zpacks Altaplex||1||Single Wall||DCF||15.4 oz||$625|
|Dan Durston X-Mid 1||1||Double Wall||Silpoly||28 oz||$200|
|Sierra Designs High Route||1||Double Wall||Sil/PeU||28 oz||$300|
|Zpacks Duplex||2||Single Wall||DCF||19.0 oz||$649|
|Tarptent Stratospire Li||2||Double Wall||DCF||26 oz||$689|
|Yama Mountain Gear Swiftline 2P||2||Single Wall||Silpoly||35.3 oz||$395|
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.
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