The REI Flash Air 1 Tent (new in 2023) is a single-wall ultralight pyramid-shaped tent with a deep bathtub floor and a large front vestibule. Weighing 27.2 oz / g, it’s an affordable ($299) ultralight trekking pole tent (optional pole included) designed for backpacking that’s quite livable, spacious – even for tall people, and wind worthy. The setup is very straightforward since the vestibule and inner tent are joined together, the tent has excellent ventilation and is well appointed with line loc tensioners in the corners to get a taut pitch.
REI completely botched the Flash Air 1 product description on its website, apparently cutting and pasting the descriptions of multiple tents together, so I hope you’ll find this review clarifying. I honestly think the Flash Air 1 is a pretty nifty shelter and I really like the fact that it’s competitively priced so that people without a trust fund can afford it. Ultralight backpacking was never meant to be expensive and elitist and I’m appalled that it’s become just that.
Specs at a glance
- Size: 1 person
- Type: Single-wall
- Structural: Trekking Pole Tent (optional pole included)
- Actual Minimum Trail Weight: 1 lb 11.2 oz (optional pole adds 2.3 oz more)
- Minimum number of stakes to pitch: 6
- Doors: 1
- Actual Bathtub Floor Dimensions: 85″ x 35/27″ (L x W head/foot) inches
- Vestibule Volume: 8.4 sq ft
- Peak Height: 47 inches
- Seam-taped: Yes
- Fabric: 20D ripstop nylon
- Hydrostatic head: NA
The REI Flash Air 1 has a pyramid-shaped rainfly and a rectangular-shaped bathtub floor (although the head end is wider than the foot end). The two are connected internally by narrow mesh panels, although the rainfly extends out past the bathtub floor walls creating extra awnings that are deeply curved (called catenary curves) to improve wind worthiness, prevent rain splashback, and save weight.
I’ve tested this tent in 30 mph wind and while I did add a few extra guylines to maintain the rain fly volume, it did remarkably well. The rain fly could use a few more gear loops for extra guylines on its more expansive rear panels and seams which catch the wind, but their absence is by no means a showstopper.
The tent comes with an optional center pole (2.3 oz) measuring 47″ (119.4 cm) which can be replaced with a trekking pole. The handle of a trekking pole fits into the reinforced peak, while the sharp end fits into a grommet at the front midpoint of the bathtub floor. It’s a very secure and structurally strong setup. If you opt to use the included center pole (colored black), it has 4 shock-corded segments, with a maximum segment length of 12″.
The internal bathtub floor requires a little more explanation. It is wider at the head and narrows at the foot, but with these dimensions: 85″ x 35/27″ (we carry a tape measure to make our own measurements), it’s wide enough and long enough to hold a wide sleeping pad or a tall person with plenty of extra floor space for internal gear storage.
The back wall of the internal bathtub floor is taller than the front wall, to block cold wind and dust from blowing under the extended awnings. The corners of the back wall are augmented with 16″ aluminum poles to create distinct corners and keep the back from collapsing. The design of these corners is reminiscent of the “pitch-locs” that the company Tarptent uses on many of their tents for the same purpose. There’s no need to remove these 16″ poles from the tent corners when packing the tent (although you can) and I’d recommend leaving them alone.
REI Flash Air 1
Ease of Setup
Affordable Ultralight Tent
The REI Flash Air 1 Tent (new in 2023) is a single-wall ultralight pyramid-shaped tent with a deep bathtub floor and a large front vestibule. Weighing 27.2 oz / g, it's an affordable ($299) ultralight trekking pole tent (optional pole included) designed for backpacking that's quite livable, spacious - even for tall people, and wind worthy.
These corner aluminum poles have another benefit, which is they increase the distance between your face and the rain fly. This is often an issue with steeply angled pyramid-shaped tents and tarps (often called “mids” – short for pyramids) where the fly passes just a few inches above your face and the tops of your toes. These corner struts address this issue by creating more volume and distance between you and the rain fly.
It’s worth mentioning that the 16″ pole length of the corner struts won’t fit horizontally in some backpacks, which is something to consider if you insist on packing your tent horizontally in your backpack. A maximum corner pole segment length of 12″ or 13″ would have made the Flash Air 1 more compatible with a larger number of backpacks, particularly ultralight backpacks, where pack width tends to be narrower.
When you zipper the front vestibule closed, it creates a very large storage space in front of the tent, for any gear you don’t want to bring inside. It’s a one-way zipper, so you can’t leave the top open like a transom for more airflow, but there is a peak vent with a kickstand to help release moisture, particularly from your breath, or if you bring wet gear inside with you.
If you want, you can open the left or right side of the vestibule and there are tiebacks on either side to secure them. My advice is to tie one of the extra reflective guylines that come with the tent to the loop at the apex of the rainfly, so you can roll back both sides of the door and have one side of the tent completely open, with just the front mesh for insect protection. This is my favorite fair weather configuration.
For extra credit, you might also want to add a Zpacks double hook apparatus to the doors, which lets you use one guyline attached to the apex, to roll back the left vestibule door, the right one, or both at the same time without having to re-stake the doors separately.
A few more details:
- The rainfly has quite a few extra guy out loops sewn into the seams, but none on the larger panels. Those would be handy in high wind to help maintain the interior volume.
- When setting up the tent, the corners of the bathtub floor have fixed-length lines, while the corners of the rainfly have line loc tensioners. You can use one stake for both lines, but some re-staking may be necessary.
- The head end of the mesh has two side pockets sized to hold electronics or personal items.
The REI Flash Air 1 is an ultralight trekking pole tent that weighs 27.2 oz and is made with more conventional materials (ripstop nylon) to keep its price reasonable. The interior of the tent is quite large, with plenty of space above the head and toes and along the sides. It has a giant vestibule for gear storage and excellent ventilation for a single-wall tent if you can keep the vestibule partially open. The tent sets up fast because the rainfly and bathtub floor are all one piece so you can do it in the rain without getting the interior drenched.
There really aren’t that many competitive tents to the Flash Air 1, if you only consider single-wall tents, made with more conventional materials, and not Dyneema DCF:
- The Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo (26 oz) is its closest competitor. Made with low-stretch siliconized polyester, it’s also a single-pole, single-wall tent with good ventilation, but has somewhat less weather protection because its floor isn’t as deep. $260.
- The Gossamer Gear “The One” (17.7 oz) is a spacious single-wall tent with a two-pole design. Made with Sil/PU coated fabric, it also has less room above the head and foot ends compared to the Flash Air 1. $299.25
- The Durston Gear X-Mid 1 (28 oz) is a double-wall tent requiring 2 tent poles to set up that is made with low-stretch siliconized polyester. While it also has plenty of non-screened storage space, the interior is comparatively cramped. $240.
Disclosure: REI donated a tent for review.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
Dang, now I really want this tent and I DO NOT NEED A NEW TENT. :-D
This would be a palace for you. The interior is LARGE.
Compared to my li’l Hubba?
I owned the original Flash Air 2, and returned it after a single use. Perfectly clear night and yet the condensation build up inside the tent was so bad that my partner and I were drenched by morning. It was literally raining in the tent.
Any chance the condensation issues were resolved with this new version?
Condensation is simply a law of physics, when a warm surface – the inside of a tent – meets a cold surface, the outside air. It’s not a property of a tent per se. You can minimize it in a single wall shelter by leaving the vestibules wide open, camping on a dry surface, under a tree, and far away from open water. In other words, picking the wrong campsite or camping out in certain weather conditions can lead to observable condensation. Condensation is more noticeable in a single-wall shelter than a double wall shelter, where it also occurs, but you’re less likely to come in contact with it because the inner tent protects you from touching the walls. Is that clear? The tradeoff between using a single wall shelter and a double wall one is usually weight. If the unpredictability of condensation bothers you, get a double wall tent or simply bring a towel to wipe down the inner walls when it occurs.
We will be publishing a review of the REI Flash Air 2 soon, but being a single wall tent, it is more prone to internal condensation than a double wall tent. That’s just the nature of the beast.
Where the fly doesn’t clear the bathtub walls and kind of creates a ridge could cause water to pool up on the fly, especially if the fly sags when wet, do you see that as a potential problem?
But it clears the bathtub floor all around – do you see something I don’t?
People wondered ever since it first appeared if the Tarptent Aeon Li would come out in a sil version. REI did well in doing just that. Nice, well thought out tent with attention to detail. I hope REI keeps it in production more than a year or two for a change.
The problem with building Cadillacs (Aeon Li) is that 99% of the world is happy with a Ford. Zpacks should have also made a silpoly or silylon version of the duplex years ago.
I have a slightly older version – the fly is not as large – I’ve had to couple with Gossamer gear tarp to keep dry – together they are great until like size / cost DCF or Ultra r available. I would not buy flash 1 now, but will not replace unless much better existed- like 2024?
I’ve had in bad rain – enchanted valley, and high winds – John day river canyon … with the tarp and good stakes, guylines, all good. For function, weight, and cost … hard to beat when I bought several years ago.
This is a completely different model and design from previous version. That’s why I put in the “new in 2023”. It was STUPID for them to reuse the same product name. For example, you can’t pull back the fly for stargazing like the last model and there is no horizontal pole in the ceiling. It’s a completely different shelter. Sometime the marketing people at REI are just complete idiots.
I love your comment, “Although using a foam sit pad as a doormat under the vestibule makes it easier on your knees.” I am old (75) and it makes it much more comfortable getting into my tent. If I forget to bring it, I am not a happy camper! I live in the desert now, where the ground can be covered in rocks. Very good review as usual. I look forward to your newsletters as they are always informative and each has a nice variety of topics. Thanks.
Personally, I don’t see any advantage of this tent over my Six Moon Designs Skyscape Trekker.
– nearly 5 square feet more interior
– hybrid single/dual walls (less condensation drip)
– panels can be rolled back on clear nights for an open view of the stars
– dual doors
– almost twice the vestibule space
– about the same weight
– costs less
The Trekker does require two poles vs just the one, so if you are paranoid about breaking a trekking pole, or don’t use two trekking poles, I guess that would be a minus for the Trekker.
Kind of an apples and orange comparison because the Trekker requires 3 poles (you forgot one). I think one of the advantages of the REI tent not stated is that you don’t have to seam seal it, which is required in the trekker. Having seam sealed my fair share of UL tents, that’s not something that most people want to hassle with or pay extra to have someone else to do. I HATE IT. Why doesn’t Six Moon Designs seam tape their less expensive tents? They just do that to make them sound less expensive. (I know those guys and they are crafty salespeople) Honestly, it’s a must-have if you want to sell a tent to a wider audience set of users. For that reason alone, I’d steer people to the Gossamer Gear One instead. And don’t forget the 1-year REI return policy.
Good point about the seam sealing. That’s not a big deal to me as I’ve done it with multiple tents, but I understand that would be a concern for some and adds some $ whether you do it yourself or have SMD do it. And of course, the REI return policy is a nice safety net if the tent doesn’t work out for you.
And well, I do need to correct you on the # poles for the Trekker. It requires 2, not 3. (Or maybe I’ve been forgetting my third trekking pole on all my trips?) ;-).
Isn’t there a pole that creates the roof? Same design as the Lightheart Firefly if I recall.
OK. ill go with that.
Strut = pole then.
And that would make the flash a 3 pole tent too!
Great review as always. Seems like a very good tent and I am definitely included in the Ford lovers (don’t have the buck for DCF). Is the lately redesigned Flash 2 similar? I still think I rather carry a bit more (double wall) than deal with the condensation issues of a single wall.
Somewhat – I’m publishing a review tomorrow!
I’m really curious about your comment about it being “spacious – even for tall people”. I’ve been wanting to try a trekking pole tent for a while but they’re all so minimalistic that they tend to be poor choices for a tall person.
I see the floor is 85″ long, but I know that can be deceiving. I am 6’4″ tall and I find my 2019 Copper Spur 2 UL a very tight fit. A lot of that is probably due to it curving up and my pad bringing me feet and head up to meet the screen. Can you comment on how this might be better/worse?
I suppose with the REi warranty I could just try it out, but I’d love to hear your thoughts (or if you recommend I look into another one to meet the height I need).
Well, those those gold poles really make the space under the ceiling higher, so the back wall and the front wall are nearly vertical. As for the length, when mainstream tent manufacturers measure tent length, they do it on the length of space that the fly covers…which is pretty meaningless because that does not represent the livable space that you can lie in. That’s why we measure the length of the inner tent instead (from the inside). At 6’4, that will be 76 inches, so I believe you’ll have plenty of space in there and even more if you sleep on a slight diagonal since the darn thing is so wide.
But why oh why make the bathtub floor bright yellow???
At least its mostly hidden.