REI Flash Air 2 Tent Review

The REI Flash Air 2 Tent Review
The REI Flash Air 2 Tent is an ultralight two-person tent with two doors and two vestibules that weighs 1 pound 15 ounces if pitched with trekking poles (regular tent poles are also included). It is a single wall tent with lots of ventilation options to mitigate condensation. One of its best features is the ability to easily switch between an open, breezy setup for night sky views and battening down the hatches in a storm while sitting comfortably inside the tent. Priced at $299, it’s a great option for backpackers who want to lighten their load without breaking the bank. If you’re interested in the one-person version of the REI Flash Air 1 Tent, see our review here.

Specs at a Glance

  • Capacity: 2 Person
  • Type: Single-wall
  • Doors: 2
  • Seam-taped: Yes
  • Minimum Trail Weight (trekking pole pitch weight): 1 pound, 15 oz (spec); 1 pound, 15.1 oz (actual– this includes the tent body with cordage, brow poles and foot pole, minus long poles)
  • Total packaged weight: 2 pounds, 8 oz (spec); 2 pounds, 6.9 oz (actual)
  • Tent body including cordage (minus poles, stakes, sacks): 28.2 oz (actual)
  • Number of poles: 5 (the 2 long poles can be replaced with trekking poles)
    • 2 Long, shock-corded DAC Featherlite aluminum poles: 38.5″ / 98 cm (1.7 oz each)
    • 2 Brow poles with plastic hubs: 15″ (1.2 oz each)
    • 1 Foot end pole: 12.5″ long (0.5 oz)
  • Minimum number of stakes required: 6 (included–DAC aluminum V-shaped stakes), but you’ll want to carry a few extras for stability in the wind
  • Materials:
    • Floor and roof/ vestibules: 15 denier ripstop nylon, silicone-coated exterior, polyurethane-coated interior.
    • Tent body: nylon mesh.
      Footprint Included: No (footprint sold separately here)
  • Dimensions:
    • Peak height: 42″ (spec), 43″ (actual)
    • Width: head end –52 ” (spec), 50“ (actual); foot end – 42″ (spec), 41″ (actual)
    • Length: 88″ (spec), 85.5″ (actual)

REI Flash Air 2 Tent

Comfort
Ease of Setup
Weather Resistance
Durabilty
Weight
Packed Size

Well Designed and Lightweight

For folks who have never used non-freestanding or trekking pole-supported shelters before and are curious to try them out, the Flash Air 2 is a good entry point, as the basic setup is simple.

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Tent Setup

The Flash Air 2 comes with a total of 5 poles: 2 multi-section, shock-corded DAC Featherlite aluminum poles which can be swapped for trekking poles, 2 brow poles with plastic hubs into which the DAC poles or trekking poles fit, and a 12.5” aluminum foot pole.

The REI Flash 2 has two doors and two vestibules
The REI Flash 2 has two side doors and two vestibules

Two brow poles are used to create the ceiling ridgeline. They insert into fabric sleeves in the tent ceiling and have an adapter at the end to hold the tip of a trekking pole or one of the tent poles included with the tent as their vertical support.

The brow pole inserts into a sleeve made of the same 15 denier nylon as the tent.
The brow pole inserts into a sleeve made of the same 15 denier nylon as the tent.

The included poles lock into place at both ends: the hub at top and a grommet on the ground. When pitching with trekking poles, the tip locks into the hub but the handle is only attached to the tent by a fixed loop of thin cord.

Trekking poles slot into the brow pole hubs as shown here.
Trekking poles slot into the brow pole hubs as shown here.

The Flash Air 2 includes a short foot pole to help raise the ceiling up off your feet and increase interior room. The foot pole fits between an upper pocket and lower grommet very tightly, and the REI product page has lots of reviews of folks frustrated with the fit, sometimes resorting to drastic measures like cutting the pole shorter. There’s no need for that, but once installed, we suggest you keep it in place when repacking the tent.

Tension at the foot end of the tent is held in place by a tightly-fitting pole It's easiest to leave it in place permanently
Tension at the foot end of the tent is held in place by a tightly-fitting pole It’s easiest to leave it in place permanently

Setting up the Flash Air 2 is very easy once the foot pole and brow poles are installed. Stake out the four corners of the floor (gray guylines) at 45-degree angles. Insert one end of the included poles into the brow pole hub’s smaller hole and the other into the grommet at the base of the tent. If using trekking poles, insert the tip into the hub’s larger hole, and the handle into the cord loop, and lengthen your trekking pole until taut. Now, guy out the vestibule and tension it, and do the same thing on the other side. Finally, loop the orange cords attached to the fly fabric around the 4 corner stakes that hold the floor in place, and tension them with their Linelocs.

Construction and Tent Features

The tent has a seam-taped bathtub floor, vestibules, and roof made of 15 denier nylon ripstop that is coated with silicone on the outside and polyurethane on the inside (so it can be seam taped), and noseeum nylon mesh in the body. 15 denier is light-duty for a floor, so you should clear the area of rocks and sticks before pitching it, or use a footprint (sold separately) or a polycryo ground cloth underneath it.

Mesh gear pockets are triangle shaped and items can fall out easily
Mesh gear pockets are triangle shaped and items can fall out easily

There are four loops on the inside ceiling where you can clip a headlamp, hang your glasses, or run a small clothesline. Additionally, there are two triangular mesh gear pockets, one on each side on the mesh next to the doors. Because of the triangular shape and since the mesh is so lightweight, whatever you put in there will sag and likely fall out. I generally find gear pockets convenient for small, important or fragile things I want to have easy access to, but would have preferred small, rectangular hanging drop pockets sewn to the seam between the mesh and the bathtub floor.

Interior foot room is quite good
Interior foot room is quite good

Interior Space

The Flash Air 2 Tent is wide enough for two adults using regular width 20″ pads, with plenty of headroom to sit up, look at maps, or play cards. In fact, my wife and I have used it to camp with our daughter (three-person) in a pinch, although it helps that we’re shorter adults. It worked surprisingly well despite three overlapping sleeping pads. The Flash Air 2 can also be used as a spacious one-person solo tent since it’s lightweight enough for that purpose too.

In this pitch the vestibule acts as a beak providing enough rain protection to keep the vestibule door open in light rain
In this pitch the vestibule acts as a beak providing enough rain protection to keep the vestibule door open in light rain

Ventilation Options

You have multiple pitch configurations to balance protection and ventilation with the REI Flash Air 2:

  • Unzip the vestibule completely and roll back the long side for full ventilation and great views of the sky, keeping the short side staked for a protected area for your pack.
  • Zip the vestibule closed until the end of the brow pole and roll up the rest of the long side to have a beak for overhead protection with lots of ventilation in light rain.
  • Unroll the vestibule and zip it completely closed in a storm.

I was happy to discover that I could easily deploy or roll up the vestibules while sitting inside the tent. I was most impressed by this feature. Every time I’m in the tent in the rain, I appreciate this.

There is a fourth option, too: rolling up both the long and short sides of the vestibules to basically have a bug tent option when the skies are clear. But this configuration is a little more complicated than the others. The tent’s geometry requires tension, and the staked-out vestibule is a crucial part of this tension. Without it, the ridgeline sags and the sides of the tent start to fall in towards the center, because the brow poles don’t tension the entire length of the ridgeline. If you want to have both sides of the vestibule rolled up to use the Flash Air 2 like a bug tent, you’ll need to attach extra guyline (included) onto the loops at the peaks (or, my preference, to the brow pole’s hub) and guy them out.

The vestibule rolls back and secures to provide tons of ventilation and night sky views
The vestibule rolls back and secures to provide tons of ventilation and night sky views

While the various stages of opening the vestibules provide the most ventilation, there are several other design elements for ventilation when the tent is all closed up in a storm. The vestibules, when fully deployed, do not come all the way down to the ground, so there is always a gap into which fresh air can enter. Gear stored under the vestibules could be exposed to splashback in heavy storms, but the sleeping area is far enough away from the vestibule edges that rain shouldn’t touch it.

There are two small kickstand vents near the top
There are two small kickstand vents near the top

Additionally, the Flash Air 2 has small peak kickstand mesh vents held open with a small plastic rod and velcro. When the velcro is undone, the rod lies flat and the vent closes with a matching dot of velcro on its edge. The vents are quite small, but I’ve found them surprisingly effective at preventing internal condensation, even in the rain. A single-wall tent will always be more vulnerable to condensation than a double-wall tent (see How to Prevent Tent Condensation) but you can mitigate this by opening the vestibules, even partially, in the rain.

Packing

The quickest and easiest way to pack up the Flash Air 2 is to leave the foot pole and two brow poles installed, gather the three of them together, and roll up the tent body around them. This also makes your next setup very fast. The stuff sack is big enough to easily slide over this roll, then you can slide the vertical poles (if you’re using them) down the side.

Rolling the vestibule all the way back allows for great sky views
Rolling the vestibule all the way back allows for great sky views

If compactness is important to you, you can remove the brow poles and store them and the vertical poles separately, and the only rigid element in the package will be the 12.5” foot pole. Make sure to close the peak vents and the storm flap to cover up all the velcro dots. The tent uses a very lightweight mesh that snags easily, and abrasion from the hook side of the velcro while packing up is a likely culprit.

Comparable Single-Wall, Two-Person, Trekking Pole Tents

Make / ModelDoorsTrail WeightPrice
REI Flash Air 2231 oz$299
Gossamer Gear "The Two"227.9 oz$375
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2228 oz$795
Lightheart Duo Silpoly236 oz$330
Six Moon Designs Haven Bundle234 oz$335
Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo Explorer245 oz$375
Tarptent Stratospire 2245 oz$359
Tarptent Stratospire Li229.1 oz$689
Zpacks Duplex219 oz$599

Recommendation

The REI Flash Air 2 Tent ticks a lot of boxes for a more traditional pair of backpackers looking to shave some serious weight from their shelter without sacrificing comfort and ease of use, and its wide availability at REI stores will hopefully help to expose a much wider audience to lightweight backpacking. I outline my biggest likes and suggestions for improvements below, but the suggested improvements are relatively small in comparison to the things I like about this tent. I appreciate that quality tent poles are included (instead of having to buy them separately) to use on trips when you might not bring trekking poles. For folks who have never used non-freestanding or trekking pole-supported shelters before and are curious to try them out, the Flash Air 2 is a good entry point, as the basic setup is simple. However, there are features and configurations of the tent that are less intuitive, especially to users new to ultralight shelters, that would benefit from REI including more detailed instructions on online instructional videos.

Likes:

  • Super easy to set up and break down
  • Ability to open and stow or batten down the vestibules easily while seated inside the tent
  • Generous gear storage vestibules
  • Multiple configurations for night sky viewing, ventilation, and storm protection.

Room for improvement:

  • Redesign the internal gear pockets so things don’t fall out
  • More robust hub pole sleeve fabric
    Better attachment of the bottom of the tent to the trekking pole handles
  • Longer kickstand vents
  • More detailed instructions about the features and configurations of the tent

Disclosure: The author owns this tent.

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About the author

Greg Pehrson is an ultralight backpacker who was bitten hard by the MYOG (make-your-own-gear) bug. He repairs, tinkers, and builds gear, often seeking to upcycle throwaway items or repurpose things from outside the backpacking world.

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4 comments

  1. Have you tried the Gossamer Gear 2? It would be interesting to compare condensation and ease of set up between the two of them. Seems like a good price point fur the value.

  2. As always with REI branded gear it’s design is well thought out and made with quality materials. I’ve owned 2 of their FLASH UL packs and liked them and now own two REI FLASH Insulated air mattresses, one 3 season (R 3.7) and one for winter. (R 5.3) They both perform well. and the valves mate with a Sea to Summit pump/dry bag.

    The weight for a 2 person (well, 2 “consenting adults”) is surprisingly low. Ventilation looks very good, on par with most Tarptents.

  3. Funny, I was just looking at this Tent on the REI website a couple of minutes ago,,, after I saw a couple in the Pine Glen Campground who had one this past Tuesday…. What a nightmare to set up was my first thought after watching them…… But I guess the weight savings might be worth the extra effort… It has been awhile since I perused the REI and Campmor pages and was in shock over the prices of these tents now…. I paid $99. with free shipping for my Eureka! Timberline which is now over $200. I also notice very few improvements or modifications in the tents produced now from the originals years ago.. Big deal they added a Pocket but you still have to buy the Footprint separately… I just bought a Brand new, never issued, in the factory packaging, USMC Single Man Combat Tent, which weighs in at six pounds but it is a truly 4 Season Tent with two truly useful Vestibules. No Snow worries this year, and the vestibules are large enough to use my Canister Stove in for less than $200.00 plus free shipping, that I will be using for the next 4 months…You may want to test out this tent for Winter Use…..

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