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
- 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)
- 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)
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 / Model||Doors||Trail Weight||Price|
|REI Flash Air 2||2||31 oz||$299|
|Gossamer Gear "The Two"||2||27.9 oz||$375|
|Lightheart Duo Silpoly||2||36 oz||$330|
|Six Moon Designs Haven Bundle||2||34 oz||$335|
|Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo Explorer||2||45 oz||$375|
|Tarptent Stratospire 2||2||45 oz||$359|
|Tarptent Stratospire Li||2||29.1 oz||$689|
|Zpacks Duplex||2||19 oz||$599|
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.
- 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.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the affiliate links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and some sellers may contribute a small portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
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