The REI Flash Air Hammock Shelter System is an all-on-one hammock shelter system that includes a mosquito hammock, whoopie-style suspension system, and tarp. It’s well thought out and has a lot of cool features, although it’s on the small size and more suitable for use by scouts, kids, and smaller adults under 5’6″ in height.
While the REI Flash Air Hammock System doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the hammock gear made by cottage manufacturers, it will definitely lower the frustration level and investment you’d need to make if you tried to assemble all of the components it contains from multiple best-of-breed cottage manufacturers. Plus, it’s backed by the REI guarantee and return policy, which encourages experimentation. It’s also way better than ENO’s hammock shelter systems and a GREAT value for less than $200, especially for someone who wants to try hammocking for the first time.
Specs at a Glance:
- Total weight: 46.4 oz (2 lbs 14.4 oz)
- Hammock with sleeping bag straps, suspension hooks: 20.4 oz
- Spreader Pole – 1.8 oz
- Optional Gear Sling – 1.1 oz
- Suspension (Straps, Whoopies, Hammock Hooks) – 7.8 oz.
- Tarp inc.l cordage, and hardware – 13.8
- Tarp stakes (4) – 1.5 oz
- Hammock body: 15-denier nylon
- Max weight limit: 250 lbs.
Flash Air Hammock
The REI Flash Air Hammock Shelter System includes a hammock with an integrated bug net with dual zippers so you can get in and out on either side. The bug net can also be opened all the way and stuffed into a peak pocket at one end of the hammock when it’s not needed, but it is permanently attached and can’t be removed to save weight.
There are two sleeping pad straps inside the hammock that will hold a pad in place if you prefer to sleep on one. There are also three mesh pockets that are easy to reach when lying in the hammock: a peak pocket and two smaller pockets over your face.
An optional gear sling can be hung under the hammock to store shoes, water, or other that you want easy access to during the night. Its attached using toggled straps and is easy to add or remove.
The dimensions of the hammock are 9′ x 3′ which is on the short and narrow side for a backpacking or camping hammock. I can barely sleep on a diagonal in order to get a flattish sleeping surface (I’m just under 6′ in height). As a point of comparison, a Warbonnet Blackbird (one of the most popular cottage hammocks) is 10′ x 5’3″, and vastly more comfortable on the diagonal.
The hammock does have a ridgeline, but it’s sewn into the bug net, and not attached to the suspension system itself. It does have gear loops that you can hang gear from, but hangs pretty close to your face and torso. A short collapsible pole is included with the Air Flash Hammock to counter the resulting claustrophobia. It inserts into a sleeve running over the head area to lift the mosquito netting up above your face and relieves pressure on the zipper if you want to close the two ends above your head.
Back insulation options
You can’t sleep diagonally if you strap a sleeping pad inside the hammock. If you go this route, forget using a foam pad or an ultralight inflatable pad. Theses pads aren’t robust enough (ie. board-like) to give you a flat sleeping surface, and you’ll end up sleeping like a banana with knee hypertension and the lot. Not recommended. If you do use a sleeping pad, you’re going to need to use a heavy-weight one like an Exped Downmat and inflate it fully to get a flatter surface. Weight-wise that starts to move the Air Flash Hammock out of the realm of backpacking and more into the realm of base camping or car camping.
A hammock underquilt is a much more comfortable, because you can use all of the interior space in the hammock to stretch out, including sleeping on a flatter diagonal. I’m using a purple cottage UGQ Outdoor underquilt in this picture with its own suspension system and it works very well with the Flash Air Hammock. While REI sells their own Hammock Underquilt for use with their Quarter Dome Air Hammock (bridge-style), it has a rectangular cut. I would NOT recommend it for use with the Flash AIR Hammock because it will let too much cold air in at the ends. You really need more of a peapod-shaped underquilt, as shown above, to hold the heat in.
The adjustable suspension system for hanging the hammock includes tree straps, whoppie slings, and hooks for connecting them to your hammock. If you’re not familiar with a whoppie sling it’s an adjustable length cord based on those Chinese finger traps you played with as a kid, that locks on itself under tension, and is pretty simple to figure out. It’s chief benefit is light weight, low cost, and the need for less metal hardware.
The tree straps are permanently attached to the whoopies so you can’t separate them in a nondestructive way. The straps are only 2 cm wide (3/4 inch) which is pretty narrow from a LNT perspective. LeaveNoTrace.org recommends a minimum of 1″-1.5″ straps, so it’s curious that REI would ship anything less. Some state parks also require tree straps that are at least 1″ wide, so check the local regulations beforehand. Worst comes to worse, you can replace the entire suspension with one you cobble together, but that does diminish the convenience of the all-in-one Air Flash Hammock System.
The suspension clips to the hammock with a pair of interlocking metal hooks that can’t come apart once connected. They simplify the setup and are quite convenient to use
The Flash Air Hammock includes a 10′ x 6′ hex tarp that has adjustable line locks in all the corners as well as velcro cord keepers so you can keep your guylines under control in between uses. It’s set up with in a split line configuration with 8′ cords at each end and is seam-taped for weather protection.
Each side of the ridgeline has a metal hook making it easy to suspend the tarp from a tree without having to tie any knots. A high pitch will protect your hammock against morning dew and provide plenty of ventilation, while a low pitch will protect you from wind and rain.
The REI Air Flash Hammock is an all-in-one hammock shelter system that includes a hammock, suspension system, and tarp. While none of the individual components of the system are best-of-breed, they work exceptionally well together and are easy to use. If you’ve been interested in switching from a tent to a hammock, the Air Flash Hammock System will get you in the air quickly without the learning (and spending) curve that’s required to assemble your own hammock system from multiple vendors. It is sized small however, and best suited for kids and small adults under 5’6″ in height.
While the Air Flash Hammock is configured for use with sleeping pads for back insulation, I would recommend using a underquilt for maximum comfort, particularly if you intend to backpack. If you don’t want to fork out the big bucks for a cottage underquilt, I’d recommend the ENO Ember 2 Underquilt ($100) or the Therm-a-Rest Super Snuggler Underquilt ($129) which are properly shaped for use with the REI Flash Air Hammock.
Disclosure: The author purchased this product with is own funds.
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