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REI Flash Air Hammock Shelter System Review

REI Flash Air Hammock Shelter Review

REI Flash Air Hammock

Comfort
Ease of Setup
Durability
Insect and Weather Protection
Versatility
Weight

Great Starter Hammock Shelter System

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 a great value for under $200 to get you off the ground and into the air.

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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.

Interior of hammock with foam pad inside
Interior of hammock with foam pad inside

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.

The REI Flash Air Hammock has a pair of sleeping bag straps to hold a pad in place.
The REI Flash Air Hammock has a pair of elastic sleeping bag straps to hold a pad in place.

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 Flash Air Hammock has an optional gear sling for convenient storage
The Flash Air Hammock has an optional gear sling for convenient storage

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.

A short collapsible "tent pole" lifts the netting off your face and increases the head area.
A short collapsible “tent pole” lifts the netting off your face and increases the head area.

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.

The most comfortable sleep insulation option is a hammock underquilt
The most comfortable sleep insulation option is a hammock underquilt

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.

Suspension System

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 hammock suspension system uses tree straps and a variant on whoopie slings
The hammock suspension system uses tree straps and a variant on whoopie slings.

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 hammock connects to the suspension using two hooks. There's even documentation attached to them!
The hammock connects to the suspension using two hooks. There’s even documentation attached to them!

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

Tarp

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.

The tarp has velcro cord keepers on each corner to keep your lines under control between uses
The tarp has velcro cord keepers on each corner to keep your lines under control between uses. I kinda wish I had these on my cottage tarp.

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.

Each side of the tarp ridge line has a hook at one end and an adjustable line lock at the other eliminating the need to tie any knots
Each side of the tarp ridge line has a hook at one end and an adjustable line lock at the other, eliminating the need to tie any knots.

Recommendation

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.

Written 2018

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14 comments

  1. Have you considered reviewing the Quarter Dome Hammock? I’ve been interested in that as an all-in-one entry into hammock camping. I see that it’s been reduced to $150, so it probably wasn’t very popular.

    • I pulled the trigger on the QDH at $150, but it has since fallen to $112, which is a steal. Set it up for the first time over the weekend, and it seems quite nice. Relatively easy to set up as a beginner. Will take it for the first camping trip this weekend, and it looks like it might good for a sidesleeper like me. I tried a neighbor’s ENO double-nest, and I could not get comfortable in that.

  2. I’m looking into hammocks and saw this a while back. I discarded it due to the size. I’t looked to small, definitely for me, 6’5″. Wish they had this package in a bigger size Thanks for ,the review, now I’m a little jealous.

  3. Clearly you didn’t spend a single night in this hammock.

    • You know, it really ticks me off when people write product reviews and have never used the gear. We don’t write reviews for gear we haven’t used. “We only review products that we’ve tested hands-on.”

  4. I seriously doubt that, Art.

    Also wondering if you’ve gotten to try the REI Quarter Dome Air, and how you think it compares to this hammock and others. I almost bought it last year but ended up with a Dutchware hammock instead. I’m happy with that hammock, but have continued to wonder if I might like the QD Air more as a side sleeper.

  5. I like the idea of a Hammock bit wasn’t sure if my back would appear the curve. Anyone have any experience with back pain after use?

    • The curve is almost non-existent if you have a hammock that allows laying diagonally (best way to imagine it is: don’t lay in line with the two trees your tied to, but at as much of an angle as possible).

  6. Here in New Zealand we get rain in the back country, lots in some areas, so the hammock may not be such a good idea, but I know in your country (USA ) you have bears, we don’t, I don’t think I would like to be sleeping in a hammock in bear country.

  7. Bill in Roswell, GA

    Side bar: last summer I was hiking down Blood Mtn. back to the car about 9:30 pm. The section I was on is a known bear route to the cabins down the hill. I come around a corner and “boom”, there’s a hammock across the trail. I saw some movement and yelled “hiker coming thru, bear is too”. Moron! All I heard was “sorry, sorry man” as I faded into the distance. I typically sing at night on the trail to alert the animals, but this time I was laughing to hard to sing!

  8. Hi, thanks for you detailed review. My questions are can I sleep comfortably on my side with this system? Would you choose this over Hennessy’s hammocks? And I’m 5’11 190lbs, right at the weight limit threshold. Will this be an issue? Thanks

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