Spoiler alert: we really dig the REI Co-op Flash 2. This tent is ultralight, has a convenient design, and is very well-priced for the specs and quality.
While some may be lamenting the loss of the crowd favorite REI Quarter Dome SL 2 from REI’s lineup of lightweight offerings, we say the Flash 2 is the big improvement we didn’t know we needed.
LISTED WEIGHT: 3 lbs. 4.2 oz. (all components)
MEASURED WEIGHT: 3 lbs. 6.7 oz. (all components)
DIMENSIONS (LxWxH): 88 x 52/42 x 40 in. (wider at head, narrower at foot)
Affordable for the specs & quality – Compared to other backpacking tents with similar specs and quality, the REI Flash 2 is much more affordable. The closest comparison would be the Big Agnes Copper Spur 2. We’ll get into some more spec comparisons a bit later in this review, but probably the most important thing to note is that the Flash 2 costs $150 less yet weighs only 2.2 oz. more.
Ultralight – The Flash 2 may sit a little over the weight cut-off for ultralight if you’re really counting every gram. But at barely over 1.5 lbs. when split between two hikers, we consider this tent to be well within the UL territory. The only two-person tents from our list of the Best Backpacking Tents that beat out the Flash’s weight in any significant way are non-freestanding – like the ZPacks Duplex – or have less usable interior space – like the MSR Freelite 2.
Even for solo hikers looking for a little extra space to sprawl in a two-person tent, the Flash’s full packaged weight (3 lbs. 4.2 oz.) is perfectly reasonable for a shelter.
Roomy interior/excellent headroom – The Flash 2 feels much roomier than its specs suggest. It has the exact same floor dimensions and peak height as the Big Agnes Copper Spur 2, but the pole structure of the Flash pulls out a lot more headroom where you need it most.
The Flash has a crosspole at the apex that extends its peak height out to the sidewalls for more headroom in the center of the tent. Additionally, it features an arch pole at the head that pulls the walls away from you and extends the headroom created by the crosspole. This gives more usable interior volume than the single crosspole at the peak of many backpacking tents.
Excellent weather protection – The Flash 2 comes fully seam-sealed and ready to go in rainy weather. The scooped design of the rainfly cuts out a lot of weight without sacrificing weather protection, since the headwall and foot of the tent are waterproof.
The arch pole at the head of the Flash provides a good amount of structure for keeping the tent upright in high winds. There are additional guyout points you can use for extra stability if you’re in for some particularly nasty weather, but you’ll need to tie them on yourself. It’s a simple task, though, and the extra included guylines come with pre-attached tensioners to make life easy.
While we find the Flash to be plenty sturdy for your typical rainstorm or windy night, it’s important to note that this is still a piece of ultralight gear and all tents have their breaking points. As such, it will have its limits and isn’t going to be as bomber as some heavier models, like the REI Half Dome 2.
Freestanding/easy to set up – The freestanding design of the Flash 2 means it can be pitched just about anywhere, since the structure doesn’t rely on the ability to get stakes in the ground. Of course, even freestanding tents will perform better when fully staked out, but it’s nice knowing that you’ll still have a proper shelter in areas where stakes refuse to go in.
Freestanding tents are also generally a little quicker and more intuitive to set up. The Flash 2 throws you a slight curveball in the setup with its unique arch pole. But once you know how to place it, you can have the tent standing in just a couple minutes. Even those without much experience setting tents up will find the process simple thanks to the color-coded poles and clips.
Good ventilation – The Flash 2 has a pretty unique ventilation design that sits right above your head when you sleep – AKA the area where condensation buildup is most likely to occur from your breath.
When the rainfly is staked out, the vestibules sit about six inches off the ground. This allows air to flow underneath and create a cross-breeze to further mitigate interior moisture and help with temperature regulation on hot nights.
When you aren’t expecting precipitation, both sides of the rainfly can be rolled back fully to allow maximum airflow through the mesh walls.
Smooth zippers – As tents evolve and it becomes harder and harder to decide on a true winner in a sea of greats, little details really start to add up. And let us just say – being able to operate your tent door zipper with one hand is really nice.
Got your whole stove setup in your right hand cause you’re about to cook an epic dinner? Use your left to open the door. Left hand occupied with a spider you rescued from your tent ceiling? Open up the door with your right to set that thing free. Luxury.
Nice tent stakes included – This may be a minor detail to some, because tent stakes can easily be swapped out for something you like more. But tent stake costs add up when you’re getting replacements for a whole tent – some of our favorites from our Best Tent Stakes list will run you over $4 each.
We really like the stakes that come with the Flash 2 – they’re sturdy, ultralight V-shaped stakes with loops attached. We’ve seen many tent makers get it wrong in this department by omitting the pull loop at the top of the stake. It can be downright painful to try to pull a V-stake out of stubborn ground without that loop.
We know what you’re thinking, it’s so easy to just add a loop yourself if you want one. And sure, that’s true, but you shouldn’t have to.
Good pockets – The pocket setup on the Flash 2 is a little different from most other tents. There are four pockets lining the headwall above where you sleep that keep stored items neatly organized and out of the way.
While we typically prefer each occupant to have one pocket down low for easy access while laying down, we appreciate that items stored in the pockets of the Flash don’t cause the walls to sag as is common with pockets situated low next to the tent door.
Two doors/vestibules – Most two-person tents nowadays have a dedicated door and vestibule for each occupant, but we still think it’s worth noting. No one wants to be crawling over their tentmate in the wee hours for a late night bathroom break or shuffling over two sets of gear in the vestibule to get inside.
Thin materials – The 20-denier nylon floor of the Flash is thin enough to see through, and – as is the case with pretty much any piece of ultralight gear – it requires some care to ensure it lasts as long as possible.
In the early stages of testing, we had a pine needle work its way through the floor. There isn’t any major damage to speak of, but it reinforced our view that carrying a bit of Tenacious Tape is a must when using UL gear.
We find that making sure to clear your campsite of as many sticks, rocks, and other pokies as possible will go a long way in helping to keep your tent floor in good shape. But you can always opt to use a footprint with the Flash for extra protection in rugged areas or if you’re particularly hard on gear.
A bit heavier/bulkier than other ultralight tents – We mentioned this earlier in the review, but the Flash 2 isn’t the lightest of ultralight tents. You can go far lighter if you opt for a single-wall Dyneema shelter, but you’ll be losing out on the convenience and condensation mitigation that comes with a double-wall freestanding design. You’ll also pay a considerably larger amount of money.
The Flash 2 also doesn’t pack down quite as small as those lighter weight tents, but overall we find the packed dimensions to be reasonable for storage inside your pack with some good spatial planning. If you’re splitting the load between two hikers, you’ll actually save pack space versus many single-wall tents that can’t be pieced out between two backpacks.
We prefer to have one pocket that sits lower – This is a minor point, but we like the convenience of a pocket that sits near your head when lying down for easily grabbing items – like a headlamp – in the dark. All of the pockets on the Flash sit up high on the headwall and are most conveniently accessed when sitting up.
With a low weight, convenient freestanding design, and all the details dialed in, the REI Flash 2 is a definite winner for hikers looking to save a considerable amount of money over the leading ultralight competition. The Flash’s unique pole structure provides more room than the average two-person tent for two hikers, and the innovative ventilation system will keep the interior comfy and condensation free on all but the wettest nights. If you’ve drooled over ultralight freestanding tents in the past, but your wallet said no – the Flash 2 is the solution.
We hope this review helps you determine if the REI Co-op Flash 2 is right for you. As always, please leave a comment below if you have any recommendations, questions, or suggestions or visit our Facebook page and Instagram to join the community conversation. If you found this review helpful, please share on social media and click the little heart button below to give us a digital high five!
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