REI’s Flash Air Hammock Might—Might—Change How You Sleep Outdoors

REI’s new hammock took this tester from “I can’t sleep in hammocks,” to “zzzzzzzzzzz”


“I can’t sleep in hammocks,” I said to nobody in particular right before falling asleep in the REI Flash Air hammock ($200) on a recent backcountry trip in the western Sierra. Okay, that’s not technically true, I can sleep in them, I just usually can’t stay asleep in them.

But sleep I did in the Flash Air, which surprised me, for a few reasons I’ll list below.

First, the specifics. This is an entirely self-contained sleep system. In one package, you get everything you need to sleep above the ground, protected from bugs and the elements. Hammock, tree straps, bug net, rain fly, and stakes. The whole setup weighs 2 pounds, 13 ounces and rolls into a burrito-shaped tube measuring about 16 inches by 5 inches. Roughly the same size as a typical one-person, ultralight tent, if slightly heavier.

When suspended, the hammock measures about nine feet long by three feet wide, which for somebody over six feet tall like myself, is adequate, but I’d prefer more room. If you’re around 5’10” or under, this hammock is downright palatial.

Setting up the Flash Air is…about as finnicky as you’d expect. The suspension straps cinch to the hammock with whoopie slings, a complicated-looking arrangement of interconnected thin straps that run through each other like a finger trap. These can be tricky to figure out, though they do an excellent job of providing tension. Metal clasps on the end of the hammock and the whoopie slings attach easily and securely.

The rain fly attaches above the hammock by dacron lines that you loop around the tree as far above the hammock as you want. Guy lines at each corner of the fly stake down easily, and voila, you’ve set up your hammock.

It takes longer than it does to set up a tent. It’s more complicated than setting up a tent. But it’s not laborious, and I’m sure that after using the hammock every week for a summer, I’d get it up and ready for sleeping much quicker.

The sleeping experience in the hammock is surprisingly comfortable. A mini tent pole erected above your face keeps the zipped-in bug net well above your head, and pockets and lantern loops are within easy reach. If you don’t want the bug net, it stows away in a pocket near your feet. I was able to sleep on my side and on my back, though I couldn’t quite stretch out diagonally, which I prefer in a hammock. Having said that, this is the most comfortable I’ve been sleeping in a hammock yet.

A sling below the hammock waits there for your filthy boots, water bottle, whatever you like. Rubber straps on the bottom of the hammock keep a sleeping pad in place, if you use one in a hammock. Otherwise, an underquilt (not provided) attaches easily below the hammock.

The details are all well thought-out and the system is a great intro for people, like myself, who aren’t hardcore hammock users. The hammock curious, maybe.

Now then, the same issues exist with this hammock system as with any other. You don’t need to worry about flat ground, but you do need to be sure you can find trees of the proper diameter (the straps for this piece don’t like big, thick trees, either) and adequate distance apart to suspend the hammock. So your camp site choice can be limited, and, obviously, above tree line is out of the question. The Flash Air is storable and light, though it’d be a tough call between something like this and a super light one-person tent.

But it’s an absolute joy to climb into a hammock, breeze slightly blowing, a gentle sway from your momentum rocking you to sleep, the stars viewable through the bug screen above. I’m not a dedicated hammock system sleeper, and not sure I ever will be, but I’m looking forward to using the Flash Air more often. Maybe I’ll be, ahem, swayed.

$200 • BUY

 

Showing 9 comments
  • Lowell
    Reply

    Doesn’t a hammock mean you’re sort of bent into a “U” – with your legs stretched upward a bit? I can’t stand a sagging mattress- and a hammock seems like it would basically be an EXTREMELY saggy mattress.

    • Justin Housman
      Reply

      It can be like that, depending on tension of the lines, size of the hammock, etc. When set up properly, it’s not so much a u as a slight smile shape, if that makes sense. That’s 90% of the reason I’ve had trouble sleeping all night in a hammock in the past, but this one is spacious enough you can adjust your legs a bit.

  • Ryn8tor
    Reply

    If you are bent in a U, you are laying in the hammock wrong. The occupant of a gathered end hammock lies diagonally to the attachment points. There is a bit of a shoulder squeeze and I typically need some support for behind the knee. For more info on hammock camping watch Shugemery’s Hammock How-To For Noobs on youtube.

  • Julia
    Reply

    The real question though is where is that riverside campground with at least two good hammock trees?

  • Surfrider
    Reply

    Warbonnetoutdoors.com
    Shug Emery ~ YouTube
    HammockForums.com
    Dutchweargear.com

    Inform yourself …. before purchasing
    Lot’s of information out there on Hammock hanging from the above mentioned.
    “Shug” Emery’s YouTube videos are Fun and informative!!!

  • Reese
    Reply

    I tried a Hennessy Hammock. Very comfortable BUT I have sleep apnea and during the night I would slide down to the middle. My air supply would be drastically cut off because of no bedding support. I went back to an ultralight tent.

  • Chris
    Reply

    I’m sure the pole does make the net a bit better but it adds some weight… More than additional hammock fabric does for the comfort provided.

    I don’t have the flash… But I have a few now.

    The dutchweargear chamelon is fantastic… It’s big, light stretches well, good bug net attachment etc…

    I’d be interested in trying these 2 side by side.

    To the person worried about sleeping in a U… Diagonal on a good hammock set up properly with decent stretch for your weight gets rid of almost all of that… But the AMOK draumir 3.0 doesn’t have a U at all… It uses an air mattress and the occupant is literally 90 degrees from the suspension.. it makes it tippy from head to toe and more difficult to get coverage in really bad weather but for someone who can’t have a bend in thier back it’s probably something you want to peek at… I’d still recommended the chameleon though.

  • Airbor
    Reply

    I 2nd all the links from Surfrider. Also, Shug’s review on the Amock hammock is spot on. That’s the hammock I use for anything but thru-hiking

  • Richard Caplinger
    Reply

    Look into Hennessy hammocks. You sleep sideways and your body is flat. They are one of the best made. Double floor that can hold a insulated pad. Screened in, rain fly. They come from British Columbia .

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