Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Hammock Upgrade to Warbonnet Blackbird

I have a tendency to jump both feet into my interests.  Sometimes it's a good thing and sometimes not so much.  For me - getting a new piece of backpacking gear is like opening a Christmas present and I can't wait to get it out on the trail to try it out.  That's one of the fun things about any hobby and we all tend to enjoy that part.

But sometimes I pull the trigger on a new piece of gear without having the luxury of enough experience to know if that's the best piece for me.  Ever done that??  It happens to the best of us.  But now that I've got some experience under my belt, my hammock selection went even better this time.

If by some chance, this blog post happens to catch you before you buy your first hammock then have a read at why the Warbonnet Blackbird was the best choice for me.  I'm convinced that there just won't be a need to upgrade again - this is the hammock that will be with me on all future trips.  Note: I'm not being paid to offer my opinions here nor was I given a Blackbird to write a review on.

Reasons Why Your First Hammock should be the Warbonnet Blackbird:

Left and Right Side Pull Outs on the Warbonnet Blackbird keep the netting away from your face.

First off, let me say that I'm going to be pointing out some of the big things and some of the little things that make this hammock one of the best choices out there.  The little things may seem obscure and unimportant, but its the small details that make us aware of the manufacture's attention to detail and their extensive knowledge of what makes a difference in hammock design.

Flat Lay Design -
One of the first things to take note of is the fact that the Warbonnet Blackbird is designed specifically for the diagonal lay sleeper and as such it has a definite head end and foot end.  The foot end is manufactured with extra material and is aptly named the 'foot box' to give the diagonal layer more room to position their feet and also contributes to the overall flat lay.  Laying flat for me is more comfortable and although you can adjust your lay in any standard gathered end hammock, Warbonnet is the only manufacturer I know of that has a design that improves the flat lay over the standard gathered end style.

The Double Sided Stuff Sack - Here's one of the minor points but it's a nice touch and I'll tell you why.  First, because the stuff sack is double-sided, it's natural to stuff the hammock back into the sack with the head end on one end and the foot end on the other.  Stored like that you can easily distinguish one end from the other without having to pull the entire hammock out of the stuff sack.  That's a small detail but it does reduce hammock set up time and with a little practice you can set the hammock up without having any of it touch the ground.  Once I've hiked to that perfect spot with that stunning view I can pick out my trees and attach the head end of the hammock to one tree while keeping the majority of the hammock in the stuff sack.  And if I'm careful, I can walk to the foot end tree slowly letting the hammock out of the stuff sack while keeping everything off the ground.  It is the small stuff but still it shows attention to detail.

Suspension Straps Come With - I've used and seen a few different types of suspension and all of them get the job done one way or another.  The Blackbird comes with a very adequate, simple to adjust suspension system that you get as part of the package.  And the tree straps are both long enough and wide enough to protect the tree from damage and to keep your options open on where to hang from.  I've seen some other hammock manufacturers sell suspension systems separately, most likely to keep the costs down.  It's true that Warbonnet is a higher cost hammock but it's included items like these that make the higher investment worth it.

Built-In [Removable] Bug Net - I like the idea of purchasing one product that works year round right out of the box.  Although the Blackbird won't be your single source for keeping warm in the winter, the bug netting is a huge plus to allow you to use your hammock spring through fall without having to purchase anything separately.  And because it zips on and off easily, you can move it out of the way or take it completely off during those times you won't need it.  Again, the folks at Warbonnet Outdoors provide a product that keeps you out on the trail without having to buy add-ons.

Double Zippers - Another one of the small things but worthy of making note of is the double zippers on the bug netting.  Double zippers allow you to position the closure point of the bug netting anywhere you like.  I put it right about where my elbow is when laying in the hammock.  That's a super easy and comfortable spot to open and close the entry.

Side Entry - Coming from a guy who has used a bottom entry hammock, let me say that the side entry is a huge winner for me.  Bottom entry was slick and unique but I wasn't able to sit in that style hammock like a camp chair and more importantly, my choices for underquilts were severely limited for the bottom entry hammock.  If you're going to be a 4 season hanger, the side entry will keep the most options open for underquilts which are a necessity for winter camping.

And being able to use the hammock like a camp chair is important to me not only for comfort but it also allows me to sit up in the hammock when I'm having my meals.  And if you've got company or a nice view to look at, sitting up in camp chair style gets that done a lot better.

Side Pull Outs - Warbonnet has put some brainpower in the design of their side pull outs on the Blackbird as well.  Most bug netting options do a fine job at keeping the mosquitos out of the interior of the hammock, but if that netting collapses close to your face, you will hear mosquitos buzzing around your head all night.  The Blackbird solves that problem with two self-equalizing pull outs with easy to adjust tensioners that pull the bug netting a minimum of 8-10" away from your face.  So even if it's buggy out the netting is so far away from your head that you won't hear them.  Again - here we go with the small things but it's a well-thought out detail that I have yet to see on many other brands.

The Shelf - One really neat little bonus to the side pull out feature is that Warbonnet has incorporated a shelf into one other pull outs.  While accomplishing the much needed task of pulling the bug netting away, Warbonnet added a little extra netting and ripstop material to create a very accessible and convenient shelf for all your at-the-ready gear.  Lots of hammockers use Ridgeline Organizers to store phones, headlamps, books, etc and you could easily add one to the Blackbird but the storage shelf is again one of those well thought out extras that make this hammock a little more functional.

Double Layer Fabric - Here's one design feature that Warbonnet presents as an add option on their hammocks that I've got on mine.  If you're a one to two season camper, the added cost for the double layer hammock, although not super pricey, probably won't be an option you'll need.  The double layer is ideal for the hanger that wants to stay out on the trail when the overnight lows start dropping below 70F.  That double layer by itself won't offer much of any protection from the cold, but what it does afford is a great place to add a foam pad, air mattress or body length piece of reflectix that can add a bundle of warmth to your sleep system.  The double layer isn't mandatory to add these pieces under you, but by sandwiching any or all of these components between the hammock layers, it keeps them in place in the event you shift around at night.  Just to be fair, Warbonnet isn't the only manufacturer to offer the double layer, but they see the value and offer it as an option.


The Warbonnet Blackbird will be my go-to hammock many an adventure since it delivers so many little extras that keep my outdoor travels as comfortable as possible.