Warbonnet Blackbird Hammock and XLC 2014 Review
Warbonnet Blackbird Hammock 2014 Upgrade
Here are the four key ways Warbonnet has updated the Blackbird:
1. Removable, Shaped Bug Netting
The biggest change to the Blackbird and Blackbird XLC is an overhaul to the bug netting. There is a more 3D shape to the netting where individual pieces have been cut and sewn together, forming angles and “walls” the conform better to the way a person lays in the hammock, providing shape and volume to the interior space.
Both Blackbird models have the familiar side pull-outs that help spread apart the hammock fabric and help form The Shelf. This is a nice feature because you don’t have to worry about leg entanglements when getting in or out of the hammock. Once you unzip the hammock, the bug netting remains pulled out above your head, which is actually very convenient.
The Blackbird XLC model has removable netting. Full perimeter zippers allow you to completely detach the netting when not needed or wanted. This also opens the possibility for zip-on winter shells or covers either by Warbonnet or third party vendors.
The Blackbird XLC is about 12 in (30 cm) longer than the regular Blackbird with a ridge line of 111 in (282 cm). Tall hangers will rejoice: the XLC is rated for a user up to 7 ft (2.1 m).
3. Updated Footbox
When Brandon first released the Blackbird, all the talk was about the footbox. But what is a footbox? When I had my first lay in a Blackbird, I was half expecting some sort of pocket or extension sewn into the hammock that would eliminate the common calf and ankle strain. In truth, the footbox is nothing more than a triangle-shaped piece of fabric that seals off the foot end of the hammock. Think of it as a stopper or end plug that prevents your feet, sleeping bag, pad, or gear from slipping off the edge of the hammock when you sleep diagonally. This allows you to sleep at a more obtuse diagonal angle without falling out of the hammock.
All hammocks that have integrated (sewn-in) bug netting have this feature, although the triangle shape further refines the geometry of the hammock to create a natural resting spot for your feet. The fixed ridge line and size of the hammock also play integral parts in how the “footbox” works. Everything is designed to position your body in the right diagonal lay. It takes out the mystery of where to lay and helps you find the “sweet spot” quicker.
The 2014 Blackbird models replace the fabric plug with mosquito netting. This helps lighten the hammock slightly while maintaining the same function. The netting also provides a little more breathability in the foot area, reducing condensation issues under certain conditions.
On the XLC model, the footbox gets zipped off when the bug net is removed.
4. Refined Shelf
A more unique feature to the Blackbird is The Shelf: a fabric extension sewn on the long, right edge that is pulled out to provide a storage space for gear. In the new models, the tie-outs have been improved and the space slightly enlarged.
On the XLC model, the shelf disappears when the bug net is removed, so you lose the extra storage space in net-less mode.
The Little Details
While not necessarily anything new, I appreciate the little stuff—the small details that Warbonnet puts into every product. Here are a few that caught my eye:
- Mini split-ring sliders on the side pull-outs—These allow the shock cord to slide back and forth easily when setting up the pull-outs.
- Double-sided stuff sacks—I’m a fan of double-sided stuff sacks. They just make sense with hammocks and make packing and pitching easier.
- Ribbon ties to hold open the bug net when partially unzipped (on both the regular and XLC models).
- Toggles on the XLC model to hold the bug netting secure—This is just a nice touch. The toggles are attached to the hammock and provide a second method of securing the netting to prevent damage.
- Plastic o-rings used to prevent the Whoopie Slings from being pulled through—It looks like Brandon clipped the o-ring off of some mitten hooks to make this work. It is a simple, light, and resourceful solution.
- Shock cord on the side pull-outs for stress relief—The elastic prevents you from damaging the hammock as you move about in the hammock.
The Blackbird XLC is a great iteration of an already popular hammock and provides hangers with the net-less option, converting the Blackbird into a Traveler Hammock with benefits. I really like the removable netting option, especially for a full-season hammock that can convert into a sealed winter hammock with some weight savings, as opposed to other models or hammocks where you just add weight by adding the winter screen. The larger size, removable bug net, and winter conversion with only slight increase in weight makes the choice between the Blackbird and Blackbird XLC easy if you want one hammock that can “do it all.”
I have two misgivings about the Blackbird XLC: first is that the zipper has only one pull. This is due to the way the zipper is installed so it can be removed. With only one zipper pull, there is only one way and direction (pull from foot to head) to close up the bug net, so there is a little more reaching involved than with the original Blackbird model. The second issue is how the zipper makes a 180-degree turn at both ends. This sharp turn makes it difficult to pull the zipper around those corners when removing or attaching the bug net.
Both Blackbird models have great lays, thanks to the 10+ ft length and adequate sag. Folks have long praised Warbonnet as one of the more comfortable jungle hammocks on the market. The wide body, fixed ridge line, and diagonal lay helps reduce the center ridge that causes issues such as leg hyperextension and ankle strain.
Warbonnet sells multiple versions of each model, differentiated by fabric weight (1.1 vs 1.7 oz), double or single bed layer, and suspension options. The XLC model also offers accessories such as the winter cover.
Disclosure of material connection: The author (Derek Hansen) was provided with a free sample from the manufacturer for testing and evaluation purposes. The comments in this post (written & spoken) are of my own opinion, which I formed after personally handling the gear. I was under no obligation to publish a review of this item.