The Warbonnet Original Blackbird earns its Editors' Choice for Backcountry Shelter award by being the model we want to spend every night in and for having all the features needed for an all-weather shelter. The Blackbird is spacious, has a huge pocket inside for storage, an integrated bug net, a spacious foot box, and is easy to set up. When comparing its weight to ground dwelling shelters, it's beat by only the most ultralight tents on the market. Did we mention how comfortable it is? Read on to learn more about the Blackbird's customizable options and cozy comfort.
Warbonnet Original Blackbird Review
Cons: Suspension sold separately, can't remove bug net completely
Manufacturer: Warbonnet Outdoors
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Warbonnet Blackbird is a uniquely designed hammock with interesting features and comfortable asymmetrical design. From an integrated foot box to a side shelf/storage area, this innovative hammock has everything needed to transform a dull tent camping experience into an amazing night under the stars. Seeing how the Warbonnet Blackbird stacked up against the competition, it is clear to see why this product won our Editors' Choice Award, even with some stiff competition.
The Blackbird is among the top three most comfortable models we tested. Only the supremely comfortable Warbonnet Ridgerunner scored higher in this metric. Contributing to the comfort is the hammock's asymmetric design and overall large size.
The Blackbird is similar to many hammocks in that the fabric is cinched together at either end before being connected to a rope or webbing. Generally, the best and most comfortable way to sleep in a hammock is diagonally, and while a handful of products on the market come with an asymmetrical design to create more space for this, the Blackbird is the only one reviewed that also comes with a foot box.
What makes an asymmetric model like the Blackbird or the nearly as comfortable Hennessy Ultralite Backpacker Classic so cozy is that they aren't just made of one large rectangular (or semi-rectangular) piece of fabric. The shape has extra room on the right side of one end and the left side of the other. That way, when you position your body on the diagonal, the hammock doesn't fight back against you. It gives the user space for the feet and head to exist without restriction. In addition to being asymmetric, the Blackbird has a footbox, which gives your feet even more freedom. It also allows your sleeping bag's footbox to maintain its loft better, keeping your feet warmer. Two models that took a different but similarly effective approach to asymmetry are the Top Pick for Customizable Hammock, Dutchware Chameleon and Notable for Cottage Industry Brand, Dream Hammock Sparrow. They use symmetric bodies paired with asymmetric bug netting to achieve the comfortable angle and added space for feet.
The Blackbird is longer and wider than the Hennessy, Sparrow, and Chameleon making it more spacious and comfortable. We had enough room to roll, slide, scooch, and wiggle around, finding all the sweet spots. We were able to get flat and comfortable in a variety of positions: on our backs, sides, and curled up in the fetal position. The only more comfortable model is the shockingly flat Ridgerunner, our Top Pick for Ultimate Comfort. (For those who can't get comfortable in any other hammock, the Ridgerunner may be the solution you've been waiting for!)
The Blackbird is plenty long for users up to 6 feet, and Warbonnet offers a larger version for users up to 6'6". The weight limit is a robust 350-400 lbs depending on options selected, which is significantly higher than some other shelter models we tested like the Ridgerunner and Hennessy Ultralite.
The livability of the Blackbird is better than most tested models. Our testers have only found one model, the Dream Hammock Sparrow, that allows you to sit up fully without pushing your head into the bug netting, but the Blackbird comes close. It features shock cord guylines on either side that keep the netting from closing in on the sides. Because of those and the relatively high ridgeline, we had enough space to change clothes without leaving our little nylon cocoon. Although it is pretty awkward, that's more than can be said for most of the other models we tested.
We found the best angle at which to suspend it is with the foot end raised 10-15" over the head end, which is also what the manufacturer recommends. The design of both suspension systems we tested allows for quick and easy adjustments, making it a breeze to achieve this perfect angle.
However, one issue we have with the asymmetrical design is that it only pairs well with a left zip sleeping bag. If you have a right zip bag, you're going to have a much more challenging time getting in and out of your system easily. For right-zip users, a dual-sided entry like on the Dream Hammock Sparrow or Dutchware Chameleon might make your life easier. Also, unlike the rigid bug nets of the REI Flash Air or Warbonnet Ridgerunner, the Blackbird's net remains a bit floppy during use and can brush against your face when moving around.
While the Blackbird beats the competition in most categories, it is not the lightest hammock shelter system out there. But at 26 ounces for the hammock, bug netting, and webbing suspension, it's still a competitive weight. We tested it with the Mini-Fly Tarp From Warbonnet, which brought it to 42 ounces for the whole package (including the tie out cords but not the stakes). The Hennessy Ultralite knocks this category out of the park coming in at 32oz for the entire package (again, not including stakes).
For the sake of comparison:
- ENO Sublink System - 42 oz
- Sea to Summit Pro Double w/ fly, bug net, & ultralight straps - 42 oz
- REI Coop Flash Air - 44 oz
- Warbonnet Ridgerunner - 52 oz
- REI Quarter Dome 1P Tent (includes stakes) - 46 oz
Though we didn't test a tarp to pair with the Dutchware Chameleon or Dream Hammock Sparrow, when comparing the hammocks without their tarps, the Sparrow weighs in the same as the Blackbird and the Chameleon only 2 ounces heavier.
Those looking to get the lightest hammock possible should check out the impressive 5.8 ounce Sea to Summit Ultralight (just 4.8 ounces without its stuff sack), the 7.5 ounce Grand Trunk Nano 7, or or the 5.7 ounce ENO Sub6 of the ENO Sublink system. Then pair them with a light tarp like the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Square Flat and forego the bug netting for a super light system, coming in around one pound (plus suspension, stakes, and guylines).
Ease of Set Up
There is no suspension system included with the Blackbird. However, Warbonnet offers the option of two suspension systems for an additional cost. Since we have tested this hammock so many times, we have tried it with both the webbing/buckle suspension system and the whoopie sling system.
The webbing system is quick to set up and easy to adjust to the proper tension or tweak at any point, and the buckles slide smoothly. It's almost dummy proof — reach around the tree and clip the carabiner back to the webbing. The downside is that it's the heavier of the two, using 1" wide flat webbing and steel buckles and weighing 6.7 oz.
The whoopie system is less intuitive to use, though still easy once you get the hang of it. It is the lighter of the two, weighing in at only 2.3 oz, but the Dynaweave webbing straps for tree protection leave something to be desired in their ability to actually protect the tree. The material is soft and thin and after only one use, was crunched into a narrow band that would protect a tree's bark no more than a thin rope would.
Both suspensions include 12 feet of material and have a wide range of adjustability, giving the Warbonnet hammocks the largest span range of the models we tested.
The integrated bug net ridgeline is also a much more user-friendly system than the separate pieces of the Sea to Summit Pro system or the ENO SubLink Shelter.
We are disappointed that the Blackbird does not include carabiners or stakes for the bug net guy lines but, like all the other components, they are available on the website for an additional cost. We also found out the hard way that if you leave a twist in the webbing system, it will loosen as you lay in it until your bum is resting on the ground.
One issue to pay attention to is the fact that the guy lines for the main hammock body tend to get tangled up when packing and unpacking. The manufacturer recommends zipping the lines on one side into the hammock interior before packing it away to help keep them separated. All in all, we found there to be a steeper learning curve to setting up this hammock than others we tested, but once we had it figured out it was a breeze.
Durability and Protection
The Blackbird balances itself pretty ingeniously between lightweight materials and sturdy construction. The suspension system imparts confidence when looking at it and, while there was a moment of wondering if the thin fabric would hold us up, it never failed to impress. It's not nearly as burly as the Hennessy Expedition Asym Zip, but it's also considerably more robust than an ultralight model, like the Sea to Summit Ultralight or the Grand Trunk Nano7. We also appreciate that the guy lines help hold the bug net out and away from us a little bit, though the bug net was still floppy and we tripped over the non-reflective guy lines in the dark more than once.
The thin fabric does mean that extra care should be taken to not damage it, and the 1.6oz/40D weight with only a single layer means that you will feel a breeze if you're not insulated enough. However, with the addition of an underquilt or sleeping pad, you are good to go in almost any weather. Warbonnet offers the option to select a heavier weight material, which increases the durability and wind protection as well as upping the weight limit from 350 lbs to 400 lbs. If you will be camping in cool weather without an underquilt, you can also choose to purchase the hammock with a double layer of the lightweight fabric giving you a sleeve for your sleeping pad.
For protection from the rain and wind, Warbonnet offers a variety of accessories like tarps of varying sizes, and something called a Travel Sock which encases you and your hammock in another layer of nylon to block more wind in the coldest weather. We tested the Mini Fly tarp and fell in love with the size and protection. Many hammocks skimp on the rainfly material, leaving the user vulnerable to any blowing rain and wind. The Mini Fly has a small beak on either end that helps keep out rain blowing from the ends, and is a good size, blocking wind gusts from the side.
Warbonnet recognizes the desire of campers to be able to go out in all conditions, and of the tarps they offer, the Mini Fly was on the smaller end of the spectrum! Of the tarps we tested with our hammocks, only the tarp that compared in size was part of the ENO Sublink System.
Suffice it to say, asymmetrical hammocks do not fit two people very well, nor does a permanent ridgeline running the length of a hammock make sitting perpendicular in it very easy. On top of that, the lightweight fabric needs to be handled with a bit of care and attention. All of this aside, the Blackbird can be quite versatile in the right situations.
The zippered bug net can be easily stowed away on the side when not needed for desert camping or star gazing. You can also easily add a rain fly to this set up for more protection. We also think the Blackbird by itself can be used as a bug bivy in a pinch if you've run out of trees to suspend the system! Just be sure to bring a ground cloth with you so as not to damage the bottom.
Not being able to take all of your gear inside with you is one of the disadvantages of hammocking. The Blackbird has a large pocket/shelf on one side. It is around two square feet and is spacious enough to fit your shoes, hardback books, extra clothing, pretty much anything you want to keep inside with you and out of the rain.
The ridgeline is also a nice feature, allowing you a spot to hang a small lantern or even more of your gear if you can't part with it for the night.
Though we appreciate being able to roll the bug net back and out of the way, it's important to note that Warbonnet recommends never leaning back against the seam at the juncture of the shelf and hammock. Avoiding that leaves you a very narrow space to recline between that seam and the foot box that sticks out and doesn't make a supportive backrest. Since the foot end is best hung higher than head end, we like flipping ourselves so that our heads are higher than our feet for lounging or reading during the day. This way we find a reclined position instead of just lying down.
Mostly, the Blackbird is suited for lying down and sleeping, not so much hanging out with friends. However, if you're in the market for a shelter hammock, the Blackbird is a pretty great choice, offering comfort and efficiency for a plethora of outdoor adventures.
This hammock is well-constructed, comfortable, relatively lightweight, and loaded with features. If you are looking for serious backcountry shelter with the best comfort and features at a low weight, the Warbonnet Blackbird might be exactly the hammock you're looking for. Those wanting to customize their system to include the straps, tarp, color, and material they want will also be thrilled with the options available from Warbonnet.
Though there are many features we enjoy about the Blackbird, its price is not one of them. At $155, before a suspension system, carabiners, tarp, and stakes, this hammock is a pretty serious investment. All in, we spent $280 on the system. If you're serious about spending many nights suspended in all weather and you're looking for an innovative, asymmetrical, feature-ridden, and above all, very comfortable hammock, the Blackbird is well worth the money. But if the price is a sticking point for you, you might check out the REI Coop Flash Air. For a low price of $180, it includes everything you need.
This is the hammock to choose if you are looking to make a backcountry home in the trees. The comfort is almost unbeatable (only the Ridgerunner can touch it) and no other models we tested have the features and space that make the Blackbird just so dang nice to be inside. There's a reason it has won our Editor's Choice award for a whopping three years!
Warbonnet has some excellent videos on their site. These are a few we found useful when getting to know the Blackbird.
Setting Up the Blackbird
Buckle & Webbing Suspension
Whoopie Sling Suspension
— Elizabeth Paashaus and Penney Garrett