Warbonnet Original Blackbird Review
Cons: Suspension sold separately, can't remove bug net completely
Manufacturer: Warbonnet Outdoors
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Warbonnet Blackbird is a uniquely designed hammock with useful 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 few 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 so cozy is that it isn'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 with less 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. We haven't seen another hammock build in a footbox like this and feel it heavily contributes to the comfort achieved by the Blackbird.
The Blackbird is longer and wider than most other backcountry models we tested 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 models use spreader bars for an even flatter lay but at the expense of additional weight.
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 most other shelter models we tested.
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 might make your life easier.
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).
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.
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 many 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. Its durability is on par with most of the hammocks we tested and significantly above that of the ultralight models.
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 while the Mini Fly was the largest tarp we tested, of the tarps Warbonnet offers, it is actually on the smaller end of the spectrum!
The Blackbird can be quite versatile in the right situations. It's ideally suited to being an overnight shelter and doesn't make a great day-use hammock but is extremely versatile in being able to customize it to suit your needs and handle all types of weather.
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.
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 a more budget-oriented model.
This is the hammock to choose if you are looking to make a backcountry home in the trees. The comfort is almost unbeatable 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 four 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