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Warbonnet Blackbird Hammock Wins Gear of the Year Award

Warbonnet Blackbird on the Thoreau Trail, White Mountains, 2017
Warbonnet Blackbird on the Thoreau Trail, White Mountains, 2017

Every year, I like to recognize the piece of backpacking gear that has the biggest impact on my wilderness hiking experience by giving it the Section Hiker Gear of the Year Award. This year’s winner is the Warbonnet Blackbird Hammock (Single Layer), which is by far the most comfortable and convenient shelter I own for backpacking in the forests of New Hampshire and Maine.

I don’t camp in a hammock exclusively (unlike many rabidly fanatical hammock hangers) and the shelters I bring on my trips depend on the climate, terrain, my  goals, mood, and whether I’m hiking solo or with companions. But my use of the Blackbird has increased year after year over the past three years that I’ve owned one because:

  • It’s easier to find nicer camping spots for a hammock in forests than with a tent.
  • I sleep much more deeply at night in a hammock than when I’m lying on a sleeping pad.
  • I can set up my tarp first and keep my hammock dry if it’s raining.
  • I never have to worry about internal condensation in a hammock because the ventilation is so good.

But those are benefits common to most backpacking hammocks. What sets the Blackbird apart from every other hammock made is its patented side pocket, which lets you store clothing and other personal items under the mosquito netting but in an adjacent pocket, out-of-the-way, where they’re easy to reach. When I set up my hammock, I drop the stuff sacks I need for the night – my personal effects, smartphone, power pack, maps, sleeping cap, and a buff into that pocket so I don’t have to fumble around at night looking for them or store them outside on the ground in my backpack. It’s a little convenience that makes a huge difference in terms of comfort and staying organized.

A convenient side pocket lets you store gear inside the netting but does not interfere with the living area or sleeping surface.
A patented side pocket lets you store gear inside the netting but does not interfere with the living area or sleeping surface.

Weighing 14.5 ounces, including whoopie slings, a bishop bag, permanently attached mosquito netting, the Blackbird isn’t the lightest weight hammock you can buy these days, but I’m willing to carry a few more ounces in the name of comfort since I can save weight in other areas of my gear list. And while it’s true that the comfort of my Blackbird depends on the use of an assortment of underquilts, top quilts, and a hammock sock in cold weather, none of the other hammocks I’ve owned or tried using those accessories, comes close to the comfort and convenience of the Warbonnet Blackbird. It’s a keeper.

Warbonnet Blackbird
Warbonnet Blackbird – Who needs flat ground to sleep?

Previous Gear of the Year Winners Include:

Disclosure: The author purchased this product with his own funds.

Written 2017.

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  1. I do not own a Blackbird, but do have Traveler and Ridge Runner hammocks. I also have a Cloudburst tarp due to coverage for the Ridge Runner. As you stated, I am willing to carry a little more weight in exchange for comfort and ease of setup. Each piece of gear is extremely well made and the Saddle bags sewn into the RR hammock (as with the Blackbird shelf) are what lead me to take it most trips. All three items have been through some crazy weather situations over the years and performed flawlessly. I am glad to see something from WB getting the Section Hiker “Gear of the Year Award”.

  2. Happy to see this. I opted for the Ridgerunner over the Blackbird… there is neither an ill-considered feature, nor a poorly-executed detail. Congrats to Brandon/Warbonnet.

    To Philip: I suppose you have had many opportunities to take greater monetary advantage of your well-earned credibility. I just want to say THANK YOU for another year of solid gear reviews which service meaningful experiences in Nature.

  3. I like my Blackbird so much I keep it set up in our family room. It makes for marvelous afternoon naps. In winter, with a blanket draped over the ridgeline, it becomes my little getaway.

  4. I can’t argue with your choice but I have a Blackbird (old version) and a Dutch Chameleon, and I like the Chameleon better. The reason is that the Chameleon is wide body (they also sell a narrow version), around 67 inches. With the wider hammock, I can completely eliminate the calf ridge, which I can’t do in the Blackbird. When my legs are tired, i get leg cramps from the calf ridge, so this is a pretty big deal for me. The shelf is pretty cool, though. It’s patented, so other hammock makers can’t copy it.

  5. Excellent win!
    I was introduced to summer hammock camping in 1979. It was an incredible night sleep although the mesh netting was heavy/tangled and I used bungee cords to lace closed so I wouldn’t fall out [unstable support system], foam pad under bag and used an old army rain-poncho with cord over the top. As crude as it sounds it worked well. Off and on back-packing in the following years till I had more time when I geared back up with “new-stuff” about 2010. I stumbled on these new hammocks. Read web postings and went with gut instincts and bought the War-Bonnet.

    My opinion the war-bonnet is a perfect fit for me and agree with authors reasons for selection. Equipment makers (there are many) that get to this level of function and quality, the “best” is mostly a matter of personal preference. The “winners” are the consumer’s.

    Referencing past Cub Scouts meetings, the “” and War-Bonnet mfg. gets a “round” of applause!

  6. What is the awning tarp shown in the first photo?

  7. I started a 2 month section hike on the AT a couple of years ago with a tent and after a few days had my wife ship my Blackbird to me. I haven’t gone hiking without it since.

  8. Here, Here! Love my Blackbird as a back-hip in agony tent person. Can’t wait to use it on the AT as my bucket list in 10+ years.

  9. Love my Blackbird hammock. The only problem is that I have converted everyone in my group to hammocks and now we all compete for the best place to hang.

  10. I own three Warbonnet hammocks, two Blackbirds and a RidgeRunner. The BB’s are one heavy fabric double layer (too heavy) and one light fabric single layer (slightly scary). All are beautifully constructed and a triumph of design. I also have a WB sock which I have used in the Olympics to great effect (adds about 15F). Brandon has done a wonderful job on this.

    A while ago Brandon issued a recall on one of his hammock models. It was more a precautionary step than anything else (addressing a potential fabric wear issue on the RidgeRunner). He paid for postage to and from and turned around the repaired hammock very quickly. Outstanding support and a great demonstration of a company standing by their product. Kudos.

    100% agree with Philip’s review. A wonderful product.

  11. Phil, I’m considering ordering a Blackbird, due to your recommendation and others. What is your normal, full set-up for the Blackbird, including tarp, suspension, bag, etc. for 3-season use? (I mostly hike in the mid-Atlantic Appalachian region — lots of rain, rocks and bugs.) The review above and your other posts provide lots of suggestions, but not a specific gear list. I realize you may vary things depending on the trip, but if you have a “go-to” rig, would you please lay that out in detail? One specific question: Do you ever use the Blackbird directly on the ground when there are no good trees or on a tent “pad” and guy out trekking poles to hold the tarp? Or, is that too much trouble to be really practical? Thanks.

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