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 SectionHiker.com Gear of the Year Winners Include:

Disclosure: The author purchased this product with his own funds.
Written 2017.

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