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  1. #1
    Senior Member kitsapcowboy's Avatar
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    Warbonnet Blackbird XLC: Impressions after the First Three Nights

    The Warbonnet Blackbird XLC may be the most (in)famous high-end camping hammock on the market today.



    Besides having the moniker with the most swagger and machismo, the distinctive nature of the Warbonnet Blackbird XLC is obvious at first glance to almost anyone. Hanging between two trees, poised in sleek, potent majesty with its unmistakable silhouette, the Colorado-made XLC looks like no other camping hammock (save for the original Warbonnet Blackbird). Its complex patented asymmetrical shape seems like a hyperlogical geometric derivation created by some superior alien intelligence using mathematics opaque to humans. One could consider Brandon "Warbonnetguy" Waddy's flagship hammock to be a suitable exhibit alongside a Kalashnikov rifle, a Gibson Flying V guitar, Malcom Sayer's Jaguar XK-E roadster, and Apple's iMac G4 desktop computer in a gallery of groundbreaking industrial design in the last century. In a niche industry where the timelines and origins of truly novel technical advancements and contributions are sometimes contested, the design and construction of the Blackbird XLC definitely stand apart. Quite simply, it is ground-up, functionalist, out-of-the-box thinking given form and expertly rendered in nylon, mesh, Amsteel, and polyester thread.

    Recently, I acquired a beautiful (now-discontinued) Blackbird XLC hammock with net and top cover, constructed from 1.9 oz Multicam ripstop nylon. I struck a very fair deal with a fellow Hammock Forums member and received my Warbonnet in excellent, essentially like-new condition, complete with tie-outs, stuff sack, and cinch buckle suspension, and at my first opportunity I spent three (nonconsecutive) nights sleeping in it in order to evaluate its qualities; this is a report of my initial impressions while they are still fresh from first use.

    I have a true appreciation for the design and function of integrated-net camping hammocks, and I own and use several from different cottage vendors as well as ones I have built myself, so in some ways it is surprising that my path to XLC ownership has been circuitous. Here (I think) is why...

    1) Price: While the well-appointed base hammock is competitively priced among other handmade high-end options, taking full advantage of the "convertible" aspect of the hammock system -- the "C" in "XLC" -- meant purchasing an accessory top cover at additional cost, and my fetish for Multicam didn't help things, driving the cost up into the $300 neighborhood for my desired complete package. The winter top cover is not a universal add-on, but rather a package upgrade that must be ordered at the time your hammock is built to ensure proper fit, so you can't really opt to space out the purchase of individual components in your ultimate Warbonnet package to soften the blow to your wallet.

    2) Asymmetry: Like the Hennessy and many other asym hammocks, the default configuration of the Blackbird XLC is for a right-hand lay, i.e., head left/feet right. I am a left-lay guy, and at the time I was first considering taking the plunge into hammock camping, I assumed (perhaps incorrectly), that a left-lay XLC would increase the purchase price and/or lead time until fulfillment of my Warbonnet hammock order, if such a configuration were even available, and I was looking to get set up fast, so at the time I decided to look elsewhere...

    Everything else about the XLC hit me like a siren's song, one that continued to captivate me up until I finally acquired my dream Warbonnet, despite finding and spending many great nights outdoors in my excellent Simply Light Designs Trail Lair (a comparable handmade custom integrated-net hammock without the convertible top cover option), which will always remain in my stable of go-to hammocks as one of my all-time favorites.

    The Blackbird XLC is an 11-foot (132") whipped-end hammock of generous (63") standard width with a 111" ridge line, bigger than the original Blackbird (hence the "XL" part of "XLC"). The complete hammock system with the zippered mesh bug net, accessory winter top cover, whoopie sling suspension, tree straps, and stuff sack weighs in at just over 35 ounces, almost exactly a kilogram. (Mine is a single-layer model in 1.9 oz Multicam ripstop nylon, which adds an extra 1.3 ounces to the weight of the standard Warbonnet SL 1.7 oz nylon body. It seems to be a hair narrower than the standard XLC, perhaps owing to the raw fabric's width on the roll.)

    The key features of the Blackbird XLC are well known to most, but here's a short precis:

    1) Integrated Bug Net (and Optional Fabric Top Cover): The XLC sports a spacious, asymmetrical full-enclosure bug net that installs with a wraparound zipper along the entire perimeter; the included hybrid elastic pull-outs on either side (replete with mitten hooks, cord locks, and tiny split rings for self-adjustment and convenience) maximize interior room and give the whole hammock a squared-away look.

    2) Gear Shelf: The aforementioned pull-outs across from the zippered entry side of the XLC serve to create a space for a sewn-in fabric panel serving as a gear shelf for keeping various personal items handy for the occupant.

    3) Footbox: In addition to its patented "adapter panels", the XLC has an ingenious triangular footbox panel sewn into its net/cover, relieving constraint of the hammock body at the foot end to maximize room for a flat diagonal lay.

    4) Netless Mode: One of the benefits of the convertible XLC, in addition to its ability to stow the net/cover, rolled and tied out of the way, is that when the net/cover is zipped off it becomes a standard 11-foot gathered hammock, great for casual lounging or for shoulder-season weight reduction during months with neither bugs nor snow.

    My Blackbird XLC came with high-quality factory cinch buckles and 15-foot webbing straps, but upon receiving it I swapped them out for 9-foot poly tree straps, toggles, and a pair of 6-foot DIY whoopie slings, offering me the same span capability and ease of adjustment, but with a little less bulk and weight. The double-ended stuff sack is sturdy and thoughtfully reinforced, just large enough in capacity to hold the entire hammock system.

    Owing to some of the idiosyncrasies of the unique shape of the Blackbird XLC -- and I'm not sure if it has to do with the way the gathered ends are whipped, with the constraints of the net/top cover, or with other factors -- I have found that proper set-up technique, correct in all key details, is mandatory for a good night's sleep. One thing I have surely noticed about the XLC design afeter spending just a couple of nights in mine is that the comfort is superb if you hang it right -- i.e., following Warbonnet's written guidelines and/or video guide -- and largely absent if you don't. I can guarantee a great night of sleep for myself in the XLC as long as I set the "hangle" to near 25 degrees (about 5 degrees "tighter" than I would with any of my other gathered-end hammocks, the same as my bridge hammock) and make sure the foot end is at least 6 inches (preferably closer to 12 inches) higher than my head end, naturally promoting my torso to shift toward the lower head end. If I do this, the lay is flat and comfortable, and calf ridge problems go away. If I do not, trouble spots can arises until these issues are addressed...



    Pros:

    1) Craftsmanship: My Warbonnet Blackbird XLC, for all its complexity of form, is simply flawless in its fit and finish from one whipped end to the other. Everything is perfect. Period.

    2) Versatility: The XLC provides every advertised benefit. The net and shelf are convenient and functional, and the winter top cover offered me a 6-degree positive thermocline on a recent overnight hang when temperatures dipped below freezing. The mesh net provides ventilation and views with equal aplomb, reworked and improved from that of the original Blackbird. The netless mode is a great bonus. The design is a front-runner for "one hammock to do it all".

    3) Space: I'm 6'2" and 175#, and I find that there is ample room inside the XLC to get a great diagonal lay with my feet centered in the footbox, my shoulder and face at a comfortable distance from the zippered entry, and all the interior features in easy reach. Occupying one is efficient and enjoyable.



    Cons:

    1) Set-Up: Because there is a greater "fiddle factor" with the XLC than with other comparable integrated-net hammock designs, establishing a comfortable hang with the sweet spot maximized is less intuitive and more time consuming than average. While I am certain that with familiarity and practice time and effort to hang the XLC can be reduced, there will always still be a lot on the checklist.

    2) Single Zipper Egress: The circumferential wraparound zipper with a single pull on the XLC demands that the user orient the hammock in a particular direction between the trees when views and/or immediate topography come into play; competing brands, whether completely convertible or otherwise, frequently give you an option for entry/egress on both sides.

    3) Top Cover Opacity and Venting: The winter top cover on the XLC is identical in form factor to he bug net, but because it is made from ripstop nylon instead of mesh, you can't see out of it at all on one side of the hammock. (That puts up a notable obstacle if you wish to investigate a bump in the night for any reason...) You can obtain a vent and a view of your surroundings by unzipping the entry in part or full, but it would be nice to have a mesh vent or porthole that allowed you to see and get fresh air while maintaining bug-free full enclosure. While my 1.9 oz Multicam breathes very well, the fully zipped XLC's design can quickly find the limits of the fabric's moisture transfer rate (something very unusual for me in hammocks with top covers or socks) if the relative humidity, temperature, and dew point conspire against it, resulting in moderate albeit manageable interior condensation (more than I have experienced personally in similar full-enclosure hammocks). (It is possible that the lighter 1.7 oz fabric is less prone to condensation. Fortunately, a small amount of venting and/or a quick wipe-down of the cover's interior with a microfiber cloth stored in the gear shelf minimized any inconvenience from vapor accumulation.)



    The bottom line is that I am really very happy to finally be a Warbonnet Blackbird XLC owner. While my fabric of choice has now been discontinued in favor of a new Warbonnet house pattern ("Bushwack" camo), shopping for previously owned hammocks I was able to get my exact preferred specification for construction, fabric, and lay direction, all at a nice price. My XLC is a top-quality landmark camping hammock with a one-of-a-kind design and a generous feature set. If the advantages it offers align with your hanging style, it is well worth the investment to get one for yourself.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by kitsapcowboy; 02-17-2017 at 09:16.
    Smart graphic design for all your needs by BGD

  2. #2
    jellyfish's Avatar
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    Nice review. I've always been curious about the warbonnet hammocks.

    I also sleep left. Although I could probably get used to going the other way. I think using line to stake out my hammock might confuse the loyal dog, but he is clever, so maybe not.
    I sew things on youtube.
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  3. #3
    JmBoh's Avatar
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    Fantastic review!!! I bought one during their Black Friday deal and am also impressed. I haven't used it much as I favor my Ridge Runner and Dream Hammock still, but the plan is to use this thing on some upcoming hangs. Actually, I'm thinking this review of yours has prompted me to take it on an outing this weekend and give it a through go.
    “I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news”
    ― John Muir

  4. #4
    Senior Member kitsapcowboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jellyfish View Post
    Nice review... I also sleep left...
    Thank you, JF. Your data support my pet theory that right-handed hammockers who sleep "goofy" (left lay, versus their handedness) are all talented creative geniuses!

    Quote Originally Posted by JmBoh View Post
    Fantastic review!!! I bought one during their Black Friday deal and am also impressed. I haven't used it much as I favor my Ridge Runner and Dream Hammock still, but the plan is to use this thing on some upcoming hangs. Actually, I'm thinking this review of yours has prompted me to take it on an outing this weekend and give it a through go.
    Thanks, JmBoh. I hope you enjoy your time out in the XLC and post your field observations when you can.
    Smart graphic design for all your needs by BGD

  5. #5
    Senior Member TallPaul's Avatar
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    Warbonnet Blackbird XLC: Impressions after the First Three Nights

    Good review of the XLC. Thanks for including the setup links and videos.

    For me, the aha moment on this hammock is having your head closer to the head end like the pic Brandon shows in the written how to instructions. That tends to get mentioned less than hanging the foot end higher.

  6. #6
    TrailSlug's Avatar
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    Wow, impressive review. Your encounter with moisture aligns with my experiences when using any top (solid) cover. I no longer find the need for a top cover as I simply get a quilt that can handle the temps I'm hanging in.

  7. #7
    johnspenn's Avatar
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    That's a great review. Very well written. I'm not in the market for a WBBB XLC but now that i read your review I want one haha- good job!

  8. #8
    New Member Jessey's Avatar
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    Good review! Hope you enjoy many nights in the XLC!

  9. #9
    Senior Member
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    Nice review! well written, informative, and in the voice of a friend. Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by TallPaul View Post
    ... For me, the aha moment on this hammock is having your head closer to the head end like the pic Brandon shows in the written how to instructions. That tends to get mentioned less than hanging the foot end higher.
    I agree, that's a good suggestion to remember for folks having a hard time finding comfort.

    I'm a little taller than kitsapcowboy and a lot heavier. I find I need to exaggerate the feet high (head forward) hang - 12-18" seems to work for me. I've noticed (perhaps selection bias) that other heavy XLC users who post their experience here on HF need a higher delta than the lighter hangers.

  10. #10
    Senior Member kitsapcowboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrailSlug View Post
    Wow, impressive review. Your encounter with moisture aligns with my experiences when using any top (solid) cover. I no longer find the need for a top cover as I simply get a quilt that can handle the temps I'm hanging in.
    Thanks, Slug. To provide further context, I only experienced noticeable condensation on one of my three nights outside in the XLC, and the ambient weather conditions -- variable high humidity, ground fog, and temperaturs hovering right around freezing with no wind -- were such that I knew there were going to be condensation issues. When I went to get into the hammock that night, even though the hammock was cold and well acclimated to the outside environment, it already had some beads of dew on the outside top cover, and there was virtually no dry solid surface in my immediate surroundings, despite there also being no precipitation from the sky. I was pushing the performance of my top quilt all the way down to its rating that night, which meant that the top cover was going to be doing its job keeping in whatever heat that escaped from my TQ, making the inside surface of the cover cold relative to the warm, moist air inside the XLC. These are all conditions that promote the kind of condensation I reported, which, as I mentioned, are abnormal for me using a sock or top cover made from similar material. In addition to this extreme set of circumstances, it is possible that some of the "interior condensation" evident in the photograph in my OP could actually be overnight seepage through the top cover from the heavy dew that had collected there by the wee hours of the morning, after approximately six hours occupying the hammock. Regardless, none of the issues I experienced using the XLC that night were dealbreakers for me, and I think with the experience I will be able to take some simple actions to adapt to similar conditions in the future and overcome.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnspenn View Post
    That's a great review. Very well written. I'm not in the market for a WBBB XLC but now that i read your review I want one haha- good job!
    Thanks, JSP. It's a unique and enjoyable hammock experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jessey View Post
    Good review! Hope you enjoy many nights in the XLC!
    Thank you for your compliments and well wishes!

    Quote Originally Posted by GreatBigDave View Post
    Nice review! well written, informative, and in the voice of a friend. Thanks!

    I agree, that's a good suggestion to remember for folks having a hard time finding comfort.

    I'm a little taller than kitsapcowboy and a lot heavier. I find I need to exaggerate the feet high (head forward) hang - 12-18" seems to work for me. I've noticed (perhaps selection bias) that other heavy XLC users who post their experience here on HF need a higher delta than the lighter hangers.
    Thank you, Dave. Good points and additional advice... Your contributions are appreciated.
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