My friend and I just returned from an eight day backpacking trip in north central PA. I was trying out four major purchases during this trip and thought I'd give my intial impressions.
The weather was lousy to put it mildly. It rained or snowed to some degree almost daily with heavy downpours and lightening for a day and a half. Night temps ranged from mid 20s to mid 30s and day temps were mostly in the high to mid 40s. The ground ranged from wet and muddy to a foot of snow.
I was testing out for the first time an OES MacCat Deluxe tarp, a Hammock Gear three season Incubator UQ, a WBBB 1.0 dbl and an Aarn Natural balance backpack. We car camped the first night so we could determine the minimum amount of gear we could get away with. I left the next day (with some reservation) with a 30 degree Western Mountaineering bag and the Hammock Gear UQ. I did throw in a couple of extra articles of clothing but not much.
I'll start with the Aarn. My full weight including everything was about 28 lbs. Without a doubt this was the most comfortable pack I've worn.. I loved the way the front bags balance the pack front to back. It's also the first time I've had zero issues with my hip bone. Very comfortable. The only hassle was deciding what to put in the front backs. Pretty much I put most of my food, snacks and all the other little doodads we carry. OH...and did I mention all my precious down products stayed bone dry for all those days thanks to the Aarn built in but removable waterproof liner. I hauled a trash can liner but never used it. Loving my Aarn.
On to the Hammock Gear 3 Season Incubator. Coming from a homemade synthetic UQ I was rather dubious about the Incubator's claims of a 20 degree rating. That's why we car camped the first night with temps about 28. I was extremely pleased with the results. I was toasty all night with just the Incubator and the 30 degree bag. I already had faith in the bag. I decided I'd leave the pads in the car and rely totally on the Incubator. I was never cold the entire trip. I love the oh so simple suspension system and found it to be tight enough as it came from Hammock Gear. I also very much liked the way it slides back and forth on the bungee cord. I did add a short line to hold it in place on the foot end to prevent it from slipping toward the lower head end. It stayed put. I didn't run any lines from side to side over the ridge line as I didn't feel it was necessary. I do think it's another great feature. I did fluff it out each time I removed it from the pack and it lofted beautifully. Loving my 3 Season Incubator form Hammock Gear.
The OES MacCat Deluxe Tarp did a superb job of keeping everything totally dry. It stayed taut in even the heaviest of rains. Not much to elaborate on other than it's a quality item that gives plenty of coverage. Loving my tarp from OES.
Last but not least my new WBBB. I debated if I should leave the BB at home and take my Clark NX 250, especially considering the weather forecast. A desire for low pack weight, less volume and my natural curiosity won out. I did bring a Neet Sheat and some clips to act as a weather shield if needed. I used it a couple of nights and it made a difference. Had a little condensation on the netting after the night of heavy rain. I was very happy with the Blackbird. Very easy to set up and absolutely the most spacious and comfortable hammock I've owned. Did I mention the shelf.....I LOVE that thing. Throw it in there and forget it! I did have a bit of a time occasionally with the strap buckles. (or whatever they are called), but was always able to adjust them. I also can't seem to get the ridgeline just right. It always seems to be too tight regardless of how I position the straps on the tree. What is the secret? Almost forgot the footbox...I like it very much as it prevents the dreaded leg lock I've experienced in some hammocks. The bottom material comes up and suppoprts you right under the knees.....just where you need it. I am loving my WBBB!
A couple of other items I should mention were the Steripen and Micro Spikes.
The SteriPen failed me again due to batteries. Maybe I just bought a bad batch but I'm rapidly losing faith. The Micro Spikes were awesome when we bushwacked up a very steep snow and ice covered hill.
There you have it...a 100% batting average with my new gear. I of course owe that to the sage advice and reviews of gear right here on Hammock Forums. Here are a few pics.