I've been using the XLC all summer, and recently grabbed a RR from the FS section of HF. Been messing around with the RR this weekend and slept out in it last night, I really like it but with some conditions and reservations. I'm writing this from the perspective of someone considering switching from the XLC to the RR, but I hope this is useful for those considering the purchase of either hammock.
About me: 6'5", 210 lbs, generally a straight leg side sleeper. I have a preference for one side over the other but I like to be able to sleep on both sides, as I usually start off on one and fall asleep on the other and switch during the night.
The RR: It is described as a "cot style" hammock, and I think that's a perfect description. Lying on your back in this hammock offers supreme comfort, and the view is fantastic. You are basically cradled in a long, slightly U shaped sling. Lying on your side is possible, although the corners of the hammock (at least at the head end) do curve up a bit when you lie in it. That means when lying on your side, if you want your bottom arm out perpendicular to your head it will be forced upwards slightly. The other issue w/ side sleeping in this hammock is the very taught edge around your waist and knees. For someone my size, this makes sleeping in a normal fetal position very uncomfortable as there is no give in the edge at all. For straight leg side sleeping though it's not really an issue, find sleeping on either side equally easy. What made the biggest difference for me was inserting my Thermarest Trail Lite pad (L size, 77" x 25") in between the layers. As others have mentioned, this really helps to flatten the hammock out and for my side sleeping style (with my bottom arm out) it makes the entire head and shoulder area much more comfortable. With or without a pad though, changing positions in this hammock is very easy, there is no fabric to get in your way or to smooth out like a gathered end. The saddle bag pockets are great, I found they provide ample storage room and the only thing I missed a RL for was hanging a mini LED light off of. It should be easily possible to attach a non-taut cord to the under side of the net pullouts though for easy hanging of light weight items. Netless mode in this hammock is a breeze due to the pouch at the foot end of the hammock. For weather protection, the RR doesn't require the Cloudburst necessarily, but you need side panel pull outs spaced approx. 78" apart, which is at least 20" longer than normally spaced. Grip clips are a solution for anyone already owning a long enough tarp, but those owning smaller 10' or 11' long or cat cut tarps may find it difficult to get adequate coverage.
The XLC: It's the most comfortable gathered end hammock I've had the pleasure of sleeping in. The extra length provides a larger sweet spot than the BB, and the view is definitely enhanced by the larger area of netting. Setup is a little more finicky than the RR, but after a few hangs you begin to quickly identify what tweaks need to be made in suspension length/height/angle to rectify any issue. There is virtually no calf ridge to speak of, which at my height has been a problem with BB's and other gathered ends in the past. It's not unusual for there to be a slight amount of shoulder squeeze on the shelf side of the hammock, but if it bothers me on any particular hang I just let out the ridge line an inch and tighten the suspension a little, problem solved. The shelf functions the same on both, but netless mode or tying back the netting is a little hampered on the XLC due to the single zipper which starts and finishes near your head. As for comfort, lying on my back in this hammock is super comfortable, and as long as I'm facing the zipper edge there are a number of side sleeping positions that are comfortable, including full fetal. However I've had no success in finding a comfortable side sleeping position facing the shelf side, there's too much pressure on my arms for it to be comfortable and the shelf makes it difficult to pull your knees up at all. Sealing up an UQ properly for a wide variety of positions involves a lot of trial and error (shock cord tension, triangle thingies, quilt hooks, etc.), but once you've figured out what works best for a given quilt it's pretty much automatic. I find it easier to change positions in the XLC vs. the BB for instance, but every new positions is usually accompanied by a nestle in period where I have to get the fabric in the hammock spread out properly. Unlike the RR, the XLC will work with a wide variety of tarps provided they're at least 11' in length, although 12' is optimal.
So how do they stack up?
- View: Hands down the RR.
- Back sleeping: There is zero shoulder squeeze in the RR, and slight but basically negligible squeeze in the XLC. The neck and head support sewn into the RR is quite nice, although it doesn't really accommodate use of a pillow. Since there is no fabric smoothing or sweet spot finding necessary in the RR, I'd have to give it the slight edge here.
- Side sleeping: Depends on your size, use of pad, and which type of position. For full or semi-fetal positions, hands down the XLC - provided you can commit to one side or another (left side sleepers would prefer normal lay which is head left feet right, right side sleepers would prefer the lefty version). My considerably smaller wife (5'6") had no issues with a fetal positoin in the RR, but for anyone larger the edge would be an issue. If you switch sides throughout the night, than the RR is a much better option, especially if your using a pad. Without a pad, any side sleeping option in the RR is limited for those with broad shoulders due to the curve of the corners.
- Ease of setup: The RR is dead simple to setup, just need to make sure the spread bars are in place properly. I find it's fairly forgiving for a range of hangles and tautness. The XLC requires more fiddle factor and has a slightly steeper learning curve, but once you get used to it it's as straight forward and quick as the RR. The minimum hang distance with the RR is greater, by perhaps 2 feet, although keep in mind if you use whoopies or UCRs on either you'll be increasing the min hang over using a strap & buckle suspension.
- Using pads: The RR is hands down the winner, I've found it very difficult to get pads to stay put in any gathered end I've tried them in. Pads can shift slightly when you get into the RR, but not enough to be a problem.
- Using UQs: On the RR I was able to successfully attach my MM Baby Orca IX so there were no gaps around any of the edges. I can appreciate how nice the Lynx must be since its dimensions are made for this hammock. Other UQ's will work just fine, however wider quilts could pose a problem on the RR b/c you are limited in the amount of upwards left you can put on the quilt. They may also hamper storage of larger/heavier objects in the saddle bags. The XLC allows for a wider range of UQs to be used, with more options for how you suspend them as well.
- Go to ground: With a pad the RR would make a great transition to the ground, and even without one it would be better than a gathered hammock in my estimation.
- Weight: Both hammocks weigh about the same sans spread bars, so if you're able to use your hiking poles this is a non-issue. If you would need to carry the spreader bars, the XLC is a more pack friendly hammock.
- Netless Mode: The net on both needs to be almost completely unzipped, although this is more straightforward on the RR and the RL would still be present on the XLC. The XLC does offer the ability to roll the net up to be tied off on the RL, although this can't be done fully at the head end due to the zipper placement.
- Use as a camp chair: admittedly I didn't test this, but based on experiences getting into the hammock I'd say the XLC since it doesn't have the hard edge that the RR has when under load.
To summarize, the RR would be better for:
- Occasional tent dwellers who already have a comfortable pad and would like to limit/eliminate the number of additional hammock quilts they need to purchase
- People who like side sleeping on both sides. Larger/taller people will be limited to more straight-leg positions, while smaller people will have no problem more fetal positions. The increased comfort that a pad offers is directly proportional to the width of your shoulders.
- Back sleepers, due primarily to the view and no fuss lay of the RR.
- People who toss and turn
- Anyone hiking in an area where properly spaced trees or hammock accommodating shelters may be difficult to locate on any given night.
- Anyone with a long (11'+) tarp that has enough fabric to accomodate 78" spacing for grip clips, or anyone who doesn't yet own a large tarp but wants one (in which case CB tarp makes a lot of sense).
The XLC would be better for:
- People who already have invested in UQs for gathered end hammocks or don't have/like pads.
- Larger people who like a variety of side sleeping positions, and are willing to limit themselves to one side or another (left side sleeper normal lay, right side sleeper should get the lefty version).
- Those concerned with additional weight of spreader bars who do not have or want to buy hiking poles with camera mounts.
- Anyone content with their existing cat cut tarps who doesn't want to buy another larger tarp to accomodate longer pullout spacing.
- Anyone with a decent amount of gear already for gathered end hammocks who doesn't fancy the investment into specialized items for a bridge hammock.
So where does this leave me? As a tall broad-shouldered side-switching straight leg side sleeper (hah!), if my aim is overall comfort I think I'd have to rank them RR with a pad, then the XLC, then the RR without a pad. However there are a few considerations and concerns I have about switching which may ultimately make the XLC a better choice for me.
- We do tent camp and already have pads, however I wouldn't consider the 39oz Trail Lite to be hike worthy due to weight. The Neoair and Exped mats are both superior in this respect and would upgrade our tent camping as well, but at 25" wide they're both still a bit narrow for fully insulted side sleeping in the RR - and they're heavier than any UQ I own. So I would likely need pad extenders or perhaps an ultra short quilt that's wide enough to cover that area, or perhaps there exists a short length UL pad that I could insert sideways into the head end for use with a winter Lynx or the Baby Orcas we already own (but I haven't turned up anything after a some searching so I'm doubtful).
- My wife loves her BB and likes the RR "just fine," so if I were to switch she would switch as well. This means I could sell our existing UQs and pads to fund purchase of Exped/Neoairs, although I'm not sure if one pad would be suitable for all seasons or if I'd need pads with varying R values.
- For weather protection, I have a 12' long Toxaway that could accomodate grip clips at 76-78" although this leaves very little fabric left from the pullout to the edge of the cat cut. Probably not too big of an issue in the summer, except I'm not sure how it would fair in a driving rain storm. I already own a WL OMW tarp, which will work great with grip clips, but it's significantly heavier and larger in the pack.
- I am quite fond of my BD ergo cork poles, but they wouldn't work as spreader bar replacements and I would not want to have to carry the stock spreader bars so I'd need to invest in a new set of poles if I wanted to eliminate them.
- Hiking in the NE I've never not been able to find a place to hang, so going to ground is less of a concern for me.
It seems that there are some definite but probably manageable switching costs for me, although I have enough questions and concerns about proper pad coverage that I'm hesitant. The issue of a lightweight summer tarp is also a major concern, seems like I'd benefit from a different 12' tarp with less a aggressive cat cut than the Toxaway. Being content with the XLC, I'm just not sure the conversion is worth it.
Additional research beckons I guess. Feel free to provide feedback, suggestions, or ask any questions.