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hammocks 101

Single Layer vs. Double Layer. As seen in the ratings, the DL’s can handle more weight than a SL made from matching fabric, but the DL’s also give the ability to place a sleeping pad between the layers. This keeps the pad from shifting on you as much. Pads are somewhat unruly under your torso and placing them inside the double layer generally makes them easier to sleep on, but even with the double layer, pads will still be somewhat uncomfortable as they will still bend and buckle and poke and feel too narrow in an end-gathered style of hammock (like the Blackbird or XLC) and so the most comfortable option by far is an underquilt if you can afford one. Folks not needing a double layer for it’s increased weight capacity might choose a single layer 1.7 over the double layer 1.1 (single layer 1.7 being more durable and slightly lighter than the double layer 1.1 with about the same weight capacity) if they plan on getting an underquilt eventually as pads can be used in a single layer hammock if needed. A Bridge-style hammock (like our Ridgerunner) is a different style of hammock that does work very well with a pad, in the RR a pad will be just as comfortable as an underquilt will be.

The space between the layers  of the BB and XLC is the same size as the hammock body itself and can handle just about any sized standard camping pad up to the size of the Exped 9 . Some folks like inflateable pads over closed cell foam.  If using an air pad be sure to let about half the air out for comfort.

Some people use closed cell foam pads which will generally have a higher warmth-to-weight ratio than an air pad although they are much bulkier when packed. They tend to stay put better in the hammock than air pads but they seem to buckle and poke more than air pads do as well. If the foam is high quality, 1/8″ can be enough for summer nights, 1/4″ thickness for milder weather (down into the 40’s or 50’s), 3/8″ for cooler weather (to freezing or below) and 1/2″-5/8″ down into the single digits and below.

CCF is available at a reasonable price and by-the-yard at many local upholstery shops. I’ve found very high quality foam on theA1 Foam and Fabrics Website. It is on a 60″ roll, so be aware that you’ll need 2 yards to get a 6′ long piece.

The mini-cell foam here is about the same weight

Due to the above noted drawbacks of pads, many people will instead use underquilts as their primary bottom insulation instead. For more information on under quilts see Bottom Insulation 101

Fabric Weight: 1.1 or 1.7, what do the numbers mean?

This number refers to the weight of the fabric only, the 1.7 fabric being a heavier, stronger, more durable fabric than the lighter 1.1 fabric. It does not refer to the weight or weight capacity of the hammock itself.  For instance a single layer 1.7 is made of the heavier more durable fabric, but since it is a single layer it is lighter than the double layer 1.1. So single layer vs double layer has as much effect on hammock weight and weight capacity as fabric type does. All weight capacity and product weight info is listed in the collapsible product details boxes to the right of the product description.

Choosing the Right Hammock

What is the Difference between the Ridgerunner and the Blackbird and Blackbird XLC? Which one should I choose?

In general the RR is slightly heavier than the BB/XLC once the 12oz spreader bar weight of the RR is factored in.  The RR requires a bigger tarp in warm weather compared to what you can get by with on the BB/XLC (a winter tarp would be the same size for either RR or BB/XLC). The RR is slightly flatter, but the BB/XLC is wider and so it has more “room to roam” and is better for someone who sleeps alot in the fetal position as the RR is fairly narrow through the mid-section. The RR and BB/XLC are both good for side sleeping with legs mostly extended. The RR handles a pad alot better than the BB/XLC, you actually really can’t feel the pad at all in the RR. Underquilts are lighter for the Ridgerunner than for the BB/XLC due to the RR (and thus the quilts) being narrower. The RR requires about 2 more feet of span to hang than the BB/XLC. The BB/XLC has 2 elastic lines on the side of the hammock, the RR does not. Both have plenty of storage space. The RR is best suited for smaller folks, folks over 225 may have issues with the hammock feeling too narrow or constrictive and may be better suited for the XLC.

The BB vs XLC…These are basically the same model, with the XLC being longer and having a removable top. The BB is good for someone up to 6′, and the XLC up to 6’6″, however folks 5’10” and above will normally have noticeably more comfort in the longer XLC, so if max comfort is a major consideration, folks 5’10-11″ should go with the longer XLC even though they could fit in the standard BB unless they are willing to give up a little comfort for the weight savings of the smaller model.

Under 150 LBS:Single 1.1, single 1.7 and double 1.1 Blackbirds, or single or double layer RidgeRunner. You’re a lightweight, and any of these will do you well.

150-175 LBS:Single 1.7 and Double 1.1 and double layer 1.7 Blackbirds or single or double layer RidgeRunner. In this weight range, you would notice a loss of flatness by going with the single 1.1 Blackbird. In contrast, the single 1.7, and double 1.1 Blackbirds are going to provide great support and comfort for your weight, the double 1.7 Blackbird is overkill for you if you’re trying to go lightweight and you won’t see any increase in comfort by stepping up to that model, but it’s a great option for someone more concerned with durability than with packweight.

175-200 LBS:Single layer 1.7, double layer 1.1, double layer 1.7 and double layer Ridgerunner.  Single 1.7, and double 1.1 Blackbirds will all give you great support and comfort and are a good lightweight option. Double 1.7 Blackbird is overkill for you and you won’t increase support or comfort by going that route, but it’s a great option for someone more concerned with durability than with packweight.

200-225 LBS

Single 1.7, double 1.1, and double 1.7 Blackbirds or double layer RidgeRunner. Single 1.7 and Double 1.1 Blackbirds will provide you great support and comfort. You can also step up to the double 1.7 blackbird if you want but there will be little gain in comfort by doing so but the double layer 1.7 is our most durable model so a good option for anyone looking for max durability.

225-250 LBS:Single layer 1.7, Double 1.1, Double 1.7 blackbirds and Double layer RidgeRunner. Choose single layer 1.7  if looking to go lightweight. In this weight range the double 1.7 Blackbird will provide you slightly more support though, choose double 1.7 Blackbird for maximum comfort and durability. Choose double 1.1 or single layer 1.7 if you’re weight conscious. Double layer RidgeRunner is also appropriate but you’re getting close to the upper size limit of the Ridgerunner and may find it too narrow

250-275 LBS:Single layer 1.7, double layer 1.7. The single layer 1.7 (or single layer 1.9 multicam) are good lightweight options, while the double layer 1.7 will give somewhat more support and comfort.

275-400 LBS:The double 1.7 is the hammock for you.

Hammock setup

Blackbird, Blackbird XLC, Traveler hammock Setup:

The following describes a detailed setup method that should result in maximum comfort (vs. simply hanging between 2 trees and getting inside, which works also.)

Find 2 trees that are ideally 13-17′ apart.  Hang the hammock so that “once occupied” the foot end is about 16″ higher than the head end, and by “end” I mean the end of the fabric, not the attachment point on the tree itself. Since the foot end needs to be significantly higher, the easiest way to achieve this is often to just position the hammock much closer to the foot tree AND attach the webbing to the foot tree at head height or above. Having the head end farther away from it’s tree  means it will sink more when you get in and that is usually what you want.

The BB/XLC/Traveler is designed to be laid in “off-center” so that your head is very close to the head end of the hammock while your feet are alot farther away from the foot end. This allows the fabric under your legs to spread out properly when laying on the diagonal.  To do this you’ll want to lay so that your eyes are aprox. even with the farthest side tieout (BB or XLC) so that one tieout is even with your eyes and the other is chest level.    Once you are laying in this correct spot you will then determine if you want the head/foot end higher or lower.  Most people will want it setup so that when your eyes are even with the tieout that you are basically level/horizontal from hips to shoulders, so if your upper body seems too inclined or declined simply move the webbing up or down the tree trunk to adjust.

Here is a picture that shows much of what I have just described, the person is much closer to the head end than they are to the foot end, but since the foot end is set much higher, the person is very level from hips to shoulders rather than the torso being “inclined”. The hammock is much closer to the foot tree, and also note the upward angle of the suspension straps, you want to shoot for the suspension running upward at roughly 30 deg angle for any hammock.


You will want to avoid ever pulling the suspension “tight” so there is little to no slack left, doing this will result in the suspension stretching more and the hammock height dropping by a foot or more once weighted, It can also over-stress your suspension. You generally will raise a hammock not by tightening the suspension but by raising it on the tree. A simple test can be done once you are in the hammock… if the ridgeline seems like it is guitar-string tight (see Blackbird setup video to see me doing this test) then the hammock is probably set too tight . If the ridgeline droops (while you’re laying down) then the hammock is too loose. Tightening the suspension tightens up the ridgeline and loosening the suspension loosens the ridgeline.

When using any webbing/buckle suspension, make sure that the buckles and webbing are aligned correctly.  Webbing/buckles can sometimes get twisted up in the stuffsac and if you hang the hammock without ever looking at or adjusting one end you may not notice, so be sure that even if no length adjustment is needed that you give a glance to make sure they are aligned properly before using the hammock. If the hammock is weighted with the buckles turned sideways it can damage the webbing and/or  potentially lead to failure of the webbing.

Never leave the hammock in direct sunlight for prolonged periods.   UV rays degrade and weaken any synthetic fabric. Regularly inspect the hammock (and suspension) for wear, and always hang close to the ground. The suspension will wear out over time and need to be replaced eventually, do this BEFORE failure occurs.

If you use a hammock as a ground-shelter, always use a ground-cloth and pad underneath to protect the hammock body from abrasion.

Always make sure the area you are camping in is free of overhead hazards (such as dead trees and branches) before hanging the hammock, especially if you expect windy conditions

If you use the Blackbird or XLC as a chair (sitting sideways with your legs hanging over the zipper), avoid leaning back against the shelf seam.

Ridgerunner Setup

Ridgerunner setup is similar to the above setup in that you want the foot end of the hammock set higher, but maybe only 12″ higher instead of 16″ on the Blackbirds.  You might set the suspension slightly tighter as well, closer to a 25 deg angle. There is a built-in neck support, Most like to lay with their neck on that high spot and their head in the slight divot behind it.