What is the Difference between the Ridgerunner and the Blackbird and Blackbird XLC? Which one should I choose?
In general the RR (Ridgerunner) is slightly heavier than the BB/XLC(Blackbird/Blackbird XLC) once the 12oz spreader bar weight of the RR is factored in. 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 frequently 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 a lot better than the BB/XLC, you really can’t feel a 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, users over 225 may have issues with the hammock feeling too narrow or constrictive and may be better suited for the XLC. Pads work much better in the RR, underquilts work great for either.
The BB vs XLC: These are basically the same basic design, with the XLC being 12" longer and having a removable top and more accessories. 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 if looking for max comfort or the BB if looking for max weight savings.
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 points 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 its 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 a lot 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). 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 end gathered 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. 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.
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 is similar to the above setup in that you want the foot end of the hammock set slightly higher. If the ridge seam on the bugnet is about horizontal then you are about where you want to be. 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.