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., Pads can still be used in a single layer hammock however and they are a good option for someone wanting to go lightweight who wants to use a pad until they can afford an underquilt. 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.
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
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, Although using camera-mount style hiking poles in place of the spreaders offsets this weight. 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, users 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…The BB vs XLC…These are basically the same model, with the XLC being 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 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 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.