Review by Coy Starnes: July 17, 2018
Item: Warbonnet Thunderfly
Manufacture: Warbonnet Outdoors
Year of Manufacture: 2018
URL: Warbonnet Outdoors
Listed Weight: 14.9 oz
Measured Weight: 15. 7 oz (in stuff sack)
Materials: nevermist 30D silpoly
Color: bushwack camouflage
MSRP: 155 USD
Test Locations and Conditions
All but one night of testing the Warbonnet Thunderfly has been on local trails in northeast Alabama on four overnight trips. The other night was fairly nearby in northwestern Georgia. I also set it up briefly three times shorty after getting it, first to be sure it was OK and test the guyline kit I added, then to seem-seal it, and finally to test the seam-seal job when a thunderstorm popped up. The weather has been mostly mild, but has warmed up considerable as summer progressed. My first two overnight hikes were 4 miles (6 km) total each. The first overnighter was on May 7th. The high was 75 F (24 C) and the low was 60 F (16 C). The second overnighter was May 11th. The high was 80 F (27 C) and the low was 66 F (19 C). My third overnighter was on May 29th. The remnants of Hurricane Alberto were moving through north Alabama and I waited for a break in the storms to head out. I hiked about a mile (1.6 km) before stopping to set up camp. With more storms on the way I got in my hammock and watched the next wave of rain and wind from under the tarp. It continued to rain off and on during the night. The high was 77 F (25 C) and the low was 71 F (22 C). The fourth overnight trip was approximately 6 miles (10 km) on June 7. The high was 84 F (29 C) and the low was 64 F (18 C) with no rain. My last overnighter was July 9 at Cloudland Canyon State Park in Northwestern Georgia. The high was 90 F (32 C) and the low was 67 F (19 C). It did not rain but was extremely humid. I hiked approximately 5 miles (8 km).
The Warbonnet Thunderfly is a fairly new offering from Warbonnet. The first one hit the market in early 2017. The tarp is 11 ft/132 in (3.35 m) along the ridgeline and 8’6″/103 in (2.62 m) wide, but those measurements are not the whole story. It is the middle offering of three tarps (Minifly, Thunderfly and Mountainfly) with mini doors (more on that later). The Thunderfly comes with side pull outs to help spread the sides for a little more head room when standing under the tarp. The grosgrain for the pullouts must be sealed from the underside but silicone seam sealer is provided with the tarp. The ridgline does not require sealing. While I was seam sealing mine I took the time to measure the tarp. The factory listed length and width were spot on but the other measurements are not listed. The outside edge that runs parallel to the ridgeline is 75 in (1.91 m). The four doors individually measure 50 in (1.27 m) across the bottom, 59 in (1.5 m) on the angled part and 22 in (0.56) where the doors meet.
I saw this tarp on the Warbonnet site about a year ago, shortly after it first became available. I had been wanting a tarp with doors but the weight and expense was holding me back. I also wanted a camouflage tarp mainly because I just like camo but I do sometimes want to stealth camp. I read the few reviews I could find and asked questions when I saw one mentioned on an online forum. In other words, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect long before pulling the trigger on my own Thunderfly. And it did not disappoint! The fly arrived in a stuff sack made of the same material as the fly itself. In my case, the 30D silpoly in bushwack camo. I pulled it out of the stuff sack and admired it as best I could, but since it doesn’t come rigged for hanging I put it away for a few weeks. In the meantime I ordered a hammock tarp suspension kit from another cottage industry company. The kit arrived a few weeks later and I immediately put the lines on and hung the tarp too admired it. It looked great and what was really impressive was that it looked like the photos provided by Warbonnet as far as how neat and wrinkle free it looked when hung. I then took it down and waited for a sunny day when I had time to hang it upside down so I could apply the seam sealer that came with the tarp on the underside at the side pullouts.
Warbonnet Thunderfly Review
One of the main reasons I got the Thunderfly is because I have a bridge hammock that I really like, but the fly it came with is a little on the small side (see photo at the end of my report). It wasn’t that long ago that choosing a tarp for a hammock was pretty easy, with only a few materials, sizes, and colors too choose from. But alas, now there are literally hundreds of choices and it can be a daunting undertaking, especially for a newbie. Hammock tarps started out as basically ground tarps with dimensions more suited for covering an occupied hammock. Most were patterned after a flat tarp but quite a bit longer than wide. Several were also cut in a diamond shape. Some even went as far as to make the diamond tarp asymmetrical, meaning it had to be oriented over the hammock in relation to head left or head right lay. Then catenary cuts and hex cut tarps became the rage. This made the tarp lighter and handle winds better but a little coverage was lost compared to a full rectangular tarp. The next thing I noticed went in the opposite direction as far as weight savings. That would be tarps with doors which sealed the ends off, effectively making it almost like an a-frame tent. Then along came Polly…I mean silpoly. In 30D it is basically the same weight as 1.1 oz silnylon but won’t absorb water and doesn’t sag when wet like silnylon tends to do. 20D silpoly is slightly lighter and less durable but I’ve even seen 15D silpoly offerings. I haven’t even mentioned cuban fiber tarps. They are expensive, but to my knowledge, the lightest option. They come in most sizes and shapes but color choice is limited. If I was expecting to camp in extreme cold a lot I might even look at a hot tent designed for hammocks. One last thought. Many of the hammock tarps one might be considering come from cottage vendors instead of more name brand companies. Several vendors will keep a few of their best sellers in stock but most of the time a short wait will be part of the deal. On the bright side, tarp orders do tend to be filled faster than top or underquilts. It only took my Thunderfly about 10 days to arrive from the day I ordered it.
The first couple of nights using the Thunderfly were pretty uneventful since it did not rain and wasn’t even very windy. I did like the fact that my campsite almost disappeared with the bushwack camo. My third trip was while a tropical depression from the aftermath of Hurricane Alberto was blowing through our area, basically, perfect conditions to find out of the tarp performed as good as it looked. It rained about 2 inches (5 cm) during the time I was in my hammock. The wind was pretty intense at times with reports of wind gust of 47 MPH in the area. I was in the woods so the wind gust were probably not that high but it was still blowing hard at times. The wind also changed directions several times but I stayed high and dry in my hammock. I did hang my hammock higher than I normally do in relation to the tarp. The ground under my hammock was wet except for a thin strip directly under the hammock. I did check my underquilt and it remained dry. And last but not least, the fly was still taught the next morning. I had read this was one advantageous of silpoly and having experienced more than a few sagging tarps after a lot of rain, the hype is justified. It is also said to not absorb water, similar to cuban fiber in that regard, but honestly, I never noticed my silnylon tarps getting much heavier after heavy rains, just the sagging part. Anyways, too say I was pleased with the performance of the Thunderfly would be an understatement, I was ecstatic!!!
I used the Thunderfly on two more overnight trips and the only weather related observation I can make is on the last overnighter I was with someone who used a tent. We called it a night at around 10 PM and turned in. The temperature was around 80 F (27 C) and cooled down slowly to about 67 F (19 C) by morning. My hiking partner (in a 2 man tent) commented that he did not sleep very well due to the stuffy conditions. I slept like a baby myself even though it was warmer than I am used too when sleeping at home in the AC. I had pitched my fly as high as I could reach and my hammock low enough to allow a slight breeze to blow across my hammock. I did have the bug net zipped closed but it let enough fresh air in that I didn’t feel stuffy.
There was another thing this particular hang brought to my attention. At one time I thought a 12 ft (3.66 m) length tarp was what I wanted. It will provide better end coverage on a hammock without doors but with the mini doors on the Thunderfly it is not as much of an issue. But more importantly, I had to choose trees that were almost exactly 11 ft (3.35 m) apart, very close to the limit of how close they could be and still have room to hang my hammock and the fly. A 12 ft (3.66 m) tarp would have meant I would have to find trees outside the designated camping area. Another consideration is that when hanging a hammock with the suspension at the preferred 30 degree angle, a longer fly will have to be hung higher to clear the hammock suspension where it exits the end of the fly. This might mean the hammock will have to be hung lower than the preferred chair height. I definitely would not want a fly any shorter than 11 ft (3.35 m). And while a longer tarp might seem better, it weighs more, will have more wind load on the sidewalls and in some cases could eliminate a possible hanging location.
I really haven’t touched on how I hang the Thunderfly. As I mentioned earlier, I got a tarp suspension kit from another vendor which included 80 ft (24.4 m) of 1.5 mm spectra guyline, 6 line tensioners and 4 titanium stakes. The entire kit adds 3.7 oz (105 g) to the tarp weight. I use separate end lines for the ridgline as apposed to a continuous ridgeline. Unless expecting gale force winds and heavy rain I hang the ridgeline as high as I can reach which is approximately 7 ft (2.13 m). This usually puts the actually ridgeline of the fly at around 6 ft (1.83 m). I chose to attach the side guylines to the stakes. I put the loose end through the big diamond shaped D-ring at each corner and attach it back to the line with the line tensioner. I usually stake out three of the corners fairly close to the ground and raise the forth corner with a stick or a trekking pole. I call this semi-porch mode. I do this on the corner I expect to be entering the shelter. Here is a photo of this setup.
The mini doors on the Thunderfly are also extremely easy to manage. They are closed by clipping the two D-rings together with the supplied mini carabiner. Then they can be staked out to the ground or tied to the same tree the hammocks is hanging from. I did not have enough guyline for both ends so I experimented with hanging my pack from my daisy chain hammock suspension and clipping the beak ends together past the daisy chain. Of course this only works if the hammock attachment points are beyond the ends of the fly but it works perfectly with my REI Quarter Dome Air hammock. If the doors are not needed they can be pulled back and clipped together over the ridgeline. Below are photos showing the door management options I have used so far.
I’m not going to say the Thunderfly is the best hammock fly on the market but I will say that if I had to choose only one fly this would be it. It is big enough and designed in a manner to keep me dry in extremely windy rain but still light enough for ultralight backpacking. The price is inline with similar tarps and less than half the cost of cuban fiber tarps. For those who need or want it, the bushwack camo pattern allows for extremely stealthy hanging. The mini doors are easy to deploy and do a good job of stopping wind and rain from entering the ends of the shelter. At the same time they are much easier to walk under and also much easier to pull back completely out of the way compared to shelters with full doors. The length is like Goldilocks and the bed she chose, just right. One last point, I have not used the supplied stuff sack after weighing the fly. It is fine but I found I prefer to put my tarp in the shove-it-pocket on my pack. I can easily pull it out as soon as I stop without having to even open my pack. This is really nice when arriving at camp while it is raining. Also, if I have to put the tarp away while it is damp from dew or rain it won’t wet any of my other gear stored inside my pack. I may eventually get a snakeskin tube to store it in but for now I am happy with my packing system. I’ll end the review with a few more photos of the Thunderfly from various angles