EAGLES NEST OUTFITTERS FLEXFLY UTILITY TARP
TEST SERIES BY STEVEN M. KIDD
October 01, 2014
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Steven M. Kidd
5' 9" (1.75 m)
185 lb (83.90 kg)
Backpacking Background: I've been a backpacker on and off for over 30 years. I backpacked as a Boy Scout, and then again almost every month in my twenties, while packing an average weight of 50+ lbs (23+ kg). In the last several years I have become a hammock camping enthusiast. I generally go on one or two night outings that cover between 5 to 20 mi (8 - 32 km) distances. I try to keep the all-inclusive weight of my pack under 20 lb (9 kg) even in the winter.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
|Image Courtesy Eagles Nest Outfitters|
Year of Manufacture: 2014
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.eaglesnestoutfittersinc.com
MSRP: US $134.95
Listed Material: 210D Nylon Taffeta Ripstop w/PU Coating
Listed Weight: 48 oz (1361 g)
Measured Weight: 47.7 oz (1352 g)
Measured Tarp Weight: 30.3 oz (859 g)
Measured Weight of Aluminum Poles: 15.0 oz (425 g) for both
Measured Storage Bag Weight: 2.4 oz (68 g)
Measured Weight of Stakes*: 1.2 oz (34 g) for four
Listed Dimensions: 10 ft 6 in L x 10 ft W (3.20 m x 3.05 m)
Longest Measured Dimensions**: 10 ft L x 9 ft 2 in W (3.05 m x 2.79 m)
Shortest Measured Dimensions**: 8 ft 9 in L x 8 ft 4 in W (2.67 m x 2.54 m)
*The company website and card product card that came attached to the fly clearly states the tarp does not come with stakes, however this Test model arrived with four 6 in (15 cm) Easton aluminum stakes. A search of the Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO) website clarifies that they sell these stakes in bundles of six for $15.00.
**My measured dimensions were done with the tarp lying flat on the floor and not pulled taut. I measured the actual tarp body, excluding the LineLoc fasteners. This may account for the dimension variance. For clarity, the "Longest" measured dimensions are from end-to-end at the top ridgeline of the fly and from ridgeline to extended corner of the tarp. The "Shortest" measured dimensions are from end-to-end at the bottom of the fly and in the center of the tarp from ridgeline to bottom. To further explain, the FlexFly is designed with a catenary cut versus a hexagonal design. I will explain the differences in the body of the report.
From the ENO Website -- "Flex by name, flexible by nature, ENO's FlexFly delivers whatever the weather."
The ENO FlexFly is large multi-purpose tarp designed to give the hammock occupant maximum protection. It allows the hammock camper (hammocker) multiple setup options, including six guy points, two on the ridgeline and four on the tarps lower corners. Each guy has a LineLoc attachment that is designed to allow quick and easy adjustments to the guy lines. The four corner guys also have brass ringed grommets designed to accommodate the 50 in (127 cm) aluminum poles.
As mentioned in the above website quote, the fly is designed to be large enough to guy out low to the ground giving the hammocker maximum protection from the elements. It also may be used in conjunction with the accompanying aluminum poles to setup what is known in the hammocking world as "porch mode".
The tarp is made with a nylon taffeta ripstop pattern and has a polyurethane coating on the interior of the fly to create a waterproof barrier.
Having been a hammock camper for several years I'm very familiar with ENO hammock equipment, but I've never owned anything they have produced. In my opinion, their hammocks are extremely comfortable, but considerably heavy for the lightweight backpacker. That stated, I find the FlexFly to be a very well designed product, but a little 'beefy' in weight for my typical backcountry use.
|Tarp, Poles, Stakes & the Bag|
This isn't to detract from the product, as on the website it clearly states the best uses for the fly are as follows: family/car/festival camping. In fact, the ENO marketing drives use of the FlexFly toward the Base Camper.
The tarp appears to be well made. It is made with 210D nylon taffeta material. This is a material I'm not familiar with. Many materials in the hammocking world can easily be translated into an ounce per square yard terminology. In doing a little research my best estimate is that this ENO nylon weighs approximately 3.8 ounces per square yard (129 grams per square meter). 70D Polyester, another material sometimes used in tarps averages 2.5 ounces per square yard (85 grams per square meter). ENO appears to use nylon over polyester for all their products. Nylon tends to have a softer feel than polyester.
The color is in the gray family, and I find it appealing.
|Notice the Catenary Design|
I was impressed with the catenary cut (curved edges) design the FlexFly implemented. Neither the website, nor literature make any reference to the fly being designed as such, but in comparison to a hexagonal or flat design the FlexFly's design is likely to accommodate a taut pitch in varying weather as well as adding strength. It is this cat cut that creates the shorter dimensions at the bottom of the fly which I mentioned in the outset of the report.
One feature of the fly I really like is the incorporation of LineLoc's on the guy points. LineLoc's are designed for both quick and secure tensioning. Oddly enough, the guy line material that was provided with the FlexFly was tied with a knot into the locks. The installation was a completely incorrect way to utilize them. I didn't care much for the guy line material and it felt as if it may tangle pretty easily. I will reinstall the guy lines properly before using the fly in the field.
|Notice the poles in the grommets and the LineLoc's|
The brass grommets allow the accompanying poles to safely be installed in order not to damage the tarp material. This lets the tarp to be set in porch mode allowing for more air flow and visibility. The aluminum poles are each made in three pieces and secured together with shock cord. Much like a tent pole. When I'm hammock camping I try to keep my fly in porch mode as often as the weather allows. I enjoy the views from inside my hammock and the breathability it allows. I've historically done this using my trekking poles. When fully extended my hiking sticks are actually a little longer than these. In base or car camp I could foresee myself using the accompanying poles on one side and my hiking poles on the other for maximizing the ambiance and taking in more scenery as I rest in my hammock.
The truest and most important test will be whether or not the FlexFly keeps me dry in inclement weather. It is certainly large enough that even in a driving storm I'd foresee sufficient coverage.
|Skipper the dog enjoying a little sun protection|
The ENO FlexFly appears to be a quality hammock tarp. I'm excited to begin using it in the backcountry. It appears attention to detail has been made in the design with the catenary cuts and use of LineLoc's for quick secure and taut pitches. I appreciate these aspects. The color is rather neutral, so it blends in with the surrounding and doesn't stick out in my opinion. I also like that feature.
The poles are a nice feature for allowing ventilation and viewing, but tend to be an item I'd likely use more in a base camp setting than on the trail. I could easily substitute use of these poles with trekking poles in the backcountry.
I don't really like the material the guy lines is made with, but that could easily be a quick fix. I will use the provided lines initially to test how they handle under changing weather conditions and in wet weather. I'll certainly give the entire set-up the old garden hose test before I traipse off into the woods.
My biggest concern with the tarp in terms of backpacking use is the overall weight of the item. All items totaled to include the fly, poles, stakes and bag put the product in at just over 3 lbs (1.38 kg). The tarp alone weighed in at 30.3 oz (859 g). I likely see myself shedding unneeded weight in the backcountry by leaving the poles and bag at home. That will save over a pound (~ 0.5 kg) alone. I can still achieve porch mode using previous mentioned methods.
Save the weight concern, I'm extremely excited to start testing the FlexFly. I look forward to using it for backpacking and less strenuous outings where I can take advantage of all the features offered by ENO.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
|FlexFly deployed on a 45 degree grade|
15-17 August, 2014; Hoosier National Forest, Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area, near Bloomington, Indiana. I finally was able to get the children out on a 3-day/2-night outing in the new state. We only hiked a total 5.5 mi (9 km) total on the trip and carried our own water. Temperatures were great for August with nightly lows around 55 F (13 C) and daily highs around 80 F (27 C) with elevations averaging 650-800 ft (198-244 m).
5 - 7 September, 2014; Camp Gnaw Bone, Brown County, Indiana. I joined a local group of fathers that do a monthly outing with their children sans mothers. The season opens post Labor Day and ends post Memorial Day weekends with camping trips at a camp in southern Indiana. Most spent the weekend in large family sized tents in a clearing on a parade field. My seasoned rug rats and I hung our hammocks on a wooded hill adjacent to the field. Weekend temperatures started around 72 F (22 C), but after a rainy Saturday morning and early afternoon dropped significantly and we awoke to 51 F (10.5 C) on a dry Sunday morning. On Thursday, the day prior to leaving temperatures were 90 F (32 C), so the dramatic change was very noticeable. Camping was base-camp like, but we went to a lake to swim for the afternoon, had dinner, skits and a bonfire that culminated with a 1.5 mile (2.4 km) round trip to a 'ghost house' around 11 PM Saturday evening. It made bedtime oh so easy, and both my pups required use of their night lights until they dozed off.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
To date I've been quite impressed with the fly. I've used it on two outings and as we can never forecast what Mother Nature has in store for us, I was 'fortunate' enough to have rain on my second trip.
My first outing was dry and I didn't even notice moisture from morning dew underneath the forest canopy. The tarp is plenty large and provides adequate coverage for my hammock. In fact, it could provide enough coverage to protect one of my children's hammocks and my own if I were to hang them next to one another.
My August trip was dry and to a new and unknown territory. I wasn't sure of water sources and I had both my children in tow, so I carried more water than normal. That stated I didn't carry the tarp poles on this outing in lieu of hydration on this trip.
Temperatures were not outrageously hot that weekend, but after setting camp I believed it felt a little cooler and more comfortable underneath the gray ENO fly as compared to the dark olive tones of my children's tarps.
My second outing using the fly was on a group outing in southern Indiana. This was more base camp like, so we took all the luxuries we don't generally experience in the backcountry. As mentioned, we hung our hammocks on a hill adjacent to a large field where the majority of the other campers setup their tents. It afforded us both privacy and comfort. I always enjoy hanging my hammock and tarp on a steep incline knowing I'll still enjoy a comfortable slumber each evening.
|The Accompanying Poles Were Nice|
Saturday morning brought a steady drizzle. The tarp kept my gear perfectly dry. I was using the poles on this outing, and didn't find a need to remove them during the rain. I attribute this to the large size of the fly. Had it been windy enough to blow the rain sideways I believe I still would have had adequate coverage without the need to guy the corners down tightly and remove the poles. Certainly in a storm I would do so, but this is certainly a large leisure tarp.
Concerning the poles, I deployed them on the downhill side of the hammock. As I rested in my hammock it gave me an excellent view down the hill where I had set up my children's hammocks. They are getting to an age and are comfortable enough in the woods that they don't need to be extremely close to me, but as a parent I like to be able to keep an eye and ear on them in the middle of the night.
The hammock material did not allow water to bleed through when I touched the material from the interior. I've used several tarps and tent fly's, particularly silnylon, that do allow moisture to penetrate when I touch them from the inside. In testing this I made sure to try it below the drip line of my hammock, but after noticing it did not allow penetration I was excited to know I didn't have to gingerly enter or exit my rig.
There were patchy spots as the fly began to dry. I can't say what caused this, perhaps the angle the sun came though the canopy as the clouds broke?
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.
|Notice the Moisture on the Right Side of the Fly|
So far I've been fairly impressed with the ENO FlexFly. It is considerably heavier than most tarps I use for long distance backpacking, but I'm giving it the 'old college try' even in the backcountry. I find it an excellent option for base or car camping and love the poles that come with it.
I'm not a fan of the guy lines that came with the tarp, but for the integrity of the report I have not changed them out. I find they tangle easily and are a little difficult to work with when trying to tie hitches around a tree or a stake.
My only other question at this point centers on the non-uniform drying. It's not a concern as I stayed perfectly dry, but it just appeared a little odd. Again, it may have been the way the sun was reflecting off the tarp on the hill. I'm heading on a five night trip on the Pine Mountain Trail with some hammocking buddies next week, and I intend to take the fly. Perhaps I will encounter some inclement weather over the course of the trip.
I'd like to thank Eagles Nest Outfitters and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test the FlexFly. Please check back in a few months for my Long Term Review.
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