EAGLES NEST OUTFITTERS FLEXFLY UTILITY TARP
TEST SERIES BY STEVEN M. KIDD
November 24, 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 of 5.5 mi (9 km) 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?
|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.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
7 - 10 October, 2014; Pine Mountain Trail, eastern Kentucky and western Virginia. This was a 4-day/3-night outing in which I met up with six hammock camping buddies at the Birch Knob Observation Tower shelter and hiked to the trailhead in Elkhorn City, Kentucky. The rest of my comrades had already been on the trail for three days encountering torrential downpours and extremely steep climbs. This caused three of the crew to call an audible and remain at the shelter for the final leg of the trip. Four of us set out on the next morning and covered 14 mi (22.5 km) over the next two days. Elevations ranged from roughly 2800 ft (853 m) to around 800 ft (244 m) just outside of town. After emerging from the trail we were shuttled back to the tower for a final night in the woods. Temperatures on the trail were as high as 75 F (24 C) and conditions were bright and sunny. On the evenings in base camp temperatures dropped to around 45 F (7 C) and poured rain on and off.
|A Soggy Day on the PMT|
24 - 26 October, 2014; Hoosier National Forest, Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area, near Bloomington, Indiana. I returned to the area for the 2014 Hoosier Halloween Hang. This is an annual event held in the area where a group of hammock campers gather for backcountry camaraderie. I believe temperatures were mild for late October in Indiana. Temperatures rose to 73 F (23 C) during the day and dropped to around 39 F (4 C) at night. It wasn't too cool at night, but the large temperature swings did make it noticeable to me. There was no precipitation over the course of the weekend, but the dew was extremely heavy on Sunday morning.
15 - 16 November, 2014, Carmel, Indiana. Temperatures plummeted on this mid-November weekend, so I decided to do a backyard test with some of my hammock camping winter gear before tackling the coming Indiana winter. I hung my hammock up in the back yard and braved an overnight with lows around 20 F (-7 C), but the wind chill made it feel like it was 5 F (-15 C). I survived the dry night, but I wasn't comfortable enough with my quilts to test out the next night as snow began to blanket the area.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I've used the fly on several more multi-day outings over the later stages of the report and having had the fortune (for testing a rain fly) to have endured both heavy rainfall, high winds and extremely dewy mornings I feel confident I'm offering a thorough report on this product!
A rain fly is designed to keep the occupant dry, and the ENO did that for me. Water never once penetrated to the interior of the tarp. It was large enough to keep me free of water spray or other moisture when some considerable winds picked up on the Pine Mountain Trail.
|LineLoc Close Up|
I mentioned the LineLoc's in the Initial Report. This is one feature of the fly that I really enjoy. I have a few under quilts that employ them, but I've never had a fly with this hardware. All six guy points have them and I found using them a breeze when I was pitching the fly or if I needed to quickly tighten any sagging. They were particularly handy in heavy rain if I needed to adjust the tension. I could simply bend down safely from beneath the tarp and pull whichever line needed tightening in one single step. It is an excellent feature in my opinion. I've included a close up image of one of the LineLoc's on the ridgeline. The image shows the guy as it was attached by the factory, which was incorrect. The half-hitch was removed to allow it to work properly.
I definitely wasn't a huge fan of the guy lines that accompanied the fly. They didn't tangle, and that was a positive, but they were a little bulky and heavy for my personal opinion. For the integrity of the test, I used them throughout the series, but if I were to continue using this fly regularly in the backcountry I'd certainly change them out for future use. For base or car camping they work well in my opinion, and the diameter is certainly a proper fit for the aforementioned LineLoc's.
The poles were great when I was at base camp, but I found them too heavy to carry on the trail when I was covering long distances. ENO provided four Easton stakes for my use during this test series. These are an optional accessory on their website and must be purchased separately from the fly. That stated, I used them throughout the report and even in several heavy rainstorms, one involving high and whipping winds, and they never failed.
|Water Penetrating the Exterior|
As I opened this phase of the report I clarified that I was never wet when using the fly. I also mentioned in my earlier field testing that I had noticed some patchy moisture spots on the fly as it began to dry. In this phase I paid more attention to the tarp as the rain began to fall. It clearly isn't non-uniformed drying, but it is actually water penetrating the nylon material. However, moisture has never seeped entirely though the fly as the polyurethane waterproof coating is actually on the interior. I believed the exterior was uncoated allowing water penetrate the exterior and cause spotting all over the fly. Again, I've never been wet using the fly, the penetration merely concerned me. The close up image I've included shows water beading off the tarp, but it also shows how moisture penetrates the material.
I've never had another fly with the waterproofing on the interior. It fundamentally makes no sense to me, but I'm not a design expert. I had a buddy with me on one backcountry outing that makes DIY (Do-It-Yourself) tarps and even sells some on a regular basis that echoed my concern about the moisture penetration when I asked his opinion. He suggested I contact the manufacturer to ensure the coating was designed as such and that it wasn't a manufacturing defect.
I recently decided to called ENO customer service to inquire about the fly. They were very kind and professional. I was placed on hold several times while they attempted to research my question. They did clarify the PU (polyurethane) coating is on the interior of the tarp. They also stated the exterior has a DWR (durable water repellent) coating on it that will wear away after time and can be reapplied. I'm aware and understand that concept, so I challenged the agent on the fact that the DWR wasn't working the first time I experienced rain. She consulted the general manager and she communicated back to me that he had noticed similar penetration to his FlexFly after extended use, but they had not heard of any issues similar to mine so early on in use. They offered for me to go to the website and submit a warranty claim. In doing so I should be able to return the fly and have the company reapply a DWR coat to this fly.
By the end of the conversation I still wasn't 100% sure if this water penetration into the exterior material of the tarp was something I should be concerned with or not, but I'd prefer to avoid any future issues. I've submitted a warranty application to begin the process return the fly in order to have the DWR reapplied. I plan give follow up concerning the experience in an addendum to the report after the matter is reconciled. To date, I'm happy with their professional customer oriented attitude.
Overall I have positive remarks for the ENO FlexFly. The product is generally well made, gives excellent coverage and keeps me safe from the elements. I love the poles for setting up porch mode, and I've even included an image of my morning view from a recent trip.
|A View From Porch Mode|
Primarily I see myself reserving this fly for base or car camping in the future. I find it great for those purposes, but for long days with high trail miles (kilometers) it is simply quite heavy for my backpacking style. I will, however, carry the fly on shorter distances where I would use it to cover both me and one of my children. Doing so can save pack weight and keep my rug rat close by at night. In those instances I'd likely leave the poles at home and use my trekking poles instead.
Would I change anything about this product? Likely I would use different guy lines, but that is something I can easily change in the future based on my own personal preference. I would like to see some pull-outs with d-rings or something similar on the sides of the fly. The tarp is so large that big gusts of wind can blow it inward toward me when I'm occupying my hammock. Pull-outs would allow me to add an additional guy line on one side or both as needed for such conditions.
Save these minor issues that I have mentioned I really have enjoyed using the product. Again, I will add an addendum to this report after my interaction with customer service comes to a conclusion. I hope to answer whether or not the exterior moisture penetration ceases with a reapplication of DWR, and to see how seamless the interaction goes.
ADDENDUM--April 14, 2015
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.
I mentioned in the long term phase of the testing series that I had been in contact with the warranty department concerning moisture issues with the tarp and that I would create a follow up report after having done so. I completed the warranty process shortly after the test was over, but was unable to give the rain fly a serious test until recently.
|Rain Soaked Tarp after Warranty DWR Treatment|
I initiated the online warranty claim on 26 November, but didn't actually get the item mailed off to ENO for several days. They received the item and reapplied a DWR coating to it and mailed it back to me by 15 December. It was a painless process and they notified me via email regularly.
I recently went on an outing and experienced torrential downpours throughout the better part of the night. I'm happy to report that I stayed completely dry.
|Close Up -- Some Spotting, But Less|
The next morning there was quite a bit of water beading off the exterior of the tarp and there were still some wet or soaked spots that I had experienced earlier, but again none made it through to the interior of the fly. I have to say the DWR application significantly lessened the soaked spots, but it did not completely eliminate them. Once again, the main coating for the FlexFly is on the interior of the tarp. It still makes me inherently nervous to see this happen to a tarp, but after experiencing this recent weather and the deluge I went through I can confirm that I trust in this product.
This completes my addendum to this test series. Thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and Eagles Nest Outfitters for allowing me to test the product. Once again, I applaud ENO for their simple and straightforward warranty process and their excellent communication throughout the process.
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