I took a sleeping bag and multi-purpose lantern/waterproof bottle for a spin over the May long weekend. Here was my experience with the two products — and no, I didn’t realize it was a women’s sleeping bag until I tried to squeeze in.
Seattle Sports Firewater Multi-Bottle
The Firewater Multi-Bottle from Seattle Sports is one of those items at camping stores people pass right by. It looks gimmicky, but it’s actually useful.
If you’ve ever tried to DIY a lantern by taking a flashlight and placing it against a water bottle (particularly those big four litre jugs), you know the water seems to diffuse the light without diminishing the brightness. The Firewater Multi-Bottle works on the same principle. It’s a 700mL water bottle/waterproof case that has a built-in LED light, which charges via micro-USB or the built-in solar panels. It’s made of food-grade silicone, making it light, collapsible and surprisingly sturdy.
It spent a weekend squished at the bottom of a 115-litre dry bag during a recent canoe trip, and even after days of being bumped around on portages and squeezed under 25 kilograms of camping gear, it provided welcome soft light in the tent. It has three light settings (bright, dim and flashing) and a glow in the dark band around the top, which is handy for finding the on/off switch in the dark. Seattle Sports says it's good for one to five hours depending on the brightness; I used it for two nights for a few hours each night and it didn’t run out of power.
Despite being much more useful than expected, it’s not perfect. If I was worried about weight, I’d probably leave it at home, since other pieces of essential gear (headlamp and Nalgene bottle) can do the same thing. The silicone also attracts dirt. However, for car camping or easy hikes and paddling trips, give this lantern a try.
Mountain Hardwear Lamina Z Spark sleeping bag
“This is short,” I thought, when I unrolled the bag on the first night of a weekend trip to Ontario’s Algonquin Park for some backcountry canoeing. When I checked the tags that evening, I discovered I had taken a regular length women’s bag for testing, instead of the men’s long I usually use. The Spark was 183 centimetres long, which is how tall I am, and its shape was what Mountain Hardwear calls “Women's Comfort Mummy Cut,” which, in practice, meant too small for my shoulders.
Nevertheless, shoulders down, I was kept toasty all night long in temperatures only a few degrees above the Lamina Z Spark’s low temperature rating of 1 C. It also packs small (despite being a synthetic fill bag) in the handy compression stuff sack that it came with. The hood was comfortable and the Velcro tab at the neck, which covers the zipper, was well placed and didn’t scratch my face or neck when rolling over — a surprisingly irritating oversight on many bags. The only downside was the zipper action. Every time I zipped up the bag the zipper would get caught on the bag’s inner liner. There was no danger of anything ripping, and it quickly unstuck, but it was an unnecessary nuisance.
The Lamina Z Spark, like every piece of Mountain Hardwear gear I’ve owned, performed exactly like it’s supposed to (other than the zipper), which is really all you can ask for when looking for reliable backcountry gear. I would happily use this bag again. I’ll just make sure to get the right size.