Spare Me 5-in-1 Automotive Rescue Tool Review

 
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I'm always down for an excuse to get out and have an adventure (adventure to me is a very broad term too!). In this case, a company offered to send me an automotive tool to review and it was a perfect 'excuse' to go off-roading and 'test' it. So today, I'm going to do a written review of the Spare Me 5-in-1 Rescue Tool. If you're more of a visual person, you can see my video review on my Youtube channel. 

The Spare Me 5-in-1 Rescue Tool is meant for automotive scenarios and has 5 features (hence the name) for which I'll break down one by one.

1. Traction

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This to me is the main feature of the tool, so I'll start with it first. When a car is stuck, it's ultimately due to a loss of traction whether that be due to slippery mud or a snowy pit that doesn't have enough car weight on it. Either way, as with any traction board, the tool goes under the tire to add traction, both by filling negative space and adding 'grip' spikes. The Spare Me tool goes under the tire and is strong enough to simply drive over. As you can see in my Youtube video review, I actually have footage where I got myself intentionally stuck and the tool was able to get me out. What separates this tool from other traction boards such as MaxTrax is the size and cost. Traction boards are typically quite large and expensive. This tool, could easily sit with your spare tire and cost less than an IHOP breakfast for two people. 

2. Shovel

Secondly, this tool is meant to be used as a shovel. Sometimes when stuck, what needs to be done is to just clear out the snow/mud/dirt/junk that is under or around the tire. A shovel is always better than hands both for keeping hands clean as well as a hard object like this can break up ice/dirt/etc better than you're hands can. One side of the tool is hollowed out in case you actually needed to scoop, but most of the time just scrapping stuff out of the way is good enough.

3. Lug Nut Wrench Leverage

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This feature is a nice to have the option of. Sometimes when switching out a flat tire, the lug nuts are extremely tight and hard to get off with the lug wrench in your car. So with the simple use of physics, adding a length extension can make it so much easier. I didn't get a flat, but I still tested it out on some overly tight lug nuts and would you believe it?! Physics works?! A little leverage and they come off with just one foot barely stepping on the end. The handle is hollow and by just removing the end cap, you can slide it on the end of the wrench. I will say that that end cap doesn't stay on well and we lost it somewhere out in the backcountry while off-roading. 

4. Tire Leverage

The fourth feature is again a simple aspect of physics; leverage for lifting a tire onto the rotor. I didn't test this one since it is again just physics and I had no doubt it would be fine. However, I don't see this as a selling point for the tool. Maybe it's just cause I'm a strong capable guy (picture James Bond. lol), but I don't have any issues lifting a tire onto the rotor, but I see how this could be nice for someone who can't lift the tire or who just wants to make it a lot easier. So again, I'm sure it works fine since it's just physics.

5. Ice Scraper

The fifth and last feature is an ice scraper. I couldn't test it since I don't live where we have ice currently, but I do have some thoughts on this feature, including some negative ones. So the edge of this tool comes to a very fine point for scraping as is logical. My issue with this feature is that, since it is a fine point (thus thin) it get's torn up easily when used for traction and shoveling. This makes the edge jagged, torn up, and thus very ineffective for scrapping ice once the blade is no longer flat. However, this judgement may not be totally justified. The reason my scraper got so torn up is that I was using it in rocky and sandy conditions. If you live somewhere where you'll actually need to use this for ice and snow, then you may not be using the tool for traction on hard rock and dirt. You'll likely be using it for snow which won't tear up the scraper and thus no complaints.

Overall Thoughts

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To put it as simply as possible, for the size and price, why not have the Spare Me 5-in-1 Rescue Tool. The company didn't pay me to say that, that's my honest review. I'm excited to keep this one in the back of my car. Since it's small enough to sit with my spare tire, I can put it there and just forget about it until I need it. I don't have to worry about leaving it in the garage and not having it with me. Furthermore, the cost of these tools are super cheap. From what I found online you can get them from between $15-30 from multiple places which is so cheap compared to a $300 set of traction boards. The Spare Me company is putting out an 8-in-1 version soon and that one may be closer to $30-40, but that's still ridiculously cheap. 

If you're in any kind of scenario where you may get stuck in snow, mud, dirt, alien goo, or lava, I'd highly suggest you get one or two to keep in your cars. They're effective, small, and cheap! 

 

Mountain Hardwear Lamina Z Torch 5º Sleeping Bag Review

 
 The Mountain Hardwear Lamina Z Torch is warm enough for the harshest conditions.

The Mountain Hardwear Lamina Z Torch is warm enough for the harshest conditions.

First of all, let me say that this is a great bag! I've had it for over a year and used all across the US and in all conditions and temperatures on all sorts of adventures, so I feel that I can speak to it well.

 

Pros of the Mountain Hardware Lamina

When it comes to things I like about this bag, I may not mention things that I would expect to be normal of a good sleeping bag. I really want my pros list to be things that appear to be above and beyond normal. Thus, just cause I don't mention something, doesn't mean it's not good.

First of all, it is a decently warm bag, although I find that it may be rated a little colder than is realistic, but not by much if so. Granted I sleep colder than most, but I took that into consideration. Coldest weather I've been with it was around the 15º F mark and I slept fairly well, but awoke in the night more than normal due to being momentarily cold. This was with me in a warm base layer, in a tent pitched on snow, on-top of a 3.5 R-rated air mattress, totally zipped up, beanie on. It's always good to understand that temp ratings aren't indicators of comfort, but extremes. So I'm not saying that I expected to be toasty warm at 5º, but I was surprised that I was still remotely cold around the 15º mark considering the other factors. Again, this will vary from person to person.

Secondly, the material is good and handles moisture well. Unlike some materials, where you're afraid it will rip or snag if a butterfly lands on it, I tend to feel quite confident this material holds up well to abrasion and 'stretching' from things like stuffing it, etc. Furthermore, the zippers don't have too many issues. The zipper air guard does occasional get caught, but not enough to truly complain. I like that is the double-zipper (one at feet as well), but this is becoming fairly standard on sleeping bags.

As I said, those are the main pros that standout, but unless otherwise mentioned below as a con, assume that it's a good feature of the bag.

 

Cons of the Mountain Hardware Lamina

One thing to mention that isn't a con of the bag, but is a con for me and I wish I had paid more attention to before buying the bag, is that it is a very big fit when it comes to a mummy bag. So unless you want the wiggle-room, I'd find something that fits more narrowly and is thus more heat efficient. In the future I will be paying more attention to this. So just be aware it is a broad-shouldered fit. On a skinny guy like me (155lb, 5' 11") it leaves lots of dead air space.

I will say that I'm not a big fan of the drawcord because it's difficult to work once already totally zipped up in the sleeping bag. The mechanism spring is stiff and the drawcord is tough to handle. Maybe I just have issues (and that is always a possibility with me), but it seems more difficult than it needs to be. The release spring is stiff and requires a fair amount of effort to release (can be a good thing since it holds it tight) and the string tends to be facing away from you when at rest, meaning that once zipped up and trying to reach outside the bag, it's an odd angle.

This may not be an issue for some people, but the small pouch on the outside of the bag for cellphones or batteries causes me disappointment. Because it's on the outside of the bag and thus the outside of the insulation, it doesn't keep things warm. So, if I were to use it for batteries or phone, my power levels will all be zapped by morning time. If you're just putting keys or something in there, I guess it's fine, but for me personally, I'd rather have it be on the inside so I can keep certain things warm and away from condensation/damp. 

Furthermore, I don't feel that it is as compressible and light as they make it seem when advertised. For someone like me who does mostly backpacking and hiking, I need something more compressible and more lightweight and this is the reason I'll soon be upgrading to a quality down bag like either Feathered Friends or Western Mountaineering (I haven't decided yet). Compared to other synthetic bag at this temp degree, it's quite compressible (what they say, I haven't compared in depth). However, it's not a bag I'd recommend for backpacking due to this. Spend a little more and get a down bag that compresses. 

 

I hope that helps give a bit of insight to a few features. If it's helpful, I also have this video review on my youtube channel, but I basically cover the same stuff (but included visuals and examples):

Hope that was of some insight to you on my personal opinion of this bag. You can check out more of my gear reviews here.

REI Quater Dome 1 Tent Review

 
 REI Quarter Dome 1 Pitched near the peak in Southern California

REI Quarter Dome 1 Pitched near the peak in Southern California

Hey everyone, 

Today I’m going to give a written review of my REI Quarter Dome 1 tent and pair it with the review I made for my YouTube channel. The video obviously has visuals so you know what I’m talking about and examples of such, but some people like good-ol’ fashion words… like, in sentences and such…

First of all, let me say that I have had the tent now for almost a year, which may not seem like much, but I’ve put it to good use. I’ve been through 38 of the50 states with it and in conditions ranging from hot and sunny to cold and snowy. So I think that my review gives a good synopsis since I’ve used it in most situations, environments, and temperatures. 

It must also be said why I chose this tent. I did a lot of hunting, comparing, and research before choosing this tent. This tent may not suite everyone; people have different needs, are looking for different features, have different budgets, etc. As for me, my main use is backpacking, so I was looking for something light and small, but pretty universal since I knew I’d use it in a variety of environments. To someone who never backpacks, doesn’t care about weight, and is camping where there is heavy snow loads, then you’re looking bomb shelter, not a backpacking tent like this.

This tent comes in at 2lb, 2oz and is among the lightest of tents I looked at. There were some lighter, but at the cost of other features such as the rainfly not fully covering the main body or bivy style or more mesh than I desired. This was a good balance for me in weight, but still some substance to it. To be honest, my biggest concern was it’s durability since it’s such a thin material. I’m pleased to say though it has held up well to snow, ice, gusty winds, etc. However, just last week I did exchange it for a new one due to a part of the vestibule zipper starting to rip away from the fly (I’ll expound more on the issue in a bit) and since it’s been within a year of purchase, REI happily exchanged it thanks to the awesome return policies. I am curious to see if my new one will have the same issue down the road, but hopefully not.

Part of what helps with the weight is it’s 1.5 pole system. The poles are already super light DAC aluminum, but they cut out even more weight by having on main pole from head to toe and a second partial pole that goes from the opposite head to a jake’s foot above the door. The tent is not considered freestanding, but is mostly freestanding (if you forgot stakes, you’d still be able to sleep in it). There are two loops at the feet that need to be staked out to give full foot room and keep the tent walls by the feet taut. Speaking of stakes, the tent comes with just enough stakes for all peg-loops and fly, but if you wanted to take advantage of the two additional guy-points, you’d need two more stakes (or use a tree or rocks or something). 

As far as space, it’s perfect for someone of my size (5’10ish”). I’ve heard that people over 6’ don’t enjoy it or find it to be enough space. It is 90” long and 40” at it’s widest. I also mentioned above that it’s not a bivy-style (a bivy is basically a cocoon for humans, but sadly you don’t emerge as a beautiful butterfly), you can however sit up in this tent. It’s [height] in height which makes things like changing a lot easier. I’ve also sat in there with my strap-seat to read a book on a cold night where it was warmer in the sleeping bag. I can tell you this is big luxury since I used to have a bivy-type tent (which was actually heavier than this one). 

I have been pleased as well with the vestibule space (vestibule is the covered space under the fly). It comes pretty low to the ground, thus covering my gear well and I can fit my large backpack or large duffle under it along with my shoes all night. The zippers on both the tent door and vestibule door are smooth and almost never get caught. However, here is where I will mention the one issue that I’ve had with the tent. Because of the way that the vestibule is staked out, it puts a lot of tension at the bottom of the zipper on the fly. This makes getting the first half-inch started more difficult with one hand (not a deal-breaker though). But as of the last two trips, a defect began to develop as afore mentioned; the tension finally started to get the best of it and the zipper began to rip away from the fly materialthere at the bottom. See video for visual aid.

Two things should be clarified; 1) this is the only issue I’ve had with the tent 2) I love this tent! I would be very disappointed if this was a continual problem cause I’d eventually find a new tent and I don’t want to a different tent; I want this one. Therefore, in conclusion, my overall consensus is positive. I would recommend this tent to a friend assuming they were looking for the same main features I was. If you’re debating between this tent and another, you have my recommendation to choose the REI Quarter Dome 1.

This covered most of the main points, but I do going into slightly more depth in the video. If you’re still reading this, it means you’re still reading this (profound!) So thanks for reading this far, I hope it was helpful to you. If you have any questions, please leave comments below or contact me directly. You can also subscribe to my mailing list on the right side if you’d like to receive notifications about new blog posts as they come. Until next time, cheers!