Gear Review: Wisport Sparrow 16 and 20 Rucksacks

Inspired by a project to assemble an urban emergency grab-bag / evac-bag / bug-out-bag / go-kit using a maximum 20l rucksack, I chose the Wisport (from Military 1st) Sparrow 16 and 20 rucksacks. This review is to take a detailed look at these bags and their features. As well as the photo galleries there is also a video showing the features of each bag. (Keep an eye out for the emergency bag article, or subscribe for updates to make sure you get notified.)

Diving into the details:
Starting with the smaller Sparrow 16 and the images are split into three galleries to cover the main external features, carry strap details, and the bag’s compartments.

External features:
The Sparrow 16 shows how even a small bag, with a few extras on it, can have a pretty impressive carrying ability. Each side of the Sparrow 16 has a set of two compression straps with quick release buckles (as well as MOLLE panels). These make it easy to adapt the bag, stabilise the load or even strap on additional equipment or clothing.
Even though it is a small bag, it has a good comfortable strong top strap. Under this strap is the hydration pouch tube port.

The carry straps:
Despite being a small 16l bag, the Sparrow 16 has a lot of details in its design – the carry straps are no exception. Both shoulder straps are fully removable, not just one end of the strap, but both, can be unclipped. You can use remove one strap to make it a neat single shoulder bag (in the way many people carry a rucksack), or both and have a large organiser that you carry with the handle.
Even on this smaller bag there is a chest strap, and the hydration tube clips.

Compartments in the Sparrow 16:
On the very front panel of the bag is a side zip accessed compartment, the same size as the whole front panel. Moving onto the main compartment, which has a full clamshell opening (once you undo the side straps). At the front of the main compartment is a zip up compartment, and below this is an elastic strap with loops for organising items. The back of the main compartment has a pocket with elastic edge, to hold a hydration pouch, or any other flat items.

Moving onto the Sparrow 20.

External features:
The Sparrow 20 steps up the ‘strappage’ to another level. Like the 16, each side has a set of two compression straps with quick release buckles (as well as MOLLE panels). The front panel has a further two compression straps with quick release buckles, and the base of the bag has both MOLLE webbing and a set of four attachment points for webbing of your own configuration. The front panel also has a top opening zip up compartment. It’s all topped off with a sturdy carry strap.

The carry straps:
In the case of the sparrow 20, the shoulder straps are much more substantial, wider, and padded. The tops of the straps are fixed, but the bottom have quick release buckles to give you a quick exit from the straps when needed. Under the straps at the top of the back panel is the hydration tube port. The back panel has large padded contours and space for air to flow. At the bottom end of the shoulder straps there is an angled load spreader where it is fixed to the bag. Next to this, on either side, is a webbing attachment point that could be used for fitting a waist strap.
Hydration tube clips sit in the same place on the shoulder straps as the chest strap.

Compartments in the Sparrow 20:
With the extra 4l in space comes a jump in equipment and more organisation. Starting on the front panel is a pocket for very quick and easy access. For the full clamshell opening of the front panel compartment you need to unclip the four side straps. Inside the front compartment is a clip hanger strap and a D-loop hanger strap (for keys and the like), a small organiser panel with pen pockets and elastic strap, a mesh zip up pocket, and an open pouch pocket.
Moving into the main compartment, again with full clamshell opening, and the back has an elasticated pocket for a hydration pouch. Around this are four webbing attachment points so you can add further restraints. Covering the front of the main compartment are two zip-up mesh pockets.

What it is like to use?
To add more of the impression of these bags, this video takes a tour round both the Sparrow 16 and 20.

As the more ‘equipped’ of the two bags, the Sparrow 20 has stepped into my EDC while I develop the bug-out-bag system, so here is a quick look round the way I’m using it.
On the front panel I’ve added a MOLLE fixing patch panel to give me more room for velcro patches. There is a torch / flashlight slipped into the webbing to be immediately to hand, but with the top put under the strap above to hopefully stop it falling out by itself.
To keep the compression straps that I’m not currently using out of the way (so the compartments can be unzipped easily), I have actually laid these across each other and used the elastic loops on each strap to hold the other one in place. (Each strap was threaded into the elastic strap loop of the opposite strap.)
On one side panel is a MOLLE glasses case, and on the other are a further two MOLLE pouches. One of these takes my phone and the other has various small items I want within easy reach.
For my EDC use, I only use one of the shoulder straps to quickly pick it up and put it down. The other strap is held neatly out of the way by tucking it into the lower side compression strap.
In the front compartment I have medication pouches, two more lights and a pen, plus many ‘useful’ items tucked into the mesh pouch and pocket.
Not being a fan of chest straps I removed this from the bag, however, inside the main compartment are some webbing attachment points, and here I have re-purposed the chest strap inside the main compartment to hold tall items in place. You can see a tablet case, large and small organiser pouches plus an action camera with mini tripod.

My initial temptation was to cut off a few of the Sparrow 20’s numerous straps to tidy it up. Unused straps can become more of a hindrance than a help. However, I stopped myself; currently the work-arounds I found for the various straps I wanted out of the way are working nicely.
The way I am EDCing the Sparrow 20 should show any potential shoulder strap issues quickly enough, especially considering I’ve made it quite heavy already. No signs of strain or overloading as yet.
So far these bags appear well made, strong and packed full of features.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond that covered in the review.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

What doesn’t work so well for me

Almost too many straps.
Side straps can prevent easy opening of clamshell compartments.
Main zips a little ‘sticky’ (this may improve with use).

Things I like

Plenty of Webbing and Straps.
Good ‘organiser’ design features.
Break-out shoulder straps.
Strong top carry handle.
Hydration pouch compatible.
Main compartments have full clamshell opening.
Padded back.

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Gear Review: Nordic Heat Handwarmer and USB Powerbank 10,000mAh

After just popping by for a chat with the nice folks of Nordic Heat at IWA, I found myself leaving with their Large Handwarmer / USB Powerbank. In this review of the Nordic Heat 10,000mAh Handwarmer and USB Powerbank, as well as getting a good feel for it, I have carried out some detailed measurements of output performance for both the heating and USB powerbank.

Thermal image taken with FLIR Scout TK

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:

This is how the Large Handwarmer / USB Powerbank arrives.

A good look round the Handwarmer / USB Powerbank:

It’s a simple concept really, it gets hot, and can charge your phone (or other USB device). Here are the details.

In The Laboratory:

For these tests, I wanted to measure the actual performance of the USB powerbank aspects and then move onto the heat output.
First are a couple of USB power traces for both charging using the supplier charger and cable and then with the powerbank discharging into a large load, again using the supplied cable.
Being a special triple connector cable, I suspect there is some intentional throttling as it only charges at 1A, and for the output it only manages around 1.3A with the supplied cable.

Now, putting aside the supplied charger and cable and recharging with a high power USB charger (6A) and high current cable, the powerbank charges at 2A.

Then seeing what output we get using a high current USB-A to USB-C cable into the large load. Now the powerbank outputs 2.4 – 2.5A. From the graph it does look like this is pushing the output to its limits as we see some power switching noise, but a very solid performance.

A measurement I was not able to make a graph of is the cumulative output measured charging phones. This came to 32.873Wh or 6913.2mAh.

To test the heating output of this handwarmer, a dual probe digital thermometer was used to measure the ambient and surface temperature of the handwarmer. This allows the ambient temperature to be taken away from the surface temperature to remove external temperature variations. The measurements were logged (by video) and used for this graph.

The temperature shown is Degrees C above ambient, and as you can see the output is fantastically stable.

What it is like to use?

Nordic Heat have two sizes of handwarmer/powerbank. As you can see, this larger version, is a good handful for a hand that takes an XL glove size. The smaller version might be a better fit for some, but this does compromise on heating time and USB output power, a compromise worth considering.

There is a built-in light which you access via the power button. It can make the handwarmer into a torch with a very long runtime. A useful and usable addition. Just remember that you are taking from the available power for hand warming or device charging.

Our growing reliability on mobile phones and tablets makes powerbanks almost a necessity, especially in remote areas. Performance as a powerbank is good (see the technical testing section), and you can power up devices with a solid 2A output.

Not quite qualifying as technical testing, I thought it was important to check the heat distribution of the handwarmer to ensure it didn’t have cold spots or problems with heat distribution. So for this I aimed a FLIR Scout TK at it. In this set of images, we start with a control shot with the handwarmer off and left to reach ambient temperature. There is little contrast in the image as there isn’t really any heat gradient apparent. After switching on the handwarmer and leaving it to get up to temperature the heated portion stands out clearly. The heat distribution is nice and even and extends fully over the body, with only the unheated plastic top remaining cooler. In the last image I put my warm, uncovered, hand into view to show how the handwarmer is properly above body temperature and will provide good heating.

Do you need one? Well, do you have a USB powered mobile device – then that is yes for its powerbank capability. Do you like cold hands and feet? No, then that is yes for the handwarmer / heating facility.

Why did I say feet? During testing I found that this wasn’t just something to take when venturing outdoors, but any time you want a heat pack. I’ve used it to warm up my feet in a cold bed, to apply heat to a pulled muscle, to preheat hands prior to putting non-heated gloves on, and generally provide comfort where a bit of warmth helps.

The on-demand heat is where this wins over every other heating option. No boiling water, microwaving gels, lighting a fuel catalyser, just switch on and off as required, anywhere.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

Things I like

Good battery capacity.
2A+ USB output.
Over 7.5h heating on a full charge.
Excellent heat distribution.
Useful to also have a light.
Comes with cable and charger.

What doesn’t work so well for me

Supplied USB cable seems to limit output to 1A.
Supplied charger only provides 1A.