Cottonwood campground is one of several that surround Coralville Lake near Iowa City. This particular tent only campground is set in a nice grove of cottonwood and other trees within easy walking distance of the spillway and the Devonian Fossil Gorge. There are fifteen sites spread out in two areas: a heavily wooded area and a mature cottonwood grove. I was at site 2 in the cottonwood grove. While there is no understory to provide privacy, sites are nicely spread out and well maintained with mown grass, clean picnic tables and fire pits.There is a clean bathroom with flush toilets and showers next to the parking lot. The previous campers had left wood at several sites, so you may get lucky and not have to buy much wood. One unfortunate thing that was overlooked was an access trail that could lead down to the Fossil Gorge. To get there you will either have to walk the busy road or drive. When in the Fossil Gorge there is an interpretive trail winding through the limestone gorge that will help you spot fossils. There is also a nice river walk trail. I also hiked the Woodpecker Nature Trail down and alone the lake. There are two additional campgrounds that had primarily RVs on either side of the river below the spillway and dam release. In total there are five different campgrounds in the Dam Complex, with Linder Point going through some renovations at this time. The whole facility is run by the Corps of Engineers.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, from time to time I get to test products. This weekend I got to test the Gregory Jade 33 day/backpack. I refer to it as a day/backpack because while it may be sold as primarily a day pack, it can hold enough for an overnighter. Let me just say this: I used to love my Osprey pack. Now it will likely gather dust in the gear closet since I will now just use this Gregory all the time. I really like this pack, let me count the ways:
The fit is amazing. The torso sizing has overlapping sizes (the small and medium sizes have about 2” of overlap, so no weird “I’m in between sizes” baloney. It’s the “just right” mama bear pack size.
The hip belt wraps nice and snug with just the right amount of padding. I don’t feel like I’m being squeezed by a boa constrictor, but I also feel like the hip belt is going to stay in place and not rub or chafe.
The hip belt has huge pockets that fit my phone, some snacks, the keys, and anything else I need handy. I like how the pockets seem to expand to hold it all.
The back is super breathable with a cool ventilated back panel and moisture wicking mesh. I never got hot using it and my back was dry after a long day hiking.
Hands down my favorite thing about this pack is the U zipper to get into the main compartment along with the normal drawstring. The U zipper is the game changer since it means I can easily reach something I shoved to the bottom without having to take everything out.
I haven’t played much with the sunglasses loop/snugger on the front, but I like the idea that I can hook and snug them in without having to take off my pack to put them in the top pocket.
Having the rainfly included is great. I don’t necessarily think the under the flap pocket is the best place to keep it (might be nice to have it in an integrated pocket on the bottom of the pack), but since it is not attached in anyway, you can store it wherever you want.
The front mesh pocket seems to be made out of really nice stretchy mesh that is less likely to snag. It’s nice and large and will fit my rain gear easily.
The side pockets for H2O are nice and deep and you can snug anything in with the compression straps.
Things that could be improved:
I wish the top pocket was lined in case I wanted to store my sunglasses there.
The built in safety whistle is a bit weak. I will still take my own whistle that is really shrill and loud.
For this price I would have liked the pack to include a water reservoir (it’s all set up to include one, with the right straps to hold the tube in place and a cool hanging set up inside for the Gregory water reservoir that they sell).