My every day pocket knife – A better way

I was given my first pocket knife at six years old. I lost that pocket knife a few years later even though after getting a better one I kept it in a little cedar box which I still have. It’s a real shame too because I think that knife had been given to my father by his grandfather. I don’t remember. The moral of this story is, not all kids keep up with stuff.

Throughout my life my father, brother, sister and I have given each other various pocket knives to carry around for various reasons. I’ve always preferred the multi-use Swiss Army knives, my dad likes carving knives with more than one blade. My brother likes larger locking blade knives and my sister typically always had smaller pen knives, or more realistically our left overs.

A few solutions that worked for me

The Gerber Dime

The Gerber Dime – It’s maybe three inches long closed, four open and half an inch thick. It weighs a couple of ounces at best and has several useful tools. It’s worth every penny and far better than any other tiny multi-tool I’ve ever messed with.

The knife I’d been carrying for a couple of years has been the Gerber Dime. It’s a small multi-tool that’s helped me fix more than one computer. It has a box opening tool on it so you don’t get tape gunk on the regular blade, which is my favorite feature. The pliers are decent. The little ‘precision’ flat blade screwdriver works pretty well in some Phillips head screws without messing them up. It is not terribly heavy on a key chain. I have the black one and after a few years of carrying it, the paint has stayed on pretty well, and I’ve only touched up the knife edge once. The box opener has needed some help a little more often, but it gets used more.

At the end of the day I liked it but I decided after a few years and as I kept it on my key chain, it made my keys too heavy.

The Leatherman Skeletool

The Leatherman Skeleletool

I got this multi-tool a while back and I used to carry it every day. To be honest I find it a bit heavy for my pocket. I like the changeable bits in the screwdriver function though so I tossed it in my pack, which I’ll talk about in another post. Again, I found it too heavy but it’s worth mentioning here.

The Leatherman Skeletool RX – Has a serrated blade instead of the combination serrated/straight. The CX has a non-serrated blade.

In my opinion this is the best multi-tool you can buy. I’ve owned a classic Leatherman, and I have a Gerber multi-tool I really like as well, and this one just gets everything right. The two biggest problems I’ve had with other multi-tools (besides the fact that they are usually just toys) are they have too much useless, low quality crap in them, and when the handle opens it is hollow, square and can be uncomfortable to use. This one has some ergonomic design and doesn’t have an awl, four crappy flat bladed screwdrivers, a saw, file, can opener and a small pair of scissors. No disrespect to Tim Leatherman or his competitors but, less is more sometimes.

The Victorinox Mechanic

The Victorinox Mechanic

This is my favorite pocket knife ever. I’ve owned three or four of these and used them heavily. My coworkers have used my Mechanics heavily. I’ve had both the Wenger and Victorinox versions and I like them both, the former more than the latter. You can’t find the Wenger ones anymore, but the Victorinox version is just as good. I use the small knife blade, Phillips driver and pliers on these until something breaks. I know you can just write the company and get the parts replaced. When that happens they don’t get thrown away they get put in the kitchen drawer, bathroom cabinet, office, tool bag and I order a new one. The pliers aren’t especially heavy-duty but for the light duty stuff I normally do, they work great. I’ve built at least one computer using just this knife.

It wasn’t really the weight that eventually made me stop carrying this every day but the thickness. But, sometimes, depending on what I’m about to go, my current one will still get thrown in my pocket.

Gerber EAB Pocket Knife

The Gerber EAB – Uses standard contractor or “utility” blades.

There are two versions of this knife and it is what I actually carry now. I like this thing and will probably be getting a few of the ‘lite’ versions of it in the future if they are as good as the regular.

 

The EAB Lite – Basically the same thing as the EAB. A little more compact version of an already tiny knife.

It is basically a small folding utility knife. It uses standard utility blades so you don’t ever really have to sharpen it. Just take out the old blade and put in a new one. This means the blade is razor-sharp every time, and more importantly you don’t ever mind using your ‘good knife’ on something awful. If you mess up the blade, forget to oil it, chip it, ding it, or anything like that, you just replace it. You can get 100 replacement blades for around $10 (sometimes $5 if you watch them). You can also use hooked blades and other styles that use the same utility blade format.

I have other knives for other uses, but the EAB is what I carry in my pocket every day now and it does what I need it to. The reason I now prefer this little knife  that it basically never needs sharpening. I do not mind sharpening my knives and have multiple ways to do so. It’s just easier to keep a spare blade or two in my toolkit or in my car than to worry about having to cut something with my good pocket knife that I probably shouldn’t then having to wait until I get home to work out the nicks. A five pack of blades at most hardware stores is a few dollars if I don’t have any with me and I need them. For $10 I got a package of a hundred and since they fit multiple other utility knives I own, there’s really no downside.

The Other Every Day Carry Gear – The Not Quite EDC

So I wrote two articles about my every day carry upgrades and the two significant things I changed over the last year or two. One thing I learned about myself was that I don’t like carrying a bunch of extra stuff on my person. Keys, wallet, cell phone, pocket knife, headset and I’m done. No smart watch, no pen, no field notes notebook, none of that stuff. The pen thing is a little inconvenient sometimes but I am usually in an office and there are thousands of pens.

So here’s a list of what I like to call “Semi-EDC”. It’s the stuff I typically carry every day but don’t usually have on my person. Since it isn’t on my person all the time every day, it’s Semi-EDC.

Surface 3

Regular old Surface 3. I don’t believe in laptops anymore. It pretty much does what I need though. I can run Aptana Studio on it, Office 365, remote into work, run Skype and since it actually charges with a microUSB port and not a proprietary cable I don’t have to carry a lot of weird cables around.

I also carry the Surface Pen too. I’ll post an article about why you should maybe consider a tablet over a laptop one of these days.

NiteCore LA10 Flashlight

I’ve got a big old school Maglite at home, but it’s not super practical carrying it everywhere. I was searching around for a smaller aluminum or steel bodied flashlight to carry with me that also didn’t use huge amounts of batteries. I found the LA10 on Amazon. It uses a single AA battery, and has three modes of operation. There is a bright setting, a super bright setting and a ‘beacon’ mode. The light also extends out like lipstick and can be used as a small lantern. This seemed ideal for server closets with no power as well as spontaneous camping trips and such.

The link above comes with an EdisonBright alkaline battery according to the description. I looked the batteries up and all I could find were relatively expensive rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Mine came with a Duracell AA battery that looked like it is labeled for the Japanese market.

Leatherman Skeletool


I talked about this in my pocket knife article. I really like this multi-tool but I don’t like carrying it on my person all the time so it goes in the bag.

Moleskine Notebooks

I carry two in the bag. One of the 3.5″ by 5″ soft cover ones and one of the “large” 5.5″ by 8.5″ soft cover ones. The large one is set up to work with the “Getting Things Done” system and the smaller one is just for general note taking. Basically a fancier version of the “Field Notes” notebooks I make fun of in the EDC boards.

Amazonbasics 16100 mAh Power Bank

Figured out these are inexpensive, have two output ports and can charge both my surface and my phone no problem. There are companies that sell larger capacity batteries but this one isn’t any bigger than a smart phone in a good size OtterBox.

I highly suggest everyone carry one of these, or something like it. They are really useful little devices and can extend your working day from a couple of hours to all day pretty easily if you are somewhere that power isn’t easily accessible.

I like the 16100 mAh one for the value. I have several power banks and I’ll probably review them in a separate article.

Rav Power Charger

This is an upgrade from the little cheap dual port USB chargers I prefer. It’s also got some Qualcomm circuitry built-in so it can quickly charge certain kinds of devices. I don’t have any devices that are Qualcomm compatible yet, but it’s there when I need it. They make a smaller USB charger that just has the 2.4A ports on it that I like as well.

I thought it was prudent to get a higher quality charger. While I’ve never myself had a device die because of a cheap charger, I’ve heard the stories. The chargers from RAVpower advertise built-in surge protection, as well as overheating and high current protection. Something the little cheap ones just don’t have. The one I have also seems extremely durable. So while it was kind of expensive for what is basically a cell phone charger, I’d definitely recommend it.

Micro USB to Type C Adapter

You’ll read a lot of articles about how bad an idea these are. I haven’t had a problem with this specific brand though. I have two. One for the office and one for my bag. I will say that I have some pretty decent cables though and I don’t use the cables if the ends are bent up. I really suggest investing in some good cables and chargers if you go the Micro USB cable with these adapters. These look like they are engineered really well and the good cables I have fit in tightly. I have a few cheap cables that when I plug them in, they fit really loose and move around inside. I wouldn’t trust that loose connection with my phone.

These saved me a lot of money when I got my Nexus 5x. I like the Type C thing, but I really wish Google had gone with some other quick charge method.

Two Micro USB Cables

I have a retractable USB cable and a regular 10′ micro USB cable I carry as well. I got both off of AliExpress actually. I don’t seem to have a problem with either except the ends on the ten footer are a bit long.

Tactical Pen

I got a few of these on a flash deal for Christmas a few years ago. I keep one in the car too. They write pretty well and have a glass breaker tip if you need to break a window out or something. I guess this would be considered a decent self-defense item if you needed it. I like it because it’s extremely solid and has a good ink cartridge in it. So besides being a really good pen (most of them I’ve seen on Amazon have good reviews on the pen part) this one at least seems solid enough to be used for a lot of other purposes. Personally, I’ve wedged it into doors to hold them open and jammed my car’s break pedal down to work on the brake light switch.

Sharpie Pens

These are what I like to write with these days. Just a preference over ball point pens.

A Sharpie

For marking on things.

A Better Keychain

My first step in a better every day carry was my key chain. Here’s how I applied my two questions to my key chain. My first question is what do I need? The answer seemed pretty obvious. A key chain. I have to carry a key chain because I have several keys I need every day. I began thinking about what I needed, how to solve that need and if anything needed to change to do so.

Because need does not supersede want and they often are the same thing. I decided I wanted a key chain that was much less heavy and bulky in my pocket. Unfortunately huge keychains with lanyards were fashionable where I grew up and a lot of men and women my age still carry them. That was not the case with me, but I still had a lot of unnecessary junk I was carrying around.

I started looking around for ideas.

My dad always had, for as long as I can remember anyway, the best key chain. It has this massive set of key rings with these cool brass quick release things on it that are likely older than me so he could clip on and off the sets of keys he needed for that day. On his work days he might have fifty keys, but on the weekend he just had his house and car keys. Modular components appeal to me. His are the heavy-duty old school version of these:

He gave me one of his when I was a kid but they never really worked for me and I probably lost it a decade or two ago. I always preferred a carabiner so I could also attach a few small tools. I ended up with this one back in 2014 and really loved it, at least for a while.

I figured out the problem with carabiners is, your keys will slip off somehow. Some have a screw cap that goes over the clip that will prevent this, but they end up being bulky. This particular model seems like it might have some of that worked out, however.

I ended up also carrying around a Gerber Dime pocket knife, which is great, on my key chain but it made it unnecessarily heavy. It is great for the most common knife related task I have, opening boxes, but when a corrections officer asked me if I wanted a real knife I decided it was time for a change. That was embarrassing.

The Better Key Chain For Every Day Carry

I ended up looking a those key ‘organizers’ that make your key chain into a device resembling a pocket knife. The KeyDisk is the one I ended up getting.

It runs about $20 and can hold up to ten keys which. It also has a little bottle opener attachment in it that has a loop on it that I attached my car key and remote fob to. After careful consideration I figured out that I really only need three keys for my daily life and other keys can just be on separate rings hanging in my house or office.

The result is I have way less stuff in my pocket now. The design does not make it awkward to use the keys as I suspected. I would not put a car key inside the device because it can stick straight out from the ignition and in some cars, it may even prevent you from putting your keys in the ignition at all. Many new cars don’t really use keys anymore so this really isn’t a problem.

The image above shows the blanks with the teeth of the key facing out. I set mine up like this to start with and it seems like a bad idea. There’s no reason I can see that you can’t have the teeth facing inwards to protect both your keys and the stuff in your pocket.

The great thing is, the company that makes these sells other designs so there’s something for everyone. This is the design I almost got but it would have actually made my key chain more bulky than it was before.

This KeyKlip combines the KeyDisk with a carabiner to get the best of both worlds. I don’t have one of these to talk about. I suspect the carabiner would get stuck on pockets a lot though. It does say you can use it as a bottle opener though, and that notch looks like it might have a few uses as well.

I’ve used the regular KeyDisk for about a month now and I really like it. You can click on any of the images above to check them out in detail.

 

 

 

 

The Two Questions of EDC

Whether you’re out in the dry desert of Arizona or, in many people’s view the similar desolation of downtown New York you can find yourself in a crappy situation. What you have on you right then can sometimes mean the difference between easily getting out of that situation or just managing to make it back home. That’s why every day carry is important.

Over the last year or so I’ve looked over a lot of sites are dedicated to the idea of EDC and taken it from ‘the stuff you carry in your pockets every day’ to something a lot more advanced. Honestly, it’s pretty intimidating looking at what a lot of the guys on these blogs and forums carry around. I’ve seen posts where guys in my field carry, no joke, two handguns, at least three pocket knives, and a slew of other survivalist gear in addition to two laptops, a tablet and their IT toolkit (ITS Tactical has a satirical picture of this on one of their articles. You can tell it’s satirical only because of the hand grenade.).  Other posts have a bit more minimalistic approach, wallet, pocket knife, cell phone, and maybe an iPad mini.

Personally? After a year of looking at all the gadgets and stuff I started asking myself questions about what I was doing and what I wanted. I came up with two questions for everything I carry. Call it my every day carry test.

First question is, in no particular order or importance, “What do I need to carry?”

The second is, “What do I want to carry?”

Need does not trump want, even though it would seem that it does. If you need to carry something every day, there is no way to get around it. You have to carry it by default, so it is there regardless of desire. Depending on what that object is, how you carry it may be entirely up to you. For instance you may need to carry your house keys, but the only reason you carry them on a key ring is because you want to do so.  You may have never thought about other options, but they do exist, you just haven’t ever used them.

I’ve got a few articles in the tube about the stuff I’ve encountered over the last year and what I’ve ended up with. I hope you all like it.

 

The Techno Survivalist – Earbuds, Headsets and Audio

I’ve been thinking about Every Day Carry lately as it relates to this idea of what I’m calling Techno Survivalism. So I started going through what I carry around every day and what I need to do every day so I can adjust my “EDC”. I know many IT guys carry a lot of crap around in a backpack every day but I’ve turned more towards the minimalist approach to everything. I don’t carry a backpack, I just have my four pockets.

The last couple of jobs I’ve had required a lot of travel to various parts of the Panhandle and I know a lot of places have policies about having some kind of hands free system in their car. Lots of cubicle work requires that you have earphones because you can’t play a radio at your cube either. Most cell phones these days include a pair of ear buds so you may ask why I’m even writing this article. Well here are a few reasons why you should ditch the stock ear buds you get with your phone and get the two products I’m about to tell you about now.

The stock, cheap ear buds you get with your phone usually suck for the following reasons:

  • They have plastic cords that tangle up really easily.
  • They have cords.
  • The sound quality is abysmal.
  • They break easily.
  • They’re generic looking.
  • The cords get caught on things.
  • The cords are never long enough.
  • Did I mention they have cords?
  • No volume control (unless you have an iPhone).
  • No track skip features.
  • Basically all they do is start/stop what you’re listening to and answer calls.

Why even carry a headset as part of your EDC? In this day and age, audio is how you keep yourself informed, educated and entertained. For most people, a smartphone is as essential in day to day life as a stone knife was to a cave man in the paleolithic era. The headset is part of the connection to the phone. You listen to audio on the phone with it, talk on the actual phone feature with it, and can input data and receive information through the voice command system with it. Having a good one is crucial. I want to break you away from carrying a dinky corded headset, and get you to carry a stereo Bluetooth headset as your main audio interface. It will free you up, and add a new level of interaction to your smartphone.

Bluetooth Headset and Why You Should Have One All The Time

 

Book Cover
The first product I want to talk about is the LG Tone+ HBS 730 Stereo Bluetooth Headset . I’ve had one of these since March of 2013 and as of this writing is has not failed me. The biggest reason I got this was because I like to listen to podcasts and I got tired of breaking regular ear buds. The cable would get caught on something and break, or they’d just wear out. I didn’t want a regular Bluetooth headset because people can’t tell when you’re listening to one, and they generally make you look like a jerk. This headset can be hidden under a shirt, lets you control your music, answer calls, control the voice commands on your phone, has volume control, and track skipping functionality. With newer phones all the functions work. On my Galaxy S2 the track skipping didn’t work, but everything else did just fine.  On an iPhone, or my HTC One, everything works flawlessly. The battery life on this thing, even after almost two years as of this writing is well over eight hours of listening time, when it was new it was well over the ten they promise. The audio quality is great, I can tell the difference when I have to use a regular set of ear buds.

The biggest advantage is I don’t have to have my phone on me and I can still use the headset for most things. I can make and receive calls, and listen to audio and leave the phone on the charger in another room if I need to. This makes long road trips a lot more pleasant.

There aren’t really that many drawbacks to this headset and I can’t say enough good about them, but the best reasons to have them are pretty self-evident. One is they work exactly like a regular set of corded ear buds without the cord, and a lot more features. Another is that since there isn’t a cord to get caught on anything, you won’t have the problem of the cord dragging the phone out of your pocket and then the phone breaking because it drops to the ground. Since the ear buds on this pull out more like a head set, people can see that you have them in, as opposed to a normal Bluetooth headset, which most people just think you’re being rude when you use one.

A couple of drawbacks are that the buttons can be pressed accidentally. You can’t charge it while using it, and you just get too dependent on the darn thing after a while.  It will also turn around on your neck sometimes, but I’ve found this doesn’t really happen that much unless the headphone cables get twisted up around the device.

The best part is that these hardly cost more than a really good set of regular earphones. They run about $65 on Amazon. I got mine for less than that watching the sales. I highly suggest getting the 730, every knock off company tries to imitate these and sell theirs for less and those knock-offs are utter garbage. That’s an indicator of a quality product, when people copy it.

LG also makes a few more models with different button layouts that might work better for different people for about the same price ranges. Here they are:

 

LG Electronics Tone Pro Bluetooth Stereo Headset – I think this is the HBS-750. I’ve seen a couple of reviews from golfers who like this one. The main difference is the buttons are on the side and not the top.

LG Electronics Tone Ultra (HBS-800) Bluetooth Stereo Headset  – This one has more Google voice commands integrated than the other models. The buttons look like they might be more flush with the headset.

LG Electronics TONE INFINIM Bluetooth Stereo Headset – This one is a lot more expensive. The ear buds are retractable which solves one tiny issue with the other headsets, but honestly the reviews on this one don’t look good for the price compared to the 730, 750 and 800 which are the ones most people seem to prefer the most.

These all charge up with USB so that portable battery pack you should be carrying will charge up all of them!

Corded Ear Buds For Your Spares

For your EDC I am a strong proponent of the Bluetooth headset for your cellphone. It just makes life easier. However, you do still need at least two good pair of corded ear buds for spares, though not necessarily for carrying on you. You want two with the control button, and microphone, if not the volume control if you have an iPhone (this feature won’t work on Androids as of this writing). There are a lot of good sturdy corded sets out there, usually with flat cables and stuff like that. I don’t particularly like those. Mostly because they don’t work well with ScotteVest coats and hoodies. The ones I recommend, just because I’ve had really good luck with this kind are the sort with the braided cloth shell over the cable. They aren’t QUITE as tangle resistant as their flat cable counterpart, but they’re just as sturdy, if not more so. They’re also cheaper in most instances and work with the cable management features in a lot of those fancy coats.

What got me hooked on these was a freebie I got with a Newegg order. They weren’t the best ear buds, but I still have them and they take a lot of abuse. Unfortunately, they don’t have the microphone or the button for smart phones, so I just tossed them in my bug out bag for the radio.

Having a couple of these around where you can get to them gets you a couple of things. Personally I keep one in my ScotteVest hoodie in the winter all the time, I look kind of stupid with two headsets but when I’m on an airplane I can’t really use the Bluetooth.

  1. A spare if your Bluetooth breaks, forget to charge the battery, or need to conserve power.
  2. Many smart phones have a radio built-in now and need a headset to act as an antenna.

Here’s a few links to some I would suggest. The ones pictures above are the basic Altec Lansing MZX736MIC Bliss Headphones  in black and silver. Their equipment is pretty good, pretty generic and those will run you about $20. That set is Prime eligible so you can get them in about two days.

M.M Braided Cord In-ear Earphones with Microphone – These are about $9. I found identical ones for about $18. They supposedly have a microphone, don’t see it pictured. These should be half decent. A couple of these work in a pinch until better ones could be bought.

Obviously these are just spares, if you want quality ones there are plenty of good options to choose from. I’d get a couple of the Altec Lansing ones and throw them in the bug out bag. I’ve got a set very much like them on my hoodie permanently. I’ve got a couple generic stock ear buds thrown different places like my car bag, and my desk drawer just in case something breaks or someone needs a pair (I keep all the extra ear pieces, because yeah that’s gross sharing).