Leatherman Bit Kit

Every Cool Tools reader likely has his/her own favorite multitool. I happen to carry a Leatherman Charge TTI, and I have noticed that I tend to use the accessory bits by themselves almost as much as my Leatherman itself. Even if you rock another brand of tool or knife daily, you might want to think about grabbing this set of bits.

Though they have been ground flat to fit the Leatherman, these bits work in any standard 1/4″ hex driver. I carry this set in the business card pouch of my work bag and typically use them with a pen-sized screwdriver I got at a trade show. This allows me to use my multitool pliers on a nut while tightening down the screw. In tight spaces, it is actually possible to use these bits without a handle – the flat grind allows you to grip them firmly.

The set packs into much less space than 40 standard hex bits, and it includes enough to tackle most common repairs. The usual sizes of screwdrivers, Torx, square, and hex bits are all there. It even includes a double sided jewelers driver. The two cases store everything firmly, and they slip easily into a pocket. I’m on my original set after 3+ years of use, and besides some shiny wear spots they’re all as good as new. For $15 the bits themselves are a cool tool with or without the Leatherman.

-- Dan Bersak  

Leatherman Bit Kit
$20

Available from Amazon



Gerber E-Z Out Jr Knife

This has been my daily carry knife for 16 years. It is a small light weight belt clip knife with a serrated blade that lets me cut anything from paper to rope and straps. The thumb slot in the blade allows you to open the knife one handed. The lock release makes it easy to fold the blade back in one handed. The belt clip is handy but secure.

-- Peter Lucas  

Gerber E-Z Out Jr Knife
$22

Available from Amazon



Bucklehead Belt Buckle Knife

I’ve been using this belt buckle/knife for about five years now. Although the vendor’s web site gives the impression its main use is for knife fights in bars, I have never used it that way and cannot attest to its efficacy.

However, I do use the knife quite often in my vocation (librarian) and avocation (sailing).

People who know tell me the steel is of excellent quality. It holds a very sharp edge for a long time. My only complaint is the blood gutters sometimes make it difficult to cut thick lines. I asked the proprietor if he could remove the serration. This is what he said, “Our buckle is a tool. The serration, it works well for many other purposes. A tool is a weapon only when you use it as such. If you are attack by man or beast you will be glad you have our buckle. Believe me on this one.”

-- Liam Hegarty  

Bucklehead Belt Buckle Knife
$70 and up



Power Pull Bungey Cords

I camp a lot and picked up six of these last year. I thought the pull ring was a good idea after having more than a few regular bungees slip from my hands while stretching. The ring makes these easy to secure. Even better, the ring provides an additional tie down location. This works out great when latching locations are limited. My wife really loves them, a huge plus. A simple, very useful, innovation.

-- Patrick Leary  

Power Pull Bungey (Pack of 6)
$26

Available from Amazon



 

Black & Decker Gyro BDCS40G

When I first heard about this tool, I was already looking for a small, lightweight driver with a rechargeable battery. Now that I’ve had and used the Gyro for several months (and there are now a few similar tools on the market), I can honestly say it’s just what I needed.

This is not something to replace a proper drill/driver, it’s not for high-volume use, and probably wouldn’t be great in a situation where a lot of speed or torque is needed. But it’s great for the home hobbyist who will occasionally drive a few wood screws, and for certain other situations.

The Gyro has one button, a large pad that your palm engages naturally when grasping the driver. Twist right to tighten, left to loosen; twist further to speed up or back off toward neutral to slow down. “Neutral” here is whatever position you started in: the Gyro doesn’t care which way you hold it, just which direction and how far you twist it. A small white LED on the front comes on automatically as well and does an okay job of lighting the area around the tip of the tool.

I use it in my work installing low-voltage (data/phone) cabling. Most of what I do is retrofit work, and I typically need to drive four long, low-torque screws per wall plate. Doing this by hand takes too long for my patience and stresses my wrist. Instead I carry the Gyro and make short work of those screws with precise speed control — slow to get it started, fast to burn through most of the length, then slow again to finish and tighten.

The Gyro accepts any standard hex-shank bit, so if you are really in a pinch, you could actually drill a hole with it. I’ve found it to hold a charge well, even when it sits for days or weeks between uses. It comes with a proprietary charger (of course) but one plus for me is that the battery is integral – no separate charger, cord, and removable battery to keep track of. As fast as battery technology and tool form factors change, I don’t see an upside in having a removable battery – for this type of tool.

Just two minuses: I wouldn’t mind some cleverly designed on-board storage for an extra bit or two, and I don’t rely on the LED work light to really illuminate… well, much of anything.

Lightweight, packable, holds a charge well, and does just what it advertises — and doesn’t try to do more. Simple and highly functional at one specific thing.

-- Kyle Wayman  

Black & Decker 4-Volt Gyro Screwdriver
$19

Available from Amazon



Schrade Key Chain Pry Tool

I got this as a birthday gift and it’s been on my keychain since. It’s about 3.25 inches long and about an inch at its widest. It has several tools including: pry tool, bottle opener, seat belt cutter, screw-driver, and a wrench driver that accommodates a variety of bolt/nut diameters.

It has a hole for attaching to your keychain, but also comes with a lanyard if you don’t want to attach directly to your keyring.

The seat belt/cord cutter is recessed so you shouldn’t cut yourself unless you really try, but it sometimes can get caught on your pocket on the way in. Also, if you have young kids, be careful if they play with this as their fingers may be small enough to fit in the blade area.

The thing I like most about it is its weight. It is made of titanium and weighs 0.5 oz., about the weight of 3 quarters! I have had several other keychain tools, but they were all either too heavy or too bulky. With the pry tool on my keychain, I hardly notice the difference in my pocket.

-- Stuart Peterson  

Schrade Key Chain Pry Tool
$23

Available from Amazon



Rayovac Indestructible 2 AA Flashlight

I love Surefire flashlights. I had a 6P for years, and it was my go-to light. When it was stolen, along with my 25 year old D-cell Maglite, I went flashlight shopping and boy things have changed.

The Surefire lights are still high quality, and still highly priced. They also require lithium batteries. With the new LED technology, I was able to try several lights for the price of replacing my Surefire.

I tried Streamlight’s Twin Task (which at the time had two bulbs; a comparable bulb to the Surefire, and an LED bulb for conserving battery power). I liked it ok, but I didn’t like the single button for both modes, and I didn’t like the placement of the button. It also required the same lithium batteries as the Surefire. It’s worth noting here that the model I tested is pretty old by today’s standards. I haven’t tried the new Streamlight options. I generally like their stuff.

I bought an LED Maglite to keep in the truck, and it works as advertised. I probably bought this for sentimentality’s sake since I was so hacked off that someone had stolen my trusty ol’ Maglite. It’s not the brightest light I’ve owned, but it’s a good update on a classic.

I tried the Nebo Redline. I like this light. It’s small, feels durable, and it takes AAA batteries. I particularly like that it has a magnet in the tailcap so it can stick in some handy places while you’re working. It has several modes, including an S.O.S. mode which I’ve thankfully never needed. I do often dim it, at night in the woods the low setting is plenty to get around. It claims that it outputs 220 lumens on its brightest setting. I have no way of objectively measuring this, but I question that claim. It’s bright, but it doesn’t seem to be 220 lumens bright. The way the lens focuses the light seems to cut down on the brightness significantly. Lastly, it has a glow-in-the-dark tailcap, which I find completely useless unless your flashlight had been in bright sunlight immediately before you lost it in the dark. The button is a toggle only, which means you can’t tap it for a quick burst of light.

For the money, I recommend the Rayovac “Virtually Indestructable” flashlight. This thing lives up to its name. I have the AA version, which claims to output 100 lumens. If you look at the photo, you’ll see that it appears to be as bright if not brighter than the Nebo, which claims to output more than twice the light. The endcaps of the Rayovac are rubber, with a hex shaped ring around the front to keep it from rolling (a big plus for me, only matched by my otherwise located Surefire). The rubber tailcap makes for a much more comfortable bite when your hands are occupied. It has a touch-on button, as well as a toggle, which I like. It will stand up on either end.

It does not have a focusable beam. It does not have variable brightness. It does not blink in morse code. It does not have a glow-in-the-dark tailcap. It would not serve you well in a self-defense situation. To all these points: “I care not.” I think I paid about $15 for it at The Home Depot. It was the cheapest of all the lights I tested, and it’s the first one I grab every time. I’ve had it now for over a year and I love the fact that it’s simple and it works.

I’d love to replace my Surefire someday. In the meantime, the Rayovac will do everything the Surefire would do for a fraction of the price. If someone steals it, I’ll just buy another one at Lowes.

flashligh-3

From left to right: Maglite, Rayovac, Streamline, Nebo Redline

IMHO:

-Maglite – Classic
-Streamlight – Eh.
-Nebo – Feature heavy
-Rayovac – Useful

-- Allen Watts  

Rayovac Indestructible 2 AA Flashlight
$20

Available from Amazon



Keyport Slide

I’ve tried using many key consolidation gadgets, including DIY to many indy projects, but most of them involve driving a screw or rod through the hole in the keys, and jamming them together via compression. If your goal is to simply have 10+ keys in your possession in the most compact way possible, that’s great, but I’ve found most of them to be quite unusable, in that it’s difficult for the correct key to be selected due to the lateral compression.

The KeyPort Slide 2.0 is the only product on the market that I know of that does all the following: consolidates your keys in a compact form that saves weight, relies on a locking and sliding action for ease of key retrieval/use, can incorporate your microchipped car key, and actually makes it easier for you to use your keys.

The KeyPort is small and lightweight. Even fully populated, it weighs around 1.5oz, and its size is 2.85″ x 1.27″ x 0.58″, and can fit in your jeans’ front coin pocket. The body is polycarbonate with Ultem 1000 polymer caps, which works out to be OK, as the rigidity of the structure depends on the key blades to some extent, though fans of anodized and brushed metals will be disappointed. Unfortunately, this compact size only allows for up to 6 keys, but again, the concept is around usability, not maximum capacity. (If your budget allows for it, you could buy 2.)

The KeyPort uses custom key “blades” instead of standard keys. This means that the large, heavy area where you hold the key and pass keyrings through is gone, greatly reducing weight. However, this means that you either buy $5 blanks and have them cut locally, or if it’s a custom key, send it in to have it converted. You’ll want to find a locksmith that is OK with handling these custom blades using their locksmith locator.

The KeyPort supports high security keys like Medeco, Assa, and Mul-T-Lock by converting them into blades for you. This is a unique service, and allows you to carry these otherwise gigantic keys in a compact format. The downside is that because high security keys cannot be duplicated, you must send the keys into KeyPort for conversion, which could violate your personal and/or professional security policies.

It’s worth noting that if you don’t want to send in your chipped auto key to be converted, your cost will skyrocket, because chipped auto keys usually cost quite a fortune. Your costs may vary, but the pricing I got was $25 for the blank auto blade, $25 for cutting an auto key, $150 for a new transponder, and $75 for programming it. That’s an additional $200! If you have a car key with a transponder, you can send in your spare, non-keyfob (likely valet) key and have them take it apart and convert it into a blade + transponder holder. (yes, a transponder holder uses up 1 slot). Unfortunately, due to liability reasons, they are unwilling to convert your car key if it is part of a keyfob. This was a bit of a bummer for me, as I actually had 2 keyfobs and 1 valet key, and did not care to give up my valet key, as I have to valet my car once in a while. However, they can send you a blank auto blade and transponder blade, so I had the key cut locally ($35; your costs may vary), and I harvested the transponder out of the the keyfob and superglued it into the transponder blade myself.

My setup includes a car key + car key transponder holder ($25), mini flashlight ($10), and 3 house keys ($5/ea). Such a setup would typically cost around $90, including local key cutting fees. Other options include a bottle opener ($6), 32GB USB drive ($40), and a barcode insert ($4) as well as custom buttons (price varies). My only gripe is that the locking buttons stick out a bit, and don’t require too much pressure to depress, so on occasion, I’ve found my keys unlocked. This is not a huge deal, but will drain your mini flashlight if you choose that option.

I didn’t order the bottle opener, as my pocket knife has one, and in general, I rarely need one. The transponder holder is actually a barcode insert, so I didn’t need another one. The mini flashlight was purchased with the hopes that I wouldn’t have to use another hand to pull out a flashlight, and for the most part, it’s worked out, but I’ve had it unintentionally turn on in my pocket a few times, and the batteries are not user-serviceable — you have to send it in to have it serviced for a nominal fee (~$5), though you could solder them if you know what you’re doing. The 32GB USB flash drive was appealing, but it seemed overpriced, and other reviews lamented over it somewhat slow (~20MB/sec) even for a USB 2.0 flash drive. For the same price, I was able to buy a 128GB USB 3.0 PNY flash drive that does 100MB/sec read/write, so with that big of a difference, I think it’s worth carrying another device.

Having the bundle of keys disappear from my pocket has been great. Surprisingly, being able to access my keys faster has been an even greater feature. Even with the high costs involved, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

A lot of questions about the Keyport are answered on their FAQ.

-- Kaz Mori  

Keyport Slide 2
Price depends on configuration



Alltrade Auto-Loading Squeeze Utility Knife

This is by far the best Utility Knife (box cutter) I know of. I have been using them for 12+ years.

1) They “fit your hand” very well – almost like custom made.
2) The blade comes out easily – just press the black leaver underneath.
3) The blade retracts easily and safely – black button
4) There is a storage area for new blades – behind the word Alltrade
5) The blades exchange easily and safely – yellow button. Simply press the yellow button and pull the used blade out. The new blade automatically loads when the device retracts.

Due to their sturdy construction, I can do “heavy duty” jobs without the device slipping.

-- Ed Flowers  

Alltrade 150003 Auto-Loading Squeeze Utility Knife
$12

Available from Amazon



Pyranna Plastic Package Opener

Who hasn’t struggled trying to open one of those heavy duty plastic product packages, or sliced their hands or fingers in the process? This inexpensive little gadget, which I’ve been using for the past few years, makes it much easier to get to your plastic-sealed merchandise. You could just use a hand-operated can opener but the Pyranna is more compact and ergonomic, and it wouldn’t be out of place in your desk drawer.

-- Peter Laird  

Pyranna Plastic Package Opener
$4

Available from Amazon