Spud Bar

First, I don’t own this specific model, but this is most like the one I do own. The one I inherited three years ago was referred to as a pry/spud bar. I’ll be referring to it as a spud bar in this review. I wouldn’t recommend trying to dig a post hole with just a spud bar, I imagine it’s possible, but it’ll take you awhile and you’ll look silly. If you’re doing any kind of landscaping or burying any kind of post that isn’t supposed to be moving for a good deal of time, I’d make sure you have a spud bar at your disposal.

So what’s the purpose of a spud bar you ask? Well, if you’re digging in an area that has a fair amount of clay, your typical post hole digger is going to struggle to break up the clay to remove from the hole. But, if you force the wedged end of the spud bar into that clay a couple times and pry, should be a lot easier to remove the clay from the hole.

I’ve also use the spud bar to help clear gravel, roots, heck, I’ve even used it to help clear some concrete. My personal favorite use was when I used mine to pry/roll the ~300 lb. odd shaped rock to a new location in my back yard, friends still don’t believe I moved it myself. The flat round end allows the spud bar to be utilized in coordination with a mallet or sledge hammer to help wedge/drive it wherever you intend.

When it comes down to it, it’s just a shaped steel bar, a simple tool that if utilized correctly, can quite effective.

-- Samuel Sanders  

True Temper 69-Inch Post Hole Digging Bar
$27

Available from Amazon



Kelvin 23

I travel a lot, and I don’t always check a bag, which means the vast majority of multi-tools are verboten due to the knife/saw/other bladed instrument that they all seem to have.

The Kelvin 23 is different. It’s a 23-in-1 tool that’s compact and lightweight. I bought it on a splurge several years ago, and I’ve been happy ever since.

At around $25, it includes everything you need while you’re out and about:

  • A screwdriver, with 16 screw bits, Hex, Flat, Phillips, Square. It also locks at 90 degrees to give you more leverage when you need it and is magnetized to help keep screws in place
  • A hammer – while the ‘hammer’ part is nothing more than a flat round part on one end of the tool, it works surprisingly well for basic hanging needs
  • 6 foot tape measure
  • LED light
  • A level – being that the tool is only 5.25″ long,it’s not the most accurate level, but it does work in a pinch!

While it doesn’t have a pair of pliers included, other than that it covers about 90% of the stuff I do at home or need when I’m away. I’ve used it to hang pictures, put together Ikea furniture, tighten squeaky hotel beds, hammer things back into place and more.

I don’t end up using it often, but I do feel better just knowing I have some kind of multi-tool with me when I’m traveling!

-- Jeremy Pavleck  

Kelvin 23 Multitool
$25

Available from Amazon



Victorinox SwissCard

This small, flat, semi-translucent plastic card contains a sharp blade, an even sharper pair of scissors, a file, a tweezers, a toothpick, and a pen. They all slide into the card, and come free of it for independent use. The whole kit is the size of a credit card, and about three times as thick. It lays flat in my pocket and weighs very little. I use it daily. It prompts a smile most every time I do, and it’s a good conversation piece. Highly recommended and undeservedly under-popular.

-- Gru  

Available from Amazon



$8 Ikea Tool Set

I recently moved and somehow lost my tool box. I knew I would have to wrestle with endless amounts of disassembly, reassembly, and re-reassembly and so I bought an Ikea Fixa tool kit for $8.

My kids love using them because they can swap out screw driver heads, the tools fit their hands (I think they might be a tad smaller than traditional tools), and, because at this price point, I got two boxes so they didn’t need to share.

In our era of digital devices and power-everything, this tool kit was an example of K.I.S.S. working beautifully.

Contents: Contains: Hammer with separate rubber face, adjustable wrench, combination pliers, bit screwdriver with bits for slotted, cross-head, hex screws, awl.

-- Yen  

Ikea Fix 17-piece tool kit
$8



Gerber Artifact

We’ve all been there. You run out of the house for a quick errand and leave your everyday carry multitool on the table by the door. You’re not going to need it, right? I’ve been burned by this so many times it’s not even funny; clawing apart clamshell packaging in my car, scrounging for a coin to grapple with that flathead screw, breaking a fingernail whilst prying something, or worst, not being able to open that beer.

Because of all this, I’ve been a fan of the keychain tool family of lifesavers. For a long time, the Leatherman Micra was my go-to backup tool. It now belongs to the TSA. (I forgot to take it off of my keychain before a plane trip.) I wanted something that had a small footprint like the Micra but was TSA-friendly without sacrificing total usability.

Enter the Gerber Artifact. Two flathead screwdrivers, a pry-bar, nail puller/wire stripper, bottle opener, philips driver, and a holder for a removable EAB #11 hobby blade. (Pop it out before flying, buy a spare at any convenience store when you touch down if you really need it.) Paired with a small keychain LED light, I’ve got enough gear to tide me over in most situations.

The Artifact has lived on my keychain for about a year now. I’ve used every tool on it and found it equal to most any task I can throw at it. The bottle opener isn’t perfect, and the flathead drivers are a little too thick to grapple with some screws, but a little work with a mill bastard can solve that if it’s a problem. The blade rusts out pretty fast, but a $7 pack of spare blades solves that problem.

Bottom line, this tool isn’t your replacement EDC multi. But it will serve as a great backup and can be denuded of its airline-unfriendly blade in a hot second, meaning you’ll never be without a basic set of tools.

(For those who want to forego the knife component entirely, the Gerber Shard lives up to the task.)

-- Benzo Harris  

Gerber Artifact
$12

Available from Amazon



ROK Straps

They are way better than bungee cords. I use them to secure a bag to my motorcycle when touring. There are no hooks to scratch anything or “bend loose” as they secures with a loop in the strap itself. They are easy to use: attach, buckle, tighten.

When I first saw them at a motorcycle show, I thought yes, they are cool, but they are kind of pricey. I put it on my Christmas list and have used them this past riding season including several multi day trips. I now think they are easily worth it. They have uses beyond the motorcycle world… think anywhere a bungee would be used.

They offer several sizes for different applications. I use the model that adjusts between 18″ and 60′. It’s one-inch wide.

rok2

-- Ted VanderWall  

ROK Straps 18 to 60″ Adjustable
$22 for a twin pack

Available from Amazon



Ladder Hooks

Our recording studio is a cable-rich environment, and we struggled to find a tidy yet accessible storage solution. These hooks are awesome; the screw is fat enough to anchor securely, while the body is slim enough to make hooking the cables over it painless and fast. We installed twenty of these puppies two months ago, and an unexpected consequence is that the studio is tidier more often because people are more willing to put cables back after use because the hooks are so easy to use.

-- Mark Gilbert  

Ladder Hooks
$5/pair

Available from Amazon



Swiss Army Spirit Multitool Plus Ratchet

Over the years of buying many multitools, I realize there is no “perfect” multitool. But the Victorinox Spirit (plus ratchet) comes close. Victorinox is known for making precise tools, and the Spirit is no exception. I bought the Spirit in 2010. Since then, it has proven to be an invaluable accessory in my everyday carry. With ergonomics in mind, the Spirit is designed with curved handles, and you can access other its tools without exposing the pliers. It can be open with a flick of the wrist, allowing for quick deployment of the blunt nose pliers.

Unlike most other multitools, the Spirit optionally comes with a bit set and ratchet.

The only thing I dislike about the Spirit is the fixed pair of scissors it comes with. Unlike traditional Swiss Army scissors, the one that comes with the Spirit lacks mobility. You wouldn’t be able to cut very fast nor large using scissors from the Spirit. Another complaint most people have is with the “butter” blade. Most people prefer a pointed style blade, and that can be easily solved just by purchasing the Spirit X (but it doesn’t come with a ratchet and bit set).

Finished with beautiful stainless steel, the Spirit is certainly my multitool of choice. It’s not as customizable or rugged as a Leatherman, but the Spirit works for my needs. So far, it has not rusted, or failed on me while on the job as an all-around handyman.

-- Jefferson Deng  

Victorinox Swiss Army SwissTool Spirit Plus Ratchet
$110

Available from Amazon



Shredder scissors

What’s handy when you need to shred credit card receipts, or yet another unsolicited credit card offer? A pair of multi-bladed scissors. These scissors have five blades on each side and will neatly crosscut a page to prevent identity theft. They use no electricity and fit in a drawer, which is more than you can say for an electric shredder.

-- Amy Porges  

Multi Blade Shredding Scissor
$17

Available from Amazon



Gerber EAB Pocket Knife

I originally purchased the Gerber EAB a couple of years ago in an attempt to shelter my nicer pocket knives from the abuse of opening and breaking down cardboard boxes at work; cardboard dulls blades quickly. Of course, it’s also great at all the other miscellaneous tasks suited to pocket knives.

The EAB (exchange-a-blade) is essentially a standard utility knife redesigned to be an every day carry knife. There are plenty of utility knives on the market that have been designed to opened up like a folding pocket knife, but this is the only one I’ve found that is small enough and light enough to carry in my pocket every day. It’s just under 2.5″ in the closed position, and weighs about 2 oz.

The clip is wide enough to serve as a money clip, but it’s also stable and deep enough to ride well in a pocket without wiggling loose. The blade itself is reversible, and when it wears out it’s replaceable with inexpensive standard utility knife blades (which sell for about a dollar). The EAB has a nail nick for opening with a thumbnail, but it’s also opened easily enough with one hand by using the set screw as a thumb stud. A liner lock keeps the blade from closing on your finger when it’s in use.

Overall, the EAB has been a workhorse of a knife, and has earned a permanent place in my pocket. I haven’t lost mine yet, but when I do it’s cheap enough that I won’t hesitate to replace it. And I love that I don’t have to sharpen the blades — I either flip them around, or just replace with a fresh one.

-- Brendon Connelly  

Gerber EAB Pocket Knife
$12

Available from Amazon