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
$23

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



Chestnut Tools Hanging Scale

Many of the things I want to weigh are odd shapes and sizes. I can use rope, string, wire, etc. suspended almost anything from this digital-readout scale. I can weigh a fish by putting the hook between the lure and the fish. I have used this thing for about four years. It’s vastly superior to the Zebco De-Liar Fish Scale I have in my tackle box.

-- Scott Morgan  

Chestnut Tools Portable Electronic Scale
$13



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