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



 

Lloyd Kahn, Editor-in-Chief of Shelter Publications [Cool Tools Show 007]

On the latest episode of the Ask Cool Tools Show, Kevin Kelly and I interviewed Lloyd Kahn, editor-in-chief of Shelter Publications. He shared with us many useful tips, ranging from how to get the most out of your camera lenses, to alternative activities for the senior surfer. Lloyd has spent much of his life researching the best possible tools and products for any purpose and doesn’t disappoint with this lineup of excellent picks.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Podcast on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3

Show Notes :

Shelter Publications Website

Surfmatters Website

Some of Lloyd’s books:

The Septic System Owner’s Manual

Shelter

Tiny Homes on the Move

Here are Lloyd’s tool picks, with quotes from the show:

Olympus OMD EM-1 Mirrorless Camera $1299

“It got me to put away my Canon cameras which weighed five pounds. This one is just so much smaller and it’s one of the mirror-less cameras…The mirrorless part is what, I think, saves on the weight…When you look at it, if you’re a Canon or a Nikon guy, it’s going to look just like a miniature of one of those cameras.”

 

Fourth Gear Flyer Surf Mat: $139-$199

“It’s inflatable. So instead of lugging this surfboard around and worrying about getting it smashed up on the airplane or paying a hundred bucks to have it shipped, you just fold up this surf mat in your backpack…and when you get there blow up your surf mat and go surfing.”

DaFINS $62-$66

“I have fins called DaFINS…that are made in Hawaii. They’re smaller than the normal fins you see and more flexible and they’re touted as being preferred by world class body surfers.”


10mm Twin-Wall Poly-carbonate 4′ x 12′ sheet $140

“It’s expensive, but it’s double walled so you get some insulation and it’s clear like glass. It has a ten year guarantee and I bought four by twelve sheets…we tore off the fiberglass and put that on the greenhouse so everything in the greenhouse is much happier now. I’ve washed it once since we installed it. I just take a soft brush and a hose and wash the dust off the roof.”

Makita 18 volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Variable Speed Impact Wrench $206

“It weighs less than the typical drill that you see. There are really no controls on it other than a trigger, like you can’t set it for different speeds or different torque. What it does is it backs up a little bit. Each time it goes forward it goes back a little bit, so it kind of chatters. It’s just really great for grabbers and screws.”

 



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



Tim Jenison, Founder of NewTek [Cool Tools Show #005]

Tim Jenison, Founder of NewTek and star of Tim’s Vermeer, a critically acclaimed documentary about his discovery of a possible tool used by hyper-realist painters throughout history, takes us behind the curtain this week to see what tools made this investigation possible.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Podcast on iTunes | RSS | Transcript

Here are Tim’s tool picks, with quotes from the show:

Fadal Milling 4020 Machine (Prices Vary)

“…I just love the interface on it. It’s so simple it’s just brain-dead and it does everything you need to do…They’re extremely simple and reliable.”

“How to Learn any Language” by Barry Farber $7

“A lot of people start out wanting to learn a language and then they realize it’s a lot of work, but the emphasis of this book is how to teach yourself a language, not to go to school but how to do it yourself and he’s got a step by step plan that actually works. Can’t recommend the book enough. ”

Point It $9

“It’s just a bunch of tiny little color pictures so if you can’t communicate with somebody you whip this out and point at a picture. There’s so many pictures in it that you always get the idea across. ”

Fujitsu Scansnap $420

“You just drop the papers in and push the button. There’s really no software to mess with. It just scans them in, both sides of the sheet if it is double sided, in color and it’ll turn it into a PDF or anything else you want.”

evernote

Evernote Free

“You can drag any kind of material to it and it automatically shows up on all your computers and a local copy is kept on your computers. On your iOS or Android device it keeps the index and downloads things as you need them, but everything in synced constantly. ”

Superfocus Eyeglasses (No Longer Sold)

“Right now I’m looking at my computer screen and it’s about fourteen inches away from my eyes, but the whole thing is in perfect focus. Now, if I was wearing bifocals I’d have to tip my head back and try to find the part of the lens that works…There are other people making variable focus glasses, but nothing as good as this, so I really hope somebody takes over and starts making them again. ”

Foursevens Mini MLR2 flashlight $33

“You get incredible battery life because it’s always defaulting to low brightness and you can hold it in your teeth. It’s really small and it’s really handy. As I said, I’ve been through a lot of flashlights and this is currently the cream of the crop.”

Flex 6700 radio $7500- $8000

“Ham radio is kind of a niche. I just had to mention it because I use the thing every day and it’s just a totally different experience to knob turning Ham radio. ”

Leatherman Skele-tool CX $67

“Y’know it’s amazing how much time has been saved by everybody having a multi-tool in their pocket because you’ve gotta run and rummage around this toolbox and that’s what we always used to do, but it’s a new world.”

Xcelite R3323 Steel Slotted Pocket-Clip Screwdriver, 3/32″ Head, 3″ Blade Length $6

“…there’s one tool that a nerd cannot be without and that is the “Green Tweaker,” the Xcelite R3322, which is a tiny little flat-blade screwdriver that every tech head has to have to make adjustments on things. Actually, the 3/32″, 3″ is the better one to have because it’s a bit longer. ”

Jenison Comparator Mirror (Not Sold)

“This extremely simple elegant device, it’s just a mirror on a stick and you have to put the mirror in exactly the right spot. If you spend enough time, you end up with a hyper-real photographic-looking painting.” (In the podcast, Tim shares some building tips that were not included in the documentary.)

 

Available from Amazon