Blair Antenna and Access Holcutter

The Blair Holcutter provides a way to make clean holes in sheet metal. The antenna Holcutter in particular is useful for drilling an antenna mount on a vehicle. The main advantage of this tool over a regular hole saw is that it creates a clean hole. Also, there is a shoulder on the Holcutter to prevent cutting too deep into the metal. It is carbide metal, and should last for a long time.

-- Noah Chanin  

Blair Junior Antenna & Access Hole Cutter Kit
$47

Available from Amazon



 

What’s in My Bag? – Heron

I work in the subalpine regions of Washington state studying high elevation amphibians.  My work schedule is usually 5 days on in the backcountry, 2 days off in town to resupply and catch up on email.

On any given work trip into the backcountry I’ll walk up to 20 miles per day, visit up to 50 wetlands, and carry 10 extra pounds of research gear.  Over the past several years the amount of research gear that I’m required to carry has increased, driving down the weight and number of other things in my backpack.

Here’s what’s in my bag:

heron
Bag/Backpack:
Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Porter Pack, $310 – It fits me well and its weight is reasonable at 33 oz. It’s waterproof and white so you can see down inside.

Sleeping items:
A homemade down quilt, comparable to Nunatak Arc Specialist, $479.
A homemade shelter, comparable to Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Tarp, $120 and Serenity Shelter, $145.
Thermarest Neo-Air Small, $110 – I have had a few small holes in it over four years, but they were patched easily with Gorilla Tape.
MSR Groundhog Stakes, $16 for 6

Cooking items:
Evernew 1.3 L Titanium pot, $60 – I’ve met folks who have used this pot for 20 years. Just be sure to get the version which is NOT non-stick. The plain titanium will last much longer.
Vargo Titanium Spork, $12 – Short enough tines to not loose all your liquid when used as a spoon.
Super Cat Stove, Free or $2 – The lightest stove on earth. Make your own at home in five minutes.
Denatured alcohol for the stove in an old soda bottle.
Stuffsack for food, $10
LiteTrail NyloBarrier Odor Proof Bag, $5 for 3 – Food goes in here, then in the stuff sack, which prevents rodents and bears from being too interested in my pack.
Aquamira Bottle, $20 with Sawyer Mini filter, $17 – The most convenient way I’ve found to filter water in the backcountry. Get the Sawyer filter though, the one that comes with the bottle is awful.

Clothing items:
Arc’teryx Phase SL T-shirt, $46 – Not all polyfiber shirts are created equal. This is one of the only ones I’ve ever used which actually moves sweat away from my skin.
Gramicci Men’s Rocket Dry G Pants, $36 – Simple, light, quick-drying pants. No gimmicks.
Darn Tough Socks 1/4 Ultralight, $13 – This company will replace your socks when you wear holes in them.
Ibex Hooded Indie Wool Shirt, $80
Patagonia Capilene 3 Long Undies, $55
Feathered Friends Daybreak Jacket, $240
Arc’teryx Squamish Hoody, $150 – This windbreaker is my favorite clothing item.  I wear it for sun and bug protection.  When working with amphibians, we do not use sunscreen or bug repellent and instead must cover up our skin.  I wear this, long pants, and a head-net for bug and sun protection.
Headnet, $15 – You can probably find this cheaper off-line.

Small items
Leica 10×25 BCA Binoculars, $500 – The lightest, quality binoculars I have found.
Suunto Core Watch, $233 – Combine this with a topo map for dead simple navigation.
Belomo Triplet Loupe, $35 – The best-quality cheap loupe.
Rite-in-Rain Notebook, $8 – We use larger versions of these for work. Personal notes go in this one.
Zebralight 52W Headlamp, $64
Platypus 2L Soft Bottle, $10 – I try to never carry more than .75 L of water, but when I need to, I use this.
Aquamira Chlorine Dioxide Drops, $13 – A backup to my water filter, repackaged in smaller drip bottles.
Whistle, $1
Suunto  M-3 Compass, $25 – Adjustable declination is my guilty pleasure.
Bic Lighter $1
Leatherman Squirt PS4, $30
Kiss My Face Sunscreen, $7 – Used occasionally on my nose.
Canon S100 Camera, $400 – I have had three of these. It’s my favorite camera.  The most current version is the S120.
Skilcraft Pencil, $27 for 6 – My favorite pencil. It’s very hard to find though.  The steel lead sleeve fully retracts into pencil body to avoid breaking the tip or punching holes in your clothes/pack/body.
Skilcraft Ballpoint Pen, $13 for 12
Maps printed from CalTopo.com, Free – A free alternative to topo map software. No account necessary. The advanced features are there if you need them but don’t get in the way.

-- Heron  

[Cool Tools Readers! We will pay you $100 if we run your "What's in My Bag" story. Send photos of the things in your bag (and of the bag itself, if you love it), along with a description of the items and why they are useful. Make sure the photos are large (1200 pixels wide, at least) and clear. Use a free file sharing service to upload the photos, and email the text to editor@cool-tools.org. -- Mark Frauenfelder]



Humistat #3 Musical Instrument Case Humidfier

Unlike many guitar or case humidifiers that use a sponge or other absorbent material to hold water, this clear plastic disk is filled with water but uses a special material that swells up to regulate the rate at which moisture leaves the device. You can see at a glance when it needs refilling, it refills in seconds, and to a degree you can regulate the amount of moisture in the case. Very cool. They recommend the use of distilled water which you can buy at the grocery store and keep in a corner — I guess a gallon will last nearly forever.

-- Jeff Williams  



Bombas Socks

When’s the last time you got excited about your socks? When’s the last time you messaged your friends to tell them about your socks? In addition to recently doing both of these, this is also the first time I’ve ever written about my socks.

The evangelism-inducing socks in question are called Bombas, a line of athletic socks that were launched last year after a successful crowdfunding campaign. Project creators David Heath and Randy Goldberg asked for $15,000 and ended up getting over $142,000.

The idea behind the Bombas sock project was two-fold: design an amazing pair of socks from the ground up and use the sales of said socks to subsidize the giving away of free socks to the homeless and other needy humans. Dave and Randy got the idea for the project after reading that socks are the number one item requested at homeless shelters. So now, for every pair of Bombas you buy ($9/pair), a pair is donated to a shelter or other suitable charity.

The do-gooder aspects are admirable enough, but what about the socks themselves? The first thing you need to know about me personally is that I have a painful history with socks. I have severe arthritis and resulting poor circulation. As a result, I have a devil of a time finding socks that don’t make my ankles swell. With probably 75% of the socks I buy, by the end of the day, I have a painful and unsightly sausaging effect above the top band of the socks. Sometimes this gets so bad that I develop painful blisters along the top band. The result of this is that I end up with a few pairs of socks that are comfortable enough and I wear those over and over again until they fall apart. And the trouble with these comfortable-enough socks is that, because they’re loose in the ankle, they tend to fall down. No fun, either. Bombas socks alleviate all these issues and are, hands down, the most comfortable, supportive, and physically-kind socks I’ve ever worn.

During the development process, the Bombas design team re-examined every aspect of the sock. They tested hundreds of tension levels around the ankle and came up with a stitching approach they dubbed “stay up technology.” They figured out how to create a toe that has no uncomfortable seams and a heel that forms a natural cup around the back of your foot. They also came up with a honeycomb stitching pattern for the midfoot that sort of gives your foot a comforting squeeze as you wear them. The soles of the socks are also slightly padded, which feels really good, especially to my always-aching dogs.

I was first introduced to Bombas in the fall of 2013 when I gave a talk at the Long Now Foundation in San Francisco. I was on a book tour, promoting my recent book, Borg Like Me. Some friends of mine had given me a collection of touring socks and challenged me to create some sort of “Socks on Tour” performance piece around them. So, I started introducing my socks before my readings and asking audience members to come up after the reading and have a photo taken, sock-to-sock. After the Long Now reading, a guy came up, took off his shoes, and began evangelizing about his Bombas socks (he’s been a backer of their Indiegogo campaign). I thought it was a little odd, but hey, I like odd. I went home, looked up the socks, ordered a pair, and about 20 minutes after wearing that first pair, I went back online and ordered a bunch more. I soon plan to replace all of the unwearable socks in my drawer.

My Stance-brand “Socks on Tour” meeting a pair of Bombas

My Stance-brand “Socks on Tour” meeting a pair of Bombas

As much as I love my Bombas, I have a few criticisms. I’m not really thrilled by the overly vibrant, busy design. I hope that, given the success of the socks (they’ve been having trouble keeping them in stock), they’ll offer other designs. This doesn’t bother me too much – whoever sees your socks? – but I’d prefer less over-the-top design. The other, more significant drawback, is that while the padded sole is really comfortable, the extra material (pima cotton, BTW) makes my feet sweat more than usual. But honestly, given everything else that I love about these socks, I can deal with a little damp-foot. When you’re really in love, you’re willing to turn a blind eye to a few faults. I’m in love.

-- Gareth Branwyn  

Bombas
$9 and up



DAP Plastic Wood Cellulose Fibre Filler

For years, I was frustrated by stripped screw holes, particularly with wooden doors. To get a screw to stay in the stripped hole, I stuffed wood pieces, plastic anchors, basically anything I could find that would fit in the hole. Usually the fix failed, and I was again searching for a MacGyver fix.

A friend suggested plastic wood, which can easily be found at your local hardware store. Simply squeeze a thin layer into the into the stripped hole, let it dry, then repeat until the area is sufficiently closed up. It’s easy to use and quick drying, and is sandable and paintable. Usage isn’t limited to screw holes, it can be used on any finished or unfinished wood. Highly recommended.

-- Tony Bieda  

DAP Plastic Wood Cellulose Fibre Filler
$6

Available from Amazon



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



Google URL Shortening Service

Google has a convenient URL-shortener service. Here’s how it works:

1. Select and copy your long URL into your clipboard.

2. Go to goo.gl

3. Paste your URL into the box where the cursor is positioned.

4. Click the Shorten URL button.

5. Copy (Ctrl + C) the already “selected” short URL to your clipboard. (It looks like this: http://goo.gl/tjzuZw)

Google keeps all your long/short URL pairs on display on that page for you to re-use in the future. (It’s public, but you can hide any pair you want.)

-- Roger Knights  

goo.gl
free



Feedly is a great way to read Cool Tools

A couple of years ago, hundreds of thousands of our readers read Cool Tools using Google Reader, an RSS aggregator. But when Google pulled the plug on Reader, tens of thousands of our readers didn’t bother to resubscribe by using a different RSS reader.

Kevin and I are both RSS junkies. It’s the way we read all our blogs. And the reader we use is Feedly. It’s evolved over the years and now it is better than Google Reader ever was. The free version is excellent (I have no reason to pay $5 a month for the premium version).

I recommend reading Cool Tools via Feedly. We offer the full text of every post, not just an excerpt. Give it a try and I think you’ll understand why 46 thousand people read Cool Tools readers through Feedly.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  



Twister Fruit Picker

This fruit picker blows away any other one we’ve had.

Most fruit pickers use a “hook and basket” which requires you to pull the fruit to remove it from the tree. The problem with this system is fruit that is notoriously difficult to pull. On more than one occasion, the basket detached from the pole and was then stuck in the tree. As a rule, the basket designs are not very good and there’s really no way to definitively attach the basket to the end of the pole so that it WON’T come off.

This one works very differently. It’s like actually having a hand with two 4-inch looped fingers at the end of the pole that grips the fruit (there’s a very ingenious cord system that controls the opening and closing of the jaws of the picker) tightly, but not so tightly that it injures the fruit. This then allows you to twist the fruit until the stem snaps and frees the fruit.

We have avocado and pomegranate trees. These are NOTORIOUSLY difficult to pull using a conventional “hook and pull” basket picker. This picker made short work of picking both of these types of fruits/veggies.

The design is ingenious and works REALLY well.

I have it attached to a 12-foot telescoping pole that I use to change light bulbs. The great thing is that if you already have a pole with a standard threaded end (the same end you might have on a push broom or mop), you can attach this picker easily.

My feeling is that if you wanted to use a longer pole (say 20 feet) the picking might be a 2 person job which has nothing to do with the picker and everything to do with “targeting” a piece of fruit with a 20 foot pole.

Compared to the other fruit pickers I’ve tried, the design, durability, and ease of use can’t be matched.

Pros:

  • Picks even difficult to remove fruit/vegetable varieties.
  • Ease of use
  • Ingenious Design
    Cons:

  • Cost
  • You have to bring your own pole
  • Set up is a little tricky but well documented
-- Fred Raimondi  

The Twister Fruit Picker
$40

Available from Amazon