Pick Pocket Proof Pants

Pants? A Cool Tools pants review? What could be so cool or notable about pants?

Nothing. Unless they are Pick Pocket Proof Pants by Clothing Arts.

The headline of these is that if you travel and are worried about pickpockets… these will protect you. A zipper and a button closure over the zipper on all the pockets. Things in your pockets just stay inside, so your phone won’t edge up and be left in a cab. Doing a handstand? Your change stays in.

But beyond that they are just brilliant pants. Truly well made, well constructed, comfortable can be moved in easily. And furthermore they laced with Teflon so you can’t stain them… even if you are a slob.

These pants will be your go to lower body covering garment of choice. Enjoy them and keep what should be in your pockets… in your pockets.

-- Matthew Stillman  

Manufactured by Clothing Arts


This is an outstanding fireplace tool, which I have owned for about 8 years. We have a fire in our fireplace every night in the winter. This tool is long enough to rearrange the fire over the top of the firescreen, making it much more convenient to maintain the fire. By blowing through the tube, you can get coals going very quickly.

We also have a small bellows, but it does not generate nearly as much flow as I can with the Blo-Poke. This tool is beautiful to hold, to use, or to look at. It will last forever. At $154, the cost is high, but I think it is worth it to own a tool this beautiful. I have given several as gifts, and the people love them.

-- John J. Murphy  


Vornado Room Air Circulator

I’m a big fan of this big fan.

I bought my first Vornado Air Circulator in 2007 and have had it running for THOUSANDS of hours. Not long after that I purchased a second one for another room — that too has run flawlessly for (what I estimate is) well over 7,000 hours.

At the low setting it emits a very quiet white noise that I find rather pleasant AND it works just as advertised: it keeps the air in the room moving/circulating.

The the big selling point (to me) is this: The Vornado, “Saves energy by maximizing the performance of heating and cooling systems. When you use a Vornado Air Circulator, you will not have to set your summertime thermostat as low or your wintertime thermostat as high.” (From the product guide.)

Yes. Affirmative. Ya. True.

-- Chuck Green  

Vornado 733 Full-Size Whole Room Air Circulator

Available from Amazon


What’s in My Bag? – Pat Ripton

I’m a US Army officer, where I work for the Army Engineers. My current position demands I err on the side of being over-prepared. I enjoy curating my pool of functional possessions and have always enjoyed the What’s In My Bag posts as a source of new things and ways to carry them.


I’m not sure if there is anything too exciting in my bag, but damned if I don’t feel proud at the little kit I’ve put together. I use it both locally and on the road, but this is more of the traveling configuration.

The bag itself is the Killspencer Special Ops, which I like because it is unique but subdued and most of all because I can wear it in uniform. There are some issues with the strap adjustment and some fraying down at the bottom where they meet the bag, but overall I’m very happy with the waxed-cotton look, how slim it is, and the compartments. The only way I’ve modded the bag is to attach the Camera Capture Clip, which has been a good way of getting around proscriptions against wearing a camera in uniform.

Like a lot of other posters, I am rocking multiple operating systems. My work computer is a husky HP. In the past I have paired it with MacBook Air, but I’ve found the iPad Air to be a richer traveling partner. I use it for books, newspapers, and comics (mostly on airplanes) and link it up to small Lepow speaker for hotel room parties (Netflix). My work laptop’s touchpad is useless (though I prefer them on Macs) so I always travel with a wireless mouse. I consider it a bit of a guilty luxury because of its size.

I always travel with the folding CAC Smart Card reader, which I’m surprised I don’t see more people using. It’s the little white T-shaped device in the southwest of the picture. It folds down to be smaller than a thumbdrive and has helped me get access when my computer isn’t available. Blank DVDs are always on hand because of prohibition on thumb-drives on most government systems.

I severely enjoy the Grid-it storage system (above the card reader). A lot of the smaller stuff I have goes in the pockets. I use it for all of the cords, stationary stuff, and a lot of the grooming items (breath-spray, tissues, spare razor, comb, eye mask). I have a first aid kit just in case and for work. Wet Ones are a necessity. I’ve gone through a few packages since I started carrying them.

My International driver’s license sleeve also houses my passport. The business card holder has cheeky Engrish. I picked it up at a 100-yen store last time I was in Japan.

The decision to carry so much uniform stuff is all based on experience. I carry extra patches and an extra hat (can’t tell you how many times I have forgotten one) that I can lend out if need be, which has happened too. The buttons go to my favorite travel pants, Triple Aught Design’s Covert RS Pants. They aren’t pictured, but they are as big a part of my travel package as anything here. There’s lots of pockets for an extra phone, challenge coins, and printed tickets.

Also not pictured is the Aduro U-GRIP PLUS Universal Dashboard Windshield Car Mount, a small, cheap, reliable sticky-suction cup phone mount I use in conjunction with the car charger (pictured) for all driving (I do a lot of it). It’s got two pieces that come apart easily and help it pack down small. I’ve found my iPhone 6 running Waze works better than any of the GPS systems that a lot of my coworkers still use.

My Swiss Tech Utili-Key is always with me and always gets used. I also carry the Benchmade knife, which handles bigger jobs. It’s not, overall, as useful as a larger multi-tool, but I never find their use is worth the carry weight.

Probably the neatest thing I carry is the wallet, which I just received as a gift. The maker is Machine Era Co., and it’s a single piece of aluminum with a band, cupped to hold six credit cards.

-- Pat Ripton  

[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]

Rhodia Pad Holder and Pad of Paper

I have a dilemma with most notebooks: for me either they are pocket size and affordable but get shredded in my pockets (the spiral bound ones you get at the drug store), or they are too expensive and nice and I don’t want to write in them or tear out pages (Like Moleskine and similar).

When I found the Rhodia Pad Holder and Pad, I realized I found the right balance of durable and affordable.

The holder is made of black leather, and sort of looks like a wallet. It has a front and back pocket. I have found I like to keep two note books in it, but I’ve also carried one note book and some business cards. It’s size and shape fit easily into a pocket. The holder is just bigger than the pad: so it takes a beating, while it keeps its notebooks looking fresh.

The pads that they make for it are great as well. The are backed with stiff cardboard, bound with a staple, thin plastic cover to keep the elements off, pages perforated. Lined or grid: your choice. And, their color scheme is orange and black! They are just nice enough that you want to keep them around, but no so nice you don’t mind marking them up.

Another thing: it includes a pen loop that fits a Fisher Space Pen perfectly, but I’d very much recommend adding a pen clip to your pen. Because what good is a pad with no pen? It’s easy to pull the writing part of the pen out to make a quick note, or to pull the pen and cap out to make a full pen and do some writing.

One added bonus: this sort of looks like a mini version of the pad that the transit cops use in the NYC subway. If you pull it out and start writing in it, it is sort of fun to watch which people move away from you, and which ones give you side eye.



Rhodia Pad Holder and Pad of Paper

Available from Amazon


Engineer at Other Machine Co., Simone Davalos [Cool Tools Show Episode #24]

This week, engineer and robot-maker Simone Davalos shares tools that fuel her passions and support her hobbies. Simone recommends tools to enable you to build combat-ready bots for the next RoboGames, as well as tools to help you think deeply about the next thousand years.

Show Notes:

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Podcast on iTunes |RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

The Othermill $2200

“The Othermill is at the very top of my list for one of my cool tools, and it’s not because I work with for the company that makes it. It’s because it’s really useful, and really fun. It’s a tiny, tiny desktop CNC mill… You drop the file right into our software, and it does it, and you don’t have to mess with learning machining first, which is a huge hurdle for most people when they’re using machine shop tools, and want to cut out things. It’s also really good for crafts, it’s really good for kids to learn how to make things with machines…”

Gross Anatomy Dissection Kit $14

“I find myself using it all the time for electronics. I build mostly cocktail robots when I’m not doing anything else… I have 2 different sizes of hemostat, I have a scalpel blade, I have a couple of different kinds of forceps, ones got teeth on the end, so it’s really easy to grip stuff really tightly. It’s got a probe so I can push wires out of the way.”

RoboGames Admission: $25-250

“You don’t have to use a certain kind of kit. You don’t have to be from any particular country as long as you can show up, and compete, and having a working robot, everyone’s welcome. There’re about 60 different events. Everything from tiny little sumo robots that push each other out of the ring, to your big standard bog, giant killer robots that shoot fire, and bang each other against the walls of the bullet proof arena. That’s always a crowd pleaser, and it’s always a lot of fun. After 12 years of doing this, it’s built quite an amazing, literally international community around it.”

BoeBot $170

“My all time favorite beginner robot book is, Robotics with the Boe-Bot. It’s made by Parallax. It’s hands down the best written book I have ever read on how to build a robot when you’ve never touched a circuit before, ever.”


The Manual For Civilization

“The ‘Manual for Civilization’ was started by the Long Now Foundation, which I am proudly a member, and I used to work for. It is a really splendid, beautifully curated collection of books by thinkers, and writers, and dreamers, and artists, and it’s all about what you would do. If civilization ended what knowledge would you need to restart it?”

The Interval at Long Now

“It’s essentially a cocktail bar where you can go and talk about long term thinking, lofty concepts, read these books. It’s a really great all-in-one thing, and it’s to get people to think long term. To think about not the next 5 years, or the next 10 years, but the next hundred years.”


New in Ask Cool Tools

In Ask Cool Tools, I asked for a recommendation for a grip strengthener:

grip strengtheners. Some are lever-based and work all the fingers at once. Others are like a trumpet, with individual pegs for your fingers. Others are squishy balls/donuts. I’m mainly interested in improving forearm strength while I watch TV, listen to podcasts, etc. What do you recommend?

Answer this question here.

If you have a question of your own, please ask!

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Olfa L5-AL Heavy Duty Cutter

These have quickly become by all-time favorite utility knife and try-to-have-it-with-me super-tool. What’s really interesting about this knife is on the back-end. You see that little metal tang? This little extension has become so handy on job-sites or around the house that I feel a little helpless without it (just a bit).

This metal extension is often the perfect pry-tool for awkward situations. It’s not just a piece of stamped metal, it has a slight tapered edge which makes it far more useful that you’d expect. Need to open an electrical cover-plate? It’ll do it. Don’t have a screwdriver (or coin) handy for those slot-fitting applications? Now you do! Opening paint-cans, prying open seals, breaking the glue-seam on a cardboard box, etc. It keeps finding new ways to be handy and it often does it well.

I was just on a job-site yesterday where an awkward panel in some office furniture just would not go back into place and I was truly stuck. Digging through the toolbox and trying different ideas wasn’t getting anywhere. I didn’t have my knife with me (lent it out) but I eventually had to go find it to give it a try and it was the perfect tool one more time. It really did save the day and I’m not sure if any other tool that could do the job, or do it as well.

Aside from this, the slim lock-slide button on the side is a wonderful performer. It’s quick, reliable and fits better in the pocket than the screw-type lock. Everytime I grab a blade with a screw-lock I’m reminded why I like this one so much.

And the grip! The molded rubber and tapered edges of the handle is really well designed. It’s just one more thing that makes this knife stand out and I’m constantly trying to keep this blade handy so I don’t have to suffer the alternatives that are littered about.

It also comes preloaded with an ultra-sharp LBB-10 blade. Icing on the cake! These blades are a legend in themselves.

It’s a great knife and utility tool and a must-have in my go-bag.

-- Martin  

[We reviewed a slightly less heavy duty cutter in 2006 -- Mark Frauenfelder]

OLFA L5-AL 18mm Heavy Duty Cutter with an Automatic Blade Lock and 10 Free Spare Blades

Available from Amazon