Adidas Weighted Vest

This is the best exercise device I own. 10 pounds of weight perfectly distributed on front and back of chest, in an elastic black vest with orange piping that actually “looks cool.” I strap this on, put my iPhone into the extra front pocket thoughtfully designed in front, and easily walk up to two hours without even feeling the weight. I work up a great sweat, have built up my stamina and strength, and now have four of these stationed for me in locations I often visit: Seattle, Singapore, Boston, Australia.

-- Ron Kaufman  

Adidas Weighted Vest

Available from Amazon


Erik Knuzten, Author and Podcaster [Cool Tools Show Episode #21]

This week Erik Knuzten, co-author of Urban Homestead:Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City and Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World joins us with a list of must have tools for self-sufficient, DIY home living. Check out Erik’s Root Simple website and podcast (which he runs with his partner, Kelly Coyne) for more on how to build yourself a sustainable DIY lifestyle.

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

KoMo FlicFloc $170

“What it allows you to do is you throw basically raw oat seeds into it, you turn a handle – it’s manual -, and you get flaked oats which then I’ve been using mostly for muesli, and it’s totally changed my breakfast life. It’s easy to use and delicious and very, very nutritious.”


KoMo Fidibus Classic $621

“This one is a dove-tailed solid wood on the outside. It has two stone mills inside of it and a very powerful electric motor. I’m a real avid whole-grain baker. Again, it’s just like rolling your own oats, is you can keep the grains on hand and mill them as you need them to make bread. Now, what this does is it opens up a whole world of grain…When you have your own mill, you can choose the grain, the variety of wheat that you want to mill, and what I think a lot of people don’t realize is that there’s a huge biodiversity in wheat and rye and other grains and when you have your own mill you can select different grains to work with.”


Whirley-Pop popcorn popper (for roasting coffee) $20

“With the Whirley-pop all you do is put it on the stove top and one of the tricks is getting the heat right. That’s some amount of trial and error in that. Throw a half pound of green coffee beans in there, turn it, and in about nine, ten minutes, you’ve got roasted. It’s just that simple.”


Sweet Maria’s coffee roasting instructions Free

“Even with the mail order charges from Sweet Maria’s, I’m basically getting $20 a pound coffee for $10 a pound. Again, being able to select the green beans that I want to use has just totally changed my life actually. It made breakfast exciting every morning.”


Xtracycle Electric version $3500

“Sometimes called a long-tail bike. It’s like having pannier sacks on steroids or kind of like having a bike for two that instead of the second person it’s all cargo. Unlike a lot of cargo bikes, the European style that are kind of big and broad, this one’s narrow so you can squeeze through traffic in L.A. on it, gracefully. I can easily put four bags of groceries on that thing.”


Cambro Camtray Cafeteria Tray

Cafeteria trays, and this one in particular, are a favorite for creating a work surface that I can easily move around and keep things contained. In the kitchen I find them indispensable, but it is helpful whenever I am working on anything with small parts (like working with an Arduino board) or make a mess (anything with glitter). I got my trays 20 years ago they still hold up nicely!

Major benefits:

  • The tray has a raised lip around the entire tray, so any liquid or small pieces doesn’t go right off the surface.
  • I think it makes a great cutting board. You can put a bunch of veggies to one side (and they don’t roll off because of the lip), chop them up, and the juices don’t flow off the board.
  • While fiberglass isn’t the best surface for your knife, it is way better than doing it on most counter tops! Just put a cutting board on the tray if you are concerned. (The flexible ones are great)
  • I’ve also used it under crock pots that I think may boil over, filling flasks when I don’t want any liquids to be lost, and as a place to roll out dough.
  • It’s also helpful to use these when working with small pieces, like when assembling components on an Arduino board. The lip provides a bit of a barrier when a screw or a capacitor tries to make a run for it.
  • The tray is a perfectly reasonable work area, and is rigid. And, if you too have a small kitchen, you’ll appreciate the ability to quickly pick up the tray’s task and be able to get to an empty counter. Or shuffle it off to another counter entirely.
  • It also means that you can take the entire surface to the sink, and scrub it there, rather than having to clean all the items and then the counter.
  • I like trays that are smooth on top and bottom. Some trays have a texture on top and ridges on the bottom, to provide a better friction. I find that the texture makes moving things around on the tray a bit more difficult, and the ridges on the bottom keep them from being a good sled when it snows. I like the faux wood grain as well, as it blends in with my other cutting boards, but they come in all sorts of colors to suit your aesthetic.

And, of course, these are really helpful when you are moving dishes and food from the kitchen to another part of the house!

Cambro Camtray
$6 and up depending on size and style

Available from Amazon

Sunbeam Trashrac

We had something similar to the Trashrac in my kitchen growing up, and I noticed its absence while living in rentals. Now that I’m in my own home, I installed one of these in my kitchen and my bathroom. It’s great to have a trash under the sink cabinet, because it’s often the location that I am wanting to discard something.

The downside to small free-standing trashcans is that they can get hard to reach under a cabinet. Also, you either have to buy small trashbags that get filled up quickly or use grocery bags that don’t fit well.

This product is great because the trash swings open with the door so that it is easy to reach. It is a perfect fit for the plastic grocery bags that I reuse for free. The handles of the bags loop down to hold it snugly, but the bag can be placed and removed with one hand if needed.

The model comes with a lid, which I took off in the kitchen for more efficient use, but I left it on in the bathroom for more discreet disposal.

It took me about 15 minutes to install both of mine, with a drill and screwdriver.

-- Amy  

Sunbean Trashrac

Available from Amazon

Thermos Foogo Sippy Cups and Bottles

There’s no end to the amount you can spend on gadgetry for child-rearing, and yet I’ve been amazed at the poor design and shoddy construction that seems to dominate even the high-end of the parental gear spectrum.

Living in New York City, where space is at a premium and the cost of living is high, I get incredibly irritated by the presence any tool in our home whose function fails to justify the space it hogs & the cash it consumed.

Fortunately, my wife & I have made a few happy discoveries in the 2 ½ years since our son was born: topping our list is Thermos’ Foogo line of sippy cups and bottles. In a world of leaky, breakable, and otherwise cruddy drinking vessels for infants and toddlers, these are exemplars of functionality – plus they look good.

We favor the stainless steel straw bottles – no leaking, minimal plastic, dishwasher safe, insulation that keeps smoothies cold – but the plastic ones have also served us well. You can order inexpensive replacement straws & gaskets directly from Thermos (they’re not listed on the website, so you have to call Customer Service at 877-419-8272).

These aren’t the cheapest bottles on the market, but we’ve found they work & last. Mom and Dad are happy – our son is hydrated. Three cheers!

-- Ed Forgotson  

Thermos FOOGO Phases Stainless Steel Straw Bottle, Blue/Yellow, 10 Ounce

Available from Amazon

Leatherman Multitool OHT

I’ve had many multitools: Leatherman, SOG, Kershaw, etc. but this is by far the best.

It’s a bit weighty (as most multitools are) but this one has stood true through every scenario I have been able to expose it to: two tours overseas, buried in the sand; rescue swimming and diving in extreme search and rescue missions; and bushcraft survival.

It has every feature I could need in an every day life. I carry this tool more than my wallet, cell phone, even keys. I’ve modified a few little aspects on it just to suit personal desires, such as: replacing one tool for a phosphorus rod, using the lanyard hole for a self-made paracord lanyard including fishing line, weights, and hooks embedded, etc. But none of these mods interfere with the original tool itself.

I now work as a paramedic full time, as well as with at-risk youth for Outward Bound and I use this tool daily, usually multiple times.

-- Andrew Thomas  

Leatherman OHT

Available from Amazon

Klein Rapi-Driv Rotary Screwdriver

I was on a job recently and saw a guy using one of these to remove some long threaded screws on a switch plate, and after watching him I had to get one.

The key is, with a standard screwdriver there is a limit to how fast you can operate it. With this one, you can turn on the speed when you want. Your movement comes from your elbow instead of having to repeatedly turn your wrist to its limit.

It saves so much time. It works really well on low-torque, machine screws (the kind with a lot of threads per inch, like in switch plates). Sometimes a plate will have short screws, but sometimes you encounter a plate that has 1″ or 2″ 6/32 screws that to take forever to get out or in with a standard hand operated screwdriver. With this screwdriver, you can be done before you could walk across the room for the drill.

It’s perfect if you are painting, and don’t need/want to carry a drill around. You can keep one of these in your back pocket.

Tangentially, this Christmas I received the Kobalt Speed Drive ($18) which is a fascinating (if complicated) solution to the same problem. While it is cool (the 6x gear ratio turns the screw whichever way your wrist moves), it is heavier and larger than the Klein. Also the bit attachments can be easily dropped, lost, etc.

-- Allen Watts  

Klein Tools Cabinet Tip Screwdriver, Yellow and Black

Available from Amazon

Masterson Rinse Well

I am a painter and I have used the Masterson Rinse Well daily, for years. (The same unit!)

It consists of a 28 oz (840 ml) plastic water bottle which, when filled and inverted onto the base, feeds water into a well in the center for brush wetting or cleaning. Pressing the button at the front drains the used water into the reservoir underneath and automatically refills the well with clean water. The area surrounding the well can be used as a kind of palette and there are two holes to hold brushes.

This multi-function unit takes up very little drawing table space, is durable and easy to clean, is inexpensive, and is an all-around excellent tool. (Having an extra water bottle is a good investment for limiting trips to the water faucet.)

-- Pamela Ehrlich  

Masterson Fresh Water Rinse Well

Available from Amazon

WP 34S Scientific Calculator

This scientific calculator is very cool for two main reasons. First, it is a new open-source project driven by a small team of people who clearly love HP (Hewlett-Packard) scientific calculators. Probably no one at your workplace or school has this.

Second, in my opinion it’s the best option for anyone who ever fell in love with an RPN (reverse polish notation) HP calculator in the latter 20th century (e.g., HP32, HP42). That’s mostly because it is a reprogrammed version of an HP30b, so the key-feel is good and it’s powered by a fast ARM processor.

The latest similar offering from HP is the HP35s, which is too bulky and has known mathematical errors, poor design and quirky behavior. The WP34s solves these problems beautifully. The user manual is very well-written, but I recommend the fantastic WP34s Beginners Guide (also free).

-- Paul Bridges  


Matt Cutts, Head of Web Spam Team at Google [Cool Tools Show Episode #20]

Our guest this week, Matt Cutts, is a well-known blogger and the head of the Web Spam team at Google.  For more recommendations from Matt be sure to check out his personal blog.

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


“…[I]magine somebody posted a great link. Maybe three of your friends posted a great link on Twitter, but you happened to not be looking at Twitter at that moment. Nuzzle let’s you see that and get a recap of what you might’ve missed, and it also bubbles things up based on how many people have been Tweeting about this. It’s a really good way to just dip your hand into the stream and see what’s going on without watching every single Tweet go by.”

Uses This

“…[T]he person who runs it basically goes out and asks four simple questions to a bunch of different people. He gets an incredible amount of different people to participate. They’ll talk about all kinds of different things that they do, or that they use. You can find out the hardware and the software that they use…and also their dream set up. People answer those questions in very different, very creative ways… It’s almost like if you could be invited into somebody’s house and look at their book shelf…You get a good feel for the things that they enjoy, and that can often help you find out and discover new things.”

Logitech Wireless Presenter R400 ($38)

“[I]f you give a lot of talks or presentations, you’re always tied to the computer, you’re pressing the up down button or left right. This let’s you walk around an auditorium. It’s got a laser pointer built in. You can forwards or backwards. I used it on my Chromebook recently to give a talk at North Carolina in Chapel Hill. It works with Mac, and Windows, and even Chromebooks. It works very well.”

The First 20 Minutes, by Gretchen Reynolds ($12)

“This book, The First 20 Minutes, is sort of a summary of all the different things that she’s learned over the years from reading through the research and talking to experts in the field…some of them are almost like tricks or gimmicks. Like, stand on one foot while you’re brushing your teeth and you can work on improving your balance for free. Or, pickle juice might help with cramps. A lot of it is just ‘Hey, here’s what the current science says about the best ways…to work out without having it be a total bad experience.’”


“This project is compatible with all the major garage door openers…suppose you’re going biking and you want to open the garage door…and you don’t want to take your keys with you. You can just open up this app on your phone, press one button, and the garage door opens up. It’s just like magic.”