28 July 2017


Ortlieb Dry Bags

Heavy-duty waterproof bags

[This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2003 – MF]

The German company Ortlieb produce a range of waterproof items. These are excellent for use while trekking, motorcycling, bicycling, caving, canoeing, etc. I usually put clothing and sleeping bags in Ortlieb dry bags inside my rucksack. I am guaranteed that stuff will keep dry, and it makes it easier to organize the backpack.

I also have a larger Ortlieb bag which I use when I go on motorcycling trips. Useful stuff, and excellent quality/durability. They produce a range of items.

-- Helge A. Gudmundsen 07/28/17

28 July 2017


Pelican Progear Keychain Flashlight

Best keychain flashlight

There are quite a few key chain flashlight reviews on this site. And before I added another, I wanted to make sure I put this one to the test (although I wanted to put up a review of it the moment I saw it online as it has everything I’m looking for in my everyday carry flashlight). And, after a year of use, I feel even stronger about my recommendation for this light.

Here’s why:

– It fits on my key chain (a small, symmetrical tube). It can easily disconnect from the rest of my key chain, but not so easily that it falls off. The flashlight is connected to a split ring, and the split ring connects to a sturdy clip.It has just the right amount of play so it moves easily but doesn’t get in the way.

– It hasn’t tuned on unexpectedly. With some other key chain flashlights, the “on” switch gets activated accidently, and the battery runs out while illuminating the inside of your pocket. For this one, you twist the cap and the body closed to turn the flashlight on. I was a bit worried about the cap and the body separating. But, evidently, so was the designer. There are a LONG set of threads inside the barrel, and you really have to give it quite a few turns to separate them.

– There is only one mode. It’s on or it’s off. No low. No blink. Which is exactly the sort of “no fiddling” I want when I suddenly find myself in the dark, and am trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

– It’s small, light and durable. I’d forget about it, if it wasn’t so useful.

– It’s bright and has a good angle. For it’s size, it puts out a nice amount of light, and a not too wide or too narrow of a beam.

– The battery has lasted a long time. Been using it for most of a year, and the batteries are as good as the day I got it. (It did dim a few months ago but I took the batteries out and put them back in again, and good as new.)

– It comes in black. And the powder coating wears off in the most satisfying way. I like to think it looks like a prop out of a sci-fi movie now.

– It’s made by Pelican Case, who seem to know a thing or two about making durable, usable products.

– At around $10, it’s the right price for a piece of gear that my life could depend on, but if I happen to lose, they crying will be over the loss of a trusty piece of kit, not the loss of a small fortune. And believe me, this is something that I will replace with the same item immediately if it’s ever lost.

-- Mark Krawczuk 07/28/17

27 July 2017


ChicoBag Reusable Travel Pack

Backpack unstuffs from attached pouch

This is my third ChicoBag, along with the Hobo Shopping Tote and Produce Stand Mesh Reusable Produce Bags. It has two side bottle pockets, and the ripstop fabric is made from 100-percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. Machine washable. Extremely light, and folds up inside itself in a zipper pocket to make a small pouch when not in use. To tell the truth, I don’t think I’ve ever rolled up in the small little pouch since I got it because I use it every day and do not leave the house without it. I can testify it is big enough to fit two six-packs of canned beer.

-- Kent Barnes 07/27/17

26 July 2017


Maker Update #44: Head worn magnifying glasses

Adjustable head worn magnifying glasses

This week on Maker Update, converting XP to exercise points, losing WD Labs and Arduino 101, printing butterflies, and marking your tools. This week’s Cool Tool is wearable magnifying glasses.

I bought these a year ago looking for a way to get a better look at soldering up small stuff. They really are perfect for those times when you’re wiring or painting or glueing up something tiny and delicate. Plus there’s a little LED on the front that helps put a little extra light on things.

These come with an interchangeable set of lenses. The most powerful one gives you 3.5 times magnification and is the one I leave on all the time. I honestly wish these went up a little higher, as the lower lenses really don’t do much for me.

The lenses are plastic, so they can get scratched if you’re not careful, which I’m guilty of. On the upside, compared to glass these are lightweight and can be worn for long periods without hurting your face. The lens also flips up and down so you can kick in the magnification just when you need it.

But by far my favorite use for these is put these on and surprise people. They make you look so super nerdy. They should really file these things under birth control. They are quite possibly the unsexiest pair of glasses ever made.

-- Donald Bell 07/26/17

26 July 2017


Noah Thorp, Founder of CoMakery

Cool Tools Show 082: Noah Thorp

Our guest this week is Noah Thorp. Noah is founder of a tech innovation network called CoMakery. Previously, he co-founded a holacratic blockchain prototyping studio. He was the VP of Engineering at Nasdaq Private Market, and he ran a record label where he wrote algorithmic music and pressed obscure records on thick Czechoslovakian vinyl.

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Show notes:

FORLIFE Stump Teapot with SLS Lid and Infuser ($23)
Zojirushi Micom Water Boiler & Warmer ($125)
“Most people when they hear “a teapot” they might like it’s fairly large, but this is actually, it’s really for a small amount of tea. … What I really like about it is it has this basket inside of it, and so you put the exact packet size, pre-measured tea into the basket … if it’s at just the right brewing level, you could just pour it out directly into glasses. I have a Zojirushi water boiler, so the water is always at the right temperature for sort of the tea of the week. So if it’s pu’er, it’s probably at 208. If it’s something that’s like a black tea or a more roasted green tea it’ll be at like 195. And it’ll be lower if we’re drinking green tea.”

Poloniex Crypto Currency Exchange
“Most people are unaware that there are 600 different cryptocurrencies at this point or maybe more. And so there’s a really active trading culture, and there’s some very active marketplaces. Poloniex is my favorite exchange. With Poloniex you can’t actually trade … You can’t actually transfer U.S. dollars into it. You have to first purchase bitcoin, and so one of the easier ways to do that is to go to Coinbase and then transfer U.S. dollars there to that exchange, and then you transfer your bitcoin over to Poloniex. Then once you have your bitcoin at Poloniex, then you can basically say, “I want to buy X MadeSafeCoins for this amount, or storjcoins for that amount.” And what’s really nice about this particular platform is that they have all the candlestick charts and some of the chart analysis tools that you would expect for more serious trading, or I should say for serious trading. And you also can see the kind of strength of the buy and the sell orders, so you can basically do some pretty good analysis of what the health of those tokens is. It’s also knowing a lot about news.”

Hexen 2.0 Tarot ($26)
“I listed this not because I do a lot of tarot card readings, but this particular tarot card deck is the HEXEN 2.0 tarot card deck, which all of the cards have interesting figures from cybernetics, alchemy, the counterculture, and various government conspiracy theories. And I discovered this deck as I was exploring some of the aggressive meme propaganda warfare that was occurring in the fall, and I found this podcast, which is called Expanding Mind, where they were talking about the long arc of memes going back to meme magic propaganda in World War II and things like that. … It has a picture of like the sun and the moon, and then underneath it, it says, ‘Implications for engineering, systems control, computer science, biology and ecology, political science, psychology, philosophy, and the organization of society.’”


26 July 2017


Craftsman Telescoping Lighted Inspection Mirror

Telescopic range of 6-3/4 to 37 in.

If you work with A/V equipment or computers, you know that all the ports/plug-ins tend to be on the back side of the machine, snugged up against the wall. This tool allows you to slip a mirror behind the equipment and see where things are located. With the incorporated LED light, finding what you are looking for is much easier even in dark nooks and crannies. Now, anytime I need to connect an HDMI cable, an A/V cable, or a USB cable, the first thing I grab is this mirror.

Once I started using it on a regular basis, I found more scenarios where it came in handy: finding things in the lower section of my engine compartment (especially when I dropped a socket and it got stuck somewhere), checking the soap level in the soap pump bottle under the kitchen sink, looking at the plumbing in the bathroom vanity, etc. I’ve even used it to see where the cable feed hole is on my desk when I’m trying to get yet another USB cable connected from point A to point B.

It has a telescoping handle that extends 33 inches, a non-slip grip handle, and a bright LED light, powered by a standard CR-2016 battery. The mirror unit can be swiveled about 300 degrees, making it easy to adjust to any situation. It is fairly compact, and folds almost flat. I haven’t seen many of these in tool stores, and the few I’ve seen are more expensive than what I paid for this tool. It sure beats using the dental mirror and flashlight setup I used before!


-- Martin Lange 07/26/17



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23 February 2017



We Refreshed Our Website

If you read Cool Tools via RSS (which is the way Kevin and I read blogs) then you probably don’t realize we updated our website design today. We took your feedback seriously and tried our best to simplify the design and make it more legible.

I’m sure we got some things wrong. If you find a mistake or have suggestions about our current iteration, please let us know in the comments.

Thanks for reading Cool Tools and being part of the community.

If I’ve still got your attention, I’d like to remind you that Cool Tools runs reviews written by our readers. Please recommend a tool you love.


Cool Tools is a web site which recommends the best/cheapest tools available. Tools are defined broadly as anything that can be useful. This includes hand tools, machines, books, software, gadgets, websites, maps, and even ideas. All reviews are positive raves written by real users. We don’t bother with negative reviews because our intent is to only offer the best.

One new tool is posted each weekday. Cool Tools does NOT sell anything. The site provides prices and convenient sources for readers to purchase items.

When Amazon.com is listed as a source (which it often is because of its prices and convenience) Cool Tools receives a fractional fee from Amazon if items are purchased at Amazon on that visit. Cool Tools also earns revenue from Google ads, although we have no foreknowledge nor much control of which ads will appear.

We recently posted a short history of Cool Tools which included current stats as of April 2008. This explains both the genesis of this site, and the tools we use to operate it.

13632766_602152159944472_101382480_oKevin Kelly started Cool Tools in 2000 as an email list, then as a blog since 2003. He edited all reviews through 2006. He writes the occasional review, oversees the design and editorial direction of this site, and made a book version of Cool Tools. If you have a question about the website in general his email is kk {at} kk.org.

13918651_603790483113973_1799207977_oMark Frauenfelder edits Cool Tools and develops editorial projects for Cool Tools Lab, LLC. If you’d like to submit a review, email him at editor {at} cool-tools.org (or use the Submit a Tool form).

13898183_602421513250870_1391167760_oClaudia Dawson runs the Cool Tool website, posting items daily, maintaining software, measuring analytics, managing ads, and in general keeping the site alive. If you have a concern about the operation or status of this site contact her email is cl {at} kk.org.