23 October 2017


Portable stove with Brass Burner Head

Best portable stove

I car camp quite a bit and have tried just about every stove out there. In Asia I noticed every street market vendor uses these low flat butane stoves to cook everything on. I have switched over to one of these and love it. This Gasone model is compact, well made, ignites every time, and works with both the low profile butane canisters and the classic Coleman Propane bottles. This stove performs well enough to use as an extra burner at home or during service outages.

I find a single burner does everything I need but they do also make two burner models and hand held torches that use the same canisters which are handy for starting camp fires and the odd creme brule.

Note that Amazon won’t ship the butane canisters to California, but they sell them in all the asian markets around here for under a $1 each.

-- Alexander Rose 10/23/17

23 October 2017



Old reliable

If one needs a single tool, Vise-grips are it. On a motorcycle I have used one as clutch or shift lever or attached to a broken throttle cable. You can turn a screw if you can reach the side of it with this tool . Lock one down to something under the hood; you might not like to bugger up a bolt, but you won’t care if you are no where near tools. If required, you can rip sheet metal with one. Wire cutting too. You can clamp it down hard enough to hit it with a hammer. Vise-grips and a crowbar are thieves’ favorite tools. Buy the small size; and only the brand name: these are made of high-strength steel.

— C. Bridger

And they come in a whole tribe of specialty varieties. The standard should be in everyone’s tool box, the small one in every emergency pouch, and you should at least know about the others. The same relentless leveraged but sensitive clamping action works with super wide vise-grips, narrow ones, wide necked ones, nut cutters, curved necks and so on. They are extremely handy.

— KK


(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2004 — editors)

22 October 2017


How to make your point/Unsplash/Mini pharmacy

Recomendo: issue no. 65

How to make your point
These succinct tips for how to write an op-ed piece are clear, 100% correct, and useful for any kind of factual writing. Compresses a whole course, or book, to 15 bullet points. — KK

Truly free photos
Unsplash is an online collection of high quality photos that are free to use for any reason, even commercial purposes. You aren’t required to credit the author, but you can if you wish. A good resource for bloggers and designers. — MF

Mini pharmacy
I travel with a mini-pharmacy in my day pack, particularly overseas. I use inexpensive pill organizers to hold common non-prescription remedies. These small plastic strips are sold as “7-day” containers for folks who need to take multiple pills per pay, but I put such a few doses of different medicines in each slot. I carry remedies for semi-emergencies like motion sickness, allergies, colds, diarrhea, pain, sleep aid, coughing, upset stomach, etc. I stick a tiny label on each compartment with the name and dosage, which is enough. I restock the few doses before each trip. Off-the-shelf medicines are not rare abroad, but language and branding differences often make it a chore to secure them. Using these light and compact containers I (and traveling companions) have access to a wide range of immediate treatments. — KK

Smelly gift idea
I like giving perfume and cologne samplers as gifts. These gift boxes from Sephora come with 12-17 samples (each bottle has about 3 uses) of the year’s newest or most popular perfumes, and inside is a voucher that they can return for a full-size bottle of their favorite scent. This is always one of my go-to Christmas gifts. — CD

Label lifter
I use Goo Gone to remove stickers from glass and plastic, but when I need to remove a label from a book cover or cardboard, the Scotty Peeler Label and Sticker Remover does the trick. The flat tapered edge fits between a label and the surface and, if you work slowly and carefully, will remove the label without marring the surface of your book or other item. — MF

Easiest way to zoom
I’ve found the easiest way to zoom in and zoom out on my iMac is to hold control while scrolling the wheel on my mouse. I have a bluetooth Magic Mouse which requires enabling a scroll feature (instructions here), and I’m sorry to say I’m not sure if this works on Windows, but it’s worth setting up and so easy once you do. — CD

Get the Recomendo weekly newsletter a week early by email.

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 10/22/17

22 October 2017


Getting Things Done

Stress-free productivity

Getting Things Done is a thoroughly practical method of handling the little things that over time comprise the big things in life. I’ve been chronically disorganized as long as I can remember. Within a month of following Allen’s advice – actually, within a few weeks – I was making better use of my day, getting far more done, and feeling happier and less anxious.

Allen’s not-so-hidden agenda in getting people organized is not simply to turn us into highly efficient bureaucrats. With a clearer mind, we can focus on our meaningful, long-term goals in a more creative way. I’m not sure if I’ve achieved Allen’s favorite state of “mind like water,” but I’m feeling a lot more fluid nowadays. This book is full of tricks to help you get things done, but it also offers an underlying challenge: Just what is it that you want to do?

— Marcel Levy

This is the third recommendation I’ve received for this book. It’s pretty good. On the blogs there is a lot of chatter about Allen’s system and its effectiveness for nerdlike people. I would have posted a review of the book earlier if I had actually practiced what it preached.

— KK

Here’s the gist of GTD in a single image. I have kept a printed copy of this for years and find it useful.

— MF

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
David Allen
2001, 267 pages

Sample excerpts:

Why Things Are On Your Mind
Most often, the reason something is “on your mind” is that you want it to be different than it currently is, and yet:

* you haven’t clarified exactly what the intended outcome is;
* you haven’t decided what the very next physical action step is; and/or
* you haven’t put reminders of the outcome and the action required in a system you trust


Things rarely get stuck because of lack of time. They get stuck because the doing of them has not been defined.


Give yourself permission to capture and express any idea, and then later on figure out how it fits in and what to do with it. If nothing else (and there is plenty of “else”), this practice adds to your efficiency – when you have the idea, you grab it, which means you won’t have to go “have the idea” again.


In mind-mapping, the core idea is presented in the center, with associated ideas growing out in a somewhat free-form fashion around it.


The big problem is that your mind keeps reminding you of things when you can’t do anything about them. It has no sense of past or future.


Most people don’t have a really complete system, and they get no real payoff from reviewing things for just that reason; their overview isn’t total. They still have a vague sense that something may be missing. That’s why the rewards to be gained from implementing this whole process are at least geometric: the more complete the system is, the more you’ll trust it. And the more you trust it, the more complete you’ll be motivated to keep it. The Weekly Review is a master key to maintaining that standard.


22 October 2017


Scotch Tear-by-Hand Packaging Tape

Great tape for shipping boxes

My family ships a lot of boxes during the holidays, and we go through a few rolls of packaging tape. Large pistol-grip tape dispensers don’t work well on smaller boxes — I have never been able to get the hang of using the serrated blade to cut off the tape.

I was happy to find out about Scotch’s Tear-by-Hand packaging tape. I (and more importantly, my wife) can easily tear off strips with our hands. It’s easy to get the length you desire, and the tear is perfectly perpendicular. Also, it’s easy to find the end of the tape on the roll by running your fingernail along it. This stuff is like magic. I never want to use any other kind of packaging tape.

-- Mark Frauenfelder 10/22/17

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2014 — editors)

21 October 2017


Rothco G.I. Type Mechanics Tool Bags

Best everyday carry military type tool bag

Russel Brooks wrote a review of the Rothco G.I. type mechanics toolbag for Cool Tools, saying that these are similar to bags he was issued when he was in the Air Force in the 70s. They’re made of a thick canvas with a heavy brass zipper, pockets on both sides, and small pockets lining the inside.

Compared to carrying around a big, steel toolbox, these are lighter, cheaper, and they don’t scrape or dent things when you put them down. They also pack down nice and flat when you don’t need them.

They’re not perfect. I wish the inside pockets could hold tools better. But at $16, there’s no reason not to cut out stitches and rework the pockets for what you need. I’m taking this one to Maker Faire this weekend with my angle grinder and some wrenches, and it’s perfect.

Even for non tool use, as a guy, it’s a good option for when you need a purse-sized bag that in no way could be mistaken for a purse. It’s tough, it’s cheap, and versatile. A link to buy this bag is in the video description. And you can see thousands of reader-recommended tools just like this one at cool-tools.org.

-- Donald Bell 10/21/17

([Cool Tools has a YouTube channel with many more tool reviews] — editors)


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Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awl

Elemental sewing machine

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Simon Quellen Field, CEO of Kinetic MicroScience

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Lighted Telescoping Inspection Mirror

Telescopic range of 6-3/4″ to 37-inches

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Gaia GPS Smartphone App

Superb backcountry GPS app

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Ear Infection Detector

Cheaper than doctor visits

img 10/18/17

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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.