16 June 2019


uBlacklist/Delta-v/Patagonia Nine Trails 14L

Recomendo: issue no. 151

Block specific sites from Google search results
I use a Google Chrome extension called uBlacklist to stop Pinterest results from showing up in Google searches. You can create a list of other sites you don’t want to show up in search results, too.  uBlacklist replaces Google’s Personal Blocklist extension, which it got rid of a while ago. — MF

Hard science fiction
Good sign: I stayed up all night to finish Delta-V, the latest techno-thriller from Daniel Suarez. Besides being a page-turner at the end, no one has researched or described in convincing detail the logistics and science of mining asteroids in deep space as well as this book. — KK

This really is the best daypack for hiking
Now that its summer, I’m seeing a lot of reviews for the best daypack to buy and I feel like I have to give my Patagonia Nine Trails 14L a proper shout out. I tried on every pack they had at REI and ultimately decided to order this one online because of all its features. It’s smaller than most other packs (1lb), and includes a 2-liter HydraPak so I can hike and drink hands-free without having to stop and pull out a water bottle. Aside from the main compartment where my HydraPak lives, there’s two more large compartments (one zippered, one stretch pocket) where I keep an extra layer of clothing, snacks, trauma pakpStyle, and more. The waist belt has zippered pockets where I keep my keys, pepper spray, chapstick and a small bottle of sunscreen, but the most essential features are the two quick-stash side pockets where I keep my phone and sunglasses since I’m always sliding those in and out. My friend has an older version of this same backpack without the quick-stash pockets and is really jealous of mine. — CD

Why is it so important for you to have a baby?
Last year I made the very important decision to not have children. This quiz helped me figure out the true reasons I wanted to be a parent and I realized that those reasons were not really aligned with what I wanted for my life. After that came a lot of reading and therapy before I became confident that this was the best decision I ever made for myself. So in case anyone else is on the fence, here’s a place to start. — CD

The long view
In a time of great complaints about new tech, I am encouraged by the Pessimist Archive which goes through historical records collecting end-of-the-world rants about the horrors of such inventions as bicycles, subways, and electricity. Most complaints about modern things could have been recycled from 100 years ago. The Pessimist Archive is a necessary counterpoint to complain wisely today. I follow both their Twitter stream and their podcast. — KK

Concentrated windshield washer solvent
Instead of buying windshield washer solvent in gallon plastic jugs (and paying about $5) I bought this box of 24 6-ounce bottles of concentrated solvent($34). One bottle makes 1.5 gallons of solvent. Easier to store, too. — MF

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 06/16/19

14 June 2019


Dave Rome, Gear Editor at CyclingTips.com

Cool Tools Show 179: Dave Rome

Our guest this week is Dave Rome. Dave is a gear editor and content strategist at CyclingTips.com, a premium online cycling publication with the mission to share the beauty of cycling. Dave was a previous editor at the UK publication BikeRadar.com, and has been involved in the bicycle industry for over the past decade. As a bike mechanic, Dave is a self-confessed tool nerd, and often writes in-depth reviews and features about hand tools for DIY cyclists and mechanics.

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

Show notes:

PB Swiss Rainbow Hex Keys ($80)
It’s a Swiss company that make these. Basically when you’re working with bicycles, hex keys is sort of the number one tool that you need to use. Much of the bike is built with Allen key bolts and you get a lot of use out of these tools. PB Swiss in my opinion make one of the finest options. They do one which is powder coated in basically a rainbow of colors. You can pick the size that you need without really having to look. You can just sort of know the color that you want. For example, I know that the five millimeter, which I use, is orange and the four millimeter is yellow and the six millimeter is red. It’s really easy and quick to grab the one you need and just get turning those bolts. I’ve yet to break one. Amongst a lot of pro mechanics they’re commonly considered the most durable hex key going, so you know I’ve had my set for five or six years, whereas in the past I’d normally only get a year or two out of a set of hex keys. They are not cheap, but they should last a lifetime. I mean they are made in Switzerland, they’re made with a very high quality stainless steel and they’re lovely to use.

Dynaplug Racer Bicycle Tire Repair Tool ($48)
This is an American-made product, Dynaplug is the brand, out of California. Basically they’re like these little CNC aluminum machines … Maybe like a pen knife in a sense — They’re very small, they fit in the palm of your hand and basically what they’re designed to do is you jab them through a tire in the event of a puncture, and it leaves behind a little rubber worm that fills the puncture. These are designed for what we call tubeless tires. If you imagine a bicycle tire, normally has an inner tube inside of it. That inner tube is a rubber balloon, I guess? Normally when you get a puncture you only puncture that inner tube and it’s a matter of replacing that tube. For tubeless tires it’s much more like a car or a motorbike system, where the tire itself is airtight and is holding the air inside. If you puncture a tubeless tire, all you’ve punctured is that outside tire and normally it’s quite easy to find the hole, because you’ll just see the air escaping. More commonly people will use a liquid tire sealant inside their tires, so you’ll actually see the liquid coming out or foaming out of that hole. This tool comes along and you just pull the end cap off and stab it through the tire and pull it back out and it leaves behind a plug.

Adventure Tool Company Mesh Organizers ($35, set of 4)
These are from an adventure tool company out of Colorado, they’re American-made and basically made to military specs. All the little pieces on them are super durable, and basically they’re my favorite way of carrying whatever small item I need to keep track of. I know you’ve had a few of these products for various storage of USB cables or headphones or whatever they may be, and this is what I’ve found to be the best. They’re mesh so you can see through them, but because of the material used they’re extremely durable, extremely light and not overly expensive for what you get. I’ve got one with all my cables for travel, I’ve got a hard drive in it and a backup battery, and I just keep that and I can transport it, transfer it from bag to bag in a rush and I don’t have to think about what I’m packing. I’ve got another one which has my camera card reader and another backup drive in it. I’ve got it fairly well organized, but it’s just a nice little mesh item and better yet, I can use them in the toolbox as well, because that’s what they’re really made for.

Dualco Grease Gun ($18)
I’ve had one for I’m going to say 12 years now and I’m still on the first one. Basically it’s a small handheld grease gun that you fill up with whatever grease you like through the bottom and it’s got a little pump-action button that when you press the button, the grease comes out of this needle-like tip. It’s a very precise applicator for whatever grease you want. It’s not too large, it doesn’t take a huge amount of grease but I’ve found it to be just about perfect for where you need to put grease into a tight spot without making a mess. You can get different-size needle tips for it as well, you can get a longer one if you need it. It’s an all-steel construction and I’ve found it to be extremely durable, very easy to use.

Also mentioned:

CyclingTips Podcast
I’ve just begun working on a series of podcasts with my company Cycling Tips, and we’re basically going deep dive into all worlds of tech, currently doing a podcast about what bike weight means, for those that count grams of their bike, that’s sort of what I’m getting hyper-focused on at the moment.. It’s been wonderful for my inner nerdery.

We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $400 a month. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have great rewards for people who contribute! If you would like to make a one-time donation, you can do so using this link: https://paypal.me/cooltools.– MF


14 June 2019



Old school stain remover

Fels-Naptha is old school soap that works great when it comes to stains. I had a pair of khakis that I got old chain grease on, washed them regularly about 3-4 times. Regular wash didn’t get the stain out, so I called it a bust. Then 3-months later I used a little elbow grease and Fels-Naptha, just rubbing the fabric against itself for 5 minutes, and sure enough, the grease came right out. The soap is good for plenty more as well.

-- Tanner 06/14/19

(After Tanner suggested Fels Naptha for getting bike grease out of a pair of Khakis, I tried it out on some grease stained pants and it worked perfectly. It does take a bit of effort, but the results are worth it. I also managed to get rid of some pesky collar stains.--OH

This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2011 — editors)

13 June 2019



Window smashing lifesaver

The ResQMe tool ($10) is something that I believe everyone should own, but I pray that no one will ever need to use.

I have been fortunate enough to have never needed to use this tool myself, but through my work as an EMT I have come across more than one situation where my patients may have benifited from this tool, and one situation where I honestly believe that this tool could have been lifesaving.

When you have been involved in a serious motor vehicle collision your adrenaline starts flowing and, if you are like the large majority of people, your fight or flight instincts kick in and thinking rationally can become a challenge.

If it is safe to remain in your vehicle, that is certainly your best course of action. But in some situations this is simply not an option. If for example the vehicle has entered water, if chemicals or fire are involved, or if you are in an isolated area and assistance is simply not going to find you in your current location it may be necessary to vacate your vehicle. Seatbelt mechanisms may become jammed and pushing the release button may no longer work. Electric windows may no longer work if the electronics were damaged by the collision.

In order to get out of the vehicle you need to find not only an alternate way to undo your seatbelt, but a means of breaking a window specifically designed not to be easily broken, and you must do both these things while in a near panicked state. With other tool combinations that I’ve used the seatbelt cutter and the window punch have been separate and have had no means of attaching to a keychain.

As a rescuer, these independent devices work well. However, if you are the person trapped inside the vehicle you don’t have time to be reaching around looking for one tool, let-a-lone two. Having the ResQMe attached you key chain means that you will almost always be able to escape from your vehicle.

-- Caity 06/13/19

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2011 — editors)

13 June 2019


Book Freak #7: Random Advice

A grab-bag of advice

Book Freak is the third newsletter from Cool Tools Lab (our other two are the Cool Tools Newsletter and Recomendo). In each weekly issue, we offer three short pieces of advice from books. Here’s the advice from our fifth issue.

How to disobey your mother
“If your mother tells you to do a thing, it is wrong to reply that you won’t. It is better and more becoming to intimate that you will do as she bids you, and then afterward act quietly in the matter according to the dictates of your best judgment.”

― Mark Twain, Advice to Little Girls

How to avoid being hassled by the man
“If you want the law to leave you alone, keep your hair trimmed and your boots shined.”

― Louis L’Amour, The Man Called Noon

How to avoid someone you dislike
“Of course, to avoid getting stuck in that convo with someone you dislike or feel uncomfortable around, don’t be passive, be proactive. Do not let them direct your interaction on their terms, do it on yours. Ask a Misdirection Question–something too difficult to answer quickly–e.g., ‘What’s Congress up to?’ or ‘You ever learn any cool science?’ When you ask the question, don’t make eye contact, keep moving and get out of there. Do not wait for a response and deny ever asking it. Repeat these actions until you are never again spoken to by that individual (about four times).”

― Eugene Mirman, The Will to Whatevs: A Guide to Modern Life

-- MF 06/13/19

12 June 2019


Cable Saw

Cuts piping, tubing, wood and more

I was actually quite surprised that nobody mentioned these simple PVC saws ($6) when someone requested a cheap PVC cutter awhile back. I’ve been using them since high school, and haven’t found a better solution.

Basically, you slip the wire around the PVC pipe and start working it back and forth. It seems to melt through the pipe once you get going, which means less dust and a smoother cut than other saws I’ve tried.

It also has an advantage over other dedicated saws due to its flexible nature. I actually used one of the longer versions to cut a bit off of a kitty litter box once (it had a spot to hold a scooper, which made it a bit too big for the space). That would have been impossible with other PVC saws that hold onto the pipe. It also would have been tricky with a hack saw due to the size.

At less than $10 for even the most expensive ones, it’s a great thing to pick up for an occasional job. And not that painful if you end up losing it.

-- Michael Farnette 06/12/19

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2011 — editors)



img 11/29/18


Brilliant 3D maze

img 04/9/04

Analog Atomic Wall Clock

Constant automatic accuracy

img 01/8/07

Engel Hot Knife

Superior textile cutter

img 12/30/08

Nikon Monarch Binoculars

Bargain superior binoculars

img 11/6/18

Forschner Victorinox Chef’s Knife

Inexpensive great chef knife

img 08/28/17

Pumps-A-Lot Water Pump

Simple emergency sump pump

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 179: Dave Rome

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 178: Cameo Wood

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 177: Adam Savage

Picks and shownotes

23 February 2017


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 claudia {at} cool-tools.org.