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Father’s Day is fast approaching, but there’s still time to give him the perfect addition to his carry. Whether he’s a jetsetting businessman or spends his weekends outdoors, Dad deserves nothing but the best and most useful gear. Get him something practical and memorable from our Father’s Day EDC Gift Guide.
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BUSINESS
For the dad who puts on a suit for his nine to five, his carry should reflect his business needs. Lightweight so they don’t slow him down as he makes strides in and out of the office, while still promoting usefulness.
Titanium Multi-tool Collar Stays: Practical addition to dress shirts with additional applications. ($30)
Al Mar Hawk Ultralight: Sleek, lightweight, with a useful blade length and profile. ($100)
Victorinox Altius 3.0 Slim Bi-Fold: High-quality leather and slim profile makes it perfect for slacks. ($55)
Citizen Eco-Drive Dress Watch: Timeless looks with modern watch technology. ($112)
Waterman Hemisphere Ballpoint Pen: A luxurious ballpoint pen that’s great for general use. ($58)

TECH
For the dad living in the digital world, his carry should be efficient and practical in connecting him with his technology. The techie dad’s gear is as modern as his lifestyle is, working in sync with the rest of his carry.
Victorinox Cybertool 34: Everything you need for tech-related tinkering. ($94)
SanDisk Ultra Dual USB Drive: Unqiue USB drive that plays well with Micro USB devices. ($20)
FourSevens Atom AL Flashlight: Handy, efficient with power, and has some unique features. ($35)
Limefuel Blast 15600mAh Battery Pack: Plenty of charge for all modern devices. ($45)
Grid-It Organizer: Excellent organizational aid, especially for wires and devices. ($13)

OUTDOOR
For the dad who likes to rough it up and blaze trails on the weekend, his gear should be high quality, rugged, and built to last against the elements. Unexpected adventures await outside, so this dad’s carry should be exceptionally reliable.
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp: Hands-free, powerful, with many useful modes. ($36)
ESEE Izula Wallet Kit: Quality set of survival tools in an efficient package. ($58)
Condor Small Assault Pack: Solid fit and finish with plenty of room while remaining compact. ($50)
Timex Expedition Trail Watch: Outdoor-oriented with plenty of tactical features. ($70)
Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter: Lightweight, compact, and waterproof. ($13)

ACTIVE
From running a marathon to biking on a mountain pass, the active dad’s carry has to keep up with his lifestyle. The active carry should be resilient in rain or shine, light enough not to slow him down, and help him get the most from his activities.
Timex Ironman HRM Watch: Perfect companion for fitness training. ($87)
JLab Waterproof MP3 Player Headphones: Take your music with you without the hassle of wires. ($110)
SPIbelt Metallic Running Belt: Sleek and secure storage that doesn’t disrupt movements. ($20)
Fitbit One Wireless Activity Tracker: Beneficial fitness information with an added sleep tracker. ($89)
Lifeproof Nuud Case for iPhone 5S: Light in weight and profile but not in protection. ($90)

DIY
For the dad that likes to build, tinker, restore, and repair. Heavy duty needs mean a heavy duty carry, but utility doesn’t have to mean giving up the practicality of a sleek loadout.
Surefire P2X Fury Flashlight: Substantial power with military-grade hardware. ($105)
Monteverde Toolpen: Suitable for both handcrafted and digital projects. ($20)
3M Safety Glasses: Light, comfortable, and designed for a secure fit. ($8)
Gerber Boxcutter: Industrial quality in a tiny package, with replaceable blades. ($13)
Leatherman New Wave Multitool: Endlessly practical yet stylishly compact. ($79)
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Father’s Day is fast approaching, but there’s still time to give him the perfect addition to his carry. Whether he’s a jetsetting businessman or spends his weekends outdoors, Dad deserves nothing but the best and most useful gear. Get him something practical and memorable from our Father’s Day EDC Gift Guide.

Read more

Keys are an essential item of most everyone’s daily routine. Unfortunately, they can be tricky to manage, as evidenced by some keychains so cluttered they seem to have their own gravitational field. In the fifth installment of Carry Smarter, we explore keychain gadgets and how to optimize your keychain to really unlock its true potential as a mini EDC system.
[[MORE]]The essential EDC keychain possesses a few good characteristics: it’s organized, it’s useful, and it’s with you wherever you go. This guide is designed to act as a primer for setting up an EDC keychain. There are other, more expensive alternatives to the options shown here (not to scale, by the way), but these relatively affordable starting points should help inspire some ideas. 

Multiple keys for your everyday routine (work, home, car, mail, etc.) can be difficult to keep in order. Luckily, there are several products on the market that can organize keys and keep them in one place. Swiss Army Knife-style frames for your keys allow for quiet storage and a smaller footprint on your keyring. It might take some getting used to with these products at first— instead of fumbling through your keys, you’ll be efficiently sliding out keys in no time. Here are some great ways to stop that awkward pocket bulge or to transition out of that janitor aesthetic:
KeySmart 2.0 ($23): Elegant Swiss Army Knife-styled key organizer.
True Utility Keyring ($11): An affordable, simple shackle system with extra hardware.
KeyPort Slide 2.0 ($29+): A high-tech, high-end retractable key system. Most configurations can get expensive.
BladeKey Bolt ($25): Another simple option for keeping keys together. 
With all those keys tidied up, minimalists can stop here and call it a day. However, because keychain-sized gear can pack a lot of utility without adding much bulk to your essentials, the extra keyring space afforded by a slim set of keys makes for a great place for beginners to start experimenting with new tools. From here, we can assemble a compact or backup EDC system.

Carrying the right multitool for your needs on your keychain gives you much more functionality when you need it, without carrying bulkier, heavier dedicated tools for tasks you might do only occasionally. Some useful features to look for include a decent backup blade, scissors, screwdrivers, a bottle opener, and more. You can choose from traditional Swiss Army Knife and clamshell folding multitools, or the newly popular one-piece multitools which focus more on prying and driving than they do cutting or slicing. Here are some great multitools to start off your keychain:
Victorinox Manager ($25): Everything you need, nothing you don’t.
Leatherman Style PS ($21): Solid, travel-friendly multitool.
Gerber Dime ($18): A complete, unique toolset for your keychain.
Nite-Ize DooHickey ($6): An affordable one-piece tool and carabiner.

The keychain is a great place to keep a backup flashlight because often times, you could use a little extra light when using your keys anyway, such as unlocking your front door or starting your car for a late night drive. With today’s technology, some keychain lights can even match the performance of full-sized lights. Opting to use more exotic battery types like CR2 or lithium ion cells yields even more powerful keychain options for more seasoned flashaholics. For beginners, here are some AAA and button cell lights that work great as backups or as general EDC lights:
Olight i3S EOS ($25): Excellent all-around starter keychain light.
FourSevens Atom A0 ($25): Unique wide beam and useful moonlight mode.
Veleno Designs Quantum D2 ($48): Innovative design for an enthusiast’s keyring.
LRI Photon Freedom ($11): Simple, easy, minimal backup light.

With your keys in place and a backup “core” of functionality in miniature multitools and flashlights in place, you need a secure, yet easily accessible way to carry it all. One common way is to wear your keychain on a belt loop, the other is old-fashioned pocket carry. Wearing keys externally grants easier access, but the risk of losing your keychain is higher. Conversely, front pocket carry is more secure, but takes up pocket space and can cause discomfort or awkward pants bulge. No matter your preference, gadgets like these should accommodate your keychain carry needs:
Corter Bottlehook ($37): Sturdy combination of bottle opener and keyhook.
Nite-Ize S-Biner SlideLock ($5): A locking version of the popular carabiner.
TEC Accessories P-7 ($12): A pocket clip that suspends your keys to prevent pocket bulge.
OBSTRUCTURES Small Pry/Open ($32): A solid one-piece multitool that can serve as a suspension clip or a keyhook.

Lastly, consider all the other gadgets that might make your day-to-day easier or gear you’d want in an emergency. The market for keychain accessories is huge, and it isn’t limited to just urban EDC gear. Explore outdoors or survivalist gear, keychain electronics, phone accessories, and other tools. Here are some ideas of other gadgets that could fit right at home on your keyring that might not be covered in the rest of your kit:
Split Pea Lighter ($15): An impressively small emergency lighter.
Kingston DTSE9 ($6): Lots of storage in a tiny package.
Nomad ChargeKey ($29): A cord-free way to charge your mobile devices.
Mophie Power Reserve ($50): Stay connected, not tied down.
Because of all of the individual components involved, optimizing your essential EDC keychain might require many revisions. It’s difficult to balance adding utility to a keychain without making it cluttered again, and without being too heavy (this can strain your car’s ignition or cause your hardware to fail prematurely). Hopefully this guide can facilitate the process, and you can find a product mentioned here that will elevate your keychain and make your EDC even better. High-res

Keys are an essential item of most everyone’s daily routine. Unfortunately, they can be tricky to manage, as evidenced by some keychains so cluttered they seem to have their own gravitational field. In the fifth installment of Carry Smarter, we explore keychain gadgets and how to optimize your keychain to really unlock its true potential as a mini EDC system.

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As technology pushes us towards a paperless world, the pen has become somewhat of an endangered species. For many, it’s still an invaluable tool, and one that’s worthwhile to carry. If you’ve ever had to borrow a pen and are considering adding one to your daily kit, we’ve got you covered in this installment of Carry Smarter. After consulting with fellow EDCer friends and resident pen experts, Ed Jelley and the Pen Addict himself, Brad Dowdy, we present our top ten pens that are truly mightier than the sword.
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These solid pens from BigIDesign combine a pen and a touch-screen stylus into one sleek tool. Constructed from a durable, lightweight aluminum with a super deep-riding pocket clip, the pens are easy to carry. Adding to utility and durability in desirable features for an EDC pen, they also show versatility by taking just about every refill you can throw at it. One common issue is that the pen becomes long and unwieldy when the cap is posted on the end of the pen, however. If don’t need a clicky mechanism, are particular with your pen refills, and often use touchscreens, this pen is for you.
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Turning heads among pen addicts are the Mover and its smaller variation, the Shaker—newcomers fresh from their successful Kickstarter campaign. Tactile Turn’s precise machining and attention to detail give these aluminum pens a solid, pristine fit and finish. Its retractable tip deploys a variety of compatible refills via a silent metal knock clicky mechanism, which, combined with a deep clip and aluminum body, makes for a great pocket carry. Even better is its feel in hand: a satisfying heft and innovative micro-groove grip pattern put the Tactile Turn pens in a league of their own.
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Inexpensive and unassuming, the Signo UM-151 will surely impress. Despite having a plastic body, it’s surprisingly sturdy, especially with its metal tip. Its rubber grip feels great in hand and Uniball’s excellent ink flows smoothly and consistently for a pleasantly comfortable writing experience. Unfortunately, it’s not as quick to access as it lacks a retractable tip, but at least its cap’s clip lets it ride deeply and snugly in the pocket. Available in almost every color of the spectrum, in various widths, and at an attractive pricepoint, it’s worth picking one up.
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Famous for its pressurized ink cartridge that writes in zero gravity, underwater, and in other extreme conditions, the Fisher Bullet Space Pen unsurprisingly finds its way into the pockets of many adventurous EDCers. Its compact body and smooth finish let it play nicely with other gadgets, or it can be clipped with a decent friction-grip style pocketclip. It writes adequately well, but its real value lies in reliability to work on practically any surface in any situation.
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A longtime favorite among EDCers, the F-701 is another great value for a durable everyday pen. Its stainless steel body and non-threatening, industrial design ensure it can take some abuse and still go to work. A knurled grip keeps it secure in hand while its clip and retractable tip keep it pocket-friendly. The F-701 really excels, however, after a few DIY modifications — swapping out plastic parts for metal ones and some tinkering here and there gives you an all-metal pen with added Fisher refill compatibility. Admittedly, its writing performance could be smoother and its clip could be a bit beefier. But for the price and some effort, a modded F-701 makes for a great entry-level EDC pen.
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All too often I see permanent markers in pocket dumps with scratched up bodies, faded logos, and worst of all, broken pocket clips. With the Stainless Steel Sharpie, you’ll have an attractive, sturdy marker to withstand daily use. Its solid pocket clip won’t be so prone to snapping, meaning you can always keep it ready in your shirt or pants pocket. Unfortunately for those looking for other colors, this shiny-armored Sharpie marker only accepts black, fine tip refills.
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Zebra’s Sharbo X line of multipens is a multi-tasker’s dream and an excellent option for the student or minimalist EDCer. Its slimmest configuration, the LT3, manages to cram any combination and permutation of up to three components—ballpoint, gel ink, stylus, and mechanical pencil—into a solid brass barrel. The brass’s heft helps make the pen a smooth writer. Unfortunately, its refills are small and expensive for how often they need to be replaced.
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For one of the very best pocket-friendly mechanical pencils on the market, look no further than Rotring’s flagship model, the 800. It’s truly a top-notch writing instrument, with a sophisticated, industrial design and solid, all-metal construction. The 800 stands out in particular for its retractable tip—a must-have protective measure on a mechanical pencil for pocket carry. Few pencils feel as luxurious, commanding, and capable as the Rotring. This writing experience comes at a premium, however, so pencil pushers on a budget might need to look elsewhere.
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Tucked away in the scales of one of Victorinox’s best keychain offerings is a tiny, pressurized ballpoint pen. It sits idly on the sidelines, warming the bench for the other fantastic tools in the Manager’s arguably perfect arsenal, waiting for its time to shine. Humble and patient, the pen implement slides out, only when needed, to jot down a number or to sign a receipt, and stays out of your way otherwise thanks to a clever locking mechanism. The Manager lives up to its name, handling most everyday tasks. It’s my both my favorite keychain SAK and the only keychain pen I’ve found that does its job, even if it does write a bit awkwardly.
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Fountain pens are usually less than ideal for everyday carry by design: their fragile nibs are often protected by a loose cap, which is easily lost and a hassle to remove when needing to write quickly on the go. But if a smooth, comfortable writing experience is more of a priority than accessibility and reliability in extreme conditions, the Kaweco AL Sport makes for an extra fine EDC fountain pen. Its ability to post the cap both balances the pen when in use and helps prevent it from being lost. An aluminum body helps it stand up to wear and a compact design ensures it doesn’t take up precious real estate in the pocket, which might be the way to go with a pen that only uses a friction grip pocket clip.
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As technology pushes us towards a paperless world, the pen has become somewhat of an endangered species. For many, it’s still an invaluable tool, and one that’s worthwhile to carry. If you’ve ever had to borrow a pen and are considering adding one to your daily kit, we’ve got you covered in this installment of Carry Smarter. After consulting with fellow EDCer friends and resident pen experts, Ed Jelley and the Pen Addict himself, Brad Dowdy, we present our top ten pens that are truly mightier than the sword.

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Multitools are ounce for ounce the most useful thing you can carry, albeit at somewhat of a compromise. They may never be the best tool for the job, but they’re rarely the wrong one. Recently, the multitool market, once justifiably dominated by Leatherman and Swiss Army Knife tools, has seen much greater diversity with the rise in popularity of one-piece multitools—ultra-compact pieces of metal designed to hang on your keychain with a number of functionalities. In the third installment of Carry Smarter, we list our top picks from both classic multitools and the new wave of one-piece multitools.
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The one-piece multitool trend has not gone unnoticed by the big manufacturers—both Leatherman and Gerber, among others, now sell one-piece tools. Of all the mass-market one-piece tools out there, the Shard stands a cut above the rest. Its simple, functional design features a swift and easy-to-use bottle opener, a decent pry tip, and most notably, a unique 3D Philips screwdriver on its end. Its black coating hardly holds up to everyday wear and tear, but the premature patina is forgivable given the Shard’s price and performance.
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This gem is one of our favorites – we’ve mentioned in another post how much we love it. Few tools are as classy, useful, affordable, and well-made as the Cadet. Victorinox swapped its iconic bright-red cellidor scales in favor of a ribbed aluminum material they call Alox—making the tool not just visually appealing, but also more durable and much thinner. The Cadet’s tool implements are uniformly excellent as expected in a Victorinox knife. Unfortunately, you won’t find scissors or pliers on the Cadet, as it foregoes these implements to achieve a great balance of useful tools and slimness. The Cadet is often found riding shotgun to much more expensive custom knives in a given carry, and understandably so—it’s a real worker that makes any EDC better, regardless of your budget.
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Released just less than two months ago, the ClipiTool is a strong newcomer to the multitool market. It’s a phenomenal tool—compact, inexpensive, and very easy to use. Being a Spyderco design, it unsurprisingly has wonderful ergonomics with a one-hand opening blade, a pocket clip, and an in-hand feel unmatched by any other multitool available. Its blade is also impressively useful, thanks to its full flat grind. The ClipiTool line offers three variants: blade + scissors, blade + saw, and blade + driver/opener. We prefer the driver/bottle opener configuration best, as it provides more distinct functions instead of merely different methods of cutting.
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Of the myriad of options from Leatherman and SOG for general purpose, medium-duty work, none are better than the Skeletool CX. An inconvenient commonality of multitools is that they’re heavy, bulky, and generally lacking a strong knife implement. The Skeletool CX avoids all of these missteps with its excellent knife, robust drivers, and comfortable design that feels great in-hand and rides lightly in the pocket. Perhaps its only minor shortcomings are that its pliers are stubby and aren’t spring loaded. Nonetheless, the Skeletool represents a huge leap forward in design from Leatherman. The CX is the version to get for its better blade steel alone, as its carbon fiber doesn’t significantly reduce weight. Overall, its great medium-duty tools and fantastic knife implement make it a viable replacement to a dedicated pocket knife in your kit.
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If the Skeletool doesn’t have enough tools to get the job done, you have a few options—the Victorinox Spirit or Swiss Tool, the Wave, a few SOGs, and the Charge. Natural selection in the marketplace has shown the Wave reigns supreme. Time and time again, companies release tools designed to best the Wave with little success. Even Leatherman’s own feature-packed Charge, meant to improve upon the Wave, falls short. The Wave’s success lies in its compliment of tools—it has everything you could reasonably need and nothing you don’t. Furthermore, its blades can be easily accessed using one hand, without opening the tool. Its pointed pliers are decent, but we feel their lack of a spring-loading mechanism holds the Wave back from truly being heavy-duty perfection.
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Carabiner-based multitools seem so promising in theory—always hanging around, doing work even when they’re not being used—but they are often disappointing in practice. Although a few carabiners deviate from this trend, none are as awesome as the Carabiner V.3. While it features only a minimum selection of tools, each one is extremely well-executed. An amazing one-piece design outfitted in premium materials, hand-made in small batchces by master craftsman Jens Anso, makes the V.3 easily worth its steep price. 
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Once legendary, Gerber’s quality has declined significantly over the past decade. Compared to the competition, recent Gerber products have suffered from dreadful fit and finish causing multiple major recalls, and exorbitant prices for subpar materials. The Dime, however, is a glimmer of hope for a turnaround to Gerber’s former glory. With its more complete tool complement, the Gerber Dime outclasses the popular Leatherman Squirt as the new reigning champ of the keychain tool market. The Dime was the first keychain tool to feature a useful clam-shell cutter for stubborn retail packaging, setting an example for other keychain tools to follow suit. Its fit and finish varies wildly, but for the price, a good copy of the Dime is a steal.
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In this Internet Age, where a mill and a blog can give rise to a new tool brand, the market has seen a proliferation of one-piece multitools. Peter Atwood is the most famous and his tools are the most sought-after, but the Chopper from TT PockeTTools matches, if not bests the functionality of Atwood’s finest designs. The Chopper is a perfect one-piece multitool—compact, with a great bottle opener and a handy assortment of other implements. The snag edge, just under the pry, is perhaps the best surprise here—enough to tear open a package but not so sharp as to cause concern when stuffed in your pocket. Compared to Atwood’s tools, the Chopper is fairly affordable and reasonably available to purchase (the newest batch will restock in May).
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Multitools are ounce for ounce the most useful thing you can carry, albeit at somewhat of a compromise. They may never be the best tool for the job, but they’re rarely the wrong one. Recently, the multitool market, once justifiably dominated by Leatherman and Swiss Army Knife tools, has seen much greater diversity with the rise in popularity of one-piece multitools—ultra-compact pieces of metal designed to hang on your keychain with a number of functionalities. In the third installment of Carry Smarter, we list our top picks from both classic multitools and the new wave of one-piece multitools.

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The Best EDC Flashlights
Compared to knives, people have only recently started carrying flashlights on a daily basis. In the past, carry options were limited to giant, dim Maglites or plastic Energizer torches. Since then, innovation in LED, battery, and optical technology brought a new generation of lights that outshine their predecessors. These brighter, smaller, and more useful modern lights are worth including in your EDC. In the second installment of Carry Smarter, we recommend our favorite lights to carry with you.
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When buying an EDC light, there are many features and technical nuances to consider. If you’re unfamiliar with the terminology, choosing your EDC light can be daunting. Some features are straightforward, such as a pocket clip, battery type, or output. Keep in mind that while there are plenty of great lights that take common AA and AAA batteries, the best of them will require lithium ion or rechargeable cells. Also, there’s more to a light than how bright it is – generally, anything with more than 100 lumens will be sufficient, and anything over 400 is overkill. Runtime, beam and tint quality, and a good user interface are just as important as brightness, if not more so. Lastly, some terms worth explaining – CRI refers to a light’s ability to preserve colors accurately (think of how your skin looks under a fluorescent bulb versus sunlight), and tailstanding refers to a light’s ability to stand vertically to act like a candle in an emergency situation by bouncing its beam off of a ceiling for diffuse illumination. With that said, let’s take a look at our favorite lights to EDC.

This is the entry level for modern flashlights. Compared to an old Maglite, it’s a revelation – two to three times brighter than the MiniMag on a single AA battery. While it uses a twist, twist-again UI, its modes are well-spaced and fortunately start on low to preserve night vision. The clip is an excellent bolt-on clip, which is unusual at this price point. Most inexpensive lights have flimsy clips that clamp using friction and simply don’t stay in place. Finally, this light tailstands well. A light of this size and price isn’t without drawbacks – on high, it puts out a meager 70 lumens with an overly bluish tint.
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This tiny jewel truly demonstrates just how far flashlight technology has progressed. It’s only the size of a AA battery, but ten times brighter than the colossal, common 2D Maglite. It not only has a screaming high output, but it also has a beautiful medium mode and a perfect, moonlight low. You’d be surprised just how often its dimmest setting is more than enough to get the job done. No light is a better showcase of flashlight technology than the HF-R. It’s called “Holy Flashlight” for a reason.
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No flashlight manufacturer stays on the cutting edge of LED technology like FourSevens does. The super compact Atom AL is one of the most affordable lights on the market to use a staged twisty UI – one that accesses output modes by continuously twisting the head of the light in one direction, without needing to toggle on and off to change modes. If you’ve been turned off by hassling with complicated UIs, using the Atom AL will spoil you – it’s amazingly easy to use. The light is also compatible with a headstrap for hands-free work (or if tremendous dork is more your style).
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While the diminutive D2 comes in at only 1.5” long and 0.5” in diameter, its ability to reach a 100 lumen high is no small feat. In addition to its impressively compact design, the D2 is unique in that it operates using a quantum tunneling composite (QTC) UI. The QTC material in the light varies its conductivity with applied pressure – in the absence of pressure (twisted off), the material acts as an insulator and the light stays off. Twisting the light compresses the material, increasing its conductivity to produce infinitely variable output. Although QTC lights can be inconsistent when dialing in a desired output, the well-machined fine threading on the D2 mitigates jumps in brightness levels and allows for more a more stable, precise output.
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Much like the smooth, heavy knobs of quality, vintage audio gear, the HDS Rotary’s selector ring provides a classy, silken feel and very intuitive user interface. Using the ring, you can seamlessly dial into one of 17 separate outputs, as the jump from one brightness level to another is so subtle, it’s virtually unnoticeable. Additionally, you can select brightness and then turn on the light – allowing for convenient, direct access to your desired output without the hassle of cycling through modes and ruining your night vision. The Rotary’s stroke of genius that sets it apart from the many selector ring click lights on the market is its design. Putting the click button and selector ring in such close proximity allows for one-hand operation. Add to this a 200 lumen output, immaculate fit and finish, and a build quality so robust it turns tanks green with envy, and you have one of the most praised lights ever made. As such, they aren’t easy to come by.
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Jason Hui of Prometheus Lights is no stranger to making quality lights, with his full-sized, custom Alpha flashlights under his belt. The Beta-QR is Hui’s sophomore effort – a smaller, more mainstream production light that maintains the look and feel of a custom light. Fortunately, it isn’t as expensive as its luxurious design would suggest. Its unique list of features starts with an ingenious quick-release method of connecting to a keychain. Above all, it boasts a beautiful and uncommon Nichia 219 emitter, producing beautifully accurate light with a CRI of 93 out of 100.
BUY NOW ($55)

Even for the discerning flashlight enthusiast, the McGizmo Haiku needs to be experienced to understand why it costs a hefty $500. Simply put, there is no flashlight in the world that can fit in your pocket and do things as well as the Haiku can. It can be fitted with a high CRI emitter and operates via a fantastic clicky UI. It’s supernally beautiful and incredibly well made. And yet, the Haiku’s success lies in its reflector – it’s been tweaked and redesigned until it reached an unparalleled usefulness, able to balance the light’s smooth, flawless beam between flood and throw better than anything else on the market. Even though it has a maximum of only 140 lumens, you’ll reach for the Haiku first and frequently for lighting tasks. $500 for a flashlight is quite an investment, but if you need the best, the Haiku delivers.
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One of the best lights in the world regardless of price, the SC52 can do it all. It has the versatility to reach over 250 lumens on a single alkaline AA battery or an utterly amazing 0.01 lumen low for a three-month long runtime. Zebralight has worked extensively and almost exclusively with AA battery lights. While other manufacturers relied on the newest LED or most powerful battery on the market, Zebralight focused on efficient circuitry for the common AA. The result of their efforts is absolute mastery of the battery like no other, giving us a light with runtimes and outputs that lap the competition.
BUY NOW ($64) High-res

The Best EDC Flashlights

Compared to knives, people have only recently started carrying flashlights on a daily basis. In the past, carry options were limited to giant, dim Maglites or plastic Energizer torches. Since then, innovation in LED, battery, and optical technology brought a new generation of lights that outshine their predecessors. These brighter, smaller, and more useful modern lights are worth including in your EDC. In the second installment of Carry Smarter, we recommend our favorite lights to carry with you.

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A symbol of preparedness, the pocket knife is widely regarded as a staple of everyday carry (EDC) gear. A knife is like a truck – just having one expands the kinds of things you can get done. Most EDCers will use a knife for general utility: opening packages, cutting thread, or mild food preparation. A 3” blade and most types of locks will be sufficient to perform these tasks. Choosing the right EDC knife and budgeting a purchase can be daunting. We’ll save you the headache of the trial-and-error process of the upgrade treadmill and present our favorite EDC knives under $350 in the first installment of Carry Smarter.

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Despite ZDP-189 being one of the most technically advanced steels on the market, the Spyderco Dragonfly II manages to stay fantastically affordable at under $75. Its steel boasts remarkable hardness, able to cut down inch-thick cardboard boxes with ease, as well as incredible edge-retention, keeping hair-popping sharpness even after heavy use. It features a full flat grind blade, making it perfect for slicing, and its blade shape (the classic Spyderco leaf-shape) is wonderful for a wide variety of tasks. As a food prep blade, the size is a little small, but as a slicer, it is unrivaled.
BUY NOW ($66)


A graceful beast of a knife, the ZT0560 might be too big for most EDC kits. However, it uses one of the best opening systems in the world—a flipper that rides on miniature ball bearings to keep the pivot smooth and tight. Once you overcome its detent, the blade unleashes with almost poetic fluidity. Although admittedly too big for office carry, the 3.75 inches can melt away when used outdoors on the trail or up a mountain, leaving you with a knife so incredible that it set the bar for large batch production blades upon its release. Three hours of machining goes into the handle scales alone. Despite its bulk, it’s a worthy purchase at around $200.
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The Benchmade Mini Griptilian 555HG is like so many Yankees teams of old – formed from all the best parts available, regardless of origin. Its AXIS lock is quite good, especially for EDC, as it’s both stable and fully ambidextrous. Additionally, you can open and close the knife one-handed via ambidextrous thumb-holes (one of our favorite ways of deploying a blade) while keeping your fingers clear of the blade path. Finally, the knife features a very competent hollow ground sheepsfoot blade with 154CM steel. Its resin handle is comfortable in hand, but some may find it feels a bit insubstantial. At under $100, it’s a great all-around EDC knife.
BUY NOW ($90)

If you want a flipper-opening knife but don’t want to break the bank, start here. The Skyline’s innovative design (“flipper” opening mechanism and only one liner between its scales) makes it uber pocket-friendly – as light and slim as you can find on a knife this size. The steel, Sandvik’s awesome nitrogen 14C28N, is one of the best values on the market, packing corrosion resistance, edge retention, and toughness properties of steel two to three times its price. It also comes in about a dozen different finishes to fit your style (we think the blackwash blade looks cool and hides wear doing so). Very few knives are as good a buy as the Skyline at just $35.
BUY NOW ($35)

San Ren Mu, an experienced subcontractor for many big knife companies, shows their knife-making know-how in their execution of the 605. It’s a cheap gem, but it has everything you really need in a knife. Its classic drop point, full flat ground blade is small but sufficient for most everyday tasks, featuring a great entry-level 8Cr13MoV steel. However, because of its $10 price tag, the 605’s fit and finish can be a bit spotty. If you snag a good copy, rejoice. The better examples of the 605 are easily worth more than a single Alexander Hamilton and represent one of the best buys in the gear world.
BUY NOW ($10)

The Strider PT CC is the master class in grip design, with smooth, convex handle scales, and an excellent forward choil for superior control. There is virtually nothing that the Strider handle does poorly. It seems a bit primitive, but in reality you’ll have both the precision of a surgeon and the grip of a grappler, all in one handle. The lack of a pocket clip is disappointing, but a lanyard can make the knife easy to retrieve. An excellent all-around performer with superb fit, finish, and ergonomics, the PT CC won’t come cheap, however.
BUY NOW ($300)

There is more fervent, frothing praise of the Sebenza than any other blade out there. And every single bit of it is well deserved. Often the benchmark for knives of any price, the Sebenza is an understated marvel of design as well as one impressive work tool (“sebenza” means “work” in Zulu, after all). One reason for the lavish praise is its perfect blade—a clean drop-point with one hell of a hollow grind. The blade’s thick enough to do real work and ground so perfectly that it slices like machines at the deli counter. Newer models come with a well-performing S35VN steel, especially when implemented by a knifemaker like Chris Reeve. Coming in at the upper end of our price range, the Sebenza 21 starts at $350 – a bargain in the opinion of many knife enthusiasts.
BUY NOW ($350)

Pump up the banjo music, and grab a stick for whittlin’ because A. G. Russell’s Barlow is one of the best traditional knives available. The Barlow design, including its defining extra-long bolster, was implemented out of necessity at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to deliver an affordable, good-quality, mass-produced knife. Comfortable in the hand, this Chinese-made Barlow runs 8Cr13MoV steel, which sharpens easily, but conversely doesn’t hold an edge for long. The French cut, or long groove along the top of the blade, allows for easy, one-handed opening while retaining traditional aesthetics. You can enjoy brilliant innovation in a form more than 200 years old for under $50.
BUY NOW ($35)

So you want a cool looking knife? Enter the CRKT Swindle. The Swindle is a design from Ken Onion, and it echoes the lines of the classic traditional knife, the Swayback Jack. With its upswept handle and wharncliffe blade, the Swindle effectively mimics the Swayback Jack while also bringing cutting edge features to the table. Firstly, it deploys via no ordinary flipper, riding on extra smooth IKBS bearings. Its spring-mounted pocket clip rides along the spine, helping the knife disappear into your pocket in addition to keeping the handle clear of any obstructions. All in all, this package is one of the most striking knives on the market from one of the business’s best designers. And at just under $40, the price ain’t bad either.
BUY NOW ($37) High-res

A symbol of preparedness, the pocket knife is widely regarded as a staple of everyday carry (EDC) gear. A knife is like a truck – just having one expands the kinds of things you can get done. Most EDCers will use a knife for general utility: opening packages, cutting thread, or mild food preparation. A 3” blade and most types of locks will be sufficient to perform these tasks. Choosing the right EDC knife and budgeting a purchase can be daunting. We’ll save you the headache of the trial-and-error process of the upgrade treadmill and present our favorite EDC knives under $350 in the first installment of Carry Smarter.

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Top 10 Knives you can buy now Part 2 -
Well, we are entering hallowed ground here.  The under $100 market is and always will be the most crowded part of the knife market and so the knives that have floated to the top here have done so dodging hundreds of competitors.  These are the best of the best and many represent among the best values of any kind of EDC gear.  There are incredibly knives out there for more (the Caly3 and the Chapparal are very good), but if you have a hard ceiling of $100, these are it…
[[MORE]]

5. SOG Mini Aegis (purchase)


SOG has so many knives in and around this price point, blades like the much ballyhooed Flash 1 (which I think is a dud) and the Twitch and the Slimjim and the…well…you get the point.  After disappointing experienced with the Flash I and the Twitch I had basically written off the low-middle priced SOG knives.  I had a chance to get a review sample of the Mini Aegis and boy am I glad I went back into the SOG waters because this is an outstanding blade.  There are a lot of things on this knife that I am not a huge fan of—a thumb stud and an assisted opener to name two, but the overall package is really quite good.  The blade shape is simple and useful.  The grinds, like all SOG grinds, are amazing.  The pocket clip is a good but not great over the top design for deep carry.  So far it is a ledger of features that results in a decent knife, but there is a little secret to the Mini Aegis—its three inch blade is housed in a knife that weighs two ounces.  Read that again.  It is really stunning to see a knife of this size with all of these bells and whistles that weighs virtually nothing.  A standard deck of Bicycle Brand playing cards weighs 3.4 ounces.  This gem weighs 2.  The AUS-8 steel is not anyone’s idea of advanced technology but it is plenty adequate.  If you have sharpening skills is probably better than that.  All of this for around $45 is a true bargain.  It may not be anyone’s darling—lots prefer the Delica or the Flash 1—but as a package the Mini Aegis beats them both in my opinion.  
4. Spyderco Manix 2 Lightweight (purchase)


Its awfully tough to find a legitimate reason to carry a folding knife bigger than 3 inches.  Setting aside their use as a defensive weapon, big knives cannot make the utility calculus work in their favor.  They are big.  They are tough to carry.  They are more expensive.  They startle people.  They are wide and heavy in the pocket.  They can get you tangled up in legal troubles.  And yet for all of those disadvantages, they don’t really DO all that much more work, compared to their 3 inch or less brothers and sisters.  As I think you can tell—I have a bias against big knives.  But oh man does the Manix 2 Lightweight stand out.  This is a very slim knife. Its wide, as all Spydercos are, but it is a true featherweight.  At 3 ounces with a 3.37 blade, the Manix 2 weighs just a bit more than the significantly smaller Delica.  It has a blade of BD-1 steel, an American made Carpenter steel I found to be quite good, similar in use to AUS-8.  Its also relatively inexpensive, coming in around $70.  The one thing that really stuck with me about the Manix 2 Lightweight was just how good it was in the hand.  The finger choil and slim, curved profile worked very, very well.   
3. Kershaw Skyline (purchase)


Reaching the Top 3 is a big deal.  All of the knives on this list are excellent, but these three really stand out over and above the competition.  They are all superior blades in their own right and I would not disagree with anyone rearranging the order of them.  I strongly prefer the Dragonfly, but I can see the reasonableness in making an argument for the other two.  For me, the Skyline represents one of the best values of any single one EDC item (probably tied with the Zebra F-701 pen with the Space Pen mod).  The Skyline works a number of different angles to reach this rarified position—it is very light, the flipper is quite nice and thankfully unassisted, and the overall shape of both the knife and the handle is quite good.  The steel, Sandvik’s 14C28N is easily one of my favorites on the market, performing as good as steels that are much more expensive.  The clip, borrowed from Strider during the KAI USA/Strider collab period when ZT started, is a work of simple brilliance.  The Skyline is the knife that Kershaw made when it really questioned everything.  Do you REALLY need an assist?  Nope.  Gone.  Do you REALLY need two metal liners? Nope.  Gone.  Do you REALLY need jimping on the spine?  Nope. Gone.  That process of reduction, like in French cooking, leaves behind a knife with such concentrated quality that it is better than many blades two or three times its meager $41 price tag.  Oh, and it is made in the USA.  
2. Benchmade Mini Griptillian 555hg (purchase)


The Benchmade Mini Griptillian is a special knife.  Its very good.  But thumb studs aren’t my favorite thing in the world.  But the Mini Grip 555hg actually has a thumb hole, making it significantly better than its studded brethren.  In many ways the Mini Grip 555hg is like the New York Yankees of EDC knives—it takes the best from all over the knife world and puts it in one awesome package.  It has the opening hole of a Spyderco, a lock, the Axis lock, invented by a man and his stepson, then bought by Benchmade.  It has a nice simple pocket clip that reminds me of the simple greatness of an Emerson.  It has excellent jimping all around the knife.  The steel, 154CM, is pretty darn good too.  All of these things, borrowed from other sources, are tweaked just a bit and the end result is one of the best knives in the world, regardless of price.  Yes, I mean that.  You can spend thousands of dollars on a blade and it might have fancier material and nicer fit and finish, but it won’t perform as a knife much better than the Mini Grip.  The entire knife, is ambidextrous, a huge achievement.  You can close the knife without putting your fingers in the blade path, another great design feature.  And the blade shape, a nice modified sheepsfoot, is really really useful.  Finally, Benchmade wisely made the blade just under 3 inches, a magic number as many jurisdictions ban blades any bigger.  Finally, the “hg” has a purpose here, designating this knife as a hollow ground blade, which I strongly prefer for EDC (especially compared to the regular Mini Grip’s flat grind).  There is simply nothing bad about this knife.  Well, okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration.  There is one thing—the pocket clip is placed on top of some really coarse material that eats away at your pocket fabric.  But that is such a small point for such a great knife. 
1.  Spyderco Dragonfly II in ZDP-189 and FRN handles (purchase)

This is the perfect EDC knife.  I have customs in my collection.  I have an XM-18, a Strider PT, and I have owned a Sebenza.  They are all great knives. 
This knife is better. 
I know that sounds like heresy, but it is true.  This knife is a rare combination of performance and price.  Its size is perfect for me.  There is really no reason to carry a knife bigger than this, especially if defensive issues aren’t a concern.  The Dragonfly II can accomplish probably 99% of your daily cutting tasks and it does it with splendid design grace.  The blade shape, the classic Spyderco leaf shape, is wonderful.  The flat grind here is amazingly thin.  The handle is shaped nicely and the choil gives you a full four finger grip on a blade that is slightly smaller (when closed) than half a US dollar.  The blade is well under 2 ounces.  The wire clip is great, a thicker more rigid version of the wire clip found on the Caly3 and other knives.  There is even a swedge, bringing the knife to a needle like tip without making it flimsy.  
But all of the Dragonfly II are this good.  The ZDP-189 FRN version is a step above the others.  First, the steel is truly insane.  With 3% carbon and 20% chromium, this is a knife that can take and hold an edge like nothing I have ever seen.  It can get a little stained, but that is rare in my experience.  I have cut wood, rope, cardboard, linoleum tile, insulation, roof shingles (not recommended), paper, plastic, tape, fabric, rubber, and just about any other material you can think of with a ZDP-189 blade and it stays sharp forever.  That combination of edge holding and corrosion resistance makes this a truly perfect EDC steel—you can just use it without having to be vexed by maintenance.  But be kind to the steel and strop it.  A full resharpen on a steel this hard is a task even Hercules is upset to undertake.  And be sure to skip the fancied up Nishijin handled version—it adds weight and no utility.  Plus it is ugly.  
You can spend more on a knife, certainly, but you probably can’t buy one that is noticeably better in the EDC role than the Spyderco Dragonfly II in ZDP-189 with FRN scales.  Its amazing.    High-res

Top 10 Knives you can buy now Part 2 -

Well, we are entering hallowed ground here.  The under $100 market is and always will be the most crowded part of the knife market and so the knives that have floated to the top here have done so dodging hundreds of competitors.  These are the best of the best and many represent among the best values of any kind of EDC gear.  There are incredibly knives out there for more (the Caly3 and the Chapparal are very good), but if you have a hard ceiling of $100, these are it…

Read more

The top 10 knives available now, Part 1

One thing you will notice about carrying a pocket knife on a daily basis is that it is a lot like owning a truck—there are things you with your knife that you’d never imagine doing before but are a part of your daily routine.  Its hard to explain this to folks that don’t carry a knife, but there is a reason that men have carried small, pocketable knives on them since Roman times.  Carry one for two weeks and it will be a lifelong companion after that.  I first started carrying a pocket knife during a summer job while I was in college.  It was a warehouse job and I broke down lots of boxes and crates.  Now, its just as much a part of my daily carry as my wallet or smartphone.  
But if your new to knives, it can be pretty daunting.  All of the brands and steels can be confusing.  All of the opening mechanisms are a pain to compare.  Worse yet, brick and mortar knife stores are vanishing, making it very hard to compare knives in person.  [[MORE]] Fortunately I have handled hundreds and hundreds of knives and have detailed reviews of a few dozen (found here).  Every knife on this list is a knife I have used and reviewed.  
10. ESEE Candiru (purchase)


On its own, the Candiru would rank much, much higher on this list, probably in the Top Five, but because of its form factor (this is a fixed blade knife) it is both more difficult to carry on a daily basis and more likely to startle people when you use it.  But, it is definitely my favorite fixed blade for EDC use.  You’ll be surprised at just how easy it is to carry, it is very thin and relatively small (probably the same overall length as the Spyderco Military when closed).  The steel is a time tested favorite—1095.  1095 is a high carbon steel, meaning it is not stainless, so this is a knife that cannot be left in the snow, for example.  But it is coated, so that should inhibit rust a bit.  The performance of the steel, corrosion resistance aside, is really great.  1095 is known for its ability to get razor sharp and be very tough and this iteration of 1095 is no different.  In fact, ESEE uses a proprietary heat treat developed by Rowen Manufacturing and the results are great. 
9. CRKT Drifter (purchase)


You can spend a lot of money on a knife and it sill won’t be better than the Drifter.  I have always been on the lookout for great, inexpensive blades and after a lot of trial and error (Budget Blade Shootout here), it became clear that the Drifter is one of the best buys in the gear world.  The G10 version is the way to go as it is basically the same knife, but lighter.  I also like the feel of G10 better than stainless steel.  The blade shape is very simple, and but for a slight recurve, it would be perfect.  The steel is 8Cr14MoV, a very small but oddly noticeable upgrade over 8Cr13MoV.  By following the Occam’s Razor of Gear, CRKT figured out how to make a budget blade really work, spending their few dollars on exactly the right parts to make this knife punch well above is price.   
8. Falkniven U2 (purchase)


This is one of the more expensive knives on the list, but is probably my personal #2 or #3.  It is, however, decidedly trend bucking as it lacks both a clip and one handed deployment.  The U2’s overall package is the perfect balance of time tested elements (the handle, the great blade shape, and the lockback) with cutting edge performance (thanks to the very rare SG-2 aka SGPS steel).  The fit and finish on the U2 rivals the fit and finish on a Sebenza and it does all of this for under $100 in an easily pocketable package.  GREAT. 
7. Kershaw Injection 3.0 (purchase)


If you want a custom Todd Rexford you going to need a budget about 70 times the budget for this series as his customs are among the hottest in the knife world right now.  A custom knife he made for Triple Aught Design sold originally for around $700 and then was flipped on the open market two weeks later for around $7000.  The reason for this is twofold—Todd’s elegant designs and his immaculate craftsmanship.  With the Injection you get quite a bit of that design and a surprising level of craftsmanship.  The blade shape is dead simple—a classic drop point.  While the rest of the knife shows off touches entirely foreign to the budget and mid tier knife categories like a decorative pivot, milled thumb studs, convex handle scales, and faux floating backspacers.  I have a handled a ton of knives over the past few years and if I didn’t know the steel (a tough, sharp, but stain-prone bead blasted 8Cr13MoV) I would have never guessed the price of the knife. 
6. A.G. Russell Medium Barlow


I used to dismiss traditional knives as relics of a bygone era.  But as with many things, as I got older the more I saw the wisdom of these knives.  They lack the pocket clips and one handed deployment that is the hallmark of modern knives, but there is something about the elegant blade shapes, exquisite natural materials, and bolsters that grab your imagination.  If your not ready to jump into the deep end yet and track down a Tony Bose, but you want something different than the horde of black G10 handled knives, look no further than the A.G. Russell Medium Barlow.  This is a spectacular EDC blade with an appearance that will offend no one, a blade shape and size that scream utility, and a trick.  That long nail knick, sometimes called a French cut, is actually cut sharp enough that it can grab the pad of your finger allowing you to swing the knife open one handed.  Its not as fluid or thoughtless as opening a Spyderco, but with a bit of practice you can do it.  You’ll also be shocked at the fit and finish on this knife.  As a sign of the times, it is an American classic, tweaked by the living legend of the knife business (A.G. Russell’s celebrating his 50th Anniversary in the business in 2014), made overseas.  This is a Chinese knife with 8Cr13MoV steel, but its an excellent rendition of the steel with a nice satin finish.  I prefer the cocobolo handles.


Part 2 Continued Here High-res

The top 10 knives available now, Part 1

One thing you will notice about carrying a pocket knife on a daily basis is that it is a lot like owning a truck—there are things you with your knife that you’d never imagine doing before but are a part of your daily routine.  Its hard to explain this to folks that don’t carry a knife, but there is a reason that men have carried small, pocketable knives on them since Roman times.  Carry one for two weeks and it will be a lifelong companion after that.  I first started carrying a pocket knife during a summer job while I was in college.  It was a warehouse job and I broke down lots of boxes and crates.  Now, its just as much a part of my daily carry as my wallet or smartphone.  

But if your new to knives, it can be pretty daunting.  All of the brands and steels can be confusing.  All of the opening mechanisms are a pain to compare.  Worse yet, brick and mortar knife stores are vanishing, making it very hard to compare knives in person. 

Read more

Top 10 Flashlights available now, Part I




There are a huge number of very good lights out there under $100.  Unlike what is happening in the knife market, there is a solid and growing middle in the flashlight market.  I have been fortunate to review quite a few of these lights.  [[MORE]] You can find my reviews here.  Additionally there are three other trends that are interesting and impact the sterling quality of lights you can get relatively little money.  There have three major improvements to lights in the past year or two. 
To start, emitter technology continues to improve.  This has two effects.  First you get more lumens for less power making the two common cells, AA and AAA cells, useful in flashlights again.  It used to be that only power dense lithium cells could deliver enough light to be generally useful, but that is not the case anymore.  You can easily find lights that output 100 lumens, the limit I have found for useful for doing most EDC tasks, and still use common cells. 
Second, as emitter technology improves we are getting better color rendering from emitters, that is, they are producing more accurate depictions of color (see here for more on color rendering).  Another major trend is the improvement in battery technology. It used to be that the only cells in serious lights were CR123a lights, but as rechargeable technology has improved and emitters have gotten better, we can now use a wider array of batteries.  18650s are particularly nice cells, as are CR2s and super small cells like 10180s.   This variety in battery sizes allows for a huge variety in the size and use of flashlights. 
The final major improvement is the significant upgrade to UIs.  Let’s face it, traditional twisties (twist and twist again) and clickies are cumbersome.  Don’t think so?  Hand your light to a non-flashlight person and see how easy it is for them to navigate all the modes based on your directions.  Now we have a wide variety of UIs, the best of which are easy to use.  QTC (quantum tunneling composite) material and magnetic selector rings make managing modes much simpler. 
With all this of this innovation, if you have been out of the market for a year or so, you’ll be in for a big surprise.  Here are the top 10 lights for under $100:
Number 10:  OLight i2 EOS (purchase link is to the more readily available i3, a 1xAAA version of the i2):

This is by far the cheapest light on this list, running about $25.  There are two versions, so be careful.  The one with the friction fit, as opposed to screwed on, pocket clip is crappy.  Get the screwed on clip instead.  The output is about average or slightly below for a 1xAA light, and the UI is old fashioned (twist, twist again twisty), but the form factor is darn near perfect.  The light tailstands well.  The clip is superb (provided you get the right model), and the shape is excellent with no wonkiness.  If this had a better output and a staged twisty (where the light gets brighter as you twist in one direction), it would be much higher on the list.  Seeing as both those things are relatively inexpensive to implement, Olight would be well-served making those changes and going back to the screw on clip for a future release.  This light also happens to be very “normal” looking for a flashlight making it palatable to a wider range of people.
Number 9: FourSevens Mini CR123 (aka M something, something, something)(purchase)


Okay I really hate the unintutive name changes that washed over the entire FourSevens line up about a year ago, but this is still a great light.  Its not as good as other CR123a lights out there because of a lack of a clip and a distinctly ancient, twist and twist-again twisty UI, but it has the beating heart of a cutting edge emitter and with the release of the excellent head mount, can easily switch to being a headlamp.  Headlamps are perhaps the only piece of EDC gear that rivals the fanny pack in terms of dorkiness, but man are they useful (you have the added benefit of  needing it only when it is dark, so you an hide it better than you can the fanny pack).  Despite all of that usefulness, the set up is just unwieldy 99% of the time, when a pocketable light would do.  Having the option to do both with one light is great and another sign that flashlight platforms are the way of the future.  I chose the ML-X (its current proper name) over the Atom because I like the beam pattern of the ML-X better.  The Atom AL is a good choice too, with a better UI and a magnet in the tail (surprisingly useful), but it is a mule light, a light without a reflector, and thus has a very flat, broad beam pattern.
Number 8: Prometheus Beta QR 

This is probably the best light sold on Kickstarter thus, a great source for innovative EDC gear.  The quick release mechanism is truly ingenious solving a classic problem for lights that are supposed to be carried on a keychain—how do you have an easy to use attachment point and still make the light capable of tailstanding?  Jason cleverly put together the quick release mechanism found in pneumatic tools with a truly beautiful flashlight, one that echoes his undulating shape found in his Alpha Pen and his larger flashlight.  The Beta QR runs on a 1xAAA and happens to have an amazing Nichia 219 emitter, my favorite on the market right now.  You can get the Beta QR through Jason’s site eventually, as the Kickstarter is closed now.  It should be available at well less than $100.
Number 7: HDS Executive Clicky (Rotary 200 pictured, but overall appearance is very similar)

Okay so it only hits 120 lumens.  And this bad boy is a fatty compared to other lights in the 1xCR123 format, but it is a beast.  My Rotary Executive feels like it could used as a shotgun slug with very little damage done.  There is a clip for the clicky version and it is highly programmable.  Finally it hits at exactly $100.  What’s the hook?  Oh well you have a better chance of catching a yeti doing a Shammu whale show with Nessie.  Henry’s wait list is very, very long, but if you aren eagle eye you can find one in some of the better specialty sites on line.
Number 6: Lumapower Incendio 

At the end of every car’s lifespan, when the manufacturer is about to change the chassis and upgrade everything, they usually put out a super high performance version of the old car with all of the tweaks and upgrades and improvements they discovered during the life of the car.  The Lumapower Incendio is just that light.  It might be the finest 1xCR123a clicky ever made (its competition is below).  It can hit 500 lumens with the battery pack and there is a hard to find throw head available.  The clip is nice and straightforward and the light tailstands.  Its incredibly small for what you get.  It checks off virtually every box there is for a flashlight, but for the olde timey clicky UI.  I had one and still miss it every once in a while.
Part 2 HERE - Next up, the Top 5 lights under $100. 



High-res

Top 10 Flashlights available now, Part I

There are a huge number of very good lights out there under $100.  Unlike what is happening in the knife market, there is a solid and growing middle in the flashlight market.  I have been fortunate to review quite a few of these lights. 

Read more