Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Keychain, Part VI: Round Up of Random Stuff

This final entry in the keychain series is a round up of random stuff that people commonly carry on their keychains. Personally I don’t see the point in carrying most of this stuff on your keychain—it is a lot of added weight with very little extra use. I didn’t say “function” because most of these things will add some function, but these are generally functions you won’t use on a regular basis.


There are a lot of pens that are designed to fit on your keychain. The out of production Cross Ion comes to mind.

But a lot of these pens are really just crappy cut downs of full sized pens. There are two purpose-built keychain pens that I really like: the Valiant keychain pen and the Fisher Trekker Pen for keychains.

The problem with carrying a pen, besides the potential for leaking, is that even these purpose-built pens are very thin and hence difficult to use for a long time. They are fine for signing receipts, but outside of a restaurant, this rarely happens anymore. Most stores have those annoying “pen pads” or don’t make you sign for small purchases. As a result I just can’t imagine using this all that much—too small for long use and very little short use opportunities anymore.

The added size and potential for it to get wedged in your pocket when you withdraw your keychain are drawbacks that the limited use cannot overcome.


Dozens of folks make keychain whistles. You can drop half a grand on a truly spectacular Atwood whistle like this:

or eight bucks on a plastic Fox whistle. All of them are loud and are designed to help people locate you in an emergency. Most are designed to require very little airflow from you (in case your in a place where air is scarce or breathing is hard). Most of the whistles are very light. They do take up a bit of real estate on the keychain, but not a ton.

My issue is that they just aren’t that useful. Sure they could save your life. So could scuba gear. The problem is that if you carried around EVERYTHING that could save your life you wouldn’t be able to move. At some point you have to draw the line. For me, the line is here at the whistle. If someone drew the line on the other side of the whistle, given how light and cheap they are, I couldn’t really argue with them all that much. Does anyone know how to attach a lanyard to O2 tanks?

USB Drives

If there are a dozen pens, or many dozen whistles, there are probably 10,000 designs out there for a USB drive. Personally I carry around a Sandisk Cruizer. It is made of plastic so its not quite hardy enough to live on a keychain. When I get around to it, I will probably upgrade to a Lacie Key USB design. These are useful and I use mine everyday, but I am a paper pusher, so I can see “make stuff for a living” guys or gals not necessarily needed one of these. Still, you can’t beat the size and capacity nowadays. Some are, in fact, TOO small for me. I can’t see buying one with a cap, it is just another thing to lose, but there are many capless, or attached cap designs out there. Some people use a Micro SD reader so instead of replacing the entire drive they can just upgrade the chip. This seems like a reasonably good idea, but the cost of Micro SD chips is not that much lower (if at all) than just buying a new drive. Some of my favorites are:

1. The Lacie Key USBs
2. Sandisk Cruizer Titanium
3. The Tac Drive USB

Spy Capsules

I am not even sure why they are called spy capsules because it doesn't seem terribly discrete to carry something like this on a keychain. In all seriousness, I just don't see them being all that useful. Small ones won't hold a lot and big ones are just too bulky. There is one exception though--people that need to take medications. In that case, I can see these as being useful because you are likely to have your keychain on you when you are out and about and need to take medication.

BTW: there is a lot of thought about what is the "best" amount of money to carry with you. Here is my suggestion: the cost of the bail commissioner's fee in your local area. It is $40 where I live and that seems like a good amount to carry around--it can buy movie tickets, dinner, or if things go bat shit crazy--get you out of jail (provided of course he or she sets your bail at personal recognizance). Just a thought.


Tweezers can be really super useful, but the fact that they are necessarily involved in detail work makes them less than ideal for "mini" keychain versions and as a "tool on the go." I am always concerned with them coming out of the little sleeve and poking the shit out of me when I grab my keys out of my pocket.

Can Openers

The famous P-38 (and its big brother, the P-51) has been around forever, but the amount of canned, ready to eat foods out there make this unnecessary. Really, when have you thought: "Geez I have that can of Manwich in my trunk and my P-38 or I can just stop in at a local fast food place. What should I do?" A tool from an older age that just doesn't pull its weight in most circumstances. If you are out in the wilderness, then fine, but if your out in the wilderness depending on a keychain can opener you have bigger problems than weight and utility issues involving your keychain.

Suspension Clips and Key Straps

There are a bunch of designs out there, including about million different carabiner clips. If you are Mr. Money Bags you can get Cool Fall's ultra luxe carabiner, the Droid 58, seen here:

You can get a super "craftsman-y" leather one. The Fish Hook is one favorite. Lots of folks like the P-7 Suspension Clip. Still others go for the Munroe Dangler. There are a lot of options out there. I just don't know why they make a difference, if you have planned out your keychain well. If you can't avoid the "janitor" keychain, then I can see having them hanging neatly from your pocket or belt. Their utility depends on the size of your keychain, I guess.

Lanyards and Fobs

If you are debating whether or not to add a fob to your keychain something has gone horribly wrong. Fobs are sort of the paperweight of the keychain world. By design, they don't do anything except add another thing to your keychain in the hopes it makes it easier to extract (why not just use the things ALREADY ON the keychain to do this?). Some have glow functions that allow you to find them in the dark, which I guess is really useful if you need to bail after being with a lady friend but hope not to wake her up. Still, fobs are a waste. A cool looking waste, but a waste nonetheless.

Lanyards are bit different. I think they fall into the suspension clip class of utility. If you have a lot of stuff on your keychain and you can't get rid of it, fine. But if not a lanyard is nothing more than a fob made of paracord.


This comes down to really one lighter--the Peanut Lighter and it is variants. I tried carrying around a Zippo about a year ago, to see if I would use it as part of my EDC, even though I was not a smoker. I never used it. Not once. As such, I think that a tinier, harder to use lighter is probably not worth carrying. If you smoke or need to bind the ends of nylon rope a lot, then maybe you should carry a Peanut lighter, but even then, why not just carry a Bic or a Zippo? The Zippo now resides in my workshop where it is used to do all sorts of things. Mostly it gets rid of noxious fumes from various finishes...yeah, finishes.


If you have the training to use these, I guess they are worthwhile. I can't see a situation in which, as a means of self-defense, you have the time to pull out your keys and wield this guy instead of, say, a can of OC spray, but I am sure someone can do it. For those people, this is a worthwhile addition. There are some really nice looking Kubatons out there, like these. Without that high level of training, this is a larger, meaner looking, and less useful key fob.


There are tons of options out there, flashlights, knives, one piece multitools, keychain multitools, and a bunch of other stuff. For me, though, it is about being as light and a useful as possible. I've opt for a coated mechanic's cable with a Gerber Shard and a LRI Micro Photon. The last piece of the keychain puzzle, for me, is a nice, light, USB drive. If I had the ability, I would add my PS4 to my keychain, but going into and out of courts and jails makes that difficult. I can see carrying a OPMT, a keychain MT, a light, and a USB drive. Really, these four tools make modern life easier and having them on your keychain and always with you makes them loads better. Beyond these things, I can't see the rest of the keychain tools and accessories as "necessities." Some people with other needs can justify carrying whistles, spy capsules, suspension clips, and maybe a lighter. But I strongly recommend to keep the keychain as light as possible. You will have to carry it everywhere you go and who wants dead weight?

For more ideas here is the EDCF Keychain Picture Thread.


  1. Consider a mil-spec dogtag from for your edc keychain. Its a great way to identify it in case you lose it.

  2. Have you ever heard of the Kingston Data Traveler SE9? In my opinion it is the ultimate EDC USB Drive, with a design much, much better than the LaCie Key series. The flat, slim profile lays flush with the USB connector, and the large Gerber Shard-esque lanyard hole seems infinitely better than the Lacie hole, which aims to mimic a key too much. Also the brush aluminum casing seems absolutely bombproof. Granted, I don't actually have one, as I still have my crappy SanDisk Cruzer, which I almost never use, since I have my laptop everywhere I go. Even though the Kingston is only 15 dollars, I have a hard time justifying the purchase since I never even use my Cruzer. However, it seems you would get much more mileage out of the Kingston than I will, so definitely consider it! I'm curious to see what you think!


      as of 11Apr2012 its actually 14 dollars for a 16GB !!