Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wallets

Big Skinny Wallets are on sale, many for 50% off.

I know very little about the wallets out there right now, in large part because I found Big Skinny wallets, bought one, and never thought about them again. It is a GREAT way to carry your stuff. I ordered one about three years ago and though it is not a pretty as it used to be, it is still a super design. Here is my little review of the wallet from EDCF (I wrote this quite a while ago, but most of it is still true):

Introduction

It seems that there is a real debate within the EDC community about what exactly it means to be EDC. There is a large contingent, perhaps the majority of people that stress the “carry” side of the equation. For these people something that is EDC earns that distinction because its “overengineered.” The greater the heft, the more durable the materials, the more it seems to be appropriately labeled “EDC.” Then there is a much smaller contingent that seem to favor design over heft. These are the “everyday” fans. These people concede that something is more likely to get carried everyday the better designed it is. This is somewhat a false dichotomy because everyone that knows what “EDC” stands for likes and, in fact, seeks out durable things. Additionally there are some items, such as Peter Atwood’s keychain tools (a breathtaking masterpiece of design) that are both. Either way, the distinction is useful—there are the heavy duty EDCers and the minimalist EDCers. I am in the minimalist camp.

One place where this distinction is seen in the highest contrast is in the area of wallets. Wallets, even for those that do not know what “everyday carry” means, are truly essential, on-the-person items for almost everyone. T.H.E. Wallet (and its Jr. spinoff from Spec-Ops) and all of the Maxpedition designs are certainly top shelf when it comes to durability, but they are massive. I recently ordered the Spartan from Maxpedition. It had a number of pockets and great features but it was huge. It was so big that would not fit in my work pants back pocket, and that was before it was filled with contents. Spec Ops design (T.H.E. Wallet) has the same problem. It is just too big.

So I began researching slim wallets. There is, unbeknownst to me, an arms race among a few companies for the title of “World’s Thinnest Wallet.” Among the competitors are two, both virtually identical in idea (superthin), but significantly different in design. One wallet was from Big Skinny. It is a traditional design with ultrathin materials and stitching. The other was from All Ett. It also uses thin material but instead of stacking cards one on top of each other, it achieves thinness by putting card pockets in on top of each other (think of a deck of cards versus plates on a dinner table). For reasons explained below I chose the Big Skinny wallet over the All-Ett. As such, this is a review of the Big Skinny.

Requirements

For me there were a few function requirements for my new wallet. First, it had to be waterproof (hence the need for a new wallet). Second, it had to be durable. Third, after the Maxpedition wallet, it had to be small. Fourth, I detest trifold designs, so it had to be a bifold wallet. Fifth, I wanted an ID window (so I wouldn’t have to remove my license for ID checks when using credit cards).

A nonessential element was a more “mature” look. My wife derided the Maxpedition, calling it my “Spiderman” wallet. No matter what I said about its durability and design—she was right (I am saying that here knowing there is virtually no chance she will see this). It did have a “youthful” appearance, to put it best. Another non-essential element was price. I would spend a good deal for a wallet, especially if it did all of those things, but there is a limit (I am a firm believer in the “10%/100% rule”). Tumi has a number of great designs, but like all things Tumi, they are incredibly expensive. I have no doubt of their quality (I have a Tumi briefcase for work and it is simply amazing the beating that thing can take and still look amazing), but their price is so much greater than other wallets that I decided to see if I could find something else for less than a Benjamin.

I ordered the wallet, a Big Skinny Multi-Pocket for $23.95 (plus S&H) off the web and it arrived in two days. I live in the same state that the wallet is made, so it was not as if the Flash had delivered my purchase.

Product Design and Function


The model I ordered is not their “thinnest” wallet. I ordered instead the Multi Pocket (which was a comparably lardy 1/8” while the “Super Skinny” was listed as less than that). The difference between the Big Skinny Multi Pocket and a conventional wallet in terms of size is absolutely staggering. I compared my fully loaded (6 credit card sized cards, some money, and my ID) with an empty “regular” wallet and the Big Skinny was less than half its size.

But thinness was not all the Big Skinny offered. According to their site the bill pocket is lined with a non-slip coating. My inspection of the wallet proved that to be absolutely true. Bills will not fall out due to gravity and they are more secure than in a lined leather wallet, but they are not as secure as they would be in a fasten or Velcro wallet.

The Big Skinny hit all of my function requirements dead on. It was made of some sort of nylon-type fabric (though their site did not specify exactly what it was). Thus far it has been quite durable and seems built for the long haul. It was smaller than the Maxpedition (or any other wallet I have ever seen) by leaps and bounds. You can get a Big Skinny as a trifold, but mine was not. Finally all of Big Skinnies have ID windows. The look of the Big Skinny was more mature than the Maxpedition, and it looks a lot like a standard leather wallet, but it fell short of the elegance and rugged beauty of a Tumi design. The only drawback was a Big Skinny logo on left inside of the wallet. The price is roughly the same as the Spec Ops, Maxpedition, All-Ett, and normal department store wallets. It was about a quarter to a fifth the cost of Tumi’s cheapest wallet, and falls within the 10 and 10 rule in terms of Tumi and other ultra luxury brand’s top of the line wallets. There are of course, even more expensive items, but I don’t think any EDCer is considering a Louis Vitton or Hermes design.

There were three bonuses to the wallet, things I didn’t expect but now enjoy. First, the wallet as a “secure” pocket for all kinds of things (including, as their website references, condoms). This pocket is zippered and even the zipper is durable but slim. Finally there was a plastic flap in the bill pocket. This flap could be used to segregate items in the bill pocket (checks to cash versus dollars) or it could be used to hold an emergency key (as there is a slot in the plastic flap). I tried the key, but it added extra weight and thickness to the wallet, so now it is a divider. Finally, the Big Skinny, even fully loaded is easily front shirt “pocketable.” That makes it very easy to get to and does not do the spinal damage that a back pocket would.

The All-Ett was also something I considered but it achieved its thinness by spreading out credit cards. Instead of stacking them in one pocket, it divided them up in the four pockets, making the wallet thinner (by a hair), but much taller (looking more like a book). If that is not an issue for you then consider the All-Ett. Additionally, I got rid of a bunch of thickness by consolidating my “club cards” at www.justoneclubcard.com.

Conclusions

Overall, I really like the wallet. I say that with no real “purchase loyalty”; I kept the Big Skinny because I liked it, not the other way around. I sent back one wallet and I was more than prepared to send this one back if it didn’t work out. If you are looking for a no-holds barred, could be eaten by a lion and still be held together wallet, then a Maxpedition or Spec Ops is probably a better idea. But if you need something more functional and less heavy duty, seriously consider either a Big Skinny or the All-Ett. I have been very happy with the purchase and carry with me everyday. The only thing close to a drawback is the funny smell that emanates from the wallet for the first couple of days, but that fades quickly and you are left with a great, purpose-built item that will easily travel with you for years. It is not as cool looking as a Tumi, but it is 1/5 the price.

Highly Recommended: Exceeding every expectation, worth every penny.


Two years later, this is all still true. And they are on sale.

6 comments:

  1. Also worth a look is the Deep Pocket Wallet. I don't generally like money clips because clipping the folded edge of bills doesn't seem so convenient when pulling out a bill that isn't on the inside of the folded stack, but this one has a clip that clips them unfolded and them a strap that keeps them folded over the clip. I'm not doing a great job of describing it, but a picture is worth a thousand words:
    Here's the real thing - http://www.deeppocket.com/features.html
    and here's a cheaper ($11 vs $30) knock-off that isn't bad, but has a sloppy fit and finish - http://www.amazon.com/Deep-Pocket-Wallet-Money-style/dp/B000YIEMJS
    I had the real one for about 8 years and loved it. I stopped using it when the tip of the plastic bill clip snapped off (the current model uses a metal clip) and purchased one of the knockoff ones to see how it was. It's certainly serviceable but no one's going to mistake one for the other. I lost the knock-off a few days ago and I'm debating what to replace it with. The Big Skinny looks good and I may have to pick one up after reading your review, but I worry that it may be too wide for me as I prefer wallets that aren't much wider than the width of the bills and cards inside. The Deep Pocket Wallet is the thinnest I have found that satisfies that preference for me.
    Thanks! I enjoy your blog, your posts are very well thought out and practical!

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  2. Nice I am going to check these out. I've been wanting a slimmer wallet for a while now and you can't beat the price.

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  3. Tony, as a follow up, I bought a Big Skinny wallet and have been carrying it for a few days now. I opted for the bifold, I think it was like $15 shipped (on sale). The product really works, my wallet is probably half the thickness, which is great because I have big legs from a decade of weightlifting and my pockets are always bulging (I don't even carry that much stuff).

    Anyhow, this was a great buy. The camel color isn't usually my thing, but the price was right. Thanks again for the great suggestion.

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  4. Have you guys looked at the Slimmy? http://www.koyono.com/ViewSlimmy-Thin-Front-Pocket-ID-Wallet-p/m17546w.htm

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  5. I haven't tried any other wallet since I originally bought the Big Skinny. All these years later it is still working fine. I will take a peek at the Slimmy though.

    Also, there is no "guys." This website is a one man unpaid show. All of the ad revenue goes to reader giveaways. All of the stuff reviewed is either stuff I purchase and keep or stuff I receive and then give away.

    I make no profit on this and receive no benefits.

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  6. Dynomighty Tyvek Wallets.
    http://www.dynomighty.com/

    YouTube: Tyvek Origami: Ultimate Wallet.
    (Make/create/fold your own wallet from Tyvek or paper.)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_1jMH9cHjI

    ReplyDelete