Thursday, July 28, 2011

Top Ten Values from the Recommendation Series

There is only one more article left in the Recommendation Series, the more than $1000 price range, and with the sky as the limit, I thought it might be a good time to look back over the series and highlight some exceptionally good buys.

The point of this post is to review what was recommended and find the best overall values. Some "best value" items didn't win the overall recommendation in their price range because value was not the sole criteria. I looked at the price ranges like this: if I had X to spend, given the specs, the feedback from various sources, and the company's reputation, what would I buy. So while the Skyline may be a better value at $30 than the Delica is at $50, the Delica, in my opinion is the better knife for under $50. That said, some folks just want to know PURE value--what is the best buy for the money, regardless of the price range the item falls into. I created this list for those people.

Many of the items are the recommended tool, knife or light in their price range, but sometimes there are items that are great buys, but not necessarily the best item in their price range.

Without further explanation, the ten best values in tools, knives, and lights:

10. Lumapower Incendio: A recommended item, but also one hell of a light. Each year, instead of scrapping all the work they have done Lumapower just updates, tweaks, and perfects this already good light. Seems to have worked out for Spyderco.

9. Leatherman PS4: Until the PS4 was released you were always forced to choose between scissors and pliers in the cheap multitool realm. No cheap Leatherman or SAK had both. The PS4 ended all of that and it is a GREAT little tool. Fits perfectly into a jeans coin pocket or even on a keychain.

8. 4sevens Quark MiNi 123A: If there is one light that you can recommend to someone that cares even a smidgen about performance, this is it. It is not terribly expensive, complicated, or large. A perfect recommendation for the newly minted flashaholic or someone who prefers nicer things.

7. Spyderco Delica 4 FFG: It is not the cheapest knife in the world, but it is darn near a perfect knife. The grinds, the highly refined ergonomics, and the thumb hole opener make this a great improvement to an already great design.

6. Spyderco Dragonfly II ZDP-189: Okay, this is the perfect knife. I don't consider the Ladybug a "real" knife, as it is too small to use comfortably for long tasks (like whittling), so this is the smallest "real" knife with ZDP-189. It is also one of the cheapest, again, losing only to the ZDP-189 Ladybug. But it is such a superior design, carrying the finest steel on the market, all of the updates to the DF design, and the best ergos on the market.

5. Kershaw Skyline: This knife is so cheap for what you get, but ultimately it is not QUITE the performer that the Delica is, so it lost out in the recommendation for a blade under $50. BUT, and this is a big deal, for $25-30 (street price, I got one at Wal-Mart for $25 last week) this is an OUTSTANDING blade. On pure value there is little out there that compares to the Skyline. I am in the process of testing one for review now and the steel has been a nice surprise.

4. Mac's Tri EDC: How can a $200+ flashlight be a great value? Because it performs and is made like a $500 flashlight. Honestly, the Mac Tri EDC makes it SUPER hard to jump up to a McGizmo. The lights have gotten astoundingly good reviews everywhere and with more than 500 lumens out the front in such a small package, everyone should be re-evaluating their designs. Mac's stuff is truly bleeding edge without making your wallet bleed.

3. Spyderco Calypso 3 ZDP-189: I got a Sebenza for Christmas and in doing the research I had narrowed the choices down to four: the Sebenza, the WH EDC, the Strider PT, and the Caly 3 ZDP-189. It was a tough choice, but not between the knives you'd think based on the price. The choice was quickly whittled down to this knife and the Sebenza. The super refined design, the steel, and the Spyderco hole make it an excellent choice. It even has a high tech handle material to give it an extra bit of class. This is a high end knife in almost every way except for price. That, in my opinion, is the very definition of value.

2. Ka-Bar Mini Dozier: dollar for dollar this knife is amazing. Think of it as the Manny Pacquiao of knives--for around twelve bucks you get a very decent blade steel, a nice shape, and a simple straightforward design. The size of the knife is also quite nice, making it a perfect EDC choice. For budget folks, this is the knife, unless you want something bigger, in which case, you could opt for the full sized Dozier or the Skyline. AUS8 for $12 is always a winner and a great value.

1. HDS Executive 120: Thick, overbuilt body, renowned and beloved UI and programming features, plenty of brightness, and a fit and finish reserved for custom lights, and all this under a hundred dollars? Sold. There is no better value in lights than this little puppy. You could buy it now and still be using it in thirty years. No questions about it, this is the best value in lights and tools out there.

Next up, the wild and crazy world of unlimited price recommendations. Also, sorry about the delay, I was under the weather.


  1. So, I have three flashlight tabs open right now. I don't necessarily need to burn money on a toy, but you know... toys are toys.

    I have a Zebralight H31 (original, or at least not like what they have now), and I LOVE IT. I also have a Fenix PD20 (also the original one) and I like it a lot. I had a Nitecore EX10 and hated that thing. So that is your reference for what I like...

    The first (longest) open tab is the one for HDS Systems. I have wanted one of these since I knew about them. Price doesn't necessarily bother me (but I would have trouble going over $150), but there ase so many choices.

    The second tab is one for 4Sevens. I have wanted a 4Sevens light on principle for years. Because they do what they do for us, and interact so readily with us. I like the Ti Quark that branesplode uses, bu now they just have a satin finish one. Which is ok also. But again, SO MANY choices amongst the 4Sevens lights.

    The last tab I have is the LumaPower Incendio that you mention here. I never heard of them, so know nothing about them. But regarding your review, just wanted to know if you paid money for that light, or if they let you use it for the review?

    Based on what I like, what do you think would be my best option?


  2. I purchased the Incendio. The HDS is nice but big. If you small go with the Incendio. If not go with the HDS. HDS is an all time classic, though so if the pros are equal for each light I'd opt for the HDS.

  3. Thanks. Size is important - this will be a back-pocket edc light. But i'm afraid I'm married to the HDS. Time will tell. Might get the Incendio just to scratch that "new light" itch.

    Do you have the HDS and can take a side by side pic to see the size difference? Thanks!

    You should really review a Zebralight (the new H31s are amazing).

  4. I don't have a HDS light right now. I cycle through stuff at a pretty high rate. I am sure someone on CPF could snap a picture for you. Also check Lygte Reviews. He does lots of group pictures.

    If I could afford it, I would love to review the H31. Lots of people love them.

  5. Would you still say the HDS is the best value in lights?

  6. Hmmm...that is tough to say. The HDS is still a very good light, no doubt about it, but emitter tech in the past year has improved significantly. I'd say yes it is still the best value, but I also really like the TCR-1 from JetBeam. It is more expensive, but the package is SUPER tempting Ti light with super nice UI and 500 lumens all for $180. It is like a McGizmo with a selector ring UI and at less than half the price.