Saturday, March 17, 2012

Skinth OG Review

From the outset you need to know I am NOT a sheath or holster guy.  I try to be spare in what I carry and to that end, I am not going to carry something to carry something else unless I have no choice.  But the problem is in this day and age, we have an abundance of choices, even when it comes to multitools, which for the longest time seemed to be immune pocket clip fever that has infected gear since the introduction of the Spyderco Worker.  Still, there are folks out there that love sheathes and holsters.  A few of those people that happened to be readers sent me an email asking me to review a Skinth sheath.  I contacted the nice fellow that makes them, Eric Au, and he sent me one out for a two week test.

Skinth is a portmanteau of the words SKINny and sheaTH.  Eric makes them by hand in small batches.  Here is the Skinth website.  Here is a thread on how they are made.  Here is an FAQ thread.  Eric sent me a Skinth OG, the product page can be found here.  The Skinth OG base model sells for $35.  The molle straps and delrin buckle are optional upgrades.  Here is the EDCF Skinth Load Out thread (you can get quite a few good ideas there).  As a small batch item there is no price variation and no Amazon information.  Here is a written review over at ToolGuyd (one of my favorite product blogs).  Here is the OG he sent me, loaded and photographed as carried, with an EagleTac D25a Ti in the side pouch and an Leatherman TTi in the main compartment under the flap: 

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He makes quite a few different designs.  All of them have a few extra features that can be added.  The OG that Eric sent me had molle straps on the front flap and a delrin connector on the bottom, both of which are upgrades from the regular OG design.  

Design: 1

It is brutally difficult to design a sheath that works for a wide variety of multitools.  Some are HUGE (see: Leatherman Supertool 300) and some are svelte (see: Leatherman Skeletool).  And designing for the smaller tools doesn't make a whole lot of sense, as those are the tools a person is least likely to carry in a sheath.  My problem with the overall design is that the MT pocket is just TOO big, while the other pockets are too small.  I was carrying a Charge TTi, not a tiny tool by any means, and it was still slip sliding around.  The flashlight pocket is just the opposite.  I was running a VERY slender light, the EagleTac D25a and it was an exceedingly tight fit.  I have no idea how a CR123a light would fit.  My Haiku was about a half inch too big.  I could only imagine what would happen if I were carrying an even bigger CR123a light, like an HDS Rotary or, god forbid, the Moddoolar Pocket.  The overall size of the sheath (minus the extras) is, as its name would portend, pretty slim and I like that, but the mismatched pockets were a problem.  Another problem I have is with the extras.  I like the clip at the bottom (presumably used to stabilize the sheath while it is on your leg as well as to dangle things from), but the exterior molle strap upgrades make this thing GIANT with fully loaded, something that seems incompatible with the Skinth design philosophy.  I also didn't find them useful at all.  More on them later.

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Fit and finish: 2

There is no question that Eric just kills the fit and finish.  The stitching is so straight you could use it for geometry problems.  Everything is tucked in and sewn well.  Not an errant seam or stray thread.  Just great.

Carry: 2

I carried this around the house doing yardwork and working downstairs in my workshop.  I really dislike sheathes in general, but this one was surprisingly out of the way.  Even the TTi wiggling around in the main compartment didn't bother me.  I think I would prefer horizontal mounting to the belt, but this was perfectly fine.

As a side note, I am fairly certain that while useful and easy to carry, sheathes in general are something like female repellant.  This is not quite as much of a guarantee of no female contact as, say, a fanny pack, but it is pretty bad.  My wife ripped on me the entire time and for good reason--sheathes are nice for cops and military guys.  Us regular folks look like huge dorks.   I am not saying that this renders this a bad product or even hard to carry, but if you are concerned at all about looks (and I am not saying you should be, but...) a sheath can't be part of your look, absent a uniform.    

Materials: 2

The nylon Eric chose sits right in the middle of the satin smooth--sandpaper rough spectrum.  It is very nice.  As is the hook and loop material, which is super secure.  I also like the delrin clip at the bottom.  Every piece of anything is well made and fits its role perfectly.  

Accessibility: 2

I really loved how nice and easy it was to get to things on the Skinth OG.  Its unobstrusive carry was nice, but the flap on the main pouch and the side holsters were all easy to get things in and out.  If there is anything that sets this sheath out from the crowd of sheathes (many of which are throw ins with lights and tools) and fanny packs (which, as mentioned above, are slightly more emasculating than a castration) it is the accessibility.  Yes, this is a skinny sheath, but even with all that slimming, it still gets you your stuff fast.  GREAT.  

Ease of Packing: 1

The main pouch has plenty of room for even the beefiest multitool.  The side pouches however BARELY fit my tiny AA EagleTac D25a.  For that, the Skinth OG loses one point.  I can't see a thicker CR123a light fitting, especially when you get into something the size of an HDS light.

Pockets/Organization: 1

The main pocket is fine, but I can't see folks that like anything but pencil-thin flashlights appreciating the slim side pockets.  I also really did not like the external molle straps.  Putting a blade on their defeated the entire purpose of the skinny sheath. Also, I really don't like the fact that the side pockets don't have something on the bottom, meaning your light, when holstered has its most important part--the lens--exposed for damage and scratching.  See what I mean:

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Snaps/buckles/zippers: 2

No real snaps or zippers, but the delrin buckle was nice.  It has a few different possible uses and all were nice.   In particular, if you are carrying the Skinth on a bag you can use the buckle as a tie down point to keep it from flapping all over the place.  

Straps and belts: 2

I really liked the attachment point on the Skinth OG.  The belt loop was perfectly tight and positioned correctly.  Again, I disliked the molle straps on the flap, but they are optional, so I am not going to dock it points for that.  

Modularity/expansion:1

While it is hard to make a sheath modular, it can, if done correctly be used as a small piece of a larger system.  When I had the Skinth I attached it to my Maxped PFII and it was a nice addition.  I did not like the camo color, but that is also something you can change.  There are tons of options out there and the Skinth works will just about anything with a strap that can be opened or something with physical attachment points (I use Nite Ize S-biners as attachment points for some things).  I'd like the main belt loop to be a velcro attachment so that you can attach the Skinth to even more places, but that is not a deal breaker.  

Score: 16 out of 20

I am not a sheath guy and the Skinth did not change my mind (though I don't think any sheath could).  The sheath is well made and just the right size, overall.  There are a few oversights that hold it back though--like the sloppy large main compartment (which I understand is a necessary evil--that large to hold a wide range of tools) and the uber-tiny side compartments.

But to me, those are not the biggest problems.  This is:

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The sheath that came with the Leatherman TTi is both smaller and, in my opinion, easier to use.  The materials are not as nice, but the TTi sheath is FREE (well, free with a TTi).  It also has tight side compartments, but the elastic material is surprisingly stretchy.  The hole at the bottom of the sheath allows the TTi to be holstered in the open position, a huge advantage when doing work.  Its not that the Skinth OG is bad, it is not by any means, but the Leatherman sheath is nearly as good and, as I said before, free.  Free is a hard price to beat.  Without purchasing the TTi, the Leatherman sheath is $6.00.  That too is a hard price to beat.

If the OG has stiff competition in the multitool sheath market, some of Eric's other designs seem to either be light years ahead of the competition or the only sheath in that market.  In particular I like the design of the Skinth SP, a skinny sheath designed for a smartphone, some tools, a light, and a pen.  There is nothing even close to that in terms of quality and design that I have seen. 

8 comments:

  1. Great review!! I agree that the side compartments need to be closed off at the bottom to protect your gear. I am also not a sheath guy but, I also think the skinth sp looks really nice. Keep up the great work!!!

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  2. I always enjoy your posts, good job.

    Should also let you know that, based on your reviews, I've gotten both the Spyderso Dragonfly 2 and the EagleTac D25 that you recently reviewed.

    Thank you for taking the time to do these reviews.

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  3. Very interesting Tony! I had not heard of Skinth before, but as always you do a nice job getting me up to speed. Not sure these are quite my taste, but I can definitely see the appeal. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Tony,

    Thanks for the Skinth review. I had been considering a purchase, and I still am, but I'm going to look extra closely at the various models before deciding, as your point about most CR123 torches being too wide is germaine to the entire point of carrying a sheath in the first place.

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  5. Good review Tony- I actually own a one and overall am happy with it. I had Eric make one for when I go fishing on streams, so we'll see how it holds up this summer when it gets exposed to the elements especially water. The main body part has 2 compartments and has a lot of room. I was a little disappointed with the side pockets size as well, but there isn't much room to work with. I paid $46 total which is high, albeit custom, $25-30/shipped would be a better price point for this especially with much of the production competition coming in under $15. Eric is an awesome guy to deal with, which is nice when you are dealing with getting something custom made...

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  6. Thanks Tony,

    As the creator of the Skinth, I appreciate the feedback and of course, honest opinions. I want it make sure to make it known that this model's side pockets were never meant to hold a CR123 sized light. Mostly aaa and slimmer AA.

    As a small production company of high end products, it isn't really fair to compare to mass produced overseas goods, however it can't really go unnoticed. All Skinths are 100% designed and manufactured in Canada.

    Thanks again.

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  7. Nice review. I have 3 different Skinths and the one that I carry daily started coming apart at about 90 days in service. The stitching at the top of the belt loop blew apart. I carry mine 7 days a week and access my Charge Ti probably 6 times a day and it was not up to the task, too bad as it is a cool idea, just not robust enough.

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  8. Sorry, I have to say thumbs down all the way around. I own three different Skinths and the only one that has not fallen apart on me is the one that is still sitting on the shelf, unused. I carry a Leatherman Charge Ti daily along with a Streamlight AAA flashlight, a small sharpie, and a Fisher bullet pen. Both of the Skinths that I carried came apart in 60-90 days. Neat idea, poorly executed. In retrospect, I don’t know what I was thinking, I guess I just bought into the hype. A good leather sheath only lasts 2-3 years under regular day to day use. Now take something that is held together with b.s. thread, load it down with 2-3 times as much stuff and then expect it to hold up? Nope, not happening. If you are a weekend warrior then it will work longer for you but if you are going to use it as an everyday piece of your kit you might want to think again.

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