Friday, May 31, 2013

SOG Bluto Review

"Now THAT'S what I am talking about..."

This is both my almost 3 year old son's favorite saying right now and exactly how I feel about the SOG Bluto after two consecutive poor reviews of SOG knives.  The Flash I is liked because one of the most influential gear reviews likes it.  That's it.  The knife, stripped of this veneer of popularity is merely (and perhaps at best) decent.  The Twitch II is a little better, but not much.  Both suffer from a soft version of AUS8 steel and fit and finish that really offends, given their not-too-cheap price tag.  These are $40 and $50 knives with materials and finish of $30 knives at best.  After two duds in a row I was about to just write SOG off, which is a shape because they do grinds and blade shapes as good as anyone in the production world.  So many of their blades look great on paper, but the two I had failed to impress in hand.  Oh, but the Bluto, it was different.  It was sinuous and muscular.  It was taut and smooth. Now THAT'S what I am talking about. 

There is a lot about the Bluto that sets it apart from its competition.  It is one of the very smallest knives in the SOG lineup.  It is a flipper, and one of the smallest on the production market.  It was a flipper Axis lock well before the Benchmade 300SN (although TECHNICALLY it uses an "Arclock" which is an Axis lock that runs in a curved or "arced" path instead of the straight line or "axis" of the Axis lock; the differences are laughably small).  It, like many of the higher end SOG knives, uses VG-10, which while not insanely great, is a sizable improvement over the regular SOG AUS8.   The other thing that is strange about the Bluto is that in more than two years of release, it has received almost zero coverage or fan adulation.  That is about to change because I am a fan.  This is a cool, smaller blade.

Here is the product page (with specs) from Blade HQ.  The retail price is around $120-130.  The Bluto appears to be have fallen out of the SOG production line, but they are still widely available.  It has been replaced in terms of size and blade steel, by the hideously ugly SOG Spec Elite Mini (in fact, using the search bar on SOG's site and searching for "Bluto" gives you the Spec Elite Mini's page).  The Bluto is really a micro version of the SOG Vulcan.  All of the design cues are the same.  Finally there are two versions of the Bluto, the blue handled and gray handled versions.  Here is a video something of the Bluto (not exactly a review).  This is the only thing like a written review out there (and a comforting discovery--my photos aren't the worst on the Internet, YAY!).  Here is a link to Blade HQ, where you can find the SOG Bluto, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:

Blade HQ

Finally, here is the review sample Blade HQ sent me:

IMG_0031

Design: 2

The Bluto's design is really quite unusual for SOG.  They make quite a few knives that are positively massive, then they have knives that I consider to be the EDC sweet spot, between 2.5" and 3".  But until the Bluto there was nothing smaller, except the Micron.  But SOG didn't just make a small knife, they made a GOOD small knife.  It seems clear after two years of watching the market closely that SOG really has two product lines--the cheap stuff like the Flash I, the Twitch, and the Aegis lines and the high end line, of which the Bluto is part.  The cheap stuff is marked by FRN handles, AUS8 steel, and SOG's entirely unnecessary SAT assist.  The high end line is marked by better steel, some variation of the Arclock, and different handle materials.  There are some bleed over between the lines, but it seems to me that this demarcation is as strong as the difference between KAI USA's Kershaw brand and their ZT brand.

The overall design of the Bluto takes advantage of the higher end materials.  The blade is a very nicely finished VG-10 shaped into something with a huge amount of belly and, unfortunately, a massive recurve.  More on this below.  The rest of the knife is quite pleasing to the eye (except for the SOG logos) and to the hand.  The shape of the knife is really conducive to lots of different grips and holds.  The pocket clip, which is amazing, is really well integrated into the design causing no problems whatsoever.  The shape is incredibly organic in appearance, almost like some kind of ocean predator, with gills and fins.  I can see why some might not like it, but I kinda dig the appearance.  

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The ratios are okay and they could be better as there is an entirely unnecessary DOUBLE metal liner (the handle is aluminum with a grippy coating and then there are actual liners which are metal as well).  The blade:handle is .70, better than the Delica, but not close to the best (the Al Mar Hawk hit a .84).  The blade:weight is .70 (Hawk 2.81), not a great number at all.  But sometimes the ratios don't tell the whole story.  This is a very compact design:

IMG_0027

Its size makes it an ideal knife to drop in your coin pocket or the bottom inner pocket of your pants. 

Fit and Finish: 2

I knew SOG had greatness in them.  There was something so refined about the grinds on the Flash I and the Twitch II that I knew they could pull off an awesomely polished knife.  This is perfect evidence of that.  Nothing jiggled or wiggled and every edge and surface gleamed.  The lock pin on the Axis...oh whoops ARC lock looked like a button on a piece of high end jewelry or part of a four figure watch.  Without the completely unnecessary SAT assist opening there was no blade play in the knife at all and nothing was sharp that wasn't supposed to be.  SOG can run with the big boys in terms of fit and finish.  You just have to pay a little more.  The finish on the Flash I was below the Delica, but not by an amount the price would indicate.  The finish on the Bluto is better than that of the Delica and this time it seems to walk in lockstep with the commensurate increase in price.  One weird thing to note, the texture on the handle while very effective seems strange, like it is a piece of wax melted on to the handle.  It never showed any signs of chipping or peeling, but it was unusual. 

Grip: 2

There is a bit of wizardry here because this is, as you can see above, a tiny knife, but in hand it feels much larger.  In part, this is because of all of the curves and cuts on the handle's profile, but it also has to do with good jimping, a nice finger guard formed by the flipper, and the dip on the spine of the blade which makes an excellent resting place for your index finger in precision, scalpel type cuts.  Very, very good, perhaps second only to my beloved Dragonfly among sub 2.5 inch blades.  

Carry: 2

The knife, despite is name and weight, actually carries quite nicely.  The shape is completely unoffensive in the pocket and does well when being retrieved.  The pocket clip is simply brilliance, but more on that later.  

Steel: 2

VG-10 is perhaps the quintessential 1 point steel.  It does a lot of things decently, but nothing exceptionally well.  I have often been disappointed in its cutting performance on Spyderco blades because I have usually had knives with very little belly, like the Delica.  But even on the Junior I wasn't too impressed.  Here on the Bluto though It was very good.  It held an edge for a long long time even with tough cutting chores.

I modified my informal cut tests and made them more consistent.  In these cut tests, this VG-10 did quite well, better than the 1.4116 steel of a SAK Cadet, better than the 8CR13MoV of the Cryo, but behind the S35V of my EDMW.  In these formalized cut tests, I cut paper, cardboard, and wood.  I would cut the medium and then try to shave.  I would then resharpen each blade to shaving sharp and do it again.   Here are the results:

  1. Victorinox 1.4116: Paper: 8; Cardboard: 2; Wood: 3
  2. Kershaw 8CR13MoV: Paper: 9; Cardboard: 4; Wood: 14
  3. SOG VG-10: Paper: 30; Cardboard: 5; Wood: 15
  4. S35VN: Paper: 56+; Cardboard: 11+; Wood: 74+
The methodology is far from perfect, but it may be better than nothing ("may" being the key word).  Essentially the S35VN didn't stop cutting.  I could have kept going indefinitely, it seemed.  I stopped where I indicated because the passes were not effortless (again a poor standard to use).  This performance seems better than what other VG-10 blades have given me, but they have all been from Spyderco, so may it is SOG's steel.  Either way, this VG-10 performed much better than average.  

Blade Shape: 0

The cut test also revealed something else: the recurve stinks on anything other than cutting paper.  The blade is so small that it got in the way when cutting wood.  You can't cut close to the pivot on anything thicker than cardboard without the pronounced belly getting in the way.  Plus, it was a bitch to sharpen.  A normal, straight edge into a good belly would be awesome, but alas that is not what we get here. 

IMG_0033

I had originally though that the recurve was the boost in performance, but I tried cutting with the belly and it worked just as well.  Recurves work by changing the approach angle on materials, but in a blade this short you can't leverage that advantage enough to make the recurve worthwhile.

Grind: 2

SOG knows grinds like Bo knows baseball.  Seriously, they have the best most even grinds in the business, approaching custom levels, even on cheap blades.  The Bluto is no different.  This is an excellent grind.  The luster and sheen from the satin finish is so nice it is almost hyponotizing.

Deployment Method: 2

Okay, so a flipper on a knife this small is really hard to pull off.  Add in the extra difficulty of making a flipper work with the Axis/Arclock format and it is best to say that it is merely decent here.  BUT and this is a bit point, it works.  It is actually better than the flipper on the Benchmade 300SN.

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I preferred the thumbstuds and you can flick the knife open using just them, so this gets a 2.  Alone neither would warrant that score, but choices (and good ones) earn the higher number.

Retention Method: 2

Knife designers--this is not that complicated.  See:

IMG_0014

Deep carry, low ride without all of the funky issues of the Flash I clip.  The Bluto's clip is as simple as it is excellent.  The only thing I don't like is the SOG logo, but really, who cares?  If you make a clip this awesome you should be able to brag, just a little.  It never snagged, slipped, or let go--perfect.  This is among the best clips on the market--right up there with the Spyderco wire clip, the Buck deep carry clip, and the Sebenza double dip clip. 

Lock: 2

For EDC use the Axis/Arclock is quite good.  I don't like the steel pimple look around the pivot, but really the parts are so polished it is kinda fun to fidget with.  This lock is plenty fine.  

Overall Score: 18 out of 20

There aren't a whole lot of classy, small knives in the SOG line up that have decent fit and finish.  This might be the only one.  Additionally, for whatever reason this seems to be a market niche that only Spyderco can pull of well, though the Benchmade Shoki and Megumi might prove otherwise.  If you are in the market for a small modern pocket knife, but Spyderco's style is a turn off, take a look at the Bluto.  It is a small, well-crafted, underrated blade.    

Monday, May 27, 2013

Red Oxx Metro Review

If you come here for tactics advice, you are coming to the wrong place.  If you come here for survival tips, I am afraid you will be disappointed.  But if you come here for insights (hopefully useful) into finding better versions of stuff we use everyday, you are in the right place.  We all have things in our lives that make us carry stuff, so why not make it good stuff?

Of all the things I use everyday, as a lawyer, a briefcase is at the top of the list.  I had a massive and massively expensive Tumi bag (reviewed here) for years, throughout law school and the first 8 years of being a lawyer, but research showed me that there were small companies, companies not necessarily stocked by nationwide chains, that provided superior design, quality, and materials at BETTER prices.  Tumi stuff is good, but this new generation of bags and packs are just straight up better.  Tom Bihn stuff is in that group and after a month married to a Red Oxx Metro, I can tell you Red Oxx is as well.  These companies make the economics of purchasing a Tumi bag ludicrous.  You get so much more for so much less, going elsewhere.  Let be known I am not a Tumi hater.  I have owned three different Tumi bags over the last 15 years, but the market has evolved and they have not.

One of my very favorite bag and pack sites is One Bag.  Not only does it offer good advice on HOW to travel, it also offers wisdom on WHAT to take with you.  Reading One Bag is where I was first introduced to Red Oxx.  Their Air Boss was designed in conjunction with One Bag's creator, Doug Dyment, and to say it is a success is like saying the speed of light is fast.  Everyone in the know, every world traveler, has, at some point in time bought or at least marveled at the Air Boss.  My aunt and uncle in law were true world travelers, going on exotic, "blend with the locals" vacations for years.  These elaborate affairs would take them to Morocco or India for a month.  They would pack very light and both were thrifty (which is how they afforded such awesome vacations), but both had an Air Boss.  Years before I wrote this site, years before I knew what EDC was I checked out their paired Air Bosses in silent reverence.  I knew I was in the presence of great design.

Red Oxx has military gear in its blood, the founder and his family have deep and abiding ties to the US Armed Forces and it shows in their design aesthetic.  If Bihn is cool and collected, Red Oxx is rugged.  The buckles and snaps look like they could be used to moor aircraft carriers and the zippers bear faint visual similarities to a chainsaw blade.  Since their founding they have done very well on the internet, with fans regularly posting pictures from exotic locales and folks raving about their stuff on travel pages.  There are, funny enough, quite a few Bihn v. Red Oxx articles too.   Seems I am not the only one to notice their shared market space. 

Here is the product page for the Metro.  It sells for $140.  Here is a written review.  There are no video reviews.

ASIDE

Why are there so few good pack reviews on YouTube?  We get 3,451 reviews of the Spyderco Delica, 2,996 of which consistent of someone reading the specs from the website and opening and closing the knife on camera, but not a single video review of the Red Oxx Metro.  Anyone looking to start a new niche on YouTube--do video reviews of packs and bags and cover stuff other than Maxpedition.    

END ASIDE

There are two ways to get a Red Oxx bag.  Buy one from them online or in person if you happen to be going to Billings, Montana.  Finally, here is the review sample Red Oxx sent me:

IMG_0041

Design: 2

The design is not a subtle one.  The black accents, the thick straps, the rugged zippers, and the buckles all tell you this is a bag built to take a beating.  This not a fancy leather number.  It will not be mistaken for a ritzy "attache" but it will be around long after all but the most expensive briefcases of those types have been sent to the junkyard.  Some folks commented that the bag was too rugged looking, but others loved it.  It does have a polarizing appearance, but I happened to like it a lot.  It does not quite have the MOLLE laden, tacticool Maxpedition look, but it is significantly more rugged looking than Bihn bags or Tumi stuff.  If you like that, and I do, you will appreciate the rugged look because this is a rugged bag.   

The Metro is stiff enough to stand uright on its own and remain open when placed that way on the ground (which is great for packing)  It is the smaller of the two briefcases from Red Oxx and it is still a larger than average briefcase.  It it not as deep as the Tumi was, but is a little wider.  It is about the same height as the Tumi and the Bihn Cadet.  Here is a size comparison to a standard 8 1/2" x 11" sketchpad:

IMG_0044

The extra width is, as far as I see it a plus.  More on this below.

Fit and finish: 2

The fit and finish is superlative.  The materials aren't as satiny as the nylon that Tumi uses, but there is no question that the construction on this bag is superior to anything in its $140 price range.  None of the horde of Targus, Brenthaven, etc. junk bags at Staples even comes close.  The chromed buckles are a giveaway here, an eye wink to those that love details like we do, that this is something special.  The Monkey Fist zipper pulls are another eye wink.  Sure they could have done something simpler, but it wouldn't be as effective or as cool.  

Carry: 2

For a bag this big, it carried very well.  It is hard to describe just how busy my work schedule has been recently.  In 9 years I have never been as busy as I have been in the past month.  That is a lot of in and out, thrown down and picked up.  But the Metro handled it with ease.  An arm full of folders and a fist of pens didn't even make the Metro's perch on my shoulder precarious.  The Claw Shoulder strap is largely why.  This may be the best strap on the market.  It is certainly in the top two or three.  It totally changes how this bag carries and makes it almost magnetized to your shoulder.

Materials: 2

Every piece of fabric seems built for the dirtiest trench warfare and the straps seem like mountain climbing cordage.  Even the paracord Monkey Fist zipper pulls are top shelf stuff.  Rugged and very nice.  Again, I like the coarse look, but for more refined places it might be a drawback.  I felt like I was closer to the line of "too causal" for court compared to the Cadet, but it wasn't like carrying a messenger bag.  Bear that in mind when considering this bag.  Setting matters. 

Accessibility: 1

Effusive praise abruptly ended.  Sorry.  Very, very few things are perfect.  And here the flaw is singular, but important.  I love the big pockets up front and the bottle pockets on the side.  I love the two quick access panels as well.  But I really don't like the fact that the pen pocket is accessible ONLY from inside the main compartment.

IMG_0049
 
There are a lot of times that I am carrying a briefcase where I need to get a pen or other small item and having to open the main compartment and rummage around files makes this difficult.  I would imagine that folks that don't need to use pens a lot wouldn't even notice this issue, but for me, it was a hassle.  I would note that the size of the main compartment's opening is quite large, meaning that never felt like I was stuffing things into the bag.  The extra width also meant it was easy to retrieve things.  The hand straps with snaps are unnecessary and can block access, but this is not a big deal at all.  In the end, everything is accessible, except for the pen and small object compartment, something I use everyday, hence the 1.

Ease of Packing: 2

The compartments are large, the openings massive, and the layout, other than the pen organizer, is top notch.  I really like the location of the water bottle holders as well, easy to get to and easy to lash a bottle to the shoulder strap.  Even the interior pen organizer, as bad as it is to have it inside the bag, is easy to load.  Some of the pockets are little long for pens, but they are easy to force out the other end if they start slipping.

Pockets/Organization: 2

The Metro has all of the standard pockets--pen pockets, quick access ("magazine pouches") on the outside of the bag, and two handy water bottle pockets on the ends of the bag.  Everything is well laid out and just the right size.  I even like the front pockets, despite the fact that they are as discrete as a traffic cone.  One thing missing, which I am not quite ready to penalize briefcases for, is the lack of a dedicated cellphone pocket.  The Cadet has one and I absolutely love it.  The Metro would do well to have one (or to make one of the existing pockets padded and smaller).  It is a point to bear in mind, but not a deal breaker.  If the other pockets weren't so good, I'd dock the bag a point for it, but the rest of what you get are very good indeed. 

Snaps/buckles/zippers: 2

This is where the Metro starts to pull away from the field.  Everything here is insanely solid, overbuilt, and easy to use.  I feel like I could saw 1/4 inch sheets of veneer using the zippers, they are so beefy.  The buckles, as I mentioned before, look like they could moor an aircraft carrier to a dock.  Everything is just so stout.  I love it.

IMG_0046

The snap shackle on the shoulder strap is excellent, never coming undone or dislodged.  It rotates smoothly and snaps into place with an authoritative click.   

IMG_0045

There are two drawback to all of this beefiness and the first is probably something you have already guessed--the looks.  The second is a bit more subtle and something that comes to your attention only after prolonged use--all of this metal hardware can be loud and clangy as you walk around.  As I said, I don't mind the rugged look, but I could do without the "walking around in chainmail" sound that accompanies your hurried arrival.  I don't consider this a dealbreaker at all and given that is it caused by ultrarugged components it is a tradeoff I am willing to make.

Straps and belts: 2

The shoulder strap is called The Claw.  It could also be called the Tongan Death Grip, but I think Vince McMahon owns the trademark on that phrase.  Both are appropriate because once on your shoulder the strap will not move.  Would be muggers will leave their arm behind as they try to grab and dash your bag.  Removing the bag quickly may also remove your suit jacket or shirt.  But all of this tackiness serves a wonderful purpose--the Metro is the most secure briefcase I have ever carried on my shoulder.  I put it in place and it stayed put.  

IMG_0050

The rest of the straps are nice (though the snap cover on the handle straps is unnecessary and annoying), but really they just don't do the literal heavy lifting.  They are fine.  The Claw is amazing. 

Modularity/expansion: 2

At first I could not figure out why Red Oxx sent me a Nomad shaving kit with the Metro.  Then I did some research on their site and saw that the shaving kit also worked like a packing cube. It fit inside the Metro perfectly and would make a great place for cables and wires and the like, should you use this as a computer bag (it would serve fine in this capacity for even the largest laptops).  There are a few accessories available through Red Oxx, like the cellphone holster, but the packing cube idea is a good one and gives this bag some flexibility.  I still like Bihn's expansion capacities a bit better, but the Red Oxx outpaces the Tumi and the most of the rest of the field by a mile. 

Overall Score: 19 out of 20

The Metro will probably outlast a dozen suits, but it may not look perfect being paired with one.  I am more concerned with how it works rather than how it looks (and I like the looks), but again, keep this in mind.  If you need a bag to haul stuff, or carry a briefcase on a jobsite, absolutely ignore my concerns with its rugged appearance, but if you are going into a boardroom or a courtroom be prepared for the statement this bag makes.  The smart people in the room that are travelers will undoubtedly recognize the Red Oxx look from their Air Boss and give you a few mental bonus points, but some folks might wonder why you are bringing your Army rucksack with you.

Frankly I don't care that much.  I'd rather people think I am a person concerned with substance over style, so I am not worried about what the Red Oxx Metro says style wise.  This is one hell of a briefcase.  Bigger than my Cadet but smaller than my old Tumi, this is probably the best size for most people, based purely on Goldilocks logic.  It takes a beating and still looks fine.  It has tons of well placed and well designed pockets.  The shoulder strap is the industry standard.  There are still some things to work on, like an external pen organizer and a dedicated, padded smartphone pouch, but other than that, the Metro rocks.  And it will last as long as one too.     

Friday, May 24, 2013

GearPull Review

I have long thought of myself as a minimalist in many regards.  I am not a fan of Baroque music or Jazz Fusion.  I prefer the simplicity of a Winsdor chair to the modern HG Giger looking office monstrosities.  And I like a very specific kind of gear.  No sheathes, no lanyards, no silly doodads, just good, simple gear.

But sometimes you want a little more...

I love the Alox Cadet.  It is one of my very favorite pieces of gear ever but geez I could really go for a pocket clip of some sort.  Short of a full on mod there is no real easy way to drop one on the Cadet.  But lots and lots of people that had the same problem that I did, went into the shop and solved the problem.  The entire "pocket hook" product genre came out of an innovation by custom knife maker Deryk Munroe.  Munroe's absolutely exquisite custom knives were too beautiful to mar with a pocket clip and so he designed the Munroe Dangler.  Here is the original Dangler:


Murone's design evolved over time into a truly amazing OPMT design, the Mega Dangler:

Image courtesy of the Awesomer.

After the Munroe Dangler, Tec Accessories came out with a very inexpensive pocket hook, the P-7 suspension clip, seen here:


Image courtesy of Tec Accessories.

All of these are good, but I always thought it would be nice to have one that carried more stuff.  Not a ton more, but just one more thing.  The pairing of a flashlight and a small pocekt knife on a pocket hook of some sort would be awesome.  That represents my EDC like 95% of the time, so a pocket hook that could carry both would be ideal.

Enter the GearPull.

The GearPull is still in testing stages and it will be released via a Kickstarter that begins in June.  Campaign will go live sometime before the 2nd week in June.  The items will ship in October.  There will be at least three different materials available--C110 Pure Copper, C464 Naval Brass, C770 Nickel Silver, CP2 Titanium.    Here is a shot of the GearPull from its maker, in a variety of metals:


I was contacted by Gamble Staempfli, the GearPull's maker, through EDCF.  Here is his website, which has the GearPull on it, among other things.  He asked if I could the GearPull, which can properly be seen as the evolutionary next step in the pocket hook market.  Here is the review sample on its own:

IMG_0036

The design of the GearPull is quite simple, as are all pocket hooks, but there a few touches that take it to the next level.  First, the pull tab is quite well done, allowing for instant, thoughtless extraction.  Second, the overall design is very light thanks to a series of holes.  These holes also provide the GearPull with an interesting aesthetic.  I would note that the spacing between the hole and the edge of the GearPull is just about right, making attachment of split ring devices relatively easy (or at least as easy as possible given the limitations of the split ring in general). 

The GearPull is actually quite small.  It is also featherlight, clocking in at .52 ounces.  Here is a comparison to the Zippo:

IMG_0039

And here is a profile shot to show you its thickness.

IMG_0038

Finally, here is a shot of the GearPull loaded up with two of my favorite pieces of gear, the Aeon Mk. II and the SAK Cadet:

IMG_0005

In the two weeks or so of using the GearPull almost exclusively I noticed a few things.  First, people loved it when it came up on the Twitter feed.  Second, it works exceptionally well, truly great, in thicker material pants.  Blue jeans, my TAD Gear Pants, and other similar material works well.  Here it is, riding in my pocket:

IMG_3937

In lighter pants, like dress slacks it did not do too well.  Finally, I never had it work its way out of my pocket.

The overall fit and finish of the prototype I was sent was quite good.  All of the holes were aligned, all of the edges eased or chamfered, and the clip itself was perfectly shaped and angled.  The tab was also well done.  Nothing was substandard in the least.

One concern I had was the gear bumping and scratching each other.  Admittedly I chose two really hearty pieces of gear, so this is perhaps not a perfect test, but in the two weeks I used it, there were no problems with scratches or dings.  I would image that less durable stuff would show some wear as the items hang very close together.  You can probably add three more items to the GearPull beyond what I had pretty easily but that would likely compound the problem.

Another concern I had was the entire GearPull + gear would sway and swing uncomfortably in the pocket.  This proved to be the case, but only with very thin pants material, something like dress slacks.  In jeans and other, similarly thick material, there was no problem whatsoever.  This might seem like an issue, but really, how often do you need something like this with dress slacks?

The overall appearance of the GearPull was something that inspired polarizing feedback.  Gear geeks like us LOVED it.  Each post on Twitter resulted in quite a few comments back.  Clearly this is something that we will like.  But for others it seems like a bit of gilding the lily.  My wife commented a few times on not understanding why I needed this (and let's be honest very little of our gear purchases fall into the "NEED" category).  Then she explained that it seemed silly to carry something that enabled me to carry other things.  I handed her her purse in response.  Still, I can see her point.  You are carrying something that enables you to carry other things and many of the things I carried on this were smaller than the GearPull itself.

But if you put aside your EXTREME minimalist impulses for a second you realize that the entire GearPull + torch + Cadet, as I set it up above, weighs in at roughly three and half ounces and offers a load of utility for very little weight.  This is an accessory for your gear, make no mistake, but it is an awfully useful, well made, good looking accessory.  But like the best accessories, the GearPull is a utility force multiplier.  It is not simply that you add the utility of your light to the utility of your knife, the GearPull makes both handier for being together in one, physically attached package.  For all of the awful light/blade combos out there, ones where the two are actually built together, few, if any, perform as well as the pair I had above attached to the GearPull.

One final note, there are some instances in which the GearPull added to the item, such as giving you something extra to hang on to with the itty bitty Aeon, and other places were it took something away, like making tools slightly less accessible on the Cadet.  In the end, after two weeks, I found that these generally balanced each other out, but if I had to make the call I would say that it was not perfectly even--adding versus subtracting.  In tight spaces, like fixing a door knob with the Cadet, the GearPull did hamper it's use to some small degree and this was more of a pain in the ass than the additional length was a help.  It is not a huge negative, something like helpful 4.5 out of 10 times versus harmful 5.5 out of 10 times.   Additionally, the GearPull never completely shut down the Cadet, and I am sure other pocket hook devices would have had the same problem, but it is something you should know.

Overall, this is an interesting addition to the carry options available to folks.  This is an object of beauty, good design, and impressive craftsmanship.  It may not be strictly necessary, but it is quite nice.  Aside from awkward carry in slacks, this thing is a dream in the pocket and my gear didn't look worse for wear residing on it for two weeks.  If this offends your minimalist sensibilities, try it for a few days, and I fairly convinced that you will like it.  Plus, it looks awesome in pocket dump pictures.  Watch Kickstarter, another sweet EDC gadget is on its way.    

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Zebralight SC600 Mk.II Review

This is the first of many things for the site: the first thing reviewed from the new sponsor; the first Zebralight reviewed; and the first production 18650 I have reviewed.  More than all that though, this is just a great light.  It is not as elegant as Jason's Prometheus light, but in many, many ways this is the Paramilitary 2 of flashlights--small and light for their capabilities, insane flexibility, and slightly rough around the edges.  These two items would make a light&saber pair that could, quite honestly, last you a lifetime and perform any and all tasks you could ever need them to do.  There is room for improvement here, but it all nibbling at the edges.  This is simply one hell of a light.

Looking at the specs and the size of the light tells you a lot, but sometimes all of those numbers can be misleading.  Lots of things have good bullet point lists and turn out to be less than the sum of their parts (the Kershaw Cryo, for example).  But here, the bullet point list is very representative.  This is a light that can match a car headlight and yet dribble out the lumens on moonlight mode.  And it does all of this in package not that much bigger than the McGizmo Haiku.  There is a reason this thing has been sold out everywhere--it is a great deal.

Here is the product page.  The light, when available, runs about $95 or there about.  It runs on a rechargeable only 18650 battery.  That is simply the cost of hitting lumens counts this high.  The Mk. II is shorter than the Mk. I, has longer runtimes and higher max output.  Differences are discussed on this thread at CPF.  Here is a video review.  Here is a written review.  Both reviews are selfbuilt reviews and both are of the Mk. I.  I think this is the first review of the Mk. II.  Here is the review sample I was sent:

IMG_0004

You can purchase the SC600 from E2 Field Gear and get a discount of 8% using the coupon code "Commentary" and the sales benefit the site and its giveaways.  Also, Mike is running a special just for the SC600 Mk. II.  Mike is offering $5 preorders on the SC600, as they are out of stock just about everywhere.  When they come in, you will get $5 off the price.  If pre-orders exceed inventory customers will be given the opportunity to wait for the next lot or receive a refund of their $5. 

Design: 2

The side switch on a light is a great idea when properly executed.  The original run of Zebralights had to the switch too exposed resulting in lots of accidental activations.  Not anymore.  The switch is sunk in deep into the head of the light making accidental activation almost impossible.  But the innovations don't stop there.  This is a tiny, tiny light for its lumens output, staggeringly small.  It is significantly smaller than the G2X Pro and three times brighter, an amazing innovation.  Nothing feels funny about the size either.  The diameter is just perfect, the placement of the switch is just right, and the overall layout of the light is great.  I'd love a washer style clip, but, well...

The numbers are very strong with this light.  The lumens:weight is 204.5.  Total lumens output is found on a low setting 2.8 lumens for 280 hours for a max total lumens output of 47,040.  Note this is based on the Mk. I specs, as the Mk. II specs are still not available.  Assume this will have a better total lumens output number by a significant margin.  Both numbers crush the old records which were held by the G2X Pro (total lumens output was around 19,800).  This thing is an absolute beast.   And it is a beast in a tiny package (compared to the MiniMag):

IMG_0015

Fit and Finish: 2

The upgraded switch recess is probably the biggest deal for the Mk. II.  Here is a straight on shot showing absolutely none of the switch:

IMG_0011

That shot also happens to show the beautiful and consistent HAIII coating.  The threads are smooth, the knurling well cut but not shreddy, and the edges of the light are nicely finished.  There is nothing here to complain about at all.  Well, okay the switch is really tacky leading to a collection of lint

IMG_0009

but that is about as nitpicky as it gets, right?

Grip: 2

The knurling is great and the body tube is just the right diameter and length.  The switch is placed perfectly and there are two small grooves on either side for your fingers.  In short, this light is brilliantly thought out for rough and tough use.  Excellent.  

IMG_0012

Carry: 1

The review sample did not come with a clip (or a battery, the things I do for this blog), but I have used this clip before and while it is okay for a friction clip, I hate friction clips in general.  I'd love to see a washer-style clip.  

Output: 2

Ho....ly....SHIT.

Reference Shot

IMG_0019
High

SC600 Mk. II High

Medium

SC600 Mk. II Medium
Low

SC600 Mk. II Low

The high is just insane.  How insane you ask?  Well, what do YOU do when you fire up a new light for the first time?  Yep, me too.  And for the first time ever I feel actual pain in my eyes.  Nothing severe, but it was definitely unpleasant.  The low is super low, plenty to see with but nothing offensive to your night vision.  The medium, which is around 30 or so lumens as I had it set up, is pretty good for up close work, but in the beam shots it seems dim.  Comparatively speaking it is.  All in all, great high, great low=great light.  

Runtime: 2

Check the specs.  CRAZY.  The lowest low runs for 80 days.  80 days.  Like "Around the World in..." runtimes.  I do have to point out something with the high.  It will hit 900 lumens, but it will only hold that output for 5 minutes.  Now they claim that is for heat reasons, which I am sure is the case, but the way they measure ANSI lumens encourages makers to do this sort of thing--ultra high high for a few minutes and drop down to something less later.  ANSI lumen specifications measure out the front lumens at a certain distance for a few minutes (2 I think) and so if you have this "safety feature" output set up, it can boost your ANSI lumen ratings.  Here though the "drop down" high is still insane: 500 lumens. 

Beam Type: 2

Not as floody as you would expect.  This deep dish reflector and head are wider than normal and as a result there is significant throw.  Add to that the high octane output and you have an insane thrower just larger than a roll of quarters.  One warning--on high, this thing is utterly useless for close up work and it will blow your vision, not your night vision, just your regular daylight adjusted vision for a while.  Be careful when you turn it on close up.  There is a nice hotspot/spill configuration, among the nicer I have seen on a production light.  This is why:

IMG_0008

Beam Quality: 2

Thank god there are not artifacts.  On a light this with this much light coming out the front an artifact or a ring would really throw everything out of whack in the middle of the night.  I'd like a better tint, HI CRI is always preferred, but when you are looking for a burner, you know it is going to have a neutral tint (better tints require tinkering that lowers output). 

UI: 1

There are three modes and two submodes per mode.  Yeah that's right.  Sounds a little complicated right?  It is.  With one switch as the only means of input you have to do some Morse-code like finger taps to get everything to work right.  Once you get the hang of it it is not too bad, but God a selector ring would KILL here.  This is probably one of the better examples of why clickies, are, in my opinion, on the way out.  This is just too much.

Hands Free: 2

This thing tailstands like it has a sandbag attached to it and won't roll even without the clip thanks to a lanyard attachment point.  Excellent.

Overall Score: 18 out of 20

Like the PM2, this is a beast of a piece of gear.  Its size belies an insane amount of performance and utility.  If you can swallow the 18650 format, which is a very good one, probably the best rechargeable format, then this is a light you simply must try.  Surefire better watch out, Zebralight has raised the ante on US designed lights (this is made overseas but designed here for a US owned company).  Right now only a few, very few lights can hang with the SC600 Mk. II in terms of output v. size.  The other option is the Eagletac TX25C2, which has an even higher output (seriously).  If you are fan of insane lumens, it is a good time to be in the market and the SC600 Mk. II should be at the top of your list.  If you can find one...they are sold out everywhere.  For good reason.  Value, performance, and size are all pushed to the limit here.  Time to update the top 5 chart.   

Friday, May 17, 2013

Muyshondt Aeon and Nautilus Mk. II Review

This whole thing started for me when I found Doug P's (Quickbeam) old site flashlightreviews.com.  There is so much information there, even in the archived site, that I still go back there and do research.  The 5 star review system was brilliant--clear and simple.  Doug's knowledge was impressive.  But the thing that really stuck with me were his explanations of good design.  Doug introduced me to the Flashlight Axiom, which, even today, all flashlight designs grapple with.  The Flashlight Axiom, even almost a decade later, is still true.  It says this:

Small Size, Long Runtimes, and High Output: Choose Two.

If you think about this, it brings out a fundamental tension in flashlight design, sort of like the balance of good steels (toughness, hardness, and corrosion resistance have an sort of internal push and pull equipoise as well).  You can find lights that have a really great output and are small (the Peak Eiger, if it weren't infinite variable brightness), but don't run for a long time.  You can have lights that have a high output and long runtimes but are really big (Fenix TK35).  And you can find lights that have a good runtime, small size, but merely okay output.  You will not find a light that is competitive in all three categories.  It has a lot to do with battery chemistry, but there are other reasons as well.  In the end, it is about making tradeoffs.  What do you want to emphasize, given that you can't have it all?

I am not going to tell you that Aeon or Nautilus breaks Doug's Flashlight Axiom, but if I had to choose how to best balance out those three attributes it would look a lot like the Mk. II versions of the Aeon or Nautilus.  This is not by accident.  After I ran a piece about the Aeon going out of production, enough folks wrote me and asked if there was something I could do about it, I contacted Enrique (who is a super nice guy).  We chatted and talked.  We went back and forth on the ideal configuration of an Aeon and after some cajoling, he agreed to make a run with my requested features, if I could get 75 people to pledge.  Given his reputation in the flashlight world that did not take long at all.  Then it was just a matter of waiting.

About a month and half ago I got my Aeon Mk. II.  Inside the package was a surprise.  Unknown to most, Enrique also made a batch of Nautilus Mk. IIs as well.  I got both to review and it has been one hell of a month, flashlight-wise.  Given the fact that these were essentially made to my specifications, it is no surprise that I really like the lights.  REALLY LIKE.

Here is the product page.  Here and here are the posts that served as the kickoff for this project.  The Aeon costs $425 from Enrique, though they may all be sold out.  It was a run of 75.  The Nautiluses are going on sale soon.  There are no other reviews as I think I am the only person have used both lights other than the maker himself, but here is my review of the original Aeon and here is the Aeon Mk. II thread where you can read some of the specs.  I emailed Enrique and he provided me some additional information, though he was careful to note that none of this data comes from an integrating sphere, so it is just a series of geusstimates: the low is around 3-5 lumens, the medium is close to the old low, around 30 lumens, and the high is around 110-115 lumens.  The output is the same for both lights.  Runtimes vary.  Enrique has squeezed out a staggering 1 hour and 30 minutes for the high on the Aeon and 2 hours and 45 minutes for the Nautilus.  Final specs will be added to this review when they are released.

Finally, here is a family portrait:

IMG_0015

Design: Aeon: 2; Nautilus: 2

The Aeon Mk. II is an ideal EDC light--small enough to tuck in a coin pocket but with enough punch and versatility to cover just about any situation you would encounter.  The Nautilus isn't a porker by any means, but the size increase doesn't do a whole lot for me.  In the 1xCR123a class of lights the Nautilus is still among the smallest, but the increased runtime isn't enough to persuade me it is superior to the Aeon.  In a vacuum, either is an excellent to superior light.  Comparing one to the other, pure personal preference tells me I like the Aeon better.  If you don't share that preference or if you only have the option to get the Nautilus, you will not be disappointed.  It would be like having to "settle" for Rolex Deep Sea Dweller when you had your eye on the more svelte Submariner.  Both are amazing, simple, straight forward, idiot proof designs.

The numbers are good with both, but better with the Aeon, obviously.  I am going to hold off on actual ratios until the final lumens counts are done, but suffice to say the runtimes are insane, especially for the size and brightness (see above, Flashlight Axiom).  Here is a shot of both next to the Zippo:

IMG_0021

Mmmmm....shiny.

Fit and Finish: Aeon: 2; Nautilus: 2

There is no other way to describe these lights besides lush.  The threads are silky smooth and get smoother by the day.  The checkering is well cut with no errors I could see or feel.  The tail end of the light is well cut even with the extensive machining.  Enrique had a few delays because of machining issues, but the wait was worth it, these things are gems. 

IMG_0013

Of course the materials are of unsurpassed quality.  The lens is sapphire, the body titanium, the heat sink brass, and the emitter my emitter of choice, the Nichia 219 HI CRI emitter.  Everything is top shelf and made with superlative quality.  Only the best of the best on both, hence a 2 for each.  I'd give them a three if I could. 

Grip: Aeon: 2; Nautilus: 2

The size on the Nautilus gives it a distinct advantage here.  You don't need to any finger yoga to activate this thing one handed.  It works quite well.  The checkering on the bodies and heads of both lights is also excellent.  The Aeon is not a slouch and again in a vacuum would score a 2, but I like the Nautilus a tad bit better here.

Carry: Aeon: 2; Nautilus: 2

I fell in love with the Aeon because of how nicely it carried.  It almost completely disappears in your pocket.  In jeans, the light vanishes.  The size and shape are perfect--not so small as to be "unfindable" in a pocket, but small enough to essentially add nothing to what you already carry.  This is one of the reasons this light is so amazing.  The Nautilus is a little bigger, as you can see, but nothing crazy.  It still rides well in coin pockets, but it is not quite as passive loose in a main pocket.  Still very good though. 

Output: Aeon: 2; Nautilus: 1

The output on both punches above its lumens rating because of the HI CRI emitter, but for the size, the Aeon is quite bright.  The Nautilus faces incredibly stiff competition in the 1xCR123a market and the top end of roughly 110 lumens is not exactly tearing it up.  It is more than sufficient for most EDC tasks, but compared to similar lights with the same power source it is just about par.

The low is the one area in which the Mk. II exceeds the older versions of Enrique's lights.  The high and the low in the old lights were useful, but they lacked a true moonlight low.  Here the low, the additional third mode, is perfect.  It is not as low as some lights, my Steve Ku 40DD can get down to something like a half a lumen or less thanks to the QTC, but the low here is quite amazing.  

The numbers, of course, don't tell the story.  It is the actual light coming out the front of the torch that does that and in both cases it is quite good.  Here are the beam shots:

Reference:

IMG_0019

Aeon Mk. II

Low:

Aeon Mk. II Low

Medium:

Aeon Mk. II Med

High:

Aeon Mk. II High


Nautilus Mk. II

Low:
Nautilus Mk. II Low

Medium:

Nautilus Mk. II Med
 
High:

Nautilus Mk. II High


Comparison (47s Penlight on high of 180 lumens):

IMG_0018

The HI CRI output does a lot for both lights.  The whites are pure and the off whites are noticeable (compare the off white cabinet of the band saw to the white of the peg board on the upper left of the picture).  Notice the richer tan in the barn jacket and the redder reds on the clamp heads.  Finally, notice how the green of the band saw stand seems to really stand out as green and not greenish blue as it appears on the Penlight beamshot.  Even the concrete wall appears to have more texture and detail in the HI CRI shots of the Aeon and Nautilus.  HI CRI does a lot to make the light more useful so both lights punch above their weight lumens-wise.  

Runtime: Aeon: 2; Nautilus: 2

This is where Enrique laps the field.  I owned the Mk. I Aeon for about three years and used exactly three batteries and the third one still had life left in it.  The Nautilus's runtimes are even longer, at 2 hours and 45 minutes on high.  The runtimes on low should be about a couple of days.  Simply amazing.

Beam Type:  Aeon 2; Nautilus: 2

Here is a shot down the barrel of the lumens cannon:

IMG_0018

The beam, as you can see above, is a very floody beam with a mild hotspot and lots of spill, perfect for an EDC light.  There is a better balance than the 47s Penlight which is also an EDC light but has virtually no hotspot at all.  I like this balance a lot and it is a tribute to Enrique's design chops that this works as well as it does.

Beam Quality: Aeon: 2; Nautilus: 2

HI CRI, great emitter, wonderful reflector, and great lens equals a lush and beautiful beam.  Frankly no other light I have owned or seen comes close.  The Haiku has lost its crown as the highest quality beam available.  The HI CRI Haiku that I gave away is probably an equal, but really nothing is better.

UI: Aeon: 2; Nautilus: 2

This is, perhaps, the best part of the light after the runtimes. Three modes could be finnicky, see all other twisty lights except for QTC lights.  Instead we get the beauty of a three stage twisty in both lights.  Twist, twist some more.  That is all there is to operating this light.  Simple, repeatable, easy to explain, and easy to use.  BRILLIANT. 

Hands Free: Aeon 2; Nautilus: 2

Both tailstand like they are nailed to a surface with no sway or wiggle.  Both also fit nicely between the teeth, though again I don't recommend that.  They are both a little roll happy, given that they lack clips but there are two spots that correspond to either gap in the rear tail portion that can hold the light in one place absent bonks or knocks.  See below:

IMG_0020

Overall Score:

20 out of 20 for the Aeon Mk.II with a PERFECT SCORE


19 out of 20 for the Nautilus Mk. II

The difference in the score comes down to the fact that the Nautilus's high is just not competitive with the best CR123a lights out there.  The Aeon on the other hand has very little competition in the CR2 space, though it does lose to the 47s Mini CR2 (though the difference of 70 lumens is nothing like the difference between the Nautilus and the best 1xCR123a light, which is currently the LED Lenser F1 with 400 lumens on a single CR123a).  The lumens counts could change a bit, but nothing enough to change the score.

Frankly, it would be silly for me to not give the Aeon a perfect score.  After shameless begging Enrique agreed to make this light exactly as I had requested, the low low and the HI CRI emitter.  This is as close as I will ever come to making a flashlight myself and given that, the Aeon deserves a perfect score.  It is the best EDC light I have ever used or handled.  It's fit and finish is equal to any light on the planet, its size, brightness and runtime are amazing, and the beam is simply jaw dropping.  All of these things apply to the Nautilus too, but again, the competition is a bit stiffer in its product class.

Neither light is anything like a disappointment, but for me the miniaturization of the Aeon is a huge bonus.  This is the new best light, cost no object.  I'd love to get a review sample of a Spy 007, but even that light is a bit big for me.  Unless you have some specific task, in my opinion, there is no better EDC light in the world than the Aeon Mark II.

Get one if you can.     

Monday, May 13, 2013

TT PockeTTools TT Zombie

If you were at a marketing department meeting for an outdoor store or a general gear company, the sort populated by the folks that brought us Poochie, you'd probably hear a lot about branding and end line users (that's us, in case you don't speak "marketing").  You'd probably hear stuff about "value lines" (that's Chinese made).  And then you'd hear stuff about trends.  It would start out with gear, and then slowly zombies would creep in (they always creep, right?).  In the event this was Gerber they would then turn to how to bundle as much stuff together with a nylon carrying case and slap the word zombie or apocalypse on it (you would, in their marketing version of the apocalypse, need seven blades but no pain relievers, water filtration, or fire starting equipment).   Zombies and one piece multitools have nothing to do with each other, but they are such incredible buzzwords in the gear community that it was only time before someone other than Gerber brought them together in a meaningful way.  But unlike Gerber's attempt to part you from your cash with junk tools and a zombie label, this little guy from TT PockeTTools invokes the zombie name for good instead of ill.   

Here is the product page.  There are no reviews, written or video, this is the first.  There is only one source for the TT Zombie and it is the product page above.  Here is the TT Zombie review sample:


IMG_0007

Design: 2

The trend seems to be towards larger OPMTs, like the Pocket Tools X Piranha, which is about the size of a credit card, but both Todd and Peter Atwood have gone the other way.  Atwood's Ghost is smaller than the Prybaby and here the Zombie is smaller than the Chopper.  The TT PockeTTools TT Zombie (from now on "TT Zombie") is a itty bitty OPMT.  It is very compact, even compared to other TT PockeTTool OPMTs.  This compact size means that you have no trouble dropping it on your keychain or hiding it in your pocket.  It also means that it weighs only a smidgeon.   Overall, I like the smaller design, but there are some drawbacks, which will be noted below.  From a blueprint perspective though, I like the tool, I like the look, and I like the size.  The tool was small enough to slot nicely on to the BladeKey, for those of you out there looking to comply the ultimate compact key set up.

The ratios are decent.  First, though, the obligatory scale shot with the Zippo:

IMG_0046

See I told you, absolutely tiny.  The tool:weight, 10.87, is pretty darn staggering, given that this thing weighs a feathery .46 ounces.  The Charge by comparison has a tool:weight of 2.32 (19 tools:8.2 ounces).  Safe to say this will never be beat as it is probably impossible to make a tool smaller and still have it be useful for EDC tasks.    

Fit and Finish: 2

Todd's finishes are the best in the OPMT business.  I know that is controversial.  I know Atwood fans love his work, as do I, but the slick satin finish on a lot of his stuff makes grip an issue.  Todd opts for a raw bar finish that hits all three features I like in a finish: it is good looking, it adds to grip, and it wears very well.  The edges are a bit buffed which provides a visually interesting contrast.  The angles, jimping, and grinds are very clean and even.  The holes are nicely cut but not sharp or snagging.

Theme: 2

As a mini OPMT the TT Zombie does very well.  It tucks in your keychain with minmal fuss even with the massive thickness.   The selection of tools suits the small size well and the appearance is a visual pun tying in with the name.  That last point is not a big deal, but just a little wink from a skilled and clever maker. 

Grip: 1

By now we have all learned that gear design is a set of tradeoffs and here the trade off for the miniature size is less of a grip.  There is thick and pointed jimping that helps and the raw bar surface is nice, but there simply no way to get around the fact that a tool this small lacks leverage, both in the pry tool and the bottle opener.  More on how this affects performance later. 

Carry: 2

I'd give this thing a three if I could, it carries so well.  The idea that I could drop this on any keychain without concern, even something as tightly designed as the BladeKey, is a sign of the tool's compact greatness.  The Atwood Ghost falls into this same category, so it would be nice to compare the two, but I am more than satisfied with how things thing carried. 

Materials: 2

The choice of 154CM puts this little tool in the upper echelon of OPMTs.  Production stuff like the Boker Toucan and the Leatherman Pocket Tool X designs use lesser steel and it works quite well.  Todd's other stuff and Atwood's stuff is usually S30V and some folks opt for Titanium.  While 154CM is not as high tech as other options, it is more than fine in the role.  Also, Todd's penchant for massively thick tools works well both stylistically and in terms of adding stability to the bottle opener.

IMG_0019

Lots of stock of a good steel equals a 2.

Deployment/Accessibility: 2

As small as the TT Zombie is, everything is laid out well and nothing gets in the way of anything else, which is kind of surprising given the space constraints.  This is, however, a nod to Todd's skill as a designer.  Even when the TT Zombie was lashed to the BladeKey I could still get to everything.  On a regular keychain the thing is just awesome.  Great job.

Retention Method: 2

There is a laynard loop at the top giving you one option and the bit holder gives you another.  The thickness of the stock makes a split ring harder than normal to use, but you know how I feel about split rings (BARF). 

Tool Selection: 1

This gets a 1 for exactly one reason: NO SNAG EDGE.  The Chopper spoiled me.  It had all sorts of things that made it innovative and great and one of them was the snag edge which was very new at the time.  The TT Zombie could easily incorporate one and it would make the tool all that more useful.  The snag edge should be a standard part of all pry-based OPMTs--it is just too useful.

Tool Performance: 1

This was a tough category to score.  I could see any of the three options being legitimate and fair.  If you do a lot of prying, then this thing's size is an issue and could result in a score of 0.  But generally OPMT are too small, even in the largest sizes for lots of prying, so I don't think that is fair.  The bit holder really is a masterpiece design and locks the bits in almost as if they are magnetized. 

IMG_0008

I screwed and unscrewed a normal 2.5" 8d Phillips head screw into a pine 2x4 three or four times all the way down and all the way up with no cam out on the tool side (the bit did cam out of the screw, but not from the tool).  If you do lots of screwdriving, this thing is freaking amazing and a 2 would be fair.  But most of us use OPMT as a bottle opener like 85% of the time.  In those instances, the TT Zombie's size is a factor.  It does open bottles, but it is a two or three pull device.  Here is a mid-action shot (yes, I know I have a Mac, I have a blog, and I drink Sam Adams; I am hipster...really though, I drink bourbon if I had a choice):

IMG_3879

Overall Score: 17 out of 20

The world of OPMTs is starting to mature into various product types.  We have the general purpose OPMTs like the Atwood Prybaby, the PockeTTools TT Chopper, and the Gerber Shard.  We have those with a blade like the Boker Toucan (review coming, I promise).  And we now have more than one miniature sized OPMT, the TT Zombie and the Atwood Ghost.  This is all a good size folks, a sign of a more evolved and sustainable product class.

In the mini tool product class I have only had the chance to review this gem, but it is quite good.  If you accept the limitations that are dictated by size, then this is a capable little tool.  It works very well on a wide variety of keychains and it can do a good deal of real work.  I wish it had a snag edge and the bottle opener was a bit more leveraged, but those drawbacks are minor ones.  For the price, $20.99, you'll be hard pressed to find something better.  Hell, the Boker Toucan is a production OPMT and it is $25.   

AWESOME Everyday Commentary Reader Bonus:

Todd's letting me give this gem away.  Comment in the comment's section and I will choose one at random by next Monday as a winner.