Friday, October 10, 2014

Quick Hits: TT Keeper, NockCo Lookout, TAD RUT, Hydroflask, Kershaw Zing

It is that time again--a bunch of quick hit reviews.  As with last time, these aren't lesser items, but simply easier to write about, hence the short form.  I got good feedback last time, so here they are:

TT PockeTTools TT Keeper


You can find the TT Keeper here, at TT PockeTTools.

Todd's line of one piece multitools have been one of the few things that keep me interested in this product category.  As they have become catnip to the frosted pocket EDC crowd, they have risen in price and dropped in utility (see: TAD RUT below). But Todd keeps chugging along with new and useful designs all at an affordable price.  The TT Keeper is one of those designs.

It is, of course, well made.  Todd's fit and finish (or, as it has been correctly noted, just finish--there is no fit on a one piece multitool as their is only one part)  is superb. The grinds are clean and the look, with the raw bar finish and grind lines, is very nice.  But the tool complement and design of the TT Keeper aren't my favorites.  I am not comparing this to the TT Chopper, which is probably my favorite one piece multitool out there, but really the benchmark Gerber Shard.  In that comparison, the TT Keeper doesn't come out clearly ahead, but more like a muddled tie.  

The lack of a wide prying/scrapping surface is a bummer, as is the V-notch. The hex bit slot worked okay, but there are better designs out there, including Todd's Thumb Drive.  Finally, I know the box wrench stuff works, but I have found that given the size of these tools, you can generate almost no useful torque.  

The Keeper isn't bad, its actually quite good.  But compared to Todd's Chopper, its an easy decision. Compared to other one piece multitools, like the Shard and the new Leatherman designs, its a very close call.  I'd opt for the handmade item, but on a pure utility basis I could see an argument for the stuff made my machines. 

Overall Score: 17 out of 20 (1 off in Design for the inclusion of a useless set of box wrenches, 1 off for Carry because of the extra pokey pry tip, 1 off for Tool Selection for the lack of a v-notch and a wide pry).

NockCo Lookout


You can find the Lookout here, at NockCo.

Fountain pen + chilly New England winter + frozen ink cartridge = huge mess.  I don't think the ink cartridge actually exploded, but I think the expansion and contraction loosed up seams and pieces to the point that leaking became inevitable when the pen heated up.  Fortunately, I had it my hand and not my pocket when this happened, but it highlighted a point--best to take my fountain pens inside overnight.  

Brad Dowdy's been on the podcast twice and he is an excellent aficionado of things stationary related, so it wasn't a stretch of the imagination to think his pen cases would be anything other than great.  So many pen cases out there are just these massive, expensive, overdone objects.  Instead of the silly overdone tactical feel of many knives, you get a silly overdone aristocratic feel of purportedly sophisticated executives.  Blah.  

The NockCo. Lookout is simple--nylon constructed, with three slots.  The color schemes are very sharp, even trendy.  And the overall design is excellent.  In fact, as a nice touch, it is just the right size to live in a suit jacket pocket comfortably.  Its not too bulky, but still feels substantial.  The flap works great and tucks into a strap to keep the pens more than secure enough for everyday use.  I also found that three slots is just right for me--I have a passaround pen (right now it is a Skilcraft ballpoint, uber awesome pen, BTW), my preferred bold writer (the Prometheus Alpha at the moment), and a fountain pen for those notetaking marathons (my Kaweco Sport).  

The stitching is quite good and even seam is clean without stray threads.  The bottom is not perfectly squared to the sides, but given that it can be slid into a pocket that might be on purpose to better match the pocket's shape.  I got a gray exterior with a blue interior and it works well, though I would prefer the easy-to-see bright yellow interior of my Tom Bihn Cadet.  Overall, I really like the case, and the price, for a handmade good produced and designed in the US, is super great.  I am still not a sheath guy, but this is a superb pen holder for me.  It works exactly as I hoped it would--effective and simple.  Jeff and Brad, virtual high five dudes.

Overall Score: 20 out of 20 (with the caveat that the crooked stitching on the bottom might be a flaw and not a feature; it works for me though...)

Triple Aught Design RUT (Rexford Utility Tool):  


You can sometimes find the RUT at TAD, but you can also find them here on Todd Rexford's site.

Though technically not a one piece multitool, the RUT looks and functions like one.  That said, the inclusion of a real cutting edge, via a disposable razor blade, gives it a leg up on most OPMTs.  But alas, I think my infatuation with OPMTs has run its course.  They are handy, but I would always prefer a SAK, especially at the prices most OMPTs are going for these days.  The RUT, when you can find one, goes for $150 new or much more than that on the secondary market.  It is made of two plates of titanium and includes a razor blade.  There are two versions out there--the plain one from Todd Rexford and the co-branded one from Triple Aught Design.  The inclusion of the topo graphics, all of which have been anodized different colors, made the choice easy and when an opportunity presented itself I picked one up.  It was a rare opportunity as they are very hard to find at retail price.  

The design is creative, but limited.  The inclusion of a true cutting edge is nice, but many of the basic implements for OPMTs are missing.  There is no snag edge (though it would be somewhat unnecessary), there is no wide pry, no v-notch for pulling nails, and there is no Phillips driver (the $5 Shard looks better with every OPMT review I do). The fit and finish is superb, as it is a full custom piece.  I used and carried it for a while and it showed no wear and tear.  The razor blade is good, but not a substitute for a real knife blade.  It can open packages and the like, but cutting an apple or making firestarters is impossible.  Again, I'd rather have a Cadet, which is just as pocketable and vastly more capable.  

In the end, it is clear what this is--a cutting edge to carry with an expensive knife so the expensive knife doesn't have to do any real work.  I am not one to baby my knives that way, so I don't have any real use for the RUT, though I am sure many folks do.  Compared to the $5 Shard, the RUT is lacking.  Compared to the $18 Cadet, the RUT is lacking. For a custom knife collector or someone that wants a bit of that custom knife magic, the RUT is easily worth the money.  I concede that I am not the RUT's target audience, but this is one piece of gear, perhaps the only I have ever reviewed, where its daunting value proposition makes it a less than appeal expenditure.  You can find something that works much better for 1/30 the price.  However, you cannot find anything made by Rexford for anything close to the RUT's retail price.  I don't really care about having stuff from "famous" knife makers, so this is a pass for me.   

Overall Score: 15 out of 20 (1 off for a very limited OPMT, 1 off for Theme--the "cutting edge" OPMT idea seems great in theory, but not in practice, 1 off for Retention Method, as the oval tends to bind attachment devices, 2 off for Tool Selection for a missing wide pry, v-notch, Phillips driver, hex bit holder...the list goes on and on).



You can find the Hydroflask here (proceeds benefit the site):

Well, this has been a long time coming as bought this bottle about a year ago.  Its funny, when you review knives and flashlights non-gear geeks think you are a weirdo, but when you review water bottles all of a sudden those very same people are interested in your opinion.  Well, yoga moms and gear geeks alike, here is my opinion--this the best bottle on the market, period.  

As with all steel constructed insulated bottles it keeps a chill or holds heat for a very long time.  It also as a thick layer of textured paint, perhaps a powder coat, to give it a bit of grip and durability.  Finally, it comes with a leak-free, one hand open lid.  But all these things are just features.  The real star here is the Hydroflask's insane durability.  I have dropped it a few times, as you are want to do with a slick, wet, and heavy for its size object, and thankfully there have been no major dents or dings.  This thing still sits perfect flat, doesn't wobble, and doesn't leak.  I'd still prefer a Tritan bottle with steel insulation, but that doesn't exist.  Until it does, this is it.

There are a few drawbacks, but none are fatal flaws.  The lid does seem to have too many crevices for stinky dirt to hide in and sometimes the sealing ring does seat into the groove correctly, making it leak. I also would prefer some kind of attachment point on the lid to make the bottle easier to carry.  But I am not going to complain too much.  After probably fifty or so hikes, some of them long day hikes up mountains, the Hydroflask is still perfectly dent-free.  GREAT bottle.  Best insulated bottle on the market right now.  Not the iPhone of bottles, but perhaps the Sony Discman?

The straw lid doesn't appeal to me as I hate straws (they tend to get funky too and impart flavor).  I also dislike the wide mouth lid, again because it can impart flavor (lips in contact with actual metal...).  With a better lid, this might move up.  As it is, it is quite good. 

Overall Score: 18 out of 20 (1 off for Drink Quality as the plastic cap tends to get funky and can smell, thus imparting flavors, and 1 off for Ease of Cleaning again because of the lid)

Kershaw Zing Blackwash G10:


Here is the page from Dick's Sporting Goods.

Never write a place off.  I have a Dick's Sporting Goods near my house and though they have a horrid selection of stuff normally (all the gray and orange you can barf up) recently they started carrying stuff that interested me, including both Kershaw and CRKT stuff.  On the rack, buried in the back, was the 1730BWH3X, better known as the Kershaw Zing.  But this is no ordinary Zing.  Oh no, this is the budget Zing we have all wanted.  Sure the SS Zing was a very good knife, but it lacked the lightweight of its full budget brother.  The problem, at least for me, was the full budget Zing had some hideous fluting on the blade.  There was no lightweight, plain bladed Zing.  Until now.  And its the cheapest Zing available.  The only problem is that I can't find it anywhere on the Internet.  This just might be that rarest of all knives--the in-person only knife.  As far as I can tell, this is a knife made for Big Box stores only.

Thankfully it runs 8Cr13MoV, as close watchers of KAI will notice they are employing 7Cr and even 3Cr in some of their budget knives.  It also has an assist which I dislike on two accounts--assists are unnecessary and they make this knife much thicker than it needs to be.  Finally, there is the curly "Q" pocket clip, which no one likes.  But for around $20-22 this is one hell of a knife.  For so long the budget knife battle has been between the Kershaw Chill and the CRKT Drifter, but the G10 Zing totally deserves to be in that class as well.    

The superior RJ Martin design does well even when you strip it down to its barest essentials.  Gone are the uber premium materials of his customs.  Even the full budget production Zing seems opulent compared to what you get here.  But this is a smartly designed knife and it is a few tenths of an ounce lighter than the SS version and a good deal grippier, making it better but probably not a full point better.  Great blade. 

Overall Score: 18 out of 20 (1 off of Blade Steel for the 8Cr13MoV, 1 off Retention Method for the clip). 


  1. For the HydroFlask I got myself one of these which boosts it up to a 20 out of 20 rating for me. It only works for certain flask openings though. Unfortunately the Gription is very difficult to find now.

  2. Will the humangear capCAP fit on your Hydro Flask?

  3. Once again this format works very well. I don't think you should replace the full-length reviews with Quick Hits, but I feel every product here got the right amount of coverage. (QH could be a perfect way for you to review interesting/notable variants of knives you've already given a full review -- as with the blackwash Zing.)

    "[A]las, I think my infatuation with OPMTs has run its course. They are handy, but I would always prefer a SAK, especially at the prices most OMPTs are going for these days."

    I agree. One caveat: for craft beer/Italian soda drinkers (raises hand), it can be nice to have a dedicated cap lifter on your keys, and given that I do think a simple flathead driver/pry can be added to a cap lifter as a virtually "free" feature. But keep it small, simple, and smooth! Even the Gerber Shard was too angly and poky to live on my keychain. It tries to do stuff that I've concluded is better handled by a SAK Cadet.

    Leatherman Brewzer seems about perfect for the keychain role I described; could you do a QH on it sometime? My one worry is it may be a bit large.

    If somebody made a dressy, dark finished version of the Brewzer, maybe even shortened it a little ... that could be about perfect and the only EDC item I care to have on my keychain, apart from the indispensable 1xAAA flashlight.

    BTW for that role I am using and enjoying the 2014 model Fenix E05 you recommended.

    Can't wait to hear your thoughts on the CRK Mnandi. That will be a major review.

    Cheers, and congrats on your good news!

    1. Brewzer is very small. Maybe slightly bigger than a nail file found on most nail clippers.

    2. Do you own one? I wouldn't compare it to the file on a nail clipper. It is as long as a standard schlage house key as it sits on my keychain and about as wide as the head of that key.

  4. Thanks for the heads up on the Zing at Dick's. Stopped on way home from church to pick one up. Guy at the gun counter showed me where they were on back wall and then asked if they were special as I was 4th person over the weekend who came in asking for it.

  5. Anthony, are there holes drilled for left hand carry on the Zing G10 from Dick's? I'm from overseas, and I'm interested, but only if there's left hand carry.

    1. Howdy they are drilled for left but in tip up only.

  6. I've seen you mention the Blackwash Zing a couple times, but bummed to find they're big box US only so there is no chance of finding them in the UK as practically nowhere sells knives. You can find swiss army knives at camping stores, but anything else? Good Luck.

  7. I was looking for RUTs and found an identical copy, with steel frame though, on one of those shopping aggregators for just $7. Even in Ti the original doesn't seem anywhere near the asking prices.

  8. I saw the bw Zing and went and picked one up this morning after work since I sadly missed out on the orange Zing with fluted blade. I have to say I like it it flicks out like a demon and has pretty solid lockup. A note of warning for those who care it does have nylon washers.