NOTE: This post contains my only political statement ever. I have never and will never tread these poisonous waters again. The political discourse in this country has never been more fallow or base.
as a brand, is basically to EDC gear what Terrence Malick is to films.
He doesn't make a lot of stuff, but the stuff he makes is totally
awesome (fuck you...Tree of Life was genius). The EKO is definitely good, but, in my mind it falls short in
one crucial aspect. That's not to say its a bad tool, its not, but it
is not quite the revelation that Jason's other stuff was. Here is the Kickstarter page, where the EKO goes for $50 (early bird and second chance were less at $40 and $45 respectively).
package is quite nice, coming in a small piece of 1/8th inch plywood.
The EKO is intended to ride on your keychain, but in the plywood piece, I
found it did well in my wallet. The EKO has three tools--a "cutting
edge", a cap lifter, and a hex bit hole. All work well, with the caveat
that the cutting edge is really just a long snag edge. It is great at
dicing up boxes and opening packages but it can't slice paper or make
feathersticks. If you accept that limitation, it is a very good design
and I had fun chopping down boxes for recycling. Some folks might
object to the inclusion of a purposely dull blade, but they miss the
point. This is not a knife replacement, this is a keychain multitool
and an exposed edge wouldn't work well there. The cap lifter works but
it is a bit odd in how it does so, but once I got it, it popped bottles
open with a few pulls. Not ideal, but not wretched. The size is just right too, matching a real key's
The main problem I have with the EKO is a simple one--it
lacks a pry edge. There are a number of ways to integrate one on the
current design. I am not sure if I want one because every other OPMT
has one, but the reality is--we have been conditioned to expect it. I
have also found that of the OPMTs I like, the pry edge is the second
most used implement after the cap lifter. There are two other things
that keep the EKO from the upper echelon of scores--its material and its
price. Titanium is a great material, I love it, I really do. But,
with an edge, even one that is purposely not sharpened, titanium is
lacking. It just can't hold up over time. More importantly, even if I
wanted to sharpen it, I couldn't. Bummer. I'd prefer this tool in
stainless steel. It might be heavier, but given its overall size, it
would be that burdensome (many keys on your keychain are made of brass after all) and it would then allow you to sharpen the edge
as you see fit. I rarely mention price, but here, three tools for $50,
is really striking. That's a lot of money for what you are getting.
The Shard, an all time great OPMT is under $10. TT PockeTTools makes a
lot of stuff in this price range with more implements. The price is not
a deal breaker, I bought a RUT after all, but it is striking.
And if you are curious, you can pledge on KS with no risk--the project, like all of Jason's stuff, is already funded.
Overall Score: 17 out of 20 (1 off for Materials for an unnecessary and actually detrimental use of titanium (prevents sharpening of the edge and raises cost); 1 off for Tool Selection for the missing pry edge; and 1 off for Tool Performance for an awkward cap lifter)
a question that people love to ask--would you rather come close to
greatness and fail or live a life of relative success without ever truly
trying for the spectacular? Would you rather be Tom Petty,
consistently cranking out very good albums or a director like Richard Kelly (who wrote and directed the amazing Donnie Darko and the...um...less amazing Southland Tales)?
Malkoff, long famous for his drop in emitters for Surefires, is a great
light maker. The MDC, found here, is his first run at a true everyday carry light
comes perilously close to perfection at a budget price of $99. But, in
the end, one small thing, one little detail sends the design careening
towards silly. So...damn...close.
The pocket clip here is
a design abortion. It is horrendously bad. Not only does it ding
everything it comes in contact with, it is TOO deep seating to easily
retrieve the light and borks any possibility that the light could
tailstand. This is
The rest of the light is phenomenal. Its plenty bright,
its got a legit low, its solidly built and the head is fully potted.
The UI comes in two flavors, high first or low first, and I got the
WRONG one (my fault, I hit the wrong radial button), but overall the MDC
does so much so well that the light is still worth considering despite
the bullshit clip. Hell, just take the clip off. That's an awesome
Its not small but it is not lardy either, with extra bulk for extra bulk's sake. Here it is next to a Zippo.
In many ways the MDC is an ideal EDC light, except for one glaring issue. Ugh. It kills me for something to be this close, yet so far away.
Overall score: 18 out of 20 (1 off for Design because of the wretched placement of the clip; and 1 off for Hands Free because this thing can't tailstand)
AG Russell Acies2
Russell is, without question, the most underrated folding knife
designer of the past 20 years. If you randomly purchase a knife from
his site, chances are very good that it will not just be a good knife,
but a favorite of yours. Until I got the Acies2 the streak of good
knives ran three long. But alas, the Acies2 is a Sebenza built by
committee and it was a committee that knew buzzwords and tech but not
the essence of what makes the Sebenza special. This is a knife built
with great materials that has great specs but is lacking in crucial
ways. You can find the Acies2 here. It was part of the Sebenzalternatives Shootout, found here (it came in second).
Let's start with the good. The steel is awesome. You
know my love for ZDP-189 by now and I think it is still one of the top
four choices for an EDC blade (M4, M390 and S35VN being the other
three). Similarly you know my love for efficient handles and blades.
The Acies2 positively crams in blade, not just length but height as
well. This is a long wide blade in a short knife. Prestidigitation
required. And then there is the excellent grind. The dished high
hollow grind is excellent and the cutting bevel was something of a
miracle. A major hat tip to AG Russell on that front.
But this is where the train goes off the rails:
No, no, no. This thumb stud is wretched. I know some
folks like it, but they don't write this blog (Scurvy...you really
should write for this blog or start your own...for now, the comments
work). As for me, I hate it. I hate it both conceptually and as
implemented. Conceptually, it fails because it violates one of the
primary heuristics of good design--it dictates how it is supposed to be
used instead of allowing the user to decide. There is one and only one
way to approach and use this thumb stud. All other methods-coin flips
and slow rolls--will be punished with skin splitting agony. And as
implemented I just can't see it. It is too close to the handle and too
sharply cut to be effective. I am not sure if it has to do with the
fact that this is a Kershaw stud that was originally on knives with
assists, but whatever the reason, I hate this thumb stud more than any
other I have tried. It is a major problem with the knife. The other
problem is more of a cosmetic issue, but it is a "car that was keyed the
entire length of my driver side" level cosmetic issue.
The clip is
large, thick, protruding, and ugly. Surprisingly because of how it is
positioned its not a screaming hot spot, but it is just brutally ugly.
the MDC, there is so much potential here, but again, these two products
prove how challenging it is to make a good piece of gear. Even the
greats, like AG Russell, can't win them all.
Overall score: 17 out of 20 (2 off Deployment for the worst thumb stud ever; 1 off Retention Method for a pretty ugly clip)
Osprey Flare 24/7
do you want in a general use backpack? For me, the Pygmy Falcon II is
pretty darn close to perfect--tough, riding the organizational balance
between the Sarlaac Pit-like hyperorganized computer bags of the world that seem to eat more stuff than they store
and the Dora the Explorer bullshit that was the Topo Designs Daypack
(not the lowest scored item, but the only thing I have reviewed that I
truly hated with a bile-filled passion). Despite owning and loving a
classic I still want to try new stuff and that's why I bought the Osprey
Flare (purchased with my own money). Here is the product page.
Normally I have a
hard time trying out bags, as I work using a briefcase, but this pack
went with me to the hospital when my second son was born and then suited
up yet again for our trip back to the hospital 4 days later when he
needed emergency treatment. I lived out of this bag for 5 days and in
the end, it turned out to be quite nice.
Osprey makes a positively staggering range of packs
and the Flare is from their general use line. Their heritage as a
technical pack maker shows and their roots as a company based on custom bags made by one dude also shows. Even their general use stuff is very unique.
Flare is a light bag, without bulky, overbuilt fabrics. It is also
extremely comfortable, both in hand and on the back, even when fully
loaded. The grab handle is truly grand as are the shoulder straps. I
would note that the waist and sternum straps are very thin, feeling like
dental floss across your torso. Inside, the bag has a sleeve for a
laptop that is not removeable (boo), but it is thin and works well as
extra padding. The interior is covered in neon yellow to make sure you
don't lose anything. The middle pocket is very organized with lots of
slots and places to stash stuff. The outside pocket is a mesh number
that you can easily access without undoing the buckle. There are two
water bottle pockets in the normal location and both are made of
stretchy fabric that doesn't lock the bottle in place. The zippers are
excellent and have yet to mismatch. There are two lash points on the
rear of the bag which function very well and are thankful reprieve from
the overtly tacticool MOLLE found on a lot of bags.
balance between hyperorganized and minimal is hard one to hit and I
feel like the Flare 24/7 comes down too close to the hyperoganized
side. Its not as bad as many of the bags out there, but it is a bit too
busy for me. Compared to the PFII or the Bihn Synapse, it seems like
someone went pocketastic at the design computer. That said, its not as
bad as Tumi bags that have a million pockets 999,999 of which are so
specifically designed that they only hold one thing (no more "chord
pouches" please). This is clearly the bag's biggest weakness. The
other issue I had was with the lack of a waterproof bottom. The more I
look at bags, the more I think this is a requirement. You put your bag
down all over the place and a piece of rubber or plastic on the bottom
makes such a difference. You can just wipe your bag clean and roll on.
Here, you can't.
This isn't a stinker by any means, but it is clearly a step below the Synapse and the PFII. Very good but not great.
Overall score: 17 out of 20 (1 off of Materials for a thin overall build and lack of a water resistant bottom; 1 off Organization for being a bit TOO pocketastic; 1 off Straps and Belts for floss-thin front straps)