Monday, September 21, 2015

Bring the Thunder

Okay, so I will admit it.  Perhaps I was too blindly by the silliness of the ZT0999.  After the mail I received this past week, its clear to me that I prematurely declared the end of the Golden Age of Gear. We aren't in the Baroque Period just yet, even if we are trending in that direction.  The arrival of the TRE G10, the oLight S1 Baton, and the American Knife Company Forest Knife has proven to me that there is still amazing stuff being released that is not first and foremost bling or pocket frosting.

Each of these pieces of kit is just an amazing slice of what we have at our fingertips.  In many ways it is the promise of refinement, bleeding edge tech, and (Brett Hart please let me borrow this) the excellent of execution.  

The TRE is not revolutionary (skip the baloney of the modular design--it, like modular shelves, is unnecessary for 99% of people).  It doesn't break the mold. It just refines it.  The carefully sculpted handles and the rounded over edges and the rounded spine make the knife JUST perfect in the hand. It really is Sebenza level nice.

And then there is the S1.  Ever smaller, ever brighter, ever longer run times.  Quickbeam's design dilemma for flashlights (small, bright, long runtimes--choose two) has been pushed over the years, but the S1 is really the light that breaks it, at least the first production light to do so.  And its UI, a clicky, is quite good (and no Scurvy, its not like the Zebralight--you can't ACCIDENTALLY fall into some completely unnecessary secondary mode were the lumens differences are 100% imperceptible).  This is one hell of a light.

Then there is the Forest Knife.  Its Mors Kochansky's knife made real.  Its a better balanced, more readily available Skookum Bush Tool.  And it takes a beating with ease.  The convex grind is great, the handle is sweet music, and the sheath is killer.  This is a great all around fixed blade.

The Golden Age has caught a second wind.

But this leads to a dilemma--what to do about Gear of the Year.  This year I am going to open up voting for everyone and use a survey site to create a survey folks can vote on.  Check the link above for a description of the categories and ideas of what I am looking to nominate.  The long and short of it is--I need some suggestions.  Comment below with suggestions.  I will pick one and that person will win a Kershaw Strobe.  A suggestion is required to win and I think I fixed the comment system, so fire away.

Also, this year will be the first year with negative categories.  So Overhyped Gear of the Year beware...


  1. Wow... Looking at the categories, I realize I haven't paid much attention to gear this year.

    Best production knife I handled this year was the ZT0900. Just a great, useful little knife with an insane flipping action.

    Best custom knife for me is hands down the Jason Knight EDC Fighter. I don't think I've ever fallen so head over heels in love with a knife before. Scary sharp, incredible balance and craftsmanship just an all around amazing knife.

    Best Youtube/podcast/etc: Wieners and Steel. A lot of podcasts and youtube people have fallen by the wayside but the boys are still going strong. That or 555Gear.

    Community Leader: If Joe Paranee doesn't win this, you haven't done your homework. Joe works closely with a ton of top tier makers and puts together amazing projects. The Knight EDC Fighter and Sam Lurquin's Hurak probably wouldn't have gotten off the ground without him and that was just for Blade this year. Not to mention his youtube videos, his knowledge and accessibility and his work with Matt Diskin.

  2. Well, I don't get to touch very much gear at all, but I'll make some suggestions based on the time I spend following companies and products.

    I'll start with a blasphemous nomination - how about kizer for overall company? Their aesthetics are terrible, but some of their 2015 designs are extremely compelling despite the aesthetics. And the aesthetics are even starting to improve (see: Gemini and cuchiarra collabs). We already know their manufacturing is top notch and no one is in the same league with them in terms of value for your money.

    And so I'll just continue that by nominating the Gemini as production knife of the year. I know it's just starting to ship, but it sure looks like it can compete.

    555 gear for best YouTube channel. No one matches his consistency and quality. Not even close. And no one reviews products the way he does - he seems to have found his voice early on, and it's a completely unique and distinctive one.

    And you guys can be modest all you want, but GGL is best overall podcast. There is a planet sized gap between you guys and second best.

  3. For Worst Podcast I'd like to nominate Weiners and Steel. That show just feels like a bunch of guys stroking their dicks and playing with knives at a diner. Not sure if Knife Thursday podcast is still going on, but the host sounds like he's about 30 minutes away from shutting off the recording and killing himself.

    I agree that the Olight S1 is the best new light this year. Its the only one that gets me excited as a non flashlight guy. Its easy to make a $1,000 "custom" flashlight that rules, but making something so small, so bright, so inexpensive as the Olight is an achievement. It's cutting edge performance that would please the vast majority of people AND at an attainable price. World class gear for everybody.

    Most Over Hyped is probably the "new" Chris Reeve Inkosi. It's anything but a new design. CRKT is trotting out the "same old shit" as a rowdy wrestling audience might chant.

  4. The Leatherman Tread has to be the most overhyped thing this year. From someone who loves Leatherman, even the weird stuff (Genus and Flair owner here!)

    Also, I think GideonsTactical is the best gear channel on youtube. Black Owl Outdoors are great too. Lots of effort. Gideon is hyperactive in his output of detailed gear reviews though. Dunno how he does it.

  5. is my channel too. Always chasing that 305th subscriber! It could be you! *points at reader*

  6. Best new light: Zebralight SC5w.

    Best new production folding knife: ZT 0808

    Most disappointing new product; CRK Inkosi

    Best YouTube channel: cpfselfbuilt

    Best new multitool: Leatherman Signal

    Best podcast: Gear Geeks Live

    Best trend: ZT going into EDC -sized knives

    Hall of Fame: Victorinox Cadet and/or Pioneer

    Bang for buck: Cold Steel CTS-XHP line

  7. Best YouTube channel: TheApostleP. In case you thought the old school, long-form YT knife review was dead, Rob has revived it with a relatable, insightful critical style. His engineering background and daily experience as a professional sharpener constantly enrich his reviews. Also, if traditionals are hot (and they are), Rob's "Traditional Knives Anthology" videos with Howabouthetruth deserve props for informative deep-dives into present and past traditional patterns.

    Runner-Up: 555 Gear. Ameer put the case well. I'm not a watch guy but Andrew's channel and GGL appearances are starting to turn me into one. (I would love to hear you guys talk about the Stowa Marine Original sometime.)

    Chris Reeve deserves the Plateau Award for nonimprovement. Seriously, here are the ways his line has changed since 2005. Not one of them is a clear positive and some are definite steps backward: (1) Put "Idaho Made" on the Sebenzas. Yuck. Blatant contradiction to the whole design philosophy of the knife. (2) Goes from S30V to an S35VN that some find too soft (though I don't mind it). (3) Sebenza 25 introduced. Meh; let's make the Sebenza less like a Sebenza. (4) Nerfs the one-hand opening notch on the Mnandi so now it takes two hands. (5) Inkosi. I agree with others, seems like a yawn. Enough with the thicker blades.

    One of CRK's only clear improvements during this long period was the redesign of the Mnandi pocket clip, which I must admit produced the single finest gear pocket clip I have ever used.

    1. So.... The M. Night Shyamalan award for Chris reeve?

      Yeah, obviously joking, but I had never thought of crk's progression in the way you just described before.

    2. If it helps, CRK finally cleared up that they've been running their S35VN at 59-60 HRC since mid-2013. So a lot of the complaints about it being too soft may have been psychosomatic.

    3. Good to hear.

      Also, my timeline above was off. All that stuff's happened since 2010. So I would revise to say CRK has been floundering for half a decade rather than a full decade.

  8. Stole the format but I like it.

    Best new light: Olight S1 - Fantastic. 500 lumens from a small, well designed light for $50.

    Best new production folding knife: ZT 900. I love Les George and this one is really close to his customs.

    Most disappointing new product; Leatherman Signal. Too much wasted potential. Bad ergonomics, gimmicky and overpriced.

    Best YouTube channel: 555 Gear

    Best new multitool: SAK mods by Syph007

    Best podcast: Gear Geeks Live but 99% Invisible is a close second.

    Best trend: Smaller knives. I'm really tired of over sized knives that don't actually cut well.

    Hall of Fame: Victorinox Super Tinker. I like the alox line better but for me this is the first do-it-all multitool.

    Bang for buck: Kizer Gemini. Excellent build quality and great pricing for full titanium and S35VN.

    Most Over Hyped: Leatherman Tread. Really? Kind of the ultimate jewelry for the hyper prepared.