Before you get here are some of my preferences which, obviously, shape the lists:
1. I do not like serrations. I don't do enough rope cutting tasks to make the serrations worth the sharpening hassle they cause.
2. I do not like assisted opening or automatic knives. If a manual knife is well designed (like a flipper or a thumb hole) it will open just as fast. As such, the assisted opening or auto just adds parts that can break with no accompanying benefit. If you have an application that needs fast and thoughtless deployment, like combat or rescue, assisted and auto knives have their place. Otherwise, they aren't worth it.
3. I do not prioritize lights with a lot of throw. I don't do rescue with my gear and so being able to illuminate a ridge line a mile away is something I never need. As a result the bulky heads associated with throw lights make them hard to carry with no benefit.
4. In order of preference: selector ring/QTC/multi-stage twisties, then clickies, the normal twisties (twist and twist again).
All of these recommendations are based on general EDC tasks. Specific tasks require or are easier to perform with the right tool. Always remember that.
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1. Victorinox Alox Cadet
There is no other single piece of gear I recommend as much as the Cadet. There is virtually no one on the planet that won't somehow benefit from having a Cadet in their pocket. This is a great tool that can do a lot. It also happens to weigh as much as a pack of gum and look great to boot.
2. Leatherman Skeletool CX
Lots of people swear by the Juice. They apparently like the extra weight spent on useless tools and the lack of a locking blade. They also don't like pocket clips or good blade steel. For folks that disagree, this is my go to EDC multitool and perfect when I need pliers (that is, whenever the Cadet can't work).
3. Gerber Dime
Putting a Gerber tool on this list might seem like heresay. Few gear companies have had as bad a run as Gerber has in the last few years in terms of critical feedback and, well, product recalls. Their new flagship knife, the Instant, subject of their gritty and HDR-y commercial campaign, was recalled because the lock failed (yikes). Knife enthusiasts panned the Bearification of their product line, and lamented the explosion of zombie kits. The use of 7CR steel in knives approaching $100 didn't sit well with many either, especially given how hallowed mid-80s Gerber knives are.
But the Dime is an unassuming wonder in a sea of offshore produced garbage. If you play the fit and finish lottery with the Dime and win, you are rewarded with the best designed keychain multitool on the planet. The package includes good pliers, a good blade, a funky but functional can opener, and the awesome clam shell cutter. For well less than $20, Gerber has a true winner on their hands. Perhaps they will slap some orange and gray plastic or rubber on it, mess with the design, sell it at Dick's Sporting Goods and have it be subject to a recall as well. Seems like par for the course. Or they can just leave it alone and let us gear geeks revel in the awesomeness.
4. TT PockeTTools Chopper
There are approximately one billion OMPTs out there. The Gerber Shard is a great budget version, but for $15 more (the price of a dinner at a local sit down restaurant or Panera, which people THINK is a fancy sit down restaurant but is really nothing more than a snooty version of Subway), you can score a handmade gem. Peter Atwood's stuff is awesome, but hard to get. TT PockeTTools' stuff is just as well made, a little bit more innovative, and 1000% easier to score. The Chopper is the best of the line and really, really great. I love the snag cutter a ton. There is even a beautiful swirly damacus steel edition.
5. Leatherman Wingman
You bought a multitool on Black Friday. It looked good. It seemed to be made in Sheffield England, oh wait, no that was the brand. It was actually made in Guandong Province China. It fell apart in three days. The pivot on the pliers blew up like a meth lab and the blade steel is, either pot tin or butter. Now you need a new entry level tool and don't want to spend a lot. The Wingman is excellent entry priced tool with a great selection of implements and surprisingly nice fit and finish at this price level.
Falling in the sweet spot between EDC and Toolbox replacement, lots and lots of aficianados aren't wrong. This is a great tool and a great buy when compared to the Charge. Only the lack of true premium blade steel differentiates the two in any meaningful way.
Here is the full article and here are my top 5 EDC pens:
1. Prometheus Alpha Pen
2. Zebra F-701 with Fisher Space Pen Mod
I understand the EDC crowd's adoration for the Fisher Space Pen refill. It lasts forever, it writes anywhere and under most conditions, and it is very durable. But it is an awful writer. Even the fine refill is still slick and oily. But, over time, you get used to it. What I don't understand is the obsession with the Bullet pen. It has no clip. Its very slick in the hand. The cap and pen body are simple and beautiful, but they look much less so over time. Of course there are upgraded pen bodies from Fisher, but they are exceedingly expensive (the clicky version runs around $60).
With very simple modifications, outlined here, you can have an amazingly tough pen body, the F-701, with the durable, long lasting performance of the Fisher refill. All of this comes very cheap--around $8-$10. That is simply too much value to ignore. Its about half the price of the Bullet pen and twice as functional and durable. Additionally, this is a heavy duty pen that avoids the tank-like weight that some other pens have, making it a good writer over the long haul. If Zebra were smart, they'd make the pen compatible with the Fisher refill out of the package. They've got to know that there is a healthy contingent of folks modding their F-701s.
3. MaxMadCo Bolt Action Pen
Its durable, relatively lightweight, not insanely expensive, and it is compatible with Parker-style refills (which are, in turn, compatible with Fisher refills). The bolt mechanism is lightyears better than the competition as it is fast and discrete. The barrel is a little plain, lacking anything like a grip area, but it has a minimalist feel to it. The pen is also a bit slick in the pocket, as the well tensioned pocket clip is merely pushing fabric on to a slick barrel. Those to dings aside, this is one of the best EDC pens you can buy.
4. Kaweco Sport
The lone fountain pen on the list is a great, budget-friendly fountain pen. I love the Vanishing Point much more, but its complex mechanisms make me weary of pressing it into EDC duties. The Sport, on the other hand, is dead simple. This is the pen equivalent of the Al Mar Hawk Ultralight--a sub 1 ounce tool that has been refined to utter perfection. Its not the most durable or hassle free thing in the world, but the writing experience is glorious. It writes like a much more expensive pen and though it lacks a clip (an accessory clip is available), its diminutive size makes it easy to carry. Unlike the Bullet Pen, this pen has an excellent grip section and the cap stays put. There is no better example in the pen world of accessible, high quality German design than the Kaweco Sport. The fact that it runs on very widely available International size ink refills is another plus. Oh and it is pretty darn cheap too.
5. TuffWriter Ultimate Clicky
The only traditional "tactical pen" on the list is here primarily because of how it diverges from the horde of crenelated beasts. First there are no pokey or pointy parts. It doesn't look like a castle tower. Second, it is a clicky, which I greatly prefer for EDC use (no cap to lose). Third, the grip section, a rudimentary as it might be, its actually quite good. This pen weighs more than I'd like, but if you opt for the aluminum version is not too bad (though the titanium version is much prettier). The clicky is an amazing clicky and the pen just impossible to destroy. Nothing has held up to the rigors of lots of travel and daily use better than the Ultimate Clicky. Its expensive, and the Karas Customs Retrakt uses the same clicky mechanism for less, but its singular ability to write well and absorb damage makes it worth the price and better than its competition.
Honorable Mention: Pilot Vanishing Point
The Vanishing Point is a truly amazing piece of design and engineering. It writes supernally well. It can take refills or use bottle ink. It has a pocket clip. It looks like a million bucks. But my experience tells me all of those mechanisms associated with making it a retractable fountain pen would get messed up if I took it with me from court to jail to prison and back again. This may be a theoretical concern, but given the price (its the most expensive pen on this list), it would be painful to find out. That said, the allure of the new metallic bodies will probably make me buy one sooner or later. I wouldn't be surprised if it vaulted up the list once I did.
Second Honorable Mention: Tacticle Turn Mover or Shaker
Consulting with the Emissary of Ink before releasing this list was a crucial step. Brad Dowdy's knowledge of pens is unrivaled so when he suggests you listen. I haven't personally used these pens, which are just now being sold directly after a successful Kickstarter campaign, but they look very good. They share a lot of features with the TuffWriter, but they are cheaper and sleeker. One of these will almost certainly come my way for review sooner or later.