Here are the Knife and Light Best ofs. Those entries were designed to follow up on previous Best ofs, but this one is new. In looking through the stuff that I have reviewed, used, and owned, time and again I come back to this stuff. Some of these thing I routinely and habitually use, items I couldn’t do without. Some of it is simply the item that I think works best, even if, like in the case of multitools, it is not something I use or carry everyday.
I have tried many, many pens for an EDC role. This is the best. By a mile and a half. If you are like me and plan on carrying a pen everyday, it needs to be tough, easy to use, and easy to carry. Most pens give you two of those three, but the MMC Bolt Action does all three and does them very, very well. The Tactile Turn Shaker is another good pen, but accidental (and shirt-ruining) deployment on the MMC is impossible. The snappy action on the bolt is like no other pen. This design has been around a long time and it is still my hands down favorite. Also, it takes Parker-sytle refills without modification.
After ten years of use, I have changed and added to my favorite bag in a number of ways, but the core of the bag is so good, it is hard to improve upon. I love the water bottle holders with their mesh pockets and cinch top (which is hard to find on any other bag). I love the straps and the back padding. I really like the zippers and buckles. Most importantly, if you are going to be running around or using this as a daypack, its just the right size. For multi-day travel you positively need something bigger, but for a hike in the woods, this is plenty. Its old. There are newer packs that are both fanicer and more expensive, but this just gets the job done.
There are a few challengers here, the TAD Specter 22L is one (and is on the way for review). The Synapse 19 is good as is a few Mystery Ranch packs, but I always come back to the size and the great water bottle pockets. This is a simple bag, one that now looks ridiculously tactical (its about as Grey Man as Rambo), and has less than state of the art materials, but is still damn good.
Let's cut the baloney--the bigger a multitool is the less likely it is that it will be used. Do you really need an eyeglasses screw driver? No. The Skeletool has everything you need and nothing you don't and is filled with clever touches like the carabiner being a bottle opener and the pivot screw being an overtravel stop. Only the blunty pliers mar an otherwise superior tool. If you are a fan of the Wave instead, go back to 2004 and buy one of those laptop bags with 78 pockets. They are pair made in heaven. The CX has better steel for a marginal price increase, so opt for that.
Best Windbreaker Jacket: LL Bean Pathfinder Hoodie (buy)
I have this jacket, a TAD jacket, and a host of others in this category and irrespective of price, this is my favorite. When you toss in the fact that it is the cheapest and least GI Joe, it is an easy win. Mine is well over 8 years old and it still looks nice. I have treated it with Nik Wax spray twice and it beads up like a mob boss in church with a guilty conscience.
Best piece of EDC Kit to Buy When You Can’t Possibly Justify Another Knife, Pen, Light, or Watch: Gerstner Chest (buy):
If you won the lottery by the domestic made versions--they are produced in my home town of Dayton, OH about a mile from where my Dad's office is. If you aren't Daddy Warbucks, the international versions are still impeccable pieces of woodworking and amazingly functional designs. The designs, by the way, are basically unchanged since the first chest was made. I saw the Wright Brother's chest and it is virtually indistinguishable from mine.
Its not as cool as a CyPop or as overtly sexual as other designs. It doesn't look like a monkey, a praying mantis, or a Klingon ship from Star Trek: Discovery. That said, it happens to be one of the best tools available. Its amazing, useful, and simple. Naturally Gerber discontinued it only to be forced to reintroduce it when the hue and cry from the gear community was too great.
One day when common sense prevails and we can carry folders on airplanes again (not because we want to slice pepperoni in midflight but because it is just hassle), we won’t need these sort of workaround tools. Until then the Leatherman Style PS is the best out there—small, efficient, and with all but one of the tools you most often need. Plus, as a Leatherman you can return a bag of parts and get a new one even if you accidentally smash and bash it.
I have had my Cadet for years. It still looks good. It works. It forces you to focus on what you really need. It also works amazingly well with a laptop or, even more appropos now these days, an iPad. The lack of pockets is a good thing. Remember the last time you lost that crucial USB drive in one of those many bazillions of pockets? Won’t happen here.
There is no best water bottle on the market. Sorry. But if you cobble together pieces from a variety of sources you can get a very good bottle. Here is the fundamental problem--bottles need to do three things: be durable, be insulated, and not taint or flavor the water. Tritan does the first well and the other two poorly. Steel does the second well and the others poorly. Glass...well you get the idea. No bottle does it all great. But if you combine the bottle and protective sleeve of the Takeya and the amazing Human Gear CapCap you have something that does all three things pretty decently. The Takeya is just as insulated as the Hydroflask you know and love, but it's sleeve is better than any other I have found absent a full sleeve which presents a host of other problems. And the stock cap on the Takeya is not bad either. Its just that the Human Gear CapCap is amazing.