Q4 is always a busy time for me—lots of year end Best Ofs and holiday gift guide articles make for lots and lots of products to test. 2018 was one of the best years ever for gear and as a result pocket time at the end of the year was precious. Despite that a few pieces of kit made it into my carry over and over again simply because of how awesome they were. Here is some of the stuff I carried in October, November, and December of 2018.
The Frelux Synergy I with the Tobin Smith nameless folder.
The Frelux Synergy I was a suggestion that came in from a reader and I was very fortunate to track one down while Ben had them in stock. The light’s size and functionality make it one of my favorite lights to carry in a collection that has a bunch of amazing torches (BOSS 35, Muyshondt Aeon Mk. 3, my heavily modded Surefire Titan Plus, the McGizmo Haiku…). Here it is paired with the Tobin Smith folder I have, which, to this day has no name. Its a simple and elegant design with a bit of heft to it. Its not portly, mind you, just sturdy. Despite the extra mass for both items compared to my normal carry, nothing here is bulky and they did well together at the end of the year. The Synergy I is just such a cool light, I was always happy to slide it into my pocket.
Muyshondt Aeon Mk. 3, Gareth Bull Small Shamwari, Parker 51
My Aeon had to take a trip back home to Texas as over the many years of carry one of the screw hole threads had totally stripped out. It was hard to part with as it is one of my most carried items. As fortune would have it, I had the Synergy I in for review, so the blow was softened. That said, when it returned home (Enrique just swapped out the light for a new one, and did so quickly, great service…), I was happy to reunite it with its main carry companion the Small Shamwari, the first such knife Gareth made. The pen here is a new old item, a vintage fountain pen—the Parker 51 Demi. It is entering its 75th year of use and still is a killer writer. The hooded gold nib is outstanding—fine and smooth, a rare combination.
Hinderer XM-18, Rotring 300 Ballpoint, Frelux Synergy I
Hinderer is a lot like Bark River—if you wait long enough they will release your favorite knife in your absolute perfect configuration. It took…um…6 years but they finally lined everything up for me and they dropped a Tri-Way pivot in the knife for me. This is, are you ready, a Hinderer XM-18, 3 inch Slicer Grind, with Blue G-10, and 20CV steel. As I said, it rides on the Tri-Way pivot. Yowza….The light is the aforementioned Synergy I. The pen is a new addition and it is awesome. The Rotring 600 line has been famous for its German feel—stout, precise, and purpose-driven. The ballpoint is a new addition and with the MaxMadCo ending production, this might be my go-to ballpoint. Its friggin’ sweet.
Fenix E16 and CRKT Pilar in S35VN
I like the S1R’s form factor. I do not like its beam quality. Its squashy and not all that crisp. The E16 is smaller and has a better beam. The trade off is that it can’t recharge itself. I am slowly converting to all rechargeable lights, but among the 1xCR123a torches from the production world this is one of my favorites. It still suffers from the terrible pocket clip problem, which, apparently is unsolvable at a price point under $100 unless your name is Jason Hui, but this is a perfectly serviceable torch. As for the Pilar, carrying it reminds me of why Voxnaes’s design is so beguiling—it fits in your hand like it was made of melting wax and it cuts quite nicely for such a think blade. With S35VN I have no fears of carrying this knife. Its just an all around winner. Blade HQ needs to release some more, because this thing is pure awesome sauce, as my son would say.
Darriel Caston Kadima and Frelux Synergy I
Thanks a generous listener, the Kadima came home after I drafted it in the “Weird Knife” draft Nick and I did on GGL The overall look and feel of the Kadima makes it like no other knife and Darriel Caston is one of the most creative knife makers on the planet. I could have drafted just Caston blades and done quite well in the Weird Knife draft. And what better light to pair with the strange Kadima than the Synergy? After all, it too is a of a weird gadget. Great, but still a bit weird.
Massdrop Gent Select and Surefire Titan Plus
I had ordered the Rosewood Gent Select and the E16 on the same day. They arrived around the same time and I naturally paired them together, the copper highlights of the torch working well with the carmel streaks on the knife. But then I realized one day that both items were gone. I don’t lose knives so I am sure they aren’t missing. I am looking forward to the day I will find both items, hidden in a closet or in a book case. As it is, these two work well together as replacements. I actually like the look of the Rosewood Gent better, but the CF version has that same appealing thinness in the hand that the G10 originals do. I am very confident that I like the G10 originals better, even price blind. I’d love me a blue G10 Gent.
Torchlab BOSS 35 and Kevin Wilkins Leafstorm 9
Oh man, closing out this post with a power duo. Kevin Wilkins customs have intrigued me since the awesome and flawed Spyderco Leafstorm was released. It was a knife design that hinted at greatness. I have followed Wilkins work ever since and over the years I have been close to buying one of his knives. The problem is twofold. First, he has no book, which I actually think is good for buyers and makers. But when you combine that with his propensity to make things in batches it gets tough. There will be whole years where he is working through a batch of materials that just turns me off or blade shapes that leave me cold. So in late 2018 when he posted this version of his Leafstorm 9 I jumped. It was just what I wanted. And, well, you know the BOSS 35. When do you think it will be unseated as the best all-around light available? Frankly if Torchlab went out of business today, I think it could be a decade until something beats it in both output, design, and programmability. As it is, Torchlab has the best chance of beating Torchlab. This light is a revelation.
Some of the gear can be found in the Everyday Commentary storefront on Amazon.