With the New Year here, I thought it might be valuable for readers to see what I usually carry as a default. I have a modest collection of gear and I review quite a bit more, but when I am not in the midst of testing a piece of gear for a review or I am in the thrall of a brand new addition to my personal collection, here is the stuff I prefer. In other words, this is each product I carry most often in a given product category--knife, light, pen, etc. This is my stuff.
Like that book you read in high school and thought was great, but then read as an adult and you realized it was amazing (for me that was 1984), the DFII in ZDP-189 and FRN handle is, was, and probably always will be one of the best knives for EDC out the market. There are blingier blades of course, but for a balance of everything—blade steel, price, performance, size, weight, ergos, it is still hard to match.
This light has taken a long time to get where I want it. The core of the torch—the emitter, body tube, and reflector, are all awesome, but the doubly redundant (see what I did there?) lanyard attachment point had to go. Not only was it strictly unnecessary, it also prevented the light from tailstanding. 10 minutes at a local machine shop (and a $15 gift card to Chik-Fil-A) was all it took to get rid of the annoying nub. The factory clip was okay, but not ideal so I upgraded there too. In the end, this is one of the best lights for EDC and a great complement to the DFII.
Oh man I still love this pen all these years later. It is not as fragile or as fancy as a fountain pen and it is impossible to accidentally deploy the writing tip, so it is a better fit for my daily usage (which includes breast pocket carry) than most nock-based pens. It also happens to have the most addictive bolt action on the planet. Who needs a figet spinner when you have this pen? The shipped refill is super weird, but the pen takes Parker style refills, making it compatible with all sorts of awesomeness.
Runner Up: If you don’t like the bolt action format the Gen 2 Tactile Turn Shaker is a world beater and if you like the Flash Gordon aesthetic, the Prometheus Writes Alpha is killer with a pricey but amazing refill (the Mont Blanc Fineliner)
Wallet: Tom Bihn Prototype Wallet
I hate to do this but I can’t really share a lot. The materials are awesome, the design is versatile and clever, and it is as small as you can get without being useless. Much love here. Its coming soon, so look out. It will be awesome.
I am still not thrilled with the designs for water bottles, but this model is, essentially, the tallest dwarf (smartest Kardashian...you get it). The CapCap makes the package significantly better. The main issue is that steel water bottles look like jalopy cars after about a year. I am working on a fix to this. Coming soon.
Runner Up: Don’t bother.
At work I go with the Cadet and I could not be happier even after years of carry. It was a risky choice initially lacking about 50% of the storage and 99% of the organization of my previous briefcase (a Tumi), but its smaller size and simplified design have worked out well and reshaped how I work on the go. It is not an exaggeration to say that I am a better lawyer because of this briefcase—not being loaded down with extra crap makes finding the stuff I need much, much easier. Plus, five years later it still looks great. I love this bag.
If I am out on the trail, its the PFII now and for a while into the future. There are a lot of good packs out there but none have the cinch-able water bottle holders, which, for me, as a dayhiker with kids, is a huge plus. That is the single reason I prefer this pack over the new Mystery Ranch packs and the Tom Bihn Cadet. It is also about $50-$100 less than these two options.
When I am doing actual physical labor—home improvements, woodworking, or yardwork, the Skeletool is always on my hip. Its size and essentials-only tool selection is perfect. The fact that you can carry it in the pliers configuration or as a folded up tool is also good. I just can’t see a case for spending more money on a Wave. Its bigger, more money, and the additional tools are all .1% use cases.
Runner Up: Nothing really fits the same role as the Skeletool.
Smartphone: Latest iPhone ($600)
Apple makes stuff so easy. The phone works with my watch, my TV, my media player, my computer, my tablet, my wi fi hub, my printer, and my camera. Honestly, I am sure I could get that kind of integration on a Samsung product, but why bother with Pepsi when you already have Coke?
Watch: Citizen BM8180 ($90) (purchase)
My watch review scoring system is coming as is discussion of why I am not enamored with high end mechanical watches. This watch looks nice, keeps good time (remember that—the reason you actually bought a goddam watch in the first place), and never needs resetting. The band is atrocious, but that is the easiest and cheapest part of a watch to replace. Its a tool watch, for sure, but as you can see with all of my selections, bling is never a consideration for me.
Runner Up: I dunno
The KeyBlade isn’t as complex or well-supported as the KeyBar, but with you give up in knife inserts you gain in simplicity. Honestly, this is without question the best key set up I have ever run myself or seen anywhere. I can attach and detach keys in seconds. They are quiet and not pokey. And, unlike the vast majority of key systems this set up is easily compatible with key fob keys.
Runner Up: Nothing is close.
As a fun experiment I added all of the stuff up. Total, this is $1360 in gear, but $600 of that is a phone. Realistically I usually carry a knife, light, pen, wallet, bottle, watch, and a keychain. Total that runs $429 for an amazing, high performance, best value EDC kit. Toss in the phone and your right at $1000 ($1029 to be exact). Given the excesses of the market right now that seems pretty reasonable. And yes, I did just say an EDC kit for $1000 was reasonable.