SMALL, USEFUL TOOLS ON YOUR KEYCHAIN OR IN YOUR WALLET CAN SAVE THE DAY
You won’t forget to take them with you, because they’ll be right on your keychain, around your wrist, or in your wallet.
There’s no end to useful little gadgets that combine several tools in one, take-anywhere device. Some include a knife blade, and most include a screwdriver or two. Most feature what their creators must think is indispensable: a bottle opener.
This is in case, I suppose, you’re unexpectedly thrust into a binge away from a drinking establishment with no other way to open your brew. Most of my experience is with twist-off caps, so what do I know.
The great thing about keychain tools and other small gadgets is that they don’t weigh you down. I’m a devotee of everyday carry gear.
But after loading up for the day with my keys, wallet, flashlight, a couple of pocketknives, a handgun, spare ammo, pepper spray, pen, notepad, and cell phone, my chipmunk-cheek pockets and waistband have reached their carrying capacity.
I’m apt to need a belt, suspenders, and a portable winch to keep my pants from slipping down to the “urban tactical” position below my butt.
Tiny tools that you clip to your keychain or zipper pulls and credit card-sized tools you can tuck in a wallet can solve that problem to some degree. No, they’re usually not as helpful as the full-size tools in your toolbox or the larger multitools you can wear on your belt.
Sometimes, for instance, you need a dedicated screwdriver with some reach. Still, these little tools can come in handy to hurdle small obstacles tossed in your path during a busy day when you’re traveling light.
Small tools can serve as backups to your bigger tools too. Usually when I’m wandering the woods, I have a secondary fire-starter on my keychain and a tiny compass fastened to a zipper pull on my jacket or pack.
There is a danger of overdoing it with keychain tools. Don’t carry every key for every lock you’ve ever locked on your key ring.
Once you add a tiny knife, pry bar, bottle opener, flashlight, assorted retail store fobs with discount bar codes, a few charms, and good luck talismans, your keychain will likely be a grapefruit-sized, odd-shaped wad of pokey gizmos that won’t fit conveniently in a pocket or anywhere else.
In short, it’ll look like the keychain my wife has and makes me carry when she doesn’t want to carry a full-size handbag. And we already know I don’t have any more room in my pockets.
In general, I prefer larger tools, but there are certain products that I’ve come to depend on over the years and some others that are still on my wish list. Here are a few:
VICTORINOX CLASSIC SD
The Victorinox Classic SD is a mini Swiss Army Knife and it’s my all-time favorite for keychain carry. That’s not surprising as I’ve depended on Swiss Army Knives most of my adult life.
This model includes a knife blade, scissors, toothpick, tweezers, and a nail file that has a small flat-head screwdriver on the end of it.
The small flat-head screwdriver will work on Phillips-head screws as well. The little tool includes a key ring too, of course.
All this comes in tool that’s about 2 inches long and weighs just 0.7 ounce. I’ve used it when grocery shopping with my wife, who keeps me interested in the process by having me cut coupons.
It’s a lowly task for a knife guy, I know, but at least I get to use the knife and the little Victorinox Classic SD doesn’t alarm other shoppers. I’ve used the scissors regularly too to trim those little annoying hairs that sprout everywhere as you get older.
You laugh, but just wait until it’s your turn. The tweezers are great for removing small slivers. And the toothpick I’ve used while cleaning the hard-to-reach places on my knives and firearms.
I’ve bought Victorinox Classic SDs for nearly every non-enthusiast member of my immediate family who would normally not think to carry a knife otherwise.
Another keychain tool that’s near the top of my favorites list is the Leatherman Micra. This tool folds out in the same way most larger Leatherman tools do, except instead of a pair of pliers, there’s a pair of scissors that are a bit beefier than the ones on the Swiss Army Knives.
Other tools include a knife blade, nail file, three screwdrivers of different sizes, tweezers, ruler, and, of course, a bottle opener.
Normally, if I want to carry a pair of pliers, I’ll select a larger tool, such as the Leatherman Wave. But if you want pliers on a keychain tool, Leatherman offers both the Squirt PS4 and the Style PS, both of which still have scissors.
One tool I don’t have is the Columbia River Knife & Tool Guppie. But it’s on my list. This little tool features a small, adjustable wrench instead of a pair of pliers.
It includes a knife blade, bit driver, four screwdriver bits, and a removable bit carrier that incorporates an LED flashlight.
Also, it has a carabiner attachment point that can be used as, you guessed it, a bottle opener. It also features a pocket clip that can double as a money clip.
A CRKT tool that I have used often is the Eat’N Tool. I never want to live in fear of the possibility of being around food with no utensils.
The Eat’N Tool is a small spoon/fork combo with bottle opener, flat-head screwdriver, and three hex wrench holes. It attaches to a keychain or pack with an included carabiner. As a self-proclaimed eating expert, normally I prefer a spoon or fork with a longer handle.
CRKT makes the Eat’N Tool XL with that. But the original, due to its small size, finds its way into all my pocket-sized survival kits.
Another interesting CRKT keychain tool is the Pryma. The Pryma includes a pry bar that’s shaped so it can be used as a scraper too. It also has a glass breaker, bottle opener, integral carabiner clip, and assorted hex wrench slots.
I’ve used Gerber multitools and knives for many years. One that’s on my wish list, however, is the Dime.
This small tool features pliers with wire cutters, knife blade, flat-head and Phillips screwdrivers, file, bottle opener, scissors, tweezers, and a specially designed edged tool for opening packages—a good idea.
Another Gerber keychain tool worth looking at is the Mullet, a simple tool that incorporates a pry bar, nail puller, wire cutter, screwdrivers, hex wrench, and key ring.
OTHER KEYCHAIN TOOLS
While some tools incorporate a carabiner clip, some multitools are themselves carabiners. Such is the Leatherman Hail, a carabiner that features a scraper, bottle opener, lace assist, flat/Phillips screwdriver, and 10 mm wrench. Another is the Firebiner.
This tool from Outdoor Element has a wheel and flint sparker for fire-starting, along with a safety blade, bottle opener, and screwdriver.
Swiss+Tech makes good keychain tools, including its Micro Tech 6 in 1, Micro Max 19 in 1, and Utli-Key. The UST Tool A Long multitools come in the shape of animals—mine is a Bigfoot and hangs from my car’s visor.
These can still be found online, although they’re no longer on the company’s website.
Some keychain tools are highly specialized. They’re good when you want to customize your keychain in anticipation of what lies ahead for your day.
The CRKT Knife Maintenance Tool has Torx drivers for removing handle scales or tightening pocket clips, and it has ceramic and carbide knife sharpeners.
The Gerber Gutsy is a fish cleaning tool that fits on a keychain. Real Avid has its AR-15 Micro Tool for keeping your rifle running smoothly.
When hiking, I’ll often attach a Coghlan’s 4-Function Whistle with compass, whistle, magnifier, and thermometer to my keychain.
The company’s Carabiner Compass with compass and thermometer is handy too. Both are inexpensive but work fine.
While they’re not multitools, no keychain would be complete without a little LED flashlight. These lights are bright enough for you to align your key with your door lock or find something that’s fallen under your car seat.
Obviously, you can’t count on them to help you find your dropped keys if the light is on your keychain. They are great for helping you to find something in your pack.
The downside is the little batteries they use can be relatively expensive. The Streamlight Nano puts out 10 lumens of light with an eight-hour run time on four LR41 batteries. It turns on and off with a foolproof twist of the bezel—no switch to break.
A similar product by UST, the Pico, is rated at 20 lumens. It’s no longer on the UST website, but you can still find them online.
Another tiny keychain light I’ve used is the Princeton Tec Pulsar. This light puts out 10 lumens for 12 hours, powered by two 2016 lithium coin cells.
You simply squeeze this light to turn in on. The Pulsar II features a tiny switch to keep the light activated without constant squeezing.
There are flat, credit card-sized multitools that you can put in your wallet. I have three that I really like. One is the Zootility Tools Wild Card that incorporates a folding, locking knife blade among other tools.
The knife can be removed if you want to bring the card in your carry-on bag. Another is the Wilderness Survival Card from Readyman that includes arrowheads, fishhooks, snare locks, saw blades, needles, tweezers, and awl. Survival Frog has its 11 in 1 Survival Wallet Tool.
You see these everywhere, but this is the only one I’ve found that has a blade and saw that are sharp and usable.
ON THE WRIST
Don’t forget the Leatherman Tread Tempo. OK, this isn’t a keychain either, so I’m cheating again. But this is too cool to leave out.
The Leatherman Tread Tempo is a wristwatch with a multitool band. Take the links of the band apart and you have an assortment of wrenches, screwdrivers, belt cutter, glass breaker, file, and the inevitable bottle opener.
EDC SPECIALTIES IS A GOOD PLACE TO START
EDC Specialties, located about 18 miles from downtown Sacramento, California, is the only dedicated EDC gear company to have a brick and mortar storefront.
But much of its merchandise can be purchased online too. I recently ordered a Zootility Tools Wild Card, Maratac 4-Inch Curved Steel Keychain Prybar, and EOS Titanium Mini Shark Multitool from its site at EDCSpecialties.com.
EDC Specialties is geared more toward urban environment needs, a kind of a one-stop shop for everything the average person needs to get through even a not-so-average day.
In addition to keychain tools, the company offers wallets, tactical pens, and lots of top-quality knives. EDC Specialties sells products from many brands that all have one thing in common: all of the products are made in the U.S.
Columbia River Knife & Tool
Outdoor Element (Firebiner)