Friday, August 19, 2011

Picking out a multi-tool

What is it?

Many posts ago I talked about carrying a knife. In that post I mentioned multi-tools, something I always like to have around. In fact, I think if I counted I must own at least 8 or more of some form or another.

Why do it?

With the invention of the folding multi-tool by Tim Leatherman in 1984 (yes, it is named after him, not for working on leather), the world of the Swiss Army knife was shaken up. Swiss Army knives still abound, the multi-tools now hold a lot of sway and provide options previously undreamt of. But picking the right tool can be a bit of a mystery. I tmay also be why I have so many!


What matters in a multi-tool? It turns out, quite a bit.

Use: what do you want the multi-tool to do?
• Everyday needs – opening boxes, tightening screws and nuts, cutting paper, dealing with splinters, cutting your nails, opening bottles
• Camping – wood working and cutting, cord cutting, can opener, cooking (including grabbing hot pots), fixing gear, pounding stakes
• Occupation – wire cutting, crimping connectors, pliers, cutting hoses/rope/etc, filing. All things that are done by mechanics, linemen, IT workers, carpenters, electricians, etc
• Sports/recreation – bicycling, shooting, motorcycling, smithing, climbing, woodworking, etc

Carrying method: How do intend to tote it around?
• On a belt – most multi-tools have the option of a carrying pouch or a belt clip, but can get in way of a seatbelt. It can also give that "Batman utility belt" look
• In a pocket – inconspicuous, always there, but wears on pockets
• In a bag – either within its own pouch or on its own, not with you if you set the bag down
• On a clip – many have carabineer options, for loops, rings, and belt loops, but bounces around

Size/Color: how big is too big?
• Is this for everyday? If so, how much space do you have available?
• How much does it weigh, either in the pocket, a bag, etc.
• What will it go next to? Consider that it might rub against a cell phone, keys, or whatever is nearby.
• Color is largely subjective, unless you need low-vis options like black oxide. There are numerous options, including many flashy colors

Tools: What is in this thing?
• It's easy to go overboard, and better if you have a use for everything if possible. Prioritize what you really need with the other sections above
• Consider zccess to the tools you’ll need most, and more quickly – very often things like knives should be to the outside
• Locking tools, for safety
• Replacement of wearable items, such as wire-cutters
• Quality – not all tools are created equal, and some models may be better at a task than others, even from the same manufacturer

• Additional tools – bits, wrenches, etc
• Warranty – may never need, but shows a level of faith by the manufacturer
• Engraving – for that really personal option

What do you carry?

As I said, I have a bunch of these, and that doesn't include the 3 or 4 my wife has. Here are a few of my favorites and why.

Leatherman Charge TTi - I've been carrying this one for over 7 years, and it has served me very well. The ability to change out the screwdriver bits is great, which prompted me to get the optional bit set. The file is the only thing showing wear, but not yet to the point where I'll take advantage of the 25-year warranty to have it replaced. It used to ride on my belt all the time, but since I took up motorcycling, I've moved it to a sheath on my EDC. I love having the knives on the outside for quick cutting with easy thumb opening. 2 blade options is also a big benefit.

Gerber 600 Basic - Actually, I have an earlier model, but it's essentially the same. I've owned a number of these, including, until it disappeared somewhere, a customer one in forest green. I really like the one handed 'flick' opening, and have one of these in my truck and another in my 72-hour kit. I have found that some of the tools are not as tough as I'd like, and having all of the tools on the inside makes access slow.

Leatherman Style CS - This is on truck key chain. I carry the Micra on my motorcycle keychain, for similar reasons. Both of these have great scissors, a small blade, tweezers, and a few other every day tools I find useful to keep around. They are small, but that makes it easy to make sure they go with me everywhere.

Leatherman MUT - This is the newest tool in the stable, so I don't have a lot to say on it yet. I'll be getting around to a full review soon for a friend, but at least I can tell you what led me to pick it up. While I do shoot, I also play airsoft, which uses replica firearms. More than once I've needed to open up a gun to do a quick repair and didn't have the tools I needed. This will help fill that option. Additionally, it has great bit options, tougher wire-cutters, and a quick cutter for things like cord or seat belts. Finally, and this was the deciding factor, it has a hammering surface. More than once I've used the handles of the TTi to pound things, but it really isn't cut out to handle that. We'll see how it works out!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Status Quo Bias

I heard a term today that I've thought about before, but didn't have a good label: Status Quo Bias. While it isn't a skill, per se, it is something that lead (and leads) me to develop new skills, so I wanted to share some thoughts here.

What is it?

I heard the term while listening to one of my favorite podcasts (OK, I think my favorite podcast), The Survival Podcast. Don't let the name throw you, this show is really about self-reliance and sustainability. Topics range from gardening to financial debt to wilderness survival and everything in between. Anyway, a listener sent in a link to this YouTube video: Your Yard is Evil. Very funny, very pithy, well worth the few minutes to watch. Good intro to the term.

In short, Status Quo Bias (SQB) is doing something because it's always been done or everyone else does it. Like growing a lawn, despite the silliness of the whole idea. It isn't always an old thing. In fact, I think some of our SQBs are fairly new and equally as silly. I do and learn a lot of my skills despite, or to combat SQB. Let's look at a few, as examples.

Eating out So many Americans do it. It's faster and easier, and has become the norm in many households. Yet it's costly, often bad for our health, and does it save time, really? Actually cooking and eating as a family seems to break from SQB at this point.

Car maintenance I'm not thinking of the big stuff, like replacing a cracked head, but things like changing a tire, checking your oil, radiator, and tire pressure, or being able to put on a spare all seem to have gone by the wayside. There was a time when you learned this at the same time you learned to drive, but it seems we're more than willing to rely on AAA or the various service vans that prowl the highways. But what if your have an issue on a back road and your cell phone is dead? Or, better yet, what if you could have prevented it by keeping up on some of those little items?

Carrying a knife I've talked about this before, but it is an example of SQB. As a kid, I carried a pocket knife all sorts of places, even sometimes to school. It was a tool, something you needed to have around. I have one in my pocket as I type this, and 2 more in easy reach. Yet, pull one out today and you get such interesting reactions! More often than not, it's a moment of concern followed by questions of why you need one. This is usually while you're doing something like opening a box, cutting some tough tape or cord, or one of those stupid blister packs everything comes in. My current preferred response is to stare at someone with slight disbelief and respond along the lines of "Because no one else does" or "For things like this!"

I could go on and on, but I'd love to know what you see as SQB. And, more importantly, I want us all (myself included) to think about it more and decide "Am I doing this just because of the status quo?"