Coding Horror

programming and human factors

Updating Your Utility Belt

I just updated my utility belt.

Batman Utility Belt

Well, metaphorically speaking – every self-respecting geek has one.

Lately I've been trying to minimize what I carry around even further. After having children I've come to appreciate the value of less stuff in my life. So here's my everyday carry in 2013:

Keychain-edc-2013

Compared to my 2011 everyday carry, I have managed to reduce in size almost everything on it:

I have no idea why I was using a size #1 S-Biner for so long when the smaller size #0 model does the job just fine. And I gave up the USB flash drive altogether in favor of storing files on whatever smartphone I'm always carrying around with me anyway. (But if you need one, look at the USB 3.0 models, which are almost like little SSD drives in your pocket.)

I also flirted with the idea of dropping the standalone flashlight and relying on my smartphone camera flash as a flashlight, but in my testing smartphones make weak flashlights. It might replace one of those button battery style LEDs in an emergency, but it's not even close to what a decent AAA LED flashlight can do for actual nighttime navigation. It is interesting that LEDs haven't advanced much in the last few years on AAA flashlights. There are somewhat newer Cree XP-G2 models which I also experimented with, but I ended up preferring the minimalist, compact form factor of the iTP EOS. Don't forget the lithium AAA batteries to keep the weight down and runtime up, though!

The Leatherman Style is a fantastic new addition, because it keeps the core functions I used the most on the Leatherman Squirt and removes the extra stuff I didn't. Here's an expanded view of the other side.

Leatherman-style-red

So: scissors, knife, screwdriver. Hard to see, but detachable tweezers are also wedged in on the corner. That works for me. These are the functions I used the most on my Leatherman Squirt, by far. The Style is leaner, smaller, lighter … meaner.

(And there's also a nail file, on the other side of the screwdriver, but what is this obsession with nail files on multi-tools? Who are these people filing their nails all the damn time? I've never filed my nails once in my entire life! Can anyone mansplain this to me?)

I also purchased an updated Leatherman Squirt PS4, the one with the integrated scissors as well as the pliers. I'm showing it here fully expanded, next to my old red Squirt that didn't have the scissors.

Leatherman Squirt p4 old vs new

The pliers are great, and probably the only reason to carry this slightly larger multitool if you need it. But I hardly ever did. The physical dimensions aren't terribly different, but the Squirt PS4 is 56.4 grams, versus the Style at 23.1 grams. Quite a weight savings.

(I would be remiss if I didn't point out that the Squirt and Style are only two of the literally dozens of great Leatherman utility tool choices, from pocket to multi-tool. I like the smallest ones in the model range for my minimalist EDC needs, but you might want more. Of particular note is the Style CS which adds an integrated clip and bottle opener, but bulks up to 41.1g)

So that's my updated utility belt in 2013. Less is more, folks.

But there is one more thing…

If you were worried that Haitz's Law wasn't working for us on these LED flashlights, have no fear. Because for $75, you can now own a compact, roughly AA-sized LED flashlight that produces an astonishing 850 lumens. (For context, the AAA flashlight pictured above produces around 90 lumens on its highest setting.)

Pd35-led-flashlight

I got this Fenix PD35 flashlight to play with, along with some rechargeable 18650 Li-ion batteries (think fatter AA, two CR123A batteries stacked on top of each other), and it is nuts. It's actually painful to look at when lit, and it gets pretty warm in your hands on the high and turbo settings. If you've ever dreamed of carrying a lightsaber, and I know you have, wielding this baby will make you realize that dream is closer today than ever before.

It's also a pretty nice flashlight. Just try to resist making lightsaber noises while using it.

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Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Exchange and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: http://twitter.com/codinghorror