We are coming up on the part of the year where things get a little hectic for me — I don’t know why, but this is the trend. And thus I tend to not really get a bunch of new stuff to review and test during the last few months of the year. Who knows if this year is different, but now seems like a good time to write this post.
It’s time to point out a few really good things I have come across in my time writing this site (9.5 years for those wondering). Things which you can spend your money on without worry, and know that it’s good, will last, and worth every penny.
These are the items I feel confident fully endorsing the ever loving crap out of.
When it comes to knives, I own a ton of really good knives. I love what Chris Reeves does with metal, what Bradford Knives does out of Seattle, but the company that impresses me more than any other is Benchmade. Every time I get a new Benchmade I am reminded how good their products are. (One second, I am going to go order a new one right now, can’t help myself.)
The Griptillian (buy) is a perfect outdoors knife, and I bet bigger than most people really need. The Mini-Griptillian I recently reviewed (buy) is outstanding. If I had to pick just one knife for the rest of my life, it would be the min-grip because it’s the perfect balance.
For those who are not knife people, but who still would like to have a nice knife, it does not get any better than the Proper (buy) with a sheepsfoot blade. It’s non-threatening, well made, slim, and a stellar performer. And despite having a bunch of other knives, the Proper is my most used knife. It is what is in my pocket Monday through Friday. I absolutely love this knife, so much so I am thinking of getting a second one to have as a backup because I can’t imagine not having one.
Obviously I have not tried every Benchmade, but I’m confident in the brand. And what’s more is that the vast majority of their knives are ambidextrous. And that’s incredibly rare, speaking as a left handed person at least, the dual thumb studs and axis lock system are top notch. You can’t go wrong and this is the reason I no longer even consider buying knives from other brands. That’s weird for me to say given how much I like pocket knives, but the truth is no other company holds up.
So here’s my advice, go get a Proper (model 319). Then get a Mini-Griptillian. Spend some time drooling over the new Bailout, but realize that most people never need a knife that large — right? Right?
Ah yes bags. This has been quite a year for me with bags as I have tested a lot, written a lot, and hated even more. I’ll break this down very simply for everyone, and I know that many will disagree with me on this, but anyone who disagrees with me doesn’t know what the heck they are talking about. (I’m looking at you Carryology, the worst bag site on the internet.)
Anyways, if you want or need a backpack you get a GORUCK backpack. It’s fortunate that they revamped their manufacturing process and moved it to Vietnam as now what is literally the highest quality backpack you can buy, is only going to get higher in quality. And it’s cheaper, back to the original $295 for a GR1. That’s a steal of a price for what you get in todays market.
To spend your money on any non-GORUCK backpack is basically the same as buying stuff with your eyes closed and hoping for the best. It may work out for you, but probably not. If you carry only a few things and an iPad, the 15L Bullet Ruck (buy) is all you need. Want a weekend/normal/laptop backpack? Get a GR1 (buy). Want to travel around like a madman and never worry: GR2 (buy).
I own: GR1 26L Black, GR1 26L Black workshop model, GR1 26L Snow/Wolf Grey, GR2 34L Coyote Brown, GR2 40L Black, 15L Bullet Ruck black, 10L Bullet Ruck black, 21L GR1 Curved Straps in black. I bought every single one of those, none were given to me from GORUCK. I don’t know a better way to put my money where my mouth is.
It would be trivial for me to always have a new backpack every week without spending a lick of my own money. I currently have enough backpacks to never need something new. And yet I’ll likely keep buying some GORUCK bags. Because they are that good. I don’t care if I ever get another backpack to review — because if it is coming to me for review then it’s doing so saying that it is better than the GR1. That’s an absurdly high bar, and nothing has hit it yet. Close, but not hit it.
Lastly, if you want a shoulder bag. Filson. I wrote about this recently, so I’ll spare you the rant and instead point you here.
Ah, hell, this section sucks. It sucks because this is a work in progress part of my life. I’ve sorted out that you need only three watches to get by, and further I disagree with the general community about what those three watches should be.
You only need three watches, and those are: a beater watch; and everyday watch, and a statement watch. Specifically, you do not need a dress watch unless you dress formally more than 30% of the year. However, your statement watch could be a dress watch.
Ok, so here’s the issue: I know what the beater and statement watches are for me. But I have no clue what the everyday watch is at this point. I have theories as to what it could and should be, but have yet to find that. Instead I’ll focus on the two I have sorted out.
Statement: Rolex Datejust reference 116264 ‘Thunderbird’ with a dark charcoal dial. To be clear, this likely isn’t a great statement watch for most people, but this was my grandfather’s watch given to me after he passed away. It has deep meaning to me, it has deep scratches from all the woodworking projects he did while wearing it. I remember him when I wear it.
Now I will also say that for many people this could easily be their everyday watch as well. For me it is a tad too small for everyday wear and thus I don’t wear it nearly as often as I probably should. If you did need only one watch, I would strongly recommend some of the newer Datejust watches from Rolex. The Oyster case s rated at 100m, but people have swam across the English Chanel with them on and no issues. I doubt you need more than that. They looks sharp, and they are reasonably priced on the second hand market if that is your thing.
Beater: G-SHOCK. Pick any, because there’s nothing better as a beater watch. Hands down the most durable things you can buy, and don’t worry about spending more than $150 on one. You don’t need to. I have the GD-350 because I wear it to sleep and use the vibrating alarm to wake up.
Everyday: ok so like I said I have not found something good here. I think a Rolex Explorer I could be the one for me, but that’s so much money I am not prepared to do that. Most people recommend a dive watch here, but I do not. I think dive watches are a bad aesthetic most of the time — sorry. I am currently trying out a Glycine Combat 6. It’s simple and to the point, but I am not sure if it hits the mark. For me a good everyday watch should be durable enough to handle a rainstorm, cheap enough to be taken with you when you travel, and thin enough to fit under a shirt cuff. Versatile enough to be worn on a leather band, or a bracelet. I am open to suggestions.
Last up, keyboards. Here’s what I have figured out on keyboards. The keyboard itself is mostly irrelevant. Mostly. What really maters is two things: the switches and the keycaps. So hear me out on this one, keyboard people.
Switches: what you really feel when you type are the switches. Apple makes shit switches, so forget them. Cherry style switches is what you want, some cheaper variants being Gateron, Halo, and Kaihua. I have settled on the Clears as my favorites (called white with some brands), and my second favorites being Blacks — but these are very different. If you want quieter with not as great feeling, Blacks, if you want a better feeling and can tolerate a little more noise, Clears. Don’t get browns. And blues will require you to wear noise canceling headphones.
Keycaps: ok, so why would keycaps matter? They are all about looks, right? Wrong, completely wrong. There are what is called key profiles and getting the correct key profile makes a massive difference when you type. The standard profiles are “OEM” and “CHERRY”, both of which I think really sucks. Basically if you grab your run of the mill PC keyboard, it will be OEM. The keycaps for that are cheap. The absolute best profile, the only profile I will buy, is the SA profile. It’s harder to find and significantly more money. The keys are taller, and they have a lot more depth, and they are heaven to type on.
A runner up, if you want something slimmer is XDA which is solid, but not ideal.
Ok, so where to buy all this stuff? There’s two places I recommend and three keyboards. Here we go:
For keycaps, go to https://kbdfans.com/ and you can get things now, or Drop.com and you can get keycaps that are amazing looking in like a year from now. Yeah, so the former if you want something fast.
For keyboards I recommend three:
For any of those three you will need to buy better keycaps.
There you have it, that’s my really good things list for 2019.