I always write ‘The Best’ lists at the end of the year, but I often note that the best items are not necessarily my favorite items. Sometimes a thing is my favorite for sentimental reasons, or because my use case is a little more niche than the categories I’ve defined on the best list.
So, I thought it would be fun to take a look five of my current favorite items, and why they are my favorites.
First is Tactile Knife’s Bexar in titanium. I first purchased the Ultem model, and then moved to the Titanium, and both have blown me away. This knife is so damned tiny in my pocket, and yet it’s a full sized pocket knife which readily does full sized pocket knife things. There’s no fuss with this knife, it’s very easy to use, clean, and carry. The Magnacut blade is perfection on it, and it is absolutely all I need from a knife. The entire package and finish is as no-fuss as you can get — it’s easily my favorite knife I own. There’s three reasons I think this particular knife has stuck so well: large blade, comfortable in hand, but minute in the pocket; the blade shape is really versatile for everything I need; opening and closing the blade is very easy and not at all risky feeling. You can get other knives which do maybe two of those things well, but the Bexar is the only one I found which does all three well.
Second, and perhaps the biggest surprise for me is Laulima’s Ion Slim with the dual driver. I didn’t expect it to be an amazing light, I simply thought it would be a solid little light to add to the collection. Fast forward some time now, and it’s right at the top as my favorite light. It’s absurdly lightweight, it takes Lithium Ion and NiMH batteries, and it’s super bright on top of that. Add to that, the overall efficiency (which is hard to quantify for my reviews) is amazing. I’ll be using the light a ton on high, swap the battery and toss it on the charger — only to find that the battery I thought must be low, barely was drained. It’s some black magic shit, and I am all for it. This light looks unassuming, but it’s refined and lacking of all fuss. It’s is most certainly all I need, and I cannot help but smile when I use it.
In a not surprising to me move, the SBGE285 ‘Mistflake’ from Grand Seiko is my favorite watch I own. It is also very lightweight, and is insanely comfortable to wear 24/7 — something I do with it often. While at the same time the accuracy is next level in the automatically wound Spring Drive. And yet, the entire watch is refined with the crown guards appearing organically from the case, and the case itself curving to hug your wrist, the domed crystal allowing the cuff of your shirt to drop effortlessly over the watch. It’s lacking in all fuss, from the true GMT movement, to the two differing colors of lume. This watch really should be my only watch, as it’s all I need and I wear it a lot.
More surprising than anything above, is the about face I have done with bags. My favorite bag is not the best bag you could get, and yet the Filson Journeyman is by far my favorite bag right now. It’s incredibly simple, and lightweight when compared to the more military style bags I preferred in the past. It’s also far more versatile as it offers a nearly blank canvas for how you carry items, but also with the style that works well from both the office to travel, or even the outdoors. Instead of refining a backpack through modern materials, Filson refined the backpack down to the very core of only what you need, and out comes the Journeyman. It’s as fuss free as any of the bags I’ve ever used, and since moving back to it, it’s proven it is the only bag — certainly only backpack — I need for all that I do. This thought alone is rather uncomfortable for me, but it is what it is.
Which brings us to the last favorite piece of gear right now, my new wallet. The Whisky from Observer Collection is something next level. I’ve had the shortest amount of time with this, but I love it. I love the way it looks with the high end leather, the Xpac, and the elastic cordage. It is versatile, expanding or contracting to hold all types of odds and ends I find myself carrying. And while it is not fuss free as the other items, it’s style feels like me, and it really is the only wallet I need. It’s a gem. I bought it to use when I travel, and I couldn’t bring myself to switch away from it after my last trip. I love that I can easily carry a bunch of cash and extras, or not, all without having to swap wallets or pay size penalties when I am carrying less.
Trending Towards Different Likes
As I was outlining this post (I don’t normally do that, don’t worry, chaos writing will return) I tried to look at why these items are gaining favor over long held staples. Why a Bexar over a Small Sebenza, a Journeyman over an ASAP? And when I pulled back to look at everything, I was able to see four trends in the gear I favor:
- No Fuss: almost all of the items I am moving towards have a lower threshold of fussiness to them. The knife is just a knife, there’s no lock or quick anything about it. The Journeyman lacks all the straps and wizardry of Mystery Ranch and therefore is something you toss on and off like your favorite hoodie. When you use something fussy on a day to day basis, it becomes fatiguing. And as someone who tests a lot of things (for science) I revert back to preferring things which don’t add the complication of being fussy. It seems natural, but it does mean that these are not items which necessarily would be category toppers in more objective analysis/ranking.
- Refined: another theme is the refinement of the items themselves. Some of this is the selection of the materials: the high quality leather, titanium, 519a, Magnacut. While it’s also the execution of those materials: Filson Oil Waxed Canvas feels nothing like other waxed canvas. The Whisky’s leather is tremendously stout, but supple. The machining on the titanium Bexar scales are something you don’t see in most knives and machined to perfection. And the threads on the Ion Slim are worth writing about because they are that good, that refined, and they are still screw threads. This level of refinement adds an almost intangible happiness quotient to all of these items.
- All I Need: almost all of my favorite gear these days stays far away from the niche use cases. I love a briefcase, but they are not very versatile, and thus less favored than the Journeyman. The same too with flashlights, as it is great that a light can survive any apocalypse, but I prefer something lighter and more versatile. When I was jotting notes about what my favorite items currently are, the words ‘all I need’ kept coming up for each item.
- Style: above all else, so far this year, almost every item is something I feel reflects my personal style more. They are not useless fashion products, but instead they sacrifice some level of utility, for the overall style/aesthetics that I prefer. Waxed canvas is not overly practical in 2023 — cordura and Xpac are vastly better performing materials. But Waxed canvas is a far more stylish selection. So too with leather. An 18350 powered light is tremendous, but a 14500 or 10440 is so much more svelte that it begins to feel more stylish. And so on and so forth. I want my gear to look good, and to reflect me, and I don’t see myself reflected well in 1000D.
Some of this is me getting older, with older kids and the abuse of my life on a daily basis getting less turbulent. But another part of this is a revolt against the terrible trend of people dressing in jeans and t-shirts to/for everything and my push away from those trends. Wait until I start to talk about how I am suddenly preferring leather watch straps to bracelets — oh my.
I would and could, be perfectly content owning just the above gear. I can’t think of a stronger endorsement level than that.