The Best — 2020

Welcome to the best items in 2020.

For the past ten years I have been reviewing and testing all sorts of different gear. In this post, I am distilling down gear by categories and listing the top three items for each category. What is third for me, might be first for you.

Instead of maintaining the running list I have been doing, I am now going to post yearly lists. This is not a list of only stuff I reviewed this year, this is an ongoing list of things I feel are the best, broken down into categories for easier sorting.

Each list is ranked, so #1 on each list is what I think you should buy over all others. If a category didn’t yet have three top items, it was excluded.

Lastly, I have personally tried and spent ample time with each item on these items. There are items I might recommended you try instead of something on the list, but if I have not used it, it does not make it to the Best Of list.

Warning: there be affiliate links in here.

Honorable Mentions

Things that kick ass, but didn’t get enough other items to compare them to.

  • Edge Pro Apex: I love this knife sharpener and I am guessing that dollar for dollar this one can’t be beat. I have little/no basis for that. But damn I do love it. You can reset an knife edge, repair a damaged blade, or bring your blade to a mirror edge finish. Impressive, and it’s under $300 all in.
  • TP-Link Deco X60: WiFi 6 mesh system, and it is insanely fast. Only caveat being that you need Ethernet jacks at each location you want one of these devices if you want full speed. But if you have that, this WiFi router is stellar. I get full gigabit throughput to my iPad Pro even off the satellite units.
  • Aer Day Sling 2 X-Pac: I am going to be testing a lot of slings in the coming weeks/months, but this one (sent to me for review) is top amongst all that I have tested so far. Really well done.

Adventure/Exploration/Day Hike Backpacks

What makes a good exploration backpack is that it is versatile, durable, and comfortable. The size becomes less relevant for this task, as the goal is to carry what you need, carry what you might come across, and do all of that with comfort.

  1. Mystery Ranch Front: this is easily one of the best backpacks I have ever tested. The comfort is insane, and the sizing is spot on. For carrying extra layers, you might run up against it on the capacity at only 19L, but otherwise it is hard to beat this. The adjustable yoke system feels like pure luxury, there’s some MOLLE but not a ton, it doesn’t look tactical, or “hiking!”. It can take a water bladder, or two water bottles — or both I guess. Super easy to pack, get at what you need, and keep moving. For this category, this is at least twice as good as the next picks. Buy here. Out of production, ASAP is a close replacement.
  2. GORUCK GR1: The GR1 was ousted handily by the Front for this. But where it does excel is in offering better long term durability, the versatility of carrying a laptop, and will handle much heavier loads. For many explorers that’s not how they like to roll, but if you are wanting to lug around camera gear, tripods, and drones, the GR1 is going to be better. If you want to ruck some weight to make your exploration a work out, this is the only choice on this list. If you already have a GR1, I would be hard pressed to tell you that you need to upgrade to a Front — unless this type of use is something you frequently do. Still, GR1 is all over this list because it truly is that good. Buy here.
  3. Tom Bihn Shadow Guide 33 v2: New this year, and still getting to know the bag, it is a bit of a hybrid of the two above. Comfortable, durable, versatile. It can carry a laptop, but not a ton of weight before you push the bounds of comfort. It is sleek, and big. Where I think this bag shines is for travel, and a lot of travel is exploration. You might not want to travel with a GR1 or Front, and then you need to sort out an exploration bag when you arrive to where you are going. That’s not the case with this bag, here you can dump stuff and leave it in the hotel, and your bag is ready to go. I also think it is a stellar looking bag. There’s a lot more to be said about this bag, but if you don’t like either above, this is very close to being number 2 on this list. And like the GR1, it’s on multiple lists whereas the Front is not. Buy it here.

Everyday Backpacks

Everyday backpacks differ from exploration backpacks. They need to carry electronics safely, they need to wear comfortably, be durable, and easily adapt to whatever your day needs. They should also work well as personal items when you travel.

  1. GORUCK GR1 21L or 26L (chose based on your height). This is flat out the best backpack for everyday and everything in between. This is a buy it once and let it last you a lifetime bag. My most recent post on this bag is what is linked above, and I think that post does a good job encapsulating why this bag has been at the top of my list since 2015. I own a ton of GR1s because they are so good I want them in every color. This bag will work everywhere and anywhere — it is everyday backpack perfection and royalty. Buy here.
  2. Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault. New to me this year and it is stellar. Super comfortable, with the Mystery Ranch 3-zip setup to be a great all around bag. The only thing really holding it back from dethroning the GR1 is the massive size of the bag and the bad water bottle pockets on the side. But, some people need big, and a lot of people like water bottle pockets. Even with those things I loathe, I really like this bag, if it was smaller, even with the water bottle pockets, it probably would get a ton of use from me. The laptop compartment is quite good and easy to use and get to. Buy here.
  3. Tom Bihn Shadow Guide 33 v2: this is Tom Bihn’s second version of this bag, and they have moved it over to their new Labs department. I really like the look of this bag. Incredibly subtle, but sharp looking at the same time. This version has a much improved back panel, and laptop compartment among other things. It’s really great. The top load will always be a tough thing for me to deal with, but if you are more a stuff it full of goods person, this will be a delight for you. It’s not quite as comfortable as the 2 Day Assault, but it is really neck and neck with that bag. They’re both pretty different from each other, and I only ranked the Shadow Guide lower than the 2 Day Assault because I prefer the shoulder harness on the Mystery Ranch slightly more. Slightly, it’s that close. Buy here.

Office Shoulder Bags

This is year was a bad year to really test bags like this, I only was in the office for under 3 months of the year. Pretty crazy, anyways I like to carry shoulder bags into the office, and like most people I need to carry at least some sort of electronic device in that. But mostly I carry crap that I feel lost without having — going forward that will likely only grow. Here’s my picks for shoulder bags I would carry into the office:

  1. Mystery Ranch 3 Way Expandable Briefcase: I really wish I had more time to test this bag, but I already know this is my ideal office bag. It’s very well done. My first look covers why pretty well, but I’ll add that it is competitively priced and way better than it appears it would be. Black, or Coyote are the colors to get — but if they ever make this in Multicam Alpine I’ll pay any amount of money for it. Anyways, super good bag with fantastic space, organization, and electronics carrying ability. Buy here.
  2. Filson Original Briefcase: I’ve carried this bag for years and the only downside to it is the lack of padding on the laptop area. While Filson does sell a padded laptop bag, it’s substantially different and not something I like the look of. This bag though, even without padding, has never once caused me issue. It’s decently barebones, but as heritage as you can get. I really love this, and the only downside is from a functional perspective — but I reserve the right to switch back to this often.
  3. Filson Medium Field Bag: This bag would be much higher if it held large electronics. But the reason I put it on the list is because I know many people who don’t carry a laptop or iPad Pro into the office. Maybe they carry and kindle, snacks, and such — this is the perfect bag for that. The style is off the charts, it’ll be with you forever. I specifically bought mine for a trip which COVID cancelled, and I think it would move up to the two spot on this list if it fit my iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard better. That said, when I travel, this will be with me for exploring cities.

Duffle Bags

Alright, a good duffle is a must have, and my personal go to for most trips these days. That is: I tend to take something that I can use during the day, and can keep at my feet — and then pack everything else in a duffle. Generally this still is carry on, but not always. The best part of a duffle is that they are a blank canvas for you to pack how you want. These are the best I have seen:

  1. Filson 48hr Duffle: this may not look like a traditional duffle bag, and it costs a lot of money — but the functionality and awesomeness overcomes all those hurdles. It is fantastic looking. It will look at home on a trip car camping in the woods, as well as being carried when you wear a suit and jump on a private plane to head to your private tropical island — as you do. Don’t let the looks fool you, this holds an ample amount of clothes. For me it could suit me for a week plus, for others it might be best reserved for a long weekend. Either way, it will last you for a long time. The waxed/oiled Tin Cloth will resist most grime and rain as well. I can’t say enough good things, nothing else on this list is even in the same realm as this bag.
  2. Tom Bihn Yoeman or Road Buddy: both of these are ‘retired’ designs for Tom Bihn, but they are insanely good. The Yoeman has been all over the world with me as the go to that I stuff full of my kids crap, and check in at the airport. Yeah, you can check it. The Road Buddies are my wife’s go to for trips when she isn’t using a roller bag. The kids use one as well and they are stellar. It is all around great, and I am listing them here even though you would have to find one second hand, because they are still that good and they are worth the effort to pick up.
  3. Piorama A10 Adjustable: I forgive you for thinking this bag is all gimmick and marketing — you’re wrong and that’s ok. I thought the same, then I got one to test and hot damn is it good. Durable, functional, and size-able. If it were not for the Filson this would still be the bag I use. I don’t think it is better than the Tom Bihn bags, but the benefit o adjusting the size makes it a very close second. Because you adjust it as you go. Great stuff, well done for travel.

Keyboards

A good keyboard will completely change how you use your computer. A good mechanical keyboard will make you want to type all day long, and has the added benefit of making those around you wish that you typed a lot less. Hey, at least they know you are working. Either way, this list is about keyboards in general, because living the good life means you should own all three of these keyboards:

  1. Drop Alt: Mechanical keyboards are a rabbit hole of expensive stuff. But of all the keyboards I have tried, Drop’s Alt is the best one. Super easy to plug in and get going, but also has a Web UI to allow/help you fully program the keyboard. It is a solid price, and comes with OK keycaps and plenty of switch options. It’s hard to beat this for what it is, and is in fact what I use about 90% of the time. Buy here.
  2. Vortex Core: Spinning things around to the small end, this little guy is awesome. I have actually traveled with this, and really think it is super fun to use. It’s like silly small, but still really nice to type on. The only downside is that I need the cheats on the edge of the keys to remember where the extra keys are, so I can’t change out the keycaps on it. Still, I think the entire package is great. Buy here.
  3. Apple Magic Keyboard Folio: While I never officially reviewed this, it is among the best iPad accessories I own. It’s absurdly expensive, but it’s also stupidly good. If the price were slightly lower it would be second on this list, so only the price is holding it down. But the keys on it are fantastic, and the typing experience is sublime. As a package, you are better off buying this over an Apple Pencil for your iPad. Love it. Buy here.

Accessories

Of the things that don’t fit somewhere else, these are a few things you should consider:

  1. Lochby Quattro: this is a bit of a niche product, but essentially this is a pouch made to hold only four pens, and do it well. They are protected without the case getting stupid bulky. It looks stellar and I love everything about it. Way better than dedicated pen slots on your bag. If you are a pen person, you need this.
  2. Prometheus Design Werx Accessory Pod: finding things that are not silly to attach to the MOLLE/PALS webbing inside bags can be annoying and expensive. This Accessory Pod is aces though. Long, skinny, and low profile. Once you find an attachment means that works for you, you’ll see why. Added bonus you can mount it horizontally on the internal webbing on a GR1 and it sits perfectly to keep stuff handy for you. Great product. Buy here.
  3. Shemagh: you can buy Shemaghs from anywhere and I have tried a bunch from Amazon with a lot of disappointment, but the GORUCK and Triple Aught Design ones are stellar. They are well made, nice designs and colors, and feel fantastic. I have several of each and can vouch for them. I almost always have a Shemagh with me — they are super handy and useful. You need a few, you’ll have to trust me on that one.

Pocket Knives

This year was a big one for pocket knives, and I really found some special knives. Let’s dive into the top three, all of which are ‘families’ meaning they come in different sizes and blade shapes but generally are the same knife — this only makes these knives, better as you can tweak them model to your specific needs and preferences.

  1. Benchmade Bugout Family: The larger Bugout is great, but a bit too much for me. The Mini Bugout is the best pocket knife I have ever used. It is essentially perfection distilled. If I had to go with only one knife, it’s this knife. What more can I say? The larger Bugout can now be customized from Benchmade while the smaller model is limited to two offerings for now. I say for now, because it is way too good not to have a customizer soon. Large options, mini options, customized options.
  2. Chris Reeves Sebenza Family: I own the small 21 which was only recently replaced by the 31, making the knife even better, but also not a substantial change. This is a very good knife, but it’s not better than the Mini Bugout. It’s finished better, it has better materials, it has better fit, but it does not work better is use. My 21 doesn’t see nearly that much pocket time as it now feels bulky. I still love this knife and think it is solidly in the second spot here, but it would have to do a ton to catch the Bugouts. And that’s well before you consider price.
  3. Benchmade Proper Family: I love my Proper and I can’t believe I have had it as long as I have. It’s a stellar and non-threatening knife. When I head to the office, it’s the knife in my pocket because it would be hard to get into too much trouble with this. Either way, I have yet to find something this knife couldn’t do, and it feels great in hand. A little on the heavy side, so weight knocks it down the list to 3, but again it is almost unfair competing against what Benchmade has with the Bugouts. I have two versions of this knife, and I can’t pick between the sheepsfoot or the clip point.

Baseball Hats

This is an oddball category as I didn’t really ‘review’ any of these officially on the site. However I did spend a bunch of time with each of these this year, and since I wear hats often for working out, or to tame my hair which has been seeing less trimming of late — I thought I would toss this in here for everyone.

  1. Outlier F. Cloth Hat: this is probably my all time favorite hat. The cut, fabric, and look of it is fantastic. I think those with larger heads will likely struggle with this, but otherwise I love it. F. Cloth works super well in this hat as it keeps it from looking technical, allows for dust/dirt to get on it, but wipes off clean. I think this is one of the most under the radar products Outlier sells. Can’t say enough good things, but dang, the price and availability sucks. But it is a great hat as it performs well, and looks like nothing special.
  2. GORUCK Performance TacHat: this is more of an acquired taste type of hat. The fit is really nice on this, and the material is fantastic. It’s not going to keep you warm, but it breathes and dries super fast. I love it, but you need to be ok with the low profile and patch area on the hat (tactical style hat). If you look at the pics, and you have no issues with it, this is probably something I should list as #1 because it is way cheaper and more readily available. But that’s not stuff I often take into account. That said, fantastic hat, second most worn for me I own it in black (recommended) and Ranger Green (flipping sweet color). [Buy here.](https://tracking.goruckaffiliates.com/392M6MZ/R74QP/?uid=64 hat%3Futm_content%3D%7Boffer_name%7D%26utm_campaign%3D%7Baffiliate_name%7D)
  3. Western Rise Versa Hat: I received this as a review sample and it is also really good — this will accommodate larger heads much better, but still remain decently low profile. It’s also way different than the others. It is stretchy, breathable, and water resistant. But more than that the bill is foam, and won’t hold a shape. This is good if you toss a hat in a bag a lot, but bad if you are someone very meticulous about the shape of your bill. When you wear it, you can form it, and it holds a curl ok, but not excellently. Still, it’s a pretty solid hat and I like better than the others I have, but not more than the other two on this list. For me I’ll wear this if I need to workout in the rain, and I’ll for sure toss it in my bag whenever I travel again.

One thing you might notice about all three of these hats is that they are all missing that top button thing (called a squatchee) on the hat — that’s an unnecessary detail these days for hats, and they suck a lot to have on hats. You should know that, because once you get a hat without one, you’ll not want another hat with one. It’s my top requirement for most hats, so they have a lot they must overcome if they have one. Wake up, hat companies.

Newsletters

I am a big fan of getting daily newsletters on stuff, but it takes a bit to find good ones. These are the three best, which I read daily.

  1. Morning Brew: I am a huge fan of Morning Brew, as it offers succinct and wide coverage of the world happenings. The little stock chart at the top is a nice recap, but the newsletter has the best balance of detail/synopsis I have seen. The only thing that is not ideal, is that in order to get their ‘Light Roast’ Sunday edition you have to get some level of referrer status which might be hard for some. Other than that, two thumbs up. Subscribe here.
  2. Protocol: a close second, Protocol slants more technology oriented. They offer a few variations on the theme, but their general daily email is the best of the lot. I don’t even read most tech blogs or technology news anymore because this newsletter handles it well enough for me. Not sure I can pay a better compliment to a tricky field. Subscribe here.
  3. Finimize: this is a borderline newsletter. It’s part newsletter and part paid app/service. This is purely financial news, so might not be your cup of tea. But if you want something to tell you “what does this mean” when the world is talking about stuff going on in the market, this is the go to place. You get two daily news items for free, just subscribe. Then there are in depth explainers and guides to all sorts of stuff for a paid subscription. I have a paid subscription, but I’ll say right now it is not worth it for me. I am sure it is for others, as the information is really good, but I don’t like it locked away like it is. This is less Wall Street Journal or The Economist and more “Investors Daily” I would say. Subscribe here.

Clothes

I write/review clothing a lot over at Everyday Wear, but I thought it might be fun to challenge myself to pick the three very best clothing items I have tried without needing to build a full wardrobe.

  1. Wool & Prince Button Down: one of my first forays into the performance fabric world was with Wool & Prince and their button downs. I now own three of them, and I would own more but I don’t need more. They are fantastic. They look great tucked in and worn into the office, or untucked and worn out and about for more casual settings. If you needed a shirt to travel all around with, and especially if you are unsure if you will be able to wash it, you could get away with only one of these. They are pretty extraordinary shirts, and the best flat out.
  2. Outlier Futureworks: true story, there was a period where essentially the only pants I owned and wore for about 5 months was a dark navy pair of Outlier Futureworks. These days I have three pairs and no matter what they are my go to pants any time I want something dressier than jeans. I wear them to the office, and pack them to travel. They breathe well, stay clean, wrinkle free, and more than that they look like perfectly normal chinos. Stealth performance clothing should never be underrated. Futureworks are easily the best pants I have ever tested/worn.
  3. GORUCK MACV-1 Boots: first, let me say these are ugly boots. I like boots a lot, but these will win no awards for how they look. But they are still on this list and they are on this list for one simple reason: if tomorrow you told me that I could only have one pair of shoes to wear, these would be the shoes I pick. They are comfortable like you would not believe, and I operate under the premise that no one really notices your shoes, and no one really cares. I wear mine all the time, I would own more but I can’t seem to wear out the first pair I bought. Anything made to be worn while rucking for miles is going to be luxurious to walk around in under normal scenarios. There are other boots, but I’ve yet to wear any as comfortable as these, and so despite the poor aesthetics, they are here for a reason. Buy here.

Everything is Good Brands

There’s three brands I want to point out, because basically everything I have ever used from them is damned good. Like impressively good and it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

  1. GORUCK: I know that you know I love this brand. And I know that you know I have tested the crap out of most of their gear. There’s only one item I didn’t like, the Ruck Plate Carrier v1, everything else has been beyond great. Clothing, yep all amazing, love it. Shoes? Yeah I own all three models and all three are amazing and my most worn shoes. Bags? Getouttahere of course they are all best in class. I mean, how in the hell do they make this many good things? My guess: they actually use what they make. Top Products: GR1, Simple Pants, MACV-1s.
  2. Outlier: they make some seriously goofy stuff, and some seriously overpriced stuff. But it all checks out. You can be a fabric nerd and geek out over what they are making products out of, or you can buy what you like the looks of or what fits your needs — either way you’ll be happy and impressed. And, their clothes follow trends pretty well so you should never be far off. There are no Outlier products I can think of which I didn’t like, but there are some where I was like meh on and that was mostly because of style considerations. I think the big thing that knocks the brand down to #2 for me, is the lack of color options a lot of the time, but small company woes for sure. Top Products: Futureworks, Ultrafine Merino T, Slim Dungarees.
  3. Benchmade: You knew this was coming right? But I am consistently blown away by Benchmade’s products. The only miss I can think of is the Shinola x Benchmade Valet I had a while back. But go look at my knife section it’s 2/3 Benchmade. And I really could go on. I know everyone has their preferences with knives, but what sets Benchmade apart to me is that the knives are almost all right/left handed useable and the clips can typically flip to either side. What’s holding them down to #3 is that I do think they need to look at making 20CV their base steel instead of S30V. But even having said that, their S30V knives run circles around other knives because they nail every other aspect. They are that good. Top Products: goodness, scroll back up a bit.

Jackets

One of the hardest, and saddest, parts of moving from Seattle to Houston for me has been the lessened need for a good jacket. In Washington I got to wear jackets like 9-10 months of the year. Here in Texas, I wear them like 1-2 months a year at most, or whenever I leave the state. Ok, that said, let’s dive in to three jackets I love.

  1. Baracuta G9: this is a ‘beyond good’ type of jacket. I was blown away. I wanted one for a long time, never bit the bullet, but when I finally did — I am not sure I need anything else. The style, fit, comfort, even the fabric — it’s all spot on. It’s not the warmest thing, it’s not the most water resistant. But those are extreme ends — you need more niche jackets for that stuff. But for a layer you could toss on over a t-shirt or over a button up, yeah this jacket will do it. Just get one, so that you can then wonder (like me) if it would be overkill to own a few more in other colors.
  2. Alex Mill Blazer: If a go to casual blazer is more your style, this is the one. I love this, I wear it at home when I am on video calls and get a little chilly. I’ll wear it all over when I want to give my G9 a rest. It’s cotton, it’s not anything fancy, but it is executed nearly perfectly. It will dress up something super casual, or dress down your more dressy looks. Love it.
  3. Triple Aught Design Catalyst Field Shirt: I think I might have worn this for like three months straight at one point. It’s super comfortable, it looks great, and it’s versatile. With Polartec Alpha insulation it will keep you warm, but also breath. It’s a shirt jacket hybrid, but it’s not fooling anyone, it’s a jacket. Better yet it’s often on sale so look for that. The only downside here is that the fabric does pill up a bit, which sucks. But I spent many days on the Washington coast with a pair of Outlier Strong Dungarees, a merino t-shirt, and this jacket. Inside or outside, it worked well for me.

Watches

Yes, watches, man I love watches. Apple Watch does not count as a watch, that’s like calling an iPhone a Phone — I mean I guess it does that, but that’s not what anyone uses them for. No, these are real watches, the things worth spending your money on. Here’s the thing, I don’t really review a ton of watches here because I am self-conscious a bit. It took a while for me to decide to review my Tudor, but I did so because I thought it was that good. The other thing is that I get exposed to a lot of watches by way of my dad, who loves watches. So that means that my perspective comes from both the less expensive stuff I have tried, the expensive stuff I own, but also I have seen the expensive watches, handled them, and had them on my wrist, for a great many watches, thanks Dad. Ok, here’s my list.

  1. Tudor Black Bay GMT: this list could be this one watch for me. In fact I don’t think there is a better buy out there. GMT watches, true GMTs with jumping hour hands, are special watches. Is this a take on the Rolex GMT-Master II? Yes. But at a fraction of the price, and honestly I like the Tudor’s look better, otherwise I would have the Rolex, or at least still be on the waiting list for one. That said, I wear the Tudor about 6 days out of the week, rotating it out once. It is perfection. A little big, but not too big, and with statements like the fake rivet bracelet people hate on. I think it all works well. Love it. That’s before you consider the value proposition of like true-GMTs.
  2. Rolex Datejust 36: Mine is an inheritance from my grandfather, so it does have a special place for me. But the Datejust is a pure classic and available in a ton of configurations. I know the hype is all around the 41, but the 36 wears better for most people, and allows the watch to work well in more formal settings where huge watches really are a bit too much. This watch really can go anywhere, and do anything. Wear a suit with it, wear it hiking, whatever. When I got mine, I wore nothing else for probably 18 months. Never wanted or needed anything different. I personally really like the fluted bezel with the Oyster bracelet. But, what’s great is you can make this watch what you like. I think the Tudor GMT is better, before you take into account the money side, but once you add that in, the GMT really walks away from the Datejust. That said, if you do tend to dress up more, or generally have that air about your style, the Datejust will work better for you. It is sleek and excellent.
  3. Garmin Instinct: I know, huge jump here. But I think warranted on this. That said, not sure how long this will hang on to #3, because if I test a couple that I have my eye on, it might drop. That being said, what makes the Instinct great is that it does all you need in a smart watch, while still being a watch first. It’s durable, has amazing battery life, and looks solid. Not to mention it is priced well. I wear mine to sleep in for my alarm in the morning, and wear it for every work out to track and know my pace and distance. It’s a zero fuss watch, which I charge every 1.5 weeks and that’s it. Everything else just is. If you want a no fuss watch, and you want a few smart watch features, mostly fitness oriented, this is the watch. Get the solar version now though.

Everyday Carry Tools

This is a little catch all for non-knife everyday carry goods. I am classifying these as tools because that’s really what they are. Anyways, here we go.

  1. Swiss Army Evolution Grip 18: when I wrote up the multitool post, I bought this one as an after thought almost and I am glad I bought it. This is an insanely good multitool. Everything about it is a great modern Swiss Army knife. If you are someone who doesn’t care to only have a knife, safe a bunch of money and pocket space, and carry this. It’s that good, full endorsement.
  2. Tactile Turn Bolt Action (short) in Titanium: I love this pen, so much that I have two exact same ones just in case. I had been seeing and hearing about these pens for a long time, but when I finally got one I understood all the hype. I really think carrying a pen, your own pen, is a smart thing to reduce germ transmission — and if you are going to do that, you should make it this pen. I have a lot of pens, this is my favorite. And there is a lot of ink refills available with even more research done by the company as to what fits so you don’t have to guess and get it wrong.
  3. Chicago Carbon Fiber Combs: as I said with my hat post, my hair is getting longer. This comb, this is a heck of a comb. I didn’t think you could upgrade a comb, but I was wrong. I haven’t reviewed enough combs to say this is the best comb, but this comb is something I am carrying in my bags. So fits well as #3 for everyday carry tools. Get one, they aren’t expensive, and see for yourself.

Flashlights

It’s almost sad that the power doesn’t go out more often, because it makes it harder to use a flashlight well. Anyways, I am glad that there is often “something in the back yard, can you please look” — you bet your ass I can look.

  1. SureFire Titan Plus: This could be your only flashlight for everything. And I know, you might go look at it and be like “that’s tiny” and you are correct. It is only 300 lumens, and takes one AAA battery. But guess what? It’s all you’ll ever need. It’s simple, easy, durable, and fantastic. If you need a good flashlight, make it this flashlight first and foremost. I carry mine with me all the time in my pocket. I really have no complaints about it, and with wear it looks particularly good.
  2. SureFire E1B-MV Backup: This is like the big bother to the last one. The big difference is that it is chunky, takes a stupid CR123a battery, and is bright as heck. 500 lumens, tail switch, all that means is it as bright as you’ll practically ever need. But the ‘MV’ on that, it stands for MaxVision and that means it will flood an area with light. You won’t be lighting up the tops of trees, but if you are shining it in front of you, you won’t miss a thing. That’s what I love about this. It is number two, because it should be the second flashlight you buy if you decide you want something a little more than the Titan.
  3. Black Diamond Spot 125/160/200: I bought a ton of headlamps to test this year, and thought I would write something up about it, but I don’t think I’ll get around to it this year. I am not a headlamp person, but they do have their use and their needs. If you are working with your hands, invaluable; if you are actually hiking, invaluable. But I think the big trick is to wear it as a necklace, and once you grab onto that trick: amazing. The Spot 125/160/200 model line is low key, has a dedicated switch for a red light, and takes two AAAs. It will last forever, give you all the light you could want, and the red light is most excellent if you want to keep your night vision when looking for that thing you just dropped. And the price on these are stupid cheap, you can find the 160 models on sale all the time. Big fan, I have two.

Apps

No specific category to these apps, just the three best overall amongst them all, on both iPhone and iPad.

  1. Ulysses: There’s no better way to write than with Ulysses. The Mac app is fine but on iOS it blows everything out of the water. It’s clean, simple, easy, and yet packs so much hidden power that I think it constantly surprises people. I’ve type almost every post I have written in this app since Ulysses III came out, and can’t say enough good things. Even better: they are continually improving and updating the app — nothing stale here.
  2. CARROT: I was wrong for thinking this app was a gimmick for so long, and I do apologize to CARROT. It is the best weather app, and I have tried basically all of them. The information density, design, and customizations in the app are top notch. Yes, you need to pay for the subscription to really get the power out of it, but there’s no going back once you do it. And they have awesome icons.
  3. Quick Draft: the idea of this app is simple: a persistent place to put text on your iOS devices. It’s just there, and if you want to start over, delete it all and start over. This is an old idea, but very well executed with Quick Draft and it edged Things off this list for how good and useful it is. No complaints.

Wallets

I am going to limit this to actual wallets, not pocket organizers as I have not tested enough of the latter to speak to them.

  1. Dango S1: This is the top pick on the list because of the unique ability to hold a single key out of the way and securely. Overall this is a stellar wallet for the price, and works extremely well. It is light, looks sharp, while also being durable and having some great features.
  2. Tom Bihn Nik’s Wallet: Still at a bargain price, these are a little more traditional, while also offering more options. There’s three configurations and multiple colors. Overall, a really good all around product with something for everyone. They might also be the lightest option on the list. One thing I think needs a modification is the elastic band, which is why it is at 2 and not 1. Those bands are needed, but also cumbersome. I’d love them to find a better solution there.
  3. MontBlanc Wallet: the one I have doesn’t look to be available anymore, but this one is extremely close — generally these are amazing wallets and supremely overpriced. However, they are classy, but bulky. If your wallet is ever seen, or anything like that, this is my pick for those occasions. Sometimes I do feel a little self conscious if I need to pull out my wallet because neither of those two options above look good. I got this wallet to remedy that, and I do use it from time to time.