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How I Screw

Fix It Sticks are 1/4” magnetic bit drivers, originally intended as bicycle repair tools. Each stick holds two bits, and can be used individually or connected together in a “T” when more torque is wanted.

I backed the Fix It Sticks Kickstarter campaign back in 2014, selecting the $99 pledge level for the titanium Fix It Sticks reward. For the past 4 years, the titanium Fix It Sticks have been part of my EDC. I carry them with a selection a bits optimized for bike repair, as well as a few supplemental bits that are not intended for my vehicle, but are useful to have on hand for general screwing. Extra bits are carried in a Toolcool bit holder.

Every Day Screwing

The sticks, bits, chain breaker, and tire levers – along with a patch kit and my Pitlock key – are stored in a small Mountain Laurel Designs Carbon Fiber Packing Cube. This lives in the admin pocket of my FAST Pack Litespeed, but also slides easily into a pocket if I’m riding bag-less. I also keep the new Fix It Sticks Magnetic Patch on my Litespeed. If I switch bits while fixing my bike on the side of the road, I can just toss a bit at my pack and the patch catches it.

Every Day Cuben and Magnetic Patch

At home I have an excessive collection of 1/4” bits, including things like socket adapters, extensions, and the Fix It Sticks Glock kit. What’s most attractive about the bit and driver system to me is that these 80-some bits take up a miniscule fraction of the space that I would otherwise need for the tools. I keep a Wera Kraftofmr 816 RA driver at home for those times when I want something that ratchets, but the Fix It Sticks are what I pull out the vast majority of the time.

At work I keep some additional bits, along with a few other tools, in a GPP1. Some of these duplicate my EDC bits, but most of them are things that are not common enough to warrant carrying, but common enough that I like to have them around.

Work Bits

The bits I EDC are fairly standard. 4mm and 5mm hex bolts live in one stick. Those two attack the majority of bolts on my bike. A Phillips #0 and #1 live in the other stick. Those two are most useful for general screwing. In the bracket, I keep:

  • Phillips #2
  • Hex 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 6mm, and 8mm
  • Security Torx 7, 10, 25, and 30
  • Slotted 5mm
  • 1/4” to 4mm adapter, with a Slotted 1.5mm Micro

Carrying the “security” Torx instead of the standard Torx allows me to tamper with tamper-resistant electronics, which is a useful capability to have. They drive normal Torx bits screws just fine, which accounts for the majority of their use. The T25 is a longer (50mm) bit. I use this one as leverage when operating my Pitlocks.

  • Fix It Stick as Pitlock Wrench
  • Fix It Stick T Configuration

The 1/4” to 4mm adapter allows me to run any 4mm micro bit in the Fix It Sticks. Part of the collection of bits in my GPP1 at work are micro bits that I use to attack electronics (at home I have the iFixit 64-bit Kit, which is a great hardware hacking kit for the price). A slotted 1.5mm bit is the right answer for most eyewear, which is why I carry that bit in the adapter every day.

On my scale, a single titanium stick without bits weighs in at 28 grams. Both sticks, with the 4 bits that I keep in them, tip the scale at 74 grams. When I add the bracket with 12 additional bits, the total weight is 148 grams. Adding the chain tool and two tire lever attachments to that, the whole kit is 228 grams, or 8 ounces. That’s pretty reasonable for all the capability those items offer.

Fix It Sticks only made a small number of the titanium sticks for the Kickstarter campaign. The sticks they sell today are steel. The weight of the steel Fix It Sticks Replaceable Edition is listed as 116 grams. I assume that weight is for both sticks and the 8 included bits. With my titanium sticks and the same 8 bits, I’m at 100 grams. So the titanium sticks shave off a little weight, but not really a notable amount – particularly considering that the titanium sticks were the reward for donations at 3x the cost of the steel sticks. I think my titanium sticks are perfect, and if offered I would purchase them again, but if they were lost I’d immediately replace them with the steel version with only a little heartbreak.

A Place for the SWAT-T

My dislike of the SWAT Tourniquet stems from its difficulty to self-apply one-handed. That eliminated it from the running when evaluating pocket tourniquets, but the PHLster Flatpack has made that category of tool less relevant. Now that I can easily and comfortably carry a primary tourniquet (specifically, a SOFTT-W) on-body, I’ve rethought what I should be carrying in my pack.

In the past I’ve carried a SOFTT-W as part of a small blow-out kit. The kit is in a Triple Seven Gear Micro Kit pouch, which fits easily into whatever pack I’m using. If I’m already carrying a SOFTT-W on my belt, is carrying a second one the best use of the available weight and space? The SWAT tourniquet does have a few things going for it. It works well as a tourniquet, as long as you have two hands to apply it. The width of the SWAT-T allows it to occlude blood flow at a relatively low pressure, and its elasticity can help it to compensate for muscle relaxation. It can function as part of a pressure dressing, or be used to improve an improvised splint, swathe, or sling. And it burns well.

SWAT-T

I decided to replace the SOFTT-W in my blow-out kit with a SWAT-T. With a SOFTT-W in the PHLster Flatpack on my belt, I’m confident in my ability to quickly administer self-aid. Having the SWAT-T in my bag gives me additional options, whether I need to use it as a second tourniquet or as something else.

This post was published on . It was tagged with gear, medical, edc.

I put a Raven Pocket Clip on my Elzetta Alpha.

The Elzetta Alpha A323 has been part of my EDC for 2 years now. For all but a few weeks of that time I’ve been carrying it on my belt with a Prometheus Lights Titanium Pocket Clip, which works great on the Alpha. I changed over to the Raven Concealment Systems Pocket Clip to get the finger ring, which is just a large rubber O-ring that allows you to use your hands for something else without dropping the light.

Elzetta Alpha w/ RCS Pocket Clip

This post was published on . It was tagged with gear, micro, edc.

A Bug Out Stuff Sack

I have a pretty thorough setup with my every day carry. Between the level 1 items on my body and the level 2 items in my pack, I have all the tools that I think I may need. This limits the need for a bug out bag in my environment. Were I packing a bag to support running away from a disaster, it would largely duplicate what I carry every day. The difference is in shelter. Specifically, clothing.

Bug Out Stuff Sack

For the past few years, I’ve kept a bug out stuff sack instead of a bug out bag. The stuff sack contains clothes, which gives me what I need to leave in a hurry regardless of what I’m currently wearing. I keep a pair of merino wool boxer briefs, merino wool long underwear, a lightweight merino wool long sleeve shirt, quick-drying nylon pants, a Buff, merino wool and nylon blend socks, and a cotton bandana. The two non-clothing items in the stuff sack are a Tru-Nord compass and a silk escape map.

The map is from SplashMaps in the UK. It is a print of the OpenStreetMap for the San Francisco bay area at 1:40000 scale.

Conspicuously absent from the contents of the stuff sack is any sort of foul-weather gear. I don’t venture outside without a hardshell jacket in my pack, even here in drought-stricken California. I also generally will have some sort of insulating layer already in my pack, making that an uncessary addition to the stuff sack.

The stuff sack I went with is a Sea To Summit 8L Big River. This is a much heavier stuff sack than any of those I use backpacking. When I was deciding on the stuff sack for this project, I knew I wanted something that I would be comfortable running outside of a pack. The 420 denier nylon on the Big River is more abrasion resistant than any of my cuben or sil-nylon stuff sacks, and the Big River also includes Hypalon lash points on either side of the bag to assist when securing it. When I’m carrying a larger pack, like the FAST Pack EDC, these points are moot since I can just toss the stuff sack into the pack on the way out the door. However, if I’m using something smaller, like the FAST Pack Litespeed, the pack may already be close to full. With the Big River I’m able to quickly and easily lash the stuff sack to the bottom of the pack, without taking time rearranging the inside of the pack in an attempt to make more room.

Bug Out Stuff Sack

The stuff sack hangs on a hook on my wall, immediately next to the door. My pack and footwear stay underneath on the floor when I’m home. Keeping these items in the same spot means that I can grab them and be out the door in a short count of seconds. Also hanging in this area are my gloves and helmet, which are necessary when leaving on a bike (certainly the best bug out vehicle for a city). I also leave a hat, insulating jacket, and rain jacket hanging in this area. These items should already be in my pack, but leaving duplicates here allows me to easily grab them on my way out if needed. The last item in this area, hanging on the same hook as the stuff sack, is a small bag with documents that I may want when leaving in a hurry.

I keep a stuff sack at my desk at work with all the same things in it. Since I only have one of the silk maps from SplashMaps, the stuff sack at work instead has a few USGS quads of the area printed on glow in the dark onion skin paper. I buy these from zdw on eBay.

This post was published on . It was tagged with survival, edc.

Pocket Dump

Pocket Dump

This post was published on . It was tagged with gear, edc.

Electronic Support Package

I carry a selection of tools to support the electronic devices that I utilize throughout the day. This electronic support package is part of my level 2 EDC, which means it is carried in my bag. Specifically, the items are stored in a GPP1 pouch attached to my Litespeed. The pouch is a little larger than it needs to be for what I carry, and if size and weight constraints were more of a concern, the package could be further paired down without too great a loss in capability by removing some of the less frequently used items, but I find this selection works pretty well for my daily life.

GPP1

The electronic devices that this package supports are primarily my phone, helmet light, and the flashlight on my belt1. While these items serve multiple purposes, they tend to fall into the category of critical safety devices. As such, it is important to have the accessories needed to support their regular use.

I do carry a laptop between home and work, and to a lesser extent some of the items in this package support that, but for the most part the things needed to support the laptop (power adapter, peripherals, etc) live at both home and work. They’re not items that I carry.

Electronic Support Package

Battery Pack

The outer pocket of the pouch holds an AmazonBasics Portable Power Bank. This USB battery pack offers 5,600 mAh. I very rarely use this, but when I do need it, I’m extremely glad to have it. The ability to power devices away from other infrastructure is a valuable capability.

The profile of this particular battery makes it easy to carry and to use – it can easily slide into a small pocket on a pair of pants or a jacket when in use with a phone. In the pouch, it takes up no noticeable space.

Earphones

Immediately inside the main compartment of the pouch are a pair of Westone Adventure Series Beta earphones. I do not frequently listen to music when away from home or work (and I find the sound from these Westones to be less than desirable for music anyway), but I do value a hands-free interface to my phone. I use earphones for talking on the phone and (more frequently) navigation. One earphone placed in an ear combined with an OpenStreetMap application and offline routing makes for an improved bike trip in strange lands.

These particular earphones have an IPX-3 rating, which is about the weakest water resistant rating you can get, but makes me feel a bit better about sweating all over them and exposing them to rain.

Headlamp

While critical in the backcountry, a headlamp is less useful in normal daily life. I carry a flashlight on my belt. Between that and my helmet light, this headlmap rarely gets used. I keep it the package mostly just because I have space and don’t mind the additional weight.

I went with the Princeton Tech Remix Pro. It’s compact, lightweight, and offers both red and white LEDs. That set of criteria is critical to me, and fairly easy to satisfy. The reason I chose the Remix Pro over other offerings is that it uses a single CR123. I have mixed feelings about CR123 batteries, but the flashlight I carry uses one. This headlamp allows me to standardize on replaceable batteries for my every day carry.

Batteries

I carry 2 spare CR123 batteries in a Deep Carry Tube from OscarDelta.

Chargers

I backed the ChargeTech Wall and Car Charger on IndieGoGo a while back. The car charger is nothing special – I’ve had other car chargers the same size – but the wall charger is unusually small. I’ve carried a wall charger in my pack ever since getting my first smart phone, but this is the first one that didn’t suck to carry. It’s no bigger than it needs to be.

Chew Can

The Westone earphones came in a small hard-sided container that screws shut, providing some measure of protection from weather and crushing. I don’t care enough about the earphones to store them in the container, but it happens to be the right size to fit most of the smaller items in this package that I do care about.

It also looks like a tactical chew can, which amuses me2.

Electronic Support Package

Micro USB Cable

These days enough devices have micro USB ports that carrying a cable is pretty much required3. I carry a 6 ft MOS Spring Micro USB Cable, which is probably not worth the money, but has some cool features like a woven jacket and spring strain relief near the connector.

USB Condom

The USB Condom is the least used device in the whole package. Between the micro USB cable, battery pack and wall and car chargers, I can power my phone without much worry about data leakage. For those rare times when I do need to draw juice from an unknown USB port, the condom offers peace of mind. As with the headlamp, I have the space and don’t mind the weight, so I leave it in.

Card Reader

The Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader is another device that I don’t use too frequently. Most of the time when I need to read a card, it is an SD card from a camera. My laptop has a built-in SD card reader. But occasionally it is useful to be able to read microSD cards, and occasionally it is useful to be able to do so on other machines. I choose to carry this rather than a microSD-SD adapter so that I may read any card on any machine.

USB Sticks

I carry 2 USB sticks. One is an old 8GB Verbatim stick that runs Tails.

The second is a 64GB Corsair Flash Voyager GO, which has a normal USB 3.0 male connector one end and micro USB on the other. I only recently learned that these type of sticks were a thing, but it certainly makes sense. This gives me an additional method to transfer data between my phone and laptop (in addition to a wireless network, the micro USB cable, and the card reader).

I have not performed any quantitative testing of the Corsair, but it seems to be slow compared to other USB 3.0 sticks. Still, it is large in capacity, small in size, well-built, and I bought it for a good price.

Notes

  1. Although not part of my EDC, I will throw a Kindle in my pack if I'm planning to be gone for more than a day. Fortunately, this creates no new support requirements in addition to those already set by the phone.
  2. I also have a set of S&S Precision Tactical Chew Cans, which are much nicer than the Westone container, but too small for this application.
  3. Nobody likes a cable moocher.

This post was published on . It was tagged with gear, edc.

Lighting the Overtake

I recently purchased a Smith Overtake helmet. While most bicycle helmets on the market are made from styrofoam, the Overtake includes Koroyd, a new material that is supposed to revolutionize helmet safety. It also features MIPS, which reduces rotational forces on the brain by allowing the helmet to slide relative to the head during an angled impact.

So the Overtake offers exceptional protection, is comfortable and notable lighter than previous helmets, and it looks pretty good1. Unfortunately, it was not immediately compatible with my light system.

Overtake

I’ve been using a Light & Motion Vis 360+ for a couple years. Its a great light, offering 360 degree visibility and a nice beam wherever I happen to be looking. And its always with me, so I don’t have to worry about removing it from my bike whenever I lock up.

The rear light easily zip-ties to the back of the Overtake. The front light, however, mounts by running a rubber strap through the vents present on normal bicycle helmets. The overtake lacks these pass-through vents due to the Koroyd. I didn’t want to glue the light to the helmet, so I thought I’d try Velcro. I picked up some industrial strength 2” wide tape and stuck the loop to the helmet and the hook to the back of the light. I wasn’t sure if it would hold, but so far it seems to have worked out great. It hasn’t fallen off and I have not noticed the light being wobbly while in use.

While I was it, I put a piece of loop on the back of the helmet and stuck a ranger eye on it.

Ranger Eye

Notes

  1. Everything looks good in matte black.

This post was published on . It was tagged with gear, edc, bicycle.