I’ve carried the same YubiKey NEO on my keychain for five years. On average it gets used dozens of times per day, via USB, as an OpenPGP card. The YubiKey looks a little worse for wear, but it almost always works flawlessly.
Occasionally, it requires a few insertions to be read. When this happens I clean the contacts by rubbing them gently with a Pentel Clic Eraser, wiping off the dust, spraying them with isopropyl alcohol, and then wiping them dry. Afterwards, the YubiKey is registered immediately on the first insert. I perform this procedure about once or twice per year.
Using the eraser is potentially dangerous, but I’ve had good luck with it over the years. The white vinyl in the Pentel Clic feels very smooth compared to the abrasiveness of the rubber found on the tops of most pencils.
The former pouch has a Velcro strap on the back, intended to be attached to a belt. The latter has Blue Force’s MOLLE strap on the back for attaching to any PALS grid. The pouches have other minor differences, but the attachment method is the only difference that matters. Both work equally well on the Pocket Shield.
The belt pouch is used to secure my Triple Aught Design Dauntless MK3. When attaching the belt pouch, I roll over the top of the lower Velcro loop, which causes the Velcro to stick out a bit from the Pocket Shield instead of sitting flush. This acts as a stop for the knife’s pocket clip, preventing the knife from sitting all the way into the pouch. Increasing the ride height of the knife makes it much easier to deploy than it would be if it were completely inserted. The pouch keeps the knife from wandering around, which it is wont to do when just clipped directly over the top edge of the Pocket Shield.
Lately I’ve also been keeping my Elzetta Alpha on the Pocket Shield, but I’m not entirely convinced that I like it there.
While I prefer pocket-carry for everyday, I’ve often thought about something that would allow for quicker access – especially on the bike. I’ve looked at a number of solutions for mounting a capsicum delivery mechanism to a bike, but never found one I liked. Instead, I ended up purchasing a second ASP Key Defender and mounting it to the shoulder strap of my backpack, which I wear frequently when in the saddle.
A small split ring connects the Defender to a magnetic clasp. This in turn is attached to a Lucky Line Flex-o-loc (the same thing I’ve been using on my keychain for seven years), which connects the whole setup to the webbing on my shoulder strap. To prevent the Defender from swinging around, I attach an IWB Soft Loop around the shoulder strap and shove the Defender through that.
The Soft Loop holds the Defender tight enough against the strap that it doesn’t spin around during daily carry. When mounting the Defender, I orientate it so that safety clasp (which I still cover with grip tape) is against the shoulder strap. This eliminates any chance of the safety somehow accidentally becoming released and the trigger actuating. It also keeps the safety in a known, consistent position when the Defender is drawn.
Enough of the shaft of the Defender is left below the Soft Loop that it can be easily gripped. It is deployed by simply ripping downward. The magnetic clasp breaks away and the top of the device slides through the Soft Loop. This is very quick and very easy to do, with either hand, even when wearing gloves.
Another neat benefit to the magnetic clasp is that it allows you to easily reattach the Defender, if you decide you quickly want both hands free. The magnet is strong enough that it will connect if you simply wave the top of the Defender within a couple inches of the half of the clasp still attached to the shoulder strap. This can be done without looking. Of course, the Defender will swing around as you move until you shove it back underneath the Soft Loop – a procedure which does take two hands and at least one eye.
I’m happy with this setup as a supplement to the OC carried in my pocket. It can move easily to different backpacks. It could probably be made to work with any pepper spray intended to be attached to a keychain, though it works especially well with the ASP Defender series thanks to the hammer grip used to deploy them.
I’ve worn the Casio Pro Trek PRW-3000-1A for the past 1,746 consecutive days. This is probably the longest I’ve worn any watch that doesn’t say “G-Shock” on it.
The Pro Trek performs all the basic watch functions you’d expect: it tells time, it provides the current date and day of week, it has a stopwatch, and it has a countdown timer. It supports a second timezone, which I usually keep set to UTC for quick reference but is useful if I’m briefly passing through a different region. It provides sunrise and sunset times for current, past and future dates. These are not exact, but tend to be within 20 minutes of reality, which is close enough for planning purposes. It has four alarms, which I never use.
Beyond those basic functions, the PRW-3000-1A has two characteristics that differentiate it from other timepieces. First, it is both solar and atomic: the battery never needs to be changed, and the time is always accurate. (Eventually, I’m sure, the battery will no longer charge itself, but that doesn’t seem to be imminent.)
The second characteristic is that it is an ABC watch, which means it provides an altimeter, barometer, and compass. Of these three features, the compass is the most useful. It works great for identifying the cardinal directions when you get turned around. It can also store bearings in memory, but using something other than a real compass for actual navigation strikes me as silly. The watch can be configured with declination, but I always leave this off so that the compass points to magnetic north. I apply this strategy to all compasses and GPS receivers, ensuring that they always agree.
The barometer is neat, but not especially useful. I have not found the current atmospheric pressure to be advantageous information. The watch can be told to monitor the barometric pressure over a period, and then alert the user if it sees a rise or fall in pressure, which would indicate a change in weather (very roughly: a rising barometer is good, falling is bad). This is more useful than knowing only the current value, but it only works when altitude remains constant.
The barometer screen also displays a thermometer, but because the watch is worn next to skin I find that this reading is not an accurate representation of ambient air temperature.
The altimeter mode is more useful. The reading is based on barometric pressure. The watch can either convert the barometer readings to altitude based on its stored values from the International Civil Aviation Organization’s International Standard Atmosphere, or it can calculate altitude based on a provided reference value. With the latter option, you tell the watch the current altitude (based on a map reading, survey marker, etc) and the watch then uses changes in pressure to calculate the difference as you ascend or descend. This is how I use the altimeter, and I find the results accurate enough for my purposes (which tend to be “rough navigation”).
The watch features a trip recording mode, where it will periodically record altitude readings and then report back with your maximum altitude, minimum altitude, total ascent, and total descent. I’ve never used this.
The watch remains in excellent condition. The bezel is scratched, but that has no practical impact on its function. The face itself has managed to resist all scratching.
The buttons are more exposed than a G-Shock, and they will sometimes activate themselves if I’m doing something like pulling my wrist through a tight cuff. These accidental discharges happen rarely and are only a minor annoyance, but I do wish the Pro Trek was available with the thicker bumper of the G-Shock. (Casio does offer ABC G-Shocks, such as the Rangeman GW9400-1B. I’ve not looked closely at these, but they are probably worthy of consideration.)
Kikuo Ibe’s original G-Shock DW-5000 is the watch against which every other timepiece should be judged. Today I would appreciate the addition of solar atomic functionality, which is available in derivatives such as the G-Shock GWM5610. I purchased the PRW-3000-1A in 2015 for $200, which is a little over twice the common sale price of the G-Shock. I think this has been worth it for the added functionality. Unfortunately the PRW-3000-1A is no longer available. The current equivalent of it seems to be the PRW-3100Y-1. Casio’s list price for this model is $320, which is more than I think the watch is worth. If my watch was lost, I would happily purchase the newer model (or an ABC G-Shock) for $200. If they wanted more than that, I’d likely revert to the solar atomic G-Shock GWM5610 for $80-$100.
The Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs are different from many other earplugs. Rather than being inserted into the ear canal, they seal the conchal bowl. This makes them very comfortable, as there is no internal pressure in the ear, but also makes them less effective at blocking noise. They have a claimed noise reduction rating of 22 decibels. (When dealing with moldable plugs I assume this number applies when you install them perfectly, and that in common usage they’re probably slightly less effective.) I find this style of plug somewhat finicky to install and retain. If you find you cannot stand the feeling of having something in your ear canal, they are probably a good option. For everyone else, you can do better. I will sometimes use these plugs in the axolotl tanks (because water with such a high concentration of salt can be uncomfortable in the ear). In that scenario, I just want to seal my ears from water, but I don’t really care about the noise reduction. These earplugs work well there. If I regularly patronized a public pool I would use them there (because public pool water scares me). The earplugs are intended to be single use. You can reuse them, but the tackiness of the material means it picks up more dirt and is more difficult to clean than other single use earplugs. I haven’t bothered to reuse them.
The Howard Leight Laser Lite Foam Earplugs are a good option for side sleeping. They have a claimed noise reduction rating of 32 decibels. As with the silicone plugs, I assume they probably perform slightly worse than this in common practice due to imperfect installation. When properly installed these earplugs do block a surprising amount of noise, and they remain comfortable. They stick out of my ears somewhat, but because they’re just foam, any extra pressure placed on the outer end doesn’t translate to uncomfortable pressure in my ear canal. While intended to be single use, you can get a few nights of use out of a single pair. Sometimes I’ve woken up to find that one has fallen out, but I figure they’ve still done they’re job as long as I’m waking up naturally and not because of a disruptive noise.
For music events I have the Etymotic ER20XS Earplugs. They have a claimed noise reduction rating of only 20 decibels, but I feel that they do a good job of reducing sounds to safe levels without distorting the quality of the music. They are not appropriate for times when I want to eliminate as much outside noise as possible, which means they are not useful enough to carry everyday. I’ll often forget to grab them when heading out the door to a show. Or I’ll go to an unplanned show straight from some other location and not have the opportunity to pick up the Etymotics from home. (Prior to these I used EarDial Earplugs in this application. I find them both to perform pretty much the same.)
The SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders have a claimed noise reduction rating of 24 decibels. I do not question this rating. Unlike with the moldable foam or silicone plugs, there’s really no way to improperly install the EP3.
I first got the idea of carrying the EP3 earplugs everyday a few years ago from a local FBI agent. He keeps them in his bag for unplanned gunfights. The unplanned discharging of firearms is pretty low on my priority list, and if I’m planning on discharging firearms or being in an environment where others are discharging firearms around me, my first choice for ear protection will be my Howard Leight Impact Sport Earmuffs with Noiseighter pads. But it got me thinking: if I was already considering carrying a general purpose, disposable earplug like the Howard Leight Laser Lites (which I had previously kept in my EDC first aid kit), why not just pack the EP3s that would otherwise continue to sit in my box of miscellaneous gun stuff at home?
I don’t think they have quite the fidelity of the Etymotics for music, but they certainly reduce the noise to a safe level, while still allowing me to enjoy the music. And with the filters open I can easily tune in to conversations around me, which I think is critical in environments like nightclubs (for both enjoyment and safety).
I find them comfortable enough to sleep in. They sit fairly flush with my ears, and so while they may not be quite as forgiving as Howard Leight foam plugs for side sleeping, I’ve never woken up after rolling onto my side while wearing them.
On their packaging, SureFire does list swimming as one of the activities for which the EP3 may be used. However, I think that earplugs like the Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs that seal the entire ear, rather than just plugging the canal, make more sense if keeping out water is your primary goal. I’ve never found myself unexpectedly underwater, so I’m comfortable not planning my EDC around this eventuality.
The EP3 earplugs have retention rings, which are sized to fit your conchal bowl. (I wear a size medium, which is what SureFire recommends for most adults.) This makes it very unlikely that the EP3 plugs will fall out, which is as useful for sleeping as much as it is for more exciting activities.
SureFire claims a service life for the EP3 of “6+ months”. My last pair lasted 42 months before I replaced them. Granted, I use them infrequently, but it’s safe to say that this style of ear protection lasts significantly longer than disposable-but-reusable earplugs like the Howard Leight Laser Lite and Mack’s Pillow Soft. I store them in the protective case they come in, and wash them with warm soapy water after use.
SureFire also offers the EP4. These are identical to the EP3 except that they have a triple flange instead of a double. I’ve never used them. I think the only reason to opt for the triple flange is if you have a long ear canal. With the filter closed, the noise reduction rating is the same on both models. With the filters open, the EP3 provide a noise reduction rating of 11 decibels while the EP4 bumps it up to 12. The EP7 has foam tips for a different feel and a higher noise reduction rating.
Earplugs are one of the least frequently used items in what I consider to be my level 2 EDC. If I was seeking to reduce the number of items in my pack, they would be a candidate for elimination. But the reality is that their small size and low weight make them easy to carry in a bag, and when I do need them I am very grateful to have them – whether that is because I’m sleeping elsewhere, enjoying live music, or things are going bang. The SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders aren’t necessarily the most appropriate ear protection for every environment, but I think they work well in a wide range of applications. Their versatility, coupled with their longevity, is why I choose them over other earplugs.
Rema has been making vulcanizing patches for about a century. They have a long held reputation for being one of the best. I haven’t experimented with much of their competition, but I’ve never had a Rema patch fail, and as a general rule when it comes to bicycle parts and components I find that if the Germans do a thing they probably do it at least as good as anybody else, if not better. So I buy their patches in bulk and I keep an 8 oz can of their fluid for use at home.
A quality vulcanizing patch is a permanent repair. If applied properly, it will leave the tube as good as new. In contrast, “glueless” or “pre-glued” patches have a reputation for being unreliable, temporary fixes. I’ve had good luck with Park Tool’s pre-glued patches from the GP-2 kit, but I still consider them a temporary solution.
The advantage of a pre-glued patch is that it is a nearly instant repair: buff the area with sandpaper, slap on the patch, rub it a bit with your fingers or roll it over your top tube or pump, and you’re ready to go. Patching with a permanent, vulcanizing patch is a longer procedure: buff the area with sandpaper, apply the vulcanizing fluid, wait around 3 minutes for the fluid to become dry and tacky, slap on the patch, rub it in, and then you’re rolling. (Some would argue that you shouldn’t inflate the tube immediately after patching, but I’ve never had a problem doing this. The key is allowing the vulcanizing fluid to sit for enough time prior to applying the patch.) In unpleasant weather, or when you have some place to be, the extra three minutes (or thereabouts) required is unattractive.
Carrying both types of patches, plus a spare tube, provides options. If I get a flat, and it’s a nice day out, and I don’t have any place to be, and I’m in a pleasant area, I’ll fix it with a vulcanizing patch. If conditions are not so idyllic, I’ll quickly swap out the tube and continue on my way. When I get to where I’m going, I’ll patch the punctured tube with a vulcanizing patch, reinstall the newly patched tube and put the new tube away. If I get a second flat before I can fix the tube that was originally punctured, I’ll slap on one of the pre-glued patches until I get to my destination. Then I’ll repair the first tube with a vulcanizing patch, and throw away the tube with the pre-glued patch as soon as I can acquire another spare.
I’ve also successfully used a Park Tool pre-glued patch to repair a leaky Therm-a-Rest mattress. It’s useful to know I can fix a mattress during a multi-day bike trip without needing to remember to pack an additional item.
Of course the best strategy is to not get a flat in the first place. As I am fond of pointing out, I buy good tires, which prevent me from getting a flat more than once or twice per year. A good tube costs around $10, but with proper care and feeding ought to have a service life measured in years.
Scissors offer some additional utility compared to a knife. They’re useful for rounding the corners of medical tape to discourage peeling. They can clean up the area around a tear before repair with the expedition sewing awl. They can trim your nails. And they can go places a knife cannot. I’ve flown with these scissors in my carry-on. They are diminutive enough as to not frighten TSA agents.
I’ve tried carrying other scissors in the past. The popular Slip-N-Snip Folding Scissors (and the various knock-offs) are, I think, a piece of junk. They’re too stiff, the scissoring is too rough, and the blades too thick. The Nogent Folding Scissors look great, but are way beyond my price range. The Westcott scissors do not fold, but are still easily carried. Despite the product name, the overall length of the scissors is 3 inches. They weigh 5 grams (0.2 ounces). The blades are 1 inch long, agreeably sharp, pointy and thin. The scissors can disappear into a bag. I keep a small piece of heat shrink tubing over the blades of the scissors to prevent them from poking things. They get stored in my small EDC toiletry pouch.