In December or January of each year, I go to a blog to read its author’s yearly gear post. I have no interest in any of the other author’s posts, but I find it interesting to see what other people, usually those with vastly different lives, find important enough to use and then write about. Another blog I’ve read a lot of posts on is Uses This, but those get repetitive fast. I also find the /r/EDC subreddit interesting at points, but the gems are rare.
The problem with things is that sometimes you want to own them because you want to be the sort of person who owns/uses those things. That usually ends poorly. This is the (personal) ‘gear’ that actually matters to me, that gets used regularly or is a permanent part of my life.
I took all of these pictures myself using a terrible phone, because… copyright?
I’ve been doing a lot of bread baking and other cooking recently, but the gear for that is in flux.
President’s Choice Knives
Shortly after getting married, I decided that I’d do more cooking, so I went to (Real Canadian) Superstore and bought what seemed to be a proper knife. A few years late I came across a cheap online kitchen knife skills course and signed up. I quickly realised that I had been using a carving knife for years. Going back to Superstore, I bought this standard, perfectly fine chef’s knife and a similar paring knife. They totally cut things. These will get replaced in the near future.
I like watches, especially mechanical watches. I want my computer’s time to be accurate and logged in UTC, but I want my personal time to be fuzzy and local. Mechanical watches are basically magic, and I appreciate carrying that with me. I also appreciate that the watch prevents me from pulling out my phone, looking at the time, putting my phone away, realizing I’ve already forgotten the time, and sheepishly pulling the phone out again… in a loop.
My parents got married when I was nine, and I recieved a watch that was in the style of a dive watch as a present for being in the wedding party. When I decided to wear a watch again, I bought what you could think of as the entry-level field watche, an Seiko SNK809. After wearing that watch for a while, I saw a deal on the watch pictured here, which is what many people choose as an upgrade path. The SKX series are dive watches, which means that they adhere to the ISO 6425 standard. The high-level explanation of that standard is that the watches it covers:
- Can be submerged in a sink, a bath, or a pool
- Can take a hit, for when I bash my arm on a doorframe or counter, or drop it face-first onto concrete
- Are legible at a certain distance with no light
- Have a rotating, unidirectional bezel
The first three points mean that I don’t have to worry about breaking my watch, and the unidirectional bezel is something I use regularly to indicate when I started doing something. While I could use my phone for these things, the less I remove my phone from my pocket, the better my life is.
I keep this watch on what’s called a NATO strap, which I find to be convenient and comfortable.
The 007 and the 009 differ only in the design of their bezel inserts. I wear my 009 more in summer, since I keep it on a rubber band, and it’s my ‘water watch’. I frequently swim when it’s warm out, and changing watch bands is involved enough that having two watches is worthwhile to me. I also hope to mod both of my SKXs in the future. The Seiko SXK is the Honda Civic of watches, so there are many aftermarket options available, and many videos and articles to guide me through the process.
This is my gym watch. When I’m at the gym, I want a total beater of a watch that I can smash into iron plates and not care about… because that happens.
Fitbit Charge HR
This is my sleep ‘watch’, I wear it only when I sleep. When I wake up early to go to the gym, the less noise I make the better, and the Charge HR has a vibrating alarm. Unfortunately, the firmware on this device is unreliable, so I have to regularly hard-reset it to factory defaults to make it usable again. Sometimes it becomes entirely unresponsive, and I have to wait for the battery to drain fully so it loses its state in RAM, then charge it, then factory reset it. Truly it is a terrible thing. It will be removed from my kit in the near future.
These are my audiobook earbuds. AirPods can operate individually, one earbud at a time, letting me conveniently have one ear dedicated to an audiobook while performing other tasks. I feel guilt every time I use them, because I paid Apple money. They are aggressively power-saving and inconsistently compatible with non-Apple devices. Despite the frustration they cause, I have no plans to replace them.
These are for the gym. They won’t fall out or get lost, and they are geared towards use during physical activity. Occasionally the firmware gets stuck, and you can’t knock them out of their stuck state until power is momentarily applied via a USB cord. Don’t talk to me about firmware… I just can’t anymore.
I don’t remember where I first encountered this simple metal contraption, but I love it. It allows me to conveniently carry around a small amount of duct tape with me. You wouldn’t think that would be useful, but it is. Most recently I taped-shut a take-home container with a dodgy lid when leaving a restaurant. I’ve refilled the duct-ling several times with different tapes. The bottom plate used to unscrew itself in my pocket, but I applied thread-locking fluid to it to correct that.
Leatherman Skeletool CX
I’ve had several multi-tools in the last decade or so, and they were all either too rarely used to justify staying in my pants, or they were too heavy. The Skeletool changed that, and it’s been in my pants every day for about two years. The Skeletool CX differs from the Skeletool by being black, having nicer metal for the blade or something, and not having serrations near the base. It’s very light, my cell phone is heavier.
When I got my Skeletool, it came with two double-sided bits: one in the handle and one on the end in a driver. These bits were the worst, since they were different sizes of flat and Phillips. I replaced them with one bit that has Phillips and flat head, and another bit that has two sizes of Robertson.
As with other things in my gear, you don’t know how much you will use it until you have it with you always.
I love input devices, they move from system to system with you over the years. Computers are temporary, as are output devices. Input devices are forever… or at least a few years longer than computers.
Kinesis Advantage 2
This is an insanely expensive keyboard, and if you type for a living it is worth it. I find it important to keep in mind what you’re actually buying when making a purchase. With my input devices, I’m buying reduced injury from my job. That’s not something you skimp on if you have the choice.
The Kinesis Advantage series has three features which are, in my totally biased fanboy opinion, critical for minimal strain. First, the keys are not staggered, the way they are on most keyboards, so that in a QWERTY layout, the orientation of Q, A, and Z are in a straight line. This means that a simple extension or curling of the fingers is necessary to transition between the rows when typing. Second, the keyboard offers thumb clusters for modifier keys and other commonly-used keys. This prevents scrunching up or angling your hand to execute shortcuts. Finally, the dips in the keyboard facilitate the linear key layout so that as you curl or extend your fingers, they naturally come to rest on the row you want.
The biggest downside of this keyboard is the cost, and how it will ruin all other keyboards for you within a week of using it. I have mine configured in a Dvorak layout, which is supported natively by the firmware — twitches — and lets me keep my proficiency with QWERTY because my brain feels the Kinesis is too alien to overwrite my habits on normal keyboards. Brains are weird, eh?
Logitech MX Ergo Plus
A coworker introduced me to the Logitech Trackman Wheel Optical in 2006, and I’ve hated mice and trackpads ever since. Controlling the mouse cursor with a thumb is incredibly intuitive and comfortable to me. I used to play first-person shooters regularly with my trackball. The newest model of this series is the MX Ergo, which is distinguished by supporting Bluetooth and being tiltable. The MX Ergo can be tilted up to 20 degrees, and the Plus designation means only that it comes with a wedge that provides an additional 10 degree tilt. Also, never order from Logitech directly or you may have to interact with them.
Notebooks are something I used to fetishize. I loved beautiful notebooks to the point that I felt my words were unworthy of them, so I tended to leave them unused lest I sully them with my drivel. Lucky for you, I don’t feel that way about the Internet…
I had many different kinds of Moleskine notebooks over the past decade, but they all annoyed me in various ways. Every model of notebook would eventually be destroyed before I had filled it, regardless of its size. One of my favourite authors, Warren Ellis, mentioned at some point that he had gotten some Field Notes and enjoyed them. The brand doesn’t seem to be sold in stores where I live, so I eventually bought a few via Amazon, and they worked for me. I appreciate that my Field Notes notebooks don’t get destroyed while living in my back pocket every day, which is the only brand to manage that. So I have a quarterly Field Notes subscription that I share with a friend, and it keeps me well-stocked with a variety of notebooks that I find useful.
So… why not use my phone for taking notes? Honestly, I can’t think on a cell phone. I can think with a keyboard, because to me that’s just talking, and talking is how I think. While using a pen and paper, my brain still feels like I’m talking, to myself at least. But when I’m using a touchscreen, I feel like I’m operating a device, and I’m constrained by the choices made by the designer of the device. It’s probably a generational thing, but that’s how my brain is wired, and I’ve got to live with my brain.
For a few years I kept a Sharpie pen in my pocket at all times, but they are kind of a pain to write with — they’re sensitive to angle — despite the nice result they produce. Then I carried around a Fisher Bullet Space Pen for a year or two, but its small form factor drove me nuts, as did the necessity that I remove the cap. Ain’t nobody got time for that! So I upgraded to the much cheaper Zebra F-701. This pen is made of a surprisingly thick metal tube, partially knurled for grip, with a normal clicky mechanism (technical term). It doesn’t annoy me. High praise.
As long as I can remember, I’ve kept my wallet in my front-right pocket. For five years or so this was a bi-fold wallet, and then I decided I needed more pocket space, so I switched to using a binder clip as a ‘wallet’, refusing to carry any cards that weren’t essential in my daily life. Now I use a Nomatic Basics wallet, which is the spiritual successor to my binder clip. Its elastic is convenient, keeping the cards snug, and the pull-tab that makes the cards separate is occasionally useful.
Handkerchiefs seem weird, until you carry one… and live my life. I have used my handkerchiefs to wipe faces, wipe noses, wipe tears, wrap wounds, wrap hands, wrap food, clean glasses, dry hands and more. Have a stack of them, stick a new one in your pocket each day, and you’re good to go.
Ty Beanie Baby Squirrel
Roughly twenty years ago, my little sister was a toddler, and gave me this plush squirrel. I have kept it in the pocket of whatever pants I’m wearing (roughly) every day since then. It gets laundered frequently and intentionally. I’ve even bleached it once or twice, and the colour held. While the squirrel is rarely useful, it is essential to me. It most often functions as a projectile, an improvised stand, or a distraction. Its name is Nuts.
While I don’t wear it often, because it doesn’t fit well at the moment because I’d rather resize myself that it, my wedding ring is part of my gear.
I wonder how many people have obsessed over the date discrepancies on the times the watches are showing, trying to figure out if I took the pictures months ago, took the pictures over the course three hours, or intentionally chose times and dates that would aggravate the observant…