Thursday, June 28, 2018

Tool A Longs

Almost three years ago I wrote a product review for the emergency rations that I found at a local Wal-Mart. They're produced by Ultimate Survival Technology (UST) and are still available through many stores, but recently I found another line of “survival” items that they produce and decided to test a few of them.

There are 36 different designs in this product line. I saw about 10 of them in a clearance aisle at a local home supply store and picked up four whose looks I liked. Once I got home and looked them up, I wished the store would've had a few of the other designs, but I found a few that I liked.

Designed to be hung by the included carabiner (very flimsy) from a pack or bag, the somewhat whimsical designs are decorative and some of the tools are actually usable. None of the designs have a blade of any kind so they are all TSA-safe to travel with. Here are the ones I picked up (pictures are from the maker's page).

Similar to the sporks that I reviewed here, the function is fairly simple: a stainless steel tool that will let your eat without using your fingers. This one has a functional bottle opener (B) and flat screwdriver (A) built in to the design, as well as a questionable can opener(D). The can opener works, but the design only allows a 1/8th inch cut per cycle, so it's going to take a while to get a can open. The tool only weighs an once (30g) and is functional, so it may have a place in your kit.

A stamped-steel fish with 8 functions, 5 of which are useful or usable. The screwdrivers (D, F) and hex wrenches (B) work, the prying point (A) is strong enough to open a paint can, and the ruler (C) is accurate. However, the butterfly wrench (H) is designed for use with wing-nuts and is too small for most of the common sizes, the can opener (E) is completely useless due to the rear dorsal fin of the fish shape blocking the cutter from being able to actually penetrate the lid of a can, and the cord cutter (G) isn't sharp enough to cut anything I tried it on.

I liked the look of this one and most of it actually works. Of the 8 tools in the design, 5 of them are usable. The flat screwdriver (E), ruler (D), hex wrenches (A), bottle opener (C), and can opener (H) all work quite well. The can opener actually surprised me at how well it worked, opening a steel can of fruit quite easily. The Phillips screwdriver (F) suffers from the same problem as the can opener on the trout design with another piece of the tool blocks its use (the other foot of the Sasquatch in this case). The butterfly wrench (G) is again too small for use, and the cord cutter (C) is dull.

With 10 tools on this one, it's the most ambitious of the batch I bought. Two flat screwdrivers (B, E), a Phillips screwdriver (D), a bottle opener (H), and a ruler (J) are the most useful of the choices. The fish scaler (A) is quite small and I'd rather use a camp knife to remove scales before cooking a fish. The cord cutter (C) is dull and the butterfly wrench (F) is too narrow for use. I'm undecided on the pick (I) and fish hook sharpener (G), as I haven't had a good chance to test them yet.

There's also a hidden tool that the maker doesn't point out: the end of the ruler/scaler has a notch in it which could be used as a hook remover quite easily. The trick to removing a hook after a fish has swallowed it to the point where you can't reach it is to wrap the line once around a hook remover and gently push on the remover, following the line to the hook. Once you have found the hook, twist the remover until it sits in the bend of the hook, push in just enough to dislodge the barbs of the hook and gently pull out the hook and remover at the same time.

Closing Thoughts
I don't understand the addition of butterfly/wing-nut wrenches on so many of the stamped-steel multi-tools on the market. I don't see wing-nuts in use very often, so I don't see the need for a wrench for them. The cord cutters could probably be sharpened with a round ceramic rod or a piece of emery paper wrapped around a small rod, making them useful. The functions blocked by the design of the tools is just poor planning on the part of the designers.

Normally I include links to Amazon for each of the items I review, because we get a few pennies when you purchase anything using our referral links and Amazon usually has fair prices. Their prices are close to MSRP, but Amazon only has a half-dozen of the designs listed, so I skipped the links. The maker has a list of“where to buy” on their webpage. Keep an eye out for them; they seem to be made of good steel and most of the functions actually work.

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