When one is traveling, it can be really handy to have a small toolkit on hand, but which kit is the best?
A few years ago at a family Christmas party, I won a pocket knife as part of a "Dirty Santa" game. This little scamp was a Buck 730 X-Tract. In addition to an incredibly strong and sharp blade, this little beauty also included two screwdrivers, a small set of pliers, and a doohickey for extracting boy scouts out of horses' hoofs (you can also use this doohickey for opening bottles and cans). Of particular interest was the fact that all of the blades and tools locked into position and everything could be controlled using only one hand.
Ever since that party, my knife and I were inseparable. I can honestly say that I used to use it multiple times each and every day. The reason I'm talking about this little rascal in the past tense is that we have been torn asunder. Last week I was at the lake with my wife and son and some friends who own a couple of Sea-Doos.
While the kids were playing around on one of the Sea-Doos towing an inner tube, a rope got tangled up in the engine. My son, who was in the water trying to sort things out, asked to borrow my knife. After cutting the rope, he dropped my knife into what he believed to be a cup holder on the side of the floating dock. Sad to relate, it wasn't a cup holder -- it was a hole that went straight through the dock. My knife is now at the bottom of the lake in about 30 feet of water. I was not wearing my happy face.
I was even more disgruntled when I returned home and started looking on the web and discovered that Buck no longer manufactures its 730 X-Tract knife. Fortunately, I found this vendor on eBay, and I now have a replacement knife winging its way to me as we speak.
In the meantime, I really miss my knife. Every time a package arrives, I reach for my belt to whip it out, only to realize it's no longer there. Earlier today, I wanted to take an analog meter apart and I needed a screwdriver, so I reached for my knife... and a little tear rolled down my cheek.
Having said all this, we should also acknowledge that the tools on my knife are somewhat limited. Of course, I have numerous other tools here in my office and at home, but this started me thinking about the times I've needed access to tools while I've been "on the road." In turn, this reminded me that I'll be heading out to speak at ESC Brazil in a couple of weeks (see also ESC Brazil 2014: Here I Come! and Just What Is an Embedded System?).
The more I think about this, the more I realize that it would be really handy to have a small toolkit for when I'm traveling, but which one would be best? I'm thinking of something unobtrusive enough to carry around in my backpack and that I could slip into a pocket in my cargo shorts if I so desired. I don’t really want one with things like soldering irons and suchlike, but I do want one that would help me take things to bits (and maybe even put them back together again).
I just had a quick Google while no one was looking. The most interesting one I've found so far is the iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit. This comes in a sleek grey tool roll that would easily fit in one's pocket. As it says in the blurb: "Designed by the gadget fanatics at iFixit.com, the Pro Tech Toolkit will have you fixing devices that are not even broken, just to use the cool tools."
And speaking of tools, this kit does include some interesting ones, including an ESD tweezer set, an anti-static strap, a tool for prying open the trickiest enclosures scratch-free, and even a small suction cup for lifting front panels off of things like phones and media players. On the other hand, it doesn’t include pliers or wire snips, both of which would be jolly useful.
Of course, I could purchase a bunch of tools individually, but then I'd have to think about things and I'm a bit short of time. (If I were to go this route, which tools would you suggest as a minimum set?) The alternative is to simply purchase a kit off-the-shelf, but which one would be best? Should I go with the iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit, or is there another kit out there that will satisfy my every desire? As usual, any suggestions would be very gratefully received.
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun & Interesting