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Road Tests

EDC Keys: Pocket Dump/Key Carry/Road Tests (1 of 3)

by , January 22, 2013

At Carryology, as you’re well aware, we’re obsessed with carry.  All forms of carry.  It’s literally how most of our contributors make our living.  Some of us design fantastic wallets, some run their own softgoods fabrication shops.  Myself, I design bags and packs for large brands and small brands.  I personally love one particular niche of carry that applies to everyone… EDC (everyday carry).

This is a big category of carry that we’ve been meaning to discuss in-depth for a while now.  Though, we will plainly admit, the many facets of the niche of EDC can’t be summed up in one post.  Take a look at Wikipedia’s entry on EDC, which is pretty good start for an introduction on the topic.  Our particular taste on EDC is a little less tactical and weapon oriented, but that doesn’t make us the authority on it, as everyone is basically “correct” when it comes to their personal definition/practice.

This particular EDC post (the first of three) is focusing on keys.  We all have to carry keys.  So lets talk about how to carry them.  Perhaps this will reveal a new way or two for you to explore better ways of carrying keys in your life. I’ve always disliked having a lot of items in my pockets.  My personal EDC pocket dump is here below, which I believe I’ve touched on before.  Here is a little update/refresher, as it will be relevant for this post.

Front right pocket:
– Keys (Munroe Mega Dangler + 3 keys; house key, garage key, bicycle U-lock key) *Updated photo at the bottom with my newly added The Good Worth & Co’s “best wishes” key.
– Bellroy Slim Sleeve Wallet (4 cards; credit/debit, driver’s license, car2go card, and a 30% off Whole Foods card… clutch)

Front left pocket:
– iPhone 5 (no case)

Rear right pocket:
– Bandanna (some rad Japanese printed cotton I picked up in Tokyo)

Rear left pocket:
– Koozie (absolutely necessary to have at all times living in Austin, TX)

5th pocket:
– Currently empty, I used to keep a Bic or DJeep lighter in there

Additional:
– I also keep a secret $20 folded up tightly behind the button snaps where my leather belt folds over on itself for the belt buckle closure.  This spare bill has proved useful many times.  Cash is king… especially to get you out of a bind or tricky situation when your wit won’t work.

(To see hundreds more images of highly-curated carefully-thought-out EDC pocket dumps, check out Everyday-Carry… but be warned, you will lose hours of your life to this website, viewing image after image of interesting setups.  The image below highlights some examples.)

The items listed above are the things that are always with me whenever I walk out the door.  That’s it.  Anything else is stored in whatever bag or pack I may have on me.  Everyone has got their own system; this is mine.  Its painfully obvious that I aim for minimalism, which is much harder than the opposite.  For me, keys were always the biggest hassle.  I used to have about 5-6 keys, including a large plastic Volvo V70 car key and keyless entry fob, adding bulk.  If I had a “keychain item”, it was small but not useful, just some random thing I liked or found somewhere.  Throwing this fistful of keys in my front right pocket with my wallet was damn uncomfortable.  The keys would bunch up at the bottom of my pocket, and jam into my thigh when I sat down or rode my bike.  Key bulge.  They say the fabric in your jeans will permanently become damaged at that spot too, and that sucks.  First world problems, yeah.  But not ideal carry.

For a while I’d clip my keys to a Trango carabiner, and have them swing from my belt loop.  Yeah… that guy.  This method worked great, but I personally really disliked that look.  In my humble opinion, it wasn’t clean or professional.  If I were going into a design meeting, I didn’t want to enter the room with a visible carabiner full of keys clinging and clanking around.  There were times the keys got caught on stuff.  One occasion, while riding my bicycle, I caught the keys on a random branch, ripping my jeans belt loop and keys clean off.  Random chance, but still.  This carry method also slowly distorts the shape of your jeans after time.  Though not the keys/keychain don’t weigh too much, that continuous weight on a belt loop will become apparent in a negative way.  I ran this method for at least 2 years, and having my pockets free of keys was nice… but I was over it.  I remember paying extra attention to how people carried their keys for nearly 2 years, just see if I could learn anything from it.  Nothing really jumped out to me.

TEC Accessories / P-7:

Then I discovered one of my favorite EDC realizations I had thus far… the TEC Accessories P-7 Suspension Clip.  This was an awesome solution to all of the hassles of key carry.  The P-7 clip is made out of spring-tensioned stainless steel, then bead blasted.  Small and lightweight.  Super simple idea, but functions so well.  The TEC P-7 hangs onto the edge of your pants pockets, so the keys hang vertically halfway down inside your pocket, eliminating pocket budge.  It also does this extremely discreetly.  Only a thin sliver of an inch-long matte steel clip is visible.  Basically its invisible.

This method is especially useful for some EDC fanatics who carry a small knife, an intensely bright LED flashlight, “tactical” USB thumb drive, pocket multi tool, emergency whistle, tiny Ti lighter and mini grappling hook, titanium prybar and pill/spy storage capsule, glowing tritium key chain viles, along with their 47 keys… which are all on a titanium split ring (to keep the weight down, ha!).  Yes, some folks carry all of these items on their keyring.  Admittedly, an external system (carabiner) or tossing these in a bag would be a better method to carry these around EDC… but then they’re not quickly accessible when you need a light, or whatever.  I regularly see massive EDC key systems, leaving me in shock and awe.  It’s not for me.  But it doesn’t make it any less amazing, awesome, or interesting.  Different strokes.  Anyway, it prevents all that mass from turning into a ball in a pocket.  The P-7 carries a lot, or a little, efficiently and cleanly.  It is easy to access your keys quickly, grabbing the clip from the edge of your pocket, and pulling to remove.  Its relatively easy to put them back in place.  Since keys have weight, they naturally fall down into your pocket, and you just slide the clip over the top pocket edge.  Love this method of carrying keys, love this clip.  Just a bit small, but easy to get used to, even if you have big hands like I do.  I never had trouble reaching for my keys when I needed them, which is basically the point.  Priced at $12, it’s hard to pass up.

The more I dug deeper into EDC, keys, and pocket tools, the more I found a desire to have a small pocket tool addition to my key ring.  There were so many occasions that I wanted to perform simple tasks like wanting to make a quick adjustment on the bicycle but I didn’t have a screwdriver while I was out in the middle of the city or a hike/bike trail.  Or the necessity to cut something that had to be cut quickly for whatever reason, yet there was no knife around.  And of course, the absolute requirement of having a bottle opener for all those occasions (now that I don’t carry a lighter any longer, I couldn’t do “the trick”).  So, after extensive research, there appeared to be two ways to go about this journey.  First, I could purchase individual pocket tools to hang on the keyring.  One screwdriver, one small knife/blade/cutting edge tool, and one bottle opener.  This method would add bulk and weight, tool by tool.  Second, I could pick up a multi-use pocket tool to hang alongside the keys.

These tools range from pliers/knife/screwdriver/etc combo tools (like some of Leatherman’s keychain-sized tools), or less feature-rich tools like the Gerber Shard or the Gerber Artifact, which only include the basics.  I was interested in a few standard tools (as mentioned above…screwdriver/cutting edge/bottle opener).  So, the second method seemed much more attractive to me, slimmer, less weight, less bulk.  I always was attracted to the idea of titanium tools, because I love titanium, simple as that.  Though going forward with the method still required the addition of an extra product to my current setup… leaving no way to avoid some minor additional weight/bulk.  Pros outweighed the cons, or so I hesitantly convinced myself.

Peter Atwood / Keyton:

This is when I discovered and became mildly obsessed with Peter Atwood titanium pocket tools. Well, it turns out I’m not the only one who is obsessed.  And that was the problem.  These Atwood titanium tools are more popular than the Tickle Me Elmo was back in 1996.  In fact, I reached out to Peter via email, asking him about doing an interview for Carryology, just discussing his methods and the topic of EDC in general.  He responded, humbly and kindly turning down the interview because he is currently so swamped.  The additional press would literally be a bad thing for him, as he already immediately sells out every item he makes.  He also admitted turning down an interview for a HUGE magazine with worldwide distribution, though I won’t name drop here.  So we were denied an interview, but we were among some other big names who were also denied, which was kind of a compliment in an odd way.

Peter is considered by most in the EDC world to be the master of masters, and his work proves this.  He transforms titanium (and occasionally steel) into pieces of functional artwork.  The unit I was extremely interested in was the titanium Keyton (screwdriver, cutting edge, bottle opener).  Small, lightweight, handmade, badass.  I tried for weeks to find one of these, with absolutely no luck.  Peter adds these up to his personal blog/store as fast as he can personally create batches of them in his one-man shop, and they’re sold out within minutes of posting.  Yes, minutes.  There is no schedule when he releases new products (Keyton is just one of his products; he makes many others).  Sometimes it happens at 6:04 AM on a Sunday, other times Tuesday at 11:43 PM.  You’ll never know and he’ll never tell.  This is the only way to purchase an Atwood product… directly from Peter.

The titanium Keyton sells for $65, if you are lucky enough to purchase within the small window that they’re available from his blog/store.  I’m not joking about the timing either, trust me. $65 isn’t a bad price if you ask me.  But nearly impossible to score one.  Go onto eBay, try to find some used ones.  They regularly sell for triple or quadruple the price.  As of writing this entry, I spotted a few titanium Keytons listed for $220+.  They will sell too, no question.  The only two drawbacks I could find with the Keyton was, first off, it seemed just a touch large in some of the photos I found online, but I could get over that… and the other more important drawback, the fact that I couldn’t get my hands on one for a reasonable price.  eBay for $220+ seemed like the only option, and I wasn’t going to pay that.  OK, so I found my next EDC move, and now I wasn’t able to make it.  This sucked.  Then I dug in deeper.

Munroe Knives / Mega Dangler & DTS Dangler:

After searching more forums dedicated to everyday carry than I would like to admit, I heard whispers of another artisan metalworker who crafts small batches of incredible titanium pocket tools.  He creates awesome titanium knives as well.  I discovered Deryk Munroe of Munroe Knives.  Everything I read about this guy and his products was on par with Atwood.  Munroe was a little lesser known, but equally talented and experienced (which makes him almost “cooler?”).  Munroe Knives also offered a product called the Mega Dangler, which removes the necessity to add any additional bulk or weight, while still adding a screwdriver, cutting edge, bottle opener, and some other nice tricks.

Too good to be true, it seemed.  To put it simply, they combined a key hanger clip with a pocket tool.  The best of both worlds.  It’s also made from titanium, which is just icing on the cake, as I love titanium… its lightweight and strong properties, how difficult it is to work with, and its unique finish.  I reached out to Munroe Knives via email (read the UPDATE at the very very bottom of the page for ordering info), as their website is currently under construction (depending on when you read this, it might be back up), and asked about putting in an order request for one Mega Dangler, in raw Ti finish.  I prefer this finish over the other anodized color options, some examples shown here below.

A day or two later I received a response from Deryk’s wife, Jana, who takes care of customer emails and the like.  She informed me that Deryk was hand-making a new batch of products, which would be complete and ready for sale in a few weeks.  Sure enough, a few weeks later, I received another email, with instructions for payment over PayPal.  Payment sent.  I received the Mega Dangler in the mail 3 days later.  They were kind enough to include a handwritten thank you note/order receipt, along with a free gift of a DTS Dangler (a miniature stripped-down version of the Mega Dangler) to test out, since I explained that I would be posting my testing results here on Carryology.

So how does it work?  I loved the TEC Accessories P-7 Suspension Clip, so I was familiar to this unique carry method for my keys.  The Munroe Mega Dangler performs amazing.  It carries my keys just how I like, which is to say, exactly like the P-7.  Out of sight, clinky jingle-free, and (key) buldge-free.  I can’t count how many times I’ve used the tools through travel and daily life.  Today I received a package from UPS, grabbed my keys, and quickly used the semi-sharp edge (just sharp enough, not sharp enough to cut your fingers) of the Mega Dangler to cut through the packing tape, no problem.  It is also is airplane friendly, which can’t be said for some other pocket tools due to their sharp and long blades.  Additionally, you can pry open things with that beveled edge, though I haven’t needed to yet.

Now it’s second nature to me when I’m in need of a particular tool to just reach for the Mega Dangler key hanger pocket tool combo.  I’ve repaired small gadgets and made adjustments on my bicycle when there wasn’t a screwdriver around (with the above mentioned beveled/cutting edge).  The bottle opener works flawlessly, having opened at least 47,006 bottles in the past 3 months I’ve owned the product.  Which is funny, because after reading several reviews on all sorts of titanium pocket tools, several users reported poor performance of the bottle openers from other models from other brands.  Not here.

The Mega Dangler hangs on snugly, not too tight, just the right amount to keep it where it is, and to slip out of your pocket when you need it.  As an additional feature, you can insert any standard 1/8″ driver bit into the open channel of the Mega Dangler and use it to tighten/loosen a variety of different fasteners.  I’ve tested it and it worked out nicely.  Ample leverage to get tasks done.  Clever.  When a product is done really well, there really isn’t much left to say.  It’s beautifully handmade with edges that are slightly rounded off for a nice feel.  And as one would expect from a titanium tool, it’s lightweight, much lighter than you’d expect when looking at it, and it is stronger than Hell.  Overall, the Mega Dangler is a simple idea.  Simple tools added onto a simple key hanger.  Executed perfectly.

This is a refreshing example of a finely-done product in a sea of overly complicated pocket tools that have a bunch of features that I personally find useless for my everyday carry.  It takes genius to recognize a simple need and execute a perfect simple product to fill the need, without adding all sorts of unnecessary bells and whistles, just to add them.  Reminds me of a quote by Dieter Rams, an Industrial Design hero of mine, “Less, but better”.  All this for a mere $59 (+ $3 for S&H in the USA), a killer deal (read the UPDATE at the very very bottom of the page for ordering info).  It’s taken  me a while to get to here.  Your experience and taste may vary.  The Munroe Mega Dangler is the ultimate solution I’ve found through exhaustive research and first hand experience.  Highly recommended.

As for the DTS Dangler (occasionally referred to as the “Dangler D.T.S.”), the slimmer tool-less version, it works great, just like the P-7 hanger did for me.  It is also handmade from titanium, in the non-anodized raw Ti finish which I think is great on the eyes.  It’s small, lightweight, strong, and holds your keys.

It comes with a high quality stainless steel Micro McGizmo clip (usually costs a few bucks) to quickly/easily clip on a split ring with your keys on it, which is a nice hardware detail for them to include. I don’t like using these clips though, as even though they are strong and stay closed, I don’t want to run the risk of the clip opening up and losing my attached keyring.  Most people don’t report that issue, but I’m picky, as you can see.  From my research online, the DTS Dangler runs only $23.  Not bad for a bit of hard-to-work-with titanium, handmade into a functional EDC tool.

Interested in either the Mega Dangler or the DTS Dangler?  Shoot Jana an email and she’ll set you up (mention we sent you).

Stay tuned for “EDC Keys: Additional Key Carry/Gadgets (2 of 3)” post coming up soon.

Updated photo below with my newly added The Good Worth & Co’s “best wishes” key.

UPDATE (2/20/2013):  Great news everyone!  We’re working out a Carryology-reader-only Group Buy (discounted price) for the Mega Dangler!  Stay tuned, more info is on the way…

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