In today’s world of keyless… well, everything, the ubiquitous keychain seems like it’s becoming something of a dinosaur. But I disagree. I don’t think we’re that close to getting rid of the keychain just yet, and so I present some gear that will make you more than a little reluctant to give it up if and when you can lock your house, get into your car, and start the engine with your smartphone.
There was a time, not that long ago, that keychain lights were barely useful. They had dim incandescent light bulbs that often broke, and they burned through batteries at such an alarming rate that when you did need to find something under your seat the light didn’t work. But that was then. This is now. LEDs are virtually indestructible, last for years, can produce bright beams, and sip power from your battery. Battery tech has also progressed so that their shelf lives are now measured in years. This makes this the Golden Age of keyring lights.
First up is from a benchmark flashlight manufacturer: Surefire. This maker's Sidekick resembles your car’s alarm or keyless fob, with three outputs from a low 5 lumens that you can use to read or find change in your cup holder to a high of 300 lumens that is enough light by which to change a tire. Its integrated lithium-ion battery can be recharged at home or in your car with a USB cord so you’ll never need to worry about it being dead when you need it.
Next, we have the venerable Maglite AAA Solitaire. I remember getting one of these way back in the day when I first got my license. And I also remember the day that I realized that I’d been carrying it around for months with a dead battery and burned-out bulb. Well, Maglite took the familiar form factor and updated it with LED, making it perfectly nostalgic while also turning on when you need it to. Available in a bunch of colors, it outputs a respectable 47 lumens, which gives it a nice run time and, of course, the beam is focusable (or else it wouldn’t be a Maglite, would it?). The entire catalog has been retooled, offering all the classic models with LED, so you can check them all out if you’d like.
Finally, do you want the power of the Surefire but the color options of the Maglite? Well… then I present you with the Nitecore Tini Cu Metallic Key Chain Light. Available in eight colors, weighing less than 1/2 of an ounce, it outputs an astonishing 380 lumens. Sporting a rechargeable battery the Tini boasts a standby time of up to year!
Knives & Multi-Tools
Knives are as useful as lights are. I carry a pocket knife every day and I use it fairly often (even if it’s just to open the air hole on my coffee cup lid a little more so that caffeine gets into my system just a little faster). I prefer simplicity, so a knife like the Coast FX200 is ideal. Its single locking blade is just the start; it also has a pocket/money clip and bottle opener, with a hole for your keychain. At 3.4" closed, it might be a little big for some people, but it might work for you.
No discussion on pocket and pen knives would be complete without mentioning Victorinox Swiss Army Knife. The Classic has the essential tools: knife blade, file/screwdriver, scissor, toothpick, tweezer. Available in an array of colors, you’ll be able to get one that matches your car (or your flashlight). You can step up to the Tinker if you want a few more tools without it getting too big, or the Money Clip if you want to be fancy.
Leatherman’s Micra multi-tool also comes in an array of colors, and rides along on my own keychain. At less than 2 ounces, it is made of stainless steel, with 10 tools, including a 1.6" knife blade, three screwdrivers, spring-action scissors, nail file, and tweezers. If you’re a fan of the Micra, you can check out other Leatherman items here.
PRO TIP: If you want, you can also pick up both the Maglite Solitaire and Vicorinox Classic in a combo kit and save yourself some clicks.
Safety and Miscellany
Personal safety is a concern for everyone these days, but is often avoided in many discussions because it’s an unpleasant conversation to have. I won’t shy away from it, because it’s important.
Brite-Strike is first up. I have a bunch of this company’s gear and I’m a huge fan of it. The Lightning Strike Personal Alarm was originally designed as a safety product for women on college campuses. It is useful for anyone who finds themselves in remote or dimly lit areas. An alarm emits an ear-piercing 120 dB shrieking tone and a brilliant white light can startle and disorient.
If that’s too much for you, Nitecore makes a titanium emergency whistle that can take a beating and keep bleating (Sorry. I’m so sorry for that… but not enough for deleting). Loud, lightweight, and virtually impervious to damage, it has no moving parts and all it takes is a quick puff of air to get someone’s attention or deter someone.
If you have your own keychain accessory, but lack a way to attach it properly, you can pick up a Fenix Multi-Purpose Snap Hook. Made of titanium, it’s strong and super lightweight and clips just about anything to anything else. It also has a flathead screwdriver and a bottle opener.
What do you wear on your keychain or carry every day? Drop a comment below and we’ll discuss.