KeySmart CleanKey Brass Hand Tool Review – $24.99

As the Novel Coronavirus continues to infiltrate every aspect of our lives, we’ve come to realize the “New Normal” that surrounds us. Wash your hands, limit contact, wear a mask, etc – It’s can be overwhelming, and we’re seeing a lot of new products to help alleviate the common concerns of limiting chances of contracting Covid 19. One tool in particular is the KeySmart CleanKey Brass Hand Tool – 



The CleanKey is composed of 70% Brass and 30% Zinc this combination of metals produces the alloy Brass. One of the most pertinent properties of brass is that it’s antimicrobial. There are countless scientific studies backing this up, microbes just can’t sustain themselves on brass surfaces, so much so that Laboratory testing has shown that copper and its alloys, brass and bronze, kill more than 99.9 percent of bacteria, such as the superbug Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, within two hours.

The Cleankey measures about 3.5” long and weighs 1.8 ounces, or about as much as a pack of gum for all you metric folk. It has a large trigger for leverage and knurling along the top for grip. The machining is actually pretty decent and smooth.



I just want to get possibly my biggest caveat out of the way, your hands will smell like pennies from handling this. It’s perfectly ok, but that’s just the price you pay for Brass. I’ve been using the KeySmart CleanKey almost non stop for a month now. I’m out and about quite a bit for my secular job, and this has been great for opening doors and punching buttons at gas stations. 

With a little finesse you can even get some turn knob doors to open. I find the stylus capabilities a little lacking. It sometimes takes a few tries for a touch screen to register a punch, but it does work. The included retractable carabiner makes it so accessible it becomes second nature using the CleanKey.


The CleanKey is actually pretty good looking. It’s simplistic design and solid brass construction really leave no kinks in the looks department. It doesn’t seem out of place and looks pretty slick hanging from your belt loops. I think it fits in with my EDC quite well. They say form follows function, but here we’re rarely treated to both in equal measures.



I am very pleased with the Keysmart CleanKey. It’s small footprint and ease of use really makes it a formidable weapon in the war on cooties. At just $24.99 I think it’s more than a bargain, considering it will last you for years. The natural properties of brass means this tool will also never lose its antimicrobial properties. They’ve been selling like hot cakes, so if you want one, I’d suggest visiting the site often. 


Trayvax Summit Wallet & Trek Field Knife Review – $34.99 & 169.99

I’ve been following Trayvax since the beginning when they offered just one extraordinary wallet. Since then they’ve grown and expanded their product line with tons of other cool gear. I wanted to spotlight on one of their original designs as well as one of their totally new offerings. We’re big on EDC here at Bestleather so taking a look at a couple core components was a rare treat. Read on for the full scoop!


The Summit Wallet is one of Trayvax marquee products. A no nonsense card and cash carry device in a radical design.  Constructed of solid steel with a mil-spec nylon strap, the Summit is a simple, durable wallet. The wallet is also treated with a melonite finish which hardens the metal without adding another layer to it.

The Trek Field Knife is a skeletonized frame composed of CPM S35VN Stainless Steel – This steel has a respectable 58-61 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale. CPM S35VN Stainless Steel also has superior edge retention and corrosion resistance. Blade length is 3.5”


The Summit is a minimalist wallet in function. The updated version now offers RFID blocking, a seeming must have feature in today’s technologically advancing society. You can fit about 5 or so cards comfortably and about 6 or so cash bills. If like me, you don’t handle cash that much, this isn’t an issue. However if you’re constantly in and out for cash, I’d consider it a little more closely. It works great as a front pocket carry.

The Trek Field Knife is definitely a unique knife and follows Trayvax’s signature line of innovative designs. It’s an ambidextrous design that allows several retrieval options from the supplied holster.

I’m a big fan of the steel used, but not a fan of the handle. I’m thinking of wrapping it with paracord to give it better grip and ergonomics. The slim profile is definitely unobtrusive and really blends in with your everyday attire. This knife can cut rope as well as it can peel an apple.


The great thing about Trayvax, is that their designs are almost instantly recognizable.  Even a knife and a wallet, two very unrelated objects and you can tell their kin. The skeletal structures are very industrial but polished as well. They’re so different from the norm, I find myself just fidgeting with my wallet sometimes – appreciating all that metalloid goodness.


Trayvax is a great American company. Their innovative products have spawned a legion of copycats. The design isn’t for everyone, but you can’t deny the unique angle of both the Trayvax Summit Wallet and Trek Field Knife.

Tuff Writer Retro-Click Executive Pen Review Kickstarter Special

In last week’s episode we watched Tuff Writer’s Mini Click and Operator take on the forces of evil and once again send Skeletor crying for his mommy. If you found yourself liking the build of the those pens, but wanted something a little less intimidating and more refined, they’re back with a Kickstarter Campaign that might interest you. Read on for details on the Retro-Click Executive Pen.


The Retro-Click will be available in a number of metals including Zirconium, Copper and Brass. The model I’m handling is Polished Titanium. This isn’t the David Guetta variety, this is real deal Grade 5 Titanium. With one of the highest strength to weight ratios among metals, this Titanium makes for a smart option for those who want a beefy, yet light pen. This pen features Tuff Writer’s signature 416SS Swiss-machined advancing mechanism. It’s their smoothest mechanism to date, they basically took R. Kelly’s voice, filtered out the creepiness and made a pen. My plebeian tongue can’t even begin to properly explain what that is, so I’ll quote directly from the site:

“What makes this 416SS mechanism so special?”

Mostly the material choice and time consuming manufacturing process refinements. Virtually all high-end pen mechanisms are made from brass and plated (easier and cheaper to manufacture but not as durable as ours), we decided to go nuts and machine it out of 416 stainless steel (a much harder and more durable material). This meant we had to have it Swiss-CNC’d which, while more costly, means we can hold much tighter tolerances (less than .0005″ all day long on the Citizen L-20). The G-Code programming done by our friend’s shop re-traces the race toolpaths to debur all edges, taking more time but it also means that the chrome steel bearing glides smoothly and the mechanism cycles like butter. It’s much more expensive and time consuming to make it this way but it really is pretty awesome. Plus, the 416SS and chrome steel will wear better and last much longer than plated brass. It’s complete overkill for a pen mechanism but hey… if you’re going to make one, might as well make the best.”

The pen also features a tensioned clip and comes with a Fisher Black Medium cartridge, but will accept any Parker style due to the adjustable internal spacer. These pens are all made from start to finish in the United States. The Retro-Click I’m using weighs, including ink,  1.6 oz (40g) and measures just over 5.25” – Expect heavier pens with the other metals.


People often think I can’t find a pen when I’m rummaging through my bag. Little do they know I’m experiencing a mild panic attack trying to choose which of these beauties to sign with.

The Retro-Click offers a much different feel than other Tuff Writer’s I’ve worked with. Where as the Mini-Click in Brass is like plowing a M1 Abrams through a Bloomingdale’s, the Retro-Click is more like cruising in a B29 on a really nice beaded cushion. I prefer this design over the o ring grips on my Mini-Click (2 of the o rings have since disappeared somehow) The circumference of this pen is great and makes gripping it easy. The Fisher cartridges are of course great. Just today my co worker needed a customer to sign off on an invoice and grabbed a cheap Bic that had been sitting in our work truck all night in freezing temps and it wouldn’t write, my Tuff Writer which had ALSO been sitting in the truck wrote like a charm. You know when you grab a pen and do the preliminary circular test doodles? Not anymore.


Much like Cap’n Crunch, this pen is part of a balanced EDC

The clean, uncluttered lines are just so easy on the eyes. This pen doesn’t get the, “Wow, this pen is solid, can you even take this on a plane?” retort. When customers use the Retro-Click, it’s more of a delayed response after they’ve signed. Something along the lines of, “Hmm…nice pen” And sometimes that’s what you want, understated quality. What I also enjoy is this pen isn’t a presumptions $800 Mont Blanc that you’ll fear taking out of your bag. In Goldeneye when Q gave 007 the grenade pen, I’m pretty sure if the explosive detonated inside of a Tuff Writer, only a wisp of smoke would have exited the barrel and Boris would have still remained invincible.

Had to pull a favor for this shot, Arnie and I go way back. He was my kindergarten sub one semester.


As I pretty much figured, Tuff Writer once again executed a brilliant pen. In a world of card trick Mages, they’re pretty much Alpha Wizards. You can tell they’re passionate to an almost inappropriate degree with writing instruments. If you already have a Tuff Writer, I’m not quite sure you’d need this pen, as it feels pretty similar to their Mini-Click in some respects. The retail on the Titanium Retro-Click is a hefty $150, however through the Kickstarter campaign you can get it for a steal at a $100 pledge, that is definitely worth it.

Triple Aught Design Fast Pack Litespeed Backpack Review – $255

I’ve been somewhat of a backpack (that’s a bookbag for you east coasters) connoisseur ever since I got my first leather bottom Jansport in the 5th grade. Ever since I’ve been experimenting with carry options. I had a bag for travel, school, work, etc. Having so many bags laying around was starting to become ridiculous however.  It was there that I started searching for the one bag to rule them all and in the darkness bind the- excuse me, what I meant to say was that I wanted a bag that could adapt and meet the needs of nearly any activity I could throw at it. In that search I discovered the FAST Pack Litespeed by Triple Aught Design.

We are currently running a giveaway for this backpack. Click here to check it out and enter for your chance to win this backpack + awesome gear from Triple Aught Design!


An almost unparalleled amount of detail is poured into this bag. The price tag seems justifiable when you realize it’s not only made in the US, but it probably took someone quite a while to build it.

The Fast Pack features several advanced textiles in its construction. The exterior shell is made from 1000 Denier Invista Cordura Fabric. In case you’re wondering, Denier refers to the fiber thickness of individual threads. Typically the higher the number, the more durable the fabric. For reference, most Jansport packs are 600D. This pack also sports YKK zippers with paracord pulls and pretty much all the plastic buckles are ITW GhillieTEX.

Padding in the shoulder straps and back are sourced from Evazote Closed Cell Cross-Linked Ethylene Copolymer Foam. I fell asleep during rocket scientist class but a bit of research reveals this product has many uses in products over a vast area from gym mats to industrial gaskets. If this stuff performs in a Mack truck then surely your tender shoulders will be in good hands.

The back padding utilizes DRI-LEX Aerospacer Moisture Management Mesh. This mesh is often used in shoes and is noted for its moisture redistribution system. Essentially soaking up the sweat off your back and transporting it elsewhere.

Hypalon is  Synthetic Rubber is used in specially reinforced areas. This is another high tech material with great resistance to chemicals, temperature extremes and UV light. If you’ve ever found yourself in a life raft, chances are it was made of Hypalon.


The TAD Fast Pack Litespeed is designed to be a light, relatively compact bag for minimal carry…with the modular potential to do so much more. One could write a lengthy tome on the functionality of this bag. Out of the box it has a large main compartment with a clamshell design that opens up to two mesh zippered pockets. The outside has a small zippered pocket right above the velcro patch area. If you’re unfamiliar with the MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) system, it might be confusing seeing all the webbing on this bag. Those are basically attachment points for aftermarket MOLLE bags, pouches, etc. Bummed there’s no water bottle pouch on this bag? Simple get a MOLLE water bottle holder, don’t need the water bottle holder? Take it off. That’s where the brilliance of this bag shines. You can customize it for whatever you need.

Thanks to the numerous tie down options, I was easily able to stow my rod onto my pack. This bag is like a faithful wing man in that it literally and metaphorically has your back.
I was working on a deck located on a hill side, carrying a tool box was kind of a pain and I’m not really a tool belt kind of guy, so I stashed my drills and bits into the Lite Speed and was able to traverse the slope with my tools.
The webbing works great for MOLLE packs and adds so much more to the feature set of this pack. Here I have a water bottle holder and small accessory pack securely attached to the bag, I can remove them when I don’t need them, and that’s damn near priceless.
The rear flap can flip down and has a pocket for stowing a tripod, engineering blueprints or even a Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle. Oooooooh!


There seems to be a division in tastes when it comes to “tactical” backpacks. Some feel all the velco, patches and webbing is overkill relegated to mall ninjas or doomsday preppers. With the TAD Litespeed you can deck it out aesthetically almost as much as you can functionally. If you want to put a Punisher skull morale patch, magazine molle pouches and a paracord fob on the zippers, go for it. I personally feel the bag in black has a more sophisticated appeal. I like to keep the exterior streamlined and with the prevalent selection of velcro patches available you can personalize the bag endlessly, and it’s pretty fun to do so. The quality materials make this bag stand out among similar bags, almost like a good paint job on a car. I definitely would have preferred an internal pouch on the sides as opposed to so much Pals webbing, but it does come in handy when swapping between a water bottle pouch, or a tripod sling.

I consider this bag first and foremost a tool, and like pointing out the aesthetics of a screwdriver, I find it a somewhat moot point. I think this bag looks awkward when it’s decked out in camo and molle attachments at the airport, however at the range or on the trail it suddenly becomes not just a pack, but a serious piece of indispensable armor.


At the end of the day, I’m convinced the TAD Fast Pack Litespeed can raise to almost any occasion thrown at it, although it will cost you a fair ransom to tweak the pack to your needs. The overbuilt construction present an extreme value that will definitely alleviate the cost of ownership for a bag that can easily replace several bags in your closet. The styling isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking for a quality, versatile pack I can say this bag warrants a second and third look.

Don’t forget about the giveaway we are running RIGHT NOW for this backpack! If you liked what you saw in this review make sure to go check out the giveaway here.

Wise Men Company Wise Guy Pocket Tool Review – $85

There’s plenty of times when a problem presents itself, but getting the tool box simply isn’t an option or excessive given the situation; tightening a table leg, prying open a stuck door, etc. That’s when the mighty multi tool comes into play. The market is pretty saturated with EDC tools meant to act as jack of all trades and masters of none. One day while checking out the latest options, I came across Wise Men Company Wise Guy Pocket Tool and found it’s unique design instantly engrossing.


The Wise Guy weights in at a hefty 12 ounces, and is made of D2 steel.  According to SteelExpress:

D2 is an air hardening, high-carbon, high-chromium tool steel. It has high wear and abrasion resistant properties. It is heat treatable and will offer a hardness in the range 55-62 HRC, and is machinable in the annealed condition. D2 steel shows little distortion on correct hardening. D2 steel’s high chromium content gives it mild corrosion resisting properties in the hardened condition.

This model has a powder coat finish and this particular finish is gunmetal gray.  Tools include 3 box wrench sizes, a 1/4″ bit driver, a cap lifter, mini prybar, and a knuckle protector. There is also a Dewalt Philips/Flathead bit secured with 3 O rings.


First, let me mention the kydex belt clip because in my opinion you pretty much need to order it along with the Wise Guy. It allows for inner or outer waistband carry depending on your preference. It’s secure, and holds the tool nicely. Unless you’re carrying in a bag or your own pouch, the Wise Guy would be very uncomfortable in your pocket alone.

I really like that the screw bit can easily be swapped out for any standard dual end bit to suit your needs. You can swap it for hex, torx, etc. It can be placed through the hex opening and you have great corkscrew type leverage for fastening. The box wrench slots are useful but only on spacious applications due to the design. If a bolt is up against anything like a corner, forget about it.

The prybar works great, it’s saved my tender fingernails plenty of pain popping open battery covers and even getting the tire off my bike rim. One of the more striking features is the knuckle guard. Now, this is NOT intended to be used as a weapon, but if you’re in a tough spot, I’m sure your imagination can come up with how this might be useful. Aside from that, it does help with leveraging the tool and controlling it as you work.


Wise Men did a great job machining the Wise Guy. The smooth, rounded edges are very clean and since it was milled from a single block, there are no unsightly seams. It’s such an out of the box design that it gets attention. People don’t even know what it is until they see it in action and I like that.


At 85 bucks, you have a lot of great options for multi tools – so do your homework and consider your most frequent end uses. The unique design is a breath of fresh air in a stale market. The prybar and screwdriver really deliver and for that the Wise Men Wise Company Wise Guy Pocket Tool is on my belt, but because of certain limitations it is complemented with my Leatherman.  

Trayvax Contour Wallet Review – $139.99

Ever since Trayvax released their first hybrid wallet not more than a few years ago, they’ve been non stop in developing new ways to hold your cash and cards. Their latest offering aims at those seeking a high end, luxury piece. The Trayvax Contour Wallet features hand-stitching, CNC-machining and PVD finishing, but is it worth the extra cost? Read on for my take.


The Contour is mainly comprised of two different pieces. First we have the steel skeleton that forms the backbone of the wallet. Precision CNC machining is used in crafting the steel plate followed by a Titanium aluminium nitride coating. Top grain oil tanned leather is used to tie it all together. All materials are sourced in the US as well as fabrication. The wallet has an adjustable sliding clasp and attachment point for use with a lanyard/carabiner/etc.


I’ve used Trayvax wallets in the past, and the basic concept remains with a few twists. The adjustable securing clasp is a new feature which is handy in keeping your cards secure and allowing you to custom fit based on your number of cards. With the included torx wrench you can loosen the clasp if you have more cards or retract it so tighten the slack.

Cash retrieval is a bit awkward but I use my phone to pay for items and as we move more into a contactless pay society, the less I worry about handling paper money. The attachment point is great if you want to attach a chain or paracord to your wallet, but personally I just pocket carry. The Ascent definitely works better as a front pocket carry and the wallet is RFID resistant which adds peace of mind. And yes, don’t forget the bottle opener.


This is arguably one of the best looking wallets I’ve reviewed. It’s so off the beaten path you can’t help but get excited about it. I find myself just fidgeting with it. The leather looks great and will develop a patina that will serve as a reminder of sorts on all you put the wallet through. Trayvax backs it with a 65 year warranty as well. The leather color pictured is Canyon Red but the Ascent is available in quite a few other finishes!


After handling the Trayvax Contour Wallet, I really came to appreciate the finer details and aesthetic it offered. Personally, those differences aren’t enough to warrant the cost over some of their other models. If you love Trayvax though, and a lot of people do, then having their premier wallet will definitely not disappoint.

Trayvax is one of my favorite companies, due to their integrity and dedication to keeping this wallet American made from start to finish, so if you do drop some serious cash on this wallet, you can feel good knowing it’s supporting American craftsmanship.

MecArmy FL10 Titanium EDC Flashlight Carabiner Review – $129.90

I’ve always struggled with carrying my keys. They bunch up in my pockets, poke my fingers during retrieval and just plain get in the way. While browsing some EDC blogs, I came across the carabiner carry and haven’t looked back. I was using a simple metal carabiner from the hardware store, but have been looking for something with a little more utility. Enter the MecArmy FL10 Titanium Flashlight Carabiner. 


Altun (Corporation behind MecArmy) is a Chinese based manufacturer of various lighted instruments and EDC gear. The name was inspired by the adventure oriented team who frequent the Altun mountain range in China. They also are a contracted supplier of military and law enforcement gear for the government.


The FL10 is CNC machined from solid Titanium. It features a CREE XP-G2 S4 LED housed behind an anti reflective/anti scratch coated lens. Juice is supplied by a 100mAh lithium polymer rechargeable battery. 5 precision star screws keep the battery sealed in, which gives the FL10 an IPX5 water resistant rating which probably equates to using it in moderate rain.


The FL10 functions as a handy light source. LED technology has made leaps and bounds in the portable flashlight arena. The FL10 can hit 360 lumens on high, plenty for midrange use (scoping out your campsite at night or lighting up a large tree) and the low range is great for finding the keyhole to your house or reading. There’s also a strobe that is actually quite disorienting, appropriate for self defense situations. The clip can also be hung to use as a lantern, really handy in select circumstances or stood on end like a candle.

As a carabiner for keys, I find it works somewhat well. The thick case makes it a little hard on your belt loops, and some pants have special loops stitched in for carabiners which this won’t fit. Paired with an Exotac keyring, the FL10 holds keys securely. I really appreciate the lightness of the piece, the titanium is probably one of the best EDC metals as the weight savings are noticeable. Charging the FL10 with the same micro usb I charge my phone with is a huge plus.

That shed is about 30 feet from where I’m standing, with no light, you couldn’t make it out, so not bad at all.

The FL10 has a wedged edge that could probably act as a pry tool and flat head bit. It’s really too wide to drive a screw down since the blade is wider than most screw heads. I would like to see it less wide to allow for more screw applications. It works decently as a pry tool or to break the tape on packages.


I was a bit skeptical while waiting for the FL10 to come in the mail. The price seemed too…affordable. Usually anything made of titanium commands a premium. I was pleasantly surprised however. The machining is clean, the led is bright. I opted for the black, and the pre distressed finish looks great, and any scratches will just enhance the look in my opinion.  


After handling a carabiner light for the past few weeks, I can’t say I’m going back to my old one. The MecArmy FL10 provides great lighting and functions great as a key carrier. With the clip and stand on end capability this light can be used in a wide range of scenarios. The price seems decent, especially for the premium materials. If you do decide to try out a FL10, just click on either product link at the beginning or end of the article for 10% off your purchase.

CountyComm Brass Embassy Pen Review – $98

I’ve been into the EDC (Everyday Carry) scene for quite some time. Essentially, EDC comprises of the items you have on your person at all times. Be it your keys, wallet or even a pocket knife. It has become somewhat of a practiced discipline in terms of preparedness on a practical, daily level. One of the widely recognized foundation pieces of a proper EDC kit is a pen. Do a quick search and you’ll likely find the CountyComm Brass Embassy Pen mentioned more than once. I’m here today with one and eagerly look forward to sharing my findings.


CountyComm is a California based supplier to federal, state and local government agencies. They are responsible for the design, manufacture and sales of these products. The surplus products from these transactions are only available through their site in limited quantities. Their specialty lies in high quality quartz and automatic watches, but they offer an array of EDC related items and other tools.


The construction on the Embassy is pretty clear cut, it’s machined from a solid round of brass. C360 Free Pass to be exact. Brass is kind of like the Maple of woodworking in terms of crafting. It’s malleable yet maintains structural strength and integrity during the machining process (Which is done in CountyComms own private machine lab) and the use of brass also presents a few more benefits worthy to note; The bacteriostatic properties of the brass inhibit germs growing on your pen, especially relevant with an object used exclusively by hand. It’s also very long wearing, corrosive resistant and can handle high heat which is great for writing an apology note to your wife for forgetting your anniversary.

The letters U,S and A look good on just about everything

The Embassy body comprises of the barrel, pen shaft and the cap. A stonewashed stainless steel clip is attached to the lid. Aggressive diamond pattern knurling is featured on the barrel and shaft. Measurements are 5.25″ inches by .50″ diameter and the weight is 4 oz.


The Embassy uses a black ink pressurized Fisher Space Refill, so it can write in extreme heats as well as upside down. Ink flow is smooth as long as even, consistent pressure is applied when writing. Speaking of writing, this pen is heavy. Clocking in at  4oz it weighs almost as much a  modern smartphone, so keep that in mind. While I wouldn’t want to write an essay on the socioemotional differences between Nick’s Dough and Disney’s, filling out brief forms or jotting notes is a pleasure.

This pen has a commanding presence, no doubt. The substantial feel of it gives off an almost detectable aura of significance when in use. Writing down my grocery lists seems to take on a very serious tone when I write with the Embassy, contracts signed with the Embassy are never broken and sweepstakes filled out with the Embassy always win.  

The textured knurling provides a secure, somewhat uncomfortable grip. It’s not overly aggressive, but some may find it a little abrasive. I also notice my hand has a faint brass odor when I’ve been using the pen for an extended time, this may fade with use but I still notice it. The stainless steel clip has excellent tension and will keep the pen secure in a pants pocket no problem. Given the weight and size of the pen it could come in handy in self defense situations if need be and you could probably bust a window open if you had to.


The Embassy is a handsome tool. Definitely the type of pen Arnold Schwarzenegger probably keeps in his pocket when signing autographs. It adds great character to my somewhat tame EDC, and never fails to provoke a “Wow, nice pen!” when used by someone. The clean, masculine lines and expert machining really make for a flawless aesthetic on this piece. I would love to have more options on colors and metals, but the Brass does look oh so good.


At just under a hundred dollars, the Embassy actually finds it’s pricing at the lower end of the spectrum for high quality writing instruments. The weight of this pen may be a put off for some, but if you want a heavy, solid pen that will last forever, the CountyComm Brass Embassy is a solid choice.

First Impressions – Rugged Material Messenger Bag

Recently I reached out to the good folks at Rugged Material. Having successfully funded and provided goods through a Kickstarter campaign, I expected great things. I think it is fairly understated to have the ability to speak directly with the founder of a staffed company as a first-time customer. I got that experience from Tyler Condie, the founder of Rugged Material. He’s surrounded by a great team of folks dedicated towards designing and making goods guaranteed for life, and proudly made in the USA. Tyler was kind enough to send in a pull-up brown messenger bag that I’ll be giving my first impressions on, with a long-term use review in the future.

The Rugged Material Messenger Bag is a merge between the classic messenger design with modernized, rugged construction. The exterior of the bag is constructed of four major pieces of full grained oil-tan leather, with additional belt straps and a front pocket which bears the laser-burned logo. A polyester thread is used that is UV-resistant and also resistant to breakdown from leather creams and conditioners. Nickel-plated brass hardware is evident in the rivets, d rings, and handle. The closures are constructed of matte finished aluminum slide release buckles. The outside dimensions of the bag are 16.5″ x 5″ x 13″.

While the bag is definitely rugged, it has some formal finishing. The rounded corners on the leather as well as the attention to detail played on the stitching of the entire bag and the handle make solid statements.

The strap is the epitome of ruggedness – substantial full grain leather with nylon webbing (think seat-belt) stitched to the backside to prevent stretching and sustain heavy loads. This webbing is also implemented in the d-rings for the shoulder strap attachment as well as the handle. Adjustment of the strap is simple using tri-glide keepers and the bag can be worn on one shoulder like a briefcase or cross body like a messenger. The width of the strap is 1.5 inches, not too thick to look overbearing on a person of smaller stature and expandable from 36” to 59”.

The interior of the bag is nicely lined on the front and back with a black pigskin leather. This adds rigidity to the bag as well as it is a durable, easy to clean surface in case of spills. I do wish that a piece of pigskin coated the bottom of the bag, but that may add too much construction/rigidity if stitched in. A removable piece of pigskin would be nice to prevent spills to the bottom as well as stash extra bills or small documents under. The pockets hold a cellphone, most 14 inch laptops, and a full sized iPad or similar tablet. The front pocket could easily hold document folders, receipts, and other small items.


After handling this bag initially, I can say that the Rugged Material Messenger Bag is one of the bags I wish I’d had to get through undergraduate and graduate studies. At $295 it is very competitively priced among bags of the same dimensions and quality. Being a direct-to-consumer company, customers are not hit with the additional costs associated with outsourcing production from companies that choose to only design their products. Going along with their motto, their bag is USA-made and guaranteed for life. The bag  is also set to handle the working environments I am in, so I am looking forward to giving it some long term use and following up on its durability and function.

Leather Built’s The Franklin Kit Review – $99

**Update June 17, 2015 – So, I’m appreciating this kit more and more as time goes on. Recently my daughter and son-in-law had college graduations that occurred on the same day, just at different times. Both of these events were held outside in a large stadium. Needless to say, it was a bright sunny day…perfect weather for graduations. But, that sunshine started baking my ginger haired crew’s fair skin. Did anyone have sunscreen? Nope. Oh wait…I DID because it’s in my Franklin Kit!! Since the graduations were a few hours a part, we decided to have a picnic lunch on the university’s campus too. Did anyone bring sanitary wipes? Nope. Oh wait…there are Wet Ones packets in my Franklin Kit! So, the Franklin Kit came through twice big time for us in the same day. I’m now sold on this thing never leaving my backpack when I’m out and about!

Benjamin Franklin, a hallmark of American history was a very interesting guy. In addition to being one of the founding fathers of our great United States of America, he was also a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. And, I’m sure I may have missed one or two things in there. One of my favorite things about him was his list of 13 Virtues: Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, and Humility. Oh that those were exercised in full force daily among the masses… Anyhow, in keeping with Ben’s 13 Virtues, we present you with the Franklin Kit – full of 13 very useful items when you’re in a “tight spot” (yes, that was a no-so-subtle reference to the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?).


About Leather Built

The Franklin Kit has been graciously supplied to us for review from Leather Built. “Leather Built was founded upon the principle of showcasing the highest quality leather goods built in the U.S.A. From our location in Meridian, Idaho, we have scoured America in search of only the best leather goods and have found some amazing companies and products that are sure to surprise and delight. Everything is backed with our Made for Life Guarantee so you can be completely confident in your purchase.”



The Franklin Kit is housed in fine leathery goodness courtesy of Gfeller Casemakers of Meridian, Idaho. We have featured Gfeller on a couple of occasions in the past – feel free to check out those reviews. The case itself is crafted 8-9 ounce vegetable tanned leather from Hermann Oak Leather. It’s super durable and will age well, developing a patina over time that will darken the case.



The folks at Leather Built have this to say about The Franklin Kit: “The idea of the Franklin Kit came from a small pouch that my wife put together with a few things that would come in handy for her on the go. A mother of small children, she wanted items that could handle small medical incidences (think bandages and aquaphor), as well as everyday needs (think tweezers and anti-septic wipes). Not a first aid kit, the pouch was really an all purpose kit. This is the aim of the Franklin Kit, to provide some essential, everyday items while on the go. To boot, every one of the thirteen items are all made in the U.S.A.”

This little case, chock full of amazingness that you’ll definitely find useful in day to day travels and activities:

  • (7) NexCare Soft n’ Flex Bandages
  • (1) Uncle Bill’s Tweezers – Made in West Hartford, Connecticut
  • (6) Pac-Kit Triple Antibiotic Ointment Sachets – Made in Norwalk, Connecticut
  • (3) Sunx30 Sunscreen Packets – Made in Bakersfield, California
  • (6) WetOnes Antibacterial Wipes
  • (1) 12 pack of Diamond matches – Made in Cloquet, Minnesota
  • (1) Photon LED Unbreakable Microlight II – nearly unbreakable and Made in Eugene, Oregon
  • (1) Leatherman Brewzer Multi-tool – Made in Portland, Oregon
  • (2) 2 Packet of Tylenol Extra Strength
  • (2) Tender Ben’s Insect Wipes – Made in Littleton, New Hampshire
  • (1) American Unbreakable 5” Pocket Comb – Made in Paterson, New Jersey
  • (7) Sachets of Floss from POH – Made in Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • (1) Aquaphor 1.35 oz – Made in Mainland, Pennsylvania

Its compact size (5 ¾” x 4 ½” x 2”) allows you to easily toss it into your messenger bag, backpack, or tote bag and know that you’re in pretty good shape. There is a little room left in the kit…so feel free to add a lighter or firestarter and a small knife. It’s a great kit for those of you interested in EDC (Every Day Carry) items.



The Gfeller case is awesome. Thick, natural vegetable tanned leather is hard to beat. The heavy-duty snap is easy to close and open with one hand. And again, due to its size, you can easily add a few things into the case and then toss the case into a larger bag.



If Ben Franklin were around these days, I think he’d be a bit like MacGyver…able to come up with a clever problem solving solution to just about any situation. And, my guess is that he’d be sporting an awesome leather bag, backpack, or satchel of some type. And yes, within that bag, he’d have a kit chock full of items very similar to The Franklin Kit. At $99 from Leather Built, it’s a great purchase and you’ll be able to utilize the kit and easily refill its contents for many years for the many adventures ahead of you.



Spencer Collection by Design Unsanctioned $25-$40

Style comes and goes, but class is timeless. That’s how I feel when it comes to brass, and even more so when combined with timeless materials like wood and leather. In a high tech world of poly plastics, carbon fiber, and titanium trinkets, there is something sacred in hearkening back to the materials our great grandfathers knew and used in their everyday carry. Just as well worn leather is a beauty to behold, brass achieving it’s own patina over time makes it a favorite for anyone who appreciates a good vintage vibe with their EDC.



Design Unsanctioned is a Brooklyn based design studio that jump started their brand with a successful Kickstarter campaign introducing their Spencer Collection. This small collection is a blend of classic materials with a modern design. Precision milled solid brass bottle openers and key hooks, with beautiful walnut inlays and top-grain leather straps.

Solid and beautifully simple were my first impressions when holding a piece of the collection. At first I considered this a fairly modern design, but I’ve found myself thinking this has a early 60’s feel and I can imagine Don Draper from the show Mad Men using one of these brass bottle openers. Brass, wood and leather truly are timeless and these pieces echo that in their form.

When it comes to function, these pieces perform exactly as you’d expect them to. I find the mini bottle opener to be much more direct in function as compared to the larger model. With the larger bottle opener you may find yourself having to find the correct side to apply to the bottle cap. And that may become more difficult depending on how many bottle tops were popped previously, if you take my meaning. They’re both enjoyable bottle openers, and I love handing them to people and seeing their amazed expressions while they closely examine the piece and inquire where to get one.





The keyhook looks great on raw denim, and does great at holding your keys in a classy manner. I’ve found that it’s better to wear it without a belt, or you may find that the sharper edges of the key hook maybe possibly mar the outer finish of your belt. If you put the kind of money into a leather belt that I do, then that’s not something you’ll want to find out the hard way so be wary of how you carry with it. What I really like the idea of quickly hooking up your keys to your satchel.


The leather is full grain with a quality finish. The pieces are perfectly cut with laser precision, so you’ll never find a flaw in the shape. Some folks will prefer their leather goods to be die cut, but these leather pieces are small and it produces a fine end result in my opinion. The sturdy key fob makes for a great accent on most belts, and a comfortable way to carry your keys about. Unfortunately for me the key fob won’t quite fit on my 1.75″ wide Mountain Belt from Craft and Lore. But I’m in a very small minority of folks who wear such a wide belt, and just about any belt would fit this piece of the collection.

All in all this is a great collection from Design Unsanctioned, and I look forward to their future collections. Be sure to check out their Look Book and if you own any pieces from their collection be sure to let us know what you think.