Thursday, March 22, 2012

Perfect Pocket Multi-tool

Posted By on Thu, Mar 22, 2012 at 4:00 AM

The Juice series of pocket-size multi-tools are an industry leader. A focused blend of tools, features and size have put these Leatherman's on top.

The lineup consists of four multi-tools with a varying array of tools depending on your application of use. The Juice XE6 ($61.20) leads the pack with 18 tools and comes in at a whopping 6.7 oz, while the Juice C2 ($41.90) is the smallest in the line with 12 tools and weighing in at 4.3 oz.

With 18 tools the XE6 is far too bulky to be a carry knife and has too many tools that will never see use by most customers. The C2 is more on par with what is desirable in an every day carry size but doesn't have all of the tools needed. The CS4 is a blend of the C2 and the S2.

The Juice S2 ($41.90) is the perfect pocket multi-tool. It has everything you could want for a day hike, a hunting trip or an afternoon fishing your local stream, yet still is comfortable and adaptable to everyday carry.

The main tools included in the S2 package are pliers, a 420hc knife blade, scissors, four screwdrivers and a bottle/can opener.

The plier tool is full size and built strong. It includes both needle nose and regular pliers along with wire cutters and hard-wire cutters. In testing, the hard-wire cutters easily handled bailing wire and the tip of the needle nose pliers were precision machined enough to remove a fine metal sliver from a finger. Full size power and precision craftsmanship make this a standout tool.

Knife blades need to readily accessible and quick to deploy the S2 has located the knife on the outside of the tool to make deployment easier. The 420hc blade works well in this package, but does not lock open. I usually prefer a harder metal for blades but found that this blade is not lacking in it's capabilities. Shaping on the blade is strong in the back cutting portion and comes to a fine tip at the front 1/4 inch. Blade length comes in at 2.6 inches. Repeated testing of this blade on everything from cardboard to wood, found that it stood up to abuse and accepted a new edge when sharpened.

When it comes to screwdrivers this multi-tool has it covered. Three flat head drivers and a phillips driver let you turn any screw you commonly come across. Positive locking on the bits allows for a great amount of torque to be applied without slipping or breaking. Three flat heads maybe a little excessive and I wouldn't mind seeing the small one replaced with a long awl. I am impressed with the build on these drivers but find the overall package lacking in design.

The can opener works well. I opened several #10 cans and it handled the thick metal as expected. The bottle opener also worked when tested. What can I say it's a can opener. Nothing fancy to woo you, just a tool that does the job.

Now comes my favorite tool in the box and the one that makes the S2 a complete package for me. Scissors. These scissors are accessed on the outside of the tool and are incorporated well in the design. With the tool body held in your fist the thumb easily operates the shears. The scissors are large and allow for use in cutting everything. They cut fishing line, paper, even fingernails with out bending and warping. The spring is strong, thick and responsive. It will always open the scissors making one finger use an ease.

With an overall length of 3.25 inches, width of .5 inches, height of 1.38 inches and weight of 4.4 oz this multi-tool is compact enough to carry everyday and strong enough to get the job done when outdoors.

Features on every multi-tool in the line include: a lanyard ring, 100% stainless steel body, anodized aluminum handle scales and a 25-year warranty. Having personally tested the 25-year warranty in the past, I can attest that Leatherman backs their products and will handle the problem quickly. The lanyard ring is a little tough to deploy but is a great feature when outdoors. The Juice S2 can be easily tied to a pack or fishing vest and with a little strip of 400 grit sandpaper adhered to the back to sharpen hooks, it becomes the ultimate fishing tool.

With four knives in they lineup and up to 18 tools available the Juice series by Leatherman has a multi-tool for anyone. For me though, nothing compares to the perfect pocket multi-tool, the Juice S2.



Thursday, March 1, 2012

Osprey Kode 30

Posted By on Thu, Mar 1, 2012 at 1:37 PM

The Osprey Kode 30 ($139) may not be the perfect ski pack, but it’s the closest I’ve found in my two decades of skiing and pack wearing. Here’s why.


As expected for an Osprey pack, the light-but-supportive suspension is excellent and the Kode skis extremely well. Load it up with as much weight as you want (I’ve skied it with 25 pounds), cinch it down tight, and it feels like an extension of your body. No bobbing or lurching or feeling like a mischievous pack monkey is yanking you backward. It’s a critical attribute for a ski pack, and nobody likes mischievous pack monkeys.

Backpanel access is another. In other words, you access the pack’s main compartment from the foam-stiffened backpanel, which zips open and makes it easy to set the pack down in the snow and easily get at your stuff without getting snow in the pack. Because it zips all the way down to the bottom, it also changes the way you pack your gear. Gone are the days carefully calculating your packing strata, or having to dig forever to find that item in the bottom of your pack. Everything in your pack is easily accessible and well-cradled — nothing spills out when you zip it all the way open.


A dedicated tool pocket on the pack’s front side features storage sleeves for shovels, probes, and repair kits. Critically, the pocket is easy to open with one zipper. All the zippers on the pack have big, looped zipper pulls that are easy to open with gloves.

Another winning feature is the gaping hipbelt pockets that can hold cameras, bars, inclinometers, dried chicken feet good-luck charms, and whatever small stuff you want to keep at the ready. They’re the biggest hipbelt pockets I’ve ever seen and I love them. A dedicated, zippered hydration pocket sits in the main compartment (against your back) and an insulated sleeve on the shoulder strap helps prevent inconvenient nipple freezing. And nobody likes inconvenient nipple freezing.

I’ve been skiing the Kode 30 for a year and find durability excellent, with no problems so far. The A-frame ski carry system works well. There’s also a slick, stow-able helmet carry system on the top of the pack that holds your lid securely. All in all, it’s a great feature set with few flaws.

“Few” does not mean “none,” however. Here are a few nitpicks.
—The pack could be just a little bit bigger for all-day trips. You can jump up to the Kode 38, which I’ve skied and like, but it features little increase in main-pocket interior space and its buckled lid makes accessing your avy tools a multi-step process.
—I never use the fleece goggle pocket because I find it interferes with access to the main compartment.
—I’m used to it now, but it would be nice if you didn’t have to unclip the shoulder straps to access the main compartment via the backpanel.
—The compression straps on the side of the pack use locking buckles, which makes cinching the pack down a two-step process. This can be annoying and I see no reason for it. Non-locking buckles work just fine.
—Lastly, there is only one very small interior organizer pocket in the main compartment that isn’t nearly big enough. I’d like a bigger interior pocket with room for my compass, lighter, sunscreen, and whatever other random skier crap I want to put in there but don’t want cluttering up my beloved hipbelt pockets.

These are all minor complaints, but they’re enough to make the great Kode 30 fall just short of the perfect ski pack. But unless I need something bigger for an all-day epic or a multi-day ski, it’s the pack you’ll see on my back every day in the backcountry.


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