Gear Recommendations for Early 2015: Doing Awesome on a Budget
Tony Sculimbrene 03.04.15
If there is one thing that I receive consistent feedback on it is the price of the products I usually discuss. I am sensitive to this, because $30 is a lot to spend on a light, especially when there are lights that technically work that cost $1 at Home Depot. It’s even worse when you talk about pens. Basically anyone in America can find a pen to keep and use for free. There are a million “hotel ballpoints” out there. So when the readily available option is FREE, the argument for spending more is difficult to make.
But here’s the thing: there is a certain degree of joy, of true fun, in owning and using well made things. Apple’s entire business model is built on this premise. They don’t make the fastest, the cheapest, the smallest of anything. What they do is focus on the quality of the user experience. That experience is what allows them to charge a lot of money for their products and be successful. They are the most valuable company in the world because of this focus.
So while I understand that $1,300 for a flashlight is complete and utter madness, there are cheaper items out there that offer a very similar experience to higher end stuff. Don’t think of these as compromises or knockoffs, think of them as sensible alternatives. I am not going to recommend the Bradley Alias as an alternative to the Sebenza, because in many ways, the Bradley Alias is just a cheaper Sebenza. Instead I am looking for things that capture some of the magic of the higher priced item but don’t feel like also-rans.
High Roller: Chris Reeve Sebenza
More words have been written about this knife on the Internet than have been written about some countries in the world. This knife is a knife, a status symbol, a fetish object, and a high water mark for precision manufacturing skill. But, and this is a Kim Kardashian sized “but,” the cheapest one can be had new is $330. Chris Reeve enforces his pricing with the strictness of a drill instructor, so unless you have a good portion of your pay check to dedicate to a knife, the Sebenza is just out of reach.
Smart Money: Al Mar Falcon Ultralight
With AUS-8 blade steel, a lockback, and micarta handle scales the Falcon lacks the design and materials panache of the Sebenza, but what it does have, what puts it in the same league, is exemplary fit and finish. The entire handle is beautifully finished, the pivot screw is mirror polished, the grind is surgically precise, and the place where the tang and the lockback arm meet is so snug that they appear to be a single, continuous piece of steel. The Falcon’s not a bargain at around $120 street, but it is less than the Sebenza, it’s still a great cutter, and the level of refinement is on par with Mr. Reeve’s signature blade.
High Roller: HDS
Smart Money: Malkoff MDC
High Roller: Go Ruck GR-1
If there is a warfare aesthetic, the GR-1 has it in spades. The first pack from a company that promotes packs, manliness, manliness challenges, and drinking after said challenges, the GR-1 is a boutique masterstroke. It’s not so complicated that you lose things inside, but it is organized enough to get the job done. It’s built like a manhole cover, and despite the black and strappy appearance, its minimalist lines convey a sense of tidiness. It just happens to cost 1/3 of a grand.
Smart Money: Maxpedition Pymgy Falcon II
Fixed Blade Chopper
High Roller: Busse Battle Mistress
This is the chopper of all choppers, perhaps the epicenter in the Chopper Earthquake that is still being felt in the knife community. Busse’s aesthetic, steel, and amazing stunts helped build a legend. Few other production fixed blades regularly sell for $800. INFI is proprietary steel, so this is the only game in town if you want that alloy. There are two currently in production: the coated version at $500 and the uncoated at $800. They will, undoubtedly, appreciate in value.
Smart Money: Ka-Bar BK9