Every year I wind up with a few new tools that are outrageously useful, simply handy, or just plain cool. Some have been around for a while but are new to my own collection. Others are new to the market and have immediately proved their worth. Here’s a look at 10 of my current favorites, all of which I use frequently. 1 Mannix Digital Pocket Thermometer. Stream thermometers are popular among anglers, especially trout fishermen. Most such devices sold by tackle outlets are old-fashioned, slow responding, and hard to read. This fast-reading electronic version is easy to use and offers instant Fahrenheit to centigrade conversions. About the size of a large pen, it clips easily inside a fishing vest. $21.95 from Edmund Scientific, www.scientificsonline.com.
2 Take-Down Buck Saw. This year, my backcountry firewood chores were a lot easier thanks to this saw made by Trail Blazer in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The saw is larger, stronger, and more rigid than other collapsible varieties, yet still packs down into its own 25×13/8-inch tube. $33.95 from the Garrett Wade Co., www.garrettwade.com.
3 Tool Roll. Long live the old-fashioned canvas tool roll, in which tools remain secure, clean, and won’t rattle (unlike in a toolbox) when stored in my truck. They’re hard to find these days, but Bucket Boss has a clever new design that also has a strip to hold drive sockets. So nifty I bought a bunch of ’em. $17.99 from Woodworkers Supply, www.woodworker.com.
4 L.L. Bean Camp Knife. This thing is ingenious; just ask anybody who’s ever tried to spread peanut butter with a fillet knife. The rounded blade end is a perfect scooper and spreader, and the remainder is amply sharp for slicing. It does not work well for cleaning fish, so you’ll need a fillet knife anyway. $29 from L.L. Bean, www.llbean.com.
5 Sears/Craftsman Screw-Out. When I screw up, Screw-Outs come to the rescue. With the wide proliferation of cordless drill-drivers has come the occasional mangling of Phillips-type screw heads. A standard driver bit won’t remove the screwed-up screw. Chuck a Screw-Out in your drill to easily remove it. They work and are truly indispensable. $19.99 for a set of three sizes from Sears/Craftsman, www.craftsman.com.
6 Porter-Cable Profile Sander. One of a new breed of power sanders cleverly designed for sanding in tight spots where other sanders can’t reach. I use mine specifically to sand and clean hard-to-reach rust spots on my 4x4s, which, if not repaired, would eventually turn into big holes. Fast and easy to use, this is a great tool. $129.95 from Tool Crib of the North, www.toolcribofthenorth.com.
7 Skirt Master Pliers. Changing the rubber or plastic skirts on spinnerbaits is a great way to add bass-catching appeal or to repair an old lure. But the small, strong rubber band that holds the skirt in place can be next to impossible to manipulate. These fiendishly clever pliers have three fine tips that expand in three directions, spreading the rubber band and making skirt replacement a snap. Very cool. $21.95 from Jann’s Netcraft, www.jannsnetcraft.com.
8 EdgeCraft Power Sharpener. Okay, I’ll admit it: I am a knife-sharpening klutz. I have a collection of sharpening devices-none of which I could work correctly-gathering dust in the basement. The EdgeCraft Chef’s Choice three-stage sharpener is the only device I’ve ever used that allows me to easily get hair-shaving edges on just about everything. Some knife purists may cringe, but now I’m a sharpening klutz with sharp knives. Life is good. $129.99 from Cabela’s, www.cabelas.com.
9 Abel Lube Kit. This just might be the world’s most elegant outdoor-related tool. A small, fold-up nylon wallet holds three precisely machined containers of grease and oil, plus a mildly abrasive pad for polishing or cleaning any rough spots or corrosion. The containers are O-riing sealed, so they won’t leak. For fishing reels that need on-the-spot tune-ups, this kit is fantastic. I got mine for $30 from the Fly Shop in northern California, www.theflyshop.com.
**10 Key-chain Multitool. **This is the smallest multitool I’ve seen that still has full-function pliers. It also carries the usual assortment of screwdrivers, files, and a knife blade. I use it more often than larger versions because it’s so easy to carry. It also fits neatly in the side pocket of my Abel Lube Kit (see above). $24.99 from Sears/Craftsman (item 45536), www.craftsman.com.