I recently had a peculiar customer service experience with the makers of the Screwpop keychain tool. I had lost the original 1/4" hex nut driver that came with the tool and had tried to replace it using a standard 1/4" hex nut driver that I had spare (already owned). To my utter amazement it didn't fit.
In fact, none of my 1/4" hex nut driver bits fit in the Screwpop. I reached out to Screwpop to ask if they were aware of this and they admitted that their 1/4" driver bit is not a standard size (?) and none of the ones available from hardware stores will fit. The solution? Buy a new Screwpop! Yup, that's what they suggested, somewhat tongue in cheek. That's not a very affordable or intuitive solution. However, I should add that despite the somewhat flippant initial response from Screwpop customer service, the owner/creator did offer to send me a complete replacement free of charge if I ordered a new bit from them. So I have to give an eventual hat-tip to Screwpop for doing the best they could to try and fix the situation.
This recent experience made me decide to take another look at all of the other keychain-type tools that I own and do a quick feature and weight comparison.
My all time favorite keychain tool is the Swiss Tech Util-Key. It epitomizes what a well made and carefully thought through multi-tool should be. It has all the features that I want and none that I don't. I've owned and carried several of these for over a decade. I say several because TSA like to confiscate them when I forget to remove them from my key chain before traveling. !@#&$!
The tool I 'love' the most is my Peter Atwood G2 Gasbaby. Hand-made by Peter, limited in number, superbly made and highly functional. The only reason I don't carry it all the time is that it's just a little bit too heavy, but to Peter's defense he does make a thinner titanium version that weighs almost nothing. Unfortunately, I've never been lucky enough to snag one. His tools sell out within minutes of being made available!
In addition to these two tools I have a handful of other well know mini tools that I've been given or purchased over the years. Without going into detail about each one, here is how they stack up when compared on the number of functions and their overall weight.
Here is a table showing all of my mini tools sorted by weight, heaviest to lightest. It's not surprising that the Leatherman Squirt is the heaviest, but I do find it interesting to see how many functions you get for the weight.
To further illustrate this point, here is the same table (below) with the mini tools sorted by the number of functions they each have as identified by the manufacturer. You can easily see why the Swiss Tech Util-Key with 6 functions and weighing less than any of the other mini tools is such a popular tool. The form factor is brilliant too. It looks like a key and doesn't get in the way of your other keys when it's on your keychain.
I'm also a huge fan of the Swiss Tech Micro Tool because it is one of the smallest tools I know of that has a functioning pair of pliers and wire cutters. At 45g it is slightly heavy though and you'll definitely notice the extra weight on your keychain. Not listed here is the legendary P-38 can opener. I have so many of these that I take it for granted that I will always have one with me wherever I am, usually on the same neck cord that I carry my whistle and microlight on. I sometimes even put a small ranger band around it to stop it clinking.
There are a lot of well designed and beautifully made keychain sized tools available on the market. If you are going to invest in one make sure that you determine what you are going to use it for. In the example of the Screwpop, the majority of its weight is in the heavy loops that makes up a bottle top opener. While that might be perfect for the occasional weekend camp out, it's a complete waste of space as a serious tool. In fact the bottle top opener on my Util-Key does a much better job of popping open a cold one. But as others have mentioned, how useful or necessary is a bottle opener? Not very in a backpacking situation. At least a P-38 can hack open a can and do a myriad of other things.
For now, on my keychain at least, I'm going to stick with the Util-key. What has your experience been with keychain tools? Do you find them useful or a total gimmick? If you carry one, what do you favor? Please leave a comment below.
Disclosure: The author owns these products and paid for them using their own funds.