Vol. 03: Keychain Survival Tools

Whether you're facing a parachute drop into the High Sierras or a jammed button on your mobile, some handy keychain gizmo can be there for you.

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LRI's Photon series are probably the best-known keychain lights and for good reason. They're reasonably rugged, light, and dependable.

About $25, the hearing-aid-battery-powered Firefli is really tiny.

My old standby is the $5 Fox 40 Mini with the cosmetic side plates dremeled off to reduce its size. Fox has recently released a new Micro model that features a flatter profile than my hacked version, and it's reportedly just as loud.

The Micra and Squirt from Leatherman ($30-$40) are pleasant standouts in an otherwise bleak sea of cast metal junk. (Radioshack also has a version that replaces the standard pliers with a wire stripper.)

My favorite is the liquid-damped $15 version manufactured by old-school knife maker Marbles.

If you insist on spending more, the $50 Traildrop II Digital Compass and Temperature Keychain offers a backlight and all the functions you'd expect from a gizmo with a microchip and an LCD.

$160 nuclear radiation detector that looks vaguely like a car alarm remote and sounds an alarm when it detects a life-endangering amount of gamma or X radiation. By listening to the ten distinct alarm levels, you can plot a quick course out of a danger area, or, better yet, avoid entering one.

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