Some of the coolest products came about not because some company hired designers and engineers and spent money on focus groups, but because someone had some simple need to fulfill, and realized their idea could eventually be marketable. That’s how we ended up reviewing the PocketMonkey.
Nate Barr is a mechanical engineer. So he knows all sorts of useful stuff about how things work, and is probably good at math. But he had a bad time remembering to take his keys with him when he left his house. Of course, he discovered he could break into his own home fairly easily, with nothing more than a flat piece of steel. So had carried that bit of steel around in his wallet, for when he forgot his keys. (Yeah, let’s not get into the obvious here) Anyway, he had the bright idea to add a few more features to this 1mm thick piece of stainless, and make it really earn its keep, since it was occupying space in his wallet. That saw the addition of a bottle opener (for many of my friends, he could have stopped there and been done), a couple of surfaces turned into screwdriver blades, a straight edge, orange peeler/banana nicker, hex wrenches, and a ruler. Oh, you can use it to prop your phone up too, by sliding a credit card through the wavy slot. Each feature is clearly labeled too. All that in a knife blade-free, TSA-approved package.
With so much available utility, I figured it would be fun to see how many times we could put the PocketMonkey to use in a single day, testing as many functions as possible. Starting with breakfast, I peeled a thick-skinned navel orange to perfection. It went right through the skin, without cutting into the orange itself. Tinkering in my office, I used the phillips head screwdriver (just a pointy flat blade) to remove a small screw from the underside of a SRAM X4 shifter. The larger flat blade fits the stop screws on SRAM derailleurs, and should work equally well with Campagnolo or Shimano, even though we all know SRAM is the superior choice. It wasn’t until I tried to use the letter opener that the PocketMonkey failed me. I was a bit disappointed that it wouldn’t slice an envelope open, but a slight change of angle yielded better, if somewhat choppy, results. At the tip of the letter opener is a tiny screwdriver that worked surprising well on my glasses, so we’ll call it a wash. Finding some hex bolts to test the wrenches on proved challenging, so I turned again to the bicycle odds and ends littering my office. My Park truing stand had a larger hex nut on the back, and although I couldn’t get much leverage, in a pinch, I could tighten it down. Smaller hex heads were found on a set of SKS fenders, and the PocketMonkey worked perfectly there. That seemed more like a real world situation, too. My Android phone (from HTC) is too rounded for the kickstand function, but iPhone users will find it useful. I didn’t have much use for the ruler or straight edge, but after a long day of testing, found that the bottle opener worked well with one of Utah’s finest microbrews.
So is the PocketMonkey worth $12? Some of the features would go unused by me, but the orange peeler, eyeglass screwdriver, and bottle opener offer the kind of utility I can put to use on a regular basis. If the letter opener works on boxes and packages, I can use it every day at work, increasing its usefulness. Yeah, I’d carry one around in my wallet. If you want to as well, head over to swish.com.