Category Archives: Life Hacks

Tricks I’ve created or found that make things seamless or more fun.

How a Piece of String Can Save Your Smart Phone

When you’re on the road your smart phone is a translator, currency converter, map and often your only contact with home and, potentially, rescue. Now that I’m a full time ultralight wanderer, it is one of the two most expensive items I own and very hard to replace. If you are even a marginally active traveler, by my rough count there are only five thousand ways your phone can be stolen, lost or destroyed while traveling. This hack eliminates at least four thousand five hundred of those.

iphone lanyard hack
iphone lanyard hack
iphone lanyard hack
iphone lanyard hack

On the road I collect stories. Countless fellow travelers lost their phones to pickpockets. Others simply forgot them somewhere, never to be seen again. One had a phone snatched from his hand, while he was chatting, by a guy riding by on a motor scooter. (This is actually a common technique in a lot of southeast asian countries.) I myself almost left it behind when it fell behind a seat, almost dropped it countless times, and may have avoided any number of pickpockets. Why almost? Because I heard enough stories before I started that I thought up this ridiculously simple solution. I didn’t lose the phone behind the seat because as I got up go, it tugged on me. The dropped phone swung down towards the ground and then lazily, and safely, swayed back and forth eight inches from the ground. I never even noticed the pickpockets and didn’t have to.

Easy for Me – Hard for Pickpockets

I thought about clips and locks but I wanted to be able to easily pull it on and off. This way I can quickly and easily pull the phone in and out of the loop, but for someone else to make the same gesture they’d have to get the thing out of my pocket, pull at my waist and yank a line way out, then slide the phone through… if they figured all of this out and then managed to execute it without my feeling it or knowing, I’d be amazed. Yes, they could use a knife (I never did find a good chain) but 1) I’d probably notice someone hacking at my waist with a knife AND digging into my pocket and 2) much more likely, and the most important rule of keeping your stuff safe as a traveler: you only have to be more annoying to steal from than the people around you. Just like running from a hungry bear. You don’t have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun your hiking partner.

Why belt level

The belt loop lanyard is the way to go. I wanted it attached to my belt (instead of my neck) because it’s a lot more comfortable. No weight. The distance is also just right for getting to my ear, but just short enough to not hit the ground when it’s hanging after I’ve been stunned by a text message and dropped it. This also makes it really easy to drop into my pocket after I reel it back in.

iPhone Otter Box Lanyard Hack

In my case, I modified the already super tough Otter Box Defender case for my iPhone 3. (Link is for newer case.) You can see from the photos that by shaving a little slot in the edge of the clip on the bottom half of the case (using a leatherman file), I was able to put a keyring through the clip. This makes a really solid connection and I’ve, er, tested it in the field many times. Blundering for science.

I’ve actually gone a little crazy with this idea. I’ve leashed all kinds of things to my day bag or pockets. I love never having to worry about theft, drops, or forgots and it clears my mind to worry about other more interesting things. What if a tsunami suddenly sent a massive tidal wave over that row of trees and on top a huge blue whale was surfing towards me… could I get airborne fast enough as the wave slammed into me to catch a piece of driftwood and surf next to him?

Life Hack: Identify Bottles in the Dark

tape folds
bottle with tape folds

This is another very simple but extremely useful system, especially when keeping all of your things in bags or a backpack. In my case, after lasik I still sometimes get very dry eyes in the morning. I have to fumble around in the dark, or in a bag, and somehow manage to find a bottle and pour whatever’s in it into my eye. It would generally be better for my happiness and the sleep of those around me if it wasn’t a bottle of shampoo or glue. The cool hack is to wrap the bottle in tape, and put a predetermined set of folds into the tape. You can easily grab bottles and, by feeling for the folds, know by count if it’s a bottle of shaving oil or the lifesaving drops.