KeySmart 2.0: The Battle of the Keychain Bulge

by Bil Kanawati

Not long ago, I used to be what you would charitably call “well-provisioned,” or if you were feeling less than charitable, a goddamn pack mule. The George Constanza wallet was nothing compared to the brick I toted around. I would choose clothing based on the size and quantity of pockets. Coat hooks would quiver and groan under the immense weight of my jacket, laden with all the usual accoutrements of winter plus some necessities (although friends would argue that carrying an iPad in your jacket pocket hardly counts as a “necessity”). And of course, I had a keychain that rivalled any high school custodian’s; a patchwork quilt of carabiners, bottle openers, novelty key rings bestowed as travel gifts, and oh yes, ever so many keys. Then one day, a strange thing happened:

I turned 30.

In your 20s, people cut you a certain amount of slack if you walk around with what pockets that look like overstuffed saddlebags—after all, the spontaneity of youth could lead you anywhere, and you could conceivably need anything (even that iPad in your pocket! But probably not that iPad in your pocket).

In your 30s, you are a creature of habit and routine. You are a paragon of ruthless efficiency. The last thing you can do is show up to the office jingly-jangling with every step as your bulging mass of carabiners and USB drives and guitar-shaped bottle openers weighs your right pant leg down like an anchor.

 KeySmart Extended shown with the USB key (left) and the bottle opener (right)

KeySmart Extended shown with the USB key (left) and the bottle opener (right)

The internet has come up with a lot of solutions to this problem, but most of them are available in the U.S. only, or cost a small fortune to ship to Canada. That’s where KeySmart comes in. What started as a Kickstarter project eventually became a real, shipping product that eliminates the jingle-jangle forever while dramatically slimming your keychain profile. Whether you’re slipping it into dress slacks or form-fitting jeans, this thing is nearly invisible and whisper-quiet.

The basic premise is that it takes your keys and packages them up like a pocket knife. The entire assembly is held together by just two screws. You add keys and key-like tools through a simple set of spacers and posts, which can be near-infinitely expanded (although you start to get back into bulge territory if you add too many). You can get optional accessories like USB sticks, bottle openers, and a variety of other handy tools, but because of the different sizes and thicknesses of keys and accessories, figuring out the right placement and quantity of spacers can get tricky.

 Spacers and expansion posts

Spacers and expansion posts

Despite being made of “aircraft grade aluminum,” it still felt a little flimsy in use, especially when turning a key in a particularly stubborn lock. However, mine has held up just fine, and I haven’t experienced any problems with the screws coming loose over time, which was a complaint I saw during my pre-purchase research. "Upgrading" to the titanium version didn't seem to make a difference in build quality based on the reviews. 

 One-handed use.

One-handed use.

Another common complaint was that it was difficult to use one-handed. In my experience, what happens is that you flip out more than one key at a time, which is more of a minor annoyance than a difficulty, and by no means a deal-breaker.

While it works with almost all keys and key-sized tools, the biggest drawback by far is that it can’t handle anything with a thick plastic enclosure, like a modern car key or my workplace’s key fob. KeySmart’s solution is the inclusion of a loop piece that you can then attach a regular keyring to, but then you’re dangerously approaching a return to the Bridges of Jingle-Jangle County, and no one wants that. My solution was to simply carry my car key separately, but it’s far from ideal.

KeySmart ships to Canada directly from their website, and shipping is free with a minimum order of $45 USD, which you’ll have no problem hitting if you plan on getting some extenders and add-ons. If you don’t think you’ll hit the minimum required for free shipping (or if the Canadian dollar takes another precipitous dive), Amazon.ca has a no-frills option or a bundle with an 8GB USB stick for less. Best of all, these are Fulfilled by Amazon, which means they’ll most likely come from the Mississauga warehouse and you won’t be stuck waiting for a USPS package to work its way through the labyrinthine Canada Post customs system.

Despite the few drawbacks, I could never go back to a regular keychain again, and if you’re my age or older, neither should you.