Multi-tool: Combining pliers, wire cutters, small scissors, file, saw, and a range of drivers, this gets less use than you might think, but a multi-tool is still important. Tough UK knife laws mean a locking blade can be problematic to carry, so the Gerber MP600 Bladeless is a great and entirely legal option. At the time of photography, I also carried a Gerber Shard, supposedly as a pry-bar, but it proved to be of limited use.
Swiss Army Knife: I have given my life to boxing. And unboxing. Ask anyone who spends their life cutting through adhesive tape what they use most and it’s a damn good, damn sharp knife. As such, (and remaining mindful of UK knife carry laws), I always have a Victorinox Spartan penknife on hand. This effectively replaces a whole host of tools, and has a combination pry-bar, wire-stripper, and bottle opener that gets used a lot… for bottle opening.
Small screwdriver: Despite the Swiss Army Knife and Multi-Tool having more than enough screwdrivers on hand to open most things (I am, admittedly, light on Torx drivers), there is always need for a small combination screwdriver. The little Stanley pen-sized screwdriver has interchangeable flat and Philips heads at both ends. It’s surprisingly useful, although its construction precludes using it where real torque is required.
Torch/inspection mirror: I’m something of a torch nut, and that started with Maglites. There are brighter torches today, but the two AA-battery LED Mini-Maglite is perfect for lighting up the dark and hidden rear panels of most audio system. I also have an old cassette head inspection mirror made by TDK for the same inspection purposes.
Cable ties: Useful for keeping power and signal cables apart (try attaching power cords to one leg of the equipment support, and signal cables to another). Also used to prevent your victims escaping during hour two of mansplaining your way through the history of the ECC83 valve.
Note pad: Although probably the least used part of the kit still in rotation, it’s useful to help take notes, remember passwords, draw schematics, and plot evil schemes for world domination. I use a Field Notes 48-page notebook.
Lots of different kinds of tape: Alongside the masking tape, I tend to carry two different colour sets of electrical tape, and a length of duct-tape wrapped round an old gift card. The electrical tape comes in handy for marking up left and right-hand interconnects and speaker cables (my scheme is to wrap the red cable around both ends of the right hand cable, and the blue round both cables at the start of the direction of signal flow, for example the amplifier end of loudspeaker cables). That way, you don’t end up wiring left to right and you avoid an amplifier short (I’ve done both). Duct tape is always handy.
Paperclips: Because MacGyver! Actually, a paperclip is handy for pressing recalcitrant reset buttons, fiddling with DIP switches, and defusing nuclear weapons.
Next time: What tracks are used to help set up a system.