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"walls of the city" will be ceasing operations as of 01JUN15. Please see this post for more details.
flipside wallet, in review
Just under two weeks ago, I put up a post documenting one facet of my recent wallet-shopping – an endeavor precipitated by my previous one taking an unscheduled and undesired trip through our washing machine. At the time, I mentioned two distinct possibilities – the Flipside 2x Wallet and the Saddleback Leather Company Medium Bifold Wallet – and threw in the usual half-serious, half-joking line that if either company wanted to send me one of their offerings for me to test out, I would be more than happy to type them up a comprehensive review.
Well, here I am, typing. It turns out that Mike at Flipside has realized that his product is attracting “a lot of military customers and lovers of all things ‘tactical’”, and was very interested in getting some airtime on a site like mine, so last Friday, a black (“Stealth”) Flipside 2X showed up on my doorstep. Shiny!
Be advised, though, that this is a purely preliminary review – I have literally only had it for the weekend and today… You can count on a potentially-more-comprehensive follow-up once I have had the chance to fool around with the wallet some.
What it is:
A wallet. Duh.
But, seriously, it is a bit more than that. To begin with, as you can tell from the pictures, it is comprised almost entirely of polymers, which gives it a strength and rigidity you are not likely to find on your normal leather wallets out there. Likewise, once you flip it open, you find that it allows you to organize your pocket life, while simultaneously keeping that life as private as we might all like through built-in RFID shielding. And, finally, it is a wallet that would survive an unplanned trip through a washing machine (though it is not waterproof – it simply would not be destroyed in the process like a leather wallet would/was).
4.25 inches long, 2.75 inches wide, 0.69 inches thick. Think of it as a shorter, chubbier smart phone. Or just think of it as a relatively normal-sized wallet, once you stuff everything you are going to into it.
Flipside advertises that it weighs all of 3 ounces, but our kitchen scale had it weigh in at around 2.625 ounces – empty, of course. This is not-quite twice as much as a “normal” leather wallet (1.5 ounces), but that RFID shielding is, by necessity, metal, which will add to the mass.
Likewise, they say you can get seven total credit/ID cards in three separate holding locations, along with 12 cash bills in its dedicated holding area. My Flipside currently has one driver’s license, one handgun carry permit, one credit card, one debit/ATM card, one Wal-Mart gift card (that I really need to use up), one allergy identification card, one health insurance card, one prescription card, one dental insurance card (nine total cards), eight cash bills, and one copy of TN Attorney General Opinion Number 05-154 printed on half a sheet of paper and then folded into eighths. To be fair, those insurance cards are scant more than pieces of paper themselves, so it takes two or three of them to add up to a credit card’s thickness, and how you arrange the cards matters too – thanks to the now-irrelevant embossing on most credit cards, they are actually thicker than they would otherwise seem, which may affect your wallet’s capacity.
Finally, I was able to tuck two credit/ID cards under the outside clip, but they were very difficult to get in there, and that holder is far from secure – Flipside recommends it for business cards and the like, and I tend to agree.
Fit and Finish:
Unlike far too many plastic items these days, there is no “flashing” or any other imperfections visible on its exterior surface – in fact, what “pour” points I can find are in out of the way and not-obvious places, which means someone thought ahead about their placement (Think back to the days when you constructed models as a kid; remember that webbing of plastic that had to be trimmed off of edges with an x-acto knife? That is flashing. And remember the annoying little spot where you had to cut the pieces off from the tree, and it always looked kind of funky? Basically no sign of that on this wallet.) The exterior finish is a bit of a satin (not pure matte, but definitely not shiny either), and the exterior detail work (the company name, logo, and release button) are all very crisp and clean… and more than a little minimal, which I definitely prefer. There is a bit of play between the clamshell halves when it is closed, but when you open it up, they lock together almost perfectly, and there is never any danger of the halves opening without your actually pressing the button.
And speaking of opening the wallet, even when the upper clamshell is fully loaded, the spring in the main hinge easily pops the lid open with authority, and the spring under the release catch ensures your wallet never does that randomly in your pocket. Both springs are actual coiled-metal springs (one a compression, one a twist), and both hinges involve actual shafts/pins, rather than just creased plastic which will eventually break.
The interior card holders are snug enough to keep your cards in place while opening and actually open, and when the entire assembly is closed, it is small enough that none of the cards are going anywhere anywise. Additionally, the “clips” actually seem to rely on vertical rubber fenders inside of them to keep the cards in place, rather than downwards compression, which means your cards will be staying put no matter if you have one or three in those two slots (the one-card slot does rely on the more-traditional clip design, though). Finally, the money clip holds your bills in place without really obstructing them (as long as you follow the instructions and loop them over the clip), though I will have to get used to this new format, rather than a “traditional” wallet.
And while Flipside stresses it in their FAQs, I want to address another “traditional” point – this is definitely a front-pocket wallet only. Sitting on it will not be comfortable, and may endanger it or whatever you are sitting on… and, anywise, carrying your wallet in one of your front pockets is safer regardless.
About the only
As a wallet, absolutely. It holds exactly what I need it to, while leaving me no space to accumulate all of the other membership cards and point cards and whatnot else our society has decided we “need” – to me, this is a Very Good Thing™. Access to the top cards of each stack is quick and easy, opening the case is about as simple as you can get given the tactile feedback of the texturing on the release button, and the size is no more noticeable in my pocket than any other “normal” wallet. And given that there are no random pockets or anything hiding in its design, there is nowhere to “lose” cards, so even though you have to deal with the two stacks of cards, odds are you will find what you are looking for faster.
As an RFID shield, it also appears to work, from my limited experimentation. I was able to test the wallet with both 125kHz and 13.56MHz RFID systems, and the guaranteed-shielded section of the wallet failed flawlessly with both technologies, while the single outside-the-shield slot protected the 13.56MHz card, but not the 125kHz card (which is better performance than is advertised by Flipside, though not indicative of anything – that outside slot is still “unshielded” and should be treated as such).
Now, I have no idea what kind of technologies are in your average credit card or driver’s license RFID chips (thankfully, Tennessee is not compliant with REAL ID and it hopefully never will be), but I do know that the two plates of metal inside the Flipside will, when closed, create what amounts to be a Faraday cage around your credit cards and IDs, effectively blocking all communications with the outside world, giving you at least one solid layer of protection between you and people who want your information. Whether or not this is important to you is for you to decide, but if you have anything with RFID chips in it, I would recommend shielding them*.
Is this a wallet I could end up using for a while? I will let you know in a few months. But for the time being, I admit to being very impressed with the craftsmanship and design, and see absolutely no reason to not recommend it at the moment… assuming you can deal with its non-traditional design, of course. If you want a second opinion, Flipside wallets have been reviewed by all kinds of folks.
Is it useful for military folks? The new-model military CAC/PIV ID cards, in accordance with Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, have 13.56MHz RFID chips in them, and the information available wirelessly from those cards could be sufficient, in the right hands, for identity theft, spoofing, or other not-insignificant security threats to service members and the Department of Defense as a whole. If you have a new-model card (and pretty much everyone should by now – you can tell by the gold chip visible on its front), I would strongly recommend that you carry it in a shielded holder at all times, and I would observe that the Flipside wallet is possibly a good choice – it will shield your ID card, displaying your ID card at the gate/quarterdeck is as easy as pushing a button, the polymer body should be able to withstand the rigors of military life, and there is no velcro or other attention-grabbing features that seem so popular on other wallets geared towards the military.
Is it “tactical”? Well you get me a good, solid, widely-accepted definition of what that concept is, and I will give you a straight answer! But, seriously, it does come in black (along with white, blue, green, and orange), and while it does not have any rails, Mike talked disclosed to me that they are working on additional accessories that could be added to it (I assume using the same snap-on method as the external clip). It is fully washable (so getting down-and-dirty in the mud will not be a problem), when it is full it feels about as solid as a brick, and it just screams high-speed-low-drag (no, really, if you hold it up to your ear…).
If you are looking for a wallet that breaks the traditional mold, provides security to your money and identity, is made entirely in the USA, and forces you to lead a lighter life, look up Flipside – they really have evolved the wallet.
CORRECTION: Please note that tapping on something and listening to the sound it makes is not a scientific method! Also, please note that the main hinge pin is comprised of black oxide steel, not plastic, and is thus very strong, and as overengineered as I would like. Sorry for any confusion, and the above post has been strike-through-ed appropriately.
(* – And lest you think RFID theft is not something to worry about, it is, it is stupidly cheap to do, and it is such a serious problem that the Mythbusters were barred from examining it. Sounds like someone does not want the world to know…)
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