American pop culture has long been obsessed with tales of spies, espionage, secret agents and private detectives. From the Cold War to the War on Terror, Hollywood has capitalized on real-world fears and foes by giving us dashing, deep-state heroes the likes of James Bond, Jason Bourne and Jack Ryan. Not only are these guys slick, smart and lethal, but they’ve got some kick-ass toys. “Spy gadgets” have gone mainstream, and while we may not be able to buy shoe daggers or exploding chewing gum, the demand for hidden cameras, surveillance equipment, GPS trackers and internet spy apps has never been greater. Here is a list of gear essentials we think every wanna-be spy will like and can actually use in the real world.
Whether you need to record a college lecture or an overseas interrogation, this pen functions as a real pen while recording up to 130 hours of broadcast-quality audio files. Its powerful voice-activated microphone has four separate recording levels, depending on how close or far away the speaker is. Available at penrecorderpro.com ($129).
When you need to make a quick escape, get out of any tight spot with this light-weight, pocket-sized grappling hook. Stored in its water-tight titanium tube, it attaches easily to a lanyard, keys or bags. Made of solid titanium, it comes with spare pouch and O-ring. Available at titaner-store.com ($59).
From Bond to “Mission Impossible” to “Ocean’s Eleven” to “Men in Black” — you’ll spot a ZERO Halliburton Attaché handcuffed to the arm of any secret agent or super spy worth his salt. Sturdy, with a tinge of international mystery, the Geo Aluminum Attaché Collection is understated but means business. Guaranteed to bring out your inner 007. Available at zerohalliburton.com ($525.00).
Monitors location with pinpoint accuracy and goes anywhere discreetly while giving you real-time updates. Track the location of your cheating spouse, delinquent teen, employee vehicles or personal items like luggage from your computer or mobile device. Choose from the standard two-week rechargeable or optional six-month extended-life battery and set custom text or email alerts when your target goes on the move. Available at spytecinc.com and walmart.com ($49.95 + $25/month tracking subscription).
In the modern age of smart phones and digital technology, voice disguise is a tool used for more than just ransom demands and anonymous tips on landlines. iStranger Cell Phone Voice Changer easily connects to most cell phones and provides varying degrees of voice and pitch modulation to make your voice unrecognizable from anywhere. Available at spytecinc.com ($349).
James Bond had Q, the Angels had Charlie and you have Alexa. You’ve come to rely on Amazon’s Alexa at home to order pizza, to make travel arrangements and even to help with your kids’ homework. Now, you don’t have to do without this high-tech personal assistant when you leave the house. Roav VIVA brings all of Alexa’s functionality — including music streaming, navigation and hands-free calling — and it plugs into your car charger, letting you keep your eyes on the road while Alexa takes care of business. Available at goroav.com($49.99).
The art of lock-picking is a skillset that comes in handy for spies and guys alike. When you need to gain access but don’t have the key, this lock-pick set will allow you to accomplish any mission. Includes a 15-piece lock-pick set, credit-card pick set, practice padlock with see-through mechanism and keys and 43-page instructional eBook. Available at lockpickworld.com ($35.99).
Sometimes keeping valuables under lock and key isn’t enough to keep bad guys at bay. Up your high-tech game and unlock the Tapplock three ways by using your fingerprint, your phone via Bluetooth or by tapping long and short combinations in Morse Code. Tapplock stores up to 500 prints, is rain and rust proof and is virtually unbreakable. Available in multiple finishes at tapplock.com($99.00).
Not sure who’s raiding the fridge in the middle of the night? Looking just like a typical household smoke detector, this hidden camera captures HDTV-quality video. It’s motion-activated and records onto its mini-HD DVR for you to view and re-view later. With a 90-degree adjustable view, AC or battery-charging capability and great low-light capability, this is one of the most practical, functional hidden spy-cams for your home or office. Available at palmvid.com ($139).
“Top Shelf” is a recurring column in Skillset Magazine! We like to think of it as our “Sky Mall” if Sky Mall was bad ass. You can purchase a back issue at OutdoorGroupStore.com and listen to our podcast, Skillset Live.