“So, what's the deal with this thing?” That was pretty much everyone's first response to the Spyderco BaliYo, which is a write-anywhere pen crossed with a traditional Philippino weapon. The question put forth is understandable, but instead of asking yourself why this pen should flail about like so, consider why this cool, flailing toy shouldn't also be a super sweet pen. With a subtle shift in thinking, things begin to make sense. You see, this is a toy first, and a pen second. What I found interesting was that almost everyone who asked the 'What's the deal?” question, was still playing with the BaliYo 20 minutes later.
The BaliYo is styled after a traditional Philippino knife called the Balisong, which is more commonly known as the butterfly knife. Spyderco just took the part that would usually be a knife blade, and replaced it with a pen. That explains the 'Bali' part. I think the 'Yo' part is because it's quite like a Yo-Yo in two ways. 1) It's mega frustrating at first, but gets more fun as you get better. And 2) aside from being a pretty good hand-eye coordination builder, it doesn't really do anything useful. But then again, Spyderco one-upped the Yo-Yo on the second count by adding a Fischer Space Pen and making it, in fact, useful.
They make bold claims on the packaging that the BaliYo can write “underwater, in freezing cold, in boiling heat, at an angle and even upside down.” Well, I decided to put all those claims to the test. I took one pen and left it in the freezer for 5 hours, and left another one on the dashboard of my truck in 85°F direct sun during lunch.
The freezer pen was then taken out and used to write under water on waterproof paper, which it did flawlessly. The dashboard pen was hot enough that it hurt to hold on to, but was still able to write perfectly upside down on the underside of my sunroof. After I was done confirming that the freezer pen would write underwater, I then left it there for 10 minutes and then tried again. This time it took a few seconds to get going, but still was able to write after being submerged. So, basically it can just about write anywhere in any conditions. What would happen to it in boiling water, you might be asking? Watch this video to find out.
The BaliYo comes with a very short instructional video with 7 tricks, ranging from a very easy flipping it open, to a very complex flip/turn/twist/and such maneuver. But that's the odd beauty of this thing: You're basically trying to find the most complicated way to open something that is otherwise very easy to open, only to also try and find the most complicated way of closing it, ending up right back where you started. The tricks on the video are all well and good (actually, tricks 4 through 7 mostly made me chuck the BaliYo at the wall and swear), but I had the most fun just screwing around making up my own dumb tricks.
So, if you're the type of person who like to have a writing utensil while hiking, then why not have one that is darn reliable and also pretty entertaining? I kept myself entertained with one while camping in a snowstorm in the Colorado Rockies. Just make sure that you tentmate thinks that it's as cool as you do, or you could find yourself at odds pretty quickly!