Monthly Archives: February 2020

First published in 1962 and reprinted 1963, Know the Game- Camping offered sage advice to the beginner and was a collaboration with The Camping Club of Great Britain and Ireland

Organised outdoor activity in the UK- The Camping and Caravanning Club

Commemorative plaque recording the creation of The Camping Club,affixed to bridge 58 near Wantage, Berks

Enamel club badge. These were available for members to purchase from the outset. Their use was recommended to enable members to ‘recognise their fellows in the sport, and as a passport when camping on an official site’

Enamel club badges were available for members to purchase from the outset. Their use was recommended to enable members to ‘recognise their fellows in the sport, and as a passport when camping on an official site’

The metal plaque shown above is fixed to a stone and brick bridge across Letcombe Brook in Ickleton Road, Wantage. The ‘group of campers’ mentioned was small, just six in number. That simple coming together of friends, including three brothers, from 2nd -5th August 1901, was the first camp meeting of the oldest such club in the World.

Two of the people who had camped in the small English meadow- Thomas Hiram Holding and the Reverend Edward Pitt-Johnson had founded the Association of Cycle Campers earlier that year.

Holding had first experienced camping aged nine when he travelled with his parents across the United States in a wagon train and became the association’s first President. There were thirteen members initially, six of whom attended the first official camp over that four-day August bank-holiday. There were over 100 members of the club the following year and 33 of these, with friends, met for dinner in London in February 1902 to celebrate the beginning of their club. This dinner, or supper, became an annual event and the number of attendees had risen to 92 by 1909. A hundred years later the club was supporting over 500,000 members in their activities.

The Camping Club of Great Britain & Ireland, 1901, second. 1920 - 1983

Enamel badge of The Camping Club of Great Britain & Ireland, 1920 – 1983

“civility and courtesy are cheap, but purchase a great deal”

An annual winter ‘Camp Fire’ was established in 1904 with 150 members present at the first winter camp. Even then, there were camping ‘gear-heads’ and improvements in camping gear were avidly discussed. Displays of tents and equipment were arranged. Lectures and lantern slides were organised. From a total membership of 820, around 400 people attended the ‘Camp Fire’ held at West Kensington in March 1910.

“early to bed; but not too early to rise”

From 1909 members could also view ‘lightweight’ camping equipment at the club’s central office in London. The Association of Cycle Campers shared this central office with two allied clubs- the Caravan Club and the Camping Club, the latter was more for those who enjoyed camping but did not use either cycles or motor cycles for transport. The three clubs supported each other and progressed under the designation of the Camping Union. Central office moved from London to Coventry in 1990.

“if some misguided genius should invent a camping equipment that no one could find fault with, half our pleasures in life would be swept away”

Small lapel Enamel club badge. 1920 - 1983

Small lapel enamel club badge. 1920 – 1983

An annual Christmas Camp was inaugurated in 1904. Nine members pitched their tents near Chesham. This was not an exclusively male affair as four ladies were amongst the sixteen campers at the Christmas Camp at Cudham in 1909. District Associations were instituted in 1907 with the Birmingham District Association leading the way. Official campsites were created for members- 15 in 1906 of which Weybridge was the first. These had increased to 204 by 1910. One of the most popular of club meets, the Club Feast of Lanterns, was first held in Dorking in 1921. Members of the Caravan Club decorated their caravans with hand-made lanterns.

Suggested layout for an A frame tent as specified by the Amateur Camping Club in 1910

‘Ready for occupation’- Suggested layout for an A frame tent, complete with steaming kettle. Amateur Camping Club, 1910

Enamel badge with gilt surround given to new members as a goodwill gesture. 1950-1964

Enamel badge with gilt surround given to new members as a goodwill gesture. Also for presentation to friends as souvenirs. 1950-1964

The Camping Union dissolved amicably in 1909 with the Caravan Club going their own way and the remaining organisations amalgamating and extending their scope to include the needs of pedestrians, pony campers, cyclists, motor-cyclists, motor, caravan, canoeists and boat campers. The new ‘Amateur Camping Club’ was amongst the earliest of organisations formed for all members to enjoy convivial group camping activity. Membership fees were five shillings per annum. The club incorporated the Association of Cycle Campers, the Camping Club and, later, in 1910, the National Camping Club (also formed by Holding). By happy coincidence, the initials of the new association- A.C.C. were already widely known from the predecessor organisation. The Amateur Camping Club was aimed at what they termed ‘light camping’, though the equipment available at the time was no doubt considerably heftier than much available today. In 1910, one member introduced the use of a hand-cart for carrying the necessary camping equipment for him and his family of five that included three small children.

A rare survivor, A.C.C. flag that once fluttered gaily from the apex of a club members tent

A rare survivor, A.C.C. flag, or pennant, that once fluttered gaily from the apex of a club members tent

Ogden's Cigarettes. No. 2 of a series of 50 showing various club badges.

Ogden’s Cigarettes. Number 2 of a series of 50 cards showing various club badges. c1914

An Ogden’s Cigarette Card series of club badges included the official badge of the Amateur Camping Club in its selection. Also shown on this card is the first ACC Club Pennon, which measured 7 ½” x 13”, the letters A.C.C. were white on a green background with a ‘rosy’ red’ background. The club’s handbook instructed members that- “the cost and weight are very small, and it should always be used, as it adds to the appearance of the tent”. I doubt many campers today are adorning their tent with a flag fluttering in the breeze.

Captain Robert Falcon Scott was President of the Amateur Camping Club from 1909. He took the club pennon with him on his ill-fated journey to the South Pole. Following his death during his return from the pole in January 1912, he was still being recorded as Club President in 1914, news of his death only having reached England the previous year. In 1919 there were 755 members of the club.

“a ready made camping outfit is a delusion and a snare”

Enamel club badge of The Camping Club-North Warwickshire District Association,1970

Enamel club badge of The Camping Club-North Warwickshire District Association,1970

The club has always sought to aid not only well established long term members but also advise and welcome people new to the experience of camping. For many years the club stocked just about any piece of kit that the budding camper could wish for. Guides to camping, site lists and general information were regularly published. The Know the Game guide at the head of this post was approved by The Girl Guides Association and, if basic in its limited reach, was nonetheless authoritative, concentrating on safety, comfort, camp hygiene and ‘country manners’.

“choose your camping companions with care”

Three Points of the Compass has pitched up on many a Camping and Caravanning Club site. Perhaps looking a little incongruous amongst the plethora of caravans, and the subject of avid curiousity, I have always been met with friendliness and found the welcome facilities excellent

Three Points of the Compass has pitched up on many a Camping and Caravanning Club site on longer hikes. A lightweight backpacker’s setup can look somewhat incongruous amongst the plethora of caravans, and often the subject of avid curiosity. I have always been met with friendliness and invariably found the welcome facilities excellent

Youth Camping Association. post 1941

Enamel badge for the Youth Camping Association, sponsored by the Camping Club in 1941

Various other name changes to the club took place over the years. While the larger tents and caravans are a prominent sight at the club sites today, the club has not forgotten its roots. Revisiting its original 1901 incarnation, in 1944 the Association of Cycle Campers was reformed as a specialised section of the main club. In 1965 this changed to the Association of Cycle and Lightweight Campers and, finally, in 1984, to the Association of Lightweight Campers.- “a special interest section of the Camping and Caravanning Club …. no-fuss camping by cycle, foot or any type of powered transport”

Specialised sub-sections of the club have been created over the years. Cycling, canoeing, mountaineering, folk dance and song were all represented amongst others. There are now nine specialised section. The Boating Group is also affiliated to the Royal Yachting Association.

“don’t expect the use of the whole farm for the sum of sixpence per night”

Enamel badge for The Camping and Caravanning Club, post 1983

Enamel badge for The Camping and Caravanning Club, post-1983

The caravan section was formed in 1933 and ever increasing numbers of current members are now caravanners. Reflecting this change in emphasis, the parent organisation changed its name to The Camping and Caravanning Club in 1983. The club member’s badge changed in its design and name to reflect this change in emphasis. Yet another enamel badge was made available for members to purchase. Today, some forty per cent of the membership choose touring caravans though one in four of those who own a caravan also own a tent.

The Club Badge

“its use is recommended to enable members to recognise their fellows in the sport, and as a passport when camping on an official site. Its cost and weight are small”

Club Handbook, 1914

Enamel badge for members of the Motor Caravan Section of the Camping Club

Pre-1983 enamel badge for members of the Motor Caravan Section of the Camping Club

Enamel badge for members of the Motor Caravan Section, this badge reflects the change in name of the Camping and Caravanning Club

Enamel badge for members of the Motor Caravan Section, this badge reflects the 1983 change in name of the Camping and Caravanning Club

The caravan section continued to evolve, not only at last reflecting the changes in propulsion from horsepower to internal combustion but also the growing preference for self-contained and motorised recreational units and a Motor Caravan Section was formed in 1962. An annual meet for members of the sub-group is held. 2022 will see their sixtieth anniversary.

“the best position for a lady to adopt in a tent whilst dressing her hair, is kneeling. There is no difficulty then. If nobody is about, go outside”

Enamel badge for members of the Trailer Tent Group- a sub-sction of the Camping and Caravanning Club of Great Britain & Ireland

Enamel badge for members of the Trailer Tent Group- a sub-section of the Camping and Caravanning Club of Great Britain & Ireland

Enamel badge for members of The Camping and Caravanning Club, with 25 Years membership, post 1983

Enamel badge for members of The Camping and Caravanning Club, with 25 Years membership, post-1983. Continuous veteran membership was signified differently

Another sub-section was formed in 1967 with the creation of the Trailer Tent Group, the same year that the club held their first Canadian tour.

“re kit:- boil it down”

The club never abandoned backpackers however. Beside welcoming them to the great majority of sites, specific backpacking facilities have also been provided at a handful of locations.

A new style badge for the 21st century

A new style badge for Veteran members was introduced in the 21st century and levelled the prominence of tent and caravan

The Lake District’s Windermere site, Milarrochy Bay on Loch Lomond and the Hayfield site in the Peak District, provide campers with food preparation areas, indoor and outdoor seating, vented lockers, boot cleaning facilities, bicycle stands and electric points. The latter always appreciated by power starved hikers.

“don’t boast about the set of your flysheet if your tent is full of wrinkles”

Enamel badge for the camping club youth section. This is aimed at young people between the ages of 12-17

Enamel badge for the camping club youth section. This section is aimed at young people between the ages of 12-17

“To encourage in young people, particularly those of limited means, a pioneer spirit of adventure, and self reliance and closer contact with nature and the countryside by the practice of camping”

Following on from the Youth Camping Association formed by the club in 1941, a Camping Club Youth section was created to encourage younger campers and this has remained a focus of the club throughout its existence.

Suggested light kit for one, 1910

  • single tent with guys, slides and pegs
  • poles and pennon
  • single groundsheet of proofed material
  • eiderdown, with valance to tuck under body
  • ‘sirram’ saucepan-kettle stove, windscreen and spirit can
  • matches
  • small aluminium frypan
  • single canvas bucket
  • cup, plate, spoon, fork and knife
  • aluminium condiment box
  • three [proofed bags for bread, oatmeal and tea
  • down pillow
  • string bags, straps and basket

should not weigh more than 9 1/2 lbs.

“if the weather be fine and warm, there is nothing better in life than to lean over the parapet of the bridge and watch the weeds and the quick fishes”

Camping Club Recruiter. Pre 1983

Acrylic badge for Camping Club Recruiter, pre-1983

Acrylic badge for Camping & Caravanning Club Recruiter, post 1983

Acrylic badge for Camping & Caravanning Club Recruiter, post-1983

Acrylic ‘recruiter’ badges were earned by recommending another individual for new membership of the club- ‘friends recommendation’. These were cheaper produced badges than the much loved enamel badges of yore. Again, a slight change in design was introduced following the 1983 re-branding exercise. Recruiters may be doing quite well, for today, there are over 720,000 club members.

“if you snore, have a separate pitch”

'Veteran's' badge, signifying longstanding continuous membership of the Camping and Caravanning Club

‘Veteran’s’ enamel badge, awarded post-1983 to those who had achieved 25 years continuous membership of the Club

'Veteran's' enamel badge, signifying longstanding continuous membership of the Camping and Caravanning Club

‘Veteran’s’ enamel badge, signifying 25 years continuous membership of the Camping Club. Pre-1983

Club members who had completed 25 consecutive years of membership, and were eligible for state pension, could claim Veteran Membership of the Club. This gave a much reduced membership fee. This has caused vexation amongst members who have racked up considerable years of membership but may have taken a break of a year or two due to circumstances.

On the centenary of their creation, the Camping and Caravanning Club released a large button badge for their annual 'National Camping Week'

In 2001, the centenary of their creation, the Camping and Caravanning Club released a large button badge for their first annual ‘National Camping Week’

In 2019 Three Points of the Compass was completing a hike on the Cleveland Way around the North York Moors and coastline and was drawing close to the nights halt. After a windswept and wet day, I was damp, hungry and looking forward to my booked pitch on the Scarborough Camping and Caravanning site. I knew a hot shower and pristine pitch awaited. I needed to properly rest and recuperate prior to setting off on a further fifty miles across the Tabular Hills. I walked through ranks of caravans and motor units, not a tent in sight anywhere beyond a few awnings. The receptionist apologised and said he wanted to amend my booking, I sighed inwardly and wondered what was coming- “I can give you a special backpacker rate, I’m just refunding your account“. I was soon tucked away on a secluded part of the large site and given exclusive use of a family shower block. Result!

“an old campaigner is known for the simplicity and fitness of his equipment”

This, and other quotes in bold above, are ‘hints and tips’ from-

The Handbook of the Amateur Camping Club, 1914

Arrivals leaflet, Scarborough Camping and Caravanning site, 2019

Arrivals leaflet, Scarborough Camping and Caravanning site, 2019

Quality metal and acrylic badge for Camping & Caravanning Club Recruiter, post-1983

Quality metal and acrylic lapel badge for Camping & Caravanning Club Recruiter, post-1983

On hikes still to come, Three Points of the Compass looks forward to the occasional break from wild-camping and will often enjoy nights on the well-appointed sites run by the club, assured of good facilities and a great welcome.

Current metal badge for The Camping and Caravanning Club

Post 2001 metal badge for ‘The Friendly Club’

Three Points of the Compass may stick out a little with his lightweight tent amongst the motor-homes, modern caravans and frame tents, but The Camping and Caravanning Club with its many thousands of loyal members really does remain ‘The Friendly Club‘.

In 2001 The Camping Club celebrated its centenary. A second commemorative plaque was placed beside the first plaque shown at the head of this post

In 2001 The Camping and Caravanning Club celebrated its centenary. This second commemorative plaque was placed beside the first plaque shown at the head of this post

There is a timeline of many of the most important or influential UK outdoor organisations on my main website. I will be covering a number of these later in the year. Do have a glance at the list and see where today’s organisations fit in, you may even be able to suggest a glaring omission to the list!

Looking at small light pen options

Gear talk: A few grams here, a few grams there… in search of the perfect pen- again!

 

Three Points of the Compass implores anyone venturing out on to a significant hike over multiple days to document it. If only for your own use. Scribbled notes, how you feel, the people you meet, weather, the sweat on a climb, the shivers on a ridge, the ache in the feet. Anything. Believe me, in the years to come you will read those scribbled notes and many of those recorded moments will come flooding back. That said- you need something to write on and something to write with.

Fisher Stowaway Space pen in the hand

Fisher Stowaway Space pen in the hand

While I still ring the changes on which notebook I take with me on a hike. In 2015 I thought I had found my solution as regards a pen. The Fisher Stowaway was a great, lightweight little solution with a huge ink reservoir. My only issue with it was the cost. It is not outrageously expensive but not a cost I want to be shelling out too frequently. I am not one for losing things on trail, I am pretty careful and methodical. However, when I undertook a five-month hike in 2018 I lost only one item of gear the whole trip. That was my Fisher Stowaway pen, twice. I took a couple of zero days a thousand miles in to my hike, exploring the beautiful city of Chester with just a notebook and pen, the latter came adrift somewhere. I cursed and ordered another to be picked up later in the hike. A hundred miles after receiving that one, I lost it again. I won’t buy another. They are too pricey to keep replacing. This rankles with me and strange as it may seem to those who do not fret over such things, I was determined to find the solution.

Roaming the streets of Chester on a rest day, I walked unencumbered by pack and simply carried a notebook and pen. The latter was lost. The only piece of kit lost on a two thousand mile

Roaming the streets of Chester on a rest day, I walked unencumbered by pack and simply carried a notebook and pen. The latter was lost. The only piece of kit lost on a two thousand mile hike

Over the last couple of months I have been looking again at what lightweight, reliable options there are, pen-wise, for use on trail. I could simply use a nasty little throwaway bic pen, which have broken, smudged or leaked on me too many times, or a pencil. I have many great little mechanical pencils and one of the terrific Koh-i-Noor options would be fine, but it is a pen I am after.

17.3g Victorinox Scribe, with pen extended

17.3g Victorinox Scribe, with pen extended

I wasn’t exhaustive in my investigations by any means. Three Points of the Compass is a big fan of the 58mm series of knives produced by Victorinox over the years and I first considered whether to rely exclusively on one of the Swiss Army Knives that include a pen in their toolset, or even just the pen, removed from the scales, as my main writing implement.

Victorinox Scribe with minuscule pen removed

Victorinox Scribe with minuscule 0.8g pen removed

I frequently carry a 32,5g Midnite Manager from Victorinox on day hikes or of a few days, and they are great for keeping notes then; piggy-backing on the back of other tools I want with me such as blade and scissors. But the ink reservoir is tiny. It will never last the thickness of a moderate notebook. There are a number of 58mm Victorinox knives with pens, mostly in the Signature and Manager series. Probably the lightest of 58mm SAK with a pen is the Victorinox Scribe. Because it eshews scissors, only sporting a small blade, nailfile with screwdriver tip and tweezers (or toothpick) accompanying the retractable pen. This little knife comes in at just 17.3g. It is actually quite comfortable in the hand to write with. By opening the nailfile, it rests in the hand well.

Victorinox Scribe, a very basic toolset that includes a small pen

Victorinox Scribe, a very basic toolset that includes a small pen

Pen from Victorinox SwissCard

Pen from Victorinox SwissCard, this larger option from Victorinox weighs 1.2g

The pens in the 91mm range of knives and SwissCards are longer but still just as thin. There is a larger amount of ink in these but really not a great deal. If using just the Victorinox pen removed from the knife, they are great for just a few scribbled notes but I find them, quite literally, a pain to use for any extended time as their narrow width makes them uncomfortable to hold for longer note taking sessions- the end of a day write-up for example. All of these are pens are pressurised though and write quite well. Which is why I actually include one of the smaller 0.8g spare pens in my ditty bag. If I lose (again) my main pen, or it goes dry on me, I think a less than one gram spare is acceptable if probably superfluous addition. Do note that the Victorinox pens only come with blue ink, always have and it looks like they always will. I prefer black ink and blue is always going to remain a less favoured option for me.

The Victorinox 2019 SwissCard Swiss Spirit comes with a handy set of tools that includes a pen

The 26.8g Victorinox 2019 SwissCard Swiss Spirit comes with a handy set of tools that includes a pen

The True Utility telescopic pen is a lovely robust piece of kit, but the ink reservoir in the pen is tiny

The True Utility telescopic pen is a lovely robust piece of kit, but the ink reservoir in the pen is tiny. One of the replacement refills is shown next to the pen

I then looked at the most minimalist pens I could find. I keep a True Utility telescopic pen on my keyring. Reasonably priced, great for note-taking but surprisingly heavy. Now 8.2g may not sound a great deal but containing such a tiny ink reservoir, I do not think this great keychain pen is suited to backpacking.

True, it does telescope out to a decent length, but the slippery tapering barrel is not particularly comfortable to write with for longer periods. Also that cap in which it is posted, if not attached to anything it is very easy to mislay. I had the same problem with the Inka pens I used to use while backpacking a decade ago. A pen to keep confined to my Every Day Carry I believe.

Even if not suited to backpacking, the True Utility telescopic pen makes a great EDC item, here on my keychain next to a cut down Blackwing 602 pencil

Even if not suited to backpacking, the True Utility telescopic pen makes a great EDC item, here on my keychain next to a cut down Blackwing 602 pencil

The Ohto Minimo is probably the smallest retractable ball point pen on the market

The Ohto Minimo is probably the smallest retractable ball point pen on the market

Ohto Minimo pen

2.7g Ohto Minimo pen

Next up was the cheap-n-cheerful, aptly named, Ohto Minimo ball point pen. This has a 0.5mm line width, is tiny and also comes with a thin little plastic card with pen sleeve that can be slotted into or stuck to just about anything. The clear plastic card is a little larger than most western business cards or credit cards so needs to be trimmed before it will fit a wallet. The work of just a few seconds with a pair of scissors. Refills for the pen are easily available but as the body of this pen is only 3.7mm thick, I again found it too thin to write with for extended periods. It’s weight though is incredible- less than 3g!

I wasn’t getting far in my meagre examination of miniscule pens. Rather than splash out on yet another, I decided to review where I was. I want a lightweight pen, I want black ink, I want reliability, I want affordability and I want it to last a reasonable write length. This all bought me back to my original Fisher Spacepen. Fisher do a pretty good range of pens but it was only the minimalist Stowaway that was ticking all the boxes. How about simply using a refill, by itself? The large ink capacity means that the body is thicker than the tiny little pens I had been looking at. I experimented for a couple of weeks using one to write with every day at work and home but still found the body too slim and a pain to hold for any length of time. Also the smooth body meant it would slip in my grip meaning I had to grasp it more tightly, making it more uncomfortable for extended periods.

Fisher Spacepen refills are easily available, in different ink colours and line thickness

Fisher Spacepen refills are easily available, in different ink colours and line thickness

Fisher Spacepen refill with shrinkwrap sleeve

Fisher Spacepen refill with shrink-wrap sleeve- weight: 3.7g

Some time ago I bought some electricians shrink tubing for wrapping the tops of my shepherds hook tent stakes, the bright red colour increasing visibility in long grass. What if I tried shrinking some of this around the refill body? Five minutes later I had my answer- result! It is easy to do this, cut a length of shrink-wrap, slide over the pen and gently run a hairdryer over it while turning the pen.

The pen is now very slightly wider-  some 6.5mm.  And doesn’t slip in my grip. I originally tried shrinking a length along the whole body, while this worked, I wondered if I could shave off another gram by trimming it to the essential.

Reducing the amount of shrinkwrap on the Fisher refill makes very little difference to the end-weight

Reducing the amount of shrink-wrap on the Fisher refill makes very little difference to the end-weight, this weighs 3.6g

A bare and unencumbered Fisher Spacepen refill weighs 3.4g, shrink-wrapping its length increases this to 3.7g, shortening the shrink-wrapping to a minimum had the negligible effect of reducing it to 3.6g, so barely worth it.

At least for the foreseeable future, that is it for me. For multi-day hikes I have a reliable pen at a decent weight that I can write with for reasonably extended periods though it shall never be as comfortable as a ‘proper’ barrelled pen. In addition, cos I’m a belt’n’braces guy, I have a little Victorinox refill in my ditty bag. For shorter hikes I can favour one of the Victorinox knife options that includes a pen, or if carrying a knife other than a Victorinox (it has been known), take one of the Victorinox pen refills.

It is of course possible to keep a recorded account of a hike on your phone- either as film, audio or in digital note form. However there is genuinely something tactile and pleasant in a dog eared, stained notebook, complete with bits stuffed into the flaps and hurried notes on bus and train times, who it is you have to meet when, resupply lists and phone numbers. I ask, write it down rather than relying on the digital- analogue rules in this format.

A range of lightweight pen options for backpacking

A range of lightweight pen options for backpacking

Opisometer in case stamped Edward Stanford Charing Cross

Map measurer of the month- Stanford’s opisometer

 

Bone handled opisometer with finely turned finial

Bone handled opisometer with finely turned finial

An opisometer is a curious instrument. As soon as you handle one it is pretty obvious how it works. A handle, in this case made of bone, probably from a cow, with a small milled wheel that turns easily on a supported fine thread. There is also a small metal pointer to aid in locating whatever it is you are measuring.

An opisometer is easy to use with irregular lines on a map or drawing

An opisometer is easy to use with irregular lines on a map or drawing

What is essential is a scale to read off against once a line has been precisely tracked. You wind the wheel to one end of the thread, then wheel it along a line on a map, or along any distance you are measuring, then turn the wheel backwards against a known scale. With maps, the scale usually appears at the bottom. Simple to use and effective. Opisometers are still made today but seldom for use with maps, more as an aid in the medical or surveying worlds.

Stanfords Opisometer in small leather carry case

Stanfords opisometer in small leather carry case

Opisometer advertised in a 'Dictionary of British Scientific Instruments', by the British Optical Instrument Manufacturers' Association. 1921

Opisometer advertised in a ‘Dictionary of British Scientific Instruments’, by the British Optical Instrument Manufacturers’ Association. 1921

Having first stated as an employee of Trelawney Saunders at 26-27 Cockspur Street, Charing Cross, London in 1848, Edward Stanford became a partner in 1852. This business relationship never lasted the year however and Stanford became sole proprietor in 1853, expanding his shop, that sold maps and charts, to 7-8 Charing Cross. The business further expanded and a printing works in nearby Trinity Place was purchased. Stanfords became the map maker and seller in London. Now situated at 7 Mercer Walk, Covent Garden, they still enjoy an enviable reputation to this day supplying maps for countless expeditions across the globe.

As well as maps and charts, Stanfords sold many accessories including map measurers. The opisometer shown here is unlikely to have actually been made by Stanfords. It was likely supplied to them by a manufacturer of fine mathematical or surveying instruments. It is difficult to date, certainly they were being sold in the 1870s and the example shown probably dates from around then, but examples were still available for purchase for much of the first half of the twentieth century. Though an all metal construction became more in favour at the turn of the century.

The opisometer is pretty generic in design. Other sellers of surveying and mathematical equipment would also have stocked these, each seller having their own address stamped onto the bespoke leather case that held these quite delicate instruments. The Stanford example is quite small when compared against others that were available. It measures just 97mm (3 13/16″) in length. The turned and pointed finial on the end of the bone handle shows that this is an English made instrument as each country had their own particular design. It will measure a line 958mm (37 3/4″), so over a yard/almost a metre, which is quite remarkable for such a small instrument.

Small Stanfords opisometer (top) with larger opisometer supplied by Elliott Brothers who were making these instruments in the late nineteenth century

Small Stanford’s opisometer (top) with larger similar opisometer supplied by Elliott Brothers who were making these instruments in the late nineteenth century. The bottom example dates between 1853-1873

 

74mm Ambassador shown against the handy little 58mm Classic SD carried on my work keys

Knife chat: Victorinox Classic too small- how about the Ambassador?

The Victorinox Classic is well named, it is exactly that- a classic. Reputed to be the most purchased knife in history, it combines the trinity of most useful tools. Blade, scissors and nail file. If you have the SD version of the Classic, then you also enjoy the handy little 2.5mm flat ScrewDriver tip to the nailfile instead of the nail cleaner. Away from the lovely thin Alox scaled versions, the more usual Cellidor scaled Classics also come with tweezers and toothpick.

Just 58mm in length and around 21g, the Classic is small, light and ideal for hiking. So useful is it that I EDC a little white scaled Classic SD, given to me as a present, on my work keys. This will handle most day-to-day tasks. However, Three Points of the Compass feels that there are other 58mm Victorinox knives that offer greater functionality with very little weight penalty.

Victorinox's 74mm Ambassador with the 'holy trinity' of tools shown- scissors, blade and nailfile

Victorinox’s 74mm Ambassador with the ‘holy trinity’ of tools shown- scissors, blade and nailfile

Looking beyond the little 58mm knives, some might feel that it would be even handier to have just a little larger blade, and just a little larger pair of scissors. If that is you, then Victorinox have you covered with the Ambassador. Shown above, this knife is from the, very limited in range, single layer 74mm models that Victorinox have released.

Blades of 58mm Classic and 74mm Ambassador compared. For just a little longer knife you get a lot more capable blade

Blades of 58mm Classic and 74mm Ambassador compared. For just a little longer knife you get a lot more capable blade

Surprisingly, the nailfile on the Ambassador is smaller than that on the Classic, though it is still a capable tool

Surprisingly, the nailfile on the Ambassador is smaller than that on the Classic, though it is still a capable tool

Found with or without a keyring, the Ambassador doesn’t have the wide range of variants that the Classic has offered. I don’t really know why there aren’t just a few similar alternatives. Is a pen provided as with the Signature, or a little LED light in the scale as with the Swiss Lite? Sorry, no. There is a fairly uncommon alox scaled version called the Lady Victoria and that is about it.

The Ambassador is a little longer than the Classic when closed, 74mm instead of 58mm, and a little heavier- mine weighs 34.6g. For that you get a knife that is more comfortable in the hand, particularly for those with larger hands. It is also quite a thin knife, just 9.5mm. More importantly, the drop point blade now provides 46mm of cutting length over the Classic’s 33mm. The scissors are noticeably beefier than those found on it’s baby cousin too, though still small. The scissors on the Ambassador have cutting blades around fifty per cent longer. Scale tweezers and toothpick are the same in both knives and are interchangeable. Perhaps surprisingly the nailfile on the Ambassador is actually smaller than that on the Classic. It only comes with a nail cleaner tip, there is no SD version. But the nail cleaner tip will handle many little Phillips screws.

74mm Ambassador from the first collector's series. Toothpick and handy tweezers removed from scales

74mm Ambassador from the first collector’s series. Toothpick and handy tweezers removed from scales

Victorinox have released limited edition sets of the Ambassador with special scales, though nowhere near as many as the Classic has come with. My example shown here, with yellow and purple abstract pattern on one of the white scales, comes from the first Ambassador collection released. Beside the coloured scales of the various collections, the scarce RocKnife series released from 1988 are heavier on trail (having actual stone scales) and deliver no additional functionality, they don’t even have the scale tools, though they are pretty.

74mm Victorinox Ambassador

74mm Victorinox Ambassador

Victorinox Ambassador specifications:

  • Length: 74mm, width: 21mm, thickness: 9.5mm
  • Weight: 34.6g
  • Pen blade
  • Nail file with nail cleaner tip
  • Scissors
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers
  • Some models also feature a keyring

The Victorinox Ambassador doesn’t get a lot of attention, but if you feel a Classic isn’t quite large enough for your backpacking adventures, or even your EDC, but you still like the simple toolset, then why not have a glance at this very slightly larger offering. It may be just what you are looking for.

74mm Ambassador

The scissors on the Ambassador are beefier and a vast improvement on the useful but much smaller scissors on the Classic

Three Points of the Compass has looked at quite a few knives and multi-tools that may, or may not, be suitable for backpacking, day treks or Every Day Carry. Links to these can be found here.