Foot care for the hiker is all important. Part of that regime is ensuring that toenails are kept trimmed. If you don’t- bruising, split nails, ingrown nails, lost nails, blisters, fungal issues, pain and holed socks can result. Potentially enough to end a hike.
Most hikers can simply give a bit of a trim and a file to nails at home prior to setting off on an adventure. In fact it should form part of the final ‘tick list’ before leaving home. However, some hikers are fortunate enough to occasionally enjoy a multi-week excursion. During a hike of that duration, nails will grow and have to be kept in check otherwise problems can arise. Three Points of the Compass does occasionally embark on a trip greater than six days, and this can include a fortnights holiday overseas when hiking could be undertaken at any point, I have always felt it wise to pack along a small pair of nail clippers.
Three Points of the Compass had a glance at the Victorinox SwissCard Nail Care previously, I concluded that particular SwissCard was mostly unsuitable for use on trail. The scissors included on most Swiss Cards are pretty good however a better alternative is covered below.
It may be possible to purchase a pair of cheap clippers in a pharmacy if required, or perhaps borrow a pair from a fellow hiker/traveller, however you can be assured that any opportunity to borrow clippers is rarely going to be available when necessary. Others may happily cut nails with a pair of scissors but I find that a dedicated pair of clippers is both easier to use and does a better, neater, and therefore safer, job.
As usual, there are various offerings from Swiss manufacturer Victorinox that have your back on this one. There are always alternatives to theirs, but good efficient clippers are rarely also lightweight. Pop yours on to a digital scale and see what they are. All of the clippers looked at here are French Style. None are Post clippers. French style are more widely available in a format that suits backpacking, being less bulky and lighter overall. Whereas a good carbon steel would be preferable for prolonging sharpness of the cutting edges, I have never found any French Style clippers that are light enough to consider. All of the products shown here are made from good quality stainless steel.
Wenger Swiss Clipper
Wenger were one of the two companies that manufactured knives for the Swiss army. They advertised themselves as makers of the “Genuine Swiss Army Knife”. One of the resulting actions after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks when four passenger aircraft were hijacked, was the clamping down on both the sale and carrying of knives. Wenger, who relied on large sales of their products in airports could not survive the drop in sales and in 2005 were acquired by Swiss rival Victorinox, the makers of the “Original Swiss Army Knife”.
Many of the Wenger range of knives were retained by Victorinox and reissued under the “Delémont collection” brand, tools being manufactured in the Delémont valley in the Canton of Jura, Switzerland. The Wenger Swiss Clippers were built around the long-standing ‘Esquire’ tool and was one of those models subsequently available for purchase following the takeover. All of the Swiss Clippers came with ergonomic ‘EVO’ synthetic scales, moulded for easy grip. Various colours were available, the example shown here is translucent Ice Blue.
As well as a pair of folding nail clippers, the tools are small pen blade, nail file with nail cleaner tip (that will also tackle small Phillips screws) and scissors. The scales also contain tweezers and toothpick.
The frame of the Wenger Esquire is 65mm compared to the rival Victorinox Classic which is 58mm. The Swiss Clipper retains the slightly longer size of the Esquire. This means a slightly larger pen blade and scissors than those found in the smaller Classic. The scissors in the Swiss Clipper are not only larger, but are also serrated and ‘self sharpening’. Scissors have a lever type back spring, unlike the Victorinox which usually incorporate a small spring. The small springs on Victorinox knives are known to occasionally break or come adrift but replacements are easily obtainable.
The Swiss Clipper nail clippers work well however the main problem with this tool is its bulk. Only 65mm long and 19mm wide, it is 19.80mm thick, whereas the simpler Esquire, with no clippers, is only 9.40mm thick. Quite an increase in bulk for the addition of one tool that is going to be used very infrequently on trail.
The scale tools on the Victorinox and Wenger tools are rarely used by Three Points of the Compass. I loathe the toothpicks, feeling that the manky bacteria subsequently harboured in its scale slot thoroughly off-putting. As for the tweezers, fine that they are, there are far better options. But if these are the only tweezers you have, then that is it. The 40mm long toothpick and tweezers on the Wenger tool are 5mm shorter than those on the Victorinox equivalents.
Victorinox Nail Clip 580
With the Nail Clip 580 Victorinox bought the Wenger nail clipper in house and under its own name. However it has retained many of the Wenger features and it retains the Delémont branding. It is still housed in a 65mm frame, albeit now with slightly thinner smooth cellidor scales, with a subsequent change to the longer Victorinox tweezers and toothpick. Both toothpick and tweezers are 45mm long. From 2019 a small range of scale colours were available- these include standard red cellidor scales, transparent red (shown here), white, black, blue, pink, edelweiss and camouflage. This reflected the fact that it had become one of the bigger sellers from the Victorinox range.
The scissors remain exactly the same as those found on the Swiss Clipper, as does the nail file with nail cleaner tip. The file surface measures 27m x 6mm and is akin to a match strike surface that works on smoothing nails just fine. The nail clipper itself has been refined, there is a slight design change but folding/unfolding, operation and performance remain unchanged.
As a result of a change to thinner scales, the Nail Clip 580 is just a tad thinner than the Wenger Swiss Clipper, only by a little more than a millimetre but it is still noticeable. For all that, it is still bulky in the hand when closed. In common with the Wenger there is a keyring fitted but it would add some heft to a bunch of keys. Weight is only a gram less than the Wenger.
While this is a handy tool for the backpacker, and there are potentially better options covered later, this little aid to manicure, combined with a modicum of basic tools, is possibly more suited to an urban commuter. The clippers are small, inoffensive but ready to pull into use at a moments notice.
Comparing the spear point stainless steel blade on the 65mm tools with their smaller 58mm cousins it is only too apparent how much more useful the, admittedly still small, 65mm blades are. The larger blades are 47mm with a cutting edge of 39mm, compared to the cutting edge of 34mm on the 58mm Victorinox Rambler shown here.
Scissors on the Nail Clip are larger, have the better main back spring and are ‘self-sharpening’ serrated whereas the 58mm Victorinox knives have traditional straight cutting edges that require an occasional touch up.
The nail clippers on the the Victorinox 580 have a curved 9mm cut, the same as those found on the Wenger Swiss Clipper and Victorinox 582 covered below. This is fairly narrow and a couple of extra nips will usually be required on wider nails but that is no hardship. Clipper cutting tips are aligned and meet well, but all those mentioned here have the same degree of accurate machining and manufacture. There is also a really attractive wooden scaled version of the 580. This is the Nail Clip Wood 580, all folding tools are exactly the same, kept inside sculpted Swiss walnut ‘Evolution’ scales. In common with all walnut scales on Victorinox knives, these do not include slots for tweezers or toothpick.
The Victorinox Nail Clip 580 is a handy little aid to manicure needs. Victorinox also took this model a couple of steps further and provided the user with two additional options- Either keep the folding clipper within the scales, with scale tools, but lose all the other tools, or lose everything else and simply have the clipper itself, with no scales.
Victorinox Nail Clip 582
The Nail Clip 582 does away with the scissors, blade and nailfile and is simply a folding nail clipper within red cellidor scales (the only colour option), together with scale stowed toothpick and tweezers of the Victorinox variety. This means that this is a tool that supposedly is airline friendly and there should be little chance of it being confiscated. Dropping the other tools also means that the weight is reduced by some 10g but its overall usefulness is very much reduced too.
The nail clippers are exactly as those found in the Nail Clip 580, and open, unfold and work just as easily and efficiently. There isn’t a great deal to say about these clippers. They work, are neatly folded when not in use and look like a Swiss Army Knife, but they aren’t.
To now move on to the next clipper option, simply carry and use a pair of clippers totally removed from protective scales. This immediately removes and excludes any accompanying tools and, importantly, reduces weight (and bulk) considerably. Weight decreases anything from a half to a third of the red-scaled alternatives.
Victorinox nail clippers. Model 8.2050.B1
The Victorinox nail clipper, model 8.2050.B1 is simply the nail clipper from the cellidor scaled models 580 and 582, given a plastic cover to the tang. It now becomes a no frills folding clipper with no other features other than a hole in the handle to which a lanyard or keyring can be attached. There is no nail file included with these clippers.
The various exposed crevices does mean that it is susceptible to picking up pocket debris and fluff. However, if it sits in a ditty bag in a pack for the majority of its time then this isn’t a problem. Being without a clip or sheath the clippers can come loose and unclipped if simply hanging from a keyring.
This little clipper is possibly the most suitable lightweight option shown here for longer backpacking excursions. Thoroughly recommended and Three Points of the Compass has adopted it in 2020 for future multi-week hikes. Though to be honest, being so light and small, it will probably continue to sit in my ditty bag on anything longer than a day hike.
The Vic model 8.2050.B1 is currently in the process of usurping my previous favourite, the Victorinox model 8.2055.CB shown below. While both are equally as efficient at clipping nails, the next model shown, the 8.2055.CB, provides just a couple of additional functions beyond simple clippers.
Victorinox nail clipper. Model 8.2055.CB
In common with the Victorinox Nail Clip 582 and simpler red handled clipper above, this stainless steel model eshews the addition of any other major tools but does include a nail file. The file also has a 2.5mm flat tip to it that is advertised as a ‘flat screwdriver’ but would have benefited from being a nail cleaner tip instead. I have used the small screwdriver on the odd occasion but it suffers from being both slightly rounded and too large for the minute screws on my glasses. It really isn’t a very effective screwdriver so consequently is a tool that I can easily live without. The nail file is handy though, particularly as it is immediately to hand when clipping nails.
The nail file surface on the model 8.2055.CB is not aggressive but still effective. The size of this is pretty good too- measuring ≈ 28mm x 12mm. However the added nail file is a luxury as I am normally packing along a small knife or multi-tool (normally a 58mm Victorinox or a Leatherman Squirt S4 keychain tool) and both of these come equipped with nail file. There is a small ring for a keyring permanently attached to the nail clippers but I have never used this, anymore than I have used the pleather slip case it comes with. This model is also available from Victorinox supplied with a decent sized keyring (model: 8.2055.C), if you want that feature, take care when ordering to ensure you get the right one. Other than the key ring there is no difference in the clippers themselves.
You will see in the image below that I have the clippers inverted in use. I have found that they are easier to manipulate in this manner, preventing your thumb from sliding down the narrower and slippery lever.
Three Points of the Compass has carried the little folding stainless model 8.2055.CB clippers from Victorinox on the majority of longer hikes for the past five years and they have never failed me. Prior to this I was using the Zwilling J. A. Henckels Pour Homme ultra slim nail clippers (covered next). Despite the lighter weight of the Zwilling clippers I eventually decided that I preferred the easier to use Victorinox model 8.2055.CB so switched.
It is not all Victorinox obviously. There are lightweight options from other manufacturers. Sadly these are frequently not that lightweight and some suffer terribly in build quality, hence my having preferred to stick with the various Swiss products for so many years. Those shown next are very well made, clip nails well and are of smaller dimensions than others covered here and are still available if a little hard to find. They have their faults though.
Zwilling J. A. Henckels Pour Homme ultra slim nail clippers
Three Points of the Compass blogged on these clippers five years ago. I still stand by everything I said at the time, these are both great clippers, and eye wateringly expensive…
The Zwilling J. A. Henckels Pour Homme ultra slim nail clippers have an astonishingly thin profile, only 4mm when folded. This is made possibly by their incorporating a sliding cam mechanism to operate them. It is this that I eventually decided made them too awkward for use on toe nails. Scrabbling around on a tent floor, I have often found this hasn’t engaged properly and have to take several attempts to clip the smaller toes. No problem with finger nails. It is one of those minor issues that has to be experienced to appreciate.
Despite the tiny size of these clippers, they still manage to include a nail file, this is beneath the clipper lever/handle. The file surface is quite narrow, measuring just 29mm x 5mm and is not particularly aggressive. It is somewhat hidden away and I find it works well with finger nails but less so with toe nails, being a tad difficult to manipulate. The clippers come with a leather carry pouch as befitting their high-end credentials, however few people are likely to carry the pouch on trail.
Despite their small dimensions, these clippers have the widest cutting curve of any of the clippers shown here. Almost all of the Victorinox offerings are 9mm wide, those from Zwilling are 13mm wide. Shockingly expensive, these clippers are still reasonably effective and small enough to be used on occasion. However I preferred something less fussy for use on trail. Therefore the Zwilling clippers moved into a small ‘Urban Altoids kit’ carried in to London on a daily weekday commute. Here they found their forte, where small size was all important and they get called upon infrequently. I had a closer look at that mini kit here.
|Tool||Length||Width||Thickness (depth)||Weight||Cutting width of clipper|
|Wenger Swiss Clipper||65mm||19mm||19.80mm||37.8g||9mm|
|Victorinox Nail Clip 580
|Victorinox Nail Clip 582
|Victorinox Nail Clippers (red handle)
|Victorinox Nail Clippers (folding, with nail file)
|Zwilling J. A. Henckels Pour Homme ultra slim nail clippers||59mm||13mm||4mm||15.6g||13mm|
As previously mentioned, Three Points of the Compass doesn’t like to rely solely on scissors for nail care, though there are many content to do so. Regardless of use on nails, a pair of small scissors is also always handy for cutting tape, opening packages and ‘Mountain House’ type meals etc. Which is why having a small pair of scissors included on a Victorinox knife or similar multi-tool means these are always to hand. Otherwise, there are plenty of small stand-alone scissor options.
A smaller set of scissors, such as the Westcott fine point scissors shown here will cope with most nails other than those on the toughest and thickest of gnarled big toes. One problem with these is the risk of scissor points puncturing gear whilst stowed in the pack so a thin tube such as a straw or short section of electricians shrink tubing will slide over the closed ends. I often take the little Westcotts in a First Aid Kit on day hikes when I keep the points of the scissors in the centre of a small roll of leucotape.
Three Points of the Compass has carried the little folding stainless clippers from Victorinox on the majority of longer hikes in the past five years. After trying the Zwilling clippers prior to that, I found I much preferred the easier to use Victorinox clippers and switched to them. I have now further refined my multi-week kit and the even simpler Victorinox 8.2050.B1 clippers today sit in my virtual ditty kit in readiness. These, purely coincidentally, have the additional benefit of being the lightest clippers shown here, if not the smallest.
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.