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Knife chat: A ‘memorable’ Victorinox- but what’s the point?

In 2005 a range of little multi-tools was introduced by Victorinox that included a removable memory stick, or flash drive, between the scales. Made to the usual high Swiss quality, they are not a cheap option, but are they of any use on trail?

Common to all of the Victorinox knives that incorporated a thumb drive is the ability to remove it, as here with the first generation Swiss Memory

Common to all of the Victorinox knives that incorporate a thumb drive is the ability to remove it, as here with the first generation Swiss Memory

The Victorinox Swiss Memory was one of the first generation range that featured a removable USB thumb drive, manufactured by Swissbit. The first models released had what would now be regarded as quite modest memory- 64MB, 128MB, 256MB, 512MB, 1GB, 2GB with the first generation, 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, 16GB second generation, 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, 32GB third generation. With the latest generation, in 2020 this increased to 32GB. Some reports mention a 64GB version but that is not listed by Victorinox. In 2012 Victorinox announced the release of a 1TB SSD version but Three Points of the Compass has yet to see this and is doubtful that it came to market. Particularly as estimated unit price was $3000! No doubt memory capacity will continue to increase until Victorinox halt production of these models. Over the intervening years the configurations of these knives has mostly been based around the choice of tools in the scales, between the scales, and the memory stick capacity.

Victorinox Swiss Memory, introduced 2005. This 58mm 33.9g tool includes 512MB first generation USB memory stick, RED led, nailfile with flat Screwdriver tip, smal blade, scissors and retractable pen

Victorinox Swiss Memory, introduced 2005. This 60mm 33.9g tool includes 512MB first generation USB memory stick, red LED, nailfile with flat screwdriver tip, small blade, scissors and retractable pen

The Swiss Memory model expanded on the existing Signature Lite. That knife is one of the most useful small tools that can be carried on trail. It combines a standard Victorinox Classic SD with a retractable pen, as found on the Signature range, with an LED light, as found on the Victorinox ‘SwissLite’ models. Pressing and holding the Victorinox shield on the scale activates the LED light. A replacement CR1025 3V battery weighing 0.6g is held in the scale. Battery type changed on later models. Following the increase in memory size to 1GB and above, the colour of fitted LED was changed to white. Battery life is also reduced with a change in LED colour from red to white. However, by adding a memory drive, the tool now becomes quite a bulky affair despite retaining its short 60mm length. Note that while this knife is part of Victorinox’s 58mm range, there is an extra two millimetres length due to the protruding key ring atached to the plastic rotating housing that ejects the USB thumb drive from the scales.

Swiss Memory features:

  • Dimensions: Length 60mm, Width 17.85mm, thickness 19.40mm
  • 40mm drop point pen blade with 34mm cutting edge
  • Nailfile with 2.5mm flat screwdriver tip
  • Scissors
  • USB thumb drive
  • Red LED (CR1025 3V battery)
  • Retractable blue ink pen
  • Keyring
  • Weight: 33.9g
The 58mm 21.3g Victorinox Jetsetter (model- 0.6263) is an 'airline friendly' tool that excludes a knife blade- the only tools found are scissors, combi-tool, toothpick, tweezers and keyring. An expanded version of this tool can include a thumb drive, then becoming the Jetsetter@work tool

The 58mm 21.3g Victorinox Jetsetter (model- 0.6263) is an ‘airline friendly’ tool that excludes a knife blade- the only tools found are scissors, combi-tool, toothpick, tweezers and keyring. An expanded version of this tool with alox scales can include a thumb drive, this multi-tool then becomes the Jetsetter@work Alox

Victorinox have also released ‘airline friendly’ variants of their ‘knives’ aimed at those flying who have to contend with zealous airport security. The Jetsetter range introduced in 2012 eschewed most bladed tools and concentrated instead on including a small range of other tools, such as screwdrivers, thumb drives, nailfiles, even cuticle pushers! Unfortunately even the scissors included on some Jetsetter models will not pass some security checks. Presumably sales of this range have not been fantastic and some Jetsetter models have been discontinued.

The Victorinox Jetsetter shown here has no flash drive included. It is simply an airline friendly model that shouldn’t be confiscated by security. I see little reason why any backpacker would include such a model amongst backpacking gear on trail. The combination tool is not much use in isolation. The scissors are good and are safely stored, however the flimsy tweezers are barely adequate for most tasks and there are more useful replacements for these. They have too wide tips for small tick removal and flex too easily to grasp obdurate thorns and splinters. Three Points of the Compass holds a persistent dislike of the tweezers found in many Victorinox knives feeling that just about any alternative installed in the scale rather than tweezers is an improvement.

Jetsetter features:

  • Dimensions: Length 58mm, Width 18.58mm, thickness 9.25mm
  • 40mm drop point pen blade with 34mm cutting edge
  • Scissors
  • Combination tool with bottle opener, magnetic Phillips screwdriver and wire stripper
  • Keyring
  • Tweezers
  • Toothpick
  • Weight: 21.3g

After the 2005 introduction of the Swiss Memory, the following year saw the airline friendly ‘Flight‘ range introduced. Again, these included a removable flash drive. These were in turn succeeded by the ‘Victorinox Flash‘ range, since renamed as the ‘...@Work‘ series. The now reduced Jetsetter range of tools (we can’t really call them knives, as no blade is included) also has a variant with a USB drive, called the Victorinox Jetsetter@work Alox. The ‘flight’ models may be of interest to some travellers but few backpackers will be looking at these as a serious gear option unless a separate blade is also being packed along.

Combination tool provides bottle opener, wire stripper and magnetic Phillips screwdriver

Combination tool provides bottle opener, wire stripper and magnetic Phillips screwdriver

Jetsetter@work Alox features:

  • Dimensions: Length 60mm, Width 18.55mm, thickness 11.20mm
  • Scissors
  • Combination tool with bottle opener, magnetic Phillips screwdriver and wire stripper
  • Removable USB stick 3.0 / 3.1 type-C
  • Keyring
  • Alox scales with no integrated tools
  • Weight: 27.1g

So, again, no blade is included on this small and attractive tool making it far less useful for use on trail but it does provide a handy little combination of tools for the air traveller. The combination tool included on this little knife is well thought out but Three Points of the Compass does wonder why a two dimensional Phillips tip isn’t incorporated which would then open this tool up to using with smaller flat slot screws as well. A flat tip variant was originally incorporated but quickly discontinued.

The Jetsetter@work Alox shown here has a 32GB memory and purchase price increased around 10% over the 16GB model as a result of the expansion in memory. Despite being a removable drive, anyone that wanted to take advantage of the increase in memory is forced to buy an entire new tool.

Victorinox Jetsetter@work Alox (model- 4.6261.26G16B1) is a modestly dimensioned 58mm tool that incorporates scissors, combination tool with USB 3.0 / 3.1 type C connectors

Victorinox Jetsetter@work Alox (model- 4.6261.26G16B1) is a modestly dimensioned 60mm tool that incorporates scissors, a combination tool, and a removable USB 3.0 / 3.1 type C memory stick

So why carry a thumb stick or data carrier on trail? It would be possible to transfer photos or film from a phone or camera to these, however there are far smaller options than utilising a USB stick in a Victorinox knife that has had its weight and bulk substantially increased as a result. It can also be useful to carry digital copies of your passport, letters of permission, email threads, addresses and phone numbers, prescriptions, family photos and so on in a format separate from a phone that could be stolen, lost, damaged or drained of power. But again, all of these digital records and documents could just as easily live on a smaller data carrier or memory card.

The Victorinox tools that have included a data stick have had a range of scales over the years. At their simplest has been the slim and attractive Aluminum Oxide, or Alox, scales that have no scale tools. A range of scale colours was available- silver, red, blue, orange, pink and green. Besides a red or white LED, if scale tools were included, these could be retractable and replaceable blue ink pen, a red laser pointer (introduced 2007) and even a bluetooth presentation remote control button. Possibly useful in the office but not a lot of use while backpacking…

Comparison between red and white LEDs in SwissBit and Midnite Manager@work, the red is noticably dim. Also apparant is how development in technology has resulted in a much thinner memory stick in later models permitting the inclusion of an extra layer of tools

Comparison between red and white LEDs in Swiss Memory and Midnite Manager@work, the red LED is noticably dim. Also apparant is how development in technology has resulted in a much thinner memory stick in later models permitting the inclusion of an extra layer of tools

Battery for LED included with Midnite Manager@work can be changed by using a paperclip to push the battery out of the scale. This a 389-SR1130W Silver 1.55v 0%Hg battery

Battery for LED included with Midnite Manager@work can be changed by using a paperclip to push the battery out of the scale. Most recently, this is a 389-SR1130W Silver 1.55v 0%Hg battery

Having replaced the earlier Swiss Memory family in 2008, the Victorinox Flash range was again revamped, relaunched and replaced by improved models. In 2011 Victorinox announced additional models within its electronic 58mm range (though note these actually measure 60mm due to the plastic keyring attachment). These squeezed noticeably slimmer dimensioned USB flash drives between alox scales. The three models- Victorinox Slim, Victorinox Slim Duo (featuring two removable drives) and Victorinox Secure SSD, were all flight friendly versions, again with no knife blade included. The Victorinox Slim was just 6.7mm thick and the Secure SSD was advertised as the world’s smallest 256GB solid-state drive, with three times faster read speed and more than double write speed when compared with ‘standard’ high speed USB Flash devices. Needless to say, those products were overtaken within just a few years, months even, by competitors. At their very simplest, the Victorinox tools were nothing more than a removable memory stick rotating out from metal scales with no other tools.

Removable thumb drive on '....@work' knife. Latest variants have had a dual connector that pivots in the centre to allow either the USB 3.0 or 3.1 type C connector to be inserted

Removable thumb drive on ‘….@work’ knife. Latest variants have a dual connector that pivots in the centre with USB 3.0 / 3.1 type C connectors

Victorinox originally offered propriatory software on their USB sticks. There were at least four generations of this. A short lasting product was the 256-bit AES encryption and fingerprint recognition found on the Victorinox Secure tool released in November 2010. Two years later, and only lasting some five years, Victorinox produced three Jetsetter models with USB drives (8GB, 16GB, 32GB options) that included Apple Mac specific software alongside a small range of accompanying tools. However there were problems with many of the variants and associated software and Victorinox withdrew from the bespoke software market and also stopped providing software updates. They even offered refunds to customers who had purchased these products and were henceforth denied support. Victorinox continued to release USB storage devices but these offer little more than any other thumb drive, other than a unique portability and convenience.

Connectors on the removable data sticks have changed over the years. The first were simply single USB connector, then USB 2.0 in the second generation. As well as the aforementioned Apple compatability, in 2012 high speed USB 3.0 data transfer speeds were supported. The current high-end models have a double-ended centrally pivoting drive with two different connectors- 3.0 Type-A / 3.1 Type-C. Read speed is 90 MB/s, write speed: 50 MB/s.

Victorinox USB stick connected to Samsung S20+

Samsung S20+ with 32GB Victorinox 3.1 Type-C connected for transferring data

Many electronic devices have already made the change to the more secure and faster type C connector. My Samsung phone is type-C connector and the recent Victorinox thumb drives connect simply into this and I can easily transfer images etc. However I cannot see that I would ever want to do this on trail. My phone has a removable SIM card tray in the top in which a Micro SD card can simply be swapped. This is a far easier way of doing this and as at present I have a 64GB SD card inserted, I gain little by additionally carting along an @work Victorinox memory stick. I could, if I wished, carry dozens of replacement Micro SD cards for little bulk or weight penalty. Even if it wasn’t possible to easily swap out a memory card there are many small memory card readers with type C connectors available today at a fraction of the cost of a Victorinox @work.

Interestingly, there is another potential use for the double ended and removable USB stick. It is possible to plug one end into a USB port, the other into a phone, and use it as the smallest of charging cables.

Three Points of the Compass has previously looked at a top five knives from Victorinox’s 58mm stable. The fantastic Midnite Manager emerged as the number one choice for taking backpacking. Around 2015 Victorinox expanded on that model by adding a memory stick between the scales. This created the Midnite Manager@work model. Already a bulky offering, the addition of a 5mm thick thumb drive, has obviously made this knife an even thicker offering. This tool originally had red cellidor scales but translucent ruby red, sapphire blue and emerald green scale options are also available.

Midnite Manager@work features:

  • Dimensions: Length 60mm, Width 19.90mm, thickness 19.10mm
  • Scissors
  • 40mm drop point pen blade with 34mm cutting edge
  • Combination tool with bottle opener, magnetic Phillips screwdriver and wire stripper
  • Nail file, with 2.5mm flat ‘SD’ screwdriver tip
  • Removable USB stick 3.0 / 3.1 type-C
  • Keyring
  • Translucent red scales with white LED and blue ink retractable ballpoint pen
  • Weight: 43.2g
19mm thick Midnite Manager@work compared with 13.60mm blue Midnite Manager

19mm thick Midnite Manager@work compared with 13.60mm thick translucent blue Midnite Manager

That said, away from the trail, the Midnite Manager@work could be a fantastic keychain option for the urban commuter but Three Points of the Compass is not convinced that the addition of a memory stick to this tool is a bonus for the backpacker. If anything it detracts from the usefulness of the simpler Midnite Manager, making the tool more awkward to hold and use and exposing possibly sensitive or necessary data, saved images or music to damage or possible loss. It can be a hard life on trail for certain pieces of gear and a knife combining pen, blade and scissors is called into use many times in extreme weather and poor light conditions.

Midnite Manager@work USB 3.0 / 3.1 Type-C from Victorinox

Midnite Manager@work (model- 4.6336.TG16) USB 3.0 / 3.1 Type-C from Victorinox

As mentioned earlier, some of the models released by Victorinox over the years included propriatory software that is no longer supported or updated. Thankfully this is no longer the case and any Victorinox ‘knife’ that includes a data stick shouldn’t become obsolete or contents inaccessible for some years. However time marches on and we are all becoming ever more memory hungry. Early Victorinox data sticks now have too little memory capacity to be really useful and anything on the market today will likewise likely quickly become insufficient.

0.3g 128GB Micro SD card with 2.1g protective case with 5.5g 32GB Victorinox thumb drive from Jetsetter@work Alox

0.3g 128GB Micro SD card with 2.1g protective case with 5.5g 32GB Victorinox thumb drive from Jetsetter@work Alox

For an expensive product, this is a problem. Three Points of the Compass feels that Victorinox very quickly needs to start producing simple thumb drives, with ever expanding memory capacity, that can be purchased as a stand alone item and then swapped out by a customer with their existing drive. This keeps a customer base on board and a tool that is consistently relevant and useful. Or instead, simply buy a 1TB type C connector memory stick. As it is, I shall continue to just pack along extra small Micro SD cards and swap these out as necessary on trail.

The 2020 range of tools offered by Victorinox which include memory stick ‘thumb drives’ is small. There are the two shown here- the Jetsetter@work Alox that has no blade or scale tools, and the most useful, which is the Midnite Manager@work. There is also the Victorinox@work, which includes blade, screwdriver tipped nailfile, LED light and retractable pen. While these premium tools are made to the usual high Victorinox standard, the problem is mostly obsolescence. Three Points of the Compass believes these tools from Victorinox are interesting and may suit some travellers, but are of little interest to backpackers where more viable, lighter and probably cheaper alternatives abound.

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.

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