While theVictorinox Classic is one of the most popular choices of knife for many backpackers, the Midnite Manager offers more utility. But there are alternatives if we break down its components…
Three Points of the Compass recently looked at the key tool components of the popular Victorinox Classic knife and suggested a few individual tools that could be carried on trail instead, each of these provides a little more functionality than those found on the Classic.
The Victorinox Classic is a convenient package that brings together most tools likely to be needed on trail, a blade, scissors and nailfile. It is small, handy and affordable and not everyone will want to break it down and consider alternatives. For others however, even the Classic isn’t enough and they carry one of the slightly better equipped small knives from Victorinox or another manufacturer. Three Points of the Compass has previously shown what is one of the best small Victorinox options. The 33g Midnite Manager combines the tools of the Classic with three useful additional tools, these are- a neat little combination tool, a small LED light and a tiny pen. It also removes the useless toothpick and almost useless tweezers.
The combination tool on the Victorinox Manager combines a magnetised Phillips screwdriver with bottle cap lifter and a wire bender. The wire bender is never going to be required on a hike so I shall ignore that.
Flat / Phillips screwdriver:
One handy screwdriver option is the four point ‘Quattro’ found in the Victorinox SwissCard Quattro, SwissCard Lite and SwissCard NailCare. First introduced in 2000, this combines Phillips 00-0, Phillips 1-2, 3mm flat tip and 5mm flat tip. These little flat screwdrivers weigh just 2.6g and have a central hole through which ‘something’ (such as a shepherds hook tent peg) could be passed to increase torque. By itself, not a great deal of force can be generated when simply gripped between finger and thumb. But it will tighten screws on trekking poles and some more intricate stoves. Try using it for the intended task before leaving home. Having changed from twistlock to flicklock trekking poles I find that I almost never have anything with me on trail that requires a screwdriver, so need not carry this myself.
Don’t forget that there is a small flat screwdriver included on the tip of the nailfile on the Victorinox Classic SD, if you do carry that knife on trail and wear glasses, consider filing the screwdriver tip even smaller so that it fits your glasses.
Three Points of the Compass is a glasses wearer, these come with tiny screws that can loosen and there isn’t much beside a very small screwdriver tip that will tighten these.
One little screwdriver that fits my glasses is the 0.6g mini-screwdriver that can be wound on to the corkscrew found on some larger Victorinox models. This 1.5mm wide fine tip will fit the small screws on my glasses should they require tightening. Victorinox also released a Phillips version of this tiny screwdriver in January 2021. A loose screwdriver can sit in my ditty bag. But they don’t fit all glasses, again, try before leaving home…
Tin opener / Cap lifter / bottle opener:
For opening bottles, don’t carry anything dedicated, just lever a cap off with the bowl of your spoon. You can use a Bic lighter for the same job but there is a slight risk of ripping off the base. Is anyone not aware of how this is done? Surely not. Hold a spoon in one hand, grasp a bottle by the neck, put the tip of the spoon under the crown cap and lever the bowl of the spoon against the hand. Simple.
While the Midnite Manager doesn’t include a tin opener in its toolset, none of the 58mm range from Victorinox do, nonetheless it is a good item to carry. For opening tins/cans, we have the classic P-38. This 4.6g design classic works faultlessly. First developed in 1942 and unchanged since then, these are so good that we need look no further.
A little LED, other than the main headtorch, can be handy around camp, or as an emergency back-up light. There are a couple of really good options. Obviously a phone comes with a built in light, but you may prefer to use the phone for something else, not drain its battery, or already have a drained phone battery. The best of the micro lights is the 10g Photon Freedom Micro torch. Remove the 2.5g key ring clip and it comes in at just 7.5g. This particular model has a lot of features- extremely robust, dimmable, SOS etc. There is also an optional 5g magnetic clip, a 1g neck lanyard. Replacement batteries- CR-2016 are 2g each, or CR-2032- 3g each. You can also choose what colour light you want. The Photon Freedom lights are handy if attached as a zipper pull on a pack or hipbelt pockets.
Instead of one of these, if a Powerbank is already being carried, a tiny cheap USB light could be perfect. The smaller one shown here is about the smallest available. This 1g light is fitted with three LEDs and emits a cold white light. I have been carrying a little larger USB LED in my electronics bag for years, also shown here. My behemoth weighs a whopping 3g and cost just a pound, but it does also have a dimmable six LED capability and emits a warm light that I prefer to use in tent or bunkhouses.
If you journal, then you are probably already carrying a pen. If not, and all you want is something to scribble a few notes on occasion, then the pen insert (part code A.6144.0) from a Victorinox knife is all that is required (even the one extracted from the Midnite Manager). These weigh a single gram. The mini pen found in the Victorinox SwissCard is slightly larger than its cousin. It weighs 1.2g and is just a little longer- 69mm against 50mm.
Slightly more useable, with a retractable pen is the 3g Ohto Minimo which is 90mm long. The Ohto is about the same weight as a Fisher Spacepen refill. This refill is a good pen option with a huge ink reservoir.
Three Points of the Compass uses one of the Fisher refills with a bit of insulation shrink wrapping around its waist to make it a little easier to grip, and that is only because I do keep a trail journal.
So, from all of these items listed above, what can we pull together as a set of tools, over and above that of simple blade, scissors and nailfile?
I show a couple of options. The first is a basic set with the lightest options from those discussed. This includes not only the very good blade and scissors, but also improvements on tools found in better appointed multi-tools, reviews for which can be seen here. The eight items shown here total 22.7g. Only 1.7g more than a standard Victorinox Classic SD and a lot less than the 33g Midnite Manager.
Good as this set of tools is, it can be tweaked a little and better lightweight options swapped in. The Fisher pen now included is far better suited to journalling, the nail file will last many months of hiking and tweezers are both easier to use and far more robust. Even the larger USB LED offers more functionality. This improved set of eight tools weighs 30.7g. If the 2.6g Quattro screwdriver is added, it still only totals 33.3g, not far off the 33g Victorinox Midnite Manager but, again, providing better tools.
There is another frequently overlooked tool that should be considered for inclusion on a gearlist while backpacking…
Nail clippers are not really required on hikes shorter than a couple of weeks. Do your nail maintenance at home prior to setting off (and make sure you do). But for longer hikes a small pair of dedicated nail clippers will clip nails far better than scissors will. Do yourself a favour, carry a pair. There are small options and Three Points of the Compass looked at some of these previously.
Victorinox (yes, again) produce a small pair of no-frills clippers. Their 11.3g model- 8.2050.B1 does not even include a nailfile. Alternatively the well-made, if fighteningly expensive, small 15.6g Zwilling J. A. Henckels Pour Homme ultra slim nail clippers include a small but functional nailfile.
If the idea of carrying separate implements doesn’t appeal and you prefer the simplicity and convenience of an all-in-one tool, there are many more configuations than that available on the Victorinox 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.