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Knife chat: The Victorinox DofE ‘Pocket Tool’

For around a decade Victorinox produced a ‘Pocket Tool’ in conjunction with the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme. It was aimed squarely at young people pulling together their kit prior to tackling an expedition and is a practical collection of well chosen tools.

DofE Pocket Tool in the hand
Victorinox DofE Pocket Tool in the hand

The knife is popularly known as the DofE Pocket Tool (model- 13403), however it has been frequently referred to in Victorinox listings as ‘Pocket Tool DOFE‘. You may also find it unofficially called the Victorinox DoE. The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme is a programme founded in the United Kingdom by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in 1956. This itself was based on The Moray Badge programme instituted at Gordonstoun School by headmaster Dr. Kurt Hahn in 1936. The modern awards scheme has since spread to over 140 countries. Young people can work toward Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards. There are various objectives in each level, these are – Volunteering, Physical, Skills and Expedition (with a further Residential objective at Gold level). The Expedition is multi-day, has a set of objectives and the young participants have to demonstrate specific skills such as navigation, camping, personal hygiene, cooking etc. A suggested gear list is supplied in advance of each expedition as a guide for participants to purchase, loan or hire. A pocket knife has been part of the individual’s kit list in the past, recent years saw it move to an item shared by a group. Most recently, the kit list states that a small pocket tool should be considered as ‘an optional item’.

DofE Logo
DofE award scheme logo. This appears on one of the scales of the DofE Pocket Tool

“These are items that might not be necessary on every expedition but which can be very useful/essential in certain situations”

Duke of Edinburgh Expedition Kit List- 2019

The DofE Pocket Tool was specifically developed to suit the needs of expedition particpants and incorporates a curved blunt end to the blade for added safety. A kit list from 2012 when Miss Three Points of the Compass undertook her Bronze Expedition is included at the end of this post.

The knife is part of Victorinox’s 91mm frame length ‘Medium Pocket Knives’ range that also includes their Angler, Camper, Climber, Compact, Explorer, Hiker, Spartan and Tinker knives, amongst others. Those knives have proven so popular over the years that the DofE Pocket Tool probably slipped under the radar a little, combined with a limited global availability. This is a shame as it pulls together a really useful collection of tools, also lacking a sharpened point on the blade to make it as safe as possible for young people while they learn the skills of safe knife handling.

'butter blade' on DofE Pocket Tool
‘Butter blade’ on DofE Pocket Tool
Open blade and shield on DofE Pocket Tool
Open blade and shield on DofE Pocket Tool
DofE Pocket Tool
DofE Pocket Tool

The DofE Pocket Tool is quite a large tool for taking on lightweight camping expeditions but does offer a good range of implements in a size that fits well in the hand, can be easily grasped and is in no way fiddly. The blade is of a bluntened tip ‘butter blade’ style, also used by Victorinox on their My First Victorinox tools, however the blade on the DofE Pocket Tool is a little larger- 64mm long with a cutting edge of 53mm that ends just as the curve of the tip begins. My First Victorinox knives have a 58mm blade with 48mm cutting edges. The spine is 2.08mm wide tapering to around 0.65mm at the tip. Tools are stainless steel and the blade comes (very) sharp as new but can easily be sharpened as required. Opposite the blade and in the same layer is a combination can/tin/bottle opener with (useless) wire bender and 5mm flat screwdriver tip. This has either a firm half-stop position or can be opened fully. The second layer contains scissors, which are excellent. Scissors have sprung cutting edges of 24mm and are to the usual high Victorinox standard, as is the whole tool. The back of the tool has a Phillips screwdriver and parcel hook. While the hook could be thought of as pretty useless, it is actually ideal for pulling tent pegs out of the ground. The back of the hook has a roughened surface acting as a small and thin yet effective nailfile. All of the non-locking slip-joint tools open and close with a decent snap. Hidden in the scale behind the folded screwdriver is a small hole in which a 31mm long straight pin can sit. This is perfect for blister popping or easing splinters out. The red plastic cellidor scales stand out well if dropped in the vegetation. These contain a (useless) toothpick and tweezers. The latter are not capable of gripping anything particularly tight unless held right at the tip but are better than nothing. The only other ‘tool’ is a keyring lug with attached 11mm stainless steel split ring.

Phillips driver, pin and parcel hook with nailfile
Phillips driver and closed parcel hook
A straight pin (half removed here) is situated in the scale behind the Phillips screwdriver
A straight pin (half removed here) is situated in the scale behind the Phillips screwdriver
nailfile on back of parcel hook
Nailfile on back of parcel hook
scissors
Decent sized scissors are included

Victorinox DofE Pocket Tool features:

  • Blunt ended blade
  • Scissors
  • Combination can/tin/bottle opener/wire bender (stripper)/ 5mm flat screwdriver
  • Phillips #2 screwdriver
  • Parcel hook with nailfile
  • Scale tools
    • Toothpick
    • Tweezers
    • Straight pin
  • Keyring
  • Dimensions: 91mm x 24.30mm x 14.25mm
  • Weight: 65g
DofE Pocket Tool with Compact
DofE Pocket Tool with Compact

The DofE Pocket Tool is a very similar tool to the Victorinox Compact with just a handful of differences. The Pocket Tool obviously comes with the blunt safety tip to the blade that lessens the risk of serious injury from unintentional (or even intentional) stabbing or jabbing. The Compact instead has the standard Victorinox spearpoint blade where the sharpened edge runs right to the tip. Not many youngsters are opening bottles of wine so the corkscrew found on the Compact is exchanged for the more useful Phillips driver on the Pocket Tool. The Compact also comes supplied with ‘plus’ scales. With these, the toothpick and tweezers are joined by a small pressurised ink pen. The DofE Pocket Tool would have been an even more useful tool if this had been incorporated. But scales can be swapped out post-purchase as replacement Plus Scales are easily available online.. One other small difference is weight. The Compact weighs 64.4g, just a whisker less than the 65g DofE Pocket Tool.

DofE Pocket Tool with Compact, closed
DofE Pocket Tool with Compact
DofE Pocket Tool, Plus Scales on Compact
DofE Pocket Tool, Plus Scales on Compact

The DofE Pocket Tool is no longer specifically approved (nor disapproved) as part of a Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme expedition. It has slipped off the Victorinox sales brochure in recent years and only new old stock is being offered for sale from a rapidly decreasing number of vendors. This is a shame as it is a terrific knife with a unique set of tools and despite an increasing reluctance to encourage younger people to engage with and use knives appropriately, was an admirable first purchase for them. Or anyone else, less familiar with safe knife technique for that matter.

In conclusion:

The DofE Pocket Tool was an interesting addition to the Victorinox stable of knives. It combined a really useful set of tools, of usable size, in a compact two layer package. The bluntened tip to the blade need not put off users as it makes a great spreading knife on culinary duty. The remaining tools, especially the good sized scissors, all compliment the ensemble. If you can find one for sale, snap it up.

Blunt ended 'children's knife' blades compared. Victorinox DofE Pocket Tool (top), 'My First Victorinox' (centre) and Opinel No.7 (bottom)
Blunt ended ‘children’s knife’ blades compared. Victorinox DofE Pocket Tool (top), My First Victorinox (centre) and My first Opinel Natural (bottom)
Kit List for participants on Duke of Edinburgh Expedition. 2012
Kit List for participants on Duke of Edinburgh Expedition. 2012
Kit list, page 2
Kit list, page 2. A “small pocket knife/pocket tool” is specified in the personal kit

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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