Author Archives: Jools

Gear talk: hydration

Today is a brief glance at the favoured ‘on-trail’ hydration set up that Three Points of the Compass is using. This is not an in depth review nor any form of recommendation, simply a peek inside the pack contents that I am currently using.

It is important to keep well hydrated on trail. El Jable, Fuertenventura 2017

It is important to keep well hydrated on trail. El Jable, Fuertenventura 2017

Complete hydration set up weighs 182g and has capacity to filter and carry 4.85 litres of water

Complete hydration set up weighs 182g  (6.42 oz) and has capacity to filter and carry 4.85 litres of water

Hydration is all important. I believe that many of any stumbles, slips, accidents and mistakes, even navigational, be they small or large, that occur to hikers, are as result of being dehydrated. You sweat more on trail, this fluid has to be replaced. I have come across hikers that do not like to drink because it means they will have to pee. Or they don’t want to carry water as it is heavy- it is. Little in a pack will weigh as much as water does- 1 gram per millilitre, or 1 kilogram per litre.

I drink constantly throughout the day, in fact before I even hit the trail. Even while hiking, if I see an opportunity for a mug of tea, I invariably take it. If I am out for multi-days, amongst the first thing I am doing when making camp is preparing a pint of oxo, tea or similar, followed by more drinks later.

My hydration set up on trail is fairly simple. A bottle to drink from during the day, plus a water filter attached to a ‘dirty water’ bladder, and a ‘clean water’ bladder. I keep most of this together in a lightweight blue (for water) 150mm x 280mm drawstring, 0.5oz  Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) stuff sack from Tread Lite Gear. In case of emergency, I also carry a few days supply of water purification tablets, usually in my ditty bag. My final item carried is a spare type 400 bottle cap in my ditty bag. Lose a bottle cap and a bottle is pretty useless.

Bags and pouches of small stuff carried on longer hikes

Bags and pouches of small stuff carried on longer hikes. My water filter and clean and dirty bladders are carried in the blue drawstring bag top left

On hikes over many months, disposable bottles can wear out and require changing. Replacement botle for one that sprung a leak after three months of daily use

On hikes over many months, disposable bottles can wear out and require changing. Replacement bottle for one that sprung a leak after three months of constant and daily use

Hiking in wet locations means that less water has to be carried. In Scotland, with water everywhere, I am relying simply on one or two 850 millilitre bottles, probably one, and refilling from the many water sources available as required. Any plastic bottle will suffice but like many hikers I like the Smartwater bottles as they are smooth sided and taller, slipping into pack side pockets better.

I have to buy replacement bottles extremely infrequently, I have some ten or so knocking around the house and they continue to be rotated into use as required. There really is no need to carry the good, but heavy, aluminium or steel water bottles available from gear shops as a plastic bottle can have a long life if refilled and used with a small degree of care.

Further south I will be carrying one 850ml bottle and a 2 litre clean water bladder. I have used Osprey, Platypus, Evernew and Cnoc bladders extensively and prefer the Evernew. These are light, reliable, have a cap permanently attached to the bladder, which prevents it being lost, and a gusseted bottom which means it stands well when filtering into it. Alongside that I will often be carrying a water filter.

A simple hydration kit- two litre 'dirty water' bag with attached filter. Water bottle with flip cap for on the go and a two litre bladder for use in camp or to camel up on drier stretches

A simple hydration kit- two litre ‘dirty water’ bag with attached filter. Water bottle with flip cap for on the go and a two litre bladder for use in camp or to camel up on drier stretches

Katadyn BeFree filter has a wide screw thread. The partially exposed filter membrane within the plastic cage aids in effective occasional cleaning

Katadyn BeFree filter has a wide screw thread. The partially exposed filter membrane within the plastic cage aids in effective occasional cleaning

Everyone seems to have their individual preference as to water filters. For the past few years I have favoured the  Katadyn BeFree. I like the semi-exposed filter that can easily be swished around and cleaned. It has a good flow rate and the wider thread size (42mm) means that bottles are easier to fill from streams and the like though does limit you to what bottles will connect. On a day hike I might simply carry the 0.6lt flexible Katadyn bottle/soft flask, but that is a bit small. The small 0.6lt flexible bottle that comes with the BeFree is made by Hydrapak, a company that also makes the 2lt Hydrapak Seeker flexible bottle. I normally carry this 2lt bladder permanently attached to the filter as my ‘dirty water’ bag and leave the small 0.6lt bottle at home.

Water filters should not be allowed to freeze as the expanding water within the membranes causes these to split and even though it can appear fine, it will no longer be filtering effectively. If the weather is even close to freezing, my filter is kept deep within my pack during the day or next to my person (in a waterproof bag) through long cold nights.

2 litre HydraPak bladder and 0.6 litre BeFree TPU bottle, also made by HydraPak. Cap and filter are interchangeable

2 litre HydraPak bladder and 0.6 litre BeFree TPU bottle, also made by HydraPak. 42mm thread cap and filter are interchangeable

When hiking in much of lowland Britain there is considerable agricultural run-off into streams, this is accompanied by occasional industrial or effluent pollutant. Few lovely clear looking chalk streams are actually pollution free and a filter will struggle to clear contaminants such as pesticides, molluscicides and fertilisers. The BeFree will continue to filter out bacteria and protozoa including Giardia and Cryptosporidium, but not viruses, just fine, but diluted chemicals is another matter. I will frequently not even bother to carry a filter in lowland South East Britain for that reason.

Filtering water from a cattle trough on the 630 mile South West Coast Path

As mentioned previously, this blog is in no way a recommendation. It is simply the set up that has worked for me on the majority of my hikes over the past few years. That said, I have had minor disasters that required immediate change. Hiking in Scotland on one occasion I had my little blue bag containing filter with clean and dirty bladders stored in my packs side pocket alongside my water bottle. Not going in to detail, pure stupidity on my part combined with bad luck saw the whole hydration ensemble come adrift and sail happily down a stream to never be seen again. I had to fall back on to my emergency water purification tablets I stow in my ditty bag until I reached a town three days later where I could purchase a replacement bladder and bottle. My main lesson from this was that I no longer stow my blue hydration bag in my packs side pocket, instead it is now kept either within the expandable back pocket on the pack, or inside it.

On a foul day Three Points of the Compass was pleased to sereditously find an unlocked salmon fishermans hut to shelter in for the night. Two litre Platypus water bladder provides enough water for evening and morning meals and drinks

On a particularly foul day in Scotland serendipity provided an unlocked salmon fisherman’s hut to shelter in for the night. Two litre Platypus water bladder provides enough water for evening and morning meals and drinks

Bags and pouches of small stuff carried on longer hikes

Gear talk: bags and pouches of ‘small stuff’

Three Points of the Compass could never be considered an ultra-lightweight backpacker. Though I suppose I push it into the ‘lightweight’ bracket by any stretched definition. Many hikers will shake their heads in disbelief at what I include in my gear, I care not a jot.

I like to segregate and organise my gear, especially on trail. That way I know where things are, I can easily check off that everything is with me, that nothing gets left behind in a hostel, bothy or, god forbid, at home! To that end, I tend to carry a selection of small and light bags and pouches in which different groupings of trail gear are carried. With these I can carry out a ‘roll-call’ when packing, ensure that I have the most fragile stored appropriately within a pack, guarded from knocks and damp. I can have what is required during the day to hand, my First Aid Kit within easy reach and damp gear kept away from electronics.

On longer hikes Three Points of the Compass will normally have seven different pouches of smaller gear. Other hikers will either not be carrying such ‘stuff’ at all or if they are, will aggregate it differently, very probably by grouping into less units. Fine, this is simply how I do things. This isn’t a recommendation, just a part explanation. The seven groupings are:

  • Hydration
  • Ditty bag
  • Hygiene
  • ‘Poop kit’
  • Electronics
  • First Aid
  • Day ‘stuff’

Over the coming weeks I’ll be having a brief glance in each of the seven bags and pouches shown above. I won’t be getting bogged down with weights, simply personal rationale.

The Great walking match at the Agricultural Hall- The Finish. from The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News. November 1878

Trail talk: Pedestrianism

Sitting at home with seemingly no opportunity in the near future of undertaking a decent long hike, Three Points of the Compass instead finds himself intrigued while reading of Pedestrianism. This was a form of long distance endurance walking that was extremely popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Often quite poor men, and on occasion, women, would undertake incredible walking feats. Around them, numerous enthralled spectators wagered vast sums of money on the outcome. To mention here just some of the characters and the astonishing feats that they achieved.

Foster Powell. Possibly the first of the great pedestrians

Foster Powell. Possibly the first of the ‘great pedestrians’. Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, March 1876

One of the first to demonstrate his astonishing stamina was Englishman Foster Powell. In 1764 the law clerk ran the fifty miles to Bath in seven hours. In 1773 he walked 400 miles from London to York and back, and it should be remembered that this was on poor, rutted roads. Three thousand people escorted him the final miles to Highgate. He repeated the feat many times in the years following. At his fastest, he managed to complete it in five days, 19 hours and seventeen minutes. In 1788 he walked 100 miles in 21 hours and 35 minutes.

Robert Barclay Allardice won a 1000 guinea wager by completing a thousand miles in a thousand hours, a distance that seems to have become almost a standard expectation. Distance walking seems to have run in the family blood. Captain Barclay’s father was also a noted pedestrian- walking the 510 miles from the family seat in Ury, Scotland, to London, in ten days.

Captain Barclay built up to his 1000 mile feat. In 1796 he walked 110 miles in 19 hours 27 minutes. In 1802 he covered 64 miles in ten hours and in 1805 he fitted in 72 miles between his breakfast and dinner. In 1806, on poor roads, he walked a hundred miles in 19 hours and in 1807 walked 78 miles in 14 hours on hilly roads.

The walking exploits of these men and women usually took place on either roads across the country, passing through towns en route, or on marked sections in enclosed grounds. Entrance fees were charged to mostly willing spectators, others chose to clamber the fences and gain entry for free. Captain Barclay’s 1000 miles took place on a marked half mile section of track at Newmarket in 1809 and he kept a pace of one mile per hour, resting and snatching sleep between the miles. His strategy was simple but ultimately successful, by walking one mile at the end of an hour and the next at the beginning of the following hour, he was able to rest for some 90 minutes between exertions. Sounds simple, but he had to sustain that for 42 days.

Captain Barclay surrounded by spectators. Those in the foreground seeme to be making something of a party of the occasion. Drawing by Thomas Rowlandson. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Captain Barclay surrounded by paying spectators. Those in the foreground seem to be making something of a party of the occasion. Drawing by Thomas Rowlandson. Image: Wikimedia Commons

As a further indication of the sort of man he was, in 1808 he walked thirty miles grouse shooting, starting at five in the morning, then walked sixty miles home in 11 hours. Having dined, he then walked 16 miles to a ball. He returned home at seven the following morning and then promptly went shooting again. This is perhaps not the day-to-day regime of a modern athlete. For most of his walking feats Captain Barclay eschewed any form of training, instead eating and drinking prodigiously, his walking attire normally included top hat, cravat and woollen suit.

Fifteen year old Richard Mullen completed 102 miles in 24 hours in 1822

Fifteen year old William Mullen attempted 102 miles in 24 hours in 1822

The 100 mile challenge was attempted by many would be pedestrians and still remains a standard today. By 1842 Irishman William Mullen was already an accomplished 100-miler. The Newry Examiner reported on the large number of spectators that had gathered at Wateringdam to watch Mullen repeatedly walk the half mile out and half mile back on the Belfast road over 24 hours , he frequently stopped at the spectator stands to converse, despite his feet suffering badly, five blisters being cut out, he finished at pace. Afterwards, he ‘walked through town apparently not much fatigued’.

Richard Manks was the second person to walk a thousand miles in a thousand hours, completing his feat in the year of the Great Exhibition, at the Surrey Cricket Ground. Illustrated London News, 8 November 1851

Richard Manks was the second person to walk a thousand miles in a thousand hours, completing his feat in the year of the Great Exhibition, at the Surrey Cricket Ground. Illustrated London News, 8 November 1851

The wonderment over pedestrain feats is evident in the prose of the time, 8 Nov, ILN

The wonder over pedestrian feats is evident in the prose of the time, The detail on Manks’ achievement in 1851 is illuminating. 8 Nov, Illustrated London News

In 1843 the famed pedestrian James Searles, a man of modest stature, succeeded in walking a thousand miles over six weeks. His track was the public road, measuring 63 yards over a mile, between the Shakespeare Inn and the Peacock inn on the Huddersfield Road in the vicinity of his hometown Leeds. His favoured expedient was that of Captain Barclay, to walk a mile at the end of an hour followed by another mile at the beginning of the next, then rest in the intervening period before repeating the exercise. It sounds so simple, but to keep that up for six weeks must place an incredible mental tole on the individual. Searles earned almost nothing for his feat, he was provided with food and a bed during his task and was given a few presents over the weeks.

James Searle walked 2000 miles in 2000 half-hours in 1852

James Searles walked 2000 miles in 2000 half-hours in 1852

On 20 September 1852 Searles set off on a momentous attempt to walk 2000 miles in 2000 half hours on a track near the Pineapple Inn, in Toxteth, Liverpool. Searles was reported as eating eight pounds of ‘animal food’ a day while he achieved his feat, but he lost a great deal of weight and finished 30 lbs lighter. This regime paid a tole on his health, he suffered dizziness at night and his knees troubled him. However he completed his task on 1 November. To celebrate his walk, he danced a hornpipe in clogs at an evening benefit dance, though whether it was the slow or fast variant isn’t recorded.

Despite the money surrounding these events, both betting and large amounts of entrance money being taken by those promoting such walks in town arenas, particularly where more than one walker was involved, the challenge walks often became a morally dubious test of ‘who breaks first’ and there were many that regarded the sport as cruel exhibitions of self-torture.

Some of the more accomplished pedestrians became celebrities. The ‘sport’ of pedestrianism had already crossed to the US and as a result challenge matches between celebrity walkers were staged. One in particular was the 1877 match between two superstars of the time.

The ‘Great Walking Match for the Championship of the World’

The famed American Edward Payson Weston had become a household name by walking 1200 miles from Portland, Maine to Chicago in 30 days, winning a $10000 wager as a result. He was the first man to walk 500 miles within six days, achieving the feat in 1874 in New Jersey with 26 minutes to spare. The press of the day pitted him against another noted pedestrian, the Irishman Dan O’Leary who had walked 116 miles in 24 hours. A few minutes after midnight on a Monday morning, 15 November 1875, a Chicago audience watched as the two set off round a track. The challenge- the first to complete 500 miles. Exceptionally, there were rules, only walking was permitted, no running. Also, the race had to be over by the following Sunday as no sporting events were permitted to take place on the sabbath. 500 miles in six days, it sounds insane.

With just two or three hours rest each night the men battled it out. O’Leary was the faster and his lead was established on the first day. On Wednesday he was 26 miles in the lead. On Saturday morning he had increased his advantage having walked 425 miles with Weston 30 miles behind. The two men were exhausted but surrounded by thousands of over enthusiastic and noisy spectators, they continued. O’Leary completed his 500th mile with forty five minutes to spare. At midnight he had walked 503, Weston managed 451 miles. Each competitor received some $4000 for their exertions that week.

Agricultural Halls, Islington. The two great pedestrians- O'Leary pitted against Weston over a six day 500 mile race. London Illustrated News, 14 April 1877

Agricultural Halls, Islington. The two great pedestrians- O’Leary pitted against Weston over a six day 500 mile race. London Illustrated News, 14 April 1877

The two men were pit against each other in a repeat of the 500 mile challenge in April 1877, the event taking place in the Agricultural Hall in Islington, London. Again, O’Leary was the victor having walked 519 miles and the header image above depicts the two men at the end when 35000 spectators roared them to the finish. Each received around $14000 for their efforts but continued to push the boundaries of what was achievable. The following year, while competing in the inaugural Astley Belt challenge, O’Leary walked 520 miles in six days, but his rival somehow pushed it even further- walking 550 miles over six days in 1879. Even that distance was surpassed. Racing in New York in 1888, George Littlewood achieved 623 miles in six days in 1888. Despite the fervour of the time, such events were eventually regarded with disdain, to the extent that in 1899 six day races were banned in New York state. Weston continued to achieve quite amazing walking feats. In 1910, aged 71, he walked from Los Angeles to New York, a distance of 3600 miles, in 78 days.

'Finish of the Great Walking-match on Saturday at the agricultural hall, Islington'. The first of the annual international 'Asley Belt' six-day races was held in London in 1878. Competitors could walk, trot or un as they pleased. Dan O'Leary beat 17 other competitors, completing 520 miles in the time span. ILN, 1878

‘Finish of the Great Walking-match on Saturday at the agricultural hall, Islington’. The first of the annual international ‘Astley Belt’ six-day races was held in London in 1878. Competitors could walk, trot or run as they pleased. Dan O’Leary beat 17 other competitors, completing 520 miles in the time span. Illustrated London News, 1878

The term ‘walking’ was a loose expectation during many of these distance events. It was the distance that mattered to those watching and wagering. Pedestrians would very occasionally launch into a trot to ward off cramp, or probably simply to vary the miles. The codification on gait, pace and strict definition of what constitutes ‘walking’ came later.

Emma Sharp dressed in her 1000 mile attire, reported as-

Emma Sharp dressed in her 1000 mile attire, reported as- “male clothing with the exception of her straw hat which was adorned with ‘feminine ornaments'”, 1864

Pedestrianism was not just a male exploit. Emma Sharp also walked a 1000 miles in 1000 hours. She is thought to be the first female to have achieved this challenge, completing it 29 October 1864 to an audience of 25000. Over a 120 yard course, she repeated Captain Barclays technique of walk and rest. So outraged were some members of the public, presumably male, that her food was drugged and numerous attempts made to trip her up. She carried a pistol for the final two days to protect herself and fired it on 27 occasions to warn off assailants. Few expected her to achieve the ‘Barclay challenge’, including her husband, and having bet heavily on herself, she won a considerable amount and combined with her share of the entrance fee profits, she and her husband opened a textile factory. During the walk her only reported ailment was swollen ankles.

“I would not attempt it”

There was one walking challenge that the great American pedestrian O’Leary refused to attempt as he believed the required sleep deprivation over many weeks was too much for the human body to endure. This was 1500 miles in 1000 hours.

William Gale completing 1500 miles in 1000 hours in 1877. Supplement to the Illustrated London News, 6 October, 1877

William Gale completing 1500 miles in 1000 hours in 1877. Supplement to the Illustrated London News, 6 October, 1877

At night, Gale was escorted on the track by two other walkers, one carrying a lantern

At night, Gale was escorted on the track by at least one other walker, carrying a lantern

London born William Gale was another of the great and celebrated pedestrians. In 1877 he undertook not only the challenge of 1500 miles in 1000 hours but also committed to walking a mile and a half at the beginning of each hour, never getting more than 37 1/2 minutes of rest at a time for the duration of the walk. This amounts to 36 miles a day for six weeks. Gale was recorded as keeping a pace of around four miles an hour, always starting stiffly but loosening up quickly. He suffered immense leg pain and took cold baths for relief. Despite his exhaustion, he couldn’t sleep at all for the final 48 hours.

When Gale had previously completed a 1000 quarters of a mile in consecutive ten minutes, he managed that with even less rest, no more than seven minutes at a time for the two weeks it took to complete the walk. Endurance walking over such huge distances became as much about the ability to perform despite sleep deprivation alongside pure physical ability and determination.

Ada Anderson, an extraordinary pedestrian

Ada Anderson, an extraordinary pedestrian who went on to earn $8000 as a result of her 1879 challenge walk

Gale was the only person to have walked 1500 miles in 1000 hours and also trained the second to achieve it- Ada Anderson. Working in the uncertain world of theatre, it is very likely that Anderson saw the financial opportunity in pedestrianism after her husband died in 1877, plunging her toward financial ruin.

This was not her first foray into pedestrianism however as she had already walked 1000 miles in 1000 half-hours over three weeks in 1877 in Newport, Wales, despite having to carry an umbrella and lamp due to several days of heavy rain. The difficulty in these events should not be under estimated. Attempting a 100 mile walk in 28 hours, the air was so thick with pollution from lamps and cigar smoke in the indoor arena that she collapsed unconscious after completing 96 miles. Later that year, both Anderson and Gale set off to walk a new record distance of 1250 miles in 1000 hours. Walking separately, with different staged breaks, they both completed the distance in the allotted time. The press immediately dubbed her ‘Champion Lady Walker of the World‘. Anderson set off to walk 1500 miles in 1000 hours on 8 April 1878, completing the challenge on 20 May. Having won a considerable amount of money from her various walking exploits in the UK, she remarried (two days after her 1500 mile walk) and moved to the US. Some of her subsequent pedestrian challenges were obviously intended to capture the public’s imagination, these included 804 miles completed within 500 hours in Cincinnati in April 1879. 2052 quarter miles in as many quarter hours, in Buffalo in August 1879 and 351 miles in six days in New York in December 1879. Ever the show woman, her chosen walking garb consisted of loose leather shoes, scarlet stockings with silver tights and black velvet breeches ending at the knee. She wore a long flowing robe of blue and scarlet and a similarly coloured cap decorated with braid and feathers.

Thomas William Green, Racewalker was one of the leading British race-walkers, a sport that evolved out of pedestrianism. He won the 50km event during the 1932 Olympics. He won the London-Brighton walking event three times and In a Nottingham to Birmingham walk in 1933, set a new record of 50 miles in 7 hours 48 minutes 42 seconds. Gallagher Park Drive cigarette card: No. 10 of 48, 'Champions' series,1934

Thomas William Green, was one of the leading British race-walkers, a sport that evolved out of pedestrianism. He won the 50km event during the 1932 Olympics. He also won the London-Brighton walking event three times and in a Nottingham to Birmingham walk in 1933, set a new record of 50 miles in 7 hours 48 minutes 42 seconds. Gallagher Park Drive cigarette card: No. 10 of 48, ‘Champions’ series,1934

So whatever happened to pedestrianism? Why did it almost vanish despite enjoying great popularity and encouraging considerable betting on the outcome?

It is likely that as the events became more commercialised and therefore enclosed, within sporting grounds, that rules and and strictures took over. The free-for-all ‘for the hell of it’ attitude was replaced by regular sporting fixtures. Matches and scheduled races steadily took over in the mid-nineteenth century.

Race walking became the norm. The sort of race for which a spectator could turn up, pay their entrance fee, see the sporting celebrities of the time, and also view an event that began and finished on the same day.

There was also a new kid on the block, the growing popularity of bicycles in the Victorian era quickly resulted in staged races. Spectators could now choose between watching the familiar- athletes steadily walking round a circuit or road route, or the frenetic peddling of race cyclists, with the associated risk of crashes and tumbles.

Wenger and Victorinox nail clippers

Knife chat: Nail clippers

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 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.

Victorinox offer a wider range than those shown here, but these are most suited for backpacking purposes

Victorinox offer a wider range of nail clippers and scissors than those shown here, but these are most suited for backpacking purposes

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.

Wenger Nail Clip and Victorinox 580 nail clippers are built on the same frame and combine clippers with a basic set of tools

Wenger Swiss Clipper and Victorinox Nail Clip 580 are built on the same 65mm frame and combine clippers with a basic set of tools

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”.

Wenger Nail Clip

Wenger Swiss Clippers

Wenger Swiss Clipper has a pair of folding nail clippers

Wenger Swiss Clipper has a pair of folding nail clippers

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.

Tweezers and toothpick are slotted into the scales of Wenger Swiss Clipper

Tweezers and toothpick are slotted into the scales of Wenger Swiss Clipper

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.

Main tools opened on Wenger Swiss Clipper- pen blade, nail file, scissors and nail clippers

Main tools opened on Wenger Swiss Clipper- pen blade, nail file, serrated scissors and nail clippers

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.

Wenger Swiss Clipper in use

Wenger Swiss Clipper in use

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.

Wenger Swiss Clipper and its replacement Victorinox Nail Clip 580

Wenger Swiss Clipper and its replacement Victorinox Nail Clip 580

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. A small range of some eight scale colours are available- these include standard red cellidor scales, transparent red (shown here), white, black, camouflage and others, 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.

Victorinox Nail Clip 580

Victorinox Nail Clip 580, model 0.6463.T (‘T’ denotes transparent scales)

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.

Discreet but important changes were made to the Victorinox/Wenger nail clipper to improve reliability and reduce its closed depth

Discreet but important changes were made to the Victorinox/Wenger nail clipper to improve reliability and reduce its closed depth

Blades on 58mm and 65mm Victorinox knives compared

Blades on 58mm and 65mm Victorinox knives compared

Scissors on 58mm and 65mm Victorinox knives compared

Scissors on 58mm and 65mm Victorinox knives compared

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.

Small pen blade and nail file open from the same end on Nail Clip 580

Small pen blade and nail file open from the same end on Nail Clip 580. There is no flat ScrewDriver tip option with the file however the nail cleaner tip will tackle some smaller Phillips screws

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 back of the Nail Clip 580 is smooth and unobtrusive, tucked beside the nail file are the scissors, the only back tool

The back of the Nail Clip 580 is smooth and unobtrusive, tucked beside the nail file are the scissors, the only back tool

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.

Victorinox 580 Nail Clip in use

Victorinox 580 Nail Clip in use

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

Victorinox Nail Clip 582

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.

Victorinox Nail Clip 582 opened but not unfolded

Victorinox Nail Clip 582 opened but not unfolded

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.

Victorinox Nail Clip 582 in use

Victorinox Nail Clip 582 in use

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.

Four Victorinox nail clippers, two with traditional scales, two without

Four Victorinox nail clippers, two with traditional scales, two without

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.

When folded, the Victorinox nail clippers take up little room. There is a hole in the handle to hang it from a keychain if required

When folded, the Victorinox nail clipper model: 8.2050.B1 takes up little room. There is a hole in the handle to hang it from a keychain if required

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.

The Victorinox nail clipper is simply the tool from the cellidor scaled version removed and given a small covered handle

The Victorinox nail clipper 8.2050.B1 is simply the standard tool normally found with celidor scales, given a small plastic handle instead

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.

Victorinox nail clippers. Model 8.2050.B1 in use

Victorinox nail clippers. Model 8.2050.B1 in use

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.

Two small Victorinox nail clippers- Similar sizes. Possibly one of these is the best option for taking on longer trails

Two small Victorinox nail clippers of similar size. One of these is possibly the best option for taking on longer trails

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.

Victorinox nail clippers with slip case

Victorinox nail clippers with skai slip pouch

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.

Small nail file beneath the clipper lever

Small nail file beneath the clipper lever

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.

Victorinox nail clippers in use

Victorinox 8.2055.CB nail clippers in use

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.

Nail Clippers carried by Three Points of the Compass on longer hikes over the past seven years. The larger Victorinox clippers behind eventually usurped the thinner and lighter Zwilling clippers in front

Nail Clippers carried by Three Points of the Compass on longer hikes over the past seven years. The larger Victorinox clippers behind eventually replaced the thinner and lighter Zwilling clippers in front

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.

Three Points of the Compass carries a fairly comprehensive First Aid Kit on longer hikes of greater than a weeks duration and this includes a pair of nail clippers if not in my ditty bag. My 17g Victorinox clippers (seen here) have usually formed part of this kit for many years of hiking . Photographed on Ardnamurchan, Western Scotland, 2018

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…

Zwilling clippers have a reasonable nail file beneath the lever handle

Zwilling clippers have a reasonable nail file beneath the lever handle

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.

Zwilling ultra-slip nail clippers

Zwilling ultra-slip nail clippers

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.

Ditty bag and contents

Zwilling nail clippers formed part of my hiking kit until c2015. Almost all of the contents of this ditty bag kit have altered considerably since then and only three items remained unchanged in 2020. The 16g nail clippers have subsequently been replaced by a slightly heavier model that are easier to use

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. If I get round to it, I’ll do a blog on that mini kit at a later date.

Zwilling nail clipper in use

Zwilling nail clipper in use

Tool Length Width Thickness (depth) Weight Cutting width of clipper
Wenger Swiss Clipper 65mm 19mm 19.80mm 37.8g 9mm
Victorinox Nail Clip 580

0.6463

65mm 17.30mm 18.95mm 36.7g 9mm
Victorinox Nail Clip 582

0.6453

65mm 15.40mm 17.05mm 26.4g 9mm
Victorinox Nail Clippers (red handle)

8.2050.B1

59mm 13mm 7mm 11.3g 9mm
Victorinox Nail Clippers (folding, with nail file)

8.2055.CB

59mm 12mm 6.25mm 17.3g 11mm
Zwilling J. A. Henckels Pour Homme ultra slim nail clippers 59mm 13mm 4mm 15.6g 13mm
What Three Points of the Compass packs along on longer hikes to tend to nails- As well as a pair of dedicated Victorinox clippers, the little Leatherman S4 has scissors and nail file

What Three Points of the Compass has carried on longer hikes to tend to nails over the past five years- as well as a pair of dedicated Victorinox clippers, the little Leatherman Squirt S4 has scissors and nail file

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.

Tiny pair of soft-grip, stainless steel Westcott scissors with titanium-nitride coated blades. These are just 76mm long and weigh just 7g. Model: E:30420 00

Tiny pair of soft-grip, Westcott scissors with titanium-nitride coated stainless steel blades. These are just 76mm long and weigh only 7g. Model: E:30420 00

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.

The six choices in nail clipper covered in this blog

The six nail clippers covered in this blog. Though any would make a great choice for an extended multi-week hike, Three Points of the Compass has his preferred option amongst these- the 11g red handled folding model 8.2050.B1, shown centre-back

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.

Euroschirm Swing Liteflex trekking umbrella on Saxon Shore Way

Gear chat: EuroSchirm Swing Liteflex umbrella

I never thought the day would come when I would include an umbrella with a lightweight hiking set-up. But it has. For the past few day hikes, enjoying some of the best summer days the UK has experienced in some time, Three Points of the Compass has been tucking a Swing Liteflex umbrella from EuroSchirm into the side pocket of an Osprey Manta 28.

Umbrella is still large even while stowed

Non collapsible umbrella is still large even while stowed

Umbrellas do not form part of traditional British hiking. They have been used by thousands of long distance hikers in the US for years, especially when passing through hundreds of miles of desert sections on longer trails, but in our less UV intense, wetter and windier climes, there are very few hikers using such an item on UK trails.

Furled umbrella, kept closed with velcro fastening

Furled umbrella, kept closed with velcro fastening

An umbrella is obviously of use when it rains. I have commuted to London for decades for work and hate with a passion the use of umbrellas on crowded streets. I have been poked in the ear and eye, walked into, jabbed, bashed and scraped by hundreds of unwary, uncaring and selfish umbrella brandishing folk. If not literally scarred, I am mentally scarred for life. You will never see me using an umbrella in a city. Even as a glasses wearer, where rain is the bane of our life, I simply put on a brimmed hat, sometimes combined with the raised hood of a waterproof. Perhaps that is one reason why I have resisted carrying an umbrella for so many years while hiking. However I attempt to be open minded, there are obvious benefits to an umbrella. The question is do the benefits from an umbrella on trail outweigh the increase in weight and bulk when carrying such a piece of kit?

Width while walking has to be considered

Width while walking has to be considered

EuroSchirm is a family business based in Germany, Eberhard Göbel have been making specialist umbrellas since 1919 and Three Points of the Compass has been considering purchasing one of their trekking umbrellas for a number of years. It was only while browsing their website toward the end of 2019 that I noticed their move toward the cheaper, possibly more rubbish, end of the market that I began to wonder how long they would bother to continue to offer what is quite a niche and relatively expensive product. So I bought one. Then put it on a shelf and ignored it for another half a year.

'Socially distancing' on station platform, waiting for a train to take me to the beginning of the days hike

‘Socially distancing’ on station platform in 2020, waiting for a train to take me to the beginning of the days hike. Umbrella sits with single trekking pole in pack side pocket while en route

In this strange, dangerous and odd year, my hiking plans have gone awry. About the best I am managing are day walks. Living in the South East corner of England, I have no grand mountains to scale, sweeping airy ridges to stride along, few decent cliff paths to speak of. I have walked most of the longer named trails in my corner of the country- North Downs Way, South Downs Way, Wealdway, London Countryway, London LOOP, I am steadily working through the Greensand Way with Mrs Three Points of the Compass, so it was time for me to finally complete the Saxon Shore Way as a series of day hikes. This is something that I can tackle mostly by utilising trains to return to each days start point.

1m wide with a silver coating

Umbrella is one metre wide with a silver reflective coating

This long distance path is 163 miles (262km) and commenced in Gravesend, Kent, then follows the coast of South East England as it was in Roman times, following the line of Roman and later fortification, ending at Hastings in East Sussex. Walking through a grand summer, I felt this may be an ideal opportunity to carry this umbrella with me to try it out with intense UV. If it is a wet winter, I’ll be giving this umbrella another crack to see how I get on with it while hiking in constant rain.

Umbrella has a black interior surface

Umbrella has eight ribs and a black interior surface

The  Euroschirm range includes trekking, golf and city umbrellas. The trekking collection includes fixed length and collapsible umbrellas in a wide range of colours. I purchased the Swing Liteflex. This a fixed length umbrella that cannot collapse. While this means that it has a length that constantly has to be contended with, there is less to go wrong and break, and less moving parts so less weight. There are no metal parts to this umbrella at all. There are no clips to the opening/closing mechanism, it simply slides and locks into place under tension. The umbrella has a fibreglass shaft and ribs. Covering the ribs is a Teflon coated polyester canopy. It has a short, dense EVA foam handle with a short adjustable wrist loop. My canopy is a silver metallic outer that reflects sunlight, with a dark interior. This has a UV protection of UPF 50+. The classic hiking umbrella for many years in US circles was the Golite ‘Chrome Dome’. More recently, other US companies also advertise their own variants. Almost all of these are actually the umbrella that I have purchased, made by Euroschirm, and simply re-branded with their company logo. There are eight ribs on my model, this gives greater strength over the six ribbed models also available.

The weight of an umbrella is an obvious downside, even with a model such as this that excludes excess fittings wherever possible. My Swing Liteflex tips the scales at 241g (8.5oz), EuroSchirm advertise it as weighing 207g, it does not. Weight is excluding the carry case that I immediately dumped. The other hassle with this umbrella is its length. I realised this prior to purchasing it but I prefer the lack of things to go wrong over any advantage from a collapsible model. It is 635mm long and you can see in a couple of images here how it looks when stowed on my day pack. There are collapsible trekking versions available from EuroSchirm that close to a length of 275mm but, as said, these probably introduce points of failure to the product. I may yet buy one of those too as they will probably travel better overseas.

When in use, it is a doddle to hike with hands free. I have my sternum strap done up over the shaft, the wrist loop is passed through my packs hip belt before that is fastened, then it simply rests on my pack and back of my head. It can be carried over one shoulder or the other depending on sun aspect, or in the case of wind and rain, from what direction that is coming.

Orientate according to where shade is required

Orientate according to where shade is required

The umbrella is a metre wide and provides total shade to head, shoulders and top of upper body. I haven’t carried a thermometer with me to accurately measure, but on a recent day hike, on an exposed section of seawall, the sun in a cloudless sky and measuring 32°C (89.60 °F), I would guess it was between five and ten degrees cooler beneath the umbrella.

Swinglite Flex

The umbrella simply sits across back of head and top of pack

This umbrella would have been absolutely fantastic on some hikes I have done on exposed Mediterranean islands. I have sweltered along relying on my faithful Tilley LTM5 AIRFLO hat to keep shaded. I will definitely be taking this or a similar umbrella when I next return to those hot and exposed islands.

View from rear

View from rear

I haven’t carried an umbrella with me while hiking since I packed along a small folding city type ‘brolly’ when hiking the bald Bavarian hills over a couple of summers in the 1980s. After almost forty years it feels strange to return to one. The upside is that I can walk hands free with no bouncing or discomfort from such a piece of kit. Downsides already noted is the width and extra height. This set-up is in no way suited to paths with overhanging branches, nor on narrow tracks with brambles and thorns. I shall persevere, for now.

Sheep look for shade on a hot day. I carried mine with me

Sheep look for shade on a hot day. I carried mine with me

 

Victorinox 84mm Waiter

Knife chat: 84mm Victorinox Waiter and derivatives- the Bantam and Walker

Small in the pocket, a basic set of handy tools, well made, cheap, what’s not to like? If you have ever felt overburdened by an excess of tools on your standard Vic tool, the simple little 84mm long Victorinox Waiter, or two of its derivatives, the Bantam or Walker, may be all that you require. Perhaps it is time to agree that less is more…

84mm Victorinox Waiter, Bantam and Walker

84mm Victorinox Waiter, Bantam and Walker

The range of 84mm ‘Small Officer’ knives from Swiss manufacturer Victorinox are amongst what are termed their ‘medium pocket knives’. The 84mm range is not large, especially the single layer knives, which includes the Waiter. The great majority of 84mm models released over the years have been discontinued and, sadly, the 84mm scissors are no more. For much of our everyday purposes all that we require is a very small and simple choice of tools, hence the continued popularity of the smaller 58mm Classic from Victorinox, with it’s ‘holy trinity’ of blade, scissors and nail file.

Back of blade tang stamps on Waiter and earlier Ecoline Waiter

Back of blade tang stamps on earlier Ecoline Waiter (left) and Waiter

84mm Victorinox Waiter:

The single-layer Waiter, though larger than the 58mm Classic, doesn’t include scissors, nor nailfile. It appears that the machine that manufactured the scissors for Victorinox 84mm tools broke, rather than repair it, subsequent models simply excluded scissors. This means that scissors on an 84mm Victorinox are now long gone, much desired and sought after by collectors.

What the 84mm range of knives does retain though, is a reasonably sized small blade in a knife that sits comfortably in the hand. The 84mm sized frame is about the smallest offered by Victorinox that actually nestles well into all but the largest of mitts. Too large for a keyring, they fit the pocket well.

Blades are v-ground, drop point stainless steel that comes pretty sharp out of the box, these blades are easily sharpened. Blade is non-locking so compliant with current UK knife law. The 63mm blade has some 53mm of cutting edge and is 2.08mm thick across the spine.

Victorinox Waiter with two of its main tools opened

Victorinox Waiter with two of its main tools opened. Model no. 0.3303

The other main tool included on the Waiter is the Combo tool. This combines bottle opener/cap lifter, tin/can opener, 4mm flat screwdriver and wire bender/stripper. The latter being a tool that I have never had to put to use. When introduced by Victorinox in the 1980s, the combination tool replaced two tools that used to provide the functions separately and despite being slightly thinner than its two predecessors, it is perfectly capable. The combo tool also has a half stop to allow the flat screwdriver tip to be used at a ninety degree angle with greater torque. Or alternatively, as a light duty scraper or pry bar.

The 84mm Victorinox Waiter has a number of handy functions- a small flat Victorinox screwdriver can be stored on the corkscrew, a steel pin or needle stored behind the corkscrew (half removed here), and scales contain useful tweezers and a large toothpick

The 84mm Victorinox Waiter has a number of handy tools- a small flat Victorinox screwdriver can be stored on the corkscrew, a steel pin or needle can be inserted behind the corkscrew (half removed here), and scales contain useful tweezers and a large toothpick

On the backside of the 34.8g Waiter is a corkscrew, which is hardly surprising considering its name. These days, with greater movement toward screw-top wine bottles there is a decreasing need for such a tool. However, while it is also possible to drill a hole in a leather belt, or loosen a knot in cordage with this tool, Three Points of the Compass finds the corkscrew most useful as the ideal home for one of the micro flat tip screwdrivers that Victorinox make, these are easily purchased online as an add-on. Handily, there is also a small hole in the cellidor scale, hidden behind the corkscrew, in which a straight stainless steel pin can be secreted. Ideal for fishing out splinters and the like. Alternatively, a needle could be stored in the hole instead.

Standard shiny cellidor scales compared with the matt nylon Ecoline scales (below)

Standard shiny cellidor scales compared with the matt nylon Ecoline scales (below)

A variant of the standard Waiter that may occasionally be seen is the economy version that Victorinox produced. This 34.5g Ecoline tool, model no. 2.3303, has red nylon scales and also comes with slots for toothpick and tweezers. While very different in look and feel to the more normally found smooth red plastic cellidor scales, the slightly textured grip to the handles makes it easy to hold and just slightly less slippery. 

84mm Ecoline Waiter (model 2.3303) has economy nylon scales compared to the Cellidor scales on the standard model

84mm Ecoline Waiter (model 2.3303) has economy nylon scales compared to the Cellidor scales on the standard model

Mini Victorinox screwdriver is handy for specs wearers and can be wound onto the Waiter's corkscrew for storage

Mini Victorinox screwdriver is handy for specs wearers and can be wound onto the Waiter’s corkscrew for storage

Alternatively, the Victorinox Bantam could also be considered as the best of the 84mm range for general carry. That little knife does away with the corkscrew and simply sports the remaining tools. However, why not have the option of corkscrew, particularity if it can carry the useful little micro-screwdriver?

I wear glasses so appreciate having a small screwdriver, though you might not require this bonus. The addition of a corkscrew on the Waiter does mean a minuscule 2g weight penalty over the lighter 32.8g Bantam. The extra anchor point for the corkscrew on the Waiter also adds a little more stability and durability to the whole tool. 

Victorinox 84mm Waiter with Bantam behind, the Bantam carries exactly the same toolset as the Waiter less the Corkscrew

Victorinox 84mm Waiter with Bantam behind, the Bantam carries exactly the same toolset as the Waiter minus the Corkscrew

The cheap ‘n’ cheerful Waiter is easily available today and comes as standard with the classic red plastic cellidor scales. These also house the scale tools- a handy set of tweezers and less useful toothpick. I appreciate that toothpicks may have their fans but I shudder to think of the bacteria that can lurk within the scale and I for one am not putting a toothpick that has been residing there anywhere near my mouth. As usual, it is shame this scale wasn’t utilised for a more useful pen or LED light. The almost useless toothpick is longer than that found in Victorinox’s smaller knives however the 45mm long tweezers are exactly the same as those found in the 58mm Classic range of Victorinox knives, other than the grey plastic tip of the tweezers having a slight chamfer due to the slot being situated in the curve of the end of the scale. All three of the knife models shown here have the same keyring, this is a 12mm diameter split ring on a small protruding lug that does not fold away.

Victorinox 84mm Waiter features:

  • Weight: 34.8g
  • Length: 84mm, width: 26.40mm (at widest point), thickness: 11.2mm
  • Blade
  • Combo tool
  • Corkscrew
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers
  • Straight pin
  • Keyring
  • Optional– Mini flat screwdriver 
Open 84mm Victorinox Bantam with closed 84mm Victorinox Waiter

Open 84mm Victorinox Bantam with closed 84mm Victorinox Waiter

84mm Victorinox Bantam:

The single-layer Bantam has the same large main blade as found on the Waiter and a combo tool that opens out at the keyring end of the knife. Plastic cellidor scales hold the usual tweezers and toothpick. Only having one layer, this is another quite thin knife that carries comfortably in the pocket.

84mm Victorinox Bantam, with all tools opened. Model no. 0.2303

84mm Victorinox Bantam, with all tools opened. Model no. 0.2303

The combo tool is the same as that found on the Waiter and the one found on the Bantam also has a half stop to allow it to be used with greater torque in the half open position. 

Both 84mm Bantam and Walker have two rivets holding the frame and tools together, one less than the Waiter but there does not appear to be any increase in the sideways flexibility of any tools as a result.

Victorinox 84mm Bantam features:

  • Weight: 32.8g
  • Length: 84mm, width: 23mm (at widest point), thickness: 11.05mm
  • Blade
  • Combo tool
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers
  • Keyring
Victorinox Bantam. A simple set of tools in a thin traditional frame that is comfortable in the hand

Victorinox Bantam with both blade and combo tool opened out. A simple set of tools in a thin traditional frame that is comfortable in the hand

84mm Victorinox Walker:

The Victorinox Walker adds a layer, making it a slightly thicker tool than both Waiter and Walker. I find this extra thickness noticeable, preferring the slim profile of the single layer tools. However the extra thickness of the two-layer Walker does mean this tool sits more comfortably in the hand when using the extra tool provided. Again, even with two layers, this is not an intrusive knife when carried. It is the three and four layer knives that really start to show, both with bulk and weight.

84mm Victorinox Walker, with all tools opened. Model no. 0.2313

84mm Victorinox Walker, with all tools opened. Combo tool on half-stop. Model no. 0.2313

The blade, combo tool, toothpick, tweezers and keyring are exactly as those on the Waiter and Bantam. Again, there is half-stop position on the combo-tool which while allowing it to be used with greater torque in that position is usually of less use as a screwdriver is better situated for use at the end of a tool, in the fully open position.

The saw on the Victorinox Walker, though quite small, is wickedly sharp

The saw on the Victorinox Walker, though quite small, is wickedly sharp

The saw on the Victorinox Walker will easily saw through dry wood as thick as a child's arm

The saw on the Victorinox Walker will easily saw through dry wood as thick as a child’s arm

Obviously the major difference with the walker is the inclusion of a saw. This is non-locking though has a good snap that ensures it stays open, but, with back pressure it will over ride the strong spring and can close on the unwary.

The saw on the Victorinox Walker is 69mm with a saw cutting length of 59mm. Teeth are sharp, retain their sharpness well and cut on both forward and backward strokes. Teeth are 1.85mm thick and the spine of the saw 1.10mm which helps prevent it jamming while cutting. When sharp, it saws with ease but is limited by its shorter length. The 90 degree back edge of the spine will allow a ferro rod to be struck. There are no other tools on the Walker.

84mm Victorinox Walker with all tools open, with closed 84mm Victorinox Bantam

84mm Victorinox Walker with all tools open, with closed 84mm Victorinox Bantam

Victorinox 84mm Walker features:

  • Weight: 45.9g
  • Length: 84mm, width: 23mm (at widest point), thickness: 14mm
  • Blade
  • Combo tool
  • Woodsaw
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers
  • Keyring
Viewing the backs of the tools, the greater thickness of the Walker with its extra layer is apparent

Viewing the backs of the tools, the greater thickness of the Walker with its extra layer is apparent, despite the inclusion of a corkscrew on the thinner Waiter

These three knives are all great tools. But to return to the Waiter. It is a lovely 84mm option from Victorinox. Don’t get hung up on the name. It will open a bottle of wine, but the remainder of the small set of tools are perfectly capable of dealing with the majority of tasks encountered daily, or what a hiker would require on trail. There is also a 91mm Waiter Plus, that beside being larger, adds a pen to the scale tools, however that is getting into the larger knives that Three Points of the Compass feels are a little large for using while hiking if weight and bulk is a primary consideration. I don’t carry a Waiter on trail, preferring some other great options out there, but I have EDC’d a Waiter on many an occasion as these quite discreet single-layer knives slip into a pocket and are in no way bulky. 

It is not often that I find myself requiring a saw while on trail. Even on the few times when I am using a wood stove, I usually find relying on dry twigs no more than finger thickness means that a saw isn’t required. If I was using a wood stove more frequently, or was more of a bushcrafter, then I may feel differently. The simpler Bantam, with no back tools, is a fantastic knife and this blog shall return to the even thinner alox version in the future. Of the three however, Three Points of the Compass feels that the Waiter provides the best selection of tools with nothing superfluous.

Three Points of the Compass has quite large hands but the 84mm Waiter is comfortable to hold

Three Points of the Compass has quite large hands but the 84mm Victorinox Waiter is comfortable to hold

If the Waiter is used while multi-day hiking an additional small pair of scissors would be useful. For additional scissors, those from the Victorinox Swiss Card , perhaps carried in a First Aid Kit, would suffice. The Victorinox Waiter is easily found, an additional bonus is how cheap it is and it can frequently be found at a reduced price too. Snap one up when you see it.

Waiter tang stamp

Waiter tang stamp

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.

Top to bottom- 84mm Victorinox Waiter, Bantam, Walker

Top to bottom- 84mm Victorinox Waiter, Bantam, Walker

Bux Measure

Map measurer of the month- The BUX map measure

The plastic Bux map measure frequently comes up for sale on the second hand market. This is a little surprising as it is amongst the simplest of map measurers ever manufactured. Often described as being made of bakelite, it is probably more likely to be catalin.

Bux measure works most easily with a 1″ to 1 mile map

Cheaply made, probably in the 1960s, the Bux measure was made in England and attempted to rival the far more expensive, more robust and certainly more accurate metal cased opisometers available from France, Switzerland and Germany.

Almost nothing seems to survive today that explains the origins of this little measure yet they were likely produced in their tens of thousands.

Each measure came in a small flapped paper envelope. This is printed with the simple to understand instructions on how to use.

Despite this type of measure having been used for many purposes- namely, with any undulating line that required measuring, the instructions that come with the measure only indicate use with maps.

THE BUX

MAP MEASURE

The measure is marked for scale 1″
to 1 mile. For 1/2″ to 1 mile simply
multiply the reading by 2; for 4
miles to 1″ multiply by 4 etc.
Before commencing a reading it is essential to 
see that the dial is at zero then to wheel the 
instrument lightly but firmly along the route
in the direction indicated by the arrow on
the case.

 

Bux map measurer in the envelope in which it was supplied

Bux map measurer in the envelope in which it was supplied

The Bux measure is very simple in construction. The small measure is moved by hand along a line on a map, pressing firmly onto the map when moving rotates the small metal wheel at the base. This has a fine toothed brass cog attached at its spindle, this in turn rotates another brass gear that engages with the plastic dial that rotates through the small window in the front. The gearing moves the dial through one fifth of a mile increments per inch of travel along a line on a map. Be it mapped path, bridleway, river or road.

Red and black numbering and incremental markings on Bux dials

Red and black numbering and incremental markings on Bux dials

A change was made in the colour of the plastic measuring dial at some point during its production. Numbering and increments on the dial changed from red to black, or vice versa. The dial is marked in five mile increments, so one full turn of the dial represents 50 miles of travel on a one inch scale map. Accuracy of measurement is pretty good.

So why is the measure called the ‘Bux’. Nothing seems to survive in print today to explain this. I can only hazard a guess, aided by the text that appears on the face of one of the examples that I have. This says ‘BUCK ENGLAND’. Buck almost certainly refers to the English County- Buckinghamshire. This Home County borders Greater London and was likely where the manufacturing was carried out. The word ‘Buckinghamshire’ is normally shortened to ‘Bucks’, and pronounced ‘Bux’.

The lighter plastic cased measure weighs 7.5g. The darker bodies, with a slightly different casting, weigh 8.2g. Three Points of the Compass has identified four generations of this little measure. These have one of the following:

Front of case Rear of case
text text
1″ = 1 ML

BUX

MADE IN ENGLAND PAT. PEND. large text, around case, no case recess
1″ = 1 ML

BUX

MADE IN ENGLAND PAT. PEND. small text, in case recess
1″ = 1 ML

BUX

  blank case recess
1″ = 1 ML

BUCK

ENGLAND

MADE IN ENGLAND PAT. PEND. large text, around case, no case recess

The rear of four generations of case castings

The front face of four generations of case castings

The rear of four generations of case casting

The rear of four generations of case casting

These little measures do not stand up there with the finest of scientific measuring instruments produced in the UK. They are a poor replacement for the finely made precision measurers made some fifty years prior. What they have done is bring such measures within reach of the pocket of just about anyone. They must have cost just pennies when new. Yet all four examples that are shown here still work, probably fifty to sixty years after manufacture.

Tenerife: Nov - Dec 2018 Gofio on the supermarket shelves

Trail food: Gofio

Visit many restaurants on the Canary Islands and you will find a small dish or bowl of pale finely ground flour in the centre. This is gofio, roasted and milled, made from wheat or varieties of maize. Just occasionally it is made from other plants such as barley or even beans. Gofio is a good quality carbohydrate, and quite high in protein and fibre. It is low in fat and sugar and high in minerals.

Gofio can be purchased in handy 25g individual servings, perfect for a breakfast dish

Gofio can be purchased in handy 25g individual servings, perfect for a breakfast dish

The word Gofio was used by the original inhabitants of Gran Canaria for roasted and ground barley and the original natives of Tenerife, the Guanches, called this ahoren, where it became a staple food. Eventually gofio became standard across the archipelago for a flour made with any cereal or legume. That found on Tenerife is most usually derived from wheat with a little added salt. Fuerteventura favours ground chickpeas. All of them are a great source of carbohydrate.

Gofio in centre of restaurant table. Bodega Monje, Tenerife

Gofio in centre of restaurant table. Bodega Monje, Tenerife. A spoonful can be added to many meals, particularly to thicken more liquid dishes

Gofio is wholemeal, all parts of the cereal are utilised. Roasting prior to milling is common to all gofio, which has the benefit of killing mould and parasites, increasing shelf life and purportedly improving flavour. This process also has the welcome effect of making the flour easily digestible, suiting those with delicate digestive systems, the elderly, children and fortuitously, hikers!

So, if looking for suitable hiking foods while traversing the Canary Islands, perhaps on the GR131 long distance trail, keep gofio in mind. It has satiating powers meaning that hunger does not appear for some time due to its slow absorption, so is also suited for diabetics. It is not an unpleasant taste but Three Points of the Compass finds its distinctive smell the most noticeable characteristic.

Most supermarkets on the larger Canary Islands will have shelves groaning beneath a wide range of Gofio. Tenerife, 2018

Most supermarkets on the larger Canary Islands will have shelves groaning beneath a wide range of Gofio. Some will be milled from pure maize or wheat, others will be mixes of ground ingredients that could include barley, rye chickpeas or even beans. Photographed Tenerife, 2018

A simple breakfast- gofio with milk and honey

Breakfast of gofio with milk and honey

Gofio is not a dish in itself, it is more usually an ingredient to be added to other dishes. Gofio can be sprinkled on a breakfast cereal or simply mixed with milk. Tins or tubes of condensed milk make a handy and tasty addition too.

Gofio can be added to fish and meat stews to thicken these. Adding thick fish stock (or occasionally meat stock) to gofio results in the dish Escaldón, found as a starter in some restaurants. Probably the best approximation of this that could be achieved on trail would be using a fish stock cube or fish stock pot, which would likely see a native canarian throw their arms up in horror. Three Points of the Compass does like to finish a days hiking with an Oxo cube in boiled water prior to an evening meal, not a particularly healthy option unless carrying out strenuous activity as these beef stock cubes are pretty high in sodium. But on trail I find this both refreshing and rehydrating while replacing some lost salts, it was time to see what resulted from adding gofio to the mix…

25g of Gofio will mix to a smooth paste with a little cold water easily. Topped up with boiling water and with an added Oxo, this makes a satisfying light liquid drink on trail during a days hike or to add lost salts at the end of the day

25g of Gofio will mix to a smooth paste with a little cold water easily. Topped up with boiling water and with an added Oxo, this makes a satisfying light liquid drink on trail during a days hike or to add lost salts at the end of the day

Condensed milk, in various containers, is usually found on supermarket shelves beside packs of gofio. Gran Canaria

Condensed milk, in various containers, is usually found on supermarket shelves beside packs of gofio. Gran Canaria

Gofio is, or was, almost a staple for many Canary Island children- a bowl of gofio mixed with milk being consumed before school. Many older inhabitants will share fond memories of growing up with it and it remains a favourite. It would make a good alternative to porridge/oatmeal if backpacking in the Canaries. Or seek out Gofio de Avena which is made from milled roasted oats so not far removed from porridge itself. Milk powder or a tube of condensed milk could easily be packed along, and the dish supplemented with nuts or dried fruits.

Simple breakfast dish of gofio, milk and figs

Simple breakfast dish of gofio, milk and figs

Gofio on in Gran Canaria supermarket, stacked beside sugars and condensed milk

Gofio in Gran Canaria supermarket, stacked beside sugars and condensed milk. The two are a popular mixture in nearby western Sahara due to the Spanish influence there.

Gofio de Millo (roasted maize/corn) provides around 387Kcal, 8.6g protein and 73g carbohydrate per 100g. Gofio de Trigo (roasted wheat) provides some 371Kcal, 10.8g protein and 81.6g carbohydrate per 100g. Gofio de Avena (roasted oats) provides 400kcal, 13.1g protein and 70.6g carbohydrate per 100g.

Gofio de Millo is made from ground and roasted corn (actually maize) while Gofio de Trigo is roasted wheat

Gofio de Millo is made from ground and roasted corn (actually maize) while Gofio de Trigo is roasted wheat

Gofio can be easily found in almost all Canary Island supermarkets in bags of various sizes. The 25g individual serving size are convenient as a single breakfast. Condensed milk is usually found on adjacent shelves. While a little difficult to find away from the Canaries, should you come across gofio, do try it.

An easily found foodstuff if hiking on the Canary Islands. Gofio, in its many guises and sizes, can easily be packed along with milk powder or a tube of condensed milk

An easily found foodstuff if hiking on the Canary Islands. Gofio, in its many guises and sizes, can easily be packed along with milk powder or a tube of condensed milk

Trail talk: FREE London walking maps- Sporting occasion

This is a final glance at the free paper maps that have been available to the public over the decades to aid in navigating the streets and green spaces of London- one of the most congested and built up cities on the planet. London has played host to many sporting events over the centuries though few appear to have warranted the creation of dedicated free maps for the public. Three Points of the Compass is aware of just a handful of events and sporting occasion where maps were freely available and some of these are shown here. Click on any image to enlarge it.

Wembley

The British Empire Exhibition Stadium was built in 1923 for the 1924/5 British Empire Exhibition though it hosted the first ever FA Cup Final in 1923 due to being completed ahead of schedule. More commonly known as the Empire Stadium, it was renamed Wembley Stadium and subsequently used for football and rugby matches and finals, also speedway, greyhound racing, the 1948 Olympics and other sports and concerts, including Live Aid in 1985.

Free street map showing the streets area surrounding Wembley Stadium. With compliments of McGlasham & Co. Surveyors and Estate Agents. Map copyright Maurice Linton Publications

In the first half of the 20th century, there were few free map resources to aid a pedestrian in walking to a sporting fixture. Beyond bus maps, local knowledge and ‘follow the crowd’, one of the complimentary maps from an estate agent would have been of great help. Street map showing the area surrounding Wembley Stadium. McGlashan & Co. Surveyors and Estate Agents. Map copyright Maurice Linton Publications, 1950s

The stadium closed in 2000 and a replacement opened on the same site in 2007. The site is easily accessed by public transport and few free maps seem to have been produced specifically as aids in finding it though an example for the 1948 London Olympics is included below. The stadium and immediate area does obviously appear on more general London street maps such as bus route maps and those given away free by estate agents.

Cover of small Euro '96 map sponsored by Mastercard

Cover of small Euro ’96 London map sponsored by MasterCard, this includes a simple diagram of the Wembley Stadium and its approach

MasterCard was one of the eleven official sponsors for the 1996 UEFA European Football Championship, more commonly known as Euro ’96 and was behind the production of a small credit card sized folding map that as well as including simple detail on Wembley seating and stadium approach, included a simple street map of central London.

Produced by Z-Cards, and extremely limited in size and area covered, it is actually a fairly good street map of central London, including most major streets, which are named, places of interest but it lacks any detail on paths across green spaces.

Doubly folded sheet card produced by Z-Card showing Wembley Stadium seating plan, Euro '96 fixture list, travel information, map of central London and the sponsor MasterCard's 'welcome centres'

Doubly folded sheet card produced by Z-Card showing Wembley Stadium seating plan (on reverse), Euro ’96 fixture list, travel information, map of central London and the sponsor MasterCard’s ‘welcome centres’

Simple diagram map of Wembley Stadium and its approach. Intended to prevent external congestion of spectators. Produced for 2018 London NFL Games game between Los Angeles Chargers and Tennessee Titans, the Chargers won 20-19

Simple diagram map of the ‘new’ Wembley Stadium and its approach. The free map was intended to reduce congestion of spectators in the streets outside. Sent free with tickets to the 2018 London NFL Games game between Los Angeles Chargers and Tennessee Titans, the Chargers won 20-19

London Marathon

One of the largest and most well attended marathons globally is that held in London each year. Marathon runners enjoy free travel on the London Tube and Docklands Light Railway on race day. Many spectators decide to walk to their vantage point rather than struggle to travel on an overburdened transport network. In anticipation of this, and additionally expecting many spectators from out of London that may be largely unaware of even the rough layout of both city and race course, free ‘maps’ are produced each year by Transport for London.

Free map with travel information produced for the Flora London Marathon, 2009

Free map with travel information produced for the Flora London Marathon, 2009

Maps they may be, but the information on them is cursory in the extreme. There is just about enough information to orientate in London but considerable reliance would have been placed on maps situated in Tube station concourses and online mapping.

The leaflets advise those walking to view the race to visit tfl.gov.uk/walking for routes and tfl.gov.uk/journeyplanner to plan their journey. It is a shame that the decision had not been taken to simply include a good map and trust spectators to plan their route accordingly rather than rely on an automated system that continues to funnel the majority of people through what Transport for London and the race organisers feel is their preferred route, rather than actually create less congestion as a result of independent route planning. Is map reading that much of a lost skill? If it isn’t, then we are certainly heading that way as an over reliance on algorithms and event planners relieves us all of individual thought and expertise.

Map detail in 2009 'Marathon' leaflet produced by Transport for London

Map detail in 2009 ‘Marathon’ leaflet produced by Transport for London

Wimbledon

Free map given to some attendees at the 2019 Wimbledon Tennis Championship, with hospitality pass. Walkers Map 2019

Free map given to some attendees at the 2019 Wimbledon Tennis Championship, with hospitality pass. Walkers Map 2019

Some 7 miles south-west of central London is another of the capital’s great sporting venues- Wimbledon, home to the Wimbledon Tennis Championships each year. Some attendees are provided with a small folding map of the grounds and a map showing how to walk from either Southfields or Wimbledon Underground stations to the tennis courts.

Both are a short walk and signposting is excellent however it is refreshing that, possibly reluctant, walkers are still encouraged to use ‘shank’s pony’ and walk the streets, aided of course, by a paper map.

Walk the Circle Line

Free leaflet detailing the Walk the Circle Line for Sport Relief event held on 13 March 2016

Free leaflet detailing the Walk the Circle Line for Sport Relief event held on 13 March 2016

Soon after its establishment in 2002, the charity organisation Sport Relief teamed up with Comic Relief, and the two have subsequently aired, in association with BBC Sport, on alternate years in March each year. Many charity fund raising exploits are completed by the public throughout the year and in 2016 Transport for London (TfL) promoted a ‘Walk the Circle Line’ event. Thousands joined the above ground 14.5 mile walk around the original route followed by the Circle Underground Line. The great majority walked on 13 March, with sponsorship going to Sport Relief. Participants could start at one of four locations on the route- Fitzroy Square Gardens, St Botolph-without-Bishopgate Gardens, Christchurch Gardens and Kensington Gardens. The map is perfectly adequate to follow the route but poor once it is left as few streets are named. It is interesting to note that this map actually includes one of the best printed representations of the myriad of paths that cross Hyde Park.

This is a good walk to take in many of the notable landmarks of London- Westminster, Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge amongst them. The free leaflet and map also included a diagram of the underground system, which included an estimate of walking times between stations.

Sponsored by Sainsbury's and produced by TfL, this free map enabled participants to navigate their way around the original route of the Underground Circle Line, 2016

Sponsored by Sainsbury’s and produced by TfL, this free map enabled participants to navigate their way at street level around the original route of the Underground Circle Line, 2016

The London Olympics

London has hosted the Olympic Games three times- in 1908, 1948 and 2012 however I can find no examples of free maps provided for the public in 1908. This is to be expected as there was no established practice at that juncture in producing free street maps for the public. As an aside, it was at the 1908 Olympics that race walking made its debut as a standalone sport.

1948 Olympics

Free London Transport map to 1948 Olympics

Free London Transport map for the 1948 Olympics

While the situation in 1948 was little changed from the 1908 Olympics in that few free maps were being produced for the public visiting London, the issue of small, pocket-sized and free transport maps was now well established. It is therefore unsurprising that London Transport produced a free paper map for those visiting the capital at the time of the Games of the XIV Olympiad. Additionally, competitors and officials were provided with free travel (bus and underground) passes and maps of the transport network. The success in securing a free map must have been a bit of a coup considering that more commercial offerings, such as a special Olympic transport guide and map produced by the Daily Telegraph, cost two shillings and sixpence.

Huge numbers of additional visitors to London were expected. Many of these would be unfamiliar with the street network, transport options or how to access any of the areas where Olympic events were scheduled to take place. In the wake of a financially crippling World War, the events were termed the Austerity Games and sixteen existing sporting venues were utilised. The free, two sided, fold-out leaflet included tourist information on London Museums and Art Galleries, general places of interest, embassies and consulates. Alongside a rail map showing the London Transport Railways in central London, a second street map showed the Wembley area which included the Empire Stadium (later named Wembley Stadium) and the Empire Pool (later named Wembley Arena). A new road linking Wembley Park Station with Wembley Stadium, named Olympic Way, opened on 8 July 1848.

Map to Wembley area in free 1948 London Transport Olympic guide

Map to Wembley area included in free 1948 Olympic guide produced by London Transport. The designer- ‘Hale’ is shown bottom right. Printed by Waterlow & Sons Ltd.

2012 Olympics and Paralympics

It has been the London Olympics, especially those held in 2012, that has seen, by far, the greatest number of free maps produced to aid those in walking London’s streets.

The Cultural Olympiad

Careful to not use any official branding, for which a licencing fee would have ben required, The Times newspaper gave away a free 'London for free' map in 2012

Careful to not use any official branding, for which a licencing fee would have been required, The Times newspaper gave away a free ‘London for free’ map in 2012

By 2012 many visitors to London were relying on what online resources were available for finding their way through unfamiliar streets. Only official sponsors and those licenced were permitted to use any Olympic branding of any form on any product so this may account for the lack of much in the way of third party mapping. In particular this would have been relevant to anything that was supplied free of charge as production of these had to be paid for somehow.

“from riverside fireworks to athletic parades, fashion displays to world-class exhibitions, The Times brings you the best things to do during the Olympics- for free”

One of the few free maps produced was that given away to the public showing what could be enjoyed for free across London in 2012. From parks and walks, to museums and galleries, many locations were indicated on the map. However the map itself is woeful and more intended just to indicate what was available and roughly where in the Capital it could be experienced. It would be very difficult to navigate by foot using this map alone. This hinges on a statement made in the first of these blogs on free maps for walking in London- The production of a map costs money, to produce a good map costs a lot of money.

'London for free' pocket sized guide produced by The Times newspaper in 2012. The reverse includes a tube map, river view, guide to free museums, galleries, cultural events, parks, walks and where major markets and shopping was located. The Olympic venues are also shown. Important or distinctive buildings are indicated on the simple map but only major roads are included

‘London for free’ pocket sized guide produced by The Times newspaper in 2012. The reverse includes a tube map, river view, guide to free museums, galleries, cultural events, parks, walks and where major markets and shopping is located. The Olympic sporting venues are also shown. Important or distinctive buildings are indicated on the simple map but only major roads are included

Large free map produced by TfL for Summer 2012

Large free ‘Summer 2012 Map’. produced by TfL. This is probably the best walking map that TfL has ever produced

In 2012 there was strong concern that the public transport system would not be able to handle the huge number of additional visitors to London. There were some 8.2 million tickets sold for Olympic Games events and a further 2.7 million tickets for the Paralympics that followed. Demand for most events often far outstripped supply and while ticket holders were entitled to free use of London’s public transport system on the day of their event, the public were encouraged to consider walking to their venue to reduce congestion.

Alongside the summer Olympics, everyday London was still going about its business, with commuters, traders and residents being joined by thousands of tourists and those visiting the capital for one of the cultural events associated with the Olympiad. There were also many tens of thousands of people expected for the free events such as the marathon, triathlon and road cycling. A very large number of free maps were produced showing how pedestrians could get around an unfamiliar London. Advice for commuters and travellers to London was provided by Transport for London (TfL) as part of a combined information hub termed Get ahead of the Games. Alongside various publications and maps, a dedicated informative and updated website was maintained.

Free leaflet that included two maps containing helpful information for visitors to London. This was aimed more at those not attending sporting events and aided street level navigation and exploration of various associated events and tourist destinations. 2012

Free leaflet that included two maps containing helpful information for visitors to London. This was aimed more at those not attending sporting events and aided street level navigation and exploration of various associated events and tourist destinations. 2012

Olympic torch and marathon routes:

The Olympic Torch made its way through London on 26 July 2012 and a free ‘Square Mile‘ map to the route was available that also included the Olympic and Paralympic marathon course routes.

Both sides of the freely available leaflet were printed, Torch and Marathon routes were shown on one side and a more general visitor information map on the other. Both maps are very simple in design and are very much aimed at people unfamiliar with using maps for navigating. Helpfully, distinctive tall buildings such as St. Paul’s cathedral and the ‘Gherkin’ are included to enable even the most inept to orientate themselves.

A little surprising is the inclusion of two ‘Stroll Discovery’ Trails on the visitor information map. These yellow and blue trails took in London’s East End, and St. Paul’s Cathedral, Monument and the River Thames. However the respective trail map format is very different to those produced for four other Stroll Discovery Trails shown below.

Visitor Information map on free 'Square Mile' leaflet produced in 2012. This includes two short 'Discovery Trails for those walking around London

Visitor Information map on free ‘Square Mile’ leaflet produced in 2012. This includes two short ‘Discovery Trails’ for those walking around London

Stroll Discovery Trails:

One of the Stroll trail maps produced for London visitors in 2012. This is the Purple Trail that mapped out a short 3.4km walk around Mayfair and Soho taking in Berkeley Square, Grosvenor Square, Bond Street, Hanover Square and Piccadilly Circus

One of the Stroll trail maps produced for London visitors in 2012. Purple Trail is a short 3.4km walk around Mayfair and Soho taking in Berkeley Square, Grosvenor Square, Bond Street, Hanover Square and Piccadilly Circus.

Four small maps that encouraged visitors to explore parts of London by foot were printed on thin card that was slightly more robust than more cheaply produced paper maps. This is probably because many would have been clutched by young children guiding their families around the short trails. The covers of the four 2012 ‘Stroll’ maps featured Big Ben and the two official Olympic mascots. The London 2012 mascots divided opinion and while appreciated by most, there were many that felt they were, simply, rather odd. The mascots were Wenlock, named after the Shropshire village of Much Wenlock (where the Wenlock Olympian Games were an inspiration for the revival of the Olympic Games), and Mandeville, named after Stoke Mandeville hospital (the birthplace of the Paralympic Games). Each Discovery trail was supposed to be walked in a clockwise direction, walkers would come across the two mascots at various places en route “highlighting some great photo opportunities on the way”.

Each folded map card is small, measuring just 98mm x 210mm and they are pretty basic in design despite being based on Ordnance Survey mapping. There is little street naming added and few paths across green spaces are included. However their production and free issue is to be applauded. None of the trails were particularly long, varying from 2.6km to 4.8km. Though simple, each map is easy to follow and actually encourages the pedestrian to explore and learn a little of London.

Stroll Green Trail- 3.7km

Stroll Green Trail- 3.7km taking in Regent’s Park

Stroll Red trail- 4.8km

Stroll Red trail- 4.8km on the side of River Thames

Yellow and Blue routes are included on the ‘Square Mile’ map, the remaining four had dedicated print runs. The six Discovery Trails created in 2012 as part of the Cultural Olympiad were:

    • Route 1- Blue Trail 4.4km. St. Paul’s Cathedral, Monument and banks of River Thames
    • Route 2- Pink Trail 2.6km. London’s West End
    • Route 3- Green Trail 3.7km. Regent’s Park
    • Route 4- Red Trail 4.8km. Political London, South Bank
    • Route 5- Yellow Trail 3.2km. London’s East End
    • Route 6- Purple Trail 3.4km. Piccadilly and Oxford Street

The six trails were also shown on the ‘Summer 2012 Map’, produced by TfL, the blue cover of which was shown earlier. A small detail is taken from that large map and shown below, compare how the 3.7km Green trail through Regent’s Park is depicted, with the dedicated Green trail leaflet reproduced above.

Detail from TfL's 'Summer 2012 Map', showing the Green Discovery Stroll through Regent's Park

Detail from TfL’s ‘Summer 2012 Map’, showing the Green Discovery Stroll through Regent’s Park

Why not walk it? maps:

Eleven maps, each centred on a London railway station, were distributed free of charge to aid visitors to London during the 2012 Olympics

Eleven maps, each centred on a London railway station, were distributed free of charge to aid visitors to London during the 2012 Olympics

Detail from Victoria 'Why not walk it?' map. The detail included on this free map is impressive

Detail from Victoria ‘Why not walk it?’ map. The detail included on this free map is impressive

London, purely as a result of historic anomaly, with many disparate companies building their own railway and subsequent London terminus, has eleven mainline railway stations. Each of these railway termini had a dedicated Get ahead of the Games map produced in 2012.

An unprecedented eleven ‘Why not walk it?’ maps were available free of charge to visitors to the Olympics and Paralympic Games. The maps are very well produced. Production and distribution costs were met by the London Mayor’s office, Network Rail and Transport for London. Based on Ordnance Survey mapping, each is roughly centred on its respective station and features concentric circles depicting 10, 15, 20 and 25 minute walk estimates.

'Why not walk it?

Large free map centred on Stratford and East London given free in 2012. There is a lot of detail on this map which includes the Olympic Park. 980mm x 620mm

Large free map centred on Stratford and East London given free in 2012. There is a lot of detail on this map which includes the Olympic Park. 980mm x 620mm

Greenwich & Woolwich map available during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. One of two larger area London maps available free of charge to the public

Greenwich & Woolwich map available during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. One of two larger area London maps available free of charge to the public

In addition to the eleven station maps there were two similarly promoted maps available free of charge. These covered the Greenwich & Woolwich area and Stratford & East London. The second map was especially important as it focused on an area of London historically poorly served by map makers. Each large map included a smaller reproduction of the other on its reverse.

These two specially produced complimentary maps covered parts of London that were receiving the greatest number of unique visitors, especially the Olympic Parks area in a part of London that benefited greatly from the injection of money on the back of the 2012 Olympics. Again, these maps were based on Ordnance Survey mapping and included a central London planner map on the reverse with associated travel information. These are amongst the finest of free map resources ever produced for someone intending to walk in London.

The Olympic Park:

The 2012 Olympic Park was a 2.5 square kilometres area divided into four zones: Orbit Circus, Britannia Row, World Square and The Street Market. It was a focus for anyone attending the Olympics and Paralympics and away from events themselves was where the main buzz was to be experienced.

Olympic Park map. Specifically prepared in support of the Paralympic Games that took place 29 August to 9 September 2012

Olympic Park map. Specifically prepared in support of the Paralympic Games that took place 29 August to 9 September 2012

Olympic Park map. Specifically prepared in support of the Olympic Games that took place 27 July to 12 August 2012

Olympic Park map. Specifically prepared in support of the Olympic Games that took place 27 July to 12 August 2012

Events were screened live, music performances, street performers, street theatre, choirs, poetry and buskers abounded.

Needless to say, simple maps of the park were produced and were freely available for both the Olympics and Paralympics that followed. There was little difference in the map itself or information included. Though note the slightly differing logo used for the respective Games.

Based on Ordnance Survey mapping but including very simple detail. There is sufficient information on this map to enable those unfamiliar with maps to navigate around the 2012 Olympic Park

Based on Ordnance Survey mapping but including very simple detail. There is sufficient information on this map to enable those unfamiliar with maps to navigate around the 2012 Olympic Park. An identical map appeared in both Olympic and Paralympic park maps. Different Games partner sponsors were shown at the bottom. Print courtesy Geographers’ A-Z Map Company, who were an official London 2012 licensee of printed maps

Borough guides:

Guide to the Royal Docks and Stratford districts. Produced by Newham Borough Council, 2012

Guide to the Royal Docks and Stratford districts. Produced by Newham Borough Council, 2012

“Welcome to Stratford, gateway to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games”

If ever parts of London were going to be affected by huge numbers of additional visitors in 2012, it was the six host boroughs for the Olympic events. In addition to spectators travelling to and from their chosen event, there was obviously considerable peripheral commercial opportunity.

The London Borough of Newham lies some 5 miles east of the City of London and contained most of the Olympic Park including the London Stadium. The local council produced a free leaflet of Stratford and Royal Docks London ‘setting out their wares’.

The map makers have, as usual, removed helpful street naming for the sake of simplicity. This design brief aids the pedestrian visitor in accessing their sporting venue, but also directs them to the commercial outlets within the borough.

Detail from 2012 Newham Council leaflet showing the included map of Royal Docks London

Detail from 2012 Newham Council leaflet showing the included map of Royal Docks London. This includes detail on the Excel centre, which hosted the largest cluster of Olympic and Paralympic events outside the Olympic Park, including boxing, judo, fencing and table tennis

In addition to the maps available for free to the public there were official maps produced and supplied to support staff, media and the athletes themselves. The Olympic/Paralympic Village at Stratford had its own map showing locations of transport, shopping and post office.

Ticket pack sent to someone fortunate enough to have gained a ticket to an Olympic event.

Ticket pack sent to someone fortunate enough to have gained a ticket to an Olympic event. This ticket to the Basketball taking place at the North Greenwich Arena includes a street map to the locale

It is astonishing that so many free maps were produced in conjunction with the 2012 Olympics. There had never been anything like this produced before. The closest historically has been the many bus and tube maps that could also be used for walking the London streets and parks however those have been specifically aimed at providing travel information and the pedestrian has suffered as a result. Anyone visiting London during 2012 with the aim of exploring the capital by foot was well served. And it didn’t end there, people attending the many sporting events were also aided by free maps. Individuals that had been successful in obtaining a ticket usually had an event guide included with the ticket posted to them.

Event maps:

Fifty-one official event guides for spectators for the various Olympic sporting events, taking place in London and elsewhere, were produced and distributed free of charge in 2012. Despite being small and very simple in their design, omitting considerable street detail, the small individual paper guides, with accompanying map where necessary, would have been of immense help in guiding spectators to their event. The list is long but it is included for completeness below.

Olympic Event guides:

Archery (Lords Cricket Ground), Athletics (Olympic Stadium), Badminton (Wembley Arena), Basketball (Basketball Arena), Basketball (North Greenwich Arena), Beach Volleyball (Home Guards Parade), Boxing (ExCel), Canoe Slalom (Eton Dorney), Canoe Sprint (Eton Dorney), Closing Ceremony (Olympic Park), Cycling (BMX- Olympic Park), Cycling (Mountain Bike- Hadleigh Farm), Cycling (Road: Road Race- Box Hill), Cycling (Road: Road Race- The Mall), Cycling (Road: Time Trial, Hampden Court Palace), Cycling (Track- Olympic Park), Diving (Olympic Park), Equestrian (Eventing, Dressage, Jumping, Greenwich Park), Equestrian (Eventing: cross-country, Greenwich Park), Football (City of Coventry Stadium), Football (Hampden Park, Glasgow), Football (Millennium Stadium, Cardiff), Football (Old Trafford, Manchester), Football (St James’ Park, Newcastle), Football (Wembley Stadium), Fencing (ExCel), Gymnastics (Artistic, Trampoline- North Greenwich Arena), Gymnastics (Rhythmic- Wembley Arena), Handball (Basketball Arena, Olympic Park), Handball (Olympic Park), Hockey (Olympic Park), Judo (ExCel), Marathon and Race Walk (The Mall), Marathon Swimming (10Km- Hyde Park), Modern Pentathlon (Copper Box, Olympic Park, Aquatics Centre, Olympic Park, Greenwich Park), Modern Pentathlon (Riding and Combined Event- Copper Box Olympic Park, Aquatics Centre Olympic Park, Greenwich Park). Opening Ceremony (Olympic Park), Olympic Park, Rowing (Eton Dorney), Sailing (Weymouth), Shooting (Royal Artillery Barracks), Swimming (Olympic Park), Synchronised Swimming (Olympic Park), Table Tennis (ExCel), Taekwondo (ExCel), Tennis (Wimbledon), Triathlon (Hyde Park), Volleyball (Earls Court), Water Polo (Olympic Park), Weightlifting (ExCel), Wrestling (ExCel).

Every ticket holder for the 2012 Olympic Games was provided with an ‘Official spectator guide’ that included a simple street map to the event location. This is the map for the Table Tennis competition held at the ExCel North Arena 1 that took place 28th July – 8th August 2012. Map based on 2011 Ordnance Survey mapping.

Paralympic Event guides:

Free map sent to holders of tickets for Paralympic events taking place in the Olympic Park. The park was large and much of the layout temporary for the games themselves. 2012

Free map sent to holders of tickets for Paralympic events taking place in the Olympic Park. The park was large and much of the layout temporary for the games themselves. 2012

In addition, there were 13 official Paralympic spectator guides produced, again, taking place in London and elsewhere. These included park and stadia maps etc. where necessary. These were:

Athletics (Olympic Stadium, Olympic Park), Closing Ceremony (Olympic Stadium, Olympic Park), Cycling (Road: Brands Hatch), Cycling (Track: Velodrome, Olympic Park), Equestrian (Greenwich Park), Excel Centre (for Boccia, Judo, Powerlifting, Sitting Volleyball, Table Tennis and Wheelchair Fencing), Marathon (The Mall), Opening Ceremony (Olympic Stadium, Olympic Park), Olympic Park (for Football Five-a-Side, Football Seven-a-Side, Goalball, Wheelchair Basketball, Wheelchair Rugby, Wheelchair Tennis), Rowing (Eton Dorney), Swimming (Aquatics Centre, Olympic Park), Shooting and Archery (Woolwich Artillery Barracks), Wheelchair Basketball, (North Greenwich Arena).

Small fold out maps from the pocket guide given to the many thousands of accredited individuals attending the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. Adapted from Ordnance Survey mapping and produced by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Limited

Small fold out maps from the pocket guide given to the many thousands of accredited individuals attending the 2012 Paralympics. Adapted from Ordnance Survey mapping and produced by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Limited

It wasn’t just the spectators that were attempting to get to each sporting venue, many by foot. There was also media, officials, support staff and the athletes themselves. Almost every tranche had their own published guide on location, facilities, transport arrangements and many of these free resources also contained a map of respective locations.

Street map of The Mall central London sporting venue, pages 61/62 from the 98 page Athletes' transport guide, published by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Limited, July 2012

Street map of The Mall central London sporting venue. Based on 2012 Ordnance Survey mapping. Pages 61-62 from the 98 page Athletes’ transport guide, published by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Limited, July 2012

The considerable number of guides and publications that were produced and distributed included pocket guides for accredited individuals and a large ring bound guide detailing transport arrangements for athletes. Every event venue and the lesser known training locations had an immediate area street map produced. The hundreds of guides produced in association with the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics resulted in the largest ever distribution of maps, many free, to aid people in walking in London. It is quite phenomenal how many were produced.

This concludes this brief glance at some of the free paper maps produced for those visiting London over the decades. Today, most visitors intending to walk the London streets and parks will very likely place their faith on what is available online. A shame, as there is something tangible in using a well produced map and having the ability to see the ‘bigger picture’- not being confined to the dimensions of a phone screen. Discovery is as much a part of exploration as anything else. The relation of place to place is how one truly understands London.
The previous three blogs in this short series can be found at-

Part One: Free maps for exploring London by foot

Part Two: Free maps produced by Transport for London

Part Three: Free maps produced for Royal occasions

Lightweight tin opener options for backpacking

Gear talk: carrying a tin opener on trail

While it is doubtful that many backpackers would dream of packing such an item, Three Points of the Compass advocates carrying a tin opener while on trail, especially on a multi-day hike. Most of us will either pack along dehydrated pre-prepared meals to eat, or rustle up a meal with some easy prepared foodstuffs- couscous, powdered potato, noodles, my particular favourite on trail is preparing a lentil curry. However, especially in the UK, there is often the opportunity to supplement this type of dried and lightweight food with heavier tinned food. Particularly if staying the night on an official pitch, with either on-site or local shop selling simple goods, if usually at an extortionate price.

Not every tin of food comes with a ring pull. Without a tiny lightweight opener, gaining access is difficult

A welcome tin of protein purchased in a Youth Hostel while on trail. Not every tin of food comes with a ring pull. Without a tiny lightweight opener, gaining access is going to be difficult away from the hostel’s ‘campers kitchen’. This opener weighs just 4.1g

Not all tins come with ring pull tops and few of us are packing any sort of large multi-tool that includes a tin, or can, opener. Rather than attempt to bash a way into a tin with a tent peg, or slice open a finger attempting to gain access via a small folding penknife or simply do without the contents, why not simply pack along a tiny lightweight opener. There really isn’t much else that will perform the task they do and for a handful of grams weight penalty, such ‘food-joy’ could be appreciated…

The contents of my 'ditty bag' photographed on a longer multi week hike in 2018. The contents of one small baggie here are further shown below

The contents of my ‘ditty bag’ photographed on a longer multi week hike in Scotland. The contents of the small baggie bottom right are shown below

When it comes to lightweight openers, the military have our backs. And it is to the various tin/can openers that have been produced by the armies of the world that the backpacker should turn. I seem to have an assortment of these around the house and have pulled together what I could find for the header photo above. One I won’t be covering is the large Czechoslovakian Army issue ‘Perfex’ opener shown above. While well made and effective, there are simply too many alternatives to this folding 26g tin and bottle opener.

Some of the contents of my backpacking ditty bag- Money, sewing kit, house key and British Waterways water key, emergency fire starter kit, spare water bottle cap, hair grips, to be used as clothes pegs, and a small tin opener

Some of the contents of my backpacking ditty bag- Money, sewing kit, house key and British Waterways water key, emergency fire starter kit, spare water bottle cap, two hair grips (used as clothes pegs), and a small tin opener. This is the 4.5g P-38

One of the largest viable options that a backpacker could consider is the Field Ration Eating Device, or FRED. This pressed steel device was introduced during the Second World War and issued to the Australian military. It has the Defence Stock Number: 7330-66-010-0933. Still manufactured today, mine was made in 2007. Various clone rip-offs have been made in recent years. As well as the effective tin opener, one end of the tool has a bottle opener and the other end has a shallow spoon. The 90mm length makes the tool easy to use and twist in the hand. While you can eat with this, its short spoon length means that you put yourself at risk of cutting yourself on the edge of a freshly opened tin, while the shallow bowl is useless for more liquid foodstuffs. It has not endeared itself to everyone forced to use it and earned the unfortunate sobriquet- ‘Fucking Ridiculous Eating Device’. For backpacking, there are better options.

Australian issue FRED

Australian issue FRED weighs 11.6g but also incorporates a simple spoon

There are quite a few small, but actually medium sized opener options. These include the well known P-51, centre in the image below. Supposedly given this designation due to its 51mm length, mine is actually a 53mm long British Army equivalent. Every 24 hour ration pack I had while serving in the Army had one of these included, it came in a paper sleeve wrapper with printed instructions on how to use it. I had dozens of these ‘Baby Can Openers’ but they have all gradually gone and this 1981 example is my sole survivor. Stamped with- ‘1981 – W.P.W ‘crows foot arrow’ 129 – 9982′, it has opened hundreds of tins and is still in perfect operating order. There are many clones (BCB- second left) and alternatives both used by other armed forces and subsequently manufactured for the civilian market. The Highlander Survival opener shown here, combined with a bottle opener, is widely available however I don’t like it. It doesn’t operate particularly well, ripping open a tin rather than piercing and cutting easily. Also the bottle opener section makes it uncomfortable in the hand while opening tins. The opener on the right in my hand was issued to the Swedish Army and these work well. However the larger military opener on the left is a horrible tool with a very blunt and barely usable cutter, it is only the slightly longer length that enables sufficient force to be applied.

Medium sized openers

Medium sized openers. Weights left to right: 13.0g 7.7g, 7.7g, 8.6g, 7.0g

The small holes punched in many of these openers enable them to be hung from a keyring however the cutting tip can swing open and rip holes in pockets. An easy solution to this is to use a small rare earth magnet to keep it closed when not in use.

Rare earth magnet on my army issue opener

Rare earth magnet on my army issue opener keeps it closed when not in use

Most backpackers constantly strive to remove excess weight from their packs. Even the lightest option shown above, the Swedish 7g opener may cause some to baulk. Despite this, Three Points of the Compass suggests that one of the lighter and smaller tin openers should still be seriously considered. Ranging from around 4 to 7 grams there are truly lightweight options.

Smallest and lightest of the opener options

Smallest and lightest of the opener options. Weights from left to right: 6.6g. 4.2g, 7.2g, 4.5g

These are tiny, the smallest here is only 38mm long though the shorter length does mean that it is uncomfortable to use for any extended period. However none of us are using one of these for an extended period on trail. All we want to do is open the odd tin on occasion. The rounded ‘Weekend’ 6.6g opener shown on the left in my hand is probably the best of the small military issue openers. However they are not the easiest to find. After these, the famous P-38, on the right in my hand, is a superb choice and weighs under five grams, this is stamped ‘US Shelby Co.’ indicating that it was made by Mallin Shelby Hardware inc. These openers were developed in 1942 and are still made today. Smaller than the P-51 shown above, these are not quite so comfortable to use but are just as simple to operate. The P-38 has a wide and loyal following. For a good deal more information on these, there are a number of sources online, one of the more informative can be found here.

The 84mm Victorinox Alox Cadet weighs 45.9g and includes a really efficient tin opener

The 84mm Victorinox Alox Cadet includes a really efficient tin opener but weighing 45.9g it is not the lightest of options

Some pocket knives come with a tin opener amongst their toolset. Three Points of the Compass has looked before at two of the military knives that include an opener, these were the British and German options. For myself however, if not carrying one of the small keychain sized multi-tools from Leatherman, Three Points of the Compass prefers one of the smaller 58mm long knives produced by Victorinox for backpacking trips. Sadly, none of the 58mm Swiss Army Knife options includes a tin opener amongst their tools. Some of the larger knives that Victorinox has produced do include fantastically efficient openers but for most hikers, they are probably either too heavy, or equipped with tools not required on trail. The 28.8g Alox Bantam and 45.9g Alox Cadet from Victorinox both have excellent tin openers, however the first has a combination opener on a single layer knife that lacks scissors, which some may regard a necessity on a Swiss Army Knife, while the second is a better equipped two layer knife, with an even better dedicated tin opener, yet also lacks scissors. Interestingly, these two types of opener work in opposite directions.

Victorinox's instructions on how to use its combination tool, as found on its 84mm Alox Bantam

Victorinox’s instructions on how to use its combination tool, as found on its 84mm Alox Bantam

While all of these openers are easiest to use by right-handers, left-handers can also use them- holding them in the left hand and working round a tin in the opposite direction. So, to carry a tin opener or not? That is your choice. I do. If you do decide to pack along a small opener I suggest don’t bother with any of the civilian clones. Instead choose one made for the military, they number in the millions and were specifically produced to be both durable and efficient. Most of those shown above can be found, with a bit of searching, on the second hand market so simply buy the real thing.

6.6g Weekend opener in use

6.6g Weekend opener in use