Category Archives: Gear

Gerber Paraframe- comfortable in a three finger grip

Knife chat: A ‘best-seller’ from Gerber- the Paraframe Mini

Gerber Paraframe Mini single blade knife

Gerber Paraframe Mini SS FE- a single blade knife with pocket clip

Gerber have released a number of different Paraframe models over the years and it has consistently been a best seller for them. Some models have been bundled in with multi-tools so customers may have received one that way. At just 40g the Gerber Paraframe Mini SS FE is the smallest and lightest of the Paraframe models and could be considered for lightweight backpacking.

Gerber Legendary Blades, established in 1939, are based in Portland, Oregon, USA. They were acquired by the Finnish Fiskars Corporation in 1986. While some Gerber products continue to be manufactured in the U.S. much has transferred overseas. This has enabled prices to remain competitive but has also resulted in varying degrees of quality.

Pocket clip on Gerber Paraframe Mini is the only true feature other than the blade

Removable pocket clip on Gerber Paraframe Mini is the only true feature other than the blade

The primary option with the Paraframe Mini is the choice of blade- clip or tanto point and either fine edge or semi-serrated. Three Points of the Compass feels that having only a serrated blade while backpacking is not a practical option. A serrated blade, or even semi-serrated, is less suited for most tasks when backpacking, be it first aid, gear repair or food preparation. Fine if it is a secondary blade, but not if the only blade carried. For this reason I am only looking at the fine edge blade option here. The SS and FE in the model’s name stand for Stainless Steel and Fine Edge.

Gerber Paraframe Mini- Number 1 best sellerThe Paraframe Mini is a ‘naked’ knife with cut-outs in the stainless steel frame to slightly reduce weight and improve asthetics. It is an attractive knife with well finished and rounded edges. It is contemporary, modern looking, but looks should be considered secondary to usefulness and practicality. There is no roughness or burred edges in its manufacturing finish and the knife is comfortable in the hand even though only a partial grip can be achieved due to its small dimensions. The Chinese manufacturing has done a good job with this little knife compared to the roughly finished and more industrial appearing Gerber Vice and Splice mini multi-tools. No scales are fitted to the open frame though the pocket clip does increase the tools bulk in the hand while making it slightly more comfortable to hold and use. As well as the bead-blasted finish to the handle shown here there are black, red and camo versions, plus a few other after-sale and uncommon colour options.

Gerber Paraframe

Open frame of the ‘naked’ Gerber Paraframe Mini

There is a pocket clip on this knife however that is not much use while hiking. It is so light that it could be lost from a pocket without noticing and there is no provision to attach a lanyard or carabiner. Not that this is necessary while on trail as the blade would normally live in a ditty bag or food bag. So you could consider removing the pocket clip which knocks off a handful of grams. Note that this is a right-handed knife, the clip cannot be moved to the other side for left-handed opening.

The larger brothers to the Mini, the Paraframe I and Paraframe II, are easy to manipulate one-handed and the Paraframe Mini can, in theory, also be opened one-handed. However Three Points of the Compass has quite large hands and absolutely fails to achieve this easily, though closing one-handed can be done with care.  It is safer to regard the Paraframe Mini as requiring two hands to both open and close. There is a good size nail nick on the blade however a good pinch of the back of the blade enables it to be opened easily.

Gerber Paraframe

Folding Paraframe Mini is small in the hand

A tanto point option is also available for the Paraframe Mini however that is more suited to piercing duty and reduces the amount of cutting edge when chopping. A tanto point would be useful for opening packages but it will be food preparation and slicing tops off Mountain House type meals that a blade on trail is mostly employed for. The clip point blade is held open by an efficient frame lock, which does mean that in the UK you will have to prove good reason for carrying this as it does not comply with UK knife law. The blade is quite thick, measuring 2.60mm across the spine. There is very little sideways flex on basic food chopping duty. The blade pivot is based around a teflon washer and is fairly stiff when purchased but loosens up with use, this pivot obviously wears with time with resultant increased ‘floppiness’. There is no sideways play in the blade from new.

Gerber Paraframe, side view

Gerber Paraframe Mini, side view. A thick spine to the blade tapers in the final third toward the point

Specifications:

  • Dimensions:
    • Length- closed 79mm, open 134mm.
    • Width- closed 23mm, open 20mm.
    • Thickness- 11.75mm (including depth of integrated pocket clip)
  • Blade Length: 60 mm with a cutting edge of 54mm
  • Fine edge ‘high carbon’ stainless steel, clip point blade. 23º sharpening angle
  • Frame- stainless steel, frame lock
  • Weight- 40g

Gerber advertise this knife as weighing 40g, on my scales it comes in at 39.8g so just about bang on. This knife is no heavyweight but for a tool offering little more than a single blade, it is possibly too heavy an option for a truly lightweight set-up while backpacking. Other users might feel that the moderate weight is reassuring.

And now we come to the quality of steel used for the blade. Gerber have been annoyingly reticent over the years to divulge exactly what is used in their knives. They simply advertise this blade as ‘high carbon stainless steel’. It is unlikely, particularly for the moderate price, that a particularly high quality steel is used on this knife. It has been suggested that it is 7cr17mov, hardened to 55-57 HRC, which is a ‘middle of the road’ steel used on many cheaper knives. This steel is almost certainly of the 400 range (resistant to corrosion and easy to sharpen), either 420 or 440 series. If the latter, probably 440A, which is a fairly low cost, highly corrosion resistant stainless steel. However Gerber do specify that it is ‘High Carbon’ (HC) steel, pointing toward 420HC, another cheaper steel, that can be brought to a higher hardness than regular 420. This is not a great steel but adequate for such an unassuming knife. If you want a better steel in your knife, be prepared to spend more money.

It has also been suggested that the actual hardening of the steel has varied over the years. If so, such inconsistency may explain the wide range of opinion that this little knife excites. Suffice to say that the blade comes reasonably sharp when purchased, requires touching up, but will hold an edge for some time if used for light work. Which is all that a knife on trail would normally be subjected to.

Gerber Paraframe Mini, in the hand

The French made smaller Opinel knives will provide just as functional a blade as that provided on the Paraframe Mini for backpacking purposes, actually sharper, and are equally as competitively priced. The blades found on smaller Opinels are considerably thinner and flex considerably more. The blade on the Opinel No. 5 is just 1.34mm across the spine of the blade. While the Paraframe Mini has a locking blade, this feature is only found on Opinel models larger than the No. 5. The locking No. 6 only weighs 28g but has a much longer blade at 72mm. Three Points of the Compass will look at the Opinel folders in a separate blog.

40g locking Gerber Paraframe Mini with non-locking 15g Opinel No.5 and 28g locking Opinel No.6

40g locking Gerber Paraframe Mini with non-locking 15g Opinel No. 5 and 28g locking Opinel No. 6

Conclusion:

The Gerber Paraframe Mini SS FE is a cheap and perfectly functional option for those wanting to take a fairly lightweight and reasonably robust knife, with a single blade, out on trail. It is attractive and as well made as many knives being churned out in China today. The steel used is nothing to shout about but is up to the basic tasks required on trail- which will mostly be cutting food and opening packages. The pocket clip does add a little comfort when holding the knife however few hikers would risk clipping this into their pocket while hiking for fear of losing it. There are many better knife options available but most will cost a lot more than this reasonably priced folder.

The major entries in the Paraframe series:

Model number Blade length * Blade type Weight*
Paraframe Mini  SS FE GE-1013954 60mm / 2.3″ Fine edge 40g
Paraframe Mini  SS SE GE-1013953 60mm / 2.3″ Semi-serrated 40g
Paraframe I SS FE GE- 1013969 79mm / 3.1″ Fine edge 73g
Paraframe I SS SE GE- 1013968 79mm / 3.1″ Semi-serrated 73g
Paraframe II SS FE GE- 1013972 90mm / 3.5″ Fine edge 119g
Paraframe II SS SE GE- 1013971 90mm / 3.5″ Semi-serrated 119g
* as specified by Gerber
Packaging for Gerber Paraframe Mini details the minimal functions found on the tool

Packaging for Gerber Paraframe Mini details the minimal functions found on the tool

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.

Deejo 15g

Knife Chat: is this the most practical minimalist knife on trail? The Deejo 15g

Deejo 15g

Deejo 15g in the hand- immaculately designed

Not a lot is required of a knife for 99.9% of backpacking. And it isn’t worth carrying anything to handle the 0.1% of tasks that would benefit from the sort of knife that a bushcrafter would be proud to show off.

The features of the Deejo 15g. 1. Blade, 2. knife handle, 3. pocket clip (only on 27g and 37g), 4. liner lock, 5. blade stopper, 6. screw stop

The features of the Deejo 15g. 1. Blade, 2. knife handle, 3. pocket clip (only on 27g and 37g), 4. liner lock, 5. blade stopper, 6. screw stop

“designed in Paris- made in China”

In 2010 Stéphane Lebeau designed and invented an ultralight pocket knife. Today the range of Deejo knives is small- just three sizes. In more recent years Deejo have begun to offer a wide range of customisation to the two larger sizes of these three knives so with choice of scale material and blade ‘tattoos’ a lot of personalisation is possible. The basic range is named by their weight, these are 15g, 27g and 37g. The smallest of these, the Deejo 15g, makes a very useful, minimalist, single blade, folding knife for backpacking purposes. A pocket, or belt clip, is fitted to the two larger sizes of knife, no clip is attached to the 15g.

Deejo 15g

The Deejo 15g is a very thin knife when closed

The Deejo 15g is a ‘naked’ knife. There are no scales or other accoutrements. The brushed steel finish frame, such that it is, is minimal, with a central cutout and a hole in the end through which a lanyard, carabiner or split ring can be passed. There is no nail nick and the blade has to be pinched to open it, which isn’t difficult. It cannot, and should not, be opened one-handed. With such a minimally guarded blade it requires two hands to open and close safely. There is a very slight curve to the handle that means the point is under pressure and flush when closed so the blade point cannot catch on clothing or skin when closed. There is almost a snap on the final point of closing. The short handle length means that only part of the hand is grasping it in use, with my large hands, some two and half finger close around it.

Deejo 15g

Short handle length means that only three fingers close around it when in use

Leaflet that accompanies the knife details the complete 'naked' range from Deejo

Leaflet that accompanies the knife details the complete ‘naked’ range from Deejo

The spearpoint blade is made from 2CR13 stainless steel with a hardness rating of 52-54 on the Rockwell hardness scale (HRC), knife handle and pocket clip are 2CR13 stainless steel with a hardness rating of 45-48 HRC. 2CR23 is a commonly used steel found on many knives and is popular with knife manufacturers. Part of the 420 series, this steel is resistant to corrosion (rust) and can be easily sharpened. The blade on the Deejo 15g is chisel grind, i.e.- on one side only, which makes it a little safer when folded. It is very thin when closed and when open in the hand. One feature, or rather lack of feature, that Three Points of the Compass particularly appreciates, is the lack of cut-outs or holes in the blade. Food can accumulate in these holes and with less opportunity to clean a knife properly on trail it is easy for bacteria to build here. The Deejo 15g does not suffer from this fanciful design aspect.

The whole knife is extremely minimalistic. There is little, if anything, that is included on this that isn’t required. A handle- that also operates as liner-lock, a blade, a pivot, and two ‘nubs’- one to act as a stop when opened, the other to indent into the closed blade and prevent it opening under its own volition. Finally- two engraved words, Deejo and PRESS on the liner lock.

Dimensions:

  • Closed- length: 70mm, width: 16.80mm, thickness: 8.45mm (maximum, across pivot)
  • Open- length: 125mm, width:14.20mm, thickness: 8.45mm (maximum, across pivot)
  • Handle length: 66mm ( from pivot centre to end)
  • Blade cutting edge: 64mm
  • Blade thickness across spine: 2.27mm
  • Weight: 14.4g, so actually less than 15g!
Deejo 15g

To close- Press marking ‘PRESS’ downward

Deejo 15g

Swivel blade past liner lock

Deejo 15g

Close blade into handle with two hands

When purchased the Deejo 15g comes over packaged (as do almost all knives) in a plastic box, along with the usual paperwork, a couple of stickers, a blade tip protector and, most useful, a 28cm length of black cordage which can be passed through the hole in the knife handle to make a small loop. Or a small carabiner could be used instead.

Deejo 15g alongside non-locking 10g Opinel No. 4 and the popular 40g frame lock Gerber Paraframe

Deejo 15g alongside non-locking 10g Opinel No. 4 and the popular 40g frame lock Gerber Paraframe Mini

One obvious problem with this knife in the UK is that it fails to meet our stringent knife laws. The basic type of knife is fine, it isn’t a ‘zombie’ or throwing blade and blade length is OK, it is the fact that it locks open that is the issue. This is illegal in the UK without provable good reason for carrying. It is for the individual to decide if they wish to explain away a small 15g knife, packed away in a food bag, that forms part of a very obvious and harmless backpacking set-up. If you can prove good reason to be carrying this then, in theory, any sensible copper won’t give it a glance.

The Deejo 15g is amongst the best of well constructed, lightweight, locking, single blade folders available that is particularly suited for backpacking purposes. A more legally acceptable alternative to this little blade would be one of the smaller Opinel folders. The smallest Opinels are not fitted with a locking ring so comply with UK law. Those knifes also have the option of high carbon steel blades, which rust more easily but hold an edge better. Or choose stainless steel which is more suited to life on trail.

Deejo 15g

Pivot and liner lock on Deejo 15g

The Deejo 15g is a terrific little knife though it has to be used with care, particularly when folding. It requires just a little practice and continued care to ensure that the blade doesn’t nip the skin. But it will easily tackle just about any lightweight task that a backpacker requires of a blade. It will peel an apple, cut sausage and cheese, cut cordage. However you aren’t going to be able to whittle, baton, cut down tree limbs, that isn’t what this minimalist knife is intended for.

Three Points of the Compass may yet give this little folder some extended time in my pack on longer backpacking excursions. Will it push out my preferred Leatherman Squirt S4? Time will tell.

Deejo 15g with cherry tomatos and a decent cheddar

Cutting cherry tomatos and a decent cheddar with the Deejo 15g

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.

Deejo 15g

The Deejo 15g- a good choice of minimal knife for backpacking

Three Points of the Compass at the 'Three Brethren' cairns, Minch Moor. What is required during the days hike is all immediately to hand in my chest pouch

Gear talk: the ‘day bag’

Bags and pouches of small stuff carried on longer hikes

Bags and pouches of small stuff carried on longer hikes. My day bag from a recent hike is shown top right

This is a final glance at the various small bags and pouches that Three Points of the Compass uses to keep gear organised while on trail. I prefer to compartmentalise my gear to keep it both easy to find and to hand, waterproofed and protected and enable a ‘role call’ when packing prior to setting out. This ensures nothing is left behind or mislaid within the pack. My various pouches and bags may be an excess on what many feel necessary but it works for me. Previously we have looked at my hydration, ditty bag, hygiene, first aid kit and electronics carried. There is one more to look at, this is my ‘day bag’.

The usual 'pack explosion' at the end of a days hiking. Keeping gear comparmentalised ensures items can be found when reuqired and nothing gets lost

The usual ‘pack explosion’ at the end of a days hiking. Keeping gear compartmentalised ensures items can be found when required and nothing gets lost

I find it a bit of a faff to keep taking a pack off during a hike to access things that are required from within its depths. Prior to setting off, I ensure anything I am likely to require is outside of the main pack. This will vary from hike to hike and day to day but may include items such as map, camera, phone, trail-mix and snacks, lunch, notebook and pen, sunglasses, monocular, headnet, gloves, buff, hat, waterproofs etc.

Chest pouch being used to carry items required to hand on the South West Coast Path. Hat and waterproofs are stuffed into the packs stretchy rear pocket

Chest pouch being used to carry items required to hand on a murky day on the South West Coast Path. Hat and waterproofs are loosely stuffed into the packs stretchy rear pocket

Trail mix- keep it to hand, not packed away

Trail mix- keep it to hand, not packed away

Hats, gloves and waterproofs will usually be in an outer pack pocket or rear expandable pocket on my larger, multi-day, Mariposa pack.

Other items will be more to hand and can usually be accessed without halting. A midday meal or afternoon snacks will usually be in a dedicated day bag in a side pocket. So a ‘day bag’ could very well be ‘two day bags’.

Zipped Z Packs chest pouch in use on a wet day on the 630 mile South West Coast Path

Zipped Z Packs chest pouch in use on a wet day on the 630 mile South West Coast Path

In the images above, hanging from my packs shoulders straps in front of me is a chest pouch from Z Packs. It is also shown being worn on the Pennine Way on the main header image above. Their ‘multi pack‘ can be worn or carried in a number of configurations but I like to wear it lower, more or less in front of my stomach. The one shown is constructed from Dyneema® Composite Fabric, or DCF.

Cuben chest pouch is strong and lightweight but will eventually leak following prolonged use

Cuben chest pouch is strong and lightweight but will eventually leak following prolonged use. The one in the image had seen almost three thousand trail miles and was nigh on wore out. The green padded mini pouch inside was for the camera to slide into

Though immensely strong and very light, this material doesn’t handle abrasion particularly well and after 2500 miles was leaking badly when it rained so after another 500 miles, and keeping fragile items doubly protected within, I replaced it with an identical multi pack, now made of Gridstop Fabric, this has HDPE threads with diagonal woven ripstop. It has a waterproof urethane coating on the inside but any maps or guide book being used during the day are also double protected in a ziplock. If it is likely to be wet any camera or phone being carried is likewise double protected.

Gridstop chest pouch in use on the Cleveland Way

Gridstop chest pouch in use on the Cleveland Way

My set up for day hikes is frequently different as I seldom carry a chest pouch on these. Instead my day bag comprises a lightweight roll top bag carried in my day pack’s side pocket. Some typical contents are shown below on a recent mid-morning halt on the Saxon Shore Way.

Contents of Day Bag- Saxon Shore Way, 2020

Day Bag on the Saxon Shore Way, summer 2020- roll top DCF bag from Wild Sky Gear holds a ziplock rubbish bag, Outdoor Research sunsleeves, a couple of protein bars, peanuts and a monopod for the camera being held

At other times of the year or in different locations the contents may vary considerably and the roll top day bag may be larger. From May onwards in the north of England and Scotland I include a headnet, in shoulder months I would likely have hat and gloves in here. If I expect to pass a shop or cafe where I hope to buy a snack or mug of tea, I’ll transfer my small zipper wallet from my ditty bag to my day bag. Some other items are carried elsewhere. My compass is usually in a hip belt pocket, as are chapstick, sunscreen, possibly Smidge, and in this Covid-19 year, a face mask. A headtorch may also reside in my hip belt pocket but is more likely packed away in my electronics bag and I then rely on a small ‘thumb’ torch clipped to my shoulder strap or chest pouch.

Hiking in Scotland- keep a head net to hand. Mine is kept in my Day Bag

Hiking in Scotland- keep a head net to hand. Mine is kept in my Day Bag

None of this is rocket science. It is just the way I keep things to hand, meaning I don’t have to open my pack up when it is raining, that I have given a little thought to what I might encounter during the day- sun, bugs, cold, something to buy… and have prepared appropriately. I faff less, have to stop less, and cover miles quicker with less need to halt. Works for me.

Approaching Tyndrum on the West Highland Way- Z Packs Multi Pack in use

Approaching Tyndrum on the West Highland Way- Z Packs Multi Pack in use, worn low. A map pokes from the top

Cnoc poles

Gear talk: a new arrival in the post- Cnoc carbon poles

A new purchase- a pair of Cnoc telescopic trekking poles and Cnoc telescopic ultralight staff

A new purchase- a pair of Cnoc telescopic trekking poles and Cnoc telescopic ultralight staff

This is not a review, simply first impressions of my latest gear purchase. Carbon fibre trekking poles and a lightweight staff from Cnoc. I say latest, I backed this Kickstarter project almost eleven months ago. The project was to bring a new design of ‘poles for life’ to market. I pledged and ordered a pair of trekking poles and an ultralight staff. With supply problems and Covid-19 associated issues, manufacture and final delivery took longer than first suggested. That is the nature of Kickstarter projects which always seem overly ambitious, at least that is my experience. But I was in no rush and felt no need to be impatient. I tracked their delivery from the U.S. last week and picked them up from the parcel depot yesterday, more on that later.

Three Points of the Compass with Pacer Poles, Hadrian's Wall, 2014

Three Points of the Compass with Pacer Poles, Hadrian’s Wall, 2014

Leki Sierra Photo trekking pole used as a monopod mount for camera

Leki Sierra Photo trekking pole used as a monopod mount for camera

Three Points of the Compass has used trekking poles for many years. I soon settled on Leki poles and an old favourite, a single Leki Sierra Photo pole with removable cap exposing a camera mount beneath has continued to be my favoured ‘go to’ pole for most day hikes.

Two Pacer Poles joined together to make a tall tent support

Two Pacer Poles joined together to make a tall tent support

For multi-day hikes I prefer a pair of UK manufactured Pacer Poles, with their unique moulded raked hand grips. It is this feature that I like most. I find them ergonomic, more natural and comfortable to hold and use, if a bit sweaty and slippery in hotter weather, or just slippery in rain. The customer service from this company is superb. Having expressed an issue via email on one occasion I was instantly sent replacement sections. When I later wore a pair out, I immediately purchased another pair. I am not a fan, however, of twist locks which I have had both jam up, and be reluctant to tighten at times. Another thing to note is that I use these as my poles for my Duplex tent, and have never experienced any issue with the large moulded grips when doing so. With an extender, I have also joined two together to make a single long pole for my Wiki-up teepee tent.

To return to the two Cnoc poles. I purchased a pair of three-section carbon fibre shaft poles, with friction flick locks and chose Cork grips.

Cnoc trekking poles

Cnoc trekking poles

Specifications:

  • Weight: 266g, this is for a single pole, with no basket, with strap fitted (26g heavier than the advertised 240g)

  • Collapsed length: 680mm (shorter than the advertised 710mm)

  • Maximum safe length: 1550mm (this is with pole extended to the ‘stop here’ markings on the shaft. Shorter than the advertised 1580mm)

  • Shaft diameters: 18mm, 15.5mm, 13mm (different to the advertised 18mm, 16mm, 14mm)

  • Each pole has 100% carbon fibre shaft, compressed Cork grips, polyester and microfibre wrist strap and screwed on carbide tip.

  • Poles are supplied with a mud basket (each 9g) a large snow basket (each 23g) and rubber road tip (each 9g). I prefer the smaller mud baskets that Pacer employ so screwed them on instead (each 5g)

Cnoc ultralight staff

Cnoc ultralight staff

I also backed production of a single two-section carbon fibre ‘Ultralight Staff’, choosing a short EVA grip with this.

Specifications:

  • Weight: 176g, this is with no basket fitted and no wrist strap. Staffs are not supplied with a wrist strap but there is a cut-out for one to be fitted retrospectively. (Staff weight is heavier than the advertised 155g)

  • Collapsed length: 945mm (longer than the advertised 930mm)

  • Maximum safe length: 1655mm (this is to the ‘stop here’ marking on the shaft. Longer than the advertised 1650mm)

  • Shaft diameters are: 15.5mm, 13mm (different to the advertised 16mm, 14mm)

  • Staff is supplied with the same mud basket (9g) and snow basket (23g) as comes with the pair of poles. Shafts are again 100% carbon fibre, short EVA handle and screwed on carbide tip.
Snow and mud baskets, and rubber road tips supplied with Cnoc poles and staff

Snow and mud baskets, and rubber road tips supplied with Cnoc poles and staff

Friction locks on telescoping trekking poles

Friction locks on telescoping trekking poles. I have changed both supplied Cnoc mud baskets (on left) to slightly smaller Pacer Pole baskets (on right)

Poles and staff have metal and plastic friction quick locks which are easily adjusted and simple to use. It is possible that the heavier than quoted/advertised pole weight is down to the strap weight, however the staff, which has no wrist strap fitted, is also 21g heavier than advertised. That said, both poles, and particularly the staff, are still extremely lightweight.

'Handed' straps

‘Handed’ straps

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are a couple of other rather nice features- each pole is ‘handed’ via different coloured branding on straps and shaft. Construction looks good though I expect the printing on the shafts to wear off pretty quickly, in common with other brands of pole.

Two brands of pole, all at  maximum safe extension. From left to right: three piece alloy shaft Pacer Pole, two piece Pacer Pole with top alloy shaft and carbon fibre bottom shaft, two-piece Cnoc telescopic carbon fibre staff, three-piece Cnoc carbon fibre trekking poles

Two brands of pole, all at maximum safe extension. From left to right: two-piece Pacer Pole with top alloy shaft and carbon fibre bottom shaft, three-piece alloy Pacer Pole, two-piece Cnoc telescopic carbon fibre staff, three-piece Cnoc carbon fibre trekking poles

I note that the shorter lower section (580mm) from a pole can be exchanged with the longer bottom section (878mm) in the staff. This gives a maximum extended length of the staff of 1395mm and reduces the weight of the entire staff to just 159g.

Cnoc offer a choice of handle material for poles and staff- either compressed cork or short Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA)

Cnoc offer a choice of handle material for poles and staff- either compressed cork or short Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA)

For further reference:

Collapsed Cnoc trekking pole and Pacer Pole

Collapsed Cnoc trekking pole and Pacer Pole

  • (Single) three-section Pacer Pole: max length 1410mm, weight 351g (no basket).

  • (Single) two-section Pacer Pole (metal top shaft, single carbon lower shaft): max length 1285mm, weight 314g (no basket).

I remain concerned over using carbon poles for multi-day hikes, particularly if relying on them to erect a shelter. Freezing conditions can affect them, and we have all caught the tip or shaft of a pole when crossing rocky ground etc. A metal pole will flex or bend, and can be bent back, a carbon shaft may shatter.

I currently use two poles to erect my superb Z Packs Duplex, I cannot put that up with a single pole if one of my pair were damaged. As an aside I have also recently been looking at purchasing an Altaplex (now no longer available in my preferred colour/DCF weight), which utilises a single pole so if I do eventually purchase and use an Altaplex it would potentially permit one of my carbon trekking poles to be damaged catastrophically and I would still be able to erect my shelter.

Another thing to be aware of is the stowed length of the Cnoc staff, here seen in the side pocket of my Osprey Day Pack alongside my Euroshirm umbrella and a Leki Sierra pole

Another thing to be aware of is the stowed length of the collapsed Cnoc staff, seen here in the side pocket of my Osprey day pack alongside my Euroshirm umbrella and a Cnoc trekking pole

As I mentioned above, these poles are still a new purchase and I have yet to put a single mile on them. But I do appreciate Cnoc’s ethos behind these. Every single part on pole or staff can be replaced so potentially a pole for life, like Trigger’s broom. Though no spares are available through their website yet. I do wonder if the cost of purchasing any replacement parts from the U.S. will ultimately prove unfeasible.

My new poles and staff were posted to me via the USPS who informed me that they were en route. I followed their passage into the UK where they halted. I then tried to track them down, were they with Hermes, DPD, TNT, DHL, Royal Mail? Who knows as I received no delivery, advice of attempted delivery, no notification via text, phone or mail. I eventually established that the package had been transferred to Royal Mail, who then transferred it to Parcelforce, where it then went to Customs, who released it back to Parcelforce. Who took it to an unspecified depot. I managed to identify the depot and rang them up to be told that there was a customs fee to pay and that I could visit the depot to do so and then receive my parcel. I drove to the depot and hurrah, they found my parcel. I thought the £5.55 Import Duty acceptable, but another £42.22 VAT!, then a further £12.00 Parcelforce Handling Fee- total £59.77. And this is on top of my $161 Kickstarter payment in 2019 which comprised of a $145 Kickstarter pledge plus a further $16 for international shipping. A couple of hours after I got back home Parcelforce sent me a text telling me they had successfully delivered my parcel.

I got stung…

But still, they look excellent products and Three Points of the Compass is very much looking forward to trying these on trail. I have high expectations.

Rota-Meter from F. Barker

Map measurer of the month- Rotameter (Barker & Son)

“This handy little instrument will be found very useful for Cyclists and others, the roads and distances on a map being easily measured and the distances calculated”

This months map measure is a sweet little item made by Francis Barker & Son. The business was originally established as F. Barker at 12 Clerkenwell Road, London in 1848. They made a wide range of precision instruments including compasses and sundials. The Rotameter, or rota-meter, was just one of a wide range of products offered by the company.

Rota-Meter map measure by F. Barker

Rota-Meter map measure by Francis Barker

You may come across other examples of this ‘charm map measurer‘ that appear to have been made by other manufacturers but, other than those made by E.R. Morris of Birmingham, they were all made by F. Barker & Son. It is small, weighing 15g and measuring just 26mm diameter, and is designed to hang from a watch chain. There was also a larger version of the Rotameter offered in 1908. Another option had a compass on the reverse side and later options exchanged the pendant ring for a bone handle or propelling pencil. The simple and small design leans heavily on the measurer formerly offered by Morris Instruments. Three Points of the Compass covered this measurer in an earlier post.

The Rotameter map measurer appears in Barker’s 1885 to 1907 catalogues and was probably available to buy until circa 1915. It was not listed in the 1926 catalogue. It could be purchased in a variety of finishes. The cheapest was the nickel plated measure at just two shillings and sixpence. The 1885 catalogue offered:

With compass Without compass
15-carat gold: 25/- 15-carat gold 22/-
9-carat gold: 18/- 9-carat gold 16/6
Silver: 12/6 Silver: 5/-
Nickel: 2/6

By 1907 the cost of the 15-carat gold version had risen to £2 and there was also the option of 18-carat or 10-carat gold. Gilt, nickel, bronze silver or gold finished versions were available in 1908.

A lot of detail is included on the 23mm diameter dial face

A lot of detail is included on the 23mm diameter dial face

The Rotameter shown here is the simpler, cheaper version with no compass in the rear. This example has a plain glass face and plain unmarked back. An alternative later offered by Barker was for a ‘pebble’ crystal front, this would slightly magnify the dial behind. The smooth wheel protruding from the bottom is simply run along a map route and the needle correspondingly rotates around the dial indicating inches and feet covered on a map, or any other object for that matter. Knowing the scale of the map enabled a reasonably accurate distance to be determined.

The large blued hand rotates forward in increments of an eighth of an inch, with inches shown on the dial. One complete revolution measures one foot (12 inches). Each complete turn of the dial also moves the small hand forward one foot with the ability to measure up to 25 feet. Increments of five, ten, fifteen, twenty and twenty-five feet are shown. This little measure was also sold with a different paper dial that included tiny figures indicating each individual foot up to 25. These were so cramped that this simpler face is easier to read.

It is an uncommon and remarkable survivor. These normally had a tough and short life yet despite a well worn case my example still performs faultlessly. Testament to a good, simple and well made design.

Many older map measurers will benefit from a simple clean-up. The face of the Rota-Meter is easily lifted off to permit a hundred years of pocket detritus to be gently removed

Many older map measurers will benefit from a simple clean-up. The face of the Rota-Meter is easily levered off to permit a hundred years of pocket detritus to be gently removed

Leatherman Skeletool KB

Knife chat: Leatherman Skeletool KB

In June 2017 Leatherman released the Skeletool KB and KBX tools. The KB with straight blade and the KBX with combination straight/serrated blade. These were both developed within their existing popular and good looking folding Skeletools range. Simplifying those, the new KB and KBX offered little more than a single folding blade. The only other tool being a removable pocket clip that also operates as a bottle opener.

Folded Leatherman Skeletool KB in the hand. Just 88mm or 3 1/2

If a hiker desires little more than a modest sized simple blade on trail then one of these tools may provide just what is wanted at a decent price from a reputable manufacturer that provides a 25 year warranty.

“one of the goals to us with respect to the naked knife aesthetic…is delivering a product that performs to Leatherman’s standard of quality”

Leatherman were not the first to bring a ‘naked’ knife to market, however some more simplistic offerings are a little tricky to use and it is relativly easy to accidentally close a blade or nick a finger while closing. Leatherman veered away from total minimalism with these knives and the solid backer plate gives rigidity to the whole knife while also protecting the user when operating it, it being impossible to open the liner lock unintentionally.

Detail from enclosed leaflet listing the features of the Leatherman KB

Detail from leaflet enclosed with the tool, listing the minimal features of the Leatherman KB/KBX: 1- 420 HC locking knife blade, 7- removable pocket clip with bottle cap lifter

Blades on both Skeletool KB and KBX are made of 420HC stainless steel with a hardness rating of 59 HRC. This means that it will hold an edge better than many cheaper alternatives but is just a little more difficult to sharpen. This steel is found on better quality knives and resists rusting however the KB doesn’t come particularly sharp ‘out of the box’. Serrated edges, such as that found on the Skeletool KBX, are always a bit trickier to sharpen, for this reason Three Points of the Compass thinks the straight edge KB knife a far more practical option for backpacking purposes. Even if that purpose is just cutting a piece of cheese, slicing a salami or sectioning an apple.

Locked open while in use, the liner lock is depressed with the thumb to close the blade

Locked open while in use, the liner lock is depressed with the thumb to close the blade

With a little practice the Skeletool KB can easily be opened and closed one handed and comes with a liner lock so that it will not close on your fingers while in use. The lock engages firmly with a good click and will not disengage until you make it. This of course pushes it up against UK knife laws. The closed knife is 88mm long (3 1/2″) x 14.25mm (max) x 20.50mm (max). When open it is 151mm long. Cutting edge of the brushed steel, drop point, hollow grind blade is 59mm and it measures 2.55mm across the spine, which is quite wide for such a small blade.

Liner lock can be removed by unscrewing the two torx screws holding it. This would make the knife compliant with UK knife law however it is not recommended as the knife is far less safe in use as a result

Liner lock can be removed by unscrewing the two torx screws holding it. This would make the knife compliant with UK knife law however it is not recommended as the knife is far less safe in use as a result

Because of their small size, food can gunge up one of these tools pretty easy, especially the holes in the blade on the Style range. Leatherman CS in use on the Tabular Hills, 2019

Because of their small size, food can get caught up in the holes found on some blades quite easily. This is a Leatherman Style CS in use by Three Points of the Compass on the Tabular Hills walk. The blade on this knife also has holes, these fill with food being cut

The aesthetic design of the blade does actually make this knife less practical for use on trail in one respect. While there will be an, admittedly tiny, weight saving by removing some steel from the blade, food can get caught up in the holes and bacteria easily set in if they are not cleaned out.

Three Points of the Compass has encountered this problem before with the same ‘holed blade’ design found on the keychain multi-tool Style series, also from Leatherman.

'Skeletinised' design of the blade is attractive but possibly not the most practical on trail

‘Skeletonized’ design of the blade is attractive but possibly not the most practical on trail

Pocket clip / cap lifter is removed easily with a T5 torx

Pocket clip / cap lifter is removed easily with a T5 torx

Is there anyone out there that doesn’t know how to open a bottle? There must be as Leatherman include a diagram with their knife on how to do just that with the KB. However for those on trail this probably isn’t the most useful of tools, and nor is the pocket clip. This can be removed if required simply by undoing the three torx screws holding it in place which is probably the first thing that any lightweight hiker would do.

The liner lock could also be easily removed however not only does this lock the blade open, but it also holds it closed, the knife would be considerably less safe if the lock were removed.

The Leatherman Skeletool KB weighs 37.8g, removing the pocket clip reduces this to 34.3g or 34.7g if you replace just the three screws in the frame. The knife can be mostly disassembled for cleaning, though not easily in the field. A T8 torx is required for the main blade pivot screw and T5 torx for removing the pocket clip.

Deep pocket clip on Leatherman KB is effective but the bottle opener can catch on things when carried that way

Deep pocket clip on Leatherman KB is effective but the bottle opener can catch on things when carried that way

The construction is good with no rough manufacturing edges. Handle edges are rounded and even the spine of the blade comes without a 90 degree angle, being slightly rounded. The knife is all metal in construction apart from a slippery polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) synthetic washer on the blade pivot. Weight of the knife generally is slightly reduced by the ‘skeletonised’ hole cut-outs.

Instruction for those of us who don't know how to open a bottle- included with knife on purchase

‘User Guide’ included with knife on purchase- for those of us who don’t know how to open a bottle!

Though thin in the hand, more so if the pocket clip is removed, it is comfortable to hold and use on light to medium work, this is partly due to the curved black anodised aluminium handle. Three Points of the Compass has quite large hands and finds it easiest to choke forward onto the pivot of the blade with my thumb on the top of the wide blade spine as shown here. If the pocket clip is left in place this does increase the comfort in the hand and makes it easier to close the blade.

Leatherman Skeletool KB is well finished with no rough edges and despite being quite a small tool is comfortable in the hand

Leatherman Skeletool KB is well finished with no rough edges and despite being quite a small tool is comfortable in the hand

Leatherman Skeletool KB beside the diminutive, now discontinued Leatherman Style which combined blade with scissors. nail file and tweezers

Leatherman Skeletool KB beside the diminutive, now discontinued, Leatherman Style which combined blade with scissors. nail file and tweezers

In summary:

the Leatherman Skeletool KB is beautifully constructed, nothing is loose and the blade cuts well when sharpened. It is an affordable knife from a reputable company with a good warranty policy. It shaves off a few grams by dint of its design however that very design does mean that it is more prone to collecting detritus and food gunk. Locking blade design means that it cannot be carried on a daily basis in the UK though it may be just what is wanted by a backpacker who doesn’t require more than a modest blade just long enough to perform most kitchen chores.

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.

Electronics on trail- 2020

Gear talk: 2020 tweaks to trail electronics

Always on the lookout for an opportunity to shave a little weight from my pack, or just refine a system, without compromising either safety or effectiveness, I recently had a glance at one of the heavier aspects of my gear- the electronics. 2020 has seen a few major changes to what I will be carrying on longer backpacking trips.

The electronics and associated 'stuff' that Three Points of the Compass is packing in 2020

The electronics and associated ‘stuff’ that Three Points of the Compass is packing in 2020- 621g

Possibly the largest change made by Three Points of the Compass in 2020 was away from my old reliable ‘rugged’ mobile phone- a 215g dual sim RugGear RG730. This can take a hell of a battering but the camera wasn’t really cutting it for me. So I recently changed out to an IP68 187g Samsung Galaxy S20+ encapsulated in an Olixar protective case, the two together totalling 227g. This offered no weight saving as regards my phone but I have gained one of the best Android cameras available. This means that I no longer have to carry either my 252g Olympus Tough TG-4 camera (which also requires a 48g proprietary charge lead) or 298g Sony RX100M5.

Bags and pouches of small stuff carried on longer hikes

Bags and pouches of small stuff carried on longer hikes. Electronics bag is centre bottom row

I used to pack along a handy little 47g Pedco Ultrapod for use with my camera. This is lightweight, has a rotating ball head and the velcro strap enables it to be fixed to thinner trees, fence posts etc. It is the sort of piece of gear that immediately won me over as soon as I saw it. Extremely practical and lightweight, I have been including one in my gear for years. Then I realised that I hardly…. ever…. used…. it.

Joby phone clamp with Joby mini-tripod, weighing 44g together, these have replaced 47g Ultrapod

Folded Joby GripTight phone clamp with attached Joby mini-tripod, weighing 44g together, these have replaced the blue 47g Pedco Ultrapod above

Ultrapod and Sony RX100M5

Pedco Ultrapod and Sony RX100M5

As a standalone tripod it is fine, but as regards velcro clamping it to something either I couldn’t be bothered, or more often there wasn’t a branch or post handy for the shot I wanted. Or even when wrapped around a branch when there was one, I couldn’t quite get the angle I wanted to with the rotating head. So I stopped carrying it and looked for a lighter option. Mostly I went back to simply resting the camera on tree stumps, walls, rocks or my beanie. That is all well and good for a rectangular base camera but doesn’t work so well when only carrying a phone for taking photos, so it was back to the search for a lightweight and small tripod. For this I have dug out my mini Joby tripod which is combined with a Joby GripTight phone clamp. Obviously a very low profile so not great in tall grass or vegetation and not fantastically lightweight at 44g either but I haven’t come up with a better and lighter solution yet. I have been tempted to rustle up a folding support out of correx but while that would be fantastically lightweight I am not convinced that it would be a particularly secure way of holding a phone. You may notice that the screw on the mini-tripod is pretty torn up now, purely my fault for using a wrong size coin for tightening the wide slot in the soft metal screw.

Sitting on a protruding rock, my camera is wonky but this shot takes me back to a foul days hiking in Scotland

Sitting on a protruding rock, my camera angle is wonky but this shot takes me back to a foul and fantastic day hiking in Scotland. However there is no way that a phone would have sat on the rock without a tripod or other support

Having made the change, if only on some hikes, to relying on just my phone for photography and no longer taking a dedicated compact digital camera, I have also included a bluetooth remote shutter. This is a simple little plastic affair made in China that costs less than a fiver and weighs just 10g. It only works ten paces away but that is enough for most of what I require. This is powered by a CR2032 button battery that will last the duration of a hike. The phone has a slot for a second micro SD card so I include a spare SanDisk 128GB Extreme Pro micro SD card in my electronics pouch should I need to swap out the one in the phone.

Though low to the ground, the combination of Joby mini-tripod and Joby GripTight phone clamp enable independent photography

Though low to the ground, the combination of Joby mini-tripod and Joby GripTight phone clamp enable independent photography

Over the past few years Three Points if the Compass has mostly used the excellent Anker PowerCore II 10000mAh external battery/portable charger on longer hikes. This has also accompanied me on overseas trips when unsure of charge facilities en route. I would guess that I will continue to use it on family holidays for the foreseeable future. However, it has sustained a small crack in its case recently and I also wanted to look at changing to the faster USB-C port. I have been trying to make the switch to a more integrated electronics system in recent years and moving away from AA and AAA batteries. So it was first a question of mAh capacity.

On a day hike, Three Points of the Compass will simply slide this little power bank into the backpack. 2000mAh capacity battery, shortie Anker cable and a micro USB to USB-C adapter

On a day hike, Three Points of the Compass will simply slide this little power bank into the backpack. 2000mAh capacity ‘soft card’ battery, 10cm ‘shortie’ Anker PowerLine cable and a micro USB to USB-C adapter. If things go belly up, this 70 gram kit provides just a little spare juice for either head torch or phone

How much power do I require? Less than most it would appear. Three Points of the Compass doesn’t vlog, I watch few films in a tent and listen to little music on trail, I don’t use an electronic GPS nor do I carry a PLB/satellite messenger. I might have a digital version of a trail guide with me but actually prefer a hard copy despite the weight penalty. Sometimes I may pack along some ear buds, particularly if expecting to be in a shared room for a night, in a bothy, hostel or bunkhouse, and not wishing to disturb others. That said, buds are not used much at all. When included with my trail electronics, these are my 20g Treblab XR500 bluetooth ear buds. These require charging after about eight hours of use. So on a weeks hike, probably never requiring a charge. These have a micro USB port.

Treblab sports earbuds are bluetooth so require charging after some eight hours of use

Treblab XR500 sports earbuds are bluetooth so require charging after some eight hours of use

Finally, I doubt I will ever be carrying a drone or anything else requiring frequent re-charging with me. Therefore at present a 10000mAh power bank continues to be sufficient to my needs. For now, my recharging necessities are fairly small- these are my phone, buds, headlamp and thumb sized LED. I may also need to charge my power bank when possible.

Anker PowerCore II (the slim model) compared with the NiteCore NB10000. The Nitecore is both smaller and lighter but has the same capacity

Anker PowerCore II (the slim model) on left compared with the Nitecore NB10000. The Nitecore is both smaller and lighter but has the same capacity

My 10000mAh Anker PowerCore II Slim that used to take up residence in my electronics pouch weighs 208.5g sans charge lead and measures 137mm x 66mm x 15mm. I have replaced this with the Nitecore NB10000. This has the same capacity (actual- 6400mAh), it weighs 150.6g and measures 122mm × 59mm × 11mm. When purchased, it came with a 15g 0.5m long USB-A / USB-C charge lead, however I prefer a tougher and longer lead which is handier in B&Bs, hostels, bunkhouses and snatched charges in cafes and pubs while on trail. So have swapped this out for my preferred charge lead- one of the 0.9m long, double-braided, aramid armoured PowerLines from Anker, this weighs 34.2g. This has USB-C to USB-3.0 so will support fast charging. Should the lead get damaged that will be game over for re-charge capability so I always include a spare shortie lead. This little Anker non-armoured PowerLine also gives the opportunity for through charging.

Nitecore NB10000 with supplied Nitecore 450mm charge cable, also my preferred plug, the folding single port Mu Tablet

A simple lightweight and low bulk ‘spare power’ set-up: Nitecore NB10000 with their 450mm charge cable and a single port folding Mu Tablet plug. However this is not the configuration now carried by Three Points of the Compass. Energy brick is designed for trail running and has carbon fibre sides to reduce weight

For many years I have used a 50.4g folding Mu Tablet plug with single port that provides a 5v 2.4 Amp outlet. However the Samsung phone supports ‘super fast charging’, so I now include the 63g Samsung 25W adapter to enable me to quickly plug in the phone if opportunity arises to top up its 4500mAh battery.

Specs on side of NiteCore NB10000

Specs on side of Nitecore NB10000 power bank

The 'business end' of NireCore NB10000. Blue LEDS show charge status, pressing and holding the mode button switches on the white LED and will then safely support charging of low current devices such as wireless headphones

The ‘business end’ of Nitecore NB10000. Blue LEDS show charge status, pressing and holding the mode button switches on the white LED (to the right of blue LEDs) and will then safely support charging of low current devices such as my wireless headphones and head torch

Not all backpacking electronic peripherals have made the switch to the more robust USB-C connector yet, so I have also included a tiny little 1.8g USB-C female to micro USB adaptor from Glubee. This enables me to charge my headtorch, mini torch and camera if taken. It may be that I need to change the other way instead, so a second mini adapter converts micro USB female to USB-C.

Olight H1R Nova- an excellent headlamp with removable hand torch

Olight H1R Nova- an excellent headlamp with removable hand torch

The Olight H1R Nova is an absolutely stunning headtorch and it remains my headtorch of choice for winter hiking, however I have decided it is overkill for the great majority of my hiking. The headband especially is a heavy addition and the light requires a proprietory charge lead.

I now carry the popular Nitecore NU25 with a home made head strap on longer hikes. This headtorch also has a red LED that the Olight lacks. I have the yellow bodied light so that it is more easily found if dropped.

White and red LED Photon Freedom and one spare button battery weighs more than the Nitecore Tube v2

White and red LED Photon Freedom and one spare button battery weigh more than the Nitecore Tube v2

I don’t really know what is going on recently with my gear choices but I have also swapped out to yet another Nitecore product. They do seem to release products that appeal to me. For many years I have carried the efficient, minuscule and feature packed Photon Freedom Micro button light. Actually I have carried two, one white LED, plus a red LED for more discreet use when wild camping and in packed bothies etc. However my headtorch now has a red LED that is easily accessible without scrolling through white LEDs, and I have additionally made the switch where I can to rechargeable electronics, so do not wish to pack along spare button batteries for the Photons. I now include a rechargeable Nitecore Tube v2 as a backup light. I have used one of the quick release clips from a Photon to attach this to the zip pull of the little 11g dyneema packing cube in which the majority of my on-trail electronics are kept. The Tube by itself weighs less than two Photons and a single spare 2032 button battery.

I also continue to include a tiny little 3g USB LED light in my electronics kit. This warm light can either plug into my powerbank or any USB port. For example many YHA hostels include a USB port beside each bed so this makes an ideal light for reading. Mine is adjustable in lumens so I can turn it right down if required.

The contents of my electronics bag on the Cape Wrath Trail in 2018- 10000mAh Amker external battery, short and 1m charge leads, Mu folding plug, Olight H1R Nova and proprietary charge lead, ear buds, spare camera and button batteries, two spare camera SD cards, data sick, USB LED light, cuben pouch to hold it, and a miniature bottle of whisky! got to celebrate the finish somehow...

The contents of my electronics bag on the Cape Wrath Trail in 2018- minus Photon Freedom button torches which hang from my pack, and Sony camera and RugGear phone which were kept in my Zpacks chest pouch while hiking. 10000mAh Anker external battery, short and long charge leads, Mu folding plug, Olight H1R Nova head torch and proprietary charge lead, cheap and cheerful ear buds, spare camera and button batteries, two spare camera SD cards, data stick, tiny USB LED light, cuben pouch to hold it… and a miniature bottle of decent single malt whisky, carried to toast the finish in style

Shown here is my 2019 electronics set-up for multi-day backpacking. Most kept in dyneema zip cube: RugGear RG730 phone, Nitecore Tube v2, 0.9m Anker Powerlead, Mu Tablet folding plug, Nitecore NB10000 powerbank, 50mm short bendy USB-A / Micro USB charge cable, Nitecore NU 25 headtorch, Sony RX100M5 camera, Shure 315 earbuds, USB LED light, USB-C female / Micro USB adaptor, spare SanDisk 128GB Extreme Pro SD card, spare Sony 1240mAh Li-Ion battery (camera)

This is my basic electronics kit for three season hiking. About the only tweak I would make to it for the majority of my longer hikes is whether I leave the ear buds at home and a swap out of the NU25 to the Olight H1R Nova head torch for winter hiking. This conglomeration of stuff is less than some and more than others will carry I am sure, but meets my needs perfectly adequately. Electronics and associated gear, such as phone clamp and tripod, add up considerably and form a large chunk of a backpackers base weight. Everything in the 2020 header image above totals up to 621 grams.

Three Points of the Compass has tried using simple plastic resealable bags including those from Lifeventure and Loksac. Any of these are fine for a few days but eventually, after a few days of use and constantly being opened/closed eventually fail

Three Points of the Compass has tried using simple lightweight plastic resealable bags including those from Lifeventure and Loksak to store fragile electronics in. Any of these are fine for a handful of days but eventually, after more than just a few days of use and constantly being opened/closed they all eventually fail and hole, rip or leak. Therefore all electronics are carried in a single highly water and abrasion resistant 70D Liteskin polyester pouch from Wild Sky Gear within the depths of my pack. Besides this, the only ‘belts ‘n’ braces’ extra I carry on trail now is a single large ziplock bag in which to roll my camera and/or phone, normally carried in my chest pouch, if it is raining

My trail electonics continue to evolve as what I feel are better or more suited products are released on to the market. When I contacted Nitecore to ask if my Samsung 25W quick charge plug adapter was OK to charge their power brick (I was told yes) they informed me that a larger capacity version of the carbon fibre NB10000 will be arrving soon so I may consider swapping out to that depending on its specs.

This has been part of short series looking at the small pouches of gear carried by Three Points of the Compass when backpacking. Previously, I looked at my hydration, hygiene, ditty bag and First Aid Kit. My final blog on the subject will look at my ‘day bag’.

Gerber Dime and Dime Travel- two budget priced keychain multi-tools

Knife chat: Gerber Dime and Dime Travel multi-tools

Gerber Legendary Blades introduced their first multi-tool in 1991 and in 2009 the company released two little tools that improved on their earlier smaller multi-tools- these were the Gerber Vice and Gerber Splice. In 2012 yet another, and smaller, replacement appeared on the market and has remained a great favourite on many keychains ever since. This is the Gerber Dime.

Acquired by the the Finnish Fiskars Corporation in 1986 much of the manufacture of Gerber tools transferred to China, the quality of many Gerber products suffered as a result however prices have remained extremely competitive. With care and due regard to the fragility of these smaller Gerber tools, they can work pretty well in most softer and undemanding applications.

Gerber Dime- a budget priced keychain multi-tool

Gerber Dime- a budget priced keychain multi-tool

Gerber Dime-

Released by Gerber in 2012 this stainless steel tool is available in a range of anodised scale colours and is a great improvement on the Gerber Vice that preceded it. It looks fantastic and the finishing on the tool is a real step up, with smooth edges and little rough machining. Quality remains just so-so, reflecting the fact it is a low budget, Chinese made tool available for a competitive price in direct competition with the various Leatherman offerings.
Gerber seem to excel in making their multi-tools extremely stiff to open when new out of the box and they loosen up only a little with time. Expect to break a finger nail on some of the tighter tools. The tool is constructed with torx screws so an attempt at loosening, or even disassembly, can be made, if not on trail.

Gerber Dime is centred around a small and useful set of pliers- light work only

Gerber Dime is centred around a small and useful set of spring tensioned pliers- light work only

The 66.4g Dime keychain multi-tool is centred around a small pair of plier jaws. Despite being a smaller tool overall, these jaws are larger than the Gerber Vice keychain tool that preceded it. The pliers on the Dime also have an improved tension spring that extends into the body of the tool within small channels in the plier head. The smooth tipped jaws incorporate a not particularly thin needle nose pliers, standard pliers and wire cutters. Only the tips of the needle nose pliers meet and there is a very small gap to the rest of the serrated pliers when closed. Tips are 2.5 millimetres wide at the tip, widening to 3.65 millimetres prior to the wire cutter. These pliers are a general purpose tool for undemanding work only. If used on trail, they would be useful for easing stuck zips- though the tips would benefit from serrations, or grabbing pots off a stove etc. however they will not handle even moderately tough work. If used on heavier work, cutting thick cable ties, thick wire etc, then the jaws will twist apart and clamp rather than cut. I wish this were a true needle nose plier as not only would it set this tool apart from the competition, but also make it more practical in use. Particularly for the type of ‘to-hand’ tasks that a small EDC or trail tool might be used. It would also mean that the tool were less likely to be damaged due to attempting heavy work.

35mm long Spey point blade on Gerber Dime

35mm long Spey point blade on Gerber Dime

The 35mm long double-bevel blade is interesting. It is a ‘Spey Point’ shape, with a good belly. Likely made from 3Cr13 stainless steel, the blade will not readily rust and the bevelled edge will retain sharpness reasonably well and will also sharpen easily. The blade is continual thickness from midway to the spine at 1.80mm thick. Despite the curved shape, the blade when opened can be used for cutting flush to a surface, useful if cutting meats, cheese or veg on a board.

Retail package opener, excvellent for opening clam shell packaging, not a lot of use for anything else

Retail package opener, excellent for opening clam shell packaging, not a lot of use for anything else

Situated on the same side of the tool as the blade is a retail package opener, i.e. for opening those damned clam shell packages we all struggle with. This tool alone earns this multi-tool a place on my home desk but I struggle to see how it is particularly useful for my hiking exploits.

Small pair of tweezers resides in the scales beside the excellent bottle opener

Small pair of tweezers resides in the scales beside the excellent bottle opener

Gerber did a good job to include small yet useful removable tweezers. These are 40mm long with angled tips that meet well. They might struggle with small ticks but would be fine for most thorns and bee stings etc. Folding in to the handles, the Dime includes what are grandly termed coarse and fine files. These are some 12 mm long and situated on each side of the 22mm long small screwdriver. Both are too small and more importantly amount to little more than smooth serrations. They will not even file finger nails. The small driver can work with some Phillips also. An equally short driver facing the small driver has a 6mm wide flat head. This can also be used for light levering- paint tin lids and the like. Not many of them on trail. Folding in to the same handle as the two drivers is a pair of folding scissors. These have been designed so that the two cutting edges always have some tension overlapping them when open, which helps keep the two edges together when cutting. The cutting edges are sprung due to the inclusion of an effective, if small, torsion bar that runs into the body of the tool. All that said, the cutting edges are tiny- being just 13mm long. They will cut paper, card, thinner cordage and KT tape well. Cordura straps will see them struggling but you can steadily hack your way through with perserverance.

Very small pair of spring loaded scissors are sharp but will only handle very light work

Very small pair of spring loaded scissors are sharp but will only handle very light work

Despite being pretty small Three Points of the Compass still thinks multi-tools are too large for hanging comfortably from a keychain, though the more modest dimensions of the Dime, combined with its rounded profile makes it less bulky than the Gerber Vice and Splice forerunners if carried in that manner. The sticky-out bottle cap lifter, though prominent and immediately to hand, is not obtrusive. It is also really effective and amongst the best you will find on any small multi-tool. Though seeing as a Bic lighter can be used to open a bottle just fine, I am never going to get too excited about the inclusion of a bottle opener on a small multi-tool. Postioned at the same end of the tool, the lanyard ring will not fold away or retract if not required, this can be annoying.

The Gerber Dime is ergonomically shaped and one of the smallest keychain multi-tools on the market

The Gerber Dime is ergonomically shaped and one of the smallest keychain multi-tools on the market

Gerber Dime

Tools:

  • Mini-pliers with wire cutter
  • Fine Edge Blade
  • Retail Package Opener
  • Scissors
  • Flat Screwdriver – medium
  • Flat Screwdriver – small
  • File (coarse & fine)
  • Bottle opener
  • Removable tweezers
  • Lanyard ring

The Dime packaging explains the function of each tool included

The Dime packaging lists and explains the function of each tool included

Three Points of the Compass does think that the Dime is a terrific little keychain multi-tool option especially for the price. It looks good, is small and ergonomic and offers a great selection of little tools that may be helpful on a day to day basis, particularly in an urban or office environment. However I am not convinced that this multi-tool is particularly suited for life on trail, especially as there are so many better options, such as the more expensive Leatherman Squirt PS4. The colour on the scales wears badly with time. Many users have experienced failure with the plier jaws if used for anything more than light work. The package opener on the Dime would be mostly superfluous when camping and the file is too small and ineffectual to handle fingernails, the list goes on. But, it is cheap and includes both knife blade and scissors. So if you already have one and need something for a weekend or weeks hiking, it’ll do.

Main scale tools on Gerber Dime and Dime Travel

Main scale tools on Gerber Dime and Dime Travel

The Gerber Dime was immediately popular on release however it joined a market still struggling to adapt to the aftermath of the coordinated September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Other manufacturers were also struggling in the wake of these disastrous events, Knife manufacturer Wenger never recovered and were eventually taken over by rival Victorinox. With heightened security, zealous staff at airports worldwide confiscated the little knives sitting in handbags and hanging from keychains of commercial air travellers. In 2015 Gerber released a ‘TSA friendly’ version of the Dime that has no blade beyond those on its small scissors. Gerber even managed to squeeze a zipper-hook into the tool…

Gerber Dime Travel- a supposedly 'carry-on friendly' multi-tool

Gerber Dime Travel- a supposedly ‘carry-on friendly’ multi-tool

Gerber Dime Travel-

The 68g Dime Travel keychain multi-tool is again centred around a pair of small pliers. These are exactly the same as found on the Dime. Again, all tools are stiff to open and will break finger nails with impunity.

Some other tools are also the same, these are the small scissors, small and medium screwdrivers, though the former lacks the useless short file found on the Dime, the Dime Travel having 34mm long, slightly rougher, fine and coarse files instead. The end of the file is a 6.5mm flat tip that will handle light work but any tight screws will produce sufficient torque to twist or even snap the tool. File surface does not extend to the edges so it can not be used for light sawing or notching. Sadly the longer file replaces the blade, removed to make this tool ‘carry-on friendly‘.

Cross-cut file surface on Dime Travel

Cross-cut file surface on Dime Travel

Single cut file surface does little more than buff finger nails

Single cut file surface does little more than buff finger nails

“… attaches to a broken luggage zipper for troubleshooting while travelling”

Comparing the smal Phillips head drivers on Dime Travel (left) and Dime (right)

Comparing the small Phillips head drivers on Dime Travel (left) and Dime (right)

Any other similar tool to those found on the Dime are equally as good, or poor. Tweezers are handy, nothing more, bottle opener is terrific. Again, the scissors are perfectly adequate for light work. However even those have proved unacceptable for some security staff and the Dime Travel has also occasionally been confiscated.

So- what about the zipper hook, there to pull broken zippers. A tool I never realised I needed until… nope, I don’t need it. A 100 per cent useless inclusion. If I need to open a broken zip, I can use the pliers. Such a shame something more useful was not included instead.

Zipper pull. Possibly the most useless tool that has ever been included on a multi-tool

Zipper hook. Possibly the most useless tool that has ever been included on a multi-tool

In common with the Dime, the Travel version has pleasantly designed and ergonomic handles with rounded edges that prevent it snagging in pockets etc. There is just a little textured moulding to the scales that improves both looks and grip just a little.

Gerber Dime Travel- leave it at home...

Gerber Dime Travel- leave it at home…

Tools:

  • Dime Travel packagingMini-pliers with wire cutter
  • Scissors
  • Flat Screwdriver – medium
  • Flat Screwdriver – small
  • File (coarse & fine)
  • Zipper hook
  • Bottle opener
  • Removable tweezers
  • Lanyard ring

In summary:

Both tools are currently reasonably priced and will handle light work. Some of the tools, such as the smaller file surfaces and zipper pull are beyond useless and should be totally discounted when it comes to making a decision. Three Points of the Compass is never likely to carry either of these tools while backpacking as there are better options. That said, the Dime does provide the most basic of necessary tools with a little extra functionality and could be a handy little keychain tool for urban EDC. The Dime Travel however has little going for it, there are far better alternatives in my opinion. Beyond being a curiosity, the Dime Travel is unlikely to ever be carried by Three Points of the Compass- anywhere.

The smaller scale tools on Gerber Dime and Dime Travel

The smaller scale tools on Gerber Dime and Dime Travel

Dime and Dime Travel specifications:

Weight Length Width

(across widest point of torx)

Depth
Dime 66.4g 70mm 15.45 20.65mm
Dime Travel 68g 70mm 14.45mm 20.55mm

Two good looking keychain multi-tools from Gerber. One is useful, the other less so

Two good looking keychain multi-tools from Gerber. One is useful, the other less so

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.

First Aid Kit for multi-day backpacking trips

Gear talk: First Aid Kit

It is perfectly possible to go on a walk carrying no first aid capability at all. However knowing how to cope with issues and carrying something to deal with blisters, cuts, strains, allergic reaction, chafing or even diarrhoea can make completing a hike both possible and more enjoyable. 

Bags and pouches of small stuff carried on longer hikes

Bags and pouches of small stuff carried on longer hikes. My First Aid Kit is bottom left

Three Points of the Compass tends to compartmentalise gear while on trail. It makes it easier to find items quickly when required, protects them from getting wet and ensures that nothing is lost. Previously I have looked at my hydration, hygiene and ditty bag preferences. My First Aid Kit is just one of the various pouches carried. Currently this is a small DCF zippable pouch made by Tread Lite Gear. The kit weighs 161g, a great deal more than most would carry, but means that I can deal with injuries or ailments that I am most likely to suffer from while on trail. First Aid Kits are deeply personal and contents can, and should, vary for everyone. Note that Three Points of the Compass is not a medical practitioner and this is by no means a recommendation on what you should take. I have had some first aid training, I am a seasoned hiker and am familiar with how to deal with most problems my body will suffer from while on trail. That said, for the great majority of my hikes, this kit never gets opened unless I need the mirror, nail clippers or file.

Contents of First Aid Kit

161g First Aid Kit

Contents of my multi-day backpacking First Aid Kit:

  • 15cm x 10cm rectangle of Opsite Flexifix. Thin, vapour permeable, waterproof and bacteria proof transparent adhesive film. Cut to size, applied over dressing covering cleaned scrapes and skin trauma.
  • 1 x 10cm x 10cm Melolin dressing- flexible film. Non-woven breathable dressing for cuts and grazes. Conforms to body contours, good for awkward injuries on elbows and knees
  • 1 x 5cm x 5cm Aquacel hydrofiber dressings. Non-woven fibres form a gel on contact with cavity wound fluid. Antimicrobial properties
  • 5 x 7.5cm x 7.5cm sterile gauze swabs
  • 5 x 3mm steri-strip skin closures
  • 2 x fabric plasters- not many carried, two for being immediately to hand, otherwise fashion from gauze and tape as required
  • 1 x 2g sachet Celox haemostatic agent- good for stopping oozing or bad bleeds
  • Flexible 80mm x 40mm Victorinox mirror- with central sighting hole. Kept in small dedicated baggie to stop the mirror face scratching- Useful for facial injuries and tick checks, also when shaving
  • 1m of 50mm Hypafix tape- cut to fit plaster, fixing gauze etc. 
  • 1m of 50mm KT tape- latex free kinesiology tape. Muscle strains, tendonitis. Also acts as cut to fit plaster and potentially splinting
  • Cohesive bandage- a lighter and smaller option than the more effective Ace bandage
  • 4 x clean, sealed compressed towlettes- Cleaning wounds etc.
  • Single nappy pin
  • Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers- not the best but small and convenient
  • Victorinox nail clippers- model 8.2050 B1- hand and foot care, probably not required on every trail but light enough to always include
  • Glass crystal nail file- hand and foot care. long lasting and better than a metal or emery file
  • No. 10 Scalpel blade- clean, a better option than a mucky knife blade for wounds and cutting flaps of loose skin etc.
  • O’Tom Tick Twisters- good tick tweezers are an essential item on trail
  • Westcott titanium embroidery scissors- small, light and well made, for cutting gauze and tape
  • Betadine- antiseptic (10% povidine iodine). In 2ml glass bottle with orifice reducer. Cuts, scrapes and burns
  • Small sealed straw tube of Dermovate ointment- steroid ointment for inflamed skin conditions
  • 28g tube Lanacane. Anti-chafe gel
  • 8 x Ibuprofen- pain killer, treats fever and anti-inflammation. Note these are 400mg, not the more commonly seen 200mg
  • 6 x Aspirin 300mg- pain killer, no anti-inflammatory properties. Heart attack!
  • 7 x Loratadine- anti-allergy
  • 5 x Piriton- Chlorphenamine maleate- anti-allergy. (also helps you sleep if absolutely necessary)

  • 3 x Imodium plus comfort- Loperamide hydrochloride with simethicone- in the event of stomach upset, life could potentially be pretty miserable if these are not to hand

As you can see, there is quite a bit to the contents of my First Aid Kit. This has been refined over many years and modern products have occasionally taken the place of items that I used to include. Two simple and efficient tapes have replaced my micropore, leucotape, transpore or leucosilk tapes formerly carried. I carried an Ace bandage for many years, great that they are, they are also very bulky and not an insignificant weight penalty. The cohesive bandage has replaced that though it is still a weighty inclusion. Much of the rest of the weight of this kit comes from a full tube of anti-chafe gel, a decent set of nail clippers and good scissors. There are some items that I used to carry that I struggled to now exclude- nitrile gloves, resuscitation face shield, silicone toe cots and yet more tape amongst them.

Note that the above is my First Aid Kit for longer, multi-day, backpacking trips. With these contents I expect to be able to complete a hike with no need to seek out a pharmacy or similar. Contents will last me many weeks and I take considerably less with me on a single day hike. Medicants and other expiry dates are checked regularly and replaced as required.

An earlier incarnation of the First Aid Kit carried by Three Points of the Compass. Though reduced since, many of the contents are the same. Arnamurchan 2018

An earlier incarnation of the First Aid Kit carried by Three Points of the Compass. Though reduced since, many of the contents are the same. Ardnamurchan 2018

The contents of my First Aid kit, and the bag or pouch it is all gathered together in, have varied considerably over my hiking years. No doubt it will continue to evolve. When accompanied by Mrs Three Points of the Compass, or when our young daughter used to accompany us, this will influence the contents to a degree, despite both of them also carrying a kit refined to their own particular needs. Hiking overseas has also altered the inclusion of medications. 

Finally, two further comments on my First Aid kit. It is ideally easily accessed from my pack with just one hand. I keep my First Aid Kit in an outer pocket of my smaller Osprey pack on day hikes, and within the top of my Gossamer Gear Mariposa on multi-day hikes. While the DCF pouch containing my First Aid Kit is highly water resistant, it is not completely waterproof, so is also double protected, being kept within the pack liner, possibly also within an additional zip-lock if the weather is especially harsh.

Roll call on the Cape Wrath Trail. Scotland was VERY wet during this hike and it rained heavily on many days. First Aid Kit, electronics and ditty bag were all double protected from water ingress, being kept together in a sealed bag

Roll call on the Cape Wrath Trail. Scotland was VERY wet during this hike and it rained heavily on many days. First Aid Kit, electronics and ditty bag were all double protected from water ingress, being kept together in a sealed bag. And yes, Three Points of the Compass did carry O.S. maps, Harvey map AND Cicerone trail guide. Used maps were posted home whenever a post office was passed

My next glance at the small bags and pouches of ‘stuff’ carried on trail shall be my 2020 electronics pouch. The contents of which have probably changed most amongst all of my back-packing gear over the years as advances in technology have progressed.

 

Changing the measuring scale in Morris's Patent Chartometer

Map Measurer of the month- Morris’s Patent Chartometer

Morris's Patent Chartometer

Morris’s Patent Chartometer

This months map measure is a wonderful chunky, clunky piece of Victorian engineering invented by Englishman Edward Russell Morris, of the Morris Patents Engineering Works, High Street, Birmingham. It dates from the 1870s and is capable of measuring a wide range of scales due to interchangeable card discs.

Back of Chartometer

Back of Chartometer

The earliest versions of ‘Patent Chartometer’ were patented by Morris in 1873. He produced two versions of this large measure. A simpler device with rotating pointer, and the one shown here, with rotating pointer and totaliser.

The totaliser counts the number of revolutions of the pointer. Small red painted figures, counting from 1 – 10, can be seen through a small window to the right of the rotating pointer.

Face of Chartometer without scale card inserted. Revolution counter can be seen to the right of the hand. The lower stud protrusion ensures an inserted cart is correctly orientated

Face of Chartometer without scale card inserted. Revolution counter can be seen to the right of the pointer axis. The lower stud protrusion, between the words Morris’s and Patent, ensures an inserted card is correctly orientated

Morris's Patent Chartometer and scale cards with leather bound wooden case

Morris’s Patent Chartometer and scale cards with leather bound wooden case

The map measurer shown here is serial number 705 and came supplied in a leather bound wooden case, with silk interior. Scale cards are stored below the measure in the case.

The map measure, or Chartometer, has a hinged glass front opened by a press button catch on the side of the brass case. With the desired scale card inserted and hinged front closed, the measure is held in the hand and the steel wheel at the bottom trundled along the line of whatever requires measuring, be that road, path or anything else. The measurement is then read off against the scale card and any total revolutions of the hand, as indicated by the totaliser, accounted for.

Morris was a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers from 1880 and designed and manufactured map measurers in a range of sizes, this is possibly the largest he produced. A bijou map measure also constructed by Morris was shown here recently. That weighed just 15g, the larger Chartometer shown here still only weighs 80g. The measure is 3 1/8″ tall, or 80mm in new money.

Morris's Patent Chartometer. Cast into the underside of the hinged front is- "THE MORRIS PATENTS ENGINEERING WORKS BIRMINGHAM"

Morris’s Patent Chartometer. Cast into the underside of the hinged front is- “THE MORRIS PATENTS ENGINEERING WORKS BIRMINGHAM”

Scale card measures furlongs

6 inch to the mile scale card measures furlongs. Five turns of the dial will indicate 40 furlongs, or five miles. Dials are 2″ / 50mm diameter

Nine cards, giving 13 direct scales, are supplied with the measure. These are:

  • Scale 1/2500, or 25.344 inches to a mile
  • Scale, 6 inches to a mile
  • Scale 1/500, or 10.56 feet to a mile
  • Scale, 1 mile to an inch
  • Scales, 2 and 4 miles to an inch
  • Scales, 3 and 6 miles to an inch
  • Scales, 5 and 10 miles to an inch
  • Scales, 7 and 11 miles to an inch
  • Scale, 5 feet to a mile

Scale cards for Morris's Patent Chartometer

Scale cards for Morris’s Patent Chartometer

Morris's Patent Chartometer

Morris’s Patent Chartometer

The word ‘chartometer’ was described in Scientific Instruments 1500 – 1900 An Introduction, by Gerard L’Estrange Turner, with Andrew Turner (first published in 1980 as ‘Antique Scientific Instruments‘) thus:

“The opisometer is a small device for measuring the lengths of roads, rivers, walls etc., on maps. It is a milled wheel on a screw thread with a handle. The wheel traces the route, and is then wound backwards on the scale at the edge of the map. The chartometer is the same but has a dial and pointer to give the measure immediately.”

An example of an opisometer from the mid-nineteenth century was shown here earlier and it is clear what a step forward Morris’s Chartometer was for those measuring lines and routes.