Category Archives: Gear

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.

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

Lock laces in Altra Lone Peak

Gear talk: Lock laces

Three Points of the Compass has worn trail runners for most hikes for the past ten years of so, prior to that boots were worn. A variety of makes of trail shoe have been tried- Inov-8, Brooks, Salomon and Altra. I won’t mention a couple of others that were really quite poor. It seems as though as soon as I found a make and model that suited me well, the following year it was ‘tweaked’ and I didn’t like what resulted.

Three Points of the Compass hiking in Cyprus in 2016. Footwear was Injinji socks, Altra Lone Peak and Dirt Girl gaiters

Three Points of the Compass hiking in Cyprus in 2017. Footwear was Injinji socks, Altra Lone Peak trail shoes and Dirty Girl gaiters

I have really enjoyed using Altra Lone Peak for the past few years, they have tweaked the design a little but are still suiting me- I have used the 2’s, 2.5, 3, 3.5 and now the 4’s. I actually have a couple of pairs of the 4’s tucked away waiting to be pulled into use when required as my fairly large size is either popular and sells out quickly or is not produced in large numbers. I never seem to be successful in snapping them up in sales and usually pay full price, I also often struggle to buy the more sober colour variants as more garish colour schemes seem to be more popular, though not with me. These are zero drop trail shoes with breathable uppers, decent tread and lovely wide toe boxes. If I have a sole complaint about these is that I often find the laces loosening for some reason. This is a problem I have not had with other shoes, usually I have to double knot or similar but frequently forget or can not be bothered, with the result that hours later I find a loose lace flapping around. On trail the last thing that is wanted is to be frequently adjusting or amending a piece of gear, it interrupts your progress and eventually becomes a BIG thing.

Battered Lone Peaks with original laces and replacement

Battered Lone Peaks with original laces and replacement

I wear Salomon XA Pro shoes for work but they do not suit me for trail walking, I simply don’t get on with them for that activity finding the toe box and overall shoe too narrow. On a long days hiking my feet frequently swell and the Salomons simply don’t allow them to comfortably expand. However one aspect of these footwear that I do like is the Quicklace system that Salomon use. With a little time on my hands at home in recent days, I thought I would try Lock Laces on my Altras for a change to see if this is a decent solution.

Lock Laces are elasticated laces that once fitted are pulled through a locking eyelet then simply tucked under a turn of the lace. They are a doddle to fit, taking around five minutes.

Kit come with two laces, two lock eyelets and two cord clips, one set weighs 11g before excess length is trimmed

Kit come with two laces, two lock eyelets and two cord clips, a set for one shoe weighs 11g before excess length is trimmed

Replacement lace is threaded onto the shoe

Replacement lace is threaded onto the shoe

Laces are longer than required and need trimming

Laces are longer than required and need trimming

Once trimmed to required length, seal off the ends with a lighter

Once passed through the double eyelet lock slide, trim lace to required length, seal off the ends with a lighter

Ends are placed into the open cord clip

Ends are placed into the open cord clip

Cord clip is snapped shut on loose ends of trimmed laces

Cord clip is snapped shut on loose ends of trimmed laces

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advice is to leave three inches clear below the lock when cutting, I have left it a little longer to allow the shoes to be opened up more easily when drying them

Advice is to leave three inches clear below the lock when cutting, I have left it a little longer to allow the shoes to be opened up more easily when drying them

My current pair of Altras only have a couple of hundred miles left on them which should be enough for me to see if I want to extend this type of lace replacement to the next pair to be worn. I note that you can get replacement Salomon Quicklaces so might try them in the future if the Lock Laces are not durable enough. Lock Laces have a six strand elasticated core while Quicklaces are Kevlar and have a different locking system. There is also a ‘Pro Series’ Lock Lace that are thinner, having only five internal strands and what is touted to be a stronger locking eyelet.

For the gram weenies out there- one old lace weighed 5.6g, one replacement Lock Lace, locking eyelet and cord clip weighs 11g, once trimmed this fell to 9.8g.

Selection of Tick Tweezers

Gear talk: A few grams here, a few grams there- tick removers

You don’t have to venture far from the home to put yourself at risk from ticks. In fact, they can be encountered in gardens and town parks as well as the wider countryside. As the weather warms, the prevalence of ticks increases. If there is one item you want to include in either your backpacking kit or even a solitary day walk in the country as a ‘hopefully never to be used’ piece of kit, it is a tick remover. They cost little, weigh just a handful of grams, but may very well preserve your health.

Tick

Ticks can be small or large. It is important to check yourself periodically on a walk and especially at the end of the day. Three Points of the Compass never felt this tick either attach itself or begin feeding

It is not just ticks themselves you should be wary of, but the disease that they may carry. After mosquitoes, ticks are the second most common vector in transmitting disease to humans. Of these, one disease in particular should be of prime concern. Lyme Disease is getting more common, it is pretty easily transmitted and it is horrible. Though it should be noted that not all ticks are infected with Lyme disease. In some areas, none may carry it, in others, the percentage of ticks with Lyme can be high. At present there is less prevalence in the UK and more so in mainland Europe. However hikers in both the UK and US are encountering Lyme on an increasing basis each year. Other diseases are also carried by UK ticks, such as tick-borne encephalitis and anaplasmosis, and these can also be transmitted to humans. Lyme disease consists of a group of closely related spirochaetal bacteria, so called because they were originally thought to be spiral shaped. The wide range of bacteria are collectively known as Borrelia Burdorferi sensu lato and different types of related bacteria can be found across the world.

Classic 'bulls eye' rash following an infected tick bite, however such rashes do not always occur. Image copyright Lyme Disease Action

Classic ‘bulls eye’ rash following an infected tick bite, however such rashes do not always occur. Image copyright Lyme Disease Action

Lyme disease transmitted from tick bites moves through the skin into the bloodstream and onward to the lymphatic system. Damage from Lyme can be severe- joints and nervous system can be affected. While a bad tick bite can be indicated on the skin by the classic ‘bulls-eye’ rash, this is not always the case. Flu like symptoms, muscle ache and pain can follow, but not always. If you have been walking in the countryside and suspect that you may have been bitten by a tick prior to such symptoms, be sure to mention to a health professional who may arrange for a blood test.

Ticks are most prevalent March to October but they can be found active all year round. A mild day in winter will tempt the little beasties out. Ticks can be very small and it is easy to get a little paranoid about seeds and flecks of dirt found on the skin and clothes but a regular check should still be carried out. Ticks will show up best on light coloured clothing and brushing off clothes frequently may aid in removing ticks before they bite. Application of DEET or Picaridine will also work against them. There are many species of tick, some twenty of these can be found in the UK but different parts of the World have other species that may present a greater danger. For example, it is the Deer Tick that is one of the greatest risk to hikers in the US however that particular species has not yet been found in the UK. Borrelia bacteria is found in many mammals and birds, including sheep, mice, voles, foxes, badgers and squirrels. If an animal carries the bacteria and is bitten by a tick, then the bacteria can pass to the tick, and from that tick to a human. Unfortunately such animals are common in the very areas that are most popular for walking- the Lake District, Scottish Highlands, The Yorkshire moors, Exmoor, Thetford Forest, New Forest and the downlands of South-East England.

Ticks- engorged and prior to feeding. Image copyright Lyme Disease Action

Ticks- engorged and prior to feeding. Image copyright Lyme Disease Action

Not only is it important to check for ticks on the body and clothes but also to do so throughout the day. Ticks are small and their saliva contains an anaesthetic so it is common to not even notice a bite. Because saliva is transmitted from tick to person throughout the feeding process, the longer a tick is embedded in the skin, the greater chance that bacteria is transmitted from tick to person. I will not cover disease, tick morphology, symptoms or other related factors further here. Instead, I shall simply have a look at some of the choices of removal tool that may help in extracting a tick after it has embedded itself in the skin, concentrating on those that may be most suitable for the backpacker.

Firstly, some suggestions for successful tick removal in the past from others have included covering the ticks body with petroleum jelly (vaseline), meths, or burning it off with a lighter or cigarette. It is now known that if a tick is stressed during removal, it may likely eject its stomach contents back into the host, which may then actually cause the injection of harmful bacteria. Squeezing a ticks abdomen will have the same effect. This is why effective removal of a tick involves placing a tool close to the skin, around the mouth-parts (hypostome) of the animal.

General use fine-tip tweezers

Metal tweezers have the advantage of being both robust and all are capable of being sterilised by dropping in to boiling water. With some plastic tweezers there may be a degree of uncertainty as to how boiling water will affect them. If purchasing a pair of large general purpose tweezers for tick removal then they must have fine tips. Those with wide or slanted tips simply will not grip the mouth parts of a tick with the care that is required to ensure the creature does not stress and eject stomach contents.

Two full size, stainless steel fine tip tweezers. Large: 12.7g, small: 10.1g

Two full size, stainless steel fine tip tweezers. The larger pair above have fine serrations at the tips. Top: 12.7g, bottom: 10.1g

A pair of large and good quality fine tip tweezers will handle many ticks but may struggle with the smallest of nymphs. While a pair of these would be advisable to pack into a group first aid kit, they are probably overkill for a lightweight hiking set up. But that is your call. Certainly it is advisable to keep a pair of these in a home first aid kit. Both of those shown above sit in my home kit.

Tips of Leatherman keychain tweezers compared. The Micra is on the right

Tips of tweezers found in Leatherman keychain sized multi-tools. None of these have the precision fine tip required for efficient tick removal

There is no need to pack along a large pair of tweezers on trail. There are many smaller options that are almost as good. Being lighter and less bulky, they are also easier to pack. When packed, care needs to be taken to ensure the thin tips do not end up poking a hole in expensive fabrics such as tent, waterproofs of sleeping bag. A small plastic sleeve cap will prevent most such mishaps. The snazzy looking pair of small tweezers below has been carried by Three Points of the Compass for many years when hiking. They are small, light and efficient, the only reason I don’t carry them now is that I have found something lighter and more efficient. More on that later.

Small titanium, fine tip tweezers: 10.3g (plus 0.1g for plastic tip guard)

Small, titanium, fine tip tweezers: 10.3g (plus 0.1g for plastic tip guard)

As said, there are many small and light tweezers on the market. However if you are choosing a pair of tweezers simply for general use, where they can also be used for tick removal, then care has to be taken as many small tweezers are of extremely poor quality. Many will flex with ease and simply will not grip where required. Often the tips will not align and many also lack any form of serration at the tips.

One brand of small tweezer has been on the market for decades and continues to find favour both with the U.S military and backpackers across the globe. These are Uncle Bill Sliver Grippers. They have their faults but are both very small and very light. Three Points of the Compass had an in depth look at the various forms of Sliver Grippers in an earlier post. In that post I also covered the easy steps to take to improve them. If you have a pair and haven’t read this, you might find it useful to do so.

Uncle Bill's Sliver Grippers and tip guard: 4.9g

Uncle Bill’s Sliver Grippers and tip guard: 4.9g

Three Points of the Compass doesn’t particularly rate this type of small tweezer highly for tick removal; they will work fine with larger ticks and are also OK with thorns and splinters, but I find the tips are not fine enough to properly anchor onto the mouth-parts of a small tick.

Specialised Tick tweezers

While finer point tweezers like those shown above will safely remove most ticks with relative ease and prevent stressing the animal. A pair of dedicated tick tweezers will enable a tick to be grasped with greater ease and precision, correctly placing the fine curved points so that a safer extraction can be achieved. Specialised tweezers are better at preventing stress to a feeding tick, stress causing it to eject stomach contents prior to removal, so something to be avoided if possible.

Large specialised tweezers are more suited to safe removal of ticks. Image copyright Lyme Disease Action

Large specialised tweezers are more suited to safe removal of ticks. Image copyright Lyme Disease Action

Large and specialised tick removal tweezers are available from a small number of manufacturers. Again, they are made from stainless steel and invariably of high quality. They are probably the best type of tweezer but will also be regarded as overkill for most country walking. However if crossing an area that is either very high in ticks, or where there is an extraordinarily high prevalence of Lyme disease in resident ticks, then it might be advisable to either carry a pair of these, or ensure that a pair of large dedicated tick tweezers is held in a group kit.

Large stainless steel dedicated tick tweezers: 14.g, plus case: 18.9g

Large stainless steel dedicated tick tweezers: 14.g, plus case: 18.9g

There is a smaller version of these available that weigh less than half of that of the larger option. While these may also be available from other manufacturers, the ones shown here were made by Lifesystems.

Small, dedicated tick tweezers on keychain

Small, dedicated tick tweezers on keychain

Small tick tweezers slipped out of their protective sleeve

Small tick tweezers slipped out of their protective sleeve

The Lifesystems small and dedicated tick removal tool is designed to fit a keychain. The tweezers themselves slot into a plastic case cover that both protects the fine tips and, to a degree, keeps them clean. The springiness in the tweezers prevents them sliding out of the protective case when being carried.

These weigh 6.3g with their protective plastic case and keyring however the whole lot can easily be dismantled if wished, but that does leave the tips exposed and unprotected. Three Points of the Compass does not take these on hikes but simply keeps them permanently hanging from his keychain.

Dismantled Lifesystems keychain tick tweers- tweers: 3.0g, case: 1.4g, keyring: 1.9g

Dismantled Lifesystems keychain tick tweezers- tweezers: 3.0g, case: 1.4g, keyring: 1.9g

Tick removal cards

As well as tweezers, some outdoor suppliers also provide tick remover cards. These can be made of durable plastic or shorter lived card versions. If you are going to use one of these, only use a more durable plastic card and preferably from a reputable manufacturer who has made it to the required precise tolerances. Most cards come with two sizes of ‘prong’, one for large and one for small ticks. The transparent and translucent cards are better to see a tick that is to be removed. My Lifesystems tick card also has a simple low powered magnifier to enable a tick to be studied prior to removal, it is obviously of no use when the card is actually being used to remove tick. Do not get a black or dark coloured card as this makes the tick harder to see while extracting it.

Tick card: 5.3g

Tick card: 5.3g

Most of these cards work well with small and large ticks however I find them awkward to use when the tick is in a crevice, or embedded in an awkward part of the body to access. There is never a friend around when you need one!

Which brings me to another point. An almost equally important tool in your tick removal armoury is a small mirror. In addition to checking periodically during the day, Three Points of the Compass also has an evening tent-based ‘tick check’. Which is more akin to tent aerobics and contortions, but ticks will crawl into areas which are not necessarily the easiest to view. This is where the mirror comes in. And remember, ticks can also secret themselves about hiking clothes, so a decent shake off of those should be attempted alongside some form of inspection of the folds of clothing which may discover lurking creatures, all prepared to latch on the following day. Another reason why lighter coloured clothing can help in seeing the small animals.

One manufacturer has gone a step further and produced a tool that combines both angled tweezers and slotted tick remover. The TickEase is a really effective solution and is endorsed by the US based Tick Encounter Resource Center. One end of the tweezers has angled fine tips and is suited to quite small ticks, however the tips are not as fine as those shown previously. The other end of the tool has a slot that will handle larger ticks but are too large to tackle the more problematic smaller ticks. This is advertised as especially suited for those with pets such as dogs that can easily pick up ticks in the countryside. While I have carried a TickEase on hikes and had to put it to use on occasion, it is now transferred to the first aid kit carried by Mrs Three Points of the Compass. In my kit it has been supplanted by what I regard as a more effective, lighter and considerably smaller option.

Stainless steel dedicated tick remocal tweezers. The 15.7g TickEase has fine pointed angled tweezer at one end and tick removal prongs at the other

Stainless steel dedicated tick removal tweezers. The 15.7g TickEase has fine pointed angled tweezer at one end and tick removal prongs at the other

O’Tom Tick Twister

We now come to what is probably the best tool available for effectively removing ticks. The plastic bodied O’Tom Tick Twister come in two sizes that are very well suited for backpacking trips, day walks or simply when walking the dog. There is also a three pack, three size ‘family’ option for purchase but the two shown here will handle almost any tick encountered other than the extremely small. These tools are cheap, small and very light at just over two grams for the pair. I find one of their prime benefits however, is that they can be used to remove ticks from awkward parts of the body, craning around the torso, or twisting awkwardly to remove a tick that can only be seen in a mirror. So they are especially suited to the solo hiker.

A brighter coloured pair of this tool has two advantages- the dark body of a tick can more easily be seen against the tool, and as the little tools really are quite small, a brightly coloured Tick Twister shows up better if dropped in the undergrowth. For these reasons it is probably best to steer clear of the black coloured Twisters.

O'Tom Tick Twister. Pair (small and large): 2.2g

O’Tom Tick Twister. Pair (small and large): 2.2g

Three Points of the Compass did not feel this and it was only when checking for the presence of ticks that it was found embedded.

Three Points of the Compass did not feel this embedded tick. It was only when carrying out a body check in the tent at the end of the day that it was found and safely removed with the O’Tom Tick Twister

The O’ Tom Tick Twister was designed in France and is manufactured there, but is easily purchased worldwide. However it appears that it is being widely cloned and ripped off. Beware some of those fakes that are advertised as they do not always work as effectively as the real thing.

All of the previously mentioned tick removal tools- tweezers and cards, require a straight and careful pull or lever of the tick to remove it from the skin. The O’Tom Tick Twister is different however. There is a knack to using it. It is not difficult but does require a degree more care, particularly the first few times removing ticks. Once the correct size tool is selected, to suit the size of tick to be removed, and after it has been carefully slipped under the tick’s body, around its mouth-parts, the tool is then twisted, or spun, in the finger tips. It is this that safely removes the tick from the skin. The shape of the handle of the O’Tom Tick Twister allows this to be correctly done, however some look-a-like clones have a shaped handle that prevents this being done and the tick has to be pulled or levered out instead, this is a less effective removal technique. Don’t skimp the pennies, buy the real deal if choosing this tool.

So what does Three Points of the Compass carry when backpacking? I actually carry two of the options shown above. I include a pair of the lightweight and effective O’Tom Tick Twisters in my backpacking first aid kit (see image below). In fact, at only 2.2g I don’t even bother to remove these from the kit in winter months, they live there year round. I have safely removed dozens of ticks with these, both from myself and poorly equipped hikers met on trail. I doubt I will ever change these tick removers for anything else. To my knowledge, I do not have Lyme Disease or have ever had it. The risk of disease from tick bites is always a possibility, but in the UK at least, it is very small risk.

In addition, I have a pair of Uncle Bill’s Sliver Grippers in my first aid kit. However these are not carried for tick removal but solely as a pair of tweezers for first aid purposes- thorn and splinter removal, lifting flaps of skin, picking grit from a wound…

Three Points of the Compass carries a fairly comprehensive First Aid Kit on longer hikes and this includes both a pair of the Uncle Bill Sliver Gripper tweezers and a pair of O'Tom Tick Twisters. Ardnamurchan, Western Scotland, 2018

Three Points of the Compass carries a fairly comprehensive First Aid Kit on longer hikes and this includes both a pair of the Uncle Bill Sliver Gripper tweezers and a pair of O’Tom Tick Twisters. Photographed on trail at Ardnamurchan, Western Scotland, 2018

The extremely thin 58mm Victorinox Pocket Pal

Knife chat: Victorinox Pocket Pal- is this the best thin 58mm ever?

There is, quite literally, not a lot to this knife. Measuring just 4.18mm thick, it is one of the most minimalist knives that a hiker could take on trail that still provides any degree of functionality beyond a simple blade.

The simple and extremely thin Victorinox Pocket Pal

The simple and extremely thin Victorinox Pocket Pal

The 58mm long Pocket Pal is an older Victorinox model that first appeared in the 1960s. Though now discontinued, it can still be found on the second hand market. The knife is minimal in design having a single layer with one tool on each side unfolding in opposite directions. The Aluminum Oxide, or Alox, scales are smooth which means that this knife is even thinner than other alox scaled 58mm knives from Victorinox. My example has no keyring though some Pocket Pals did feature one. Nor is the Victorinox shield present on the scales, that were supplied smooth as they were intended to carry advertising. My example carries the initials of a Swiss communications trade union.

Pocket Pal has a small blade, as to be expected in such a tiny tool

Pocket Pal has a small blade, as to be expected in such a tiny tool. The blade carries the Victorinox tang stamp

The non-locking spear point stainless steel blade is 40mm long with a 33mm cutting edge. Blade thickness is 1.15mm across the spine. There is no getting away from the fact that the blade is very small but is usually all that is required if backpacking. If it is simply a letter opener that you want hanging from your key chain, then they don’t get more suited than this. The nail file is equally simple, it has a 5mm x 30mm textured file surface that works on smoothing rough nails just fine. This knife comes with a cleaner tip to the file, there is no screwdriver, or SD, tip variant.

Thickness of single layer Pocket Pal compared with 2019 two-layer Classic Alox

Thickness of single layer Pocket Pal compared with 2019 two-layer Classic Alox

There are two similarly appointed knives that have been produced by Victorinox, these are the Princess and the Escort. Three Points of the Compass looked at both of these knives here. Both of those knives have cellidor scales which meant that both tweezers and toothpick could be included. For those that don’t often use or want those tools, and Three Points of the Compass is amongst them, their exclusion is perfectly acceptable. This thin knife will slip into a wallet or more usefully, a First Aid Kit, with ease. If you are looking for the simplest and especially thinnest of practical little knives, then the 58mm Pocket Pal may fit the bill.

Victorinox Pocket Pal with the similarly equipped Victorinox Princess

Victorinox Pocket Pal (below) with the similarly equipped Victorinox Princess (above)

Pocket Pal specifications:

  • Weight: 11.2g
  • Length: 58mm, width: 17.20mm, thickness: 4.18mm (4.60mm across the rivets)
  • Blade
  • Nail file with cleaner tip

Note that Victorinox also produces another knife subsequently called the Pocket Pal, however that is 84mm long and features two blades.

Smooth Alox scales on Pocket Pal compared with the more common textured alox scales, as shown here on a 2019 Alox Classic

Smooth alox scales on Pocket Pal compared with the more common textured alox scales shown here on a 2019 ‘Champagne’ Alox Classic

Three Points of the Compass has looked at quite a few knives and multi-tools that may, or may not, be suitable for backpacking, day treks or Every Day Carry. Links to these can be found here.

Morris's Patent Wealemefna measurer is a simple tool in use

Map measurer of the month- Morris’s Patent Wealemefna

The Wealemefna is tiny in the hand. The case of this watch-chain instrument measures just 26mm across its width

The Wealemefna is tiny in the hand. The case of this watch-chain instrument measures just 26mm across its width

Newspaper advertisement for Morris's 'Wealemefna', a 'new design of map measurer'

Newspaper advertisement for Morris’s ‘Wealemefna’, a ‘bijou’ map measurer. The Graphic, 1880

Gold plated Wealemefna

Gold plated Wealemefna

Morris’s Patent Wealemefna is a simple map measurer dating from the 1870s. It was invented by Edward Russell Morris, of the Morris Patents Engineering Works, High Street, Birmingham. Quite tiny in size, it was designed to hang from the end of a gentlemen’s watch chain.

It was possible to purchase this instrument with a variety of case finishes- gilt, silver-plated, nickel, silver or gold. Cases were simple and lacked any additional decoration though subsequent resellers would occasionally add their own case inscription.

The Wealemefna comes supplied in a velvet lined, leather covered wooden snap case

The Wealemefna came supplied in a velvet lined, leather covered wooden snap case

The measurer will measure lines on maps or anything else, by holding it in the hand, face toward you, then wheeling forward. Despite it’s ‘bijou’ dimensions, it will measure long lines. The first incarnation of the Wealemefna measured lines up to ten feet in length with a second generation in the 1880s extending this, with an appropriately altered paper face to the dial, to 25 feet. This is the example shown here.

Each complete rotation of the larger blued hand measures 12 inches and moves the smaller hand forward one digit of the inner circle on the paper dial. One inch of measurement is registered on the outer marked circle, showing eighth of an inch graduations. For an instrument some one hundred and forty years old, it still works faultlessly.

Mr Edward Russell Morris, of Birmingham, is much happier in his inventions than devising names for them

Illustrated London News, 1876

It has an odd name. The English Mechanic and World of Science: Vol. 33, London, 1881, informs us that Morris created a wholly original name in an attempt to outwit his imitators, also declining to disclose the actual origin of the word.

Morris's Wealemefna- Shows eighth of an inch graduations and will measure lines up to 25 feet

Morris’s Wealemefna- Shows eighth of an inch graduations and will measure lines up to 25 feet in length

“Mr. Morris has invited our inspection of several forms of his ingenious little mysteriously-named measurer, and though it is late in the day to call attention to it—and probably unnecessary—we may just say that it is a most handy and accurate companion. Its inventor has recently brought out a miniature form of the instrument, which registers up to 10ft., and maу be carried in the waistcoat pocket, or worn as a watchguard-pendant”

“English Mechanic and World of Science” Vol. 33, London, 1881,

in response to comments made in the same journal in 1879

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 the smallest. The Wealemefna weighs just 15g. Exactly the same as a similar dimensioned Rota-Meter measurer produced by Barker and Son just a few years later which Three Points of the Compass will be covering later in the year.

Morris's Wealemefna and Barker & Son's similer Rota-Meter

Morris’s Wealemefna and Barker & Son’s similar Rota-Meter

Victorinox 74mm Executive

Knife chat: The Victorinox Executive

Victorinox has offered a huge range of knives and multi-tools over the decades. Traditionally these are roughly classified by their folded length. These are: 58mm, 74mm, 84mm, 91mm, 93mm, 100mm, 108mm and 111mm. While the 58mm range is large, offering a wide range of options, few 74mm models have been released. One oddity amongst these offers a unique set of tools that deserves serious consideration- the 74mm Victorinox Executive.

Three Points of the Compass has a penchant for the smallest of the Victorinox Swiss Army Knives. Most of the 58mm knives are based around the most useful trinity of tools, especially for backpacking and the like- these are: blade, scissors and nail file, ideally the latter having a screwdriver tip. However some find these tools a little small for their liking, if so, the small 74mm range provides just a little step up in size of tools, functionality and are just a tad more robust. The 34g 74mm Ambassador is akin to a Victorinox Classic on steroids, however the 45g Executive offers a few more tool options for just a little extra weight penalty.

Large blade on the Victorinox 74mm Executive

Large blade on the Victorinox 74mm Executive

The Victorinox is a two layer tool that builds very slightly on the more basic single layer Ambassador. Including scale tools and keyring the standard cellidor scaled Executive has seven tools but still manages to somehow offer redundancy even with these. Despite only being one millimetre thicker than the Ambassador, that extra thickness is surprisingly noticeable and it feels substantially bulkier than its slimmer 74mm cousin.

Two useful knives from the small 74mm Victorinox range. Ambassador on left with white scales and Executive on right with red cellidor scales

Two useful knives from the small 74mm Victorinox range. Ambassador on left with white scales and model 0.6603 Executive on right with red cellidor scales

Main blades on Victorinox Classic and Executive compared

Main blades on Victorinox 58mm Classic and 74mm Executive compared

The primary tool of most knives is the blade, however for many people, the scissors gets most use. Both large blade and scissors on the Executive are to the usual quietly efficient and effective standard. The non-locking, drop point blade offers a 46mm cutting edge, sharp out of the box. The blade will hold an edge pretty well but is never going to rival a good carbon steel blade, not will it rust like one either. The main blade on the Executive is just a little beefier than those found on the backpackers knife of choice- the Classic. At it’s thickest point on the spine, the stainless steel on the Executive’s main blade is 1.63mm thick while the Classic’s blade utilises steel 1.18mm thick.

Despite being quite a small knife, the Executive comes equipped with no less than three blades. In addition to the larger blade there is a small one. This has a cutting edge of just 30mm. Having two blades gives some redundancy. There is back up if the larger blade becomes damaged or blunt, or each can be kept dedicated for specific tasks, perhaps food preparation. The third knife blade is a real oddity. This is the unique ‘orange peeler’ blade that Victorinox included only on variations of the 74mm Executive.

Unique orange peeler blade found on Victorinox Executive

Unique orange peeler blade found on Victorinox Executive

The orange peeler blade on the Executive is so unusual that Victorino inlcudes a diagram on how to use it on the instruction leaflet that accompanies the tool when purchased

The orange peeler blade is so unusual that Victorinox includes a diagram on how to use it when the tool is purchased

There are slight variations to be found with the orange peeler blade- with or without serrations, shallow or deep serrations, but the currently available and standard blade is as seen here- with deep and wide serrations. This blade also has a 3.5mm flat screwdriver tip but it will not handle a great deal of torque without twisting. I find this far too large for the small screws on my glasses.

As an orange peeler tool, it is great, however do we really need such an implement with us on a daily basis? Probably not. It does however also work great for opening taped packages or clam-shell goods which is something I do far more frequently than peeling oranges.

Be warned, the little blade on this orange peeler is damned sharp and there is some risk of cuts while using it as a screwdriver. Some owners hone down the edge on this little blade to make a short little serrated knife blade. All three of the blades- large, small and orange peeler, are situated on the same side of the knife. The large and small blades have an off centre tapered profile that enables them to nest side by side in one layer, the orange peeler blade making up the second layer of the tool.

74mm Ambasador and Executive knives compared. All tools on one side open. Executive has three blades: large, small and unique orange peeler blade

74mm Ambassador and Executive knives compared. All tools on one side open. Executive has three blades: large, small and unique orange peeler blade

On the other side of the knife are the remainder of the main tools- the scissors on the 74mm range are around fifty per cent larger than those on the 58mm range and are more robust and will cut with greater ease than those found on the Classic. They are still small though, but of the largest size that will fit within the scales. The scissors will cut finger nails, paper, thread, 550 para cord (eventually) but struggles with cordura and anything such as leather will defeat the small scissor blades.

Scissors on 74mm Victorinox Ambassador and Executive knives compared. The thicker Executive has an additional tool nested with the scissors

Scissors on 74mm Victorinox Ambassador and Executive knives are identical. The thicker Executive has an additional tool in the second layer nested alongside the scissors

Cross, and single cut replacement, nail files on Executive compared

Cross, and single cut replacement, nail files on Executive compared

The Victorinox 74mm Ambassador has a small nail file, even smaller than that found on the 58mm Classic. The nail file on the 74mm Executive however is the real deal with the actual filing surface measuring some 39mm in length. The actual design of file surface has changed over the years moving from cross-cut to a textured surface to a single-cut surface. While the cross-cut surface, found on the earliest models is effective, Three Points of the Compass preferred the textured surface which is robust and works well with nails.

Victorinox have more recently swapped this out for a 39mm long single-cut file surface that is presumably cheaper to manufacture. It does work, and can also act as a light file on other materials. The tip can be used as both a nail cleaner and with small Phillips head screws. In all of its file surface guises, this is possibly the best nail file found on any of the Victorinox knives.

45mm long toothpick and tweezers are found in the Executive scales

45mm long toothpick and tweezers are found in the Executive scales

The cellidor scales holds the usual Victorinox implements, a toothpick and small pair of tweezers. Regular readers will be aware that Three Points of the Compass is not a fan of the toothpick- who knows what bacteria is being harboured in the scale slot. It would be more useful having one of Victorinox’s pens or small LED lights situated in the scale instead. Tweezers are small but OK for picking out slivers, thorns and the like. Finally, this knife comes with a split ring keyring. There was an earlier version of this knife that did not have this fitted, called the Companion. That knife is extremely uncommon and difficult to find these days whilst at the time of writing the Victorinox Executive remains on sale.

Victorinox Executive specifications (cellidor scales):

  • Tang stamp on Alox Executive

    Tang stamp on Alox Executive

    Length: 74mm, width: 21.5mm, thickness: 10.5mm

  • Weight: 45g
  • Large blade
  • Small blade
  • Orange peeler blade, with flat screwdriver tip
  • Scissors
  • Nail File, with nail cleaner/small Philips screwdriver tip
  • Tweezers
  • Toothpick
  • Keyring

There is a variety of the Executive that omits the scale tools. This is the Alox (Aluminium Oxide) Executive. This smooth scaled option made by Victorinox was frequently used by companies for advertising purposes and as a result of these freebie give-aways, the Alox Executive does occasionally turn up on the second hand market, often in very good condition. The smooth scales provided two advantages to the knife- long lasting advertising is made possible on the anodised scales and the lack of raised ribs or checker-board sides, as found on later and current Alox models, gives an extraordinarily slim profile. As a result, this version is even thinner and lighter than the cellidor scaled Executives, just 7.1mm thick and weighing 35.8g.

Small and large blades opened on the thinner Alox version of the Victorinox Executive

Small and large blades opened on the thinner Alox version of the Victorinox Executive. No key ring is fitted to this model promoting a Swiss manufacturer of gears. The text is actually the base metal of the scale.

In conclusion:

For some, the 74mm Victorinox Executive may prove to have the best combination of tools at just the right length and weight. I am not convinced that the set of tools on this knife is right for backpacking though the extra blade and slightly larger scissors could be handy. When backpacking Three Points of the Compass does often appreciate the capability of the combination tool included on some 58mm Vics. At the very least, a cap lifter/bottle opener or can opener would be useful on the Executive, sadly, it is not to be. Nor is there any other option in the small 74mm range that offers this. However as an urban EDC and for the commuter bound for office work, the Executive would probably be a great key ring or pocket carry. If it is simply a slightly larger blade and/or scissors that is required, the more basic and slightly less bulky 74mm Ambassador is the better choice for backpacking I feel.

Victorinox Executive with main tools opened

Victorinox Executive with main tools opened

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.