Tag Archives: first aid

An assortment of SwissCards

SwissCards

Victorinox SwissCards

Four Victorinox SwissCards- each offers a slightly different range of tools

Four Victorinox SwissCards- each offers a slightly different range of tools. Shown here are the SwissCard (second generation), SwissCard Quattro, SwissCard Lite (second generation) and SwissCard Nailcare

The Victorinox SwissCards are lightweight plastic ‘cards’ that contain a small range of tools. These can frequently be all that is required on a hike. Three Points of the Compass has a few of these and takes a glance at four of the various cards released by Victorinox since they first appeared in 1997. These are the SwissCard (later SwissCard Classic), the SwissCard Quattro, the SwissCard Lite and SwissCard Nailcare.

There have been different generations of these cards, particularly with the original SwissCard. Also, a couple of varieties, including a money clip, and car visor models that excluded the nailfile to fit respective clips instead. An oddity that I shall not cover here was the Doctor SwissCard that exchanged the tweezers for calipers. All of the SwissCards are small, measuring 82mm x 54m x 4mm. So, a little smaller than a credit card. The smaller dimensions are necessary if you want to slide one into a wallet or purse. I would suggest not storing them in the pocket as the plastic (actually ABS or Acrylnitril-Butadien-Styrol) will crack and break if overly stressed by flexing or being sat on. They will slip into just about any packs hipbelt pocket.

Blade length is only 36mm on the little knives, often called letter openers, incorporated in the SwissCards. Though short, this is usually more than sufficient for most tasks on trail. There is a good edge to this blade

Blade length is only 36mm on the little knives, which are often called letter openers, incorporated in the SwissCards. Though short, this is usually more than sufficient for most tasks on trail. There is a sharp blade and it keeps an edge pretty well

Most hikers would probably glance at these little tools and discount them as they don’t immediately strike them as ‘knife’. But the toolset in a SwissCard is very similar to that found on many of the the smaller knives, particularly the Signature, also produced by Victorinox. These tools are mostly of a size that makes them pretty convenient for life on trail.

The original 26g SwissCard, released in 1997, boasted '7 features - 10 functions', but some of these are not worth getting too excited about. It came with Letter opener blade, scissors, stainless steel pin, nailfile with screwdriver, tweezers, toothpick, ballpoint pen and cm/inch ruler

The original 26g SwissCard, released in 1997, boasted ‘7 features – 10 functions’, It came with letter opener blade, scissors, stainless steel pin, nailfile with screwdriver, tweezers, toothpick, ballpoint pen and cm/inch ruler

The first SwissCard appeared on the market in 1997 and while the small range of tools largely remained unchanged, small details in the plastic holder construction were later altered to make it more robust. A rotating sliding lid over the scissors was eventually excluded in 2008 but not before a protractor had been added to the rear of the lid in the second generation of SwissCard.

26.2g SwissCard

Second generation Victorinox SwissCard in translucent blue weighs 26.2g. The first two generations of the SwissCard had a sliding door over the scissors

The sliding door on the first two generations of SwissCard was a design fault. The door easily snapped off from its pivot

Second generation Victorinox SwissCard in solid black featuring an added protractor. The sliding/rotating door was a design fault. The door easily snapped off from its pivot. The protractor on the inside of the door can be seen in this image but was of little practical use

The first two generations of the SwissCard weighed 26.2g, this weight increased imperceptibly to 27g when the sliding door was excluded from the design with the third generation. This meant that the protractor on the second generation was now also removed as a result. While the protractor on the second generation SwissCards could possibly be used for measuring snow slope angle, and the likelihood of avalanche, I really can’t see this being carried out in reality. The third generation of the plastic case is much sturdier and robust as a result of the change.

All SwissCards include a small ruler- 75mm on the front edge, 3 inches on the back

Victorinox SwissCard Classic in transparent blue. All SwissCards include small rulers- 75mm on the front edge, 3 inches on the back

The 27g SwissCard Classic is a simple tool that carries much of the toolset found in the little 58mm Victorinox Classic folding knife. That is- small blade, nailfile, scissors, tweezers and toothpick. The SD version of the Classic knife has a small flat screwdriver tip on its nailfile and this is what is also found in the SwissCard. In addition, there is a stainless steel pin and useful, if miniscule, pressurised ballpoint pen in the SwissCard.

The 58mm Victorinox Classic has a similar set of tools to those found in SwissCards

The 21.3g 58mm Victorinox Classic has a similar set of tools to those found in SwissCards. This is the Edelweiss scaled version, there is a huge variety of scale designs found with these knives

Originally called the SwissCard, the Classic designation was added when new models became available

Victorinox SwissCard Classic in transparent red. Originally called the SwissCard, the Classic designation was added when other models also became available. The Classic also differs from the first two generations of card by not having a sliding door over the scissors

The 22.2g SwissCard Quattro was released in 2000 and this saw the handy little four-way Quattro screwdriver made available for the first time. This is so small and convenient that even if I am not carrying one of the cards with me while hiking, one of the 2.6g screwdrivers is often sitting in my ditty bag. Sadly, the inclusion of the screwdriver was at the expense of the scissors, which are excluded from the SwissCard Quattro. A hole was added to the corner of the card enabling it to be hung from a keyring or lanyard.

Victorinox SwissCard Quattro in solid black. While the addition of the new four-way screwdriver was a welcome addition, the loss of scissors in the SwissCard Quattro means that there is some wasted storage space in the plastic holder of this version that could have been utilised by Victorinox

Victorinox SwissCard Quattro. While the addition of the new four-way screwdriver was a welcome addition, the loss of scissors in the SwissCard Quattro means that there is some wasted storage space in the plastic holder of this version that could have been utilised by Victorinox. this solid black colour is 20.6g compared to the very slightly heavier translucent Quattro cards which are 22.2g

In 2003 a small LED light was incorporated and the 26.7g SwissCard Lite appeared on the market. Essentially, other than differences in case colour, there are two variants of the Lite- early models had a red LED, these were changed to a white LED in 2009. While the white LED is far brighter than the red and ideal for urban use, Three Points of the Compass feels that red is often more useful on trail, especially if stumbling around a crowded hostel or bunkhouse room and trying not to disturb slumbering occupants.

First generation of SwissCard Lite with red LED, card case in translucent red

First generation of SwissCard Lite with red LED, card case in translucent red.

A hiker normally carries a primary white light headtorch or similar, however a small red LED can be useful at times for discreetness. Early models with the red LED can be difficult to find now but are still available through eBay etc. if now over-priced. Though it must be admitted, the red LED is very dim whereas the white variant is far brighter, but still no where near bright enough for night hiking or similar.

Red and white LED variants of the Victorinox SwissCard Lite

White and red LED variants of the Victorinox SwissCard Lite. The brighter white light is distinct

The LED in the SwissCard Lite is powered by a replaceable 0.6g 3v Lithium CR1025 battery

The LED in the SwissCard Lite is powered by a replaceable 0.6g 3v Lithium CR1025 battery

The SwissCard Lite hits the sweet spot by including both scissors and the handy little four-way screwdriver. Incorporating both of these at the expense of losing the nailfile is a reasonable trade off I feel.

The LED switch is a rather clever and simple affair, being a removable slide that contains both LED and the battery. The drain from the modest LED means that battery life is considerable, though a spare battery could be carried on a particularly long multi-day hike.

The SwissCard Lite has a useful set of tools. The 5 x magnifying glass could be useful as an aid when removing small splinters with the pin and tweezers

Victorinox SwissCard Lite in transparent black. This 26.7g card has a useful set of tools. The 5 x magnifying glass is helpful when removing small splinters with the pin and tweezers. Both four-way screwdriver and scissors are present in this card

The flat four-way Quattro screwdriver is such a handy piece of kit that it can easily be slipped into a ditty bag on trail

The flat four-way 2.6g Quattro screwdriver is such a handy piece of kit that it can easily be slipped into a ditty bag on trail

In 2015, the SwissCard Nailcare was released. While both four-way screwdriver and scissors are incorporated, the little knife blade is replaced by a glass nailfile.  As a result, I think the 26.6g Nailcare is the least useful of the SwissCards for taking on trail, unless personal grooming really is that important to you. Unfortunately the cutout for the nailfile is reduced in the nailcare card, otherwise the nailfile could have been swapped for a knife from another card.

The 6.7g scissors from a Victorinox SwissCard are are an excellent efficient choice for a First Aid Kit

The 6.7g scissors found in most variants of the Victorinox SwissCards are a useful choice for a First Aid Kit

SwissCards were manufactured in a range of solid and translucent/transparent colours only some of which are shown here. Ice Blue (shown here) was only available with the Nailcare. The pin and small tweezers are useful for removing splinters and as with the other incarnations, the spring loaded scissors do a good job, though I find my digits a tad large for the small single finger hole so frequently simply grip the whole of the scissor in my hand when using.

While well-appointed, the SwissCard Nailcare is the least useful of the small range for taking on trail

26.6g Victorinox SwissCard Nailcare in translucent Ice Blue. While well-appointed and great for day-to-day urban carry, the SwissCard Nailcare is the least useful of the small range for taking on trail

I normally carry a small knife or multi-tool on trail, however it is probably time that I gave these little cards more attention. They include many of the items that I already carry but could remove from my gear list- scissors, blade, pen, tweezers, and depending on which variant is taken, could provide a couple of other useful items. Three Points of the Compass feels that of all the available SwissCards, a SwissCard Lite is the most suited for backpacking. As to the choice of colour of LED, that is up to you but the earlier red LEDs are becoming pretty difficult to source these days.

One option with a SwissCard is to replace the pin with a needle. This replacement is a Size 7 embroidery/crewel needle

One option with a SwissCard is to replace the pin with a needle. This replacement is a Size 7 embroidery/crewel needle

Needless packaging

A few grams here, a few grams there… packaging

This is a wheeze for those who cut tooth brushes in half to save a few grams. What I have done here is pull a few medicines from my First Aid kit with a view to cutting their weight.

Three Points of the Compass carries a veritable arsenal of tablets and due to the fact that many tablets in the UK come in blister packs, it was time to remove some of that bulky packaging that is simply adding needless weight to the pack.

Take a look at that packaging above- Before I removed the tablets from the blister packs, it totalled 21.4g. That rubbish in the top picture formed 17.6g of that total. Once decanted in to little baggies, together with small slips of paper detailing the contents and any relevant dosage recommendations, my tablets came to just 3.8g. A worthwhile exercise in reduction.

Repackaged medications, a respectable saving in both weight and bulk easily made

Repackaged medications, a respectable saving in both weight and bulk easily made

So what medicines am I carrying on my Big Walk? Loratadine and Chlorphenamine maleate (first and second generation anti-allergy), Aspirin and Ibuprofen (painkillers), Loperamide (anti-diarrhoeal) and short courses of Doxycycline and Flucloxacillin (broad and narrow spectrum antibiotics/penicillin).

Similar reductions can be made throughout your gear if you take a careful look. I recall reading of one chap a few years back recording a fifty gram reduction from the simple expedient of cutting out the care and material labels from every item of clothing he took. I haven’t gone that far… yet. And no, I don’t cut the handle off my toothbrush.

 

Precision point tweezers

Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers

 

I was looking recently at the various First Aid Kits that accompany me on various treks, be they day walks or longer. One item that I always like to ensure is included in a kit is a pair of tweezers. It is difficult to make do with anything else when attempting to extract thorns, splinters, grit within a cut, pick loose pieces of skin from torn blisters etc. A sterilized needle may be used on occasion but is never going to be as useful as a pair of tweezers. There are various hacks- smoothing a piece of duct tape over a splinter may ease it from the skin, but for some purposes, a pair of thin nosed or precision tweezers is what is required- for careful removal of ticks for example.

Tweezers come in a variety of sizes and even materials. The heads can be blunt and wide, or thin nosed and pointed. They can be quite large scissor operated for precision and strength, or a tiny pair slipped into the end of a Victorinox multi-knife. Stainless steel is an excellent material for medical purposes, doesn’t stain, doesn’t rust, strong. This is what most pairs of tweezer knocking around my house were made of, but I was also intrigued to see if there were any alternatives.

I had been looking at replacing a perfectly functional pair of tweezers with something equally as practical yet a little smaller and lighter if possible. I didn’t want to be too financially extravagant about this, it is only a pair of tweezers I was looking at. However I found that there wasn’t much choice out there. I found a number of surgical tweezers that looked the ticket but their cost frightened me off. The lightest pair of titanium thin-nosed tweezers I could find weighed just 10g. Perfectly acceptable, a pair of these has accompanied me on many trips in my First Aid Kit- but the search continued…

Stainless steel Sliver Gripper tweezers and key chain holder

Stainless steel Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers and key chain holder

Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers

When I came across Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers I realised that my search was mostly over. These tweezers are small, of pretty good build quality and lightweight. You can get them in a couple of guises, each coming with the small incorporated key chain holder that does so much to prevent them poking a hole in anything whilst in transit. The original precision point design was produced by their inventor Bill Jones (if ever anyone could claim to have invented a product that had been in use for thousands of years already) in small numbers until development and manufacture was taken over by the West Hartford firm that took them to the next level. The firm takes its name from the owner- Elwyn Harp and his wife, Elsie Martha, hence El. Mar Inc., who still make them

These tweezers are quite tiny in the hand

These tweezers are quite tiny in the hand

The tweezers are made from a single piece of metal which is bent, providing the springiness that keeps the points apart. The small size and width mean that a precision grip is usually easily obtained. So simple and effective is the design that the U.S. military purchased them in very large numbers. These carry the National Stock Number (NSN) 3740-01-474-7377. Being described on  stock as ‘spring tempered stainless steel tick tweezers’. It is the tick removal aspect that El. Mar have focused on to an extent to boost sales numbers to the general public in recent years. Many years ago these tweezers underwent a degree more of finishing than they do now. The famed ‘precision points’ were achieved by bevelling the point, however they are now simply stamped out and finished on a machine belt that, while it removes most of the rough edges, does little to impart improved accuracy of use. That can be rectified post-purchase though. Many might argue that having purchased a product, it should not then be necessary to make any alteration to rectify or improve performance.

There is very little chance of the tweezers coming separated from the clip holder on their own account

There is very little chance of the tweezers coming separated from the included key chain holder on their own account. This is extremely useful in preventing them from poking holes while in transit

Each pair of tweezers comes with a little holder in to which the tweezers are inserted, they then open and are securely gripped until squeezed together to release them. It would be easy to leave the little holder at home but it is such a lightweight and functional offering that its inclusion is a sensible choice. If taken, it can then be hung from a key fob, round the neck on cord/dog tags, looped on to a mini carabiner or simply slung inside a ditty bag.

One of the prime purposes for a pair of tweezers on the trail is removing ticks. Some, but not all, ticks carry Lyme disease. Instances of this are increasing, both in North America and Europe. Once picked up from vegetation lining the trail and latched on to a hikers skin, if not removed carefully with an appropriate tool, a tick can be stressed or squeezed. Thereby disgorging its stomach contents, which may include Lyme, into its host, us. I usually carry a 2.2g pair of O’Tom Tick Twister dedicated tick removers when ticks are in season but a pair of tweezers will do the job almost as well.

 

“I have never had a pair of tweezers in my life that was worth a damn. Now I do and I appreciate it very much.”

General Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the allied forces during Desert Storm, writing of the Sliver Gripper tweezers, 26 September, 1990

 

Anodised version of Sliver Gripper tweezers

Black anodised version of Sliver Gripper tweezers

The perfect product to prevent the enemy seeing you removing splinters...

The perfect product to prevent the enemy seeing you removing splinters…

For the tactical minded amongst us, OK, amongst you, there is a version that may excite curiosity. This is the ‘military’ version; a black anodised Sliver Gripper tweezer. Anodising is a process where the metal is coated with a protective (in this case, black) oxide layer by electrolytic action. The black tweezers do look good, having an almost gunmetal finish.

Be warned though, while using the black tweezers should prevent reflected light revealing your position to the enemy (plenty of them on the trail) these black tweezer points will not help you in seeing fine splinters etc. The very opposite in fact. They are also more susceptible to being lost if dropped so perhaps are not the best choice for the trail.

 

 

Of course I was not only engaged on a search for a decent pair of tweezers to take on the trail, I was also after saving a few grams where I could. So I was pleased to find that a ‘Grade 1’ titanium version of the Sliver Gripper tweezers has also been made.

Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers. Made in the U.S.A.

Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers. Made in the U.S.A.

Titanium, a word that immediately draws the attention of anyone looking to reduce the weight carried on their back. But this material comes at a cost though, and it is for the individual to decide if the doubled cost of a pair of tweezers is worth such minimal weight saving, I suspect the answer is no. Usually the only way that increased cost can be justified is if the weight saving is large, an item was being replaced anyway, or if the titanium product offers any improvement in function as a result of its material. Both stainless steel and titanium are suitable for using on skin and will not cause adverse reaction, neither metal rusts. So I was interested to see how the titanium version of the Sliver Gripper tweezers held up against the normal product.

Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers and clip holder

Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers and clip holder

Careful filing of the points of the titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers corrected the poor manufacturing finish and bought the points together

Careful filing of the points of the titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers corrected the poor manufacturing finish and bought the points together

I was frustrated to find that the quality of finishing, or quality assessment, was a little disappointing.  Out of the packet the points do not quite line up and precision of use is lacking as a result. So not quite meeting the description on the packaging- “Accurately ground precision manufactured points”. However this was easily and quickly rectified with careful filing. Though this is not something one would expect to have to do with a brand new purchase.

 

A few minutes with a fine file adding chamfered edges improves the precision points of these tweezers immensely

A few minutes with a fine file adding chamfered edges improves the precision points of these tweezers immensely

The non-magnetic titanium Sliver Grippers lack the degree of finishing that the steel versions exhibit. Edges feel rough to the touch and benefit from a slight filing in the hand. I am unsure why a thicker gauge of metal has been used too, surely strength would not have been compromised by using a similar gauge to the original steel tweezers. The ‘springiness’ in operation feels different too, though I  don’t think this affects performance.

A small pair of Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers are included in this kit. With holder, these weigh 4g (or 2.8g for those who wish to leave the holder at home)

Small and lightweight titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers. With key chain holder, these weigh 4g and are very functional

The remarkably light weights for any of the three variants looked at mean that any of the three would be suitable for a lightweight backpacking kit. As mentioned above, it makes sense to include the small and functional key chain holder with whichever is taken as it will certainly prevent them poking a hole from within expensive packs and dry bags.

Type Weight of tweezer Weight of clip holder Total weight
Stainless steel 3.7g 2g 5.7g
Black anodised steel 3.7g 1.9g 5.6g
Titanium 2.8g 1.2g 4g

Of course I can now be really anal. Having purchased the three, I could, if I wished, take the stainless steel version, with its superior gripping tip (on account of the serrations) with the titanium clip, thereby saving a grand total of 0.8g …

… nope, I don’t think so either!

Top: Stainless steel tweezers, centre: Black anodised, bottom: Titanium

Top: Stainless steel tweezers, centre: Black anodised, bottom: Titanium

Serrations on stainless steel tweezers

Serrations on stainless steel tweezers

All of the three types of tweezer measure 47mm in length and are 9.5mm wide. The gauge of sheet metal differs however, being 0.6mm for the steel versions and 0.8mm for the titanium.

No serrations on titanium tweezers

No serrations on titanium tweezers

 

Some improvement to grip is also provided by slight serrations being added to the inner 6mm of the tip. However these are only present on the steel versions, not the titanium for some reason. This is a surprising omission as their inclusion would improve the titanium tweezers immensely.

Black anodised tweezers also have faint serrations

Black anodised tweezers also have faint serrations

The little key chain holders for the tweezers are all of the same type of metal as the tweezers that they contain. 28mm long and 9.5mm wide. Much of their strength in gripping comes from the broad head of the tweezer, tapering toward the tip. This is cut to an angle of 40° which may prove troublesome for getting into tight spots but is probably the sweet spot between strength and impracticality.

Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers are easily found on-line and come with a lifetime guarantee. I purchased my three from two different suppliers, and costs are reasonable, even when purchased in the UK. They can also be bought in dual packages, or in small plastic tubes. Though I see no need to prefer those last over loose ones unless a pair was going to be kept in a tool box and there was a wish to keep them clean and separate from all the crud around them.

The much advertised 'precision manufactured points' are dissapointing

Fresh out of the packaging the much advertised ‘precision manufactured points’ are mostly disappointing, being quite thick and lacking any chamfer

These tweezers, whichever type you go for, are not perfect. The tips could be narrower and chamfered and the titanium ones are quite rough out of the packaging. However, as a lightweight pair of tweezers, they are mostly ideal for picking out thorns, splinters, bee stings, gravel from road rash, peeling back loose and torn skin, even plucking eyebrows! Particularly if a few minutes are taken post-purchase to file off the rough edges and improve the point. They are then a worthwhile inclusion to even the most lightweight of backpacking gear lists. However their most important attribute must be their suitability for dealing with that most menacing and increasing of trail threats, the Tick.