Tag Archives: gear

What power bank, charge leads and plug I take with me depends on the number of days I am on trail

Smaller power banks, plugs and leads on trail

Nitecore F1 and F2 battery charger/power banks

Nitecore F1 and F2 battery charger/power banks

Small power banks/chargers

Like most hikers, Three Points of the Compass takes a number of electric devices when backpacking- phone, camera, LED light, occasionally an MP3 player. Other hikers may be carrying even more devices. Only three years ago I made the total switch to rechargeable headlamps, first to the Black Diamond ReVolt, that can run on either standard AAA or rechargeable AAA batteries that can be charged in the headlamp. Then I switched out to either the Olight H1R Nova, with proprietary rechargeable RCR123A battery, or the Nitecore NU25. The former is for longer winter hikes or where more night hiking is planned, while the NU25 is perfectly adequate for the remainder of the year.

The H1R Nova has a single rechargeable 3.7V 650mAh RCR123A battery. This has built in protection. A spare could be taken so as to swap out with ease. However I just take the one. Each battery weighs 18g

The H1R Nova has a single rechargeable 3.7V 650mAh RCR123A battery. This has built in protection. A spare can also be taken so as to swap out with ease. However I usually just take the one as the battery can be charged while in use. Each battery weighs 18g. Note the excellent build quality of this light and fitted rubber O ring to prevent water ingress

For shorter hikes where I am also carrying a power bank, I may carry either a Nitecore F1 battery charger or the double sized version- the F2. These will take many Lithium-Ion batteries including the 18650 batteries I favour. The F1 is a simple, minimalist charger with Micro USB in-port and USB out-port. It has a nifty little LED array that identifies the voltage of the battery inserted and informs degree of charge and the F1 allows through charging, so it is possible to charge the battery at the same time as charging a device.

Powerbank, charge lead and plug for short walks of a couple or more days.

Nitecore F1 power bank, charge lead and plug for short walks of a couple days

The Nitecore F1 charger weighs 34g including two ranger bands which hold a battery securely in place when in use though I often only take the one. The F1 is not the swiftest of chargers and is not suitable for a brief halt in town of an hour or two and expecting to quickly charge up, but is fine for an overnight stop where there is access to mains power for a few hours. There are a lot of these little battery chargers and power banks available and a little care needs to be taken when choosing one, do your research because a few are downright dangerous. The F1 is a great lightweight option for a day or few, however I feel that the F2 is more suited to longer treks as it gives a greater degree of flexibility and functionality.

Nitecore F2, with plug and charge lead

Nitecore F2, with plug and charge lead

The Nitecore F2 has 0.5A USB 3.0 Micro-B input and two USB outputs, giving 1x 2A or 2x1A. The F2 charger/power bank weighs 47g, 54g with two ranger bands. The little 170mm charge lead that comes with it weighs 12g but I normally carry a more robust longer lead.

Powerbank, charge leads and plug for walks of a week or more

F2 power bank, charge leads, plug and extra battery are sufficient for trails of a week or more, unless opportunity for charging presents additional problems, in which case extra cells could be carried

Depending on the length of trip, I often carry one, two or three Nitecore Lithium-Ion rechargeable 18650 batteries. 3.7V 12.6Wh. The 18650 batteries from Nitecore (and Olight that I have also used) are both built on the Panasonic NCR 18650B, with additional circuitry. The ones from Nitecore each weigh 48g and have built in PCB/IC protection (short circuit and battery overcharge protection and discharge protection circuits) so are a little longer than most other 18650 batteries being 68mm long instead of 65mm. Mine are the 3400mAh batteries which give the best size/weight/power ratio for rechargeable batteries. Though in truth they probably deliver no more than around 3200mAh. When not in use, or in the charger, I keep each 18650 battery in a 6.4g silicone sleeve. This removes the danger of any shorting out while packed. If you have any doubt as to the efficacy of 18650 batteries, it is worth noting that Tesla has been using Panasonic 18650 cells in their Models S and X cars since 2013. Their most common battery pack originally contained 7104 18650 cells, more recently 8256 cells.

Phone, mp3 player, headlight and power- Little was required

Electronics carried on the Icknield Way in 2017, there is an excess of charge leads here as three different electronic devices had three different connectors

 

Another good charger that can also act as a power bank and has attracted a lot of interest in recent years is the Miller ML-102. There have been a number of versions of this USB charger produced and some earlier models introduced a few faults, however at the time of writing (January 2020) the current version- the 32g ML-102 v9, seems to have reintroduced a reliable charger to the market place. However these will only work with unprotected 65mm long 18650 cells, it won’t accept the longer protected 18650 cells, so I cannot use this on trail with my favoured Nitecore batteries. Unprotected cells should not be left unattended when charging for obvious reasons.

Using the Nitecore F1 as an 18650 battery charger

Using the Nitecore F1 as an 18650 battery charger

Tiny Photon Freedom microlight is frequently attached to one of my packs zip pulls

Tiny Photon Freedom microlight is frequently attached to one of my packs zip pulls or my Z Packs chest pouch

In the eventuality that the battery/power bank does give up and all my 18650s are drained, I usually have just a little backup for light. I often carry two of the fantastic little LRI Photon Freedom Micro button lights. One has a red beam to preserve night vision, or to be just a little more discreet and less conspicuous if wild camping where I ought not. The other has a white beam. I have written elsewhere about these great little lights, but for just 10g each, including battery, you can’t go wrong with these. Spare button batteries are carried for any Photon carried (CR 2016 or 2032 depending on if white or red LED). I also have a light on my phone but better to keep a phone battery charged for emergency use. Finally, I have a minuscule USB LED light with dimmable facility that can be plugged into either my power bank or a room wall plug.

For any hike of a week or more I am usually carrying an Anker PowerCore II Slim 10 000mAh power bank. This weighs 209g, so is the heavier option but I swap out for this for one reason- convenience. With a charger that can only charge one (F1) or two (F2) 18650 batteries at a time, I would need to keep swapping batteries to keep them all charged. Not what I want to be doing. I want to be eating, drinking, washing and resting, not hovering over a charger. With the Anker, I can stop overnight somewhere, plug it in and leave it plugged in until fully charged.

Charge leads and plugs

Leads

Charge rate can be severely affected by the cable used. Both internal cable structure and length will alter the charge rate. Also, the quality of the end pins/plugs is of concern, the last thing you want is the end pulling off while on a hike. To ensure I don’t end up totally scuppered, I carry at least two USB/Micro USB charge leads with me. My main charge lead is usually a 900mm 28.4g USB / Micro USB Anker Powerline. This is a good quality charge lead made with Aramid fibre and double braided line. It will take a lot of the wear that charge leads are subject to.

If I have my iPod Nano mp3 player with me (I have no other Apple products), then I include a tiny little Micro USB/Lightning adaptor. It is only 20mm long and weighs 1.2g. However, it is much more likely I will be carrying my little SanDisc player. This has a built in rechargeable battery, the USB/Micro USB cables I am already packing will work with this.

Small adaptors mean that the number of cables carried can be kept to a minimum. The Micro USB/Lighting adaptor is 1.3g and the Micro USB/USB-C adaptor is 2.6g. Depending on which USB LED light is carried, these can be as little as a gram

Small adaptors mean that the number of cables carried can be kept to a minimum. The Micro USB/Lighting adaptor is 1.3g and the Micro USB/USB-C adaptor 2.6g. Depending on which USB LED light is carried, these can be as little as a gram. Three Points of the Compass carries the larger, touch sensitive LED light shown here that weighs just 3g

Other charge leads carried are a very short, silicone coated lead, just 67mm in length and 5g in weight made by Lifemall. Again, this is USB/Micro USB. It originally had a loop for hanging from a key chain but I removed that. Output is 2.4A maximum. Carrying this little extra charge lead means that I am not left bereft should the longer main lead give up the ghost. The very slight weight penalty is acceptable to me.

A rather nifty feature on the Olight H1R is the simple, magnetic tailcap to which the USB charge cable connects. This means that, if need be, the headlight can be charging while being worn. So if I am carrying the Olight headlamp rather than the Nitecore NU25, I also carry the magnetic Olight charge cable for the HR1 Nova head torch. This weighs 14.5g. The tail glows red when charging and switches to green when fully charged.

In the past, the necessity of carrying one particular charge lead has been a source of annoyance. My Olympus Tough TG-4 camera cannot be charged via normal Micro plug, instead, this requires the inclusion of a proprietary connector. This extra 700mm lead weighs 48.5g. However if I am carrying a camera these days, I am normally taking my Sony RX100v, which can be charged with the standard micro USB.

The 14g Olight charge lead is a handy little addition. It attaches magnetically firmly to the base of the Nova.

The 14g Olight charge lead is a handy little addition however it does mean an extra lead and extra weight to be carried. It attaches magnetically and firmly to the base of the Nova.

Folding Mu plugs

Folding Mu plugs- 14mm thick

Plugs

Three Points of the Compass has a liking for the ingenious folding plugs from Mu (Greek for small or micro). It is not only weight that can be an issue in the pack, but bulk too. The 51.1g Mu Duo has double USB ports with a fixed split of 1.2A per port. Input: AC 100-240v, 50-60Hz. This accompanies me on shorter trips up to a week. For longer trips I have the 50.4g Mu Tablet, this has a single USB port with a DC 5V 2.4A outlet and AC 100-240V, 50-60Hz input. It may seem counter-intuitive to take a single outlet plug for longer trips but it is the higher, faster charge rate that I want then. Though of course, this is nothing compared to the newer connectors coming through as I write this. There is, for example, a Type-C connector Mu plug available.

The higher output single and dual port Mu both measure 73mm x 55mm x 14mm when folded, there is also a lower 1A output Mu that is a little smaller at 60mm x 55mm x 14mm. This is the open white one shown below.

Mu folding plug, plus international version that can have a number of different socket heads fitted

Mu folding plug, plus international version that can have different socket heads fitted

The above leads mean that I can be charging two 18650 batteries in the Nitecore F2, while simultaneously through charging my phone and Olight or camera. If I have the Nitecore F1, I will also have the double port Mu plug, so can charge a single 18650 battery and also the phone, Olight or camera from the second port.

Aulola folding USB adaptor is a cheaper alternative to Mu plugs

Aulola folding USB adaptor is a cheaper alternative to Mu plugs

Mu folding plugs are not cheap and I have used the cheap ‘n’ cheerful TH31 folding dual USB adaptor from Aulola in the past. This has a 5v 2A output, but that is split across the two ports. Slightly larger at 67mm x 49mm x 20mm, these weigh 57g.

I recognise that while I have been slowly bringing all my electronics in line with each other, utilising micro USB charge ports, the wave of change is sweeping by and I shall have to make a further change in the future to keep up as micro USB is eventually going to become obsolete.

The size of power bank carried on a hike, or rather the amount of mAh, is very much a personal choice and should be influenced by a number of circumstance- cost, weight, availability, bulk, number of electronic devices carried, opportunity for recharge, duration between said recharge opportunity etc.

Charging phone on trail with Nitecore F1 battery charger/power bank

Charging phone (literally) on trail with Nitecore F1 battery charger/power bank and mini charge lead

When Three Points of the Compass completed his 2000 mile hike across the UK in 2018, the lightweight Nitecore F1 was carried for the first 800 miles as there was opportunity to recharge every day or two, by the time Scotland was reached, with far less opportunity to charge a power bank, I had switched out to the larger 10 000 mAh Anker which was completely adequate for the remainder of my hike. The longest I went without opportunity for a partial recharge was five days.

Electronics carried on my five month 2018 hike. A larger 10 000 mAh power bank was carried for the final 1000 miles

Electronics carried on my five month 2018 hike. The large 10 000 mAh Anker power bank shown was carried for the final 1000 miles

Leatherman Style CS and Leatherman Micra

Leatherman keychain multi-tools: which is best for hiking?

A choice of nine keychain multi-tools…

Three Points of the Compass likes to carry a knife on trail. This is most often used for food preparation. However I have found that the most useful tool by far is a pair of scissors. I have used these for trimming nails and skin, cutting plasters, bandages and gauze, opening packages, Mountain House and a myriad of other tasks. These are the two tools I want with me on any folding knife or multi-tool when backpacking. Any other tool is a bonus. That said, if I am not going to simply take a Victorinox Classic SD with me, then whatever tools are on a multi-tool, have to add something that the Victorinox doesn’t deliver. I look here at what the smallest of Leatherman keychain tools has to offer the hiker.

The ditty bag/repair kit that Three Points of the Compass carried on the Cape Wrath Trail in 2018. A Leatherman keychain multi-tool formed a vital component of this

The ditty bag/repair kit that Three Points of the Compass carried on the Cape Wrath Trail in 2018. A Leatherman keychain multi-tool formed a vital component of this

Various Swiss Army Knives have proved themselves fantastic for taking hiking, others less so. I am also a big fan of the small ‘keychain’ multi-tools produced by USA company Leatherman over the years. Some have been carried on my backpacking trips and I liked, and again, others less so. There is one little Leatherman in particular that is usually stuffed into my ditty bag or First Aid Kit and has been carried with me for thousands of trail miles. I’ll come to which one in a later blog in this series. But I thought I would spend some time here looking at some of the very small multi-tools produced by Leatherman over the years that incorporate both my desired scissors and blade. Particularly as some of these models are now discontinued and beginning to get harder to find.

History

Leatherman began making multi-tools in 1983 when it released the PST (Pocket Survival Tool). At their release Three Points of the Compass looked at these new offerings in the outdoor gear shops and wondered why anyone would ever want a pair of pliers on their knife. Having purchased one out of curiosity, it subsequently got me out of a fix on many an occasion, but only at work, it was never taken with me when hiking as it was simply too large and heavy.

Just three years later, in 1986, Leatherman shrunk their tools and released a new smaller model, that was the MiniTool (in production until 2004). However that had no scissors and at 114g was no keychain tool, it didn’t even have a ring for attaching it to anything. It was what it was named- a mini tool, with fold handles to make it full size. I actually purchased one when they were released and worked it into the ground, another of my multi-tools that never survived the years.

Leatherman have released a huge variety of tools over the years, they continue to do so, always seeking out another niche market or tweaking existing tools for the collector market. In 1996 they released the first of their keychain multi-tools. This was the Micra. So popular and successful was it that it is still manufactured today. On the back of this popular product, Leatherman went on to release another eight keychain models, the most recent in 2011. At the time of writing (2019), five of the keychain tools are still manufactured new and are available for purchase. The retired models can still be picked up on the second hand market, though one or two are beginning to get scarce.

The nine keychain sized multi-tools released by Leatherman

The nine keychain sized multi-tools released by Leatherman

Nine Leatherman keychain tools- the Micra, Squirt and Style series

There have been nine key-chain tools released by Leatherman over the years. All but one, the Squirt E4, would make a great little multi-tool for taking on trail. The intended user of the E4 is not me, it being aimed more as a pocket tool for electricians. The tool was produced in much smaller numbers and is now quite difficult to find. Despite owning one I am not a great fan of it and any of the remaining eight keychain tools would make a better choice for taking on trail.

Below, I cover the primary tools- scissors, blade and pliers and subsequent blogs over the next few days will look at some of the more specialised tools built into the various tool ranges.

Small Leatherman scissors compared with those on Victorinox Classic

Small Leatherman Style scissors on the left compared with those on Victorinox Classic

Scissors

There are seven tools with scissors in the range of Leatherman keychain multi-tools, These are the Micra, three in the Squirt series and two in the Style series. All seven are shown below. There are two major differences in these scissors.

Three tools have quite large, reasonably powerful and efficient spring-loaded scissors, using cams and back-springs, as their jaws when the tools are unfolded. The scissors on the Micra are a very slightly different form to those on the Style CS and Squirt S4, more akin to the scissors found on Swiss Army Knives, however all three are equally efficient at cutting.

The remaining four have small scissors, akin to those on the Victorinox Classic, that are accessed from the back of the multi-tool when still closed. Each of have a captive torsion spring, though to a lesser efficiency than their spring loaded larger cousins. The scissors can be opened wide to enable resharpening. The springs on these smaller Leathermans are more robust than the scissors found on small Victorinox multi-tools such as the ubiquitous Classic. They will still break though, especially if put to too heavy a task. Leatherman will fix these under their excellent warranty. The remaining two keychain tools, the Squirt E4 and P4, do not have any scissors.

Leatherman scissors compared. Top row: Leatherman Style CS, Squirt S4, Micra. Bottom row: Leatherman Style, Squirt ES4, Squirt PS4, Style PS

Scissors compared. Top row: Leatherman Style CS, Squirt S4, Micra. Bottom row: Leatherman Style, Squirt ES4, Squirt PS4, Style PS. The Squirt E4 and P4 do not have scissors

Blade

Eight of the Leatherman keychain tools have blades, the Style PS is the exception. In theory, this means that the Style PS can be taken through airport security. There are many accounts of this tool being confiscated however so I wouldn’t recommend it.

Blades are made from 420HC stainless steel, chisel cut, which can annoy some users but I have never had any trouble with them. They come with a good edge from new and can easily be sharpened. The steel will retain an edge for some time. I do wish Leatherman had produced an option of 154CM steel as they have on some of their other, larger tools.

Blade length is 41mm (1.6″) however not all of this is usable length. Flat cutting length is only some 27mm (a little over an inch) however there is another 10mm or so of curved bade beyond this. It is usually imminently sufficient for most tasks while hiking or around camp. Note that this is all very easily within UK legal requirements but as is now usual, you are never going to be allowed to fly with this.

Short chisel cut blade

Close up of the short chisel cut blade on Squirt PS4. This is 420 HC stainless steel

Most blades are of approximately similar depth though this will alter slightly over time as they are periodically sharpened. My Style CS is 8.45mm while my Style is 9.15mm at widest depth reflecting the greater use and consequent sharpening of the former. The slight notch at the base of each blade varies slightly in depth, being most pronounced on the Style and Squirt S4 where it can most effectively be used as a thin wire bender or possibly wire stripper.

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

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

The size and nail nicks on the blades varies a surprising amount. The holes on the blades in the Style series are there for aesthetic reasons only. Food, especially cheese, gets stuck in the holes and the nail nicks were moved down the blade to accompany them, to the tools detriment as the blades are consequently harder to open as a result. More recently it appears that Leatherman have begun to put standard blades into the Style, this is a welcome change.

Small Leatherman blades compared. From left to right: Style, Style CS, Squirt P4, Squirt S4, Squirt ES4, Squirt PS4, Micra

Small Leatherman blades compared. From left to right: Style, Style CS, Squirt P4, Squirt S4, Squirt ES4, Squirt PS4, Micra. Only apparent differences are minor styling on the Style blades, size and position of nail nicks, and a slight drop point to the Micra blade. All are made of the same quality 420HC stainless steel

None of the blades lock, so a little care has to be taken when using them. I much prefer the ease with which the blades can be accessed on all of the Leatherman keychain tools other than the Micra. The Micra has to be opened to access all tools, including its blade, from the inside. As to the other eight tools, if pocket carried, fluff and general crud can build up under externally positioned tools more easily than with the Micra, however I have never found this an issue. On trail I don’t carry one in my pocket. More commonly you will see hikers hanging one of these tools from a pack’s shoulder strap daisy loop, however I prefer to keep it in my food or ditty bag.

Pliers

There are many hikers that feel a pair of pliers can be particularly useful on trail. Three Points of the Compass is not necessarily one of them. There are certainly times when they can be useful, if not almost indispensable. It can be difficult to repair a zip without pliers and lifting a pot off a stove is often easy with pliers. Pushing a needle through tough cordura or leather is made far easier with pliers, though a rock could be used with care. It is all about determining where your particular emphasis, needs and wishes lie. Myself, I prefer full size scissors, however others may feel a small pair of scissors suffice which frees up the opportunity to potentially include pliers tips.

There are three choices of jaw in the small Leatherman keychain multi-tools. These are scissors, pliers and the less useful electricians pliers

There are three choices of jaw in the small Leatherman keychain multi-tools. These are scissors, pliers and the less useful electricians pliers. All use backsprings and cams and are very efficient for lighter tasks

Two types of pliers can be found on the Leatherman range of keychain sized multi-tools- these are the needlenose pliers on the E4 and later ES4. These also have regular, if small, pliers in the same head. The two Electricians’ tools, the Squirt E4 and ES4, have needle nose pliers, wire/hard wire cutters and wire strippers- 20GA, 18GA, 16GA, 14GA and 12GA.

If taking a multi-tool on trail, any of these have numerous crevices in which food and gunk can accumulate and fester. A decent periodic clean will help reduce the chance of cross-contamination

If taking a multi-tool on trail, any of these have numerous crevices in which food and gunk can accumulate and fester. A decent periodic clean will help reduce the chance of cross-contamination

Colour

It is pretty obvious that on trail, a brightly coloured knife or multi-tool can be a preferred feature. Put any item of muted colour down in the long grass and you asking to lose it. It is one reason why the classic red Victorinox Swiss Army Knife is a great choice for backpacking. That flame red sticks out like a sore thumb. That said, Three Points of the Compass does like muted colours, you will not see me wearing bright reds, orange and yellow. I like to blend into my natural surroundings. Whatever your choice, many of the Leatherman key chain sized tools came in a variety of colours, especially the Micra which has received numerous scales and wraps over the years. Even the diminutive and minimalist Leatherman Style, which only enjoyed a four year production run, came in four colours- black, red, blue and pink. If you want a really brightly coloured option, one of the few keychain tools released by Leatherman with pink coloured scales is always going to stand out.

In 2012 Leatherman announced their Pink Program- this was their support for breast cancer awareness and they released three of their tools in a striking pink colour. These were the Micra, Style and Style CS. Each of them features the breast cancer awareness ribbon laser etched on to the blade. The Micra and Squirt also feature the ribbon on one of their scales. Note that not all pink Leatherman tools were part of the Pink Program

In 2012 Leatherman announced their Pink Program- this was their support for breast cancer awareness and they released three of their tools in a striking pink colour. These were the Micra, Style and Style CS. Each of them features the breast cancer awareness ribbon laser etched on to the blade. The Micra and Squirt also feature the ribbon on one of their scales. Note that not all pink Leatherman tools were part of the Pink Program and not all have the ribbon feature

Future blogs will look more closely at some of the other tools found in the various ranges. I shall end with a particular recommendation from this useful little selection of small multi-tools.

The production dates, dimensions and weights for all nine Leatherman keychain tools are shown below.

Weights and dimensions of the Leatherman keychain multi-tools
Micra Micra- with added aluminum scales Squirt S4 Squirt P4 Squirt E4 Squirt PS4 Squirt ES4 Style Style CS Style PS
Production dates 1996-Present ?- present 2002-2010 2002-2010 2003-2010 2010-present 2010-present 2010-2014 2010-present 2011-present
Maximum length (including keyring if present) x width (when closed) x thickness (across scale screws) 66mm

X

19.25mm

X

12.40mm

66mm

X

31.25mm

X

13mm

60mm

X

20.55mm

X

13.60mm

60mm

X

20.65mm

X

13.70mm

60mm

X

20.60mm

X

13.70mm

60mm

X

19.65mm

X

13.80mm

60mm

X

20.80mm

X

14.00mm

59mm

X

10.80mm

X

12.40mm

76mm

X

20.60mm

X

10.45mm

76mm

X

20.60mm

X

10.50mm

Weight 49.9g 55g 52.3g 55.3g 53.5g 56.9g 54.3g 23.1g 41.7g 44.9g
Nitecore NU25 headlamp

The Nitecore NU25- a quick mod

Three Points of the Compass has used a few headlamps  on trail over the years. The one that is currently in favour is the Nitecore NU25. Available in black, yellow or white, I have the bright yellow lamp. All the better for being found as light fades.

Nitecore NU25 is a rechargeable headlamp. The port is beneath the lamp and covered from the elements when not in use

Nitecore NU25 is a rechargeable headlamp. The port is beneath the lamp and covered from the elements when not being charged

It is a great headlamp. It has a built in 610 mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery. Separate buttons for white or red light and has decent Cree XP-G2 S3 LED fitted.

Weather resistance is fairly good at IP66, this is helped by a flippable rubber covering to the micro-USB charge port. Beside  the two intensities of red light, there are varying white light, maxing out at 360 lumen. More stats can be seen here.

Nitecore NU25 with stock headband

Nitecore NU25 with stock headband

All that said, there is one big fault with the light. The headband is total overkill for such a lightweight headlamp. The light weighs 28g. the headband a further 25g. There is a quite well known modification that replaces the, admittedly very good, headband with a simpler set-up. For any that are unaware of this, I show it here.

Rear matrix of Nirecore NU25

Rear matrix of Nirecore NU25

The headlamp will tilt up to 60° from the curved head support. This aids its correct alignment when night walking, or when simply sitting on the tent floor at night. The headband simply slips out of the rear of this folding head support. This shows that it is made up of a number of small holes, just right for slipping thin shock cord or bungee through.

 

The makings of a lighter headband

The makings of a lighter headband

A few minutes on eBay located a number of sellers of both shockcord and cord locks. Just a few quid secured 10m of 2mm cord (more than I am ever likely to require), plus a wee baggie of double cord locks. Each of these weighs just 1.2g. Together with a pair of scissors and a lighter, is all that is required for the modification.

 

The modded headlamp

The modded headlamp

I looped two lengths of 2mm shockcord through the rear matrix. You can see how in the associated image. One running through the top, the other through the bottom. The bottom cord was then tied back on to the top cord with a running slip knot. Then trimmed and ends closed with a lighter. The top cord is long enough to pass behind my head with a little extra for adjustment if required to be worn over a beenie or similar. I ran the two ends through the toggle and tied them off together, trimmed the ends and sealed with the lighter again.

The whole job took less than five minutes to complete. The modified lamp with replacement head cord, now weighs 34g. So has knocked off 19g with no loss in function. It is less bulky, is comfortable to wear, doesn’t slip and is adjustable. A win win…

 

Modified Nitecore NU25 is comfortable to wear and easily adjusted

Modified Nitecore NU25 is comfortable to wear and easily adjusted

 

 

Lone Peak Altras

What gear wears out on a long hike?

 The South West Coast Path is 630 miles long and a challenge in itself. When Three Points of the Compass finished this in 2018 there was still another 1400 miles of trail. Gear had to be carefully selected and be suitable for a wide range of terrain and conditions

The South West Coast Path is 630 miles long and a challenge in itself. When Three Points of the Compass finished this in 2018 there was still another 1400 miles of walking. Gear had to be carefully selected and be suitable for a wide range of terrain and conditions

Lightweight modern gear can be surprisingly tough. With care much of it will last many thousands of trail miles. My 900ml Evernew pan is titanium and flexes with ease. Yet other than being blackened and scratched, with scorched silicon covered handles, it is still in good working order and I expect it to last me many more years. It wasn’t cheap when new but has more than paid for itself. I like it and feel no need to replace it with shinier, newer cook wear.

The heel cups always seem to wear out in my trail shoes. I expected this to happen with my Lone Peaks around the 450 mile point

The heel cups always seem to wear out in my trail shoes. I expected this to happen with my Lone Peaks around the 450 mile point. When they began to fray I would line them with a piece of duct tape

Lone Peak Altras were light, breathable and comfortable. However I knew that I would be lucky to get more than 500-600 miles out of a pair

I find the toes on my trail shoes tend to come unstuck and flap around after a couple of hundred miles. Sometimes I would glue them back with a 1 gm tube of superglue from my ditty bag. Frequently I couldn’t be bothered

Lone Peak Altra trail shoes are light, breathable and comfortable. However I know that I am lucky to get more than 500-600 miles out of a pair. I had purchased four pairs prior to my 2018 hike as they aren’t the easiest to source. I expected my feet to spread and I used pairs a size larger than normal. Just as well, as they did.

The trail was often muddy, especially in the first few weeks in the Spring. Fine silt would work its way through the mesh of the trail shoes and this would build up in the thick pile of my Darn Tuff socks

The trail was often muddy, especially in the first few weeks in the Spring. Fine silt would work its way through the mesh of the trail shoes and this would build up in the thick pile of my Darn Tuff socks

Despite being washed, or at least rinsed, on a daily basis. Socks wore out. I carried tow pairs for walking and alternated them. Both pairs were replaced during the walk.

Despite being washed, or at least rinsed, on a daily basis. Socks wore out as a result of silt. I carried two pairs for walking and alternated them each day. Both pairs were replaced with new during the walk

Needless to say, footwear- socks and trail shoes get a battering. I had the option of wearing boots but have been using lightweight trail runners for years. I prepared spares in advance of my walk for Mrs Three Points of the Compass to send on to me as required. I don’t think a long hike is the time to be changing out to unfamiliar footwear and it made sense to have reserves ‘back-home’. Particularly as I would no doubt be using them on future hikes if they were not required for this trail.

It is pure miles and miles of hiking, washing gear in streams, sinks and shower trays. Sun, rain, hot and cold. Brambles, thorns, heather, gorse, barbed wire and rocks, that all combine to wear down the daily trekking clothing. Wear good quality gear from reputable manufacturers that have tested their gear over tens of thousands of miles. Clothing will wear out, of course it will, but I found that Champion 365 shorts or Montane Terra pants, Rohan merino polo shirt and synthetic ExOfficio baselayers lasted fine months of hiking. Black Mountains, Offa's Dyke, Jun 2018

It is pure miles and miles of hiking, washing gear in streams, sinks and shower trays. Sun, rain, hot and cold. Brambles, thorns, heather, gorse, barbed wire and rocks, that all combine to wear down the daily trekking clothing and other items carried. Wear good quality gear from reputable manufacturers that have tested this over tens of thousands of miles. Clothing will wear out, of course it will, but I found that Champion 365 shorts or Montane Terra pants, Rohan merino polo shirt and synthetic ExOfficio baselayers lasted fine months of hiking. Black Mountains, Offa’s Dyke, Jun 2018

It is pure miles and miles of hiking, washing gear in streams, sinks and shower trays. Sun, rain, hot and cold, brambles, thorns, heather, gorse, barbed wire and rocks, that all combine to wear down the daily trekking clothing. Wear good quality gear from reputable manufacturers that have tested their gear over tens of thousands of miles. Clothing will wear out, of course it will, but I found that Montane Terra pants, Rohan merino polo shirt and synthetic baselayers lasted the fine months

My pack of choice was the Gossamer Gear Mariposa. I found it a comfortable pack if a little ‘saggy’ if not carrying much food. There were tears and abrasions and the hip belt began slipping in the final two hundred miles. It put up with much abuse and I will be buying another exactly like it. Caithness

The curved Kylesku bridge was crossed in Sutherland. Wind was extraordinary and resulted in one particular unexpected gear failure

The curved Kylesku bridge was crossed in Sutherland. Wind was extraordinary as I crossed the Loch a’ Chàirn Bhàin and resulted in one particular unexpected gear failure

Three Points of the Compass has been a fan of the Montane Lite-Speed wind jacket for many years of hiking. The intense winds crossing the Kylesku bridge ripped out the sticthing in the back of the neck

Three Points of the Compass has been a fan of the Montane Lite-Speed wind jacket for many years of hiking. The intense winds crossing the Kylesku bridge ripped out the stitching in the back of the neck

I carried a small selection of repair materials. The aforementioned mini tube of superglue, a carefully thought out sewing kit, patches for Thermarest sleeping mat and self adhesive tenacious tape and cuben dyneema. Everything was put to use at some point and tape was replenished twice.

A more extensive repair kit was carried than on my normal one or two weeks hikes

A more extensive repair kit was carried than on my normal one or two weeks hikes

Sewing the crotch of my trekking shorts on a zero day

Sewing the crotch of my Champion 365 training- 9 inch inseam trekking shorts on a zero day

It is a wise hiker that stays on top of repairs on a long hike. Gear has to be working in order to put in the miles

It is a wise hiker that stays on top of repairs on a long hike. Gear has to be working well in order to put in the miles

Three Points of the Compass invariably uses a BeFree water filter for purifying water. However thought it prudent to pack along a few Chlorine Dioxide tabs in case of failure or filter freezing. As it was, due to carelessness, I lost my entire hydration kit at one point- bottle, bladders and filter. Fortunate that I was able to switch to tablets with a couple of half litre bottles purchased two days later.

Filtering water on trail. My walk coincided with one of the hottest UK summers on record

Filtering water on trail. My walk coincided with one of the hottest UK summers on record

A change from filtration to chemical purification was made in Scotland. But not due to gear failure

A change from filtration to chemical purification was made in Scotland. But not due to gear failure

MSR Pocket Rocket and Torjet lighter were part of my cook kit. Both tried and trusted items

MSR Pocket Rocket2 and Torjet lighter were part of my cook kit. Both tried and trusted items. However the lighter did rust badly

I never expected to have problems with the reliable stove however found the windshield trivet kept falling off. I always had to keep an eye on this to ensure it wasn't lost

I never expected to have problems with the previously reliable MSR stove however found the windshield trivet kept falling off from half way through my hike. I always had to keep an eye on this to ensure it wasn’t lost

Possibly the only piece of gear that I had selected for my hike that properly failed was a bespoke pack liner that I had commissioned. It simply wasn't up to handling the deluges in Scotland and at Fort William I swapped out to a heavier but watertight Sea to Summit roll top liner

Possibly the only piece of gear that I had selected for my hike that properly failed was a bespoke pack liner that I had commissioned. It simply wasn’t up to handling the deluges in Scotland and at Fort William I swapped out to a heavier but watertight Sea to Summit roll top liner

One of the most exciting materials that has found its way into hiking gear in recent years is cuben fibre, more recently known as dyneema composite fabric. Very strong, very light. Also very expensive. I carry a few items made of this but was well aware of this materials biggest drawback. It doesn’t suffer abrasion well. The only cuben items I used were a few stuff sacks (a big fan of these as I like to compartmentalise) and my shelter.

cuben stuffsacks wore badly if they abraded

cuben stuffsacks wore badly if they abraded

My Z packs chest pouch was one of my favourite pieces of gear and took a lot of hammering. It leaked like a sieve by the end however purely as a result of wear to the cuben

My Z packs chest pouch was one of my favourite pieces of gear and took a lot of hammering. It leaked like a sieve by the end however purely as a result of wear to the cuben

My shelter was the Z Packs Duplex. I loved this tent. Huge interior and only weighed 637 grams. However it will never see another hike with me

My shelter was the Z Packs Duplex. I loved this tent. Huge interior and only weighed 637 grams. However it will never see another hike with me. Strath na Sealga, Scotland

Strong winds saw a guy tie out ripped off a side wall. A cuben repair patch sorted things out

Strong winds saw a guy tie out ripped off a side wall. A cuben repair patch sorted things out

I put cuben 'stitches' across some seams that appeared to be under strain but there was never any actual failure

I put cuben ‘stitches’ across some seams that appeared to be under strain but there was never any actual failure

Some points of particular strain, such as the tent door tie outs, suffered badly over the miles but never failed entirely

Some points of particular strain, such as the tent door tie outs, suffered badly over the miles but never failed entirely

Three Points of the Compass used Pacer Poles not only for trekking but also as supports for my shelter. I like their raked, moulded grips and find them comfortable to use. I am not a fan of their twist locks though and found these bound up over time and frequently couldn’t loosen them Rocky steep paths on the Cape Wrath Trail put a bend in one of them. Unable to separate the sections I was unable to fly home with them at the end of my trail and, reluctantly, I was forced to leave them at John O’Groats. Despite their faults, I have bought another pair since my return.

2018 08 29_5990

It is doubtful that I could have completed my 2000 mile Three Points of the Compass hike without my Pacer Poles. At the end they were missing much of the paint on their shafts, one tip had been replaced mid-trail, the sections couldn’t be separated and one pole was bent like a banana. Nonetheless I was saddened to leave them behind

Duncansby Head- the end of my trail

Duncansby Head- the end of my trail. August 2018

Top five Victorinox 58mm knives

A top five of 58mm Victorinox knives- my number one choice

Adding utility to the classic: The ‘Wanderer’ series and Manager derivatives

My previous post focused on the excellent Classic series of 58mm knives from Victorinox and the derivatives that were based around that classic combination of blade, nail file and scissors. It was one of these variants, the Signature Lite, that emerged as my second choice of 58mm Swiss Army Knife for taking hiking. The addition of scissors was a welcome improvement over my third choice, the Talisman, which only includes a combination-tool.

Obviously, my ideal would include both scissors and combo-tool but would be a far simpler affair than the over-burdened MiniChamp which was my fourth choice. Needless to say, Victorinox comes up trumps with yet another series of knives that does just that. I show below just five of a more extensive range. These exclude some of the more obscure models and any seen below would make an excellent companion on the trail. However, it is the final one shown that is my number one choice from the 58mm Victorinox knife range for taking on a hike of any length from a single day to many months. I am not sure if ‘Wanderer‘ is an actual official term for this series of 58mm multi tools from Victorinox. But I’ve seen it used by others, so adopt its use here

Rambler

The 58mm long Rambler from Victorinox contains most of the tools that any hiker is likely to require on trail

The 58mm long Rambler from Victorinox contains most of the tools that any hiker is likely to require on trail including both flat and Phillips head screwdrivers

The basic model in the ‘wanderer’ series is the Rambler. This replaced a slightly older model that featured a flat head screwdriver instead. The Rambler has been a popular inclusion on tens of thousands of keychains, belonging to those who have understood the benefits of this great little knife, for decades. As testament to this, at the time of writing (2019) this 29.8g tool is still in production. Despite the difference in cost, I don’t really understand why the Classic sells more units while this is available as the Rambler has so much more utility.

  • Pen blade
  • Combination cap lifter/Phillips screwdriver (with magnetised tip)/wire stripper
  • Nail file, with flat ‘SD’ screwdriver tip
  • Scissors
  • Keyring
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers

Rogue

The 58mm long Rogue builds on the more basic toolset found in the Classic

The 58mm long Rogue builds on the more basic toolset found in the Classic

A slightly older model than the Rambler was the Rogue. This has a magnetised flat screwdriver tip to the combo-tool while the nail file has a nail cleaner tip. I say magnetised, mine has lost this and I must get round to re-magnetising it someday. Note that any of the tools on these small knives will only handle light to medium duty and abuse will break or damage them. My 29.4g example now has a twisted tip to the combo-tool as a result of too heavy a task. But still, needs must at times. Mine is the pre-1997 model which lacks a wire-stripper on the combo-tool. No loss there I feel.

  • Pen blade
  • Combination cap lifter/2.5mm flat screwdriver (originally with magnetised tip)
  • Nail file, with nail cleaner tip
  • Scissors
  • Keyring
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers

Manager

The Manager series from Victorinox is actually a separate series but the toolset is so similar that I have lumped them together. In essence, the primary difference is the replacement of the toothpick in the Wanderer series with a pressurised ballpoint pen in the scale instead. Though I do wish that Victorinox produced a black ink option instead of the ubiquitous blue in their Signature series.

The 58mm Manager comes with retractable ballpoint pen and tweezers in the scales. When purchased a toothpick is provided by Victorinox for those oddballs who prefer to swap this out with the useful tweezers

The 58mm Manager comes with retractable ballpoint pen and tweezers in the scales. When purchased a toothpick is provided by Victorinox for those oddballs who prefer to swap this out with the useful tweezers

Replacing the retractable ball point pen is an easy task. If on a long hike, simply slip a spare into the ditty bag, each pressurised pen cartridge only weighs 0.9g

Replacing the retractable ball point pen is an easy task. If on a long hike, you could also simply slip a spare into the ditty bag, each pressurised pen cartridge only weighs 0.9g

As I have stated in previous posts, I am not a fan of the toothpick and am more than happy for it to be excluded or replaced with something more useful. The Manager does just that. At the expense of a thicker scale on one side, resulting in a slightly thicker tool, the toothpick on the Rambler is swapped out for a much more useful ballpoint pen. A set of tweezers is provided in the other scale.

  • Pen blade
  • Combination cap lifter/Phillips screwdriver (with magnetised tip)
  • Nail file, with 2.5mm flat ‘SD’ screwdriver tip
  • Scissors
  • Keyring
  • Tweezers (toothpick is provided in the box when purchased)
  • Blue ink retractable ballpoint pen

While the Manager is a great tool, Victorinox have also produced a further variant that refines still further the scale tools. Tweezers (or toothpick) are excluded so that an LED can be fitted in the Midnite Manager. This is at the expense of the tool becoming marginally wider.

The earlier red LEDs, shown here in Midnight Manager, were later replaced with brighter white LEDs, also shown here in a Midnight Manager. White headtorches are carried by most hikers and Three Points of the Compass feels the small red LED is of more use in conjunction with the main white light

Dim red LEDs, shown here in a early version Midnite Manager on left, were later replaced with brighter white LEDs, shown here in a later version of the Midnite Manager on right. White headtorches are carried by most hikers and Three Points of the Compass feels the small red LED is often of more use in conjunction with the main white light carried on trail, though discerning colours on a map can be a little more difficult

Midnite Manager (white LED)

Victorinox Midnight Manager. In addition to what is probably the best selection of tools, this knife comes with pen and white LED

Victorinox Midnite Manager. In addition to what is probably the best selection of tools in the 58mm range, this is the second version of this tool that comes with pen and white LED. The light is especially useful when scribbling notes in a darkened tent

Over the past few posts, I have looked at a number of the handy little multi tools produced by Victorinox in their 58mm range over the decades. Some have been quite simple little knives, others have a quite amazing array of tools crammed between their scales. It is important to consider exactly what it is you require from one of these tools when considering whether to take one on trail. Hopefully those I have shown may provide an idea of what is available and what may suit you best. As to me, I have already shown four great choices, all of which have accompanied me on hikes in the past. But Three Points of the Compass feels that a sweet spot was reached with the Midnite Manager.

The second generation of the Midnite Manager, shown here, is a cracking bit of kit. My 32.5g tool has blue translucent scales and you can see the small replaceable battery fitted in the scale for the LED.

  • Pen blade
  • Combination cap lifter/Phillips screwdriver (with magnetised tip)
  • Nail file, with 2.5mm flat ‘SD’ screwdriver tip
  • Scissors
  • Keyring
  • White LED
  • Blue ink retractable ballpoint pen

Midnite Manager (red LED)

The small Midnight Manager multi-tool from Victorinox contains one of the most useful set of tools, including a pen and small LED light. This is the earlier version that has a red light, operated by pressing the shield on the scale

The small Midnite Manager multi-tool from Victorinox contains one of the most useful set of tools- including a pen and small LED light in the scales. This is the first generation that has a red light, operated by pressing the shield on the scale

The latest versions (since around 2011) of the Midnite Manager have been sold with a white LED installed. This is the second generation version shown above. However, for reasons stated earlier, I prefer the older first generation of the Midnite Manger with red LED which is more useful around the tent, bothy or hostel etc. It has exactly the same tools as the second generation.

The 32g Midnite Manager with red LED is my number one choice of 58mm Victorinox knife for taking on a hike, especially one of any great length where there is more chance that any tools may be required for repair etc. It is now a discontinued model but can still be found on the second hand market. It is not burdened down with ‘interesting’ but unrequired tools. Instead, it has a fairly small range, packed into just two layers, that will tackle most tasks a hiker would expect to encounter. Note that this knife also has the desired layout that permits both blade and scissors to be opened away from the keyring, enabling it to be used more easily while still attached. If the earlier version with red LED cannot be sourced, then the current model with white LED is still a great option.

Now, if I could only find this tool with a wharncliffe blade…

  • Pen blade
  • Combination cap lifter/Phillips screwdriver (with magnetised tip)
  • Nail file, with 2.5mm flat ‘SD’ screwdriver tip
  • Scissors
  • Keyring
  • Red LED
  • Blue ink retractable ballpoint pen
Model Length Width (at widest point) Height Weight
Rambler 58mm 19.40 10.5mm 29.8g
Rogue 58mm 19.80mm 10.5mm 29.4g
Manager 58mm 19.80mm 12.35mm 31.1g
Midnite Manager (white LED) 58mm 19.80mm 13.60mm 32.5g
Midnite Manager (red LED) 58mm 19.80mm 13.60mm 32.0g
Victorinox Midnight Manager clipped to my Gossamer Gear Mariposa. Three Points of the Compass on the South Downs Way, winter 2018

The familiar little red Swiss Army Knife- Victorinox Midnite Manager with red LED clipped to the shoulder strap of my Mariposa pack. Three Points of the Compass on the South Downs Way, winter 2018

Top five Victorinox 58mm knives. The Midnite Manager with red LED, my number one choice, is far right

Top five Victorinox 58mm knives. The Midnite Manager with red LED, my number one choice, is far right

Top five Victorinox 58mm knives

A top five of 58mm Victorinox knives- my number three choice

Added utility: the ‘Rally’ series

The requirement on trail for any additional tools other than a knife blade is personal and will largely depend on what is carried on a hike. There is little point in carrying tools that ‘may’ be useful for other hikers that ‘may’ be met. However, if you want to tighten the screws on your glasses, cut open backpacking meals, dismantle and reassemble a stove, tighten the locks in trekking poles, open a can or bottle or any number of other maintenance or necessary tasks, then the inclusion of the right tools for the job will benefit immensely.

Combination tool in use

Combination tool in use on trail. This version, the Talisman, has a magnetised Phillips head, wire stripper and cap lifter

The Rally series includes, on the back of the knife, a little combination tool that will often suffice, though it still wont do all of the tasks mentioned above. Early versions of the tool were simply a magnetised screwdriver tip and cap lifter. Later combo- tools included a wire stripper/bender that I confess to never using and never requiring.

The Rally is one of the simplest and least equipped of the 58mm knives produced by Victorinox. However it may be all that is required

The Rally is one of the simplest and least equipped of the 58mm knives produced by Victorinox. However it may be all that is required

Rally

Available since 1995, the 58mm Victorinox Rally is the basic tool on which the variants shown below are based. It is a two layer tool with a typical small drop-point pen blade with 34mm of cutting length opening toward the keyring. This is an annoying feature that makes the knife harder to use while still attached to a lanyard or similar. Beside this is a nailfile, opening in the same direction. This has a flat 2.5mm ‘SD’ screwdriver tip. On the opposite side, opening away from the keyring, is the aforementioned combo-tool with magnetised Phillips head. It is an easily found knife and can be picked up quite cheaply.

My version has translucent red scales in which are located a useful pair of tweezers and a plastic toothpick. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. I don’t like these toothpicks and if taking one of these knives on trail, it is potentially more useful to include one of the little Firefly ferrocerium rods.

Rover

While the Rally Combo-tool has a Phillips head, the Rover is a simple variant that has a 2.5mm flat screwdriver tip on the combination tool and a nail cleaning tip on the nailfile. The tip of the nailfile can be used with some small Phillips head screws. This is, I feel, a less useful knife for use on trail. Scale tools and blade are the same as on the Rally.

Victorinox Rover. Possibly the least practical multi-tool from the Wanderer series

Victorinox Rover. Probably the least useful of the multi-tools in the Rally series

The Victorinox Talisman is the third choice of Three Points of the Compass as a knife particularly suited for use on trail. It has a small but useful set of tools- small blade, nailfile with flat screwdriver tip, cap lifter, wire stripper, Phillips screwdriver, tweezers and ball point pen

My battered and well used Victorinox Talisman is my third choice of 58mm knife and is particularly suited for use on trail. It has a small but useful set of tools- small blade, nailfile with flat screwdriver tip, cap lifter, wire stripper, Phillips screwdriver, tweezers and ball point pen

Talisman

The final knife I show from the Rally stable is the most useful I feel. The toolset is exactly the same as the Rally, but the Talisman has a slightly thicker cellidor scale on one side that accommodates a retractable ballpoint pen instead of the useless toothpick. The Talisman is, at a little over 10mm, only a shade thicker than both Rally and Rover but provides a small set of tools with nothing superfluous. A pretty old and now obsolete model, the Talisman is not an easy knife to find and include in a hiking set-up. Three Points of the Compass rates this tool as his number three choice from the 58mm range of knives that Victorinox has produced, providing just a small amount of added utility to a basic toolset which is frequently all that is required on trail.

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 considerable wasted space in the plastic holder of this version

The Victorinox Talisman has a similar basic toolset to that found in the SwissCard Quattro- blade, nailfile with flat screwdriver tip, pen, tweezers and Phiilps head screwdriver

Model Length Width (at widest point) Height Weight
Rally 58mm 19.15mm 9.35mm 21.7g
Rover 58mm 19.15mm 9.35mm 21.0g
Talisman 58mm 19.15mm 10.20mm 23.0g
Victorinox Talisman in the hand with ball-point pen extended. Opening the nailfile makes the small 58mm long knife more comfortable in the hand for writing with

Victorinox Talisman with ball-point pen extended. Opening the nailfile makes the small 58mm knife more comfortable in the hand for writing with

Top five Victorinox 58mm knives. The Talisman, at number three, is third from left

Top five Victorinox 58mm knives. The Talisman, at number three, is in the centre

Top five Victorinox 58mm knives

A top five of 58mm Victorinox knives- my number four choice

A pocket workshop on trail

My previous post on 58mm Victorinox knives suggested a couple of very simple knives that would be an excellent choice for taking on trail. Of the two shown, one of these, the Victorinox Escort, was identified as the fifth choice of Three Points of the Compass. Some hikers may prefer quite a degree more capability out of a knife or small multi-tool they carry. I would agree. Below, I show just four examples of the most complex of the smaller knives that Victorinox have manufactured. The final one shown is my fourth choice of 58mm Victorinox knife for taking on trail.

Four impressive knives- from left: Original MiniChamp, MiniChamp, Midnite MiniChamp, Alox MiniChamp

Four impressive knives- from left: Original MiniChamp, MiniChamp, Midnite MiniChamp, Alox MiniChamp

There are a handful of other versions of the MiniChamp than those shown here. However items such as a golfer’s divot tool (as found on the XL version of the MiniChamp) are not going to be much use to the average hiker. Those shown here are what I feel are the best versions of this mini work shop specifically for taking on trail.

The first version of the Victorinox Minichamp crams an amazing number of tools in to a two layer knife

The first version of the Victorinox MiniChamp crams an amazing number of tools into a four layer knife

MiniChamp I

While the first version of the 58mm Victorinox MiniChamp contained less tools than later versions it is still a fantastically versatile multi-tool and a shade lighter and thinner. If you have no need for the combo-tool, featuring a cap lifter, wire stripper and magnetised Phillips screwdriver, then the earlier MiniChamp I may be all that you require. The Mk I dates from some time prior to 1994 but can still be found on the second hand market. It is a pretty thin four layer tool and it is pretty astonishing that a diminutive 58mm knife can deliver so much functionality.

The two later variants shown below are much easier to locate than the earlier version and their toolset differs slightly. There are so many tools on these multi-tools that I have Iisted them separately to aid you in identifying the differences between the those shown here. Unfortunately, some tools are suited for tasks such as measuring, personal grooming, or even peeling an orange (yes, really!), and as such are somewhat superfluous on trail, but the remaining tools mean that there is great capability for repair and maintenance when the household toolbox is a long, long way away.

The MiniChamp I features:

  • Pen blade
  • Emergency blade
  • Orange peeler, or cut and picker blade
  • Nail file with nail cleaner tip
  • Cuticle pusher
  • 35mm ruler with 2.5mm flat screwdriver tip
  • Scissors
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers
  • Keyring

As you can see, these little multi-tools even provide a secondary blade that can be kept in reserve or used for specific tasks such as food preparation.

Later version of the MiniChamp (formally known as the MiniChamp II) was extended to a five layer tool to include the useful combination tool. This version also includes a retractable ball point pen in one of the scales. However some, if not most, of the tools are superfluous on trail

Later version of the MiniChamp (formerly known as the MiniChamp II) was extended to a five layer tool to include the useful combination tool. This version also includes a retractable ball point pen in one of the scales. However many of the tools are unlikely to be required on trail

MiniChamp

The later version of the MiniChamp (originally known as the MiniChamp II while the MiniChamp I was still available) built on the previous model by including Victorinox’s remarkably useful combination tool that includes cap lifter and magnetised Phillips screwdriver with a less useful wirebender/stripper. This is at the expense of it widening still further to become, at 14.8mm, the only five layer 58mm knife in the Victorinox stable. While it comes with a set of tweezers installed, one of the useless toothpicks is packed in the box should you feel a burning need to trade out something useful for something considerably less so.

The MiniChamp features:

  • Pen blade
  • Emergency blade
  • Orange peeler, or cut and picker blade
  • Nail file with nail cleaner tip
  • Cuticle pusher
  • 35mm / 1 3/8inch ruler with 2.5mm flat screwdriver tip
  • Combination tool
  • Scissors
  • Blue ink retractable ballpoint pen
  • Tweezers
  • Keyring

I have never been a great fan of the toothpick on Victorinox knives. They get pretty torn up and manky and I prefer not to think of what sort of bacteria is being harboured in the slot in the scales. This is another reason why I usually replace the 0.3g plastic toothpick with a thin 1.2g Firefly ferrocerium rod that may prove to be much more useful in an emergency. One of these mini firesteels could just as equally be swapped out with the tweezers.

Midnite MiniChamp

The Midnite MiniChamp adds an LED light to an already impressive set of tools, the opposite scale to the light has a retractable ball point pen. This is the thickest of the 58mm knives from Victorinox

Midnight MiniChamp

If a pair of tweezers is already sitting elsewhere in the pack and we have already agreed that the toothpick is superfluous, then this version of the MiniChamp includes still more useful tools in its red cellidor scales. I do like this particular model as I invariably include a pair of Uncle Bill’s Sliver Grippers in my First Aid Kit. I think these are a better tweezer than those made by Victorinox due to the fine points which, while not quite the ‘Precision Points’ as advertised by Uncle Bill, still enable fine work when removing ticks and splinters etc.

The choice of scale tools highlights one of the decisions that should be borne in mind when selecting a knife to take on trail- is the tool duplicating any part of the kit already being carried and is such redundancy required?

Instead of tweezers and toothpick the more recent version of the Midnight MiniChamp includes a small LED light and a retractable ballpoint pen in the scales. In my mind, while the ball point pen is a useful addition, a small white LED is seldom required on trail and the greater bulk required to add this feature is not justified. Prior to the Mk II version the knife came with a dim red LED which would be more useful however I have not been able to locate an example to show here.

The Midnite MiniChamp features:

  • Pen blade
  • Emergency blade
  • Orange peeler, or cut and picker blade
  • Nail file with nail cleaner tip
  • Cuticle pusher
  • 35mm / 1 3/8inch ruler with 2.5mm flat screwdriver tip
  • Combination tool
  • Scissors
  • Blue ink retractable ballpoint pen
  • LED light
  • Keyring
MiniChamp with black alox scales. Other colours are available

MiniChamp with black alox scales. Other colours are available

MiniChamp Alox

Despite the usefulness of a small ballpoint pen and tiny LED light, at 16.6mm thick the Midnight MiniChamp is quite thick in the hand for such a supposedly small 58mm knife. I feel that it may have crossed the threshold and is now too thick for carrying on trail. Three Points of the Compass often carries a separate mini-pen and frequently a mini-light such as one of the Photon Freedom micro LED light. If carrying a Victorinox MiniChamp with me on trail I actually prefer to make do without any scale tools and take the thinner MiniChamp Alox version instead. I have the black scaled Alox version, not only is this a handsome little beast, but it is only a tad over 10mm thick; some two thirds the thickness of the regular Cellidor scaled version. The Alox, or Aluminium Oxide, scales are not only attractive but are also pretty ‘grippy’ in the hand, useful with a small knife.

The MiniChamp Alox features:

  • Pen blade
  • Emergency blade
  • Orange peeler, or cut and picker blade
  • Nail file with nail cleaner tip
  • Cuticle pusher
  • 35mm ruler with 2.5mm flat screwdriver tip
  • Combination tool
  • Scissors
  • Keyring

So good is this multi-tool that even if not being carried as part of my hiking kit, it is invariably sitting alongside my equally diminutive Spyderco Bug on my keychain as part of my EDC. I still don’t need such items as a cuticle pusher and ruler even on a thru-hike of length which is why this tool isn’t further up my top five list. Despite this, for those occasions where a genuine multi-tool is wanted while backpacking, Three Points of the Compass regards the MiniChamp Alox as the most generally suited and well appointed of the small Swiss Army Knife ‘pocket workshops’ as it is still fairly compact and it is my fourth choice of Victorinox 58mm knife for taking on trail.

Four impressive knives- from left: Original MiniChamp, MiniChamp, Midnite MiniChamp, Alox MiniChamp

Four impressive knives- from left: Original MiniChamp, MiniChamp, Midnite MiniChamp with white LED, Alox MiniChamp

Model Length Width (at widest point) Height Weight
MiniChamp I 58mm 18.60mm 11.15mm 35.0g
MiniChamp 58mm 19.55mm 14.80mm 45.2g
Midnite MiniChamp 58mm 19.65mm 16.60mm 46.3g
MiniChamp Alox 58mm 19.55mm 10.20mm 39.4g
Top five Victorinox 58mm knives. The Alox MiniChamp, at number four, is second from left

Top five Victorinox 58mm knives. The Alox MiniChamp, at number four, is second from left