Tag Archives: gear

Wenger and Victorinox nail clippers

Knife chat: Nail clippers

Foot care for the hiker is all important. Part of that regime is ensuring that toenails are kept trimmed. If you don’t- bruising, split nails, ingrown nails, lost nails, blisters, fungal issues, pain and holed socks can result. Potentially enough to end a hike.

Most hikers can simply give a bit of a trim and a file to nails at home prior to setting off on an adventure. In fact it should part of the final ‘tick list’ before leaving home. However, some hikers are fortunate enough to occasionally enjoy a multi-week excursion. During a hike of that duration, nails will grow and have to be kept in check otherwise problems can arise. Three Points of the Compass does occasionally embark on a trip greater than six days, and this can include a fortnights holiday overseas when hiking could be undertaken at any point, I have always felt it wise to pack along a small pair of nail clippers.

Three Points of the Compass had a glance at the Victorinox SwissCard Nail Care previously, I concluded that particular SwissCard was mostly unsuitable for use on trail. The scissors included on most Swiss Cards are pretty good however a better alternative is covered below.

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

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

It may be possible to purchase a pair of cheap clippers in a pharmacy if required, or perhaps borrow a pair from a fellow hiker/traveller, however you can be assured that any opportunity to borrow clippers is rarely going to be available when necessary. Others may happily cut nails with a pair of scissors but I find that a dedicated pair of clippers is both easier to use and does a better, neater, and therefore safer, job.

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

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

As usual, there are various offerings from Swiss manufacturer Victorinox that have your back on this one. There are always alternatives to theirs, but good efficient clippers are rarely also lightweight. Pop yours on to a digital scale and see what they are. All of the clippers looked at here are French Style. None are Post clippers. French style are more widely available in a format that suits backpacking, being less bulky and lighter overall. Whereas a good carbon steel would be preferable for prolonging sharpness of the cutting edges, I have never found any French Style clippers that are light enough to consider. All of the products shown here are made from good quality stainless steel.

Wenger Swiss Clipper

Wenger were one of the two companies that manufactured knives for the Swiss army. They advertised themselves as makers of the “Genuine Swiss Army Knife”. One of the resulting actions after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks when four passenger aircraft were hijacked, was the clamping down on both the sale and carrying of knives. Wenger, who relied on large sales of their products in airports could not survive the drop in sales and in 2005 were acquired by Swiss rival Victorinox, the makers of the “Original Swiss Army Knife”.

Wenger Nail Clip

Wenger Swiss Clippers

Wenger Swiss Clipper has a pair of folding nail clippers

Wenger Swiss Clipper has a pair of folding nail clippers

Many of the Wenger range of knives were retained by Victorinox and reissued under the “Delémont collection” brand, tools being manufactured in the Delémont valley in the Canton of Jura, Switzerland. The Wenger Swiss Clippers were built around the long-standing ‘Esquire’ tool and was one of those models subsequently available for purchase following the takeover. All of the Swiss Clippers came with ergonomic ‘EVO’ synthetic scales, moulded for easy grip. Various colours were available, the example shown here is translucent Ice Blue.

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

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

As well as a pair of folding nail clippers, the tools are small pen blade, nail file with nail cleaner tip (that will also tackle small Phillips screws) and scissors. The scales also contain tweezers and toothpick.

The frame of the Wenger Esquire is 65mm compared to the rival Victorinox Classic which is 58mm. The Swiss Clipper retains the slightly longer size of the Esquire. This means a slightly larger pen blade and scissors than those found in the smaller Classic. The scissors in the Swiss Clipper are not only larger, but are also serrated and ‘self sharpening’. Scissors have a lever type back spring, unlike the Victorinox which usually incorporate a small spring. The small springs on Victorinox knives are known to occasionally break or come adrift but replacements are easily obtainable.

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

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

The Swiss Clipper nail clippers work well however the main problem with this tool is its bulk. Only 65mm long and 19mm wide, it is 19.80mm thick, whereas the simpler Esquire, with no clippers, is only 9.40mm thick. Quite an increase in bulk for the addition of one tool that is going to be used very infrequently on trail.

Wenger Swiss Clipper in use

Wenger Swiss Clipper in use

The scale tools on the Victorinox and Wenger tools are rarely used by Three Points of the Compass. I loathe the toothpicks, feeling that the manky bacteria subsequently harboured in its scale slot thoroughly off-putting. As for the tweezers, fine that they are, there are far better options. But if these are the only tweezers you have, then that is it. The 40mm long toothpick and tweezers on the Wenger tool are 5mm shorter than those on the Victorinox equivalents.

Wenger Swiss Clipper and its replacement Victorinox Nail Clip 580

Wenger Swiss Clipper and its replacement Victorinox Nail Clip 580

Victorinox Nail Clip 580

With the Nail Clip 580 Victorinox bought the Wenger nail clipper in house and under its own name. However it has retained many of the Wenger features and it retains the Delémont branding. It is still housed in a 65mm frame, albeit now with slightly thinner smooth cellidor scales, with a subsequent change to the longer Victorinox tweezers and toothpick. Both toothpick and tweezers are 45mm long. A small range of some eight scale colours are available- these include standard red cellidor scales, transparent red (shown here), white, black, camouflage and others, The scissors remain exactly the same as those found on the Swiss Clipper, as does the nail file with nail cleaner tip. The file surface measures 27m x 6mm and is akin to a match strike surface that works on smoothing nails just fine. The nail clipper itself has been refined, there is a slight design change but folding/unfolding, operation and performance remain unchanged.

Victorinox Nail Clip 580

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

As a result of a change to thinner scales, the Nail Clip 580 is just a tad thinner than the Wenger Swiss Clipper, only by a little more than a millimetre but it is still noticeable. For all that, it is still bulky in the hand when closed. In common with the Wenger there is a keyring fitted but it would add some heft to a bunch of keys. Weight is only a gram less than the Wenger.

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

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

Blades on 58mm and 65mm Victorinox knives compared

Blades on 58mm and 65mm Victorinox knives compared

Scissors on 58mm and 65mm Victorinox knives compared

Scissors on 58mm and 65mm Victorinox knives compared

While this is a handy tool for the backpacker, and there are potentially better options covered later, this little aid to manicure, combined with a modicum of basic tools, is possibly more suited to an urban commuter. The clippers are small, inoffensive but ready to pull into use at a moments notice.

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

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

Comparing the spear point stainless steel blade on the 65mm tools with their smaller 58mm cousins it is only too apparent how much more useful the, admittedly still small, 65mm blades are. The larger blades are 47mm with a cutting edge of 39mm, compared to the cutting edge of 34mm on the 58mm Victorinox Rambler shown here.

Scissors on the Nail Clip are larger, have the better main back spring and are ‘self-sharpening’ serrated whereas the 58mm Victorinox knives have traditional straight cutting edges that require an occasional touch up.

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

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

The nail clippers on the the Victorinox 580 have a curved 9mm cut, the same as those found on the Wenger Swiss Clipper and Victorinox 582 covered below. This is fairly narrow and a couple of extra nips will usually be required on wider nails but that is no hardship. Clipper cutting tips are aligned and meet well, but all those mentioned here have the same degree of accurate machining and manufacture. There is also a really attractive wooden scaled version of the 580. This is the Nail Clip Wood 580, all folding tools are exactly the same, kept inside sculpted Swiss walnut ‘Evolution’ scales. In common with all walnut scales on Victorinox knives, these do not include slots for tweezers or toothpick.

Victorinox 580 Nail Clip in use

Victorinox 580 Nail Clip in use

The Victorinox Nail Clip 580 is a handy little aid to manicure needs. Victorinox also took this model a couple of steps further and provided the user with two additional options- Either keep the folding clipper within the scales, with scale tools, but lose all the other tools, or lose everything else and simply have the clipper itself, with no scales.

Victorinox Nail Clip 582

Victorinox Nail Clip 582

Victorinox Nail Clip 582

The Nail Clip 582 does away with the scissors, blade and nailfile and is simply a folding nail clipper within red cellidor scales (the only colour option), together with scale stowed toothpick and tweezers of the Victorinox variety. This means that this is a tool that supposedly is airline friendly and there should be little chance of it being confiscated. Dropping the other tools also means that the weight is reduced by some 10g but its overall usefulness is very much reduced too.

Victorinox Nail Clip 582 opened but not unfolded

Victorinox Nail Clip 582 opened but not unfolded

The nail clippers are exactly as those found in the Nail Clip 580, and open, unfold and work just as easily and efficiently. There isn’t a great deal to say about these clippers. They work, are neatly folded when not in use and look like a Swiss Army Knife, but they aren’t.

Victorinox Nail Clip 582 in use

Victorinox Nail Clip 582 in use

To now move on to the next clipper option, simply carry and use a pair of clippers totally removed from protective scales. This immediately removes and excludes any accompanying tools and, importantly, reduces weight (and bulk) considerably. Weight decreases anything from a half to a third of the red-scaled alternatives.

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

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

Victorinox nail clippers. Model 8.2050.B1

The Victorinox nail clipper, model 8.2050.B1 is simply the nail clipper from the cellidor scaled models 580 and 582, given a plastic cover to the tang. It now becomes a no frills folding clipper with no other features other than a hole in the handle to which a lanyard or keyring can be attached. There is no nail file included with these clippers.

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

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

The various exposed crevices does mean that it is susceptible to picking up pocket debris and fluff. However, if it sits in a ditty bag in a pack for the majority of its time then this isn’t a problem. Being without a clip or sheath the clippers can come loose and unclipped if simply hanging from a keyring.

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

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

This little clipper is possibly the most suitable lightweight option shown here for longer backpacking excursions. Thoroughly recommended and Three Points of the Compass has adopted it in 2020 for future multi-week hikes. Though to be honest, being so light and small, it will probably continue to sit in my ditty bag on anything longer than a day hike.

Victorinox nail clippers. Model 8.2050.B1 in use

Victorinox nail clippers. Model 8.2050.B1 in use

The Vic model 8.2050.B1 is currently in the process of usurping my previous favourite, the Victorinox model 8.2055.CB shown below. While both are equally as efficient at clipping nails, the next model shown, the 8.2055.CB, provides just a couple of additional functions beyond simple clippers.

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

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

Victorinox nail clipper. Model 8.2055.CB

In common with the Victorinox Nail Clip 582 and simpler red handled clipper above, this stainless steel model eshews the addition of any other major tools but does include a nail file. The file also has a 2.5mm flat tip to it that is advertised as a ‘flat screwdriver’ but would have benefited from being a nail cleaner tip instead. I have used the small screwdriver on the odd occasion but it suffers from being both slightly rounded and too large for the minute screws on my glasses. It really isn’t a very effective screwdriver so consequently is a tool that I can easily live without. The nail file is handy though, particularly as it is immediately to hand when clipping nails.

Victorinox nail clippers with slip case

Victorinox nail clippers with skai slip pouch

The nail file surface on the model 8.2055.CB is not aggressive but still effective. The size of this is pretty good too- measuring ≈ 28mm x 12mm. However the added nail file is a luxury as I am normally packing along a small knife or multi-tool (normally a 58mm Victorinox or a Leatherman Squirt S4 keychain tool) and both of these come equipped with nail file. There is a small ring for a keyring permanently attached to the nail clippers but I have never used this, anymore than I have used the pleather slip case it comes with. This model is also available from Victorinox supplied with a decent sized keyring (model: 8.2055.C), if you want that feature, take care when ordering to ensure you get the right one. Other than the key ring there is no difference in the clippers themselves.

Small nail file beneath the clipper lever

Small nail file beneath the clipper lever

You will see in the image below that I have the clippers inverted in use. I have found that they are easier to manipulate in this manner, preventing your thumb from sliding down the narrower and slippery lever.

Victorinox nail clippers in use

Victorinox 8.2055.CB nail clippers in use

Three Points of the Compass has carried the little folding stainless model 8.2055.CB clippers from Victorinox on the majority of longer hikes for the past five years and they have never failed me. Prior to this I was using the Zwilling J. A. Henckels Pour Homme ultra slim nail clippers (covered next). Despite the lighter weight of the Zwilling clippers I eventually decided that I preferred the easier to use Victorinox model 8.2055.CB so switched.

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

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

It is not all Victorinox obviously. There are lightweight options from other manufacturers. Sadly these are frequently not that lightweight and some suffer terribly in build quality, hence my having preferred to stick with the various Swiss products for so many years. Those shown next are very well made, clip nails well and are of smaller dimensions than others covered here and are still available if a little hard to find. They have their faults though.

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

Zwilling J. A. Henckels Pour Homme ultra slim nail clippers

Three Points of the Compass blogged on these clippers five years ago. I still stand by everything I said at the time, these are both great clippers, and eye wateringly expensive…

Zwilling clippers have a reasonable nail file beneath the lever handle

Zwilling clippers have a reasonable nail file beneath the lever handle

The Zwilling J. A. Henckels Pour Homme ultra slim nail clippers have an astonishingly thin profile, only 4mm when folded. This is made possibly by their incorporating a sliding cam mechanism to operate them. It is this that I eventually decided made them too awkward for use on toe nails. Scrabbling around on a tent floor, I have often found this hasn’t engaged properly and have to take several attempts to clip the smaller toes. No problem with finger nails. It is one of those minor issues that has to be experienced to appreciate.

Zwilling ultra-slip nail clippers

Zwilling ultra-slip nail clippers

Despite the tiny size of these clippers, they still manage to include a nail file, this is beneath the clipper lever/handle. The file surface is quite narrow, measuring just 29mm x 5mm and is not particularly aggressive. It is somewhat hidden away and I find it works well with finger nails but less so with toe nails, being a tad difficult to manipulate. The clippers come with a leather carry pouch as befitting their high-end credentials, however few people are likely to carry the pouch on trail.

Ditty bag and contents

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

Despite their small dimensions, these clippers have the widest cutting curve of any of the clippers shown here. Almost all of the Victorinox offerings are 9mm wide, those from Zwilling are 13mm wide. Shockingly expensive, these clippers are still reasonably effective and small enough to be used on occasion. However I preferred something less fussy for use on trail. Therefore the Zwilling clippers moved into a small ‘Urban Altoids kit’ carried in to London on a daily weekday commute. Here they found their forte, where small size was all important and they get called upon infrequently. If I get round to it, I’ll do a blog on that mini kit at a later date.

Zwilling nail clipper in use

Zwilling nail clipper in use

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

0.6463

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

0.6453

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

8.2050.B1

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

8.2055.CB

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

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

As previously mentioned, Three Points of the Compass doesn’t like to rely solely on scissors for nail care, though there are many content to do so. Regardless of use on nails, a pair of small scissors is also always handy for cutting tape, opening packages and ‘Mountain House’ type meals etc. Which is why having a small pair of scissors included on a Victorinox knife or similar multi-tool means these are always to hand. Otherwise, there are plenty of small stand-alone scissor options.

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

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

A smaller set of scissors, such as the Westcott fine point scissors shown here will cope with most nails other than those on the toughest and thickest of gnarled big toes. One problem with these is the risk of scissor points puncturing gear whilst stowed in the pack so a thin tube such as a straw or short section of electricians shrink tubing will slide over the closed ends. I often take the little Westcotts in a First Aid Kit on day hikes when I keep the points of the scissors in the centre of a small roll of leucotape.

Three Points of the Compass has carried the little folding stainless clippers from Victorinox on the majority of longer hikes in the past five years. After trying the Zwilling clippers prior to that, I found I much preferred the easier to use Victorinox clippers and switched to them. I have now further refined my multi-week kit and the even simpler Victorinox 8.2050.B1 clippers today sit in my virtual ditty kit in readiness. These, purely coincidentally, have the additional benefit of being the lightest clippers shown here, if not the smallest.

The six choices in nail clipper covered in this blog

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

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

Bux Measure

Map measurer of the month- The BUX map measure

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE BUX

MAP MEASURE

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

 

Bux map measurer in the envelope in which it was supplied

Bux map measurer in the envelope in which it was supplied

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

Red and black numbering and incremental markings on Bux dials

Red and black numbering and incremental markings on Bux dials

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

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

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

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

BUX

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

BUX

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

BUX

  blank case recess
1″ = 1 ML

BUCK

ENGLAND

MADE IN ENGLAND PAT. PEND. large text, around case, no case recess
The rear of four generations of case castings

The front face of four generations of case castings

The rear of four generations of case casting

The rear of four generations of case casting

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

Lightweight tin opener options for backpacking

Gear talk: carrying a tin opener on trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Australian issue FRED

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

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

Medium sized openers

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

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

Rare earth magnet on my army issue opener

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

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

Smallest and lightest of the opener options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.6g Weekend opener in use

6.6g Weekend opener in use

Practical Motorist map measurer

Map measurer of the month- the Practical Motorist map measurer

The 1959 Practical Motorist Map Measurer

The 1959 Practical Motorist Map Measurer

The Practical Motorist map measurer was cheaply made, produced in the tens of thousands and was perfectly functional for motorists in the sixties and seventies. Beside sitting in the glovebox of many a car, they undoubtedly saw considerable use by hikers and cyclists too. For such a cheaply made map measure, they have lasted well and many continue to give service to this day.

Practical Motorist magazine. June 1959

Practical Motorist magazine. June 1959

1959 advertisement for the Practical Motorist Map Measurer

1959 advertisement for the Practical Motorist Map Measurer

Practical Motorist magazine was part of a stable of consumer magazines published by George Newnes Ltd. A publishing company founded by Sir George Newnes, Ist Baronet (1851-1910). After his death the company continued as a major leading magazine publisher. A sister magazine to Practical Motorist was Practical Mechanics.

Many magazines have offered, and continue to offer, free gifts or specially priced items to their readership. The Practical Motorist Map Measurer was one such product. It was a cheaper alternative to the more expensive metal bodied measurers made by mostly French, Swiss or German companies.

Three Points of the Compass has been unable to ascertain whether the map measurer offered by Practical Motorist was available to the public prior to their offer however it was in the June 1959 edition of Practical Motorist that an advertisement first appeared offering the ‘latest dial reading map measurer with magnifying glass‘ for the princely sum of two shillings and threepence, which included postage. The measurer was proclaimed- ‘a fraction of its real value‘. It was delivered in a small cardboard box with accompanying printed instructions on how to use.

“handsomely finished in a smooth durable material”

The measure is quite cheaply made though it is unclear who the actual manufacturer was. It has a plastic body, with plastic wheel and dial. Even the internal workings, few that they are, and the incorporated magnifying glass, are made of plastic. The measure works best with the old ‘one inch to the mile’ maps, also showing quarter mile gradations, and reading up to 20 miles or 20 inches. The other side of the scale is metric- measuring one kilometre to the centimetre up to 50 km, or 50 cm. Practical Motorist informs us that this scale is included so that- ‘the measurer can be taken with you to the Continent and used without modification‘.

Printed instructions were included with each order

Printed instructions were included with each order

Front of 1959 Practical Motorist Map Measure- scale 1

Front of 1959 Practical Motorist Map Measure- scale 1″ to 1 mile

Rear of 1959 Practical Motorist Map Measure- scale 1cm to 1km

Rear of 1959 Practical Motorist Map Measure- scale 1cm to 1km

The 1959 map measurers offered by the magazine had the words PRACTICAL MOTORIST MAP MEASURER moulded onto the body however others, including later ones, did not, stating instead ‘Made in England’ and Registered design number- 893037. A conversion table is included on the rear of the measure, showing kilometre to mile to kilometre.

Such was the popularity of the map measurer that Practical Motorist repeated the offer in 1964. This time as part of a wider offer. The May 1964 issue of the magazine included a free Road Map of Great Britain plus the offer to purchase a ‘special’ map case. The August issue included a free Holiday and Touring Map of Great Britain. Both maps were specially prepared by George Philip & Son Ltd.

Practical Motorist map case, road and tourist maps, pencil and map measurer, 1964

Practical Motorist map case, road and tourist maps, pencil and map measurer, 1964

1964 Practical Motorist Map Measurer

1964 Practical Motorist Map Measurer with Philip’s 1964 Road Map of Great Britain

The 1964 offer excluded the magazine title from the measure's plastic body

The 1964 offer excluded the magazine title from the measure’s plastic body

1964 case and contents

1964 case and contents

The vinyl map case when delivered contained two clear slip cases for the two maps, plus three pockets holding a notebook, a pencil and a Practical Motorist Map Measurer. The 1964 measure was coloured a rather horrid khaki, or pale olive green, that matched the internal colour of the map case. This measure does not include the ‘Practical Motorist Map Measurer’ wording on its case.

This is very likely because the measure was now more widely available to the public. While the khaki colour was likely bespoke for the Practical Motorist map case, the measure could also be purchased as a stand-alone item from other retail outlets. Three Points of the Compass has seen the measure available in various colours- White (cream), black, bright blue, red, pale olive green and purple. It is also often found in a bespoke leather slip case with a variety of embossed words on the front

Map measurer was available in a variety of colours

Map measurer was available in a variety of colours

Other than colour, there are three varieties of wording on the plastic bodies. The first includes the words ‘PRACTICAL MOTORIST MAP MEASURER’ and ‘SCALE 1″=1 MILE’ on one side with ‘SCALE 1cm=1km’ on the other. Another generation is the same but excludes the magazine title but includes ‘Made in England’ and registration design number. The final version has the scale wording altered to ”SCALE READS IN KILOMETRES’ on one side with the other reading ‘SCALE READS IN INCHES’ along with country of manufacture and registration design number.

The altered text across three generations of map measurer

The altered text across three generations of map measurer

My red bodied measure was a souvenir sold on the Motor Vessel Royal Daffodil. The instruction leaflet refers to its as the 'Pathfinder' model- a common name used for a number of different measurers

My red bodied ‘Route Measure’ was a souvenir originally sold on the Motor Vessel Royal Daffodil. This ferry had been renamed from its original designation- MV Overchurch, in 1999. The instruction leaflet that came with the instrument refers to its as the ‘Pathfinder’ model- a common name used for a number of different measurers

The Practical Motorist Map Measure was a cheaply made measure that provided basic function. It is unsurprising that it later became a stand alone purchase more widely available.

For a map measure that is now up to fifty to sixty years old, it is perhaps a little surprising on how well the plastic construction is holding up on many of these. My red bodied example was purchased some time after 1999 so they remained on sale for at least 40 years. They are fairly easy to find on the second hand market and are invariably still working almost as well as when they were first purchased.

Map measurer became available for purchase from various motoring or tourist outlets

Map measurer became available for purchase from various motoring or tourist outlets

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

Gear talk: 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

Knife chat: 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

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

Nitecore NU25 headlamp

Gear talk: 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

Gear talk: 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

Knife chat: 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

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

Top five Victorinox 58mm knives

Knife chat: 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

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