Tag Archives: Keychain

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

Knife chat: Gerber Dime and Dime Travel multi-tools

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

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

Gerber Dime- a budget priced keychain multi-tool

Gerber Dime- a budget priced keychain multi-tool

Gerber Dime-

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

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

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

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

35mm long Spey point blade on Gerber Dime

35mm long Spey point blade on Gerber Dime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gerber Dime

Tools:

  • Mini-pliers with wire cutter
  • Fine Edge Blade
  • Retail Package Opener
  • Scissors
  • Flat Screwdriver – medium
  • Flat Screwdriver – small
  • File (coarse & fine)
  • Bottle opener
  • Removable tweezers
  • Lanyard ring
The Dime packaging explains the function of each tool included

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

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

Main scale tools on Gerber Dime and Dime Travel

Main scale tools on Gerber Dime and Dime Travel

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

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

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

Gerber Dime Travel-

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

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

Cross-cut file surface on Dime Travel

Cross-cut file surface on Dime Travel

Single cut file surface does little more than buff finger nails

Single cut file surface does little more than buff finger nails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gerber Dime Travel- leave it at home...

Gerber Dime Travel- leave it at home…

Tools:

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

In summary:

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

The smaller scale tools on Gerber Dime and Dime Travel

The smaller scale tools on Gerber Dime and Dime Travel

Dime and Dime Travel specifications:

Weight Length Width

(across widest point of torx)

Depth
Dime 66.4g 70mm 15.45 20.65mm
Dime Travel 68g 70mm 14.45mm 20.55mm
Two good looking keychain multi-tools from Gerber. One is useful, the other less so

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

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

Gerber Vice and Splice, two affordable keychain multi-tools

Knife chat: Gerber Vice and Splice, two affordable keychain multi-tools

Many hikers will simply rely on a small Swiss Army type knife while on trail. Not a lot is actually required of such a tool. Open the odd package, trim cord and thread, help with food preparation, perhaps help with first aid on occasion. That is about it for 99% of the time. However I have almost always preferred just a little more functionality. I have had to adjust stoves, fix trekking poles, bend and re-attach zips, tighten screws on glasses and so on…

Gerber Vice and Gerber Splice sizes compared with Leatherman Squirt S4

Gerber Vice and Gerber Splice sizes compared with Leatherman Squirt S4

A good, well made, small key-chain type multi-tool does not weigh a great deal. On longer hikes Three Points of the Compass tends to rely on a now pretty old but trusted 52g Leatherman Squirt S4. This small multi-tool is no longer made and has been replaced by others in the Leatherman line-up. Other manufacturers have also been quick to introduce their own key-chain sized multi-tools. Much cheaper than the Leatherman options are those by Gerber Legendary Blades. This company was established in 1939 and introduced their first multi-tool in 1991. Acquired by the the Finnish Fiskars Corporation in 1986 much of the manufacture transferred to China, prices became extremely competitive as a result, but quality suffered.

“Designed and engineered in Oregon… made in China”

Two little Gerber multi-tools in particular may suit some hikers unwilling to splash too much cash but still want certain functions out of a tool they are carrying. These are the Gerber Vice and Gerber Splice. Both are built on a similar frame with anodised aluminum handles. The two tools look simple and have understated styling. Each tool puts a specific function front and centre. A small pair of pliers backed up by other tools in the case of the Vice, and an effective pair of scissors, with the same accompanying secondary tools, on the Splice. Both released in 2009, these two tools replaced the slightly larger Gerber Clutch (with pliers) and Shortcut (with scissors), the two fore-runners introduced in 2005.

Gerber Vice

Gerber Vice

Main jaw tools:

Gerber Vice tools

Gerber Vice tools

The Vice is centred around a small pair of plier jaws. These comprise not particularly thin needle nose  pliers, standard pliers and wire cutters. Only the tips of the needle nose meet, there is a small gap to the rest of the pliers when closed. They are two millimetres wide at the tip, widening to three millimetres prior to the wire cutter. These pliers are a general purpose tool that performs pretty well with gentle work. It will ease tent zipper pulls and pull thorns from flesh. Put any great strain on these and they will fail.

Gerber Splice

Gerber Splice

Gerber Splice tools

Gerber Splice tools

The similar looking Splice is based around a pair of scissors. Though small, these are good and comfortable to use. The effectiveness of these shouldn’t be a surprise as Fiskars, the parent company, have a long standing reputation for well made scissors. The plain blade, not serrated, scissors are smaller than their Shortcut forerunner, blade cutting length is 23mm. In common with the plier version, the scissor jaws on the Spice are spring-tensioned by a small spring hidden out of sight around the pivot. If this loses tension (springiness) or breaks it cannot be replaced by the user.

Gerber Vice is centred around a pair of pliers, the Gerber Splice has a pair of scissors as its main tool. The two keychain share exactly  the same complimentary secondary tools

Gerber Vice is centred around a pair of pliers, the Gerber Splice has a pair of scissors as its main tool. The two keychain share exactly the same complimentary secondary tools

Other features:

Both the Vice and Splice share the same complimentary tools and both tools suffer from having tight implements that are difficult to open. A particular aspect of these tools meets with my approval- that they can be opened from the outside of the tool without needing to unfold it. This makes it so much easier to use but does mean that they are more prone to picking up debris and fluff if pocket carried. Though that is unlikely to be the case if taking one of these on trail. The stainless steel tools are-

  • Blade
    • Non locking. Usable cutting length is less than 35mm
  • Serrated Edge blade
    • This non locking serrated blade is chisel cut, 35 mm long and is sharp out of the box. It will cut cordage with ease.
  • Small flat head screwdriver
    • This has a fine 2mm tip and will handle many small screws, however I find its short 15mm length, protruding from a wide body, prevents it being used in smaller spaces, such as when glasses screws are set tight against a frame. It can also be used as a awl, but tears more than cuts.
  • Medium flat head screwdriver
    • This forms one half of the bottle opener, though short, this 4mm tip works adequately well
  • Flat Phillips head screwdriver
    • Will work a small range of Phillips heads but seats uncomfortably with most. This will tear out if put under too much pressure
  • File
    • Found on the shank of the flat Phillips screwdriver, this is single cut on one side and cross cut on the other. Referred to as coarse and fine files, there is not a great deal of a surface to either. I cannot even file my nails on these. Each file surface is just 6mm x 18mm and is pretty much useless.
  • Bottle opener
    • This is one of the best bottle openers you will find on any small to medium sized multi-tool bar the Gerber Dime, let down by the fact that you will break a nail trying to open it. But anyone familiar with the technique can use the end of just about any closed multi-tool to lever off a cap, it is just knowing how to do it.
  • Lanyard hole
    • Remove the small 9mm diameter split ring and the lanyard hole will retract into the tool.
Excellent bottle opener but difficult to open

Excellent bottle opener but difficult to open

Rubbish and small files are included on both multi-tools

Poor and almost useless small files are included on both multi-tools

 

 

 

 

 

Both multi-tools have hollow ground blades that make for easier sharpening. Gerber has probably used 420HC (High Carbon) stainless steel for these blades. The tools are assembled using torx bolts rather than rivets (as with Leatherman tools) so disassembly is a possibility, though that would be difficult in the field.

Plain and serrated blades are found on both the Vice and Splice

Plain and serrated blades are found on both the Vice and Splice

Tools:

Small screwdriver is poorly finished and suffers from rounded corners

Small screwdriver is poorly finished and suffers from rounded corners

  • Mini-pliers
  • Flat Screwdriver – medium
  • Flat Screwdriver – small
  • Phillips Cross-point Screwdriver
  • File (coarse & fine)
  • Bottle Opener
  • Fine blade Blade
  • Fully Serrated Blade
  • Key-ring with retractable lanyard ring
Serrated blade and bottle opener are indicated visually on both tools

Serrated blade and bottle opener are indicated visually on both tools

Dimensions:

  • Vice- 68g, Splice- 66.2g
  • Both- length: 58mm, width: 26mm (one inch!), thick 13.30mm
There is a little variety of nail nicks found on both blades on both Vice and Splice, some have small nail nicks while others have an easier to use larger nick

There is a little variety of nail nicks found on both blades on both Vice and Splice, some have small nail nicks while others have an easier to use larger nick

The finish on these tools isn’t great. The black anodising is a tad rough in places, but I quite like their simple, almost agricultural, appearance. Each tool is compact with no parts extruding when closed other than the medium screwdriver being a little proud..

Gerber Vice in the hand

Gerber Vice in the hand

In conclusion:

Both of these tools offer good value for money. Both Vice and Splice share common faults however. The external opening tools are all incredibly stiff and hard to open. Sadly, some of the tools are hopeless, the files are useless and the Phillips barely capable. Do you need a serrated blade on trail? That is debatable though it could be useful to have a back up blade for specific tasks such as food prep. The short little straight blades are perfectly adequate for most minor tasks but the lanyard ring does get in the way and can get food gunk in it easily. All tools close with a good snap and there is no overall looseness or floppiness to the tools. For me, the usefulness of a pair of pliers on trail is over-ruled by how helpful having a pair of scissors can be. And those on the Splice are very good scissors. 

Gerber Splice in the hand

Gerber Splice in the hand

There is another key-chain tool from Gerber that may rival both the Vice and Splice on trail, this is the Gerber Dime. Three Points of the Compass will take a look at that particular tool in a separate blog. Though it may be worth noting here that, perhaps a little surprising, the Splice actually comes in a hair lighter than the smaller, if chunkier, Gerber Dime. 

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.

Plier jaws on Gerber Vice only meet at the tips

Plier jaws on Gerber Vice only meet at the tips

 

Eight Leatherman keychain multi-tools. Some of these make a great choice for hiking

Knife chat: Leatherman keychain tools- making a choice for hiking

Making a final choice…

Though fiddly, and occasional needing an extra bite, the small bottle opener on the Squirt S4 will do just that

Though fiddly, and occasionally needing an extra bite, the small bottle opener on the Squirt S4 will do just that

Over the past few days I have been looking at the various little multi-tools that Leatherman have released over the years with the aim of seeing which is most suited for taking hiking.

As you can see from the tool table below, a wide variety of capability is provided by these little multi-tools. However for Three Points of the Compass, the E4 is just about useless on trail whereas almost any of the remaining eight, shown above, would be a great partner.

The lack of any scissors on the Squirt P4 also precludes this tool from any gear list I would compile. I can see how many hikers would pick the Micra or Style PS from this line up. Certainly the latter accompanies me as part of my Urban EDC to work each day. Inclusion of a pair of pliers would be a nice feature on trail however I prefer a full size pair of scissors over pliers which narrows my choice to just three: the Micra, Squirt S4 and Style CS. All three have a similar blade. So it comes down to what other features are included and all three in my shortlist have similar extra tools. While I have a pair of tweezers in my First Aid Kit, I still prefer removable tweezers over those fixed to a multi-tool such as the Micra and those in the Squirt S4 (and E4) are conveniently tucked away yet easily removed.

The useful detachable tweezers on the Squirt E4 and S4 tuck away into the tool efficiently and could easily be missed if you were not aware they were present. They are easily extracted, unlike some of the alternatives

The useful detachable tweezers on the Squirt E4 and S4 slide away into the tool efficiently and could easily be missed if you were not aware they were present. They are easily extracted, unlike some of the alternatives

The small eyeglass flat tip screwdriver found on the Leatherman Squirt P4 and S4

The small eyeglass flat tip screwdriver found on the Leatherman Squirt P4 and S4

I like the extra medium sized screwdriver on the Micra and S4 though I do wish it were an awl instead. If it were exchanged for an awl that would remove my often used bottle opener. I prefer the dedicated thin eye-glass screwdriver over using the less convenient flat Phillips tip. However the Style CS offers a small but useful toolset, is the thinnest of the Leatherman keychain multi-tools and weighs less. The lightest Micra is 49.9g, Squirt S4 is 52.3g while the Style CS (still available for purchase by the way) is the lightest at 41.7g.

Placement of tweezers in Squirt S4, Style and Style CS. Those on the latter are by far the most difficult to remove

Placement of tweezers in Squirt S4 (top), Style (centre) and Style CS (bottom). Those in the latter are by far the most difficult to remove

Still looking good after thousands of trail miles, the Leatherman S4 remains a favourite for Three Points of the Compass

Still looking good after thousands of trail miles, the Leatherman Squirt S4 remains a favourite for Three Points of the Compass

My biggest preference other than my essential two tools is the ease in opening tools from the outside with no need to unfold the entire multi-tool. So, for me, it narrowed down to the old, now discontinued, Squirt S4.

Carried in my ditty bag, one of these great little multi-tools has accompanied Three Points of the Compass on well over 3000 trail miles over the years. While I do occasionally swap it out for a different knife or multi-tool, seeing if something else works for me better (usually trying a 58mm Victorinox or Leatherman Style CS), I constantly find myself returning to the old favourite S4. Perhaps I need to find a spare on the second-hand market in case mine should ever get lost on trail somewhere. If only it also had a can opener and that awl…

Tool Micra Squirt P4 Squirt S4 Squirt E4 Squirt PS4 Squirt ES4 Style Style CS Style PS
Needlenose pliers X X X X X
Pliers X X X
Scissors- full size X X X
Scissors- small X X X X
Straight knife blade X X X X X X X X
Wire cutters X X X X X
Extra small screwdriver X X X X Flat Phillips will handle small ‘eyeglass’ screws Flat Phillips will handle small ‘eyeglass’ screws Flat Phillips will handle small ‘eyeglass’ screws Flat Phillips will handle small ‘eyeglass’ screws Flat Phillips will handle small ‘eyeglass’ screws
Medium screwdriver X X X X X
Small flat Phillips X X X X X X X X
Phillips X
Wood/metal file X X X X
Nail file / cleaner X X X X X
Bottle opener X X X X X X X X
Tweezers- Fixed X
Tweezers- Removable X X X X X
Ruler X X
Awl X
Wire strippers- 20GA, 18GA, 16GA, 14GA, 12GA X X
Keyring attachment X X X X X X X
Carabiner X X

While you may not choose to carry one of the small Leatherman multi-tools as part of your hiking gear, they make great EDC items. Whichever you may purchase, one of the X-small leather Heritage sheaths produced by Leatherman to celebrate their 35th birthday in 2018 makes a great holder

While you may not choose to carry one of the small Leatherman multi-tools as part of your hiking gear, they do make great EDC items. Whichever of the variants you may prefer, one of the X-Small leather ‘Heritage’ sheaths, produced by Leatherman to celebrate their 35th birthday in 2018, makes a great holder

The 2011 Leatherman Keychain user’s guide gives some further detail on the tool contingent of the Squirt PS4, ES4, CS, Style, Style PS, and Micra.The production dates for all nine Leatherman keychain tools are included in the table below. Some of the older tools are getting a tad difficult to source, so start looking!

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.

Leatherman Squirt series

Knife chat: Leatherman keychain tools- Squirt series

Leatherman Squirt series

User guide for the first three tools in the Squirt series, 2006

2006 user guide for the first three tools in the Squirt series, the S4, P4 and E4

The first Squirt series

Eight years after Leatherman released the Micra, its first keychain multi-tool, it released two more. In 2002 the stainless steel framed, aluminum anodised Squirt S4 and Squirt P4 hit the vendors shelves. The S4 had scissor jaws while the P4 had a small set of pliers.

Leatherman Squirt S4

Leatherman Squirt S4

My Squirt S4 was made in 2007 and I purchased it the following year. It has remained a frequent companion on the majority of my hikes since then. I have swapped it out on occasion, most usually for a Victorinox, but I have usually found myself promptly returning to it. I really appreciate a full size set of good scissors. Beside the desired blade, as a glasses wearer, it is probably the extra small screwdriver that has seen most use, that and the bottle opener with numerous bottles of beer. On longer hikes the nail file has been useful and I have successfully worked on stove repair and changing internal trekking pole mechanisms with the screwdrivers.

Leatherman Squirt P4

Leatherman Squirt P4

The Squirt P4 is not my favourite keychain tool because of the lack of any scissors at all. But beside pliers, blade, files and various screwdriver heads, instead of the tweezers found on both E4 and S4, the P4 does include a short little awl. This implement is not particularly sharp when purchased new. In fact it is positively blunt. However it can easily be sharpened up. This is useful for poking holes in belts or fabric, even as an extra little blade. I am not one for modding my multi-tools but if I were, I would be stripping the P4 down in an attempt to swap this awl out with some tools on other Leatherman tools that I find less useful. Both the Squirt S4 and P4 were available in grey, yellow, orange, pink, black, red, blue, green and purple.

A short but useful awl is found on the Squirt P4. This is the only one of the Leatherman keychain tools to have this, a shame, as it would be a great addition to others in the line

A short but useful awl is found on the Squirt P4. This is the only one of the Leatherman keychain tools to have this implement, a shame, as it would be a great addition to others in the line

Leatherman Squirt E4

Leatherman Squirt E4

In 2003 Leatherman followed the S4 and P4 with the Squirt E4. First available in bright ‘inferno red’, for a year or two, the E4 could only be purchased at one of the Radio Shack outlets (branded as the Squirt EL). In the UK, it may have been available through their Tandy stores. These small shops were aimed at the home hobbyist and electricians, this was the market that Leatherman were attempting to tap with the E4. After a while, availability spread to other outlets and ‘glacier blue’ and ‘storm grey’ colours were added to the range. Mine is in the latter colour.

Tips of electricians (left) and normal pliers (right) compared

Tips of electricians (left) and normal pliers (right) compared

The electricians pliers are fitted with efficient wire strippers and a useful needlenose plier tip. Back tools include file and blade, however, no scissors. Not only do I complete very little electrical work on trail, with both Squirt P4 and E4 lacking scissors of any size at all, neither of these tools is going to make it out on to a hike with me.

The Phillips screwdriver on the E4 is a thing of beauty. Incredibly well formed it is a proper 3D shaped screwdriver tip that folds away in to the tool well. However I have found the 2D Phillips tip found on other Leatherman multi-tools more adaptable in practical use. Not only fitting a wide range of Phillips heads but also can be used on a small range of slot screw heads too. The 3D Phillips head is only found on the Squirt E4.

3D and 2D Phillips head screwdrivers on the Squirt E4 and Squirt P4 compared

3D and 2D Phillips head screwdrivers on the Squirt E4 and Squirt P4 compared

All three of the first Squirt series were discontinued in 2010 to be followed by two replacements.

Few hikers would actually hand a Leatherman, or any knife, from a keyring. A split ring attachment is often superflous. If the ring is attached, the key ring attachment can be swung round and tucked out of the way

Few hikers would actually hang a Leatherman, or any knife, from a keyring. A split ring attachment is often superfluous. If the ring is detached, the key ring attachment can be swung round and tucked out of the way, as here

The second Squirt series

Leatherman Squirt PS4

Leatherman Squirt PS4

In 2010, hot on the heels of the discontinued Squirt S4, P4 and E4 came two revamped replacements. These were the Squirt PS4 and Squirt ES4.

The two tools pulled together the most popular elements of their forerunners. Effectively, each carries the same toolset other than the Squirt PS4 having standard pliers and the Squirt ES4 ‘Elektriker’ having electricians wire stripper pliers.

I would anticipate the PS4 having far greater sales over its brother. You shouldn’t simply write off the electricians pliers however. The useful quite thin electricians tip is capable of quite fine work such as pulling thorns and splinters, though it would be even more useful if they were truly needlenose tips.

Leatherman Squirt ES4

Leatherman Squirt ES4

It was a very clever combination of tools that Leatherman managed with these two multi-tools, they really learnt from the earlier incarnations, this despite my personal preference that a few other aspects had been retained instead.

Both Squirt PS4 and ES4 were released with blue, red and black anodised aluminum scales and are still being manufactured today.

The two sides of the files found on the P4, E4, PS4 and ES4 Squirts compared. You can see the toothed edge to the file that can be used for notching wood, sawing plastic and not much else. Each of these tools has both file surfaces

While some of the mini Leatherman multi-tools have wood/metal files, that can be used as nail files, others come with dedicated nail files. All of these actually do a pretty good job and there is little to choose between them. Each nail file has either a nail cleaner or small flat screwdriver tip, though these will not handle a lot of torque.

Nail files compared

Nail files compared. Top: Style PS, centre: Squirt S4, bottom: Style

This was a great series of small multi-tools from Leatherman. How could they follow it? By stripping them down to the essentials and adding a little style, that’s how. I shall look at what followed in the next blog.

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.

Leatherman Micra

Knife chat- Leatherman keychain tools- Micra

Not a personal favourite…

Leatherman Micra

Leatherman Micra

Leatherman Micra

The Leatherman Micra is one of the oldest keychain multi-tools, first released in 1996 and still made today. Leatherman have made a small number of attempts over the years to change the appearance of this model. The basic tool is stamped out in stainless steel. Later models had an aluminium ‘skin’ in various anodised colours fixed over it. The obvious resulting difference is the former rectangular cut out in the handle body beside the tweezers became largely obscured as a result. The latest variant is with coloured translucent plastic skins over the internal steel construct. The additional scales and skins do add a handful of grams to the tool. The basic tool weighs 49.9g, those with aluminum scales come in at 55g.

As previously mentioned, the Micra has to be opened to access all the tools. Personally, I find this an annoyance and prefer just about any other keychain tool made by Leatherman as it is much less faff to get at what I require.

In common with the other small Leatherman multi-tools that come supplied with them, the spring loaded scissors on the Micra fit in the hand well and will tackle most average tasks with ease

In common with the other small Leatherman multi-tools that come supplied with them, the spring loaded scissors on the Micra fit in the hand well and will tackle most average tasks with ease

The Micra comes with a great pair of spring loaded scissors. These are easily my favourite tool on this little multi-tool. They keep a good edge and will cut through just about anything you would normally encounter on trail- packages, mountain house bags, cordura, cordage and tape, plasters and skin. They will trim nails but are a little over size for that.

2D Phillips and flat tip screwdrivers on the Micra will handle a wide range of jobs, light work only mind...

2D Phillips and flat tip screwdrivers on the Micra will handle a wide range of jobs, light work only mind…

The little glasses screwdriver, combined with a reasonably effective bottle opener, is just the right size for the tiny screws on my glasses. The extra long tip is also effective where the screw is close to the frame, some other small screwdrivers can be difficult to get ‘in to’ the job. There are two other screwdrivers on the Micra, one is a medium sized flat tip, the other is a 2D Phillips head that is surprisingly effective.

The nail file and nail cleaner tip found on the Micra is as good as any found on the whole range of Leatherman multi-tools. Both sides are shown here

The nail file and nail cleaner tip found on the Micra is as good as any found on the whole range of Leatherman multi-tools. Both sides are shown here

I find myself using nail files quite often on trail. The one included on the Micra is simply a roughened surface but I prefer this type over the ones found on some of the alternatives, which are more properly wood or metal files. This is the real deal and the nail cleaner is just as useful. The tweezers are long and sturdy, folded inside and remain attached to the tool when opened out. They have no chamfered tip though and frequently don’t meet properly at the tips. As to the 12cm rule inscribed along the outside of the tools frame, never used, don’t need it.

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

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

I can see why this multi-tool is still in production after more than two decades, it is a classic, it does now look a little dated, but it is effective for most small tasks. It’s best selling point over the Leatherman alternatives is that all the tools are tucked away inside where they are not going to gather pocket fluff and detritus. For me, that is a negative and others I shall look at in future blogs I would rate above the Micra.

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.

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.