Tag Archives: knife

The extremely thin 58mm Victorinox Pocket Pal

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

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

The simple and extremely thin Victorinox Pocket Pal

The simple and extremely thin Victorinox Pocket Pal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victorinox Pocket Pal with the similarly equipped Victorinox Princess

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

Pocket Pal specifications:

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

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

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

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

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

Victorinox 74mm Executive

Knife chat: The Victorinox Executive

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

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

Large blade on the Victorinox 74mm Executive

Large blade on the Victorinox 74mm Executive

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

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

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

Main blades on Victorinox Classic and Executive compared

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

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

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

Unique orange peeler blade found on Victorinox Executive

Unique orange peeler blade found on Victorinox Executive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victorinox Executive specifications (cellidor scales):

  • Tang stamp on Alox Executive

    Tang stamp on Alox Executive

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

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

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

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

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

In conclusion:

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

Victorinox Executive with main tools opened

Victorinox Executive with main tools opened

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

Victorinox Mate (above) and Vagabond (below)

Knife chat: Victorinox Mate and Vagabond- are these the perfect multi-tools on trail?

Three Points of the Compass has previously looked at both the Rally series, which builds on the well-known Classic, and the amazingly compact, if over burdened, MiniChamp. There is also an alternative that falls between these camps. Not often found these days in the UK, however I note examples frequently turn up in the US on eBay. This is the remarkable Victorinox Vagabond.

Victorinox Mate, surprisingly compact

Victorinox Mate, surprisingly compact. Sadly, now difficult to find

Victorinox Mate

Tweezers and toothpick are located in the scale on both the Victorinox Mate and later Vagabond

Tweezers and toothpick are located in the scales on both the Victorinox Mate and later Vagabond

The forerunner of the Vagabond was the Victorinox Mate. Built on the familiar small 58mm frame. The Mate has few variations. It has red cellidor scales with useful tweezers and useless toothpick (I have never been a fan of these). It has the small drop point pen blade, nail file with nail cleaner tip and scissors found on the Classic knives, also the effective combo-tool as found on the Rover that combines 2.5mm flat screwdriver tip with a cap lifter. There is no wire-bender notch on this. These knives also come with the unusual ‘cut & picker’ blade with scraper (sometimes called an orange peeler). Perhaps the most useful aspect to these knives however is the addition of another blade. This is a sharp little Wharncliffe blade, usually referred to as an Emergency blade. All this in a 34.4g four layer tool weighing more than the simpler 20.8g Classic but less than a 45.2g MiniChamp. This knife enjoyed a brief production run- appearing in 1995 and probably discontinued within two years.

The Mate features:

  • Pen blade
  • Emergency blade
  • Cut and picker blade
  • Nail file with nail cleaner tip
  • Combination tool with cap lifter and 2.5mm flat screwdriver tip
  • Scissors
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers
  • Keyring
Victorinox Vagabond and Mate with tools opened

Victorinox Vagabond (left) and Mate (right) with tools opened

Victorinox Vagabond

Vagabond and Mate from Victorinox, two handy little multi-tools

Vagabond and Mate from Victorinox, two handy little multi-tools. Both discontinued but available on the second-hand market

If the Mate led the way, the Vagabond certainly pointed in the right direction. The Mate evolved into the Vagabond around 1997 with a couple of refinements to the toolset that add slightly to functionality with zero deficit. The 2.5mm flat screwdriver tip switched to the end of the nail file while a surprisingly effective little Phillips tip was added to the combo-tool. A wire bender was now also added but I cannot say that this has ever been of any use to me. Some people particularly like the little nail cleaner found on Victorinox knives, and lets face it, hands and nails get pretty grubby on trail, however Three Points of the Compass has found that the little flat point screwdriver tip is almost equally as effective with clearing gunk out. The cap lifter is effective but I wish it were a combination cap lifter/can opener, now that would be useful. Weight of the now discontinued Vagabond rises imperceptibly to 34.6g.

Combination tools compared

Combination tools compared. The little Phillips will handle a wide range of screws, even the small screws found on mobile phones

The Vagabond features:

  • Pen blade
  • Emergency blade
  • Cut and picker blade
  • Nail file with 2.5mm flat screwdriver tip
  • Combination tool with cap lifter, magnetic Phillips screwdriver tip and wire bender
  • Scissors
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers
  • Keyring
Shapes and size of the two blades found on both Mate and Vagabond

Shapes and size of the two blades found on both Mate and Vagabond

The Vagabond would be a great choice as a small lightweight multi-tool to take on an extended hike. Less so for just a day hike. Is the ‘orange peeler’ blade superfluous? I am not sure. It is for the individual to look at what is required for personal circumstance. At least the useless ruler and coke spoon, sorry, cuticle pusher, as found on the MiniChamp are excluded. Victorinox have produced combinations of tools within both their small 58mm range that I favour, and their larger offerings, that should meet the needs of just about any hiker.

Why would an extra blade be of any use on trail? It can be useful to include such a thing exactly as Victorinox have termed the Warncliffe blade, as an ’emergency’ blade to be bought into use in the event of the main blade becoming damaged or just blunt. I think it more useful to keep a second blade purely for food preparation, using the main blade for anything else- opening packages, cutting tape, trimming skin etc. The narrow pointed Warncliffe blade is great for fine work, so possibly keep that for any possible surgical procedures…

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.

Victorinox shop display

Knife chat: My annual pilgrimage to Victorinox

Victorinox's Flagship London store

Victorinox’s Flagship London store

The iconic red handled Swiss Army Knife makes a suitable display the height of three floors

The iconic red handled Swiss Army Knife makes a suitable display the height of three floors

Each year, Three Points of the Compass makes a pilgrimage to Victorinox’s Flagship store in New Bond Street, London. This was the first flagship store that Victorinox opened in Europe. While it displays and sells watches, travel gear and fragrances, mostly on show as soon as you walk in the front door, it is the lower floor that attracts me. This is where over 400 models of Victorinox knives and some 650 household and chef knives are displayed.

As you descend the stairs, you are immediately presented with the repair table where customers can drop off their battered and damaged possession to be expertly repaired by the on-site craftsman.

Kitchen and household ware do not necessarily draw me, it is the central cased knife displays and wall mounted models that draw me to them.

Repair work was underway

Repair work was underway

Some of the 400 or so pocket knives that are on display

Some of the 400 or so pocket knives that are on display

I always have a small shopping list pre-prepared. To wander into such a shop without such discipline invites disaster. In London for a small planned walk later with a couple of friends from work (more on that in a future blog) I had an hour to spare in the morning to indulge in drooling over various knife models and variants that will never make their way in to my meagre collection. I am afraid not being in possession of deeper pockets has its disadvantages (or advantages as Mrs Three Points of the Compass might feel).

Victorinox released a number of models with walnut scales in August 2019, the Classic SD was one I was on the look out for

Victorinox released a number of models with walnut scales in August 2019, the diminutive Classic SD Wood (0.6221.63)  was one I was on the look out for. Being a natural product, every knife is slightly different

While Three Points of the Compass does have representatives from the various lengths of knife that Victorinox has and does produce, it is mostly the smaller knives, especially the 58mm range, that has attracted me over the years. There were a handful of 2019 releases that I had in mind for this visit.

Each year, Victorinox releases a small range of their knives with special alox scales, 2019 offer was 'Champagne'

Each year, Victorinox releases a small range of their knives with special alox scales, 2019’s offer was ‘Champagne’

Swiss Card and 58mm ranges

Swiss Card and 58mm ranges

As a subscriber to the Victorinox newsletter, I had been sent the offer of a free Victorinox chopping board. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I picked up mine from the downstairs till, the helpful lady who proffered this to me, also followed in my wake as I made my way round the store selecting my small number of purchases. She spread the walnut scaled knives across the counter so that I could select the one that was ‘just right’. I won’t relay here how much my choices cost but an applied discount made a welcome reduction.

A couple of my purchases will feature in some 2020 blogs where I take a closer look at some particular tool sets in the handy smaller knives that Victorinox offer the backpacker. But more on those next year.

My small haul from my 2019 visit to the New Bond Street store

My small haul from my 2019 visit to the New Bond Street store

 

Its not knives you know...

It’s not all knives you know…

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 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.