Tag Archives: knife

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…

 

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
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.

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
Top five Victorinox 58mm knives

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

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

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

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

Rambler

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

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

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

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

Rogue

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

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

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

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

Manager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midnite Manager (white LED)

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

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

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

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

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

Midnite Manager (red LED)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top five Victorinox 58mm knives

Knife chat: A top five of 58mm Victorinox knives- my number two choice

The ‘Classic’ Series and derivatives 

The Victorinox Classic is available with an immense range of scales. Here, the effective if small scissors are shown on the 'A Trip to London' Classic SD from the 2018 Limited Edition range

The Victorinox Classic Swiss Army Knife is available with an immense range of scales designs. Here, the effective if small scissors are shown on the ‘A Trip to London’ Classic SD from the 2018 Limited Edition range

Classic and Classic SD

All of the knives mentioned in this particular blog are from the small 58mm Classic and variants range produced by Victorinox. All are two layer models, all carry the same basic toolset. These are blade, nailfile and scissors. Most differences in the models shown here relate to inclusion or not of a flat ‘SD’ screwdriver tip to the nailfile, the scale material and the additional tools in the scales. There are a lot more variants than those shown here however the knives illustrated do give a good idea on the major alternatives.

Victorinox’s Classic is their best seller, with just reason as it contains a sweet little range of basic tools. There are also hundreds, if not thousands of scale designs but that is of limited interest to me on trail. Despite claims being made that this knife dates to the 1930s, this is incorrect to a degree. Elements of the knife- blade, scissors, nailfile and scale tools, certainly did appear on other knives earlier, but it is not until the 1970s that the ‘Classic’ begins to appear in catalogues.

If the basic Classic set of tools comprising blade, nailfile and scissors is all you want for hiking, take a look at those shown below and rather than simply snap up the first Classic you see, consider if there is a variant that you might prefer. For example, the 2.5mm flat screwdriver tip on the nailfile included in the Classic SD, introduced around 1987, is probably going to be more useful than the nail cleaning tip in the ClassicThree Points of the Compass has his preference amongst the Classic derivatives and it is the final one listed below.

The Victorinox 58mm Classic was a development of the earlier Bijou that lacked a keyring. A further variant on both Bijou and Classic was the addition of a flat 'SD' screwdriver tip to the nailfile. All of these knives come with tweezers and toothpick in the red cellidor scales

The Victorinox 58mm Classic was a development of the earlier Bijou that lacked a keyring. A further variant on both Bijou and Classic was the addition of a flat 2.5mm ‘SD’ screwdriver tip to the nailfile. Clockwise from top left: Bijou SD, Bijou, Classic, Classic SD. All of these knives come with tweezers and toothpick in the red cellidor scales.

Classic SD knife fitted with a Wharncliffe, or Emergency blade. This blade is similar to a Sheepsfoot profile but the curve is more gradual, starting nearer the handle. Every now and then you may come across one of the 58mm Victorinox knives that have this alternative blade fitted. It allows for good precision work

Classic SD knife fitted with a Wharncliffe, or Emergency blade. This blade is similar to a Sheepsfoot profile but the curve is more gradual, starting nearer the handle. The seldom seen 58mm Victorinox knives that have this alternative blade fitted allow for good precision work

Classic SD Emergency

When I covered my fourth choice of 58mm Victorinox for hiking in a previous blog, that knife, the MiniChamp had two ‘proper’ blades. One of those was the Emergency or ‘wharncliffe’ blade. This shape of blade is great for precision work and it is only found on the 58mm series. Away from the MiniChamp it is a far less common and rarely encountered blade. Some Victorinox knives were manufactured with this ’emergency’ blade instead of the standard pen blade and are worth snapping up if you come across an example.  Three Points of the Compass is rather fond of his old Classic SD Emergency blade and has found it useful for detailed or precision work.

Victorinox 58mm Classic SD Alox

Victorinox 58mm Classic SD Alox

Classic SD Alox

While the Victorinox Classic is a simple, two layer knife and not all bulky in the hand, there is an even slimmer alternative. This is where the red plastic ‘Cellidor’ scales are replaced with Aluminium Oxide, or Alox, scales. The textured scales on the Classic SD Alox are comfortable to hold but can sometimes be a bit slippery in wetter weather. Despite being metal rather than plastic, there is little weight penalty with the alox variants. Respective weights are shown below.

Alox scales already exist in a variety of colours and a new limited edition colour is introduced each year. The coloured alternatives do wear quite easily though. Because alox scales are so thin, they do not permit the inclusion of any scale tools such as toothpick, tweezers, pen or LED light.

Classic (above) and Classic Alox (below). The differences in their respective thickness is apparent

Classic SD (above) and Classic SD Alox (below). The differences in their respective thickness is apparent

Tomo

An interesting diversion from tradition was made by Victorinox in 2011 when it released the Tomo designed by Abitax Tokyo. While based on the 58mm Classic and carrying the same toolset- pen blade, nailfile with nail cleaning tip and a pair of scissors, these were enclosed in a radically different set of scales. The scale design did not allow for a pair of tweezers and toothpick so it is difficult to see what advantage this knife offers to the hiker, other than not looking like a knife, which may be important to you. There is no SD version of this knife.

Victorinox 58mm Tomo

Victorinox 58mm Tomo. This has exactly the same tools as the traditional Victorinox Classic but no tweezers or toothpick. It is a less threatening tool to many people due to its shape and not looking like a knife

If you rock up at a bothy after dark, there is a good chance it already has occupants. The use of a small discrete light, if only at first, would be appreciated by sleeping hikers. Maol Bhuidhe bothy, Cape Wrath Trail, August 2018

If you rock up at a bothy after dark, there is a good chance it already has occupants. The use of a small discrete light, such as the one in a Victorinox SwissLite, would be appreciated by sleeping hikers. Approaching Maol Bhuidhe bothy, Cape Wrath Trail, August 2018

First introduced in 1986, the SwissLite has the Classic toolset with tweezers and LED light in the cellidor scales

First introduced in 1986, the SwissLite has the Classic toolset with tweezers, but differs by having an LED light in the cellidor scales. Holding down the Victorinox shield on the scale operates the LED

SwissLite

The SwissLite is simply a Classic where the toothpick has been replaced by a small LED embedded in one of the scales. First appearing in the late 1980s, LEDs in these knives were initially red, replaced by white LEDs from around 2010. Most hikers will be carrying a headtorch or similar with them on trail, so a fairly feeble white LED is of limited use. However I like a small red LED in the tent, bothy or hostel, or when studying a map at night, as night vision is preserved and the light disturbs other occupants less. Not only that, but a battery will last far longer with a red light. A replacement CR1025 3V battery weighs just 0.6g but I have never had to change mine. Usually, Three Points of the Compass includes a mini Photon Freedom with red LED with his hiking gear. Any knife that includes such a red light, such as an early version SwissLite, could replace this. The light in the knife is activated when pressing and holding the shield on the scale. The inclusion of an LED is especially useful for late night note writing as it shines directly on to a page when writing.

Signature series

The Signature series from Victorinox is actually a separate series from the Classic range, but because it only differs due to the replacement of a particular scale tool, I have included a couple of these variants here with the Classic series.

Victorinox Signature

Victorinox Signature has small pen blade, nailfile with 2.5mm flat screwdriver tip, scissors, tweezers and retractable ballpoint pen

The Signature does exactly what I prefer in any Victorinox knife, replaces the useless toothpick with something more useful- a slim retractable pressurised ball point pen. This has blue ink but I live in hope that a black ink version becomes available eventually. A set of tweezers are located in the other scale. If this little knife and its toolset suits you, you could consider instead, the plastic SwissCard which has very similar contents but a marginally more effective pair of scissors.

The Victorinox Signature carries a similar toolset to the very different SwissCard produced by the same company

The Victorinox Signature carries a similar toolset to the very different SwissCard Classic produced by the same company

Victorinox Signature Lite with red LED. The light is operated by pressing down the shield on the scale

Victorinox Signature Lite with red LED. The light is operated by pressing down the shield on the scale

The Signature almost has it. For some people it will provide the perfect set of tools. But for Three Points of the Compass, looking at the range of small 58mm knives available from Victorinox that are based on the Classic toolset, there is another alternative that I prefer. This is the SwissLite version of the Signature, the Signature Lite red LED where the tweezers are replaced with an LED light. As discussed above, while a white LED may be great for sorting out your keys at the front door, I feel it is less useful on trail where you will have a more powerful headtorch or similar, so I prefer the pre-2010 Signature Lite which has a red LED. Admittedly, the white light variant is far brighter than the red, but that is a choice for you.

Victorinox Signature Lite. The best of the 58mm knives based on the Classic

Victorinox Signature Lite. Probably the best of the 58mm knives based on the Classic design

Model Length Width (at widest point) Height Weight
Bijou 58mm 17.05mm 9.40mm 20.5g
Bijou SD 58mm 17.05mm 9.00mm 20.2g
Classic 58mm 17.30mm 9.00mm 20.8g
Classic SD 58mm 17.30mm 9.00mm 21.1g
Classic Alox 58mm 17.30mm 6.40mm 16.9g
Classic SD Emergency 58mm 17.20mm 9.00mm 20.9g
Tomo 58mm 19.00mm 8.95mm 22.1g
SwissLite 58mm 17.30mm 10.90mm 22.7g
Signature 58mm 17.30mm 10.00mm 21.9g
Signature Lite 58mm 17.30mm 12.45mm 23.3g
Signature Lite with white LED. Useful for writing with in the dark, if anything the white LED is too bright for this task

Signature Lite with white LED. Useful for writing with in the dark, if anything, the white LED is too bright for this task

Top five Victorinox 58mm knives. The Signature Lite, with red LED, at number two, is fourth from left

Top five Victorinox 58mm knives. The Signature Lite with red LED, at number two, is second from the right