Tag Archives: knives

Gerber Paraframe- comfortable in a three finger grip

Knife chat: A ‘best-seller’ from Gerber- the Paraframe Mini

Gerber Paraframe Mini single blade knife

Gerber Paraframe Mini SS FE- a single blade knife with pocket clip

Gerber have released a number of different Paraframe models over the years and it has consistently been a best seller for them. Some models have been bundled in with multi-tools so customers may have received one that way. At just 40g the Gerber Paraframe Mini SS FE is the smallest and lightest of the Paraframe models and could be considered for lightweight backpacking.

Gerber Legendary Blades, established in 1939, are based in Portland, Oregon, USA. They were acquired by the Finnish Fiskars Corporation in 1986. While some Gerber products continue to be manufactured in the U.S. much has transferred overseas. This has enabled prices to remain competitive but has also resulted in varying degrees of quality.

Pocket clip on Gerber Paraframe Mini is the only true feature other than the blade

Removable pocket clip on Gerber Paraframe Mini is the only true feature other than the blade

The primary option with the Paraframe Mini is the choice of blade- clip or tanto point and either fine edge or semi-serrated. Three Points of the Compass feels that having only a serrated blade while backpacking is not a practical option. A serrated blade, or even semi-serrated, is less suited for most tasks when backpacking, be it first aid, gear repair or food preparation. Fine if it is a secondary blade, but not if the only blade carried. For this reason I am only looking at the fine edge blade option here. The SS and FE in the model’s name stand for Stainless Steel and Fine Edge.

Gerber Paraframe Mini- Number 1 best sellerThe Paraframe Mini is a ‘naked’ knife with cut-outs in the stainless steel frame to slightly reduce weight and improve asthetics. It is an attractive knife with well finished and rounded edges. It is contemporary, modern looking, but looks should be considered secondary to usefulness and practicality. There is no roughness or burred edges in its manufacturing finish and the knife is comfortable in the hand even though only a partial grip can be achieved due to its small dimensions. The Chinese manufacturing has done a good job with this little knife compared to the roughly finished and more industrial appearing Gerber Vice and Splice mini multi-tools. No scales are fitted to the open frame though the pocket clip does increase the tools bulk in the hand while making it slightly more comfortable to hold and use. As well as the bead-blasted finish to the handle shown here there are black, red and camo versions, plus a few other after-sale and uncommon colour options.

Gerber Paraframe

Open frame of the ‘naked’ Gerber Paraframe Mini

There is a pocket clip on this knife however that is not much use while hiking. It is so light that it could be lost from a pocket without noticing and there is no provision to attach a lanyard or carabiner. Not that this is necessary while on trail as the blade would normally live in a ditty bag or food bag. So you could consider removing the pocket clip which knocks off a handful of grams. Note that this is a right-handed knife, the clip cannot be moved to the other side for left-handed opening.

The larger brothers to the Mini, the Paraframe I and Paraframe II, are easy to manipulate one-handed and the Paraframe Mini can, in theory, also be opened one-handed. However Three Points of the Compass has quite large hands and absolutely fails to achieve this easily, though closing one-handed can be done with care.  It is safer to regard the Paraframe Mini as requiring two hands to both open and close. There is a good size nail nick on the blade however a good pinch of the back of the blade enables it to be opened easily.

Gerber Paraframe

Folding Paraframe Mini is small in the hand

A tanto point option is also available for the Paraframe Mini however that is more suited to piercing duty and reduces the amount of cutting edge when chopping. A tanto point would be useful for opening packages but it will be food preparation and slicing tops off Mountain House type meals that a blade on trail is mostly employed for. The clip point blade is held open by an efficient frame lock, which does mean that in the UK you will have to prove good reason for carrying this as it does not comply with UK knife law. The blade is quite thick, measuring 2.60mm across the spine. There is very little sideways flex on basic food chopping duty. The blade pivot is based around a teflon washer and is fairly stiff when purchased but loosens up with use, this pivot obviously wears with time with resultant increased ‘floppiness’. There is no sideways play in the blade from new.

Gerber Paraframe, side view

Gerber Paraframe Mini, side view. A thick spine to the blade tapers in the final third toward the point

Specifications:

  • Dimensions:
    • Length- closed 79mm, open 134mm.
    • Width- closed 23mm, open 20mm.
    • Thickness- 11.75mm (including depth of integrated pocket clip)
  • Blade Length: 60 mm with a cutting edge of 54mm
  • Fine edge ‘high carbon’ stainless steel, clip point blade. 23º sharpening angle
  • Frame- stainless steel, frame lock
  • Weight- 40g

Gerber advertise this knife as weighing 40g, on my scales it comes in at 39.8g so just about bang on. This knife is no heavyweight but for a tool offering little more than a single blade, it is possibly too heavy an option for a truly lightweight set-up while backpacking. Other users might feel that the moderate weight is reassuring.

And now we come to the quality of steel used for the blade. Gerber have been annoyingly reticent over the years to divulge exactly what is used in their knives. They simply advertise this blade as ‘high carbon stainless steel’. It is unlikely, particularly for the moderate price, that a particularly high quality steel is used on this knife. It has been suggested that it is 7cr17mov, hardened to 55-57 HRC, which is a ‘middle of the road’ steel used on many cheaper knives. This steel is almost certainly of the 400 range (resistant to corrosion and easy to sharpen), either 420 or 440 series. If the latter, probably 440A, which is a fairly low cost, highly corrosion resistant stainless steel. However Gerber do specify that it is ‘High Carbon’ (HC) steel, pointing toward 420HC, another cheaper steel, that can be brought to a higher hardness than regular 420. This is not a great steel but adequate for such an unassuming knife. If you want a better steel in your knife, be prepared to spend more money.

It has also been suggested that the actual hardening of the steel has varied over the years. If so, such inconsistency may explain the wide range of opinion that this little knife excites. Suffice to say that the blade comes reasonably sharp when purchased, requires touching up, but will hold an edge for some time if used for light work. Which is all that a knife on trail would normally be subjected to.

Gerber Paraframe Mini, in the hand

The French made smaller Opinel knives will provide just as functional a blade as that provided on the Paraframe Mini for backpacking purposes, actually sharper, and are equally as competitively priced. The blades found on smaller Opinels are considerably thinner and flex considerably more. The blade on the Opinel No. 5 is just 1.34mm across the spine of the blade. While the Paraframe Mini has a locking blade, this feature is only found on Opinel models larger than the No. 5. The locking No. 6 only weighs 28g but has a much longer blade at 72mm. Three Points of the Compass will look at the Opinel folders in a separate blog.

40g locking Gerber Paraframe Mini with non-locking 15g Opinel No.5 and 28g locking Opinel No.6

40g locking Gerber Paraframe Mini with non-locking 15g Opinel No. 5 and 28g locking Opinel No. 6

Conclusion:

The Gerber Paraframe Mini SS FE is a cheap and perfectly functional option for those wanting to take a fairly lightweight and reasonably robust knife, with a single blade, out on trail. It is attractive and as well made as many knives being churned out in China today. The steel used is nothing to shout about but is up to the basic tasks required on trail- which will mostly be cutting food and opening packages. The pocket clip does add a little comfort when holding the knife however few hikers would risk clipping this into their pocket while hiking for fear of losing it. There are many better knife options available but most will cost a lot more than this reasonably priced folder.

The major entries in the Paraframe series:

Model number Blade length * Blade type Weight*
Paraframe Mini  SS FE GE-1013954 60mm / 2.3″ Fine edge 40g
Paraframe Mini  SS SE GE-1013953 60mm / 2.3″ Semi-serrated 40g
Paraframe I SS FE GE- 1013969 79mm / 3.1″ Fine edge 73g
Paraframe I SS SE GE- 1013968 79mm / 3.1″ Semi-serrated 73g
Paraframe II SS FE GE- 1013972 90mm / 3.5″ Fine edge 119g
Paraframe II SS SE GE- 1013971 90mm / 3.5″ Semi-serrated 119g
* as specified by Gerber
Packaging for Gerber Paraframe Mini details the minimal functions found on the tool

Packaging for Gerber Paraframe Mini details the minimal functions found on the tool

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.

Deejo 15g

Knife Chat: is this the most practical minimalist knife on trail? The Deejo 15g

Deejo 15g

Deejo 15g in the hand- immaculately designed

Not a lot is required of a knife for 99.9% of backpacking. And it isn’t worth carrying anything to handle the 0.1% of tasks that would benefit from the sort of knife that a bushcrafter would be proud to show off.

The features of the Deejo 15g. 1. Blade, 2. knife handle, 3. pocket clip (only on 27g and 37g), 4. liner lock, 5. blade stopper, 6. screw stop

The features of the Deejo 15g. 1. Blade, 2. knife handle, 3. pocket clip (only on 27g and 37g), 4. liner lock, 5. blade stopper, 6. screw stop

“designed in Paris- made in China”

In 2010 Stéphane Lebeau designed and invented an ultralight pocket knife. Today the range of Deejo knives is small- just three sizes. In more recent years Deejo have begun to offer a wide range of customisation to the two larger sizes of these three knives so with choice of scale material and blade ‘tattoos’ a lot of personalisation is possible. The basic range is named by their weight, these are 15g, 27g and 37g. The smallest of these, the Deejo 15g, makes a very useful, minimalist, single blade, folding knife for backpacking purposes. A pocket, or belt clip, is fitted to the two larger sizes of knife, no clip is attached to the 15g.

Deejo 15g

The Deejo 15g is a very thin knife when closed

The Deejo 15g is a ‘naked’ knife. There are no scales or other accoutrements. The brushed steel finish frame, such that it is, is minimal, with a central cutout and a hole in the end through which a lanyard, carabiner or split ring can be passed. There is no nail nick and the blade has to be pinched to open it, which isn’t difficult. It cannot, and should not, be opened one-handed. With such a minimally guarded blade it requires two hands to open and close safely. There is a very slight curve to the handle that means the point is under pressure and flush when closed so the blade point cannot catch on clothing or skin when closed. There is almost a snap on the final point of closing. The short handle length means that only part of the hand is grasping it in use, with my large hands, some two and half finger close around it.

Deejo 15g

Short handle length means that only three fingers close around it when in use

Leaflet that accompanies the knife details the complete 'naked' range from Deejo

Leaflet that accompanies the knife details the complete ‘naked’ range from Deejo

The spearpoint blade is made from 2CR13 stainless steel with a hardness rating of 52-54 on the Rockwell hardness scale (HRC), knife handle and pocket clip are 2CR13 stainless steel with a hardness rating of 45-48 HRC. 2CR23 is a commonly used steel found on many knives and is popular with knife manufacturers. Part of the 420 series, this steel is resistant to corrosion (rust) and can be easily sharpened. The blade on the Deejo 15g is chisel grind, i.e.- on one side only, which makes it a little safer when folded. It is very thin when closed and when open in the hand. One feature, or rather lack of feature, that Three Points of the Compass particularly appreciates, is the lack of cut-outs or holes in the blade. Food can accumulate in these holes and with less opportunity to clean a knife properly on trail it is easy for bacteria to build here. The Deejo 15g does not suffer from this fanciful design aspect.

The whole knife is extremely minimalistic. There is little, if anything, that is included on this that isn’t required. A handle- that also operates as liner-lock, a blade, a pivot, and two ‘nubs’- one to act as a stop when opened, the other to indent into the closed blade and prevent it opening under its own volition. Finally- two engraved words, Deejo and PRESS on the liner lock.

Dimensions:

  • Closed- length: 70mm, width: 16.80mm, thickness: 8.45mm (maximum, across pivot)
  • Open- length: 125mm, width:14.20mm, thickness: 8.45mm (maximum, across pivot)
  • Handle length: 66mm ( from pivot centre to end)
  • Blade cutting edge: 64mm
  • Blade thickness across spine: 2.27mm
  • Weight: 14.4g, so actually less than 15g!
Deejo 15g

To close- Press marking ‘PRESS’ downward

Deejo 15g

Swivel blade past liner lock

Deejo 15g

Close blade into handle with two hands

When purchased the Deejo 15g comes over packaged (as do almost all knives) in a plastic box, along with the usual paperwork, a couple of stickers, a blade tip protector and, most useful, a 28cm length of black cordage which can be passed through the hole in the knife handle to make a small loop. Or a small carabiner could be used instead.

Deejo 15g alongside non-locking 10g Opinel No. 4 and the popular 40g frame lock Gerber Paraframe

Deejo 15g alongside non-locking 10g Opinel No. 4 and the popular 40g frame lock Gerber Paraframe Mini

One obvious problem with this knife in the UK is that it fails to meet our stringent knife laws. The basic type of knife is fine, it isn’t a ‘zombie’ or throwing blade and blade length is OK, it is the fact that it locks open that is the issue. This is illegal in the UK without provable good reason for carrying. It is for the individual to decide if they wish to explain away a small 15g knife, packed away in a food bag, that forms part of a very obvious and harmless backpacking set-up. If you can prove good reason to be carrying this then, in theory, any sensible copper won’t give it a glance.

The Deejo 15g is amongst the best of well constructed, lightweight, locking, single blade folders available that is particularly suited for backpacking purposes. A more legally acceptable alternative to this little blade would be one of the smaller Opinel folders. The smallest Opinels are not fitted with a locking ring so comply with UK law. Those knifes also have the option of high carbon steel blades, which rust more easily but hold an edge better. Or choose stainless steel which is more suited to life on trail.

Deejo 15g

Pivot and liner lock on Deejo 15g

The Deejo 15g is a terrific little knife though it has to be used with care, particularly when folding. It requires just a little practice and continued care to ensure that the blade doesn’t nip the skin. But it will easily tackle just about any lightweight task that a backpacker requires of a blade. It will peel an apple, cut sausage and cheese, cut cordage. However you aren’t going to be able to whittle, baton, cut down tree limbs, that isn’t what this minimalist knife is intended for.

Three Points of the Compass may yet give this little folder some extended time in my pack on longer backpacking excursions. Will it push out my preferred Leatherman Squirt S4? Time will tell.

Deejo 15g with cherry tomatos and a decent cheddar

Cutting cherry tomatos and a decent cheddar with the Deejo 15g

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.

Deejo 15g

The Deejo 15g- a good choice of minimal knife for backpacking

Leatherman Skeletool KB

Knife chat: Leatherman Skeletool KB

In June 2017 Leatherman released the Skeletool KB and KBX tools. The KB with straight blade and the KBX with combination straight/serrated blade. These were both developed within their existing popular and good looking folding Skeletools range. Simplifying those, the new KB and KBX offered little more than a single folding blade. The only other tool being a removable pocket clip that also operates as a bottle opener.

Folded Leatherman Skeletool KB in the hand. Just 88mm or 3 1/2

If a hiker desires little more than a modest sized simple blade on trail then one of these tools may provide just what is wanted at a decent price from a reputable manufacturer that provides a 25 year warranty.

“one of the goals to us with respect to the naked knife aesthetic…is delivering a product that performs to Leatherman’s standard of quality”

Leatherman were not the first to bring a ‘naked’ knife to market, however some more simplistic offerings are a little tricky to use and it is relativly easy to accidentally close a blade or nick a finger while closing. Leatherman veered away from total minimalism with these knives and the solid backer plate gives rigidity to the whole knife while also protecting the user when operating it, it being impossible to open the liner lock unintentionally.

Detail from enclosed leaflet listing the features of the Leatherman KB

Detail from leaflet enclosed with the tool, listing the minimal features of the Leatherman KB/KBX: 1- 420 HC locking knife blade, 7- removable pocket clip with bottle cap lifter

Blades on both Skeletool KB and KBX are made of 420HC stainless steel with a hardness rating of 59 HRC. This means that it will hold an edge better than many cheaper alternatives but is just a little more difficult to sharpen. This steel is found on better quality knives and resists rusting however the KB doesn’t come particularly sharp ‘out of the box’. Serrated edges, such as that found on the Skeletool KBX, are always a bit trickier to sharpen, for this reason Three Points of the Compass thinks the straight edge KB knife a far more practical option for backpacking purposes. Even if that purpose is just cutting a piece of cheese, slicing a salami or sectioning an apple.

Locked open while in use, the liner lock is depressed with the thumb to close the blade

Locked open while in use, the liner lock is depressed with the thumb to close the blade

With a little practice the Skeletool KB can easily be opened and closed one handed and comes with a liner lock so that it will not close on your fingers while in use. The lock engages firmly with a good click and will not disengage until you make it. This of course pushes it up against UK knife laws. The closed knife is 88mm long (3 1/2″) x 14.25mm (max) x 20.50mm (max). When open it is 151mm long. Cutting edge of the brushed steel, drop point, hollow grind blade is 59mm and it measures 2.55mm across the spine, which is quite wide for such a small blade.

Liner lock can be removed by unscrewing the two torx screws holding it. This would make the knife compliant with UK knife law however it is not recommended as the knife is far less safe in use as a result

Liner lock can be removed by unscrewing the two torx screws holding it. This would make the knife compliant with UK knife law however it is not recommended as the knife is far less safe in use as a result

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 get caught up in the holes found on some blades quite easily. This is a Leatherman Style CS in use by Three Points of the Compass on the Tabular Hills walk. The blade on this knife also has holes, these fill with food being cut

The aesthetic design of the blade does actually make this knife less practical for use on trail in one respect. While there will be an, admittedly tiny, weight saving by removing some steel from the blade, food can get caught up in the holes and bacteria easily set in if they are not cleaned out.

Three Points of the Compass has encountered this problem before with the same ‘holed blade’ design found on the keychain multi-tool Style series, also from Leatherman.

'Skeletinised' design of the blade is attractive but possibly not the most practical on trail

‘Skeletonized’ design of the blade is attractive but possibly not the most practical on trail

Pocket clip / cap lifter is removed easily with a T5 torx

Pocket clip / cap lifter is removed easily with a T5 torx

Is there anyone out there that doesn’t know how to open a bottle? There must be as Leatherman include a diagram with their knife on how to do just that with the KB. However for those on trail this probably isn’t the most useful of tools, and nor is the pocket clip. This can be removed if required simply by undoing the three torx screws holding it in place which is probably the first thing that any lightweight hiker would do.

The liner lock could also be easily removed however not only does this lock the blade open, but it also holds it closed, the knife would be considerably less safe if the lock were removed.

The Leatherman Skeletool KB weighs 37.8g, removing the pocket clip reduces this to 34.3g or 34.7g if you replace just the three screws in the frame. The knife can be mostly disassembled for cleaning, though not easily in the field. A T8 torx is required for the main blade pivot screw and T5 torx for removing the pocket clip.

Deep pocket clip on Leatherman KB is effective but the bottle opener can catch on things when carried that way

Deep pocket clip on Leatherman KB is effective but the bottle opener can catch on things when carried that way

The construction is good with no rough manufacturing edges. Handle edges are rounded and even the spine of the blade comes without a 90 degree angle, being slightly rounded. The knife is all metal in construction apart from a slippery polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) synthetic washer on the blade pivot. Weight of the knife generally is slightly reduced by the ‘skeletonised’ hole cut-outs.

Instruction for those of us who don't know how to open a bottle- included with knife on purchase

‘User Guide’ included with knife on purchase- for those of us who don’t know how to open a bottle!

Though thin in the hand, more so if the pocket clip is removed, it is comfortable to hold and use on light to medium work, this is partly due to the curved black anodised aluminium handle. Three Points of the Compass has quite large hands and finds it easiest to choke forward onto the pivot of the blade with my thumb on the top of the wide blade spine as shown here. If the pocket clip is left in place this does increase the comfort in the hand and makes it easier to close the blade.

Leatherman Skeletool KB is well finished with no rough edges and despite being quite a small tool is comfortable in the hand

Leatherman Skeletool KB is well finished with no rough edges and despite being quite a small tool is comfortable in the hand

Leatherman Skeletool KB beside the diminutive, now discontinued Leatherman Style which combined blade with scissors. nail file and tweezers

Leatherman Skeletool KB beside the diminutive, now discontinued, Leatherman Style which combined blade with scissors. nail file and tweezers

In summary:

the Leatherman Skeletool KB is beautifully constructed, nothing is loose and the blade cuts well when sharpened. It is an affordable knife from a reputable company with a good warranty policy. It shaves off a few grams by dint of its design however that very design does mean that it is more prone to collecting detritus and food gunk. Locking blade design means that it cannot be carried on a daily basis in the UK though it may be just what is wanted by a backpacker who doesn’t require more than a modest blade just long enough to perform most kitchen chores.

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.

Wenger and Victorinox nail clippers

Knife chat: Nail clippers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wenger Swiss Clipper

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

Wenger Nail Clip

Wenger Swiss Clippers

Wenger Swiss Clipper has a pair of folding nail clippers

Wenger Swiss Clipper has a pair of folding nail clippers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wenger Swiss Clipper in use

Wenger Swiss Clipper in use

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

Wenger Swiss Clipper and its replacement Victorinox Nail Clip 580

Wenger Swiss Clipper and its replacement Victorinox Nail Clip 580

Victorinox Nail Clip 580

With the Nail Clip 580 Victorinox bought the Wenger nail clipper in house and under its own name. However it has retained many of the Wenger features and it retains the Delémont branding. It is still housed in a 65mm frame, albeit now with slightly thinner smooth cellidor scales, with a subsequent change to the longer Victorinox tweezers and toothpick. Both toothpick and tweezers are 45mm long. From 2019 a small range of scale colours were available- these include standard red cellidor scales, transparent red (shown here), white, black, blue, pink, edelweiss and camouflage. This reflected the fact that it had become one of the bigger sellers from the Victorinox range.

The scissors remain exactly the same as those found on the Swiss Clipper, as does the nail file with nail cleaner tip. The file surface measures 27m x 6mm and is akin to a match strike surface that works on smoothing nails just fine. The nail clipper itself has been refined, there is a slight design change but folding/unfolding, operation and performance remain unchanged.

Victorinox Nail Clip 580

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

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

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

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

Blades on 58mm and 65mm Victorinox knives compared

Blades on 58mm and 65mm Victorinox knives compared

Scissors on 58mm and 65mm Victorinox knives compared

Scissors on 58mm and 65mm Victorinox knives compared

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victorinox 580 Nail Clip in use

Victorinox 580 Nail Clip in use

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

Victorinox Nail Clip 582

Victorinox Nail Clip 582

Victorinox Nail Clip 582

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

Victorinox Nail Clip 582 opened but not unfolded

Victorinox Nail Clip 582 opened but not unfolded

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

Victorinox Nail Clip 582 in use

Victorinox Nail Clip 582 in use

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

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

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

Victorinox nail clippers. Model 8.2050.B1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victorinox nail clippers. Model 8.2050.B1 in use

Victorinox nail clippers. Model 8.2050.B1 in use

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

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

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

Victorinox nail clipper. Model 8.2055.CB

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

Victorinox nail clippers with slip case

Victorinox nail clippers with skai slip pouch

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

Small nail file beneath the clipper lever

Small nail file beneath the clipper lever

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

Victorinox nail clippers in use

Victorinox 8.2055.CB nail clippers in use

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zwilling clippers have a reasonable nail file beneath the lever handle

Zwilling clippers have a reasonable nail file beneath the lever handle

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

Zwilling ultra-slip nail clippers

Zwilling ultra-slip nail clippers

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

Ditty bag and contents

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

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

Zwilling nail clipper in use

Zwilling nail clipper in use

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

0.6463

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

0.6453

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

8.2050.B1

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

8.2055.CB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The six choices in nail clipper covered in this blog

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

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

Gerber Vice and Splice, two affordable keychain multi-tools

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

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

Gerber Vice and Gerber Splice sizes compared with Leatherman Squirt S4

Gerber Vice and Gerber Splice sizes compared with Leatherman Squirt S4

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

“Designed and engineered in Oregon… made in China”

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

Gerber Vice

Gerber Vice

Main jaw tools:

Gerber Vice tools

Gerber Vice tools

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

Gerber Splice

Gerber Splice

Gerber Splice tools

Gerber Splice tools

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

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

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

Other features:

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

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

Excellent bottle opener but difficult to open

Rubbish and small files are included on both multi-tools

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

Tools:

Small screwdriver is poorly finished and suffers from rounded corners

Small screwdriver is poorly finished and suffers from rounded corners

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

Serrated blade and bottle opener are indicated visually on both tools

Dimensions:

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

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

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

Gerber Vice in the hand

Gerber Vice in the hand

In conclusion:

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

Gerber Splice in the hand

Gerber Splice in the hand

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

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

Plier jaws on Gerber Vice only meet at the tips

Plier jaws on Gerber Vice only meet at the tips

 

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. These 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.

safari trooper poster, cropped

Knife chat: Victorinox 108mm German Army Knife and Safari derivatives

Victorinox German Army Knife and Safari Hunter

108mm Victorinox German Army Knife and slightly better equipped Safari Hunter

Three Points of the Compass has written before about his old British Army Knife found  languishing at the back of a drawer. Another knife provided to the armed forces offers a different tool set and is possibly of more practical use to a hiker, backpacker or those drawn to bush-crafting. This is the 108mm long Victorinox German Army Knife. It is especially suited to those who use a small wood stove to heat water or cook with on trail. Note that I am not referring here to the larger and heavier Victorinox model supplied to the German Army that replaced it in 2003.

Original 108mm Victorinox German Army Knife and the one-handed opening 111mm version that replaced it in 2003

Original 108mm Victorinox German Army Knife above and the 126.1g, one-handed opening, 111mm version that replaced it in 2003 below

The original 108mm German Army Knife, and the Safari series derived from them, have a number of special features not found elsewhere within the Victorinox stable that make them both interesting and practical. It is a peculiar series and Victorinox did not elaborate on the design much beyond those mentioned here. Sadly, the company has now discontinued the 108mm series but most of the quite small range can still be found on the second hand market.

Victorinox German Army Knife- second generation, with nail file

Victorinox German Army Knife (GAK)- with olive green nylon scales. 108mm two layer knife  featuring a large blade, combination tool- with woodsaw, can opener and flat screwdriver. This is the second generation with a nail file on the combo tool. Back tools are corkscrew and awl/reamer

The German Army Knife carries the German Eagle on one scale. The civilian version had a blank space where a name could be inserted

The German Army Knife carries the German Eagle on one scale. The civilian Trooper version above has a blank space where a name could be inserted

The 84.9g German Army Knife, or GAK, was produced in its millions, by both Victorinox and other manufacturers. The specifications for the army knife were laid out by the German military in the 1970s and Victorinox was initially awarded the contract. There were many other manufacturers of the knife over its lifespan however and some twenty other makes have been identified.

Some people have rated the versions of German Army Knife made by Klaas, Adler and Aitor as being almost of comparable quality. Other makes of the knife have received scathing reviews. If you have any doubts, simply look for the Victorinox version, with Victorinox tang stamp, these are of uniformly high quality though some may have had a hard life before finding their way on to the second-hand market.

Unfortunately there have also been some cheap, fake knock-offs produced since production of the originals ceased and whereas the construction and material quality of the original and authentic produce is pretty high across most of the authentic suppliers, the cheaper fakes are of dubious quality- caveat emptor!

Victorinox Trooper (civilian version of GAK) – olive green nylon scales. Two layer knife. (Victorinox designation:0.87 70.04). Large blade, combo tool- woodsaw, can opener, screwdriver. Back tools- corkscrew, awl

Victorinox Trooper (civilian version of GAK) – olive green nylon scales. Two layer knife. (Victorinox designation: 0.87 70.04). Large blade, combo tool- woodsaw, can opener, screwdriver. Back tools- corkscrew, awl/reamer. Note that there is no nail file on this civilian version. Red scaled civilian versions of the original German Army Knife are more common

So popular was the German Army Knife that a civilian version was later released by Victorinox. With the same olive drab nylon scheme (what Victorinox termed a ‘military’ handle) but no German Eagle on the scales, this was known as the Trooper. I have no idea why but my one comes in just a tad heavier than the actual GAK on which it is based, weighing 87.1g, including 1.4g saw guard. Another variant has ‘NATO’ on one nylon scale and is known as the Nato Trooper. Also released with red nylon scales, the knife was then called the Safari or Safari Trooper. You will frequently see these names interchanged or combined with no heed as to scale colour. These were all two layer knives. Such was their success that Victorinox tweaked the features and released one and three layer 108mm variants. Some of these are shown below.

Specifications

The 108mm German Army Knife was the first released by Victorinox with textured nylon scales, these are not only robust but also provide good grip. The use of nylon scales was an unusual step for Victorinox and the first time that they had used this material. The size of handle is good in the hand and not at all fiddly, it can be held with confidence and in comfort. One specification made by the army was that all tools open in the same direction, away from the lanyard hole, creating another Victorinox oddity however they all feel very natural to use in this manner. No key ring or shackle was fitted by the manufacturer on any of these knives other than on a few of the uncommon Fireman model.

Heavy duty folding blade with lots of belly found on the original 108mm German Army Knife

Heavy duty folding blade, with good usable length, found on the original 108mm German Army Knife

All of the 108mm variants have an 84mm long spear blade. This is a good size blade with lots of belly and a 75mm cutting edge. Victorinox advertised this as a ‘double thickness jumbo size’ blade

The peculiar Victorinox combination tool that appeared on the German Army Knife and Safari derivative

The peculiar Victorinox combination tool and saw guard that appeared on the German Army Knife and Safari derivative

The combo-tool is a combination of an efficient woodsaw with a flat screwdriver tip and can opener/bottle opener at the end. The woodsaw, that cuts on the ‘pull’ stroke, was frequently covered with a removable, light (1.4g), folded tin blade guard that protects the hand when opening cans/bottles etc. A nail file was added circa 1985 to the combo-tool, this created a second-generation German Army Knife (GAK 2). This file can also be used for striking matches.

Combination tool with and without nailfile

Combination tool with and without nailfile

Mini Victorinox flat tip screwdriver stores easily and neatly on a corkscrew

Mini Victorinox flat tip screwdriver stores easily and neatly on a corkscrew

The five turn corkscrew is longer than is normal with most Victorinox knives. A corkscrew is largely superfluous these days, especially with the growing prevalence of screw-top bottles of wine. A corkscrew was included on the original Victorinox Officer’s Knife in 1897. I find a corkscrew of more use these days for loosening knots in cordage. Beside that, it is a handy place to store one of the micro Victorinox screwdrivers that are so useful for tightening the screws on my glasses.

Long awl/reamer found on German Army Knife

Long awl/reamer found on German Army Knife

The German Army Knife has a 50mm awl/reamer with a wickedly sharp 40mm edge. This is longer than the awls found on most other Victorinox knives and will puncture cordura, trail shoes and boots for repair or leather belts with ease. Opening centrally on the handle it can be grasped and twisted into whatever it is puncturing with little danger to the person holding it. The only thing that would make it better, and I do wish it had one, is a sewing eye.

Different manufacturers, different finishes, varying quality

Different manufacturers, different finishes, varying quality. Mil-Tec made original knives ‘back in the day’ but more recently have switched to poorer quality reproductions.

A further variant on the Safari Trooper is a three layer knife that has a clip-point blade added between spear blade and combo-tool. This was made with olive green scales for the Mauser company (around 240,000 units) and had the weapon manufacturer’s name on the additional blade and side of scale. A similar and very rare (4972 units) version of this extended version was also produced for the Walther company which had black scales.

The two-layer 77.4g Safari Pathfinder is a simplified version of the civilian equivalent to the second generation German Army Knife. As with the first generation GAK, there is no nail file (or match striker) on the combo-tool. However the back tools are excluded. There is no awl/reamer or corkscrew. So it makes for a good, compact tool that retains considerable functionality.

108mm Victorinox Safari Pathfinder (8750)- red nylon scales. Two layer knife. (designation: 0.87 50). Large blade, combo tool- woodsaw, can opener, screwdriver. There are no tools in the scales, as usual with military knives and their derivatives

108mm Victorinox Safari Pathfinder- red nylon scales. Two layer knife. (designation: 0. 8750). Large blade, combo tool- woodsaw, can opener, screwdriver and no back tools. There are no tools in the scales, as is usual with military knives and their derivatives

Victorinox Hunter, showing gutting blade

Victorinox Hunter showing gutting blade, part opened below main blade. Note that the saw is folded away here

A heavier option is the three layer 112.3g Safari Hunter that adds another blade to the Safari Trooper. This is a special curved gutting blade, equally useful for slicing vegetables and fruit in the hand. The rounded tip to the gutting blade (69mm cutting edge) makes it safer to use where there is a risk of stabbing someone, perhaps cutting off seatbelts, pack strap or clothing in the event of accident or trauma etc.

The gutting blade on the Safari Hunter was also made available with a serrated edge on the uncommon (2380 units) Fireman version. This featured crossed fireman’s axes behind the Swiss Cross logo on the scale. The fully serrated blade on this variant was intended for emergency cutting of seat belts etc. This ’emergency’ blade was also fitted to other larger knives later produced by Victorinox.

1978 safari trooper poster, also showing the stag handled model

1978 safari trooper poster, also showing the stag handled model

The  Hunter was alternatively available with real Stag antler scales (0.8780.66), later replaced by imitation antler (0.8780.06). I have never been a fan of these scales and have not sought one out. The real stag handled versions are quite uncommon, probably less than a thousand units, and may have been a trial or premium offering before the company switched to large volume production with imitation material.

The 1978 advertisement shown here illustrates just some of the range of 108mm knives on general sale to the public at that time. Presumably the less well-equipped Solo and Pathfinder didn’t find much favour with the hunting or ‘sportsmen’ fraternity.

108mm Victorinox Safari Hunter (8780)- red nylon scales. Three layer knife. (designation: 0.87 80). Large blade, gutting blade, combo tool- woodsaw, can opener, screwdriver, no nail file. Back tools- corkscrew, awl

108mm Victorinox Safari Hunter (designation: 0.8780)- red nylon scales. Three layer knife. Large blade, gutting blade, combo tool- woodsaw, can opener, screwdriver, no nail file. Back tools- corkscrew, awl/reamer

If the 112.3g Hunter is amongst the heaviest of Safari options, then the single layer 50.4g Solo is the lightest and simplest variant in the 108mm range. You couldn’t get any simpler. It just has the large single blade. If this is all you require, a blade, and no extras that make it into a multi-tool, then this is a comfortable, well sized option. This size of knife fits well in my hands and provides a blade of usable size with no great weight penalty. There was also a 52.5g Solo Plus variant (US designation- 53843) that had a corkscrew as a back tool (no awl). This last knife was originally called the Adventurer (0.8710).

Extremely rare (fifty units) was the two-layer Swiss shArK released in February 2011. This combines the tools of the Solo Plus with an extra blade- a serrated edge blade with rounded tip. The odd name is etched onto the main blade. Three Points of the Compass doubts he will ever see an example of this 81.3g knife, which is  shame as it looks a great combination. Though it would be even better if the corkscrew were exchanged for the reamer.

Victorinox Solo- red nylon scales. One layer knife. large blade, no back tools

108mm Victorinox Solo- red nylon scales. One layer knife with large blade and no back tools

So, in summary, the Victorinox 108mm range is a small yet interesting range of knives and provides just enough tools to be useful in the backcountry. No scissors, which is a game changer for many, and the knives often include a corkscrew, which is of decreasing practical use these days. However these knives remain a favourite of Three Points of the Compass if seldom actually taken on trail. I much prefer one of the smaller 58mm range from Victorinox or a Leatherman keychain tool, especially for longer hikes.

Some of the interesting ranger of 108mm knives from Victorinox

Some of the interesting range of 108mm knives from Victorinox. With either one, two or three layers. Top to bottom: Safari Solo, Safari Hunter, Safari Pathfinder, Safari Trooper, German Army Knife second generation

Many genuine Victorinox versions of the original 108mm German Army Knife and some of the latter variants are still available at reasonable prices second hand and are worth snapping up while you still can. Be aware that some of the more uncommon variants may be more difficult to track down and a premium price may be asked.

Victorinox German Army Knife and Safari derivatives

Victorinox German Army Knife and Safari derivatives

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 series

Knife chat: Leatherman keychain tools- Style series

A small series of mini multi-tools with style…

Leatherman Style series

Leatherman Style CS

Leatherman Style CS

In 2010 Leatherman shrunk their full size Skeletool (originally released in 2007) and produced the Style CS. Unfortunately, while the larger Skeletool came with two blade options, either 420 High Carbon stainless steel or the better quality 154 CM stainless steel, to which molybdenum had been added. The Style CS continued to be available, as did the other key-chain options, with the perfectly functional but lesser 420 HC steel. This tool has a great pair of scissors, much better than the smaller scissors found on its cousins. So successful is the tool set that despite the quite similarly provisioned Micra, it is still manufactured today.

Leatherman Style

Leatherman Style

Also in 2010, Leatherman introduced a very small tool simply called a Style. It was basically half of a Style CS, and was very much aimed at the Victorinox Classic camp with holy trinity of blade, scissors and nail file, plus tweezers.The tool proved to be a bit fiddly, and the nail nick locations only exacerbated the situation. Consequently, this tool enjoyed only a short production run of four years and is now discontinued. Mine is a 2011 model. It came in 4 anodized colours. Red, Black, Pink, and Blue. Of interest to the collector is a special pink Style with the breast cancer ribbon on both blade and scale. This was one of a series of 3 tools to promote breast cancer awareness, which Leatherman called their Pink Program.

Black scale version of the Leatherman Style, to be honest, it is a tad boring

Black scale version of the Leatherman Style, to be honest, it is a tad boring

Leatherman Style PS

Leatherman Style PS

While the Style CS had sprung loaded scissors for the end jaws, in 2011 consumers were offered an alternative when the Style PS was released. The Style PS has pliers for its jaws and a smaller pair of scissors in the handle. The Style PS has no blade so supposedly can be taken through airport security, though I wouldn’t like to risk losing a tool to an over eager or cautious official. Again, so popular is this tool that it is still available new today.

A welcome brew on the Cleveland Way, 2019

A welcome brew on the Cleveland Way, 2019

The carabiner on the Style CS and PS can be used for clipping the tool on to a belt or pack strap, though I don’t like doing that. There is a good chance it will come adrift and get lost on trail, there are actually few times you require to use it during a hike, it is of more use at halts or end of day. By keeping it within the pack you are also keeping the trail funk out of the tool- dust, debris, bugs and rain.

I have also, though very infrequently, used the carabiner to hold a particular bit tip from the wider Leatherman bit kit. Be warned however, it is not designed to handle this and won’t take a lot of torque.

However the carabiner is a pretty effective bottle opener should a bottle of beer come your way…

There is only the one screwdriver tip option on each of the Style series. If you have aparticualr piece of kit with you that requires a specialised bit tip, one option, that will only handle light work, is to pack along one of the little bits that Leatherman provide as part of their 'bit kit'

There is only the one screwdriver tip option on each of the Style series. If you have a particular piece of kit with you that requires a specialised bit tip, one option, that will only handle light work, is to pack along one of the little bits that Leatherman provide as part of their ‘bit kit’

Tweezers

Tweezers are found in six of the nine Leatherman keychain tools, those on the Squirt S4, E4 and Style are the most easily removed. While all of the Style series feature removable tweezers. Those in the scale on the Style PS and CS are notoriously difficult to extract while those on the Style are not only easier to pull out but have a better angled design of tip. The Style and Squirt S4/E4 share similar shaped tweezers apart from the angle of the nail nick and angle of the tweezer tip being the opposite to each other!

Tweezers in Style PS and CS are tucked away in the scale. They can be surprisingly difficult to extract

Tweezers in Style PS and CS are tucked away in the scale. They can be surprisingly difficult to extract

The tweezers on the Micra are entirely different. They are permanently fixed to the tool and flip out for use. There is no chance of losing them yet I find them awkward to use, particularly as they have no angled tip. I don’t like them though I am sure these thin tweezers have their fans. If the tweezers in the Style series were all easy to extract, they would probably be my second favourite due to their size and angled tip. The more angled tip to the tweezers in the Squirt S4 and E4 are better for extracting thorns etc.

Tips of tweezers compared

Tips of tweezers compared. Left: from Style CS and Style PS, centre; from Squirt S4, right: Micra

The next blog will look at making a final choice from the small yet surprisingly different range of Leatherman keychain tools.

Beyond scale colour, there are few options within the Style range, however Leatherman have switched around the blades a little and a small range of inclsion, or not, of holes in the blade and nail nick size and position can be found

Beyond scale colour, there are few options within the Style range, however Leatherman have switched around the blades a little and a small range of inclusion, or not, of holes in the blade and nail nick size and position can be found

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

Leatherman Squirt series

Knife chat: Leatherman keychain tools- Squirt series

Leatherman Squirt series

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

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

The first Squirt series

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

Leatherman Squirt S4

Leatherman Squirt S4

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

Leatherman Squirt P4

Leatherman Squirt P4

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

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

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

Leatherman Squirt E4

Leatherman Squirt E4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The second Squirt series

Leatherman Squirt PS4

Leatherman Squirt PS4

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

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

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

Leatherman Squirt ES4

Leatherman Squirt ES4

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

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

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

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

Nail files compared

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

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

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