Tag Archives: leatherman

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.

Ditty bag contents in 2020

Gear talk: ditty bag contents

On longer lonelier trails, with habitation potentially days away, a handful of carefully thought out simple and lightweight pieces of gear can solve a problem, make life a little more comfortable, or even prevent injury or worse

On longer lonelier trails, with habitation potentially days away, a handful of carefully thought out simple and lightweight pieces of gear can solve a problem, make life a little more comfortable, or even prevent injury or worse, photographed Scottish Highlands

It is a number of years since I showed the contents of my hiking ditty bag. That place where I keep this ‘n’ that, bits ‘n’ pieces, spare stuff, repair stuff, essential stuff, non-essential stuff and ‘where the hell else can I keep this?’ stuff while on trail.

Ditty bag

Ditty bag

I am not going to delve much into weights here. These contents are the type of thing that is personal to everyone. What I show here is pretty lightweight and what I have evolved to what I like to have with me. Every single item listed here has been used by myself on trail but I am more than aware that many would not even bother to pack along the type of things I do, fine.

Quilt cords and line

Quilt cords and line

Three lengths of cordage are packed in the ditty bag. The two yellow lengths are quilt cords for me to attach my Katabatic quilt to the pad on colder or draughtier nights.

Quilt cord used to hand food bag away from rodents in bothy on South West Coast Path

Quilt cord used to hand food bag away from rodents in bothy on South West Coast Path

It is seldom that these have to be used as my quilt is wide enough to tuck around the small of my back etc if there is a lazy breeze working through my Duplex shelter. I usually have a door or two on the shelter open at night to keep down condensation and give me a view outside. The cords are occasionally used around the pad in shoulder seasons and in winter. One of the cords has had to do double duty on a particularly long hike a couple of years back- over two thousand miles I lost so much weight that my non-elasticated town trousers, with no waist draw cord, were so loose that I had to tie them up to prevent them falling down.

I have also used one of the cords as a rough and ready way of measuring a distance on a paper map. Simply flex the cord around the bends and turns and trails of tomorrows path, pinch where you get to between finger and thumb, then measure off against the scale at the base of the map. Old school, but easy and reasonably accurate.

Quick and easy attachment method for thin drying line. Can also be used as an extra guy

Quick and easy attachment method for thin drying line. Can also be used as an extra guy

The 6g of green cord shown is usually used as a washing line, often strung between shelter and whatever is nearest. My hiking shirt is often sweat soaked at the end of a day’s hike. I will also try and wash or at least rinse skiddies and socks each evening.

300lb breaking strain braided line. A lifetimes backpacking supply

A lifetimes backpacking supply of line

The green cord is actually 10 metres of tough and thin braided fishing line with a 300lb breaking strain. Really slippery stuff, I could use a knot but tend to rely on a couple of little plastic ‘thingies’ slid on, to which the line is simply returned and wound around a couple of times. This holds it securely.

Gear drying on final day of The Ridgeway. Town Farm campsite, below Ivinghoe Beacon 2016

Gear drying on final day of The Ridgeway. Town Farm campsite, below Ivinghoe Beacon 2016

On a five mile hike in 2018 Three Points of the Compass lost so much weight that town trousers became too loose to wear and had to be cinched up with a quilt cord to prevent offending sensibilities

On a five month hike in 2018 Three Points of the Compass lost so much weight that town trousers became too loose to wear and had to be cinched up with a quilt cord to avoid offending sensibilities

Peaty brown water may look unpalatable but is fine to drink, particularly after the addition of a couple of chemical sterilisation tablets. Sandwood Bay, Sutherland, NW Scotland

Peaty brown water may look unpalatable but is fine to drink, particularly after the addition of a couple of chemical sterilisation tablets. Sandwood Bay, Sutherland, NW Scotland

I use a Katadyn BeFree water filter on trail. I touched on that in a recent post looking at my hydration set-up. But, accidents and loss of filter can occur, so I also pack along a half-dozen or so chemical water treatment tablets. These are Chlorine Dioxide, each tablet will treat a litre of water.

It is not often that I chemically treat water, preferring to filter. But it is a fool that doesn’t try to look to ensuring that water is safe to drink. Regardless of stomach upsets that may occur, there is growing incidences of viruses in our water supplies and the former reliance of a ‘cast-iron’ stomach wont cut it today.

The orange items are ear plugs. Some hostels and bothies, and close camped pitches too, can get pretty noisy with snorers. I confess to hating using these but they are included for last, desperate, resort. These are kept clean in a small baggie.

Ear plugs can also be helpful in trying to get a good nights kip when the wind is blowing and the tent is rattling and flapping like a good ‘un. Though I tend to just pull a beenie further down over my ears instead.

Infrequently required

Emergency water treatment and ear plugs. Infrequently required but extremely useful on occasion

Another tiny baggie keeps a plethora of little ‘stuff’. My sewing kit comprises two needles; a No. 7 embroidery/crewel needle (that has occasionally been pulled into blister duty) and a large eye No. 18 chenille needle. These are kept in a small plastic tube with end caps, along with a trimmed needle threader and a back-up pen. I say pen, this is one of the tiny 1g pressurised pens that pops into a 58mm Victorinox knife scale.

Small stuff

Small stuff

The remainder of my sewing kit comprises a single medium sized button and around five metres of black Gütermann Extra-strong polyester thread on a 0.4g bobbin. I have overdone the sewing kit in the past but am happy with what I have pared down to. The larger chenille needle will still handle tougher fabrics that will shrug off the No. 7 embroidery needle.

On longer hikes, some damage and wear to clothes and gear will occur. Sewing the crotch of my shorts midway along the Cape Wrath Trail

A sterilised needle passed through a blister and the thread left behind, stops the holes closing up and enables the blister to drain overnight, a bit of tape over the blister the following day enables a hike to continue almost pain free, provided the problem that caused it has been dealt with

The needle and thread can also be used for work on any blisters, though I seldom suffer from these there has still been the combination of events that has led to problems. I think the last time was walking through the surf on sloping beach shingle for more miles that I would have preferred to. Catching it way too late to tape over, the sodden skin had become loose and hot. Increasingly I find I am having to assist fellow hikers as few seem to have any clue how to prevent blisters, deal with them, or carry anything with which to treat them.

I carry a little P-38 tin opener, not often used, but if I have an infrequent opportunity of finding a tin of food that lacks a ring pull, I want to get into it. I have learnt my mistake on this, and for the sake of 4.5g, I’ll continue to pack it along now.

Bobby pin being used to hand a washed Darn Tuff sock at tent door to allow it to dry

Bobby pin being used to hang a washed Darn Tuff sock at tent door to allow it to dry. Another sock hangs from the other door

Two bobby pins are used as simple clothes pegs. They work adequately well. Also tucked in to my ditty bag is a spare o-ring for my BRS-3000T stove. If that were lost or damaged and I have no spare, it is goodbye to hot meals and drinks for the remainder of my walk. My final item carried is a spare type 400 bottle cap (shallow, one thread turn).

Three Points of the Compass carries a small knife or multi-tool on trail. For many years I have favoured the key-chain sized Leatherman Squirt S4 because the selection of tools on this is almost exactly what I want. Usually, the only tools I require are scissors, modest blade, small screwdriver for my glasses, nailfile and a bottle opener on occasion. Just occasionally I have required a screwdriver to fix a stove or trekking poles. The S4 is now discontinued though it has been replaced with others in the Leatherman line up. If I am not carrying this I am invariably carrying one of the terrific little 58mm Victorinox tools.

However I am currently looking at returning to what I used when I first started off backpacking decades ago, taking separate dedicated tools. More on that in a future post.

Leatherman Squirt S4 multi-tool

Leatherman Squirt S4 multi-tool

I carry a little wallet. I am on my third of these as zips do fail and they hole quite often. They have varied in material from X-Pac to 70D Liteskin to my current which is DCF Cuben Fiber. These are all simple zippered pouches containing travel/bus/train tickets (and Gold discount card if necessary), house key (and British Waterways water key on occasion), cash and a variety of cards- I probably carry more cards than most as I like to visit places on my trails and you never know what you may unexpectedly happen upon. Current cards are YHA membership, English Heritage, Museums Association membership and bank card.

Wallet and contents

Wallet and contents

A squirt of gel super glue kept a trail shoe that was coming apart from progressing further

A squirt of gel super glue kept a trail shoe that was coming apart from progressing further

Another baggie contains repair tape. This varies according to length of trail but is currently a 11cm x 7.5cm rectangle of clear tenacious tape, 10.5cm x 8cm rectangle of clear DCF (Dyneema Composite Fabric) repair tape, 30cm thin strip of camo DCF repair tape, that matches my shelter, and a single square of Thermarest fabric repair patch for my sleeping mat. On occasion I have added some self adhesive hook and loop velcro.

Like many others, I keep a few turns of duct or Gorilla tape around the shafts of my trekking poles. This gets changed out each season.

I also include a tiny 1g tube of super glue gel. I have tried the 0.5g tubes but they do not include enough to effect most repairs and the larger tubes contain too much. I also find the gel easier to control than the runny glue. At a pinch, this could also be used for skin repair in the event of a particularly bad injury.

Repair tape and glue

Repair tape and glue

Disaster averted. When a guy pulled out on my shelter, leaving a large hole in the side, it was only having a large patch of adhesive repair cuben tape that prevetned a series of damp nights following. Offas Dyke Path

Disaster averted. When a guy pulled out on my shelter, leaving a large hole in the side, it was only having a large patch of adhesive repair DCF tape that prevented a series of damp nights following. Offas Dyke Path

The small journal that Three Points of the Compass carries will vary according the to the length of trail, but is always pretty small

The small journal that Three Points of the Compass carries will vary according to the length of trail, but is always pretty small

Three Points of the Compass seems to be amongst a declining number of hikers who still likes to keep a written journal. Most people simply record their memories on their phone, if at all. Size of journal varies according to how long a trail is, but it is usually a modest sized journal that will be filed away on my shelf back home, dedicated to that trail and those memories. It takes dedication to fill out a days record each evening, and I have skipped days when simply too tired or finishing late. I will also have a hostel or museum stamp a page, ask people to write their contact details on occasion, record train and bus times. Phone numbers for hostels, draw small town maps on exactly how to find a place. Record insects, birds and animals seen, tuck in receipts, feathers. I have even glued in volcanic dust from the trail. On occasion, I will sketch a church, a sea stack or the view before me. To accompany the journal, I have a simple pen.

Fire kit in baggie

Fire kit in baggie

In the shoulder months and winter I also include a small emergency fire kit. This contains just a small selection of items that may get me out of a sticky situation. I used to also carry this in summer months when carrying an alcohol/meths set-up as I would then also have the ability to set up for wood burning for cooking. However the past couple of years have seen some extraordinarily dry periods with bans on both open and meths cooking in favour of a cooking set-up that allows for it to be instantly extinguished, which means gas. So I find that I am now using a gas set-up for the majority of my backpacking excursions these days.

The simple and minimal contents of my fire kit include tinder and matches

The simple and minimal contents of my fire kit include three Tinder-Quik fire starters, a little tinder, Lifeboat or stormproof matches, with sealed match strike card, and a minute ferrocerium rod

These are the contents of the ditty bag being carried by Three Points of the Compass in 2020, not that any of us are getting out much in this coronavirus year. I used to include a spare pair of glasses in this but I now pack them deep within my clothes bag for added protection.

The ditty bag will no doubt continue to evolve in the future, though I suspect little will change much. My next post looking at the smaller pouches and bags carried on my backpacking trips will peek inside my hygiene pouch/wash kit.

A notebook forms an important part of the contents of my ditty bag. A scrappy sketch of High Cup Nick on the Pennine Way in 2018 takes me back to the moment I made it, above, the carefully scrawled name of the little girl who spent that night in Gregs Hut with her father and me, reminds of Lexi's overwhelming excitement at toasting marshmallows that night

A notebook forms an important part of the contents of my ditty bag. A scrappy sketch of High Cup Nick on the Pennine Way in 2018 takes me back to the moment I drew it. Above, the carefully scrawled name of the little girl who spent that night in Gregs Hut bothy with her father and me, reminds me of Lexi’s overwhelming excitement at toasting marshmallows that night with ‘daddy’

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.

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

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

Making a final choice…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tool Micra Squirt P4 Squirt S4 Squirt E4 Squirt PS4 Squirt ES4 Style Style CS Style PS
Needlenose pliers X X X X X
Pliers X X X
Scissors- full size X X X
Scissors- small X X X X
Straight knife blade X X X X X X X X
Wire cutters X X X X X
Extra small screwdriver X X X X Flat Phillips will handle small ‘eyeglass’ screws Flat Phillips will handle small ‘eyeglass’ screws Flat Phillips will handle small ‘eyeglass’ screws Flat Phillips will handle small ‘eyeglass’ screws Flat Phillips will handle small ‘eyeglass’ screws
Medium screwdriver X X X X X
Small flat Phillips X X X X X X X X
Phillips X
Wood/metal file X X X X
Nail file / cleaner X X X X X
Bottle opener X X X X X X X X
Tweezers- Fixed X
Tweezers- Removable X X X X X
Ruler X X
Awl X
Wire strippers- 20GA, 18GA, 16GA, 14GA, 12GA X X
Keyring attachment X X X X X X X
Carabiner X X
While you may not choose to carry one of the small Leatherman multi-tools as part of your hiking gear, they make great EDC items. Whichever you may purchase, one of the X-small leather Heritage sheaths produced by Leatherman to celebrate their 35th birthday in 2018 makes a great holder

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

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

Weights and dimensions of the Leatherman keychain multi-tools
Micra Micra- with added aluminum scales Squirt S4 Squirt P4 Squirt E4 Squirt PS4 Squirt ES4 Style Style CS Style PS
Production dates 1996-Present ?- present 2002-2010 2002-2010 2003-2010 2010-present 2010-present 2010-2014 2010-present 2011-present
Maximum length (including keyring if present) x width (when closed) x thickness (across scale screws) 66mm

X

19.25mm

X

12.40mm

66mm

X

31.25mm

X

13mm

60mm

X

20.55mm

X

13.60mm

60mm

X

20.65mm

X

13.70mm

60mm

X

20.60mm

X

13.70mm

60mm

X

19.65mm

X

13.80mm

60mm

X

20.80mm

X

14.00mm

59mm

X

10.80mm

X

12.40mm

76mm

X

20.60mm

X

10.45mm

76mm

X

20.60mm

X

10.50mm

Weight 49.9g 55g 52.3g 55.3g 53.5g 56.9g 54.3g 23.1g 41.7g 44.9g

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

Leatherman 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.

Leatherman Micra

Knife chat- Leatherman keychain tools- Micra

Not a personal favourite…

Leatherman Micra

Leatherman Micra

Leatherman Micra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leatherman Style CS and Leatherman Micra

Knife chat: Leatherman keychain multi-tools: which is best for hiking?

A choice of nine keychain multi-tools…

Three Points of the Compass likes to carry a knife on trail. This is most often used for food preparation. However I have found that the most useful tool by far is a pair of scissors. I have used these for trimming nails and skin, cutting plasters, bandages and gauze, opening packages, Mountain House and a myriad of other tasks. These are the two tools I want with me on any folding knife or multi-tool when backpacking. Any other tool is a bonus. That said, if I am not going to simply take a Victorinox Classic SD with me, then whatever tools are on a multi-tool, have to add something that the Victorinox doesn’t deliver. I look here at what the smallest of Leatherman keychain tools has to offer the hiker.

The ditty bag/repair kit that Three Points of the Compass carried on the Cape Wrath Trail in 2018. A Leatherman keychain multi-tool formed a vital component of this

The ditty bag/repair kit that Three Points of the Compass carried on the Cape Wrath Trail in 2018. A Leatherman keychain multi-tool formed a vital component of this

Various Swiss Army Knives have proved themselves fantastic for taking hiking, others less so. I am also a big fan of the small ‘keychain’ multi-tools produced by USA company Leatherman over the years. Some have been carried on my backpacking trips and I liked, and again, others less so. There is one little Leatherman in particular that is usually stuffed into my ditty bag or First Aid Kit and has been carried with me for thousands of trail miles. I’ll come to which one in a later blog in this series. But I thought I would spend some time here looking at some of the very small multi-tools produced by Leatherman over the years that incorporate both my desired scissors and blade. Particularly as some of these models are now discontinued and beginning to get harder to find.

History

Leatherman began making multi-tools in 1983 when it released the PST (Pocket Survival Tool). At their release Three Points of the Compass looked at these new offerings in the outdoor gear shops and wondered why anyone would ever want a pair of pliers on their knife. Having purchased one out of curiosity, it subsequently got me out of a fix on many an occasion, but only at work, it was never taken with me when hiking as it was simply too large and heavy.

Just three years later, in 1986, Leatherman shrunk their tools and released a new smaller model, that was the MiniTool (in production until 2004). However that had no scissors and at 114g was no keychain tool, it didn’t even have a ring for attaching it to anything. It was what it was named- a mini tool, with fold handles to make it full size. I actually purchased one when they were released and worked it into the ground, another of my multi-tools that never survived the years.

Leatherman have released a huge variety of tools over the years, they continue to do so, always seeking out another niche market or tweaking existing tools for the collector market. In 1996 they released the first of their keychain multi-tools. This was the Micra. So popular and successful was it that it is still manufactured today. On the back of this popular product, Leatherman went on to release another eight keychain models, the most recent in 2011. At the time of writing (2019), five of the keychain tools are still manufactured new and are available for purchase. The retired models can still be picked up on the second hand market, though one or two are beginning to get scarce.

The nine keychain sized multi-tools released by Leatherman

The nine keychain sized multi-tools released by Leatherman

Nine Leatherman keychain tools- the Micra, Squirt and Style series

There have been nine key-chain tools released by Leatherman over the years. All but one, the Squirt E4, would make a great little multi-tool for taking on trail. The intended user of the E4 is not me, it being aimed more as a pocket tool for electricians. The tool was produced in much smaller numbers and is now quite difficult to find. Despite owning one I am not a great fan of it and any of the remaining eight keychain tools would make a better choice for taking on trail.

Below, I cover the primary tools- scissors, blade and pliers and subsequent blogs over the next few days will look at some of the more specialised tools built into the various tool ranges.

Small Leatherman scissors compared with those on Victorinox Classic

Small Leatherman Style scissors on the left compared with those on Victorinox Classic

Scissors

There are seven tools with scissors in the range of Leatherman keychain multi-tools, These are the Micra, three in the Squirt series and two in the Style series. All seven are shown below. There are two major differences in these scissors.

Three tools have quite large, reasonably powerful and efficient spring-loaded scissors, using cams and back-springs, as their jaws when the tools are unfolded. The scissors on the Micra are a very slightly different form to those on the Style CS and Squirt S4, more akin to the scissors found on Swiss Army Knives, however all three are equally efficient at cutting.

The remaining four have small scissors, akin to those on the Victorinox Classic, that are accessed from the back of the multi-tool when still closed. Each of have a captive torsion spring, though to a lesser efficiency than their spring loaded larger cousins. The scissors can be opened wide to enable resharpening. The springs on these smaller Leathermans are more robust than the scissors found on small Victorinox multi-tools such as the ubiquitous Classic. They will still break though, especially if put to too heavy a task. Leatherman will fix these under their excellent warranty. The remaining two keychain tools, the Squirt E4 and P4, do not have any scissors.

Leatherman scissors compared. Top row: Leatherman Style CS, Squirt S4, Micra. Bottom row: Leatherman Style, Squirt ES4, Squirt PS4, Style PS

Scissors compared. Top row: Leatherman Style CS, Squirt S4, Micra. Bottom row: Leatherman Style, Squirt ES4, Squirt PS4, Style PS. The Squirt E4 and P4 do not have scissors

Blade

Eight of the Leatherman keychain tools have blades, the Style PS is the exception. In theory, this means that the Style PS can be taken through airport security. There are many accounts of this tool being confiscated however so I wouldn’t recommend it.

Blades are made from 420HC stainless steel, chisel cut, which can annoy some users but I have never had any trouble with them. They come with a good edge from new and can easily be sharpened. The steel will retain an edge for some time. I do wish Leatherman had produced an option of 154CM steel as they have on some of their other, larger tools.

Blade length is 41mm (1.6″) however not all of this is usable length. Flat cutting length is only some 27mm (a little over an inch) however there is another 10mm or so of curved bade beyond this. It is usually imminently sufficient for most tasks while hiking or around camp. Note that this is all very easily within UK legal requirements but as is now usual, you are never going to be allowed to fly with this.

Short chisel cut blade

Close up of the short chisel cut blade on Squirt PS4. This is 420 HC stainless steel

Most blades are of approximately similar depth though this will alter slightly over time as they are periodically sharpened. My Style CS is 8.45mm while my Style is 9.15mm at widest depth reflecting the greater use and consequent sharpening of the former. The slight notch at the base of each blade varies slightly in depth, being most pronounced on the Style and Squirt S4 where it can most effectively be used as a thin wire bender or possibly wire stripper.

Because of their small size, food can gunge up one of these tools pretty easy, especially the holes in the blade on the Style range. Leatherman CS in use on the Tabular Hills, 2019

Because of their small size, food can gunge up one of these tools pretty easy, especially the holes in the blade on the Style range. Leatherman CS in use on the Tabular Hills Walk, Autumn 2019

The size and nail nicks on the blades varies a surprising amount. The holes on the blades in the Style series are there for aesthetic reasons only. Food, especially cheese, gets stuck in the holes and the nail nicks were moved down the blade to accompany them, to the tools detriment as the blades are consequently harder to open as a result. More recently it appears that Leatherman have begun to put standard blades into the Style, this is a welcome change.

Small Leatherman blades compared. From left to right: Style, Style CS, Squirt P4, Squirt S4, Squirt ES4, Squirt PS4, Micra

Small Leatherman blades compared. From left to right: Style, Style CS, Squirt P4, Squirt S4, Squirt ES4, Squirt PS4, Micra. Only apparent differences are minor styling on the Style blades, size and position of nail nicks, and a slight drop point to the Micra blade. All are made of the same quality 420HC stainless steel

None of the blades lock, so a little care has to be taken when using them. I much prefer the ease with which the blades can be accessed on all of the Leatherman keychain tools other than the Micra. The Micra has to be opened to access all tools, including its blade, from the inside. As to the other eight tools, if pocket carried, fluff and general crud can build up under externally positioned tools more easily than with the Micra, however I have never found this an issue. On trail I don’t carry one in my pocket. More commonly you will see hikers hanging one of these tools from a pack’s shoulder strap daisy loop, however I prefer to keep it in my food or ditty bag.

Pliers

There are many hikers that feel a pair of pliers can be particularly useful on trail. Three Points of the Compass is not necessarily one of them. There are certainly times when they can be useful, if not almost indispensable. It can be difficult to repair a zip without pliers and lifting a pot off a stove is often easy with pliers. Pushing a needle through tough cordura or leather is made far easier with pliers, though a rock could be used with care. It is all about determining where your particular emphasis, needs and wishes lie. Myself, I prefer full size scissors, however others may feel a small pair of scissors suffice which frees up the opportunity to potentially include pliers tips.

There are three choices of jaw in the small Leatherman keychain multi-tools. These are scissors, pliers and the less useful electricians pliers

There are three choices of jaw in the small Leatherman keychain multi-tools. These are scissors, pliers and the less useful electricians pliers. All use backsprings and cams and are very efficient for lighter tasks

Two types of pliers can be found on the Leatherman range of keychain sized multi-tools- these are the needlenose pliers on the E4 and later ES4. These also have regular, if small, pliers in the same head. The two Electricians’ tools, the Squirt E4 and ES4, have needle nose pliers, wire/hard wire cutters and wire strippers- 20GA, 18GA, 16GA, 14GA and 12GA.

If taking a multi-tool on trail, any of these have numerous crevices in which food and gunk can accumulate and fester. A decent periodic clean will help reduce the chance of cross-contamination

If taking a multi-tool on trail, any of these have numerous crevices in which food and gunk can accumulate and fester. A decent periodic clean will help reduce the chance of cross-contamination

Colour

It is pretty obvious that on trail, a brightly coloured knife or multi-tool can be a preferred feature. Put any item of muted colour down in the long grass and you asking to lose it. It is one reason why the classic red Victorinox Swiss Army Knife is a great choice for backpacking. That flame red sticks out like a sore thumb. That said, Three Points of the Compass does like muted colours, you will not see me wearing bright reds, orange and yellow. I like to blend into my natural surroundings. Whatever your choice, many of the Leatherman key chain sized tools came in a variety of colours, especially the Micra which has received numerous scales and wraps over the years. Even the diminutive and minimalist Leatherman Style, which only enjoyed a four year production run, came in four colours- black, red, blue and pink. If you want a really brightly coloured option, one of the few keychain tools released by Leatherman with pink coloured scales is always going to stand out.

In 2012 Leatherman announced their Pink Program- this was their support for breast cancer awareness and they released three of their tools in a striking pink colour. These were the Micra, Style and Style CS. Each of them features the breast cancer awareness ribbon laser etched on to the blade. The Micra and Squirt also feature the ribbon on one of their scales. Note that not all pink Leatherman tools were part of the Pink Program

In 2012 Leatherman announced their Pink Program- this was their support for breast cancer awareness and they released three of their tools in a striking pink colour. These were the Micra, Style and Style CS. Each of them features the breast cancer awareness ribbon laser etched on to the blade. The Micra and Squirt also feature the ribbon on one of their scales. Note that not all pink Leatherman tools were part of the Pink Program and not all have the ribbon feature

Future blogs will look more closely at some of the other tools found in the various ranges. I shall end with a particular recommendation from this useful little selection of small multi-tools.

The production dates, dimensions and weights for all nine Leatherman keychain tools are shown below.

Weights and dimensions of the Leatherman keychain multi-tools
Micra Micra- with added aluminum scales Squirt S4 Squirt P4 Squirt E4 Squirt PS4 Squirt ES4 Style Style CS Style PS
Production dates 1996-Present ?- present 2002-2010 2002-2010 2003-2010 2010-present 2010-present 2010-2014 2010-present 2011-present
Maximum length (including keyring if present) x width (when closed) x thickness (across scale screws) 66mm

X

19.25mm

X

12.40mm

66mm

X

31.25mm

X

13mm

60mm

X

20.55mm

X

13.60mm

60mm

X

20.65mm

X

13.70mm

60mm

X

20.60mm

X

13.70mm

60mm

X

19.65mm

X

13.80mm

60mm

X

20.80mm

X

14.00mm

59mm

X

10.80mm

X

12.40mm

76mm

X

20.60mm

X

10.45mm

76mm

X

20.60mm

X

10.50mm

Weight 49.9g 55g 52.3g 55.3g 53.5g 56.9g 54.3g 23.1g 41.7g 44.9g

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