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Top five Victorinox 58mm knives

A top five of 58mm Victorinox knives- my number four choice

A pocket workshop on trail

My previous post on 58mm Victorinox knives suggested a couple of very simple knives that would be an excellent choice for taking on trail. Of the two shown, one of these, the Victorinox Escort, was identified as the fifth choice of Three Points of the Compass. Some hikers may prefer quite a degree more capability out of a knife or small multi-tool they carry. I would agree. Below, I show just four examples of the most complex of the smaller knives that Victorinox have manufactured. The final one shown is my fourth choice of 58mm Victorinox knife for taking on trail.

Four impressive knives- from left: Original MiniChamp, MiniChamp, Midnite MiniChamp, Alox MiniChamp

Four impressive knives- from left: Original MiniChamp, MiniChamp, Midnite MiniChamp, Alox MiniChamp

There are a handful of other versions of the MiniChamp than those shown here. However items such as a golfer’s divot tool (as found on the XL version of the MiniChamp) are not going to be much use to the average hiker. Those shown here are what I feel are the best versions of this mini work shop specifically for taking on trail.

The first version of the Victorinox Minichamp crams an amazing number of tools in to a two layer knife

The first version of the Victorinox MiniChamp crams an amazing number of tools into a four layer knife

MiniChamp I

While the first version of the 58mm Victorinox MiniChamp contained less tools than later versions it is still a fantastically versatile multi-tool and a shade lighter and thinner. If you have no need for the combo-tool, featuring a cap lifter, wire stripper and magnetised Phillips screwdriver, then the earlier MiniChamp I may be all that you require. The Mk I dates from some time prior to 1994 but can still be found on the second hand market. It is a pretty thin four layer tool and it is pretty astonishing that a diminutive 58mm knife can deliver so much functionality.

The two later variants shown below are much easier to locate than the earlier version and their toolset differs slightly. There are so many tools on these multi-tools that I have Iisted them separately to aid you in identifying the differences between the those shown here. Unfortunately, some tools are suited for tasks such as measuring, personal grooming, or even peeling an orange (yes, really!), and as such are somewhat superfluous on trail, but the remaining tools mean that there is great capability for repair and maintenance when the household toolbox is a long, long way away.

The MiniChamp I features:

  • Pen blade
  • Emergency blade
  • Orange peeler, or cut and picker blade
  • Nail file with nail cleaner tip
  • Cuticle pusher
  • 35mm ruler with 2.5mm flat screwdriver tip
  • Scissors
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers
  • Keyring

As you can see, these little multi-tools even provide a secondary blade that can be kept in reserve or used for specific tasks such as food preparation.

Later version of the MiniChamp (formally known as the MiniChamp II) was extended to a five layer tool to include the useful combination tool. This version also includes a retractable ball point pen in one of the scales. However some, if not most, of the tools are superfluous on trail

Later version of the MiniChamp (formerly known as the MiniChamp II) was extended to a five layer tool to include the useful combination tool. This version also includes a retractable ball point pen in one of the scales. However many of the tools are unlikely to be required on trail

MiniChamp

The later version of the MiniChamp (originally known as the MiniChamp II while the MiniChamp I was still available) built on the previous model by including Victorinox’s remarkably useful combination tool that includes cap lifter and magnetised Phillips screwdriver with a less useful wirebender/stripper. This is at the expense of it widening still further to become, at 14.8mm, the only five layer 58mm knife in the Victorinox stable. While it comes with a set of tweezers installed, one of the useless toothpicks is packed in the box should you feel a burning need to trade out something useful for something considerably less so.

The MiniChamp features:

  • Pen blade
  • Emergency blade
  • Orange peeler, or cut and picker blade
  • Nail file with nail cleaner tip
  • Cuticle pusher
  • 35mm / 1 3/8inch ruler with 2.5mm flat screwdriver tip
  • Combination tool
  • Scissors
  • Blue ink retractable ballpoint pen
  • Tweezers
  • Keyring

I have never been a great fan of the toothpick on Victorinox knives. They get pretty torn up and manky and I prefer not to think of what sort of bacteria is being harboured in the slot in the scales. This is another reason why I usually replace the 0.3g plastic toothpick with a thin 1.2g Firefly ferrocerium rod that may prove to be much more useful in an emergency. One of these mini firesteels could just as equally be swapped out with the tweezers.

Midnite MiniChamp

The Midnite MiniChamp adds an LED light to an already impressive set of tools, the opposite scale to the light has a retractable ball point pen. This is the thickest of the 58mm knives from Victorinox

Midnight MiniChamp

If a pair of tweezers is already sitting elsewhere in the pack and we have already agreed that the toothpick is superfluous, then this version of the MiniChamp includes still more useful tools in its red cellidor scales. I do like this particular model as I invariably include a pair of Uncle Bill’s Sliver Grippers in my First Aid Kit. I think these are a better tweezer than those made by Victorinox due to the fine points which, while not quite the ‘Precision Points’ as advertised by Uncle Bill, still enable fine work when removing ticks and splinters etc.

The choice of scale tools highlights one of the decisions that should be borne in mind when selecting a knife to take on trail- is the tool duplicating any part of the kit already being carried and is such redundancy required?

Instead of tweezers and toothpick the more recent version of the Midnight MiniChamp includes a small LED light and a retractable ballpoint pen in the scales. In my mind, while the ball point pen is a useful addition, a small white LED is seldom required on trail and the greater bulk required to add this feature is not justified. Prior to the Mk II version the knife came with a dim red LED which would be more useful however I have not been able to locate an example to show here.

The Midnite MiniChamp features:

  • Pen blade
  • Emergency blade
  • Orange peeler, or cut and picker blade
  • Nail file with nail cleaner tip
  • Cuticle pusher
  • 35mm / 1 3/8inch ruler with 2.5mm flat screwdriver tip
  • Combination tool
  • Scissors
  • Blue ink retractable ballpoint pen
  • LED light
  • Keyring
MiniChamp with black alox scales. Other colours are available

MiniChamp with black alox scales. Other colours are available

MiniChamp Alox

Despite the usefulness of a small ballpoint pen and tiny LED light, at 16.6mm thick the Midnight MiniChamp is quite thick in the hand for such a supposedly small 58mm knife. I feel that it may have crossed the threshold and is now too thick for carrying on trail. Three Points of the Compass often carries a separate mini-pen and frequently a mini-light such as one of the Photon Freedom micro LED light. If carrying a Victorinox MiniChamp with me on trail I actually prefer to make do without any scale tools and take the thinner MiniChamp Alox version instead. I have the black scaled Alox version, not only is this a handsome little beast, but it is only a tad over 10mm thick; some two thirds the thickness of the regular Cellidor scaled version. The Alox, or Aluminium Oxide, scales are not only attractive but are also pretty ‘grippy’ in the hand, useful with a small knife.

The MiniChamp Alox features:

  • Pen blade
  • Emergency blade
  • Orange peeler, or cut and picker blade
  • Nail file with nail cleaner tip
  • Cuticle pusher
  • 35mm ruler with 2.5mm flat screwdriver tip
  • Combination tool
  • Scissors
  • Keyring

So good is this multi-tool that even if not being carried as part of my hiking kit, it is invariably sitting alongside my equally diminutive Spyderco Bug on my keychain as part of my EDC. I still don’t need such items as a cuticle pusher and ruler even on a thru-hike of length which is why this tool isn’t further up my top five list. Despite this, for those occasions where a genuine multi-tool is wanted while backpacking, Three Points of the Compass regards the MiniChamp Alox as the most generally suited and well appointed of the small Swiss Army Knife ‘pocket workshops’ as it is still fairly compact and it is my fourth choice of Victorinox 58mm knife for taking on trail.

Four impressive knives- from left: Original MiniChamp, MiniChamp, Midnite MiniChamp, Alox MiniChamp

Four impressive knives- from left: Original MiniChamp, MiniChamp, Midnite MiniChamp with white LED, Alox MiniChamp

Model Length Width (at widest point) Height Weight
MiniChamp I 58mm 18.60mm 11.15mm 35.0g
MiniChamp 58mm 19.55mm 14.80mm 45.2g
Midnite MiniChamp 58mm 19.65mm 16.60mm 46.3g
MiniChamp Alox 58mm 19.55mm 10.20mm 39.4g
Top five Victorinox 58mm knives. The Alox MiniChamp, at number four, is second from left

Top five Victorinox 58mm knives. The Alox MiniChamp, at number four, is second from left

An assortment of SwissCards

SwissCards

Victorinox SwissCards

Four Victorinox SwissCards- each offers a slightly different range of tools

Four Victorinox SwissCards- each offers a slightly different range of tools. Shown here are the SwissCard (second generation), SwissCard Quattro, SwissCard Lite (second generation) and SwissCard Nailcare

The Victorinox SwissCards are lightweight plastic ‘cards’ that contain a small range of tools. These can frequently be all that is required on a hike. Three Points of the Compass has a few of these and takes a glance at four of the various cards released by Victorinox since they first appeared in 1997. These are the SwissCard (later SwissCard Classic), the SwissCard Quattro, the SwissCard Lite and SwissCard Nailcare.

There have been different generations of these cards, particularly with the original SwissCard. Also, a couple of varieties, including a money clip, and car visor models that excluded the nailfile to fit respective clips instead. An oddity that I shall not cover here was the Doctor SwissCard that exchanged the tweezers for calipers. All of the SwissCards are small, measuring 82mm x 54m x 4mm. So, a little smaller than a credit card. The smaller dimensions are necessary if you want to slide one into a wallet or purse. I would suggest not storing them in the pocket as the plastic (actually ABS or Acrylnitril-Butadien-Styrol) will crack and break if overly stressed by flexing or being sat on. They will slip into just about any packs hipbelt pocket.

Blade length is only 36mm on the little knives, often called letter openers, incorporated in the SwissCards. Though short, this is usually more than sufficient for most tasks on trail. There is a good edge to this blade

Blade length is only 36mm on the little knives, which are often called letter openers, incorporated in the SwissCards. Though short, this is usually more than sufficient for most tasks on trail. There is a sharp blade and it keeps an edge pretty well

Most hikers would probably glance at these little tools and discount them as they don’t immediately strike them as ‘knife’. But the toolset in a SwissCard is very similar to that found on many of the the smaller knives, particularly the Signature, also produced by Victorinox. These tools are mostly of a size that makes them pretty convenient for life on trail.

The original 26g SwissCard, released in 1997, boasted '7 features - 10 functions', but some of these are not worth getting too excited about. It came with Letter opener blade, scissors, stainless steel pin, nailfile with screwdriver, tweezers, toothpick, ballpoint pen and cm/inch ruler

The original 26g SwissCard, released in 1997, boasted ‘7 features – 10 functions’, It came with letter opener blade, scissors, stainless steel pin, nailfile with screwdriver, tweezers, toothpick, ballpoint pen and cm/inch ruler

The first SwissCard appeared on the market in 1997 and while the small range of tools largely remained unchanged, small details in the plastic holder construction were later altered to make it more robust. A rotating sliding lid over the scissors was eventually excluded in 2008 but not before a protractor had been added to the rear of the lid in the second generation of SwissCard.

26.2g SwissCard

Second generation Victorinox SwissCard in translucent blue weighs 26.2g. The first two generations of the SwissCard had a sliding door over the scissors

The sliding door on the first two generations of SwissCard was a design fault. The door easily snapped off from its pivot

Second generation Victorinox SwissCard in solid black featuring an added protractor. The sliding/rotating door was a design fault. The door easily snapped off from its pivot. The protractor on the inside of the door can be seen in this image but was of little practical use

The first two generations of the SwissCard weighed 26.2g, this weight increased imperceptibly to 27g when the sliding door was excluded from the design with the third generation. This meant that the protractor on the second generation was now also removed as a result. While the protractor on the second generation SwissCards could possibly be used for measuring snow slope angle, and the likelihood of avalanche, I really can’t see this being carried out in reality. The third generation of the plastic case is much sturdier and robust as a result of the change.

All SwissCards include a small ruler- 75mm on the front edge, 3 inches on the back

Victorinox SwissCard Classic in transparent blue. All SwissCards include small rulers- 75mm on the front edge, 3 inches on the back

The 27g SwissCard Classic is a simple tool that carries much of the toolset found in the little 58mm Victorinox Classic folding knife. That is- small blade, nailfile, scissors, tweezers and toothpick. The SD version of the Classic knife has a small flat screwdriver tip on its nailfile and this is what is also found in the SwissCard. In addition, there is a stainless steel pin and useful, if miniscule, pressurised ballpoint pen in the SwissCard.

The 58mm Victorinox Classic has a similar set of tools to those found in SwissCards

The 21.3g 58mm Victorinox Classic has a similar set of tools to those found in SwissCards. This is the Edelweiss scaled version, there is a huge variety of scale designs found with these knives

Originally called the SwissCard, the Classic designation was added when new models became available

Victorinox SwissCard Classic in transparent red. Originally called the SwissCard, the Classic designation was added when other models also became available. The Classic also differs from the first two generations of card by not having a sliding door over the scissors

The 22.2g SwissCard Quattro was released in 2000 and this saw the handy little four-way Quattro screwdriver made available for the first time. This is so small and convenient that even if I am not carrying one of the cards with me while hiking, one of the 2.6g screwdrivers is often sitting in my ditty bag. Sadly, the inclusion of the screwdriver was at the expense of the scissors, which are excluded from the SwissCard Quattro. A hole was added to the corner of the card enabling it to be hung from a keyring or lanyard.

Victorinox SwissCard Quattro in solid black. While the addition of the new four-way screwdriver was a welcome addition, the loss of scissors in the SwissCard Quattro means that there is some wasted storage space in the plastic holder of this version that could have been utilised by Victorinox

Victorinox SwissCard Quattro. While the addition of the new four-way screwdriver was a welcome addition, the loss of scissors in the SwissCard Quattro means that there is some wasted storage space in the plastic holder of this version that could have been utilised by Victorinox. this solid black colour is 20.6g compared to the very slightly heavier translucent Quattro cards which are 22.2g

In 2003 a small LED light was incorporated and the 26.7g SwissCard Lite appeared on the market. Essentially, other than differences in case colour, there are two variants of the Lite- early models had a red LED, these were changed to a white LED in 2009. While the white LED is far brighter than the red and ideal for urban use, Three Points of the Compass feels that red is often more useful on trail, especially if stumbling around a crowded hostel or bunkhouse room and trying not to disturb slumbering occupants.

First generation of SwissCard Lite with red LED, card case in translucent red

First generation of SwissCard Lite with red LED, card case in translucent red.

A hiker normally carries a primary white light headtorch or similar, however a small red LED can be useful at times for discreetness. Early models with the red LED can be difficult to find now but are still available through eBay etc. if now over-priced. Though it must be admitted, the red LED is very dim whereas the white variant is far brighter, but still no where near bright enough for night hiking or similar.

Red and white LED variants of the Victorinox SwissCard Lite

White and red LED variants of the Victorinox SwissCard Lite. The brighter white light is distinct

The LED in the SwissCard Lite is powered by a replaceable 0.6g 3v Lithium CR1025 battery

The LED in the SwissCard Lite is powered by a replaceable 0.6g 3v Lithium CR1025 battery

The SwissCard Lite hits the sweet spot by including both scissors and the handy little four-way screwdriver. Incorporating both of these at the expense of losing the nailfile is a reasonable trade off I feel.

The LED switch is a rather clever and simple affair, being a removable slide that contains both LED and the battery. The drain from the modest LED means that battery life is considerable, though a spare battery could be carried on a particularly long multi-day hike.

The SwissCard Lite has a useful set of tools. The 5 x magnifying glass could be useful as an aid when removing small splinters with the pin and tweezers

Victorinox SwissCard Lite in transparent black. This 26.7g card has a useful set of tools. The 5 x magnifying glass is helpful when removing small splinters with the pin and tweezers. Both four-way screwdriver and scissors are present in this card

The flat four-way Quattro screwdriver is such a handy piece of kit that it can easily be slipped into a ditty bag on trail

The flat four-way 2.6g Quattro screwdriver is such a handy piece of kit that it can easily be slipped into a ditty bag on trail

In 2015, the SwissCard Nailcare was released. While both four-way screwdriver and scissors are incorporated, the little knife blade is replaced by a glass nailfile.  As a result, I think the 26.6g Nailcare is the least useful of the SwissCards for taking on trail, unless personal grooming really is that important to you. Unfortunately the cutout for the nailfile is reduced in the nailcare card, otherwise the nailfile could have been swapped for a knife from another card.

The 6.7g scissors from a Victorinox SwissCard are are an excellent efficient choice for a First Aid Kit

The 6.7g scissors found in most variants of the Victorinox SwissCards are a useful choice for a First Aid Kit

SwissCards were manufactured in a range of solid and translucent/transparent colours only some of which are shown here. Ice Blue (shown here) was only available with the Nailcare. The pin and small tweezers are useful for removing splinters and as with the other incarnations, the spring loaded scissors do a good job, though I find my digits a tad large for the small single finger hole so frequently simply grip the whole of the scissor in my hand when using.

While well-appointed, the SwissCard Nailcare is the least useful of the small range for taking on trail

26.6g Victorinox SwissCard Nailcare in translucent Ice Blue. While well-appointed and great for day-to-day urban carry, the SwissCard Nailcare is the least useful of the small range for taking on trail

I normally carry a small knife or multi-tool on trail, however it is probably time that I gave these little cards more attention. They include many of the items that I already carry but could remove from my gear list- scissors, blade, pen, tweezers, and depending on which variant is taken, could provide a couple of other useful items. Three Points of the Compass feels that of all the available SwissCards, a SwissCard Lite is the most suited for backpacking. As to the choice of colour of LED, that is up to you but the earlier red LEDs are becoming pretty difficult to source these days.

One option with a SwissCard is to replace the pin with a needle. This replacement is a Size 7 embroidery/crewel needle

One option with a SwissCard is to replace the pin with a needle. This replacement is a Size 7 embroidery/crewel needle

Journals

Now into 2018 and the start date for my Three Points of the Compass walk gets ever nearer. Time to start gathering together some of those items that will have to be renewed during my trek, sent out to me, while on trail. One of these will be my journal. I have just received my latest order of replacements.

Like many hikers, I keep a written record of my wanders. I have written before about choosing a journal most appropriate to personal needs. However I came across the Rhodia rhodiarama after I had written that post.

My choosing the Rhodia rhodiarama is my compromise between written journal and sketchbook, with an emphasis on the former. I am also taking a small art kit with me which I will use to illustrate my trail record. The hard covers of the notebook, though heavier than soft covers, are useful when sketching and provide a deal more protection with extended handling over multiple weeks. There are 192 pages of cream coloured Clairefontaine brushed vellum 90gsm paper. This will take ink, from both biro and fountain, with little if any bleed through or feathering, it will also handle light washes with watercolour, though it is not ideal for that. A compromise is a compromise. I use blank pages but there are also lined versions of the notebook available.

Rhodia rhodiarama notebook in the hand. This makes an excellent journal for longer trips due to it being robust and well made with quite heavyweight pages and hard covers. Far lighter options are available but will have less pages and are more likely to come apart over time

Rhodia rhodiarama notebook in the hand. This makes an excellent journal for longer trips due to it being robust and well made with quite heavyweight pages and hard covers. Far lighter options are available but will have less pages and are more likely to come apart over time

I include a little pen loop from Leuchtturm1917 in which I keep a Fisher Stowaway pen. The elastic loop keeps a good grip on the smooth, narrow barrel of the Stowaway pen. This diminutive pen gives a write length of some 3500m which is phenomenal compared to the woeful offering of many alternatives.

There is a small gusset pocket in the rear of the notebook, a single ribbon marker and elastic closure. These notebooks come in a wide range of colours but I have chosen the chocolate colour coupled with a tobacco coloured self-adhesive pen loop. The three items- journal, pen loop and pen weigh 161g. Not light, but it is important to me to create a long lasting record of such a trip. Replacements can be sent to me periodically on trail as required.

 

Fuertenventura Feb-March 2017

A lightweight art kit- Fuerteventura

Three Points of the Compass descending from Morro Jorjado via the Cuesta de la Villa, Fuerteventura , March 2017

Three Points of the Compass descending from Morro Jorjado via the Cuesta de la Villa, Fuerteventura , March 2017

I have just returned from a fortnight’s family holiday on Fuerteventura. This is the second largest and the longest of the Canary Islands. I stayed in a large hotel in the centre of the east coast. It was to be a holiday of many parts. The primary aim was to rest from the rigours of work, to see some early sun, to get a bit of walking in and explore the most interesting sites, history and geology that the island had to offer, to discover flora and fauna never seen before and to, hopefully, get in a little bit of sketching. To this end, a modicum of space was found in the suitcase for a compact art kit that could also go into the day sack on days out.

I continue to not only work on my, woefully inadequate, artistic skills, but also to refine a lightweight art kit that can accompany me on longer walks, in particular my Three Points of the Compass walk in around a years time. I wrote last year of a lightweight art kit that accompanied me to Sicily in 2016. This was another opportunity to further drill down the equipment I will carry.

Three Points of the Compass urban sketching in Puerto del Rosario, Fuerteventura. Time was always limited and I attempted to work pretty quickly

Three Points of the Compass urban sketching in Puerto del Rosario. Time was always limited and I attempted to work pretty quickly, at least before my spouse became totally bored and wandered off…

I will be blogging later in a little more detail on the specific materials I took with me and others that never made the cut, but for this trip, all I wanted was a simple little self contained pouch in which to keep most art materials together. Something that could be pulled out almost anywhere and provide me with a small, discreet and self-contained choice of medium.

I took a small pouch containing the majority of materials, two small sketchbooks, a cotton wrist band and all important bottle of water

I took a small pouch containing the majority of materials, two small sketchbooks, a cotton wrist band protected in a baggie and all important bottle of water, the latter was for my hydration as I made use of a water brush for painting

Whereas I would normally wish to sketch directly into a hike journal, this wasn’t that sort of break, so I took two of my favourite little sketch books. One is a 3 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ (88mm x 139mm) that has somehow become my default sketchbook for churches, the other a square format 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ (140mm x 140mm) – though page sizes come in a little smaller, used for anything else. Both of these hand books are from Global Art Materials.

For such a small kit, I had a fair amount of choice and flexibility in materials

For such a small kit, I had a fair amount of choice and flexibility in materials

My palette was a home made affair that, again, I will be blogging on in the future. This contained a minimal selection of single pigment watercolours- Quinacridone Gold- (PO49), Hansa Yellow medium- (PY97), New Gamboge- (PY153), Cupric Green Light- (PG36), Cerulean Blue- (PB35), Ultramarine (Green shade)- (PB29), Monte Amiata Natural Sienna- (PBr7), Permanent Rose- (PV19).

This is an exciting selection only recently developed by myself that is going to prove a little challenging for me to use, being much reduced from what I am more used to, so this trip was an excellent opportunity to try it out. My intention was to increase the quantities of each pigment in my small palette so that it was more useful on longer trips, but still offer good mixing capability. As it transpired, I did so little painting that I have not, by any means, fully explored its capability nor identified any faults. Though I have already noted the difficulties presented by such limited mixing space. You can see the seven small wells I have built into the lid.

The small selection of coloured leads fro Koh-I-Noor that I took allowed me to occasionally swtich medium. This poor and scrappy drawing was completed in less than ten minutes whilst standing on the pavement waiting for a bus to hove into view. With a few minutes to spare, the windmill opposite me in Tiscamanita was a superb subject

The small selection of coloured leads from Koh-I-Noor that I took with me allowed me to occasionally switch medium. This poor and scrappy drawing was completed in less than ten minutes whilst standing on the pavement waiting for a bus to hove into view. With just a few minutes to spare, the windmill opposite me in Tiscamanita was a superb subject that could not be ignored

To accompany this, I had a medium Pentel Aquash Water Brush. My lovely little Lamy Safari Fountain Pen was loaded with black Noodlers Bullet Proof waterprof ink, Pentel black ink brush pen (not used at all), Rotring Tikki Graphic 0.1 technical pen with pigmented waterproof black ink and a white Uniball gel pen. I simply cannot eschew my pencils entirely, so took one of the gorgeous Koh-I-Noor Toison D’Or 5900 clutch holders loaded with 2mm 2B graphite from Faber Castell. Despite there being a sweet little lead pointer in the cap of the clutch holder, I slipped in a 2mm lead pointer made by Faber Castell. To be honest, I should really have taken a pointer that would retain graphite slivers when sharpening, such as my Uni pocket sharpener from Mitsubishi, but I forgot it. As there was room in the pouch, I took a small, thin lead holder made by Acme for their spare graphite leads, but instead of their leads, I loaded it with the waxy 2mm coloured leads made by Koh-I-Noor (brown, blue, green, red and yellow). Also carried was a shaped eraser from Derwent and a small bulldog clip. All of this was carried in a zippered Lihit Lab Compact Pen Case.

Three Points of the Compass hiking in Fuertenventura February-March 2017

Three Points of the Compass ascending to Degollada de la Sargenta, Fuertenventura. March 2017

Fixating on the small stuff- an Every Day Carry

OK, time to fess up. This post has got very little to do with hiking. I never, ever, carry the stuff I am chatting about here on any hike. It is bulky, heavy and other than one or two of the contents, mostly of little practical use on any backpacking trip.

What it is, is an example of what I am prone to do. Which is plan. Learn from my mistakes and inaction and be better prepared for repeated events in the future. I have been like this since I was a nipper.

Every day I go to work I have a pack slung over my shoulder. For the great majority of my time I work in London, but I always have a torch, screwdriver set, multi tool, water bottle and any number of other items in various pockets of my battered urban commuting 35lt pack from The North Face. Also, being in England, I have a waterproof  packed, every single day of the year…

The Vanquest EDC SLim Maximizer pouch that Three Points of the Compass carries on every work day and trips away from the house by car

The Vanquest EDC Slim Maximizer pouch that Three Points of the Compass carries on every work day and trips away from the house by car

Recently I have been pulling much of my oddments together into one of the fantastic Vanquest EDC Slim Maximizer Organisers. I have also added a few recent purchases and am now content that my Every Day Carry (EDC) has the tools and other equipment that have not only proved themselves of use to me over the years, but now also give me a little more practicality and usefulness. I can put many of the contents to use most weeks, and on occasion most weekdays. It can get slung in the car for trips away and visits to my Mum where there may be the odd task that requires completing, as her battered old red biscuit tin under the sink with its even older selection of poor tools isn’t quite cutting it these days.

I have packed a lot into my EDC. Not only can I carry out a number of repairs, alteration, fixing or general ‘handyman’ tasks that require attention, but I also carry a modicum of First Aid items and small selection of hygiene products that will see me through the very occasional unexpected overnight stay.

Vanquest EDC Maximizer with contents installed

Vanquest EDC Maximizer with contents installed

Hygiene and First Aid

I have included a minimum of hygiene equipment for the occasional and unexpected overnight stop. Two of the great little compressed towels are incorporated. These can be used with the mini dropper bottle of Dr. Bronners Castille soap. This is a very concentrated and versatile soap that I can also use for shaving, brushing teeth or washing out clothes. A small compact Avid razor is included. These are of a very thin profile and I wish they were still made as I have few left. The mirror is one of the mini Star Flash acrylic mirrors (in a baggie to prevent scratches) and the toothbrush is a two-part affair from Muji. I also carry a small dropper bottle of hand sanitizer. For convenience, I have this more easily available and packed outside of the wash kit.

My First Aid kit is basic, a few band aids, dressings, tape, a couple of alcohol wipes, nitrile gloves and a little medication: Ibuprofen and Piriton. There are a few extra meds in my ‘midget’ EDC kit that I also carry. This is so very heavily based on that devised by The Urban Prepper that I need not show it here. Though I do also include 5m of 1mm spectra cord, different meds, a razor blade, emergency cufflinks (yes, really) and a couple of other items in my ‘Altoids’ tin in addition to his list.

Electronics

Electronics in my Vanquest EDC are limited but useful. I have included a high quality Micro/USB charge cable, folding Mu USB plug. The 200mm long Innergie charge and sync cable is very adaptable. This will fit USB to Micro/Mini/30 pin Apple, I also have a Lightning adaptor on the end. Spare batteries carried are two CR2016 and two CR2032. All of this is in an especially tough and waterproof baggie. Two torches and a flood light are carried- the Thrunite T14 Penlight takes two AAA batteries (fitted), has a Cree XP-G2 LED  and delivers four forms of light:

  • Firefly (0.3 lumens for up to 137 hours)
  • Low (24 lumens for up to 12 hours)
  • High (252 lumens for up to 51 minutes)
  • Strobe (252 lumens for up to 90 minutes)

As back up to this, the Photon Freedom Micro belies its diminutive dimensions. While it can deliver any strength of light from dim through to its maximum 5 lumens, the almost indestructible body holds two CR2016 or one CR2032 batteries. and will run for up to eighteen hours. Also in the kit are two AAA batteries stored in AAA to AA cell converters.

These will also fit the Lil Larry Nebo floodlight. This is handy piece of kit that will provide task lighting. It has a magnetic base so can be used for changing tyres or during power outage. While in its full length it takes three AAA batteries (fitted), it can also have a section of its length removed so that just two AAA batteries can be utilised. In full configuration it provides:

  • High (250 lumens for up to 3 hours
  • Low (95 lumens for up to 10 hours)
  • Red Hazard flasher (for up to 10 hours)

    The contents of my EDC kit. It is pretty much stuffed to the gills

    The contents of my EDC kit. It is pretty much stuffed to the gills

Leatherman Raptor shears

The Leatherman Raptors are tough enough to cut a penny into quarters

The Leatherman Raptors are tough enough to cut a penny into quarters and the strap cutter is quickly and easily bought into use when required

These are an amazing piece of kit and really well made. Invariably they get used most as simply a better set of scissors than those on the Leatherman Charge carried in my EDC. However the 320HC stainless steel blades on these shears will cut through just about anything I may encounter- clothes, leather, webbing, straps etc. The tiny serrations on one blade really grip well and prevent items sliding out of the blades. There is a carbide glass breaker for auto glass windows in the base and a seat belt cutter that is easily deployed yet remains locked away until required. Obviously this can be more often used simply as a box cutter. There is handy little ring cutter placed discretely and un-noticed under the handle too. I seldom require the 5cm ruler and have never used the oxygen tank wrench incorporated. One of the best features of these 163g shears though, apart from their high quality, is their ability to swiftly fold away, or open, easily, with simple little lock buttons. They do come with a holster for First Responders, but I don’t include that in my kit. Instead I have it fixed to a mini carabiner hanging from the Maximiser pouch key fob and keep it in place, nested against my Leatherman bit extender, with one of the rare earth magnets in my kit.

Bit, driver and drill system

This kit has a complete and highly adaptable system. It mostly involves the excellent Leatherman Charge. Mine is one of the older models. Most frequently tasks will utilise the bit holder in the Leatherman Charge, possibly with the Leatherman Bit Driver Extender, extended still further if necessary with 1/4″ hex extender. Or the 1/4″ extender can be used just with the Victorinox Bitwrench. I can also use one of my three drill bits in any combination here. While it takes a little time, I have drilled clean through 2 inches of wood with the 6mm drill bit attached to the Leatherman Charge.

The Gator adapter will fit a wide range shapes of head- nuts, screws, bolts, rings, hooks etc.

The Gator adaptor will fit a wide range shapes of head- nuts, screws, bolts, rings, hooks etc.

The majority of the bits included in my EDC are the ingenious flat, double ended, Leatheman Bits plus a couple of extras. In total there are 44 bits in my EDC, plus four tiny Phillips and flat head mini bits. Two sockets are also included. A dedicated 10mm head/ 1/4″ hex drive, while the Gator socket adaptor grip will fit heads from 7mm-19mm.

With the contents of my EDC I can loosen and tighten most common and uncommon screw heads, bolts and nuts from 1mm to 19mm. While Torx head bits are included, what I am looking for, to eventually include, are some 4mm micro bits for Security Torx heads. As an aid to this capability, a small adjustable spanner or the (smallest available) Knipex water pump pliers can be pulled from the kit. The pliers have recently replaced the small set of mole grips I used to carry.

1/4" hex drive drill bits can be used in a number of configurations

1/4″ hex drive drill bits can be used in a number of configurations

Solkoa Grip-S handles

Solkoa Grip-S handles with 24" flexible wire saw fitted

Solkoa Grip-S handles with 130mm wood saw blade fitted

Separated Solkoa Grip-S handles with 24" flexible wire saw fitted

Separated Solkoa Grip-S handles with 28″ flexible wire saw fitted

Though expensive, the hard anodised 6061 aluminium Solkoa Grip-S handles (there are two, joined together) are very useful. Not only can any standard flexible wire saw be fixed in using the set screws in each handle, and I include a 28″ wire saw in this EDC kit, but the handles can also take any round or hexagonal drive tool, up to 1/4″  diameter. A two ended flat/Phillips head bit is stored in the handle and the two handles are quickly separated by loosening one of the set screws with the flat screwdriver on the Gerber Shard pry bar. Any universal saw blade can be fitted into the Grip-S handles. I could have included a couple of the small jigsaw blades, which fit, but instead included two larger 130mm blades. One for wood (and nails) the other for metal.

Other items

I won’t go into detail on every item as reading from the list below they really are self-explanatory. There is an emergency twenty pound note secreted in the rear of the notebook. Tape measure gets used frequently. The titanium short-handled spoon is a ‘must have’, nappy pins can be used for hanging washing to dry and a thousand other uses, as can the paper clips and bobby pins. The lengths of wire can be bent into hooks for retrieving items or combined with the rare earth magnets to similar purpose. I would add a sachet of Sugru but it goes off too quickly if stored out of the fridge.

Item Description Notes
Pouch Vanquest EDC Slim Maximizer
Combination padlock TSA compliant
Adjustable spanner Small- 100mm. Jaws open to 13mm Unknown make
Pliers Knipex Cobra water pump pliers. Grips up to 27mm wide

 

Model 87 01 125. The ‘125’ in the model number refers to their length
Leatherman Raptor- Folding medical shears 420HC stainless steel scissors, strap cutter, ruler (1.9″/50mm), oxygen tank wrench, ring cutter, carbide tip glass breaker
Leatherman Charge Ti  multitool Titanium scales. needlenose pliers, regular pliers, hard wire cutters, wire cutters, crimper, wire stripper, S30V knife blade, 420HC serrated knife with cutting hook, saw, scissors, 8″/19cm ruler, can opener, bottle opener, wood/metal file, diamond coated file, large bit driver (double ended 1/8″ / 3/32″ flat screwdriver bit fitted), small bit driver (small, double ended flat/Phillips screwdriver bit fitted), medium flat screwdriver. Pocket clip fitted  

 

Leatherman bit driver extension Fits into bit driver of Leatherman Charge, other end accepts Leatherman bits and 1/4″ hex bits 10mm socket is stowed attached to end of driver
1/4″ extension piece 75mm, magnetic
Victorinox Bitwrench 1/4″ hex drive VICBW
23 double ended Leatherman bits – Hex 3/32″ ; 5/64″
– Hex 1/16″ ; .050″
– Square bit #2 ; #3
– Square bit #1 ; pozi #3- Pozi#1; pozi#2
– Torx #10 ; #15
– Torx #20 ; #25
– Torx #27 ; #30
– Phillips #0 ; #3
– Phillips #1 ; #2

– Phillips #1-2; screwdriver 3/16″
– Screwdrivers 3/32″ ; 1/8″
– Screwdrivers 5/32″ ; 3/16″
– Screwdrivers 7/32″ ; 1/4″
– Hex 1.5mm ; 2mm
– Hex 2.5mm ; 3mm
– Hex 4mm ; 5mm
– Hex 6mm ; 1/4″
– Hex 7/32″ ; 3/16″
– Hex 5/32 ; 9/64″
– Hex 1/8″ ; 7/64″
2 x – Phillips; flat tip eyeglasses screwdriver

In two Leatherman bit holders with one mini bit and one double ended bit in the Leatherman Charge.

46 bit options, though a couple are duplicated.

Wolfteeth universal gator socket adapter,with 1/4″ drive adapter Fits 7mm – 19mm sockets. Also fits various nuts, screws, hooks, bolt heads, broken taps and knobs
Socket- 10mm head/ 1/4″ hex drive A common size
Gerber Shard pry bar In addition to pry, has Phillips head, two flat screwdrivers, wire stripper and bottle opener
Solkoa Grip-S handles 2 x hard anodised handles with set screws joined together over double ended Phillips/flat head screwdriver Will hold any round or hexagonal, up to 1/4″ head, tool or any standard flexible wire saw
28″ flexible wire saw (in baggie) For use with Grip-S handles
Stanley 152mm wood saw blade For use with Grip-S handles Model STA21192
Stanley 152mm metal saw blade For use with Grip-S handles Model STA22132
Retractable steel razor With snap off stainless steel blades
Excel aluminium handle Handle has adjustable jaws. Inside handle are six various mini file needles and an additional sewing awl Model 70001
Hex drive drill bits- 6mm, 4mm,2mm For use with either Grip-S handles, Leatherman Charge or 1/4″ drive turn key
1/4″ plastic turn key
Double ended steel craft tool Arrow point and spatula end
2m steel tape measure Muji Code: 8215607
1m x 16swg tin plated copper wire
1m x plastic wrapped 12swg steel wire Use with magnets for retrieving lost screws, keys etc.
4 x small rare earth magnets Three stored attached to the bit holder and one attached to the bit extender keep tools in place in the pouch
Small tin with slide top Contents:

2 x stainless steel M6 hex bolt, nut, washer

3 x zinc plated wood screw

2 x small countersunk brass woodscrew

2 x rawlplug

2 x nails

1 x small, 1 x large stainless steel screw eye

1 x stainless steel split ring

2 x nappy pin
1 x paper clip

1 x medium paper clip (insulated)

1 x small paper clip

2 x bobby pins
1 x binder clip
Anker Powerline USB/Micro 3′ braided cable. Very tough double-braided Aramid exterior and toughened Aramid fiber core
Mu folding USB plug Single USB outlet. 1amp There are two USB oulet Mu plugs available, this is sufficient for my needs
Photon Freedom Micro Button torch
Thrunite T14 Penlight Cree XP-G2 LED

Firefly: 0.3 lumens, 137hours
Low: 24 lumens, 12hours
High: 252 lumens, 51minutes
Strobe: 252 lumens, 90 minutes

With 2 x Alkaline AAA (Duracell Plus Power).

One cell reversed to prevent accidental discharge

Lil Larry Nebo- floodlight Magnetic base, C.O.B. LED chip technology

High: 250 lumen, 3 hours

Low: 95 lumen, 10 hours

Red hazard flasher:  10 hours

3 X Alkaline AAA (NEBO). One cell reversed. Light can be reduced in length with just 2 AAA batteries but I keep mine full length
2 x Li-ion Duracell AAA batteries Stored in Sodial AAA to AA battery cell converters
2 x CR2016 batteries
2 X CR2032 batteries
Sharpie pen, stainless steel Black, refillable, 0.4mm fine point Model 1849740
Zebra F701 ball pen, stainless steel Black medium Model 44970
Faber Castell Perfect Pencil With eraser and integrated extender/sharpener
Backpocket Journal Tomoe River Edition From Curnow Bookbinding & Leatherwork
£20 Stored in back of notebook (above)
5m x 550 paracord In quick deploy hank
2 x velcro cable ties
6″ Nite Ize Gear Tie
2 x 400mm cable tie

1 x 150mm cable tie

These are threaded into the lining of the pouch interior
2 x mini-biner
1m gaffer tape Flat wound onto silicone release paper
Sewing kit 2m black Gütermann Sew-All  thread

1 x large black button, 2 x small white buttons

Threader

2 x No. 7 embroidery/crewel needles

1 x No. 18 chenille needle

1 x Microtex 60/8 machine needle (for use with Excel handle)

Stored in SD card case
Spoon Small, Sea to Summit, hard anodised alloy
Mini Bic lighter With 1m electricians tape wound on to it Has quick release mini  zip tie on it to prevent accidental discharge of gas
Hand sanitiser Alcohol free  In mini dropper bottle
Hygiene kit Mirror (mini StarFlash), Razors (Avid, fold flat), 20ml Dr Bronner’s liquid soap in mini dropper bottle, folding toothbrush, 2 x compressed travel towels All in 130mm x 120mm Aloksac
Uncle Bills Sliver Gripper Tweezers With holder
Fox 40 Micro whistle
Shelby mini tin opener
First Aid kit 2 x alcohol wipes, 2 x plasters (silver), 1 strip ‘cut to size’ plaster (10cm), 1 x dressing (small), 1 x Melolin dressing (5cm x 5cm), 4 x 45cm strips Leukotape, 30cm x 1cm zinc oxide tape, 30cm x 2.5cm Transpore tape, 4 x Ibuprofen, 7 x Piriton.

1 pair Nitrile gloves

All in baggies

 

 

a few grams here, a few grams there… in search of the perfect notebook

“A page of my Journal is like a cake of portable soup.

A little may be diffused into a considerable portion”

James Boswell, 1740-1795

Scan-12_edited-1

Scribbled notes and rubbish drawing in 'policemans' notebook. Discovery of a Red Flanked Blue Tail in Kent, UK, 1998

Scribbled notes and rubbish drawing in ‘policemans’ notebook. Discovery of a Red Flanked Blue Tail in Kent, UK, 1998

Three Points of the Compass has almost always carried a notebook (or journal) on longer hikes, frequently on day hikes too if wanting to take nature notes etc. (above). In my younger days this was simply a scruffy, soon dog-eared, little notebook from the corner shop or Woolies. Leaking biros soon proved to be an unwanted nuisance so a pencil sufficed. And that is all that is really required by anyone today that wishes to keep a journal, make notes, record expenditure, or leave scribbled words for someone trailing along behind.

Scan-16_edited-2Scan-17_edited-1While it is possible to pick up a cheap little covered book for journalling for just a few pennies if looking in the right place. That will not necessarily hold up to much abuse, offer good quality paper or be of a size that is suited to what we want from a journal. I now prefer something more functional. Something that may actually look good even if what it contains is the demented ramblings of a fool. My own preference is usually for blank pages as this gives me the opportunity to include maps, scribbles, handstamps and, if feeling particularly inspired, a poor artistic rendering of a scene. I will also occasionally stick in ticket stubs and oddments picked up- feathers, leaves, flower heads etc to make the memories more vivid. Though my journalling is strictly amateurish compared to that created by some others. If you want to see the type of memories that can be put into a journal while hiking, have a glance at The Hike Guy, Kolby Kirk has done a great job of working found objects, rubbings, beer bottle labels, notes, paintings and much more into his journals.

Midori Passport size 003 Traveler's notebook

Midori Traveler’s notebook. Pages waiting to be filled

To this end, and always with the notion of replacing good with better, acceptable with lighter, functional with still functional (and possibly multi-functional), I have taken a glance at some type of journals available. This list is not exhaustive, not by any means, but every single one is a decent notebook. As a result of my labours, I find that one or two rise head and shoulders over others shown here, including the one that Three Points of the Compass has used for the past decade or so- the classic Moleskine journal. I now find that I can replace the Moleskine with one of a couple of quite stunning products.

Taking a page from each of the notebooks, I have run a streak or two across of three colours from the Winsor & Newton watercolour range: Intense Blue, Sap Green and Cadmium Red Deep. These are followed by a range of pens including the brush pen from the Faber Castell shades of grey range. I also tried a small variety of pens and an orange highlighter, finishing off with two 2B pencils, the last being water soluble.

Notebooks I looked at for this post are listed below:

Name Type Type of cover Pages Page type Size Weight Country of Origin
Field Notes Memo book- ‘Expedition’ Soft 48, stapled Dotted, white 90mm x 140mm x 3mm 31g USA
Field Notes Memo book Soft 48, stapled Plain, white 90mm x 140mm x 3mm 28g USA
Rite in the Rain All weather Memo book No. 954T Soft 56 perfect bound Dotted, tan 90mm x 127mm x 8mm 71g USA
Leuchtturm1917 Notebook Soft 121 thread bound Blank, cream 92mm x 148mm x 10mm 95g Germany
Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines notebook Hard 185 thread bound Lined, white on grey 93mm x 150mm x 14mm 152g Germany
Moleskine Cahiers Soft 64, stitched Plain, ivory 90mm x 140mm x 4mm 41g China
Midori Passport size 003 Traveler’s notebook Soft 80, stapled Plain, ivory 90mm x 124mm x 4mm 29g Japan
Backpocket Journal Tomoe River Edition Soft 48, hand sewn binding Plain, cream 89mm x 133mm x 2mm 19g USA

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Field Notes, Memo Book- Expedition edition

A memo book for those that will buy just about anything with the Field Notes name on the front. When this edition was released in 2012, the first printing comprised 60,000 volumes.

Field Notes. Expedition edition

Field Notes. Memo Book- Expedition edition. Purchased as a three pack. The wrapper is made of the same Yupo paper as the internal pages, the manufacturers eventually recognised that inks suitable for use with this paper are limited and advise buyers to try inks out on the wrapper

The makers state that these booklets stand 139mm tall, however I measure mine at 140mm x 90mm x 3mm. Lets not quibble- 3 1/2″ by 5 1/2″ in old money. Each journal has 48 pages held in place with three staples. Pages are not numbered and have no features at all beyond a dot matrix design.

The FNC-17 notebook was the fifth of the ‘Colors’ range (that commenced in 2008) produced by Field Notes. They seem quite proud of their bright orange cover (Antarctic Survey Orange apparently) and all black back cover (‘Polar Night Black’!). The paper itself though is where the innovation lies. This is a water and tear proof Yupo synthetic product with a dot grid design printed on light grey.

inside-front-cover-of-field-notes

inside front cover of Field Notes Expedition. There is space provided for personal information. The squared dot page design can also be seen here

inside-rear-cover-of-field-notes

inside rear cover of field-notes. Fairly useful 120mm rule and, well, that’s about it as regards practical inclusion

I am not a great fan of the paper used in this notebook. It seems to take forever for ink to dry; easily resulting in smudges unless great care is taken. The very smooth surface holds on to an ink with reluctance. Writing with my default pen for ‘outdoors work’, the Fisher Space Pen, results in a poor line. The worst I have ever experienced from this pen. This despite Field Notes claim that the ‘paper’ works well with this pen. Most water based gel and roller ball pens are simply not a practical option for use with this book.

All that said, if you can find a pen that suits you and writes on this paper well. The bright colour means you are unlikely to lose a journal and the tough paper will hold up well in damper conditions. The lack of perforations does mean that attempting to tear out a page is a difficult task. Beyond its construction materials and lack of compatibility with most pens, this is a fairly no-frills product. Pencils are a decent medium to use on the smooth paper but the dot page design may discourage many from using the journals for sketching.

Field Notes, Expedition

Field Notes, Expedition. The long drying time for inks on this paper is all too apparent. The watercolour paints eventually dried well with a lovely translucence. The pencils wrote well on the smooth paper

Field Notes, Expedition, reverse

No sign of anything at all on the reverse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Field Notes, Memo Book

This is the classic, much coveted little journal purchased every year in its tens of thousands. Beside the Rite in the Rain journal, the basic Field Notes is possibly the most popular notebook used by travellers. Not surprising really. Field Notes have recognised that there remains a niche for this product, while also bringing out a consistent range and stream of new products to satisfy the loyal collectors and completists out there. This would include the orange and black Expedition product shown above.

Field Notes Memo Book

Field Notes. Memo Book

Field Notes Memo Book

Field Notes Memo Book in the hand

The brown covered, plain paper Field Notes Memo Book looked at is the basic run-of-the-mill product from this company. Each volume has 48 pages, none are numbered or perforated. Pages are held in place by three stainless staples. That shown here features plain paper but there is a product for all- Graph and ruled also being available. A three pack containing three of each or a mixed pack is available.

None of the pages are perforated, there is no gusset pocket in the cover. It is simply a note book, no more and no less. And the product is all the better for that.

Catching up on my journalling. London LOOP, November 2015

Catching up on my journalling on the train. Field Notes on return from a day on the London LOOP, November 2015

Memo Book, inside rear cover

Memo Book, inside rear cover. Unlike the metric rule in the Expedition version, this includes a printed five inch rule in the back. The usual useless information also appears

Field Notes Memo Book, inside front cover

Field Notes Memo Book, inside front cover. There is space here for personal information to be entered

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fieldnotes

Fieldnotes, front. The paper takes the pen and pencil very well. Even the paints failed to cockle the paper and some variation of shade was easily achieved

Fieldnotes, rear

Fieldnotes, rear. The heavier inks all showed through to an intrusive degree, as did the watercolours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rite in the Rain All-weather Memo Book- No. 954T

The Rite in the Rain paper concept was first developed in the 1920s to answer the challenge presented by the wet weather of the Great Northwest of America. The paper meets stringent archival specifications so any of these products that you do purchase and use is likely to be around for some time…

Rite in the Rain All-Weather Memo Book, No. 954T

Rite in the Rain All-Weather Memo Book, No. 954T

These little notebooks have a large following. Quite why I struggle to see. They may hold up well to inclement weather, resisting any urge to turn into wood pulp, but they also resist most types of pen too. If the small format of this notebook appeals to you, and it fits into a shirt pocket with ease, be sure to try out your pen of choice before leaving home. But, horses for courses and all that. If you do like the technology behind this, perhaps living in a rainforest, then have a look at their website as there is a bewildering choice of product available. One possible option is to buy loose Rite in the Rain pages and store them either in the proprietary binder or whatever takes your fancy.

Rite in the Rain All-Weather Memo Book, No. 954T

Rite in the Rain All-Weather Memo Book, No. 954T

The cover and paper of Rite in the Rain 954T are tan in colour. The journal is also available in a green format (954). Pages are perfect bound; this is not a favourite method of mine for securing pages as they can come adrift, particularly with age as the substrate dries and cracks. However I have not had enough years experience with this journal to be aware if this is an issue. The cover is termed by Rite in the Rain as their ‘Field Flex’ which is supposed to be their toughest variant. Certainly it feels durable. I do like the rounded corners which last well, resisting curling with use and feel good beneath the digit when thumbing through.

rite-in-the-rain-back cover

Rite in the Rain- back cover. Useful metric and imperial scale if measuring flora or tracks, not sure how useful otherwise…

rite-in-the-rain-inside-front-cover

Inside front cover

 

The 1/25,000, 1/50,000 and 1/100,000 scales on the inside front cover are potentially useful if working to maps of one of these scales.

Rite in the Rain, paint

Rite in the Rain, paint

Many people just want to keep the odd note or jotting. With the right pen and ink, this notebook will hold up well, but don’t even think about using it for any artistic renderings utilising either paints or water soluble pencils. Hardly surprising, given its ‘Rite in the Rain’ promise, the paper fails to hold on to a pigment at all.

I could never persevere with one of these journals if I wished to continue including the odd (very odd) sketch and field drawing. The reluctance of the paper to hold on to just about any writing or drawing medium is a very real issue to me. Even though they are by no means one of my favourites, this is a bit of a disappointment as these little volumes have quite a lot going for them.

Rite in the Rain

Beyond the black ink Fisher and the 2B sketching pencil, none of the other pens resulted in acceptable results

Rite in the Rain, reverse

The sturdy paper ensured that there was no bleed through at all. The page pattern is Rite in the Rain’s ‘Universal’, with heavy lining and fainter vertical dotted lines giving a grid pattern

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leuchtturm1917 Pocket Notebook

German company Leuchtturm have been making stationery for decades. Founded in 1917, their experience is there to be seen in this carefully designed and feature rich product. If some of the products looked at elsewhere on this blog can be deemed simple in design, that can not be applied to the Leuchtturm1917 range of products. The company pride themselves on making a premium product- ‘we are convinced that small details make a big difference’. Having used Moleskine for over twenty years (and there is a simple product if ever there was one) I cannot help but agree with that statement. I have looked at two Leuchtturm’s products; the pocket notebook and another; that features their ‘Whitelines’ technology.

Leuchtturm1917 Notebook

Leuchtturm1917 soft cover notebook

-leuchtturm1917-soft-coverindex

There are three pages for contents to be recorded

leuchtturm1917-soft-coverinside-front-page

Leuchtturm1917-soft cover, inside front page

The A6 sized book I purchased has blank pages but it can also be bought with a choice of either dotted, ruled or squared pages. This is a soft backed notebook and has 121 numbered pages. Before these, there is a name and address page at the front, followed by three contents pages. The final eight pages (sixteen sides) are perforated and can be detached. These notebooks have the widest margin left once pages are detached that I have come across’ a remnant measuring 10mm being left intact. The book is thread bound and comes with a gusseted flap in the rear of the book. The page marker is black, as is the elasticated closure band. You buy these notebooks with a single page of stickers to apply to outer cover for archiving purposes. The paper is ink proof and acid free to aid in this. Obviously the first few pages could be cut and removed if wished to reduce weight by a negligible amount however with the large number of internal pages, a contents page could be useful for some.

leuchtturm1917-soft-cover-blank

leuchtturm1917-soft cover notebook, gusseted pocket in the back adds some thickness to the volume

 

leuchtturm1917-soft-cover-thickness

 

It is a joy to write on the paper in these notebooks. The 80g/m² paper feels good under the pen, smooth with no drag but holding an ink well. The more I use this notebook, the more I like it. For longer, multi day hikes, this journal would take some beating. What I don’t understand is the preference in the UK for Moleskine over these when there is so little price difference.

Leuchtturm1917

The paper handled all of my chosen pens and pencils well. Both 2B pencils felt good and the wash from the water soluble Derwent was even and dried well

Leuchtturm1917, reverse

The three watercolour paints are just visible through the paper. All three of the Faber Castell inks are extremely visible with the Sakura and Fisher being the only acceptable inks below

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leuchturm1917 Whitelines

Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines

Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines

This notebook is useful when there is a considerable amount to be recorded. Perhaps on a trek lasting multiple weeks or months. This is the larger and tougher version of the soft backed variant above. The hard backed cover means that this will stand up to continual and extended use. Obviously this has a weight penalty- this 185 page volume weighs 152g against the 95g, 121 page soft back book looked at earlier.  Pages are both ink proof and acid free for long term archiving. White lines on grey pages are designed to prove less of a distraction and disappear when copied, scanned or faxed. The notebook is only a little bulkier in the hand than the soft backed version (above) and is comparable in height & width dimensions to the Field Notes memo book.

Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines

Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines- Comfortable in the hand

leuchtturm1917-whitelines-ruledthickness

This is a pretty thick volume at 14mm

This is a chunky hard backed notebook with 185 numbered pages. Before these, there are three blank tables for contents. The final eight pages (sixteen sides) are perforated and can be detached. The margin left in the volume once pages are detached is narrower than the soft back version above; measuring 6mm. Being thread bound, the book is advertised as opening flat, however it may require a little persuasion before it does so. There is a gusseted flap in the rear of the book, this is actually a usable feature. There is bright orange page marker and elastic enclosure band, as with the previous journal, this adds some bulk to the overall volume.

Leuchtturm1917-whitelines-ruled-page-layout

Three contents pages at front. The four squares in each corner are what are picked up by the mobile device app when capturing a page

The makers of this notebook proudly boast that it incorporates ‘Whitelines Link‘ technology. Having scribbled, doodled or drawn on a page, it is then possible to open up the (free) Whitelines app on a mobile device, capture the full page, then tick a ‘quick’ box to store or share via email, Evernote or Dropbox. Once scanned the white lines on the page are not visible.

Leuchtturm1917-whitelines-ruled-perforated-pages.jpg

White lines on grey paper. All notebook pages are numbered, the final eight pages are perforated

 

leuchtturm1917-whitelines-ruled-internal-flap

Useful flap in rear of notebook. There are stickers to apply to the front cover and/or spine

Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines

Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines. I did not like the dried watercolours at all, the grey undertone lent little and the colours are a little flat. Faber Castell pens did not take to the paper well but everything below those was OK with the exception of the medium wash pencil

Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines, reverse

Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines, reverse. I was surprised at the amount of bleed through with what I had thought would be a sturdy paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moleskine cahiers notebook

These little journals come in sets of three. They are a very simple affair and therein lies their effectiveness. No bells, no whistles, just 64 plain pages in a cardboard cover. They also comes as ruled or squared variants. The inside of the rear cover has the ‘famed’ flap for gathering loose notes in. This is open at the inside and top edge and has no gusset so does not hold a lot before gaping open or having contents spill out.

Journalling at a 'sensible' lunchtime pub stop on the West Highland Way. 2013

Journalling at a ‘sensible’ lunchtime pub stop on the West Highland Way. 2013

Paper is an ivory coloured 70 g/m² acid-free. The  rear sixteen pages (32 sides) are perforated and can be detached. There are no page numbers. Each journal weighs 39g, though I have found some variation in this having come across examples that weigh 41g. Word has it that outsourcing supply in recent years has resulted in some quality control issues. I cannot say that I have encountered any problem with recent purchases, but that may be that because it is such a simple product that exceptionally high quality is not going to be found anyway- as I say, they have kept it simple and that is what it is.

Moleskine cahiers notebook

Moleskine cahiers notebook

The closest rival to this product reviewed here is the Field Notes Memo Book. While that is an excellent, if basic, journal, the Moleskine wins out with the addition of the inside rear flap and, particularly, the perforated pages. However, taking in to account the tendency for inks to bleed through, in truth, there is little in it.

moleskine-plain-notebookinternal-flap

Moleskine plain notebook. Internal flap in back cover

The only slightly above average quality of the paper is apparent with uneven drying of paints and inks. However the paper does not drag on a pen excessively and feels fairly smooth to write or draw on.

 

 

 

 

 

Moleskine

Uneven drying of all inks and pigment is apparent, however the pencils write smoothly and the paper makes a perfectly adequate drawing medium

Moleskine, rear

Every pen and pigment used shows through the paper to some degree. The pencils are the only ones sufficiently faint to be acceptable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Midori Traveller’s notebook- 003 Passport size

‘a notebook for life’

While I use the large Midori Traveler’s Notebook, complete with thick leather cover and various sundry parts, for work, I had never experimented with the smaller format ‘Passport’ size for hiking with. This is to a different size format than all others looked at in this blog, being squarer in design, annoyingly so if you want to slip it into a shirt pocket or similar whereupon you will find it too wide. In addition, the pages could do with rounding at the corners.

Midori Passport size 003 Traveler's notebook

Midori Passport size 003 Traveler’s notebook, in wrapper

These notebooks are amazingly light. There is a fair bit of guff on the interior page, presumably made to ‘mimic’ a passport. The lightly perforated pages are useful. But do require a page to be folded before attempting to detach from the entirety otherwise will rip. I think the paper used is similar to, if not the actual paper, to the famed Tomoe River product.

Midori Passport size 003 Traveler's notebook

Midori Passport size 003 Traveler’s notebook. A wide, squarish book

The soft back cover keeps 80 ivory coloured pages together. Even with the minimal ‘special pages, this is a lightweight offering at only 29g. A perfectly functional basic little notebook that can be married with similar sized, completed notebooks in Midori type folders/binders should you feel a burning need. I don’t.

Midori Passport size 003 Traveler's notebook

Midori notebook, inside front page

Midori Passport size 003 Traveler's notebook

Inside back page. Handmade and printed bookplate anyone?

Midori Passport size 003 Traveler's notebook

Midori notebook, stapled pages and lightly perforated pages

 

Midori

Midori. The watercolours dried well but the medium wash pencil gave a pool of grey tone when dampened that dried in a very unsatisfactory manner

Midori, reverse

Midori, reverse. Unsurprisingly with such a thin paper, the reverse of the pages are unsightly and unusable for anything beyond an untidy writing over what is showing through

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be warned, the Midori community is large, passionate and can suck the unwary in. YouTube is rife with hundreds of videos explaining how to personalise your Midori, what to add, what to stick in. To be frank, what I have seen has been mostly excruciating. There is always the off-switch.

Backpocket journal- Tomoe River Edition

Ordering is an overseas affair for a UK based walker

Ordering is an overseas affair for a UK based walker. But still, what an exciting package to receive, and handwritten note to accompany!

While only offering 48 pages, this is one of the most promising and exciting (yes, really!) journals that I have looked at. It is minimal, yet presents a good quality product (paper) in a format familiar to most.

Backpocket Journal- Tomoe River Edition

Backpocket Journal- Tomoe River Edition

Backpocket journal, Tomoe River Edition.Internal stitching

Internal stitching

These journals are made by Steve Curnow at his Curnow Bookbinding & Leatherwork business. It is a slightly peculiar affair ordering these, you contact Steve via his Facebook page. Send him an email with your enquiry and he replies pretty promptly with what’s available and shipping costs. Curnow Bookbinding produces three packs of a standard Backpocket Journal, with a variety of snazzy covers, or alternatively, you can step up to the little gem shown here. The journal reviewed here features 52g/m² Tomoe River paper (the clue is on the front cover).

Backpocket journal, Tomoe River Edition

Backpocket journal, Tomoe River Edition

The Backpocket Journal is larger than the Midori above. Any serious lightweight hiker would think that Curnow had been interviewing hikers as to their requirements. This is a basic, no frills journal that utilises fine quality papers and thin covers. My only wish would be for it to come in a double or even triple format as the 48 pages is pretty meagre, though this is the same as the Field Notes offerings. I will probably either contact Steve and see if he can run me up a few thicker versions or try and sew a couple together myself.

 

When writing about this particular journal (September 2015), I see the various editions from Steve Curnow featuring Tomoe River paper comprise those below. The one reviewed here is the first listed:

Backpocket Journals (3.5″ x 5.25″, 48 pages):

Tomoe River Edition (creme paper, blank) …….. $12.50
Tomoe River Edition (white paper, blank) ………. $12.50

Backpack Journals (4.375″ x 8.25″, 60 pages):

Regular (blank or lined) ………………………………. $15.00
Tomoe River Edition (blank, white or creme) …. $18.00
Tomoe River Jumbo Edition (blank, 128 pgs) … $32.00

A5 Journals (148mm x 210mm, 80 pages):

Tomoe River Edition (blank, white or creme) …. $19.00
Tomoe River Jumbo Edition (blank, 128 pgs) … $33.00

 

Lined insert shows adequetly through pages if required

Lined insert card shows adequately through pages if it is required. The insert adds a further 2g

 

 

Backpocket Journal

The paper accepted all the pencils, pens and paints tried.

Backpocket Journal, reverse

Not surprisingly, the rear of the paper belies its thinness with all writing and pigment showing through

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a lovely paper! It is very pleasant to write on and takes a 2B sketching pencil well. Paint and ink dry quickly and, despite the thinness of the paper, without cockling. This is probably my favourite of all the papers looked at for writing on, though the thinness could prove problematic if being stressed too much, such as if being used for rubbings or sticking heavier mementoes to.

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Digital journalling

Dell Axim x51v PDA- Despite being an intuitive and good looking device, this was an unsuccessful diversion into digital journalling

Dell Axim X51v PDA- 117mm x 73mm x 16mm (4.7″ x 2.9″ x 0.7″). Despite being an intuitive and good looking device, this was an unsuccessful diversion into digital journalling

A word about electronics. Three Points of the Compass has dabbled in digital journalling. In 2005 a high end (at the time!) Dell Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) proved fun for a while but was both heavy (179g) for backpacking and laborious to input notes and diary. This had speaker, microphone,  a 3.7″ VGA screen, ran on Windows Mobile 5.0 (later Windows Mobile 6.1), Windows Media Player 10, 624 MHz processor, 256 MB flash ROM, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. I did later try and improve things with a Think Outside Stowaway portable keyboard. This connected via Bluetooth but also proved simply too bulky and heavy (289g). Despite having a removable 1100mAh battery, life was only ‘OK’. I did get a double size 2200mAh replacement battery for the device but this stuck out the back quite awkwardly beneath the large replacement battery cover. The device came with both Compact Flash and Secure Digital card slots for expansion and other pretty useful features, using the pocket pc proved unsatisfactory to me and, to date, I have been disinclined to repeat the experiment with the smart phones that followed in the PDA wake.

Being an oral historian (part of my day job) I am also looking at options for sound recordings on my trips. The professional quality Marantz equipment I use at work is simply too heavy and bulky for hiking with and most Dictaphones I have seen and used do not offer the quality I am after. While it is possible to use an iPhone or similar, I am probably looking for something that is unavailable at present, the search goes on…

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64p, 39g Moleskine cashiers journal and its replacement 48p, 19g Backpocket journal

64 page 39g Moleskine cahiers journal and my replacement for it- the 48 page 19g Backpocket journal

So, what has Three Points of the Compass determined from this exercise? As I mentioned earlier, I have happily relied on the easily found, fairly cheap to purchase, simple yet functional plain Moleskine Journals for years. Field Notes are just as good and some may say they possibly have the edge with their ever increasing range of cover options etc- wood anyone? Looking around at alternatives has shown that there are better, if pricier options easily available. It is possibly to hunt out very lightweight and minimalist offerings, or more fully specc’ed products. It will depend if it is day hikes or longer trips that I am looking to supply. For the next few years at least, I believe I have found a worthy successor… or two. Only time will tell what is the perfect notebook. But in truth, it is the actually using anything, of any make or design, that results in the perfect notebook

 

Relative sizes of the eight journals compared

Relative sizes of the eight journals compared, the squared edge of the Midori is the oddity here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When there is no space left inside, then the cover will do. Dragon tree on Madeira, 2015

When there is no space left inside, then the cover will do. Dragon tree on Madeira, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a few grams here, a few grams there… in search of the perfect pen

The Stowaway. Fisher Space Pen

The Stowaway. Fisher Space Pen

It is very easy to become a gram weenie, obsessed with shaving off the grams. Almost each time I shoulder a pack at the start of a trip, I give momentary thought to what can be left out next time. However that is not the time to be addressing the issue. I believe it is by keeping a list of what is taken and giving honest retrospective thought on the return as to what was actually used is one of the best ways of lightening the load next time.

The largest savings in weight are always going to be by addressing the ‘Big Three’- Shelter, Sleeping and Pack. True advantages can be made with those. But by constantly being aware of the opportunity to replace and reduce where appropriate a steady overall reduction can be achieved with little or no loss of function.

In search of the perfect pen…

I carry a pen. I like to keep notes, so I also carry a small journal. I’m no great fan of the Rite in the Rain style so take a 9cm x 14cm Moleskine notebook. It is, of course, perfectly possible to supplement this with a cheap (free?) mini biro from Argos. But there are far better options available.

Inka pen, 85mm

Inka pen, 85mm

Inka pen, component parts

Inka pen, component parts

For years I have used an Inka pen (above). It weighs 17g including the 2g split ring that can easily be dispensed with. Mostly constructed of carbon fibre and 304 stainless steel, its dimunitive size (85mm) when ‘dismantled’ opens up into a full size pen (128mm). The aluminium shaft is 10mm diameter and the lower part 9mm diameter. The pen comes with a Delrin stylus that I have never put to use. I wish sometimes it was fitted with a mini highlighter pen instead as that would be much more use. It writes pretty well but I am frustrated in only having found blue ink refills for the pen. The 600m write length from the tiny ink cartridge is a bit ambitious I reckon, but there again, who goes round measuring the length of their writing. All we want is a cartridge that will last the length of a trip.

Inka pen in the hand

Inka pen in the hand

For short or quick notes, often all that is needed with the Inka pen is to pull out the actual pen section from the shaft and use the short section as it is, rather than construct the whole length pen.

The titanium variant of this pen has long been on my wish list, but I have never bought it as it is ridiculously expensive. Many is the time it has made it to my cart, on-line, only for me to drop out at the last minute, muttering to myself ‘how much? for a pen!’

Inka now make a pen made from carbon fibre and polycarbonate, a few grams have been shaved off as a result of the materials choice and it only weighs 11g. However, pens are a personal choice and I don’t like this newer pen. It again comes with a useless (to me) stylus. In common with my earlier Inka, it comes with the means to fasten it to ‘something’, the steel split ring on the earlier pen has been replaced with an equally useless (to me) karabiner* clip. And blue ink again, why always blue, I want black.

Fisher Stowaway Space pen in the hand

Fisher Stowaway Space pen in the hand

So recently I purchased a much more modest affair. This is, as far as I know, the smallest and lightest of the Fisher Space pens. The aluminium Stowaway weighs a paltry 5g and this is achieved mostly by its diminutive proportions. Fisher do make the Trekker Space pen, but that comes in heavier than the Inka. With my preference to only replace kit with lighter options where possible, that is why I went for the Stowaway. It is 100mm when stowed and 130mm when constructed for use. Construction is a far simpler affair than the Inka too, pull the cap off and slot it on the other end, that’s it.

Both pens in the hand, both are pretty small in stowed configuration

Both pens in the hand, both are pretty small in stowed configuration

I now get the black ink I prefer. The pen is pretty thin in the hand, there is no denying it. The shaft is only 6.5mm thick. I have heard of some people heat shrinking electrical tubing on to the pen to make it slightly wider and more comfortable but I will see how I get on with it as it is for a while before trying that wheeze.

The Fisher cartridge appears to hold a larger amount of ink than the tiny Inka cartridge (bottom)

The Fisher cartridge holds a larger amount of ink than the tiny Inka cartridge (bottom). While Inka claim 600 metres write length for their cartridges, is is possible to get over 3500 metres from the Fisher cartridge

Both pens will write in ridiculously cold or hot conditions, upside down and in the wet, there is no danger of either cartridge suffering from ‘exploding’ or leaking either as they are hermetically sealed and pressurised. Some people claim that cartridges cannot be changed in these pens but that is not so. Simply press down firmly on the nip tip on a firm surface and they pop out the other end. Replacement is just as simple, slide in the cartridge and press home.

Inka pen top is more confortable in the hand but considerably heaviers than the Stowaway from Fisher

Inka pen (top) is more comfortable in the hand but considerably heavier than the Stowaway (bottom) from Fisher

Despite both cartridges being pressurised, the Inka (top) does not deliver as smooth and consistent a line as the Fisher (bottom)

Despite both cartridges being pressurised, the Inka (top) does not deliver as smooth and consistent a line as the Fisher (bottom)

There is another option…

Notebook pencil, with 0.3m of gaffer tape wound round it, it weighs 3g

Notebook pencil, with 0.3m of gaffer tape wound round it, it weighs 3g

The old story goes that hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent by NASA in the 1960s developing a pen suitable for the space missions. Not quite true, the costs involved meant that US Astronauts used pencils, just as Russian Cosmonauts did. It was only later that the privately developed Fisher Space pen was adopted for the Apollo flights and manned Russian space exploration flights.

But, taking a leaf from their book. A simple pencil will probably suffice for many, if not most, desired tasks. There is no need to take a full size pencil either, a stubby little affair will mostly do good service, and there isn’t much that is lighter than one of these…

2g pencil, ex Ikea

2g pencil, ex Ikea

* Some people get a little hung up with spelling of karabiner (Bruce, I’m looking at you). You will, indeed, see me straying off piste with my own spelling on occasion: carabiner, caribiner, karibiner et al. But the important thing to remember, is, nope, forgotten…