Tag Archives: scissors

Gerber Dime and Dime Travel- two budget priced keychain multi-tools

Knife chat: Gerber Dime and Dime Travel multi-tools

Gerber Legendary Blades introduced their first multi-tool in 1991 and in 2009 the company released two little tools that improved on their earlier smaller multi-tools- these were the Gerber Vice and Gerber Splice. In 2012 yet another, and smaller, replacement appeared on the market and has remained a great favourite on many keychains ever since. This is the Gerber Dime.

Acquired by the the Finnish Fiskars Corporation in 1986 much of the manufacture of Gerber tools transferred to China, the quality of many Gerber products suffered as a result however prices have remained extremely competitive. With care and due regard to the fragility of these smaller Gerber tools, they can work pretty well in most softer and undemanding applications.

Gerber Dime- a budget priced keychain multi-tool

Gerber Dime- a budget priced keychain multi-tool

Gerber Dime-

Released by Gerber in 2012 this stainless steel tool is available in a range of anodised scale colours and is a great improvement on the Gerber Vice that preceded it. It looks fantastic and the finishing on the tool is a real step up, with smooth edges and little rough machining. Quality remains just so-so, reflecting the fact it is a low budget, Chinese made tool available for a competitive price in direct competition with the various Leatherman offerings.
Gerber seem to excel in making their multi-tools extremely stiff to open when new out of the box and they loosen up only a little with time. Expect to break a finger nail on some of the tighter tools. The tool is constructed with torx screws so an attempt at loosening, or even disassembly, can be made, if not on trail.

Gerber Dime is centred around a small and useful set of pliers- light work only

Gerber Dime is centred around a small and useful set of spring tensioned pliers- light work only

The 66.4g Dime keychain multi-tool is centred around a small pair of plier jaws. Despite being a smaller tool overall, these jaws are larger than the Gerber Vice keychain tool that preceded it. The pliers on the Dime also have an improved tension spring that extends into the body of the tool within small channels in the plier head. The smooth tipped jaws incorporate a not particularly thin needle nose pliers, standard pliers and wire cutters. Only the tips of the needle nose pliers meet and there is a very small gap to the rest of the serrated pliers when closed. Tips are 2.5 millimetres wide at the tip, widening to 3.65 millimetres prior to the wire cutter. These pliers are a general purpose tool for undemanding work only. If used on trail, they would be useful for easing stuck zips- though the tips would benefit from serrations, or grabbing pots off a stove etc. however they will not handle even moderately tough work. If used on heavier work, cutting thick cable ties, thick wire etc, then the jaws will twist apart and clamp rather than cut. I wish this were a true needle nose plier as not only would it set this tool apart from the competition, but also make it more practical in use. Particularly for the type of ‘to-hand’ tasks that a small EDC or trail tool might be used. It would also mean that the tool were less likely to be damaged due to attempting heavy work.

35mm long Spey point blade on Gerber Dime

35mm long Spey point blade on Gerber Dime

The 35mm long double-bevel blade is interesting. It is a ‘Spey Point’ shape, with a good belly. Likely made from 3Cr13 stainless steel, the blade will not readily rust and the bevelled edge will retain sharpness reasonably well and will also sharpen easily. The blade is continual thickness from midway to the spine at 1.80mm thick. Despite the curved shape, the blade when opened can be used for cutting flush to a surface, useful if cutting meats, cheese or veg on a board.

Retail package opener, excvellent for opening clam shell packaging, not a lot of use for anything else

Retail package opener, excellent for opening clam shell packaging, not a lot of use for anything else

Situated on the same side of the tool as the blade is a retail package opener, i.e. for opening those damned clam shell packages we all struggle with. This tool alone earns this multi-tool a place on my home desk but I struggle to see how it is particularly useful for my hiking exploits.

Small pair of tweezers resides in the scales beside the excellent bottle opener

Small pair of tweezers resides in the scales beside the excellent bottle opener

Gerber did a good job to include small yet useful removable tweezers. These are 40mm long with angled tips that meet well. They might struggle with small ticks but would be fine for most thorns and bee stings etc. Folding in to the handles, the Dime includes what are grandly termed coarse and fine files. These are some 12 mm long and situated on each side of the 22mm long small screwdriver. Both are too small and more importantly amount to little more than smooth serrations. They will not even file finger nails. The small driver can work with some Phillips also. An equally short driver facing the small driver has a 6mm wide flat head. This can also be used for light levering- paint tin lids and the like. Not many of them on trail. Folding in to the same handle as the two drivers is a pair of folding scissors. These have been designed so that the two cutting edges always have some tension overlapping them when open, which helps keep the two edges together when cutting. The cutting edges are sprung due to the inclusion of an effective, if small, torsion bar that runs into the body of the tool. All that said, the cutting edges are tiny- being just 13mm long. They will cut paper, card, thinner cordage and KT tape well. Cordura straps will see them struggling but you can steadily hack your way through with perserverance.

Very small pair of spring loaded scissors are sharp but will only handle very light work

Very small pair of spring loaded scissors are sharp but will only handle very light work

Despite being pretty small Three Points of the Compass still thinks multi-tools are too large for hanging comfortably from a keychain, though the more modest dimensions of the Dime, combined with its rounded profile makes it less bulky than the Gerber Vice and Splice forerunners if carried in that manner. The sticky-out bottle cap lifter, though prominent and immediately to hand, is not obtrusive. It is also really effective and amongst the best you will find on any small multi-tool. Though seeing as a Bic lighter can be used to open a bottle just fine, I am never going to get too excited about the inclusion of a bottle opener on a small multi-tool. Postioned at the same end of the tool, the lanyard ring will not fold away or retract if not required, this can be annoying.

The Gerber Dime is ergonomically shaped and one of the smallest keychain multi-tools on the market

The Gerber Dime is ergonomically shaped and one of the smallest keychain multi-tools on the market

Gerber Dime

Tools:

  • Mini-pliers with wire cutter
  • Fine Edge Blade
  • Retail Package Opener
  • Scissors
  • Flat Screwdriver – medium
  • Flat Screwdriver – small
  • File (coarse & fine)
  • Bottle opener
  • Removable tweezers
  • Lanyard ring
The Dime packaging explains the function of each tool included

The Dime packaging lists and explains the function of each tool included

Three Points of the Compass does think that the Dime is a terrific little keychain multi-tool option especially for the price. It looks good, is small and ergonomic and offers a great selection of little tools that may be helpful on a day to day basis, particularly in an urban or office environment. However I am not convinced that this multi-tool is particularly suited for life on trail, especially as there are so many better options, such as the more expensive Leatherman Squirt PS4. The colour on the scales wears badly with time. Many users have experienced failure with the plier jaws if used for anything more than light work. The package opener on the Dime would be mostly superfluous when camping and the file is too small and ineffectual to handle fingernails, the list goes on. But, it is cheap and includes both knife blade and scissors. So if you already have one and need something for a weekend or weeks hiking, it’ll do.

Main scale tools on Gerber Dime and Dime Travel

Main scale tools on Gerber Dime and Dime Travel

The Gerber Dime was immediately popular on release however it joined a market still struggling to adapt to the aftermath of the coordinated September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Other manufacturers were also struggling in the wake of these disastrous events, Knife manufacturer Wenger never recovered and were eventually taken over by rival Victorinox. With heightened security, zealous staff at airports worldwide confiscated the little knives sitting in handbags and hanging from keychains of commercial air travellers. In 2015 Gerber released a ‘TSA friendly’ version of the Dime that has no blade beyond those on its small scissors. Gerber even managed to squeeze a zipper-hook into the tool…

Gerber Dime Travel- a supposedly 'carry-on friendly' multi-tool

Gerber Dime Travel- a supposedly ‘carry-on friendly’ multi-tool

Gerber Dime Travel-

The 68g Dime Travel keychain multi-tool is again centred around a pair of small pliers. These are exactly the same as found on the Dime. Again, all tools are stiff to open and will break finger nails with impunity.

Some other tools are also the same, these are the small scissors, small and medium screwdrivers, though the former lacks the useless short file found on the Dime, the Dime Travel having 34mm long, slightly rougher, fine and coarse files instead. The end of the file is a 6.5mm flat tip that will handle light work but any tight screws will produce sufficient torque to twist or even snap the tool. File surface does not extend to the edges so it can not be used for light sawing or notching. Sadly the longer file replaces the blade, removed to make this tool ‘carry-on friendly‘.

Cross-cut file surface on Dime Travel

Cross-cut file surface on Dime Travel

Single cut file surface does little more than buff finger nails

Single cut file surface does little more than buff finger nails

“… attaches to a broken luggage zipper for troubleshooting while travelling”

Comparing the smal Phillips head drivers on Dime Travel (left) and Dime (right)

Comparing the small Phillips head drivers on Dime Travel (left) and Dime (right)

Any other similar tool to those found on the Dime are equally as good, or poor. Tweezers are handy, nothing more, bottle opener is terrific. Again, the scissors are perfectly adequate for light work. However even those have proved unacceptable for some security staff and the Dime Travel has also occasionally been confiscated.

So- what about the zipper hook, there to pull broken zippers. A tool I never realised I needed until… nope, I don’t need it. A 100 per cent useless inclusion. If I need to open a broken zip, I can use the pliers. Such a shame something more useful was not included instead.

Zipper pull. Possibly the most useless tool that has ever been included on a multi-tool

Zipper hook. Possibly the most useless tool that has ever been included on a multi-tool

In common with the Dime, the Travel version has pleasantly designed and ergonomic handles with rounded edges that prevent it snagging in pockets etc. There is just a little textured moulding to the scales that improves both looks and grip just a little.

Gerber Dime Travel- leave it at home...

Gerber Dime Travel- leave it at home…

Tools:

  • Dime Travel packagingMini-pliers with wire cutter
  • Scissors
  • Flat Screwdriver – medium
  • Flat Screwdriver – small
  • File (coarse & fine)
  • Zipper hook
  • Bottle opener
  • Removable tweezers
  • Lanyard ring

In summary:

Both tools are currently reasonably priced and will handle light work. Some of the tools, such as the smaller file surfaces and zipper pull are beyond useless and should be totally discounted when it comes to making a decision. Three Points of the Compass is never likely to carry either of these tools while backpacking as there are better options. That said, the Dime does provide the most basic of necessary tools with a little extra functionality and could be a handy little keychain tool for urban EDC. The Dime Travel however has little going for it, there are far better alternatives in my opinion. Beyond being a curiosity, the Dime Travel is unlikely to ever be carried by Three Points of the Compass- anywhere.

The smaller scale tools on Gerber Dime and Dime Travel

The smaller scale tools on Gerber Dime and Dime Travel

Dime and Dime Travel specifications:

Weight Length Width

(across widest point of torx)

Depth
Dime 66.4g 70mm 15.45 20.65mm
Dime Travel 68g 70mm 14.45mm 20.55mm
Two good looking keychain multi-tools from Gerber. One is useful, the other less so

Two good looking keychain multi-tools from Gerber. One is useful, the other less so

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.

First Aid Kit for multi-day backpacking trips

Gear talk: First Aid Kit

It is perfectly possible to go on a walk carrying no first aid capability at all. However knowing how to cope with issues and carrying something to deal with blisters, cuts, strains, allergic reaction, chafing or even diarrhoea can make completing a hike both possible and more enjoyable. 

Bags and pouches of small stuff carried on longer hikes

Bags and pouches of small stuff carried on longer hikes. My First Aid Kit is bottom left

Three Points of the Compass tends to compartmentalise gear while on trail. It makes it easier to find items quickly when required, protects them from getting wet and ensures that nothing is lost. Previously I have looked at my hydration, hygiene and ditty bag preferences. My First Aid Kit is just one of the various pouches carried. Currently this is a small DCF zippable pouch made by Tread Lite Gear. The kit weighs 161g, a great deal more than most would carry, but means that I can deal with injuries or ailments that I am most likely to suffer from while on trail. First Aid Kits are deeply personal and contents can, and should, vary for everyone. Note that Three Points of the Compass is not a medical practitioner and this is by no means a recommendation on what you should take. I have had some first aid training, I am a seasoned hiker and am familiar with how to deal with most problems my body will suffer from while on trail. That said, for the great majority of my hikes, this kit never gets opened unless I need the mirror, nail clippers or file.

Contents of First Aid Kit

161g First Aid Kit

Contents of my multi-day backpacking First Aid Kit:

  • 15cm x 10cm rectangle of Opsite Flexifix. Thin, vapour permeable, waterproof and bacteria proof transparent adhesive film. Cut to size, applied over dressing covering cleaned scrapes and skin trauma.
  • 1 x 10cm x 10cm Melolin dressing- flexible film. Non-woven breathable dressing for cuts and grazes. Conforms to body contours, good for awkward injuries on elbows and knees
  • 1 x 5cm x 5cm Aquacel hydrofiber dressings. Non-woven fibres form a gel on contact with cavity wound fluid. Antimicrobial properties
  • 5 x 7.5cm x 7.5cm sterile gauze swabs
  • 5 x 3mm steri-strip skin closures
  • 2 x fabric plasters- not many carried, two for being immediately to hand, otherwise fashion from gauze and tape as required
  • 1 x 2g sachet Celox haemostatic agent- good for stopping oozing or bad bleeds
  • Flexible 80mm x 40mm Victorinox mirror- with central sighting hole. Kept in small dedicated baggie to stop the mirror face scratching- Useful for facial injuries and tick checks, also when shaving
  • 1m of 50mm Hypafix tape- cut to fit plaster, fixing gauze etc. 
  • 1m of 50mm KT tape- latex free kinesiology tape. Muscle strains, tendonitis. Also acts as cut to fit plaster and potentially splinting
  • Cohesive bandage- a lighter and smaller option than the more effective Ace bandage
  • 4 x clean, sealed compressed towlettes- Cleaning wounds etc.
  • Single nappy pin
  • Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers- not the best but small and convenient
  • Victorinox nail clippers- model 8.2050 B1- hand and foot care, probably not required on every trail but light enough to always include
  • Glass crystal nail file- hand and foot care. long lasting and better than a metal or emery file
  • No. 10 Scalpel blade- clean, a better option than a mucky knife blade for wounds and cutting flaps of loose skin etc.
  • O’Tom Tick Twisters- good tick tweezers are an essential item on trail
  • Westcott titanium embroidery scissors- small, light and well made, for cutting gauze and tape
  • Betadine- antiseptic (10% povidine iodine). In 2ml glass bottle with orifice reducer. Cuts, scrapes and burns
  • Small sealed straw tube of Dermovate ointment- steroid ointment for inflamed skin conditions
  • 28g tube Lanacane. Anti-chafe gel
  • 8 x Ibuprofen- pain killer, treats fever and anti-inflammation. Note these are 400mg, not the more commonly seen 200mg
  • 6 x Aspirin 300mg- pain killer, no anti-inflammatory properties. Heart attack!
  • 7 x Loratadine- anti-allergy
  • 5 x Piriton- Chlorphenamine maleate- anti-allergy. (also helps you sleep if absolutely necessary)

  • 3 x Imodium plus comfort- Loperamide hydrochloride with simethicone- in the event of stomach upset, life could potentially be pretty miserable if these are not to hand

As you can see, there is quite a bit to the contents of my First Aid Kit. This has been refined over many years and modern products have occasionally taken the place of items that I used to include. Two simple and efficient tapes have replaced my micropore, leucotape, transpore or leucosilk tapes formerly carried. I carried an Ace bandage for many years, great that they are, they are also very bulky and not an insignificant weight penalty. The cohesive bandage has replaced that though it is still a weighty inclusion. Much of the rest of the weight of this kit comes from a full tube of anti-chafe gel, a decent set of nail clippers and good scissors. There are some items that I used to carry that I struggled to now exclude- nitrile gloves, resuscitation face shield, silicone toe cots and yet more tape amongst them.

Note that the above is my First Aid Kit for longer, multi-day, backpacking trips. With these contents I expect to be able to complete a hike with no need to seek out a pharmacy or similar. Contents will last me many weeks and I take considerably less with me on a single day hike. Medicants and other expiry dates are checked regularly and replaced as required.

An earlier incarnation of the First Aid Kit carried by Three Points of the Compass. Though reduced since, many of the contents are the same. Arnamurchan 2018

An earlier incarnation of the First Aid Kit carried by Three Points of the Compass. Though reduced since, many of the contents are the same. Ardnamurchan 2018

The contents of my First Aid kit, and the bag or pouch it is all gathered together in, have varied considerably over my hiking years. No doubt it will continue to evolve. When accompanied by Mrs Three Points of the Compass, or when our young daughter used to accompany us, this will influence the contents to a degree, despite both of them also carrying a kit refined to their own particular needs. Hiking overseas has also altered the inclusion of medications. 

Finally, two further comments on my First Aid kit. It is ideally easily accessed from my pack with just one hand. I keep my First Aid Kit in an outer pocket of my smaller Osprey pack on day hikes, and within the top of my Gossamer Gear Mariposa on multi-day hikes. While the DCF pouch containing my First Aid Kit is highly water resistant, it is not completely waterproof, so is also double protected, being kept within the pack liner, possibly also within an additional zip-lock if the weather is especially harsh.

Roll call on the Cape Wrath Trail. Scotland was VERY wet during this hike and it rained heavily on many days. First Aid Kit, electronics and ditty bag were all double protected from water ingress, being kept together in a sealed bag

Roll call on the Cape Wrath Trail. Scotland was VERY wet during this hike and it rained heavily on many days. First Aid Kit, electronics and ditty bag were all double protected from water ingress, being kept together in a sealed bag. And yes, Three Points of the Compass did carry O.S. maps, Harvey map AND Cicerone trail guide. Used maps were posted home whenever a post office was passed

My next glance at the small bags and pouches of ‘stuff’ carried on trail shall be my 2020 electronics pouch. The contents of which have probably changed most amongst all of my back-packing gear over the years as advances in technology have progressed.

 

Gerber Vice and Splice, two affordable keychain multi-tools

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

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

Gerber Vice and Gerber Splice sizes compared with Leatherman Squirt S4

Gerber Vice and Gerber Splice sizes compared with Leatherman Squirt S4

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

“Designed and engineered in Oregon… made in China”

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

Gerber Vice

Gerber Vice

Main jaw tools:

Gerber Vice tools

Gerber Vice tools

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

Gerber Splice

Gerber Splice

Gerber Splice tools

Gerber Splice tools

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

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

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

Other features:

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

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

Excellent bottle opener but difficult to open

Rubbish and small files are included on both multi-tools

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

Tools:

Small screwdriver is poorly finished and suffers from rounded corners

Small screwdriver is poorly finished and suffers from rounded corners

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

Serrated blade and bottle opener are indicated visually on both tools

Dimensions:

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

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

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

Gerber Vice in the hand

Gerber Vice in the hand

In conclusion:

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

Gerber Splice in the hand

Gerber Splice in the hand

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

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

Plier jaws on Gerber Vice only meet at the tips

Plier jaws on Gerber Vice only meet at the tips

 

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.

An assortment of SwissCards

Knife chat: 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

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.