Tag Archives: small stuff

Lone Peak Altras

What gear wears out on a long hike?

 The South West Coast Path is 630 miles long and a challenge in itself. When Three Points of the Compass finished this in 2018 there was still another 1400 miles of trail. Gear had to be carefully selected and be suitable for a wide range of terrain and conditions

The South West Coast Path is 630 miles long and a challenge in itself. When Three Points of the Compass finished this in 2018 there was still another 1400 miles of walking. Gear had to be carefully selected and be suitable for a wide range of terrain and conditions

Lightweight modern gear can be surprisingly tough. With care much of it will last many thousands of trail miles. My 900ml Evernew pan is titanium and flexes with ease. Yet other than being blackened and scratched, with scorched silicon covered handles, it is still in good working order and I expect it to last me many more years. It wasn’t cheap when new but has more than paid for itself. I like it and feel no need to replace it with shinier, newer cook wear.

The heel cups always seem to wear out in my trail shoes. I expected this to happen with my Lone Peaks around the 450 mile point

The heel cups always seem to wear out in my trail shoes. I expected this to happen with my Lone Peaks around the 450 mile point. When they began to fray I would line them with a piece of duct tape

Lone Peak Altras were light, breathable and comfortable. However I knew that I would be lucky to get more than 500-600 miles out of a pair

I find the toes on my trail shoes tend to come unstuck and flap around after a couple of hundred miles. Sometimes I would glue them back with a 1 gm tube of superglue from my ditty bag. Frequently I couldn’t be bothered

Lone Peak Altra trail shoes are light, breathable and comfortable. However I know that I am lucky to get more than 500-600 miles out of a pair. I had purchased four pairs prior to my 2018 hike as they aren’t the easiest to source. I expected my feet to spread and I used pairs a size larger than normal. Just as well, as they did.

The trail was often muddy, especially in the first few weeks in the Spring. Fine silt would work its way through the mesh of the trail shoes and this would build up in the thick pile of my Darn Tuff socks

The trail was often muddy, especially in the first few weeks in the Spring. Fine silt would work its way through the mesh of the trail shoes and this would build up in the thick pile of my Darn Tuff socks

Despite being washed, or at least rinsed, on a daily basis. Socks wore out. I carried tow pairs for walking and alternated them. Both pairs were replaced during the walk.

Despite being washed, or at least rinsed, on a daily basis. Socks wore out as a result of silt. I carried two pairs for walking and alternated them each day. Both pairs were replaced with new during the walk

Needless to say, footwear- socks and trail shoes get a battering. I had the option of wearing boots but have been using lightweight trail runners for years. I prepared spares in advance of my walk for Mrs Three Points of the Compass to send on to me as required. I don’t think a long hike is the time to be changing out to unfamiliar footwear and it made sense to have reserves ‘back-home’. Particularly as I would no doubt be using them on future hikes if they were not required for this trail.

It is pure miles and miles of hiking, washing gear in streams, sinks and shower trays. Sun, rain, hot and cold. Brambles, thorns, heather, gorse, barbed wire and rocks, that all combine to wear down the daily trekking clothing. Wear good quality gear from reputable manufacturers that have tested their gear over tens of thousands of miles. Clothing will wear out, of course it will, but I found that Champion 365 shorts or Montane Terra pants, Rohan merino polo shirt and synthetic ExOfficio baselayers lasted fine months of hiking. Black Mountains, Offa's Dyke, Jun 2018

It is pure miles and miles of hiking, washing gear in streams, sinks and shower trays. Sun, rain, hot and cold. Brambles, thorns, heather, gorse, barbed wire and rocks, that all combine to wear down the daily trekking clothing and other items carried. Wear good quality gear from reputable manufacturers that have tested this over tens of thousands of miles. Clothing will wear out, of course it will, but I found that Champion 365 shorts or Montane Terra pants, Rohan merino polo shirt and synthetic ExOfficio baselayers lasted fine months of hiking. Black Mountains, Offa’s Dyke, Jun 2018

It is pure miles and miles of hiking, washing gear in streams, sinks and shower trays. Sun, rain, hot and cold, brambles, thorns, heather, gorse, barbed wire and rocks, that all combine to wear down the daily trekking clothing. Wear good quality gear from reputable manufacturers that have tested their gear over tens of thousands of miles. Clothing will wear out, of course it will, but I found that Montane Terra pants, Rohan merino polo shirt and synthetic baselayers lasted the fine months

My pack of choice was the Gossamer Gear Mariposa. I found it a comfortable pack if a little ‘saggy’ if not carrying much food. There were tears and abrasions and the hip belt began slipping in the final two hundred miles. It put up with much abuse and I will be buying another exactly like it. Caithness

The curved Kylesku bridge was crossed in Sutherland. Wind was extraordinary and resulted in one particular unexpected gear failure

The curved Kylesku bridge was crossed in Sutherland. Wind was extraordinary as I crossed the Loch a’ Chàirn Bhàin and resulted in one particular unexpected gear failure

Three Points of the Compass has been a fan of the Montane Lite-Speed wind jacket for many years of hiking. The intense winds crossing the Kylesku bridge ripped out the sticthing in the back of the neck

Three Points of the Compass has been a fan of the Montane Lite-Speed wind jacket for many years of hiking. The intense winds crossing the Kylesku bridge ripped out the stitching in the back of the neck

I carried a small selection of repair materials. The aforementioned mini tube of superglue, a carefully thought out sewing kit, patches for Thermarest sleeping mat and self adhesive tenacious tape and cuben dyneema. Everything was put to use at some point and tape was replenished twice.

A more extensive repair kit was carried than on my normal one or two weeks hikes

A more extensive repair kit was carried than on my normal one or two weeks hikes

Sewing the crotch of my trekking shorts on a zero day

Sewing the crotch of my Champion 365 training- 9 inch inseam trekking shorts on a zero day

It is a wise hiker that stays on top of repairs on a long hike. Gear has to be working in order to put in the miles

It is a wise hiker that stays on top of repairs on a long hike. Gear has to be working well in order to put in the miles

Three Points of the Compass invariably uses a BeFree water filter for purifying water. However thought it prudent to pack along a few Chlorine Dioxide tabs in case of failure or filter freezing. As it was, due to carelessness, I lost my entire hydration kit at one point- bottle, bladders and filter. Fortunate that I was able to switch to tablets with a couple of half litre bottles purchased two days later.

Filtering water on trail. My walk coincided with one of the hottest UK summers on record

Filtering water on trail. My walk coincided with one of the hottest UK summers on record

A change from filtration to chemical purification was made in Scotland. But not due to gear failure

A change from filtration to chemical purification was made in Scotland. But not due to gear failure

MSR Pocket Rocket and Torjet lighter were part of my cook kit. Both tried and trusted items

MSR Pocket Rocket2 and Torjet lighter were part of my cook kit. Both tried and trusted items. However the lighter did rust badly

I never expected to have problems with the reliable stove however found the windshield trivet kept falling off. I always had to keep an eye on this to ensure it wasn't lost

I never expected to have problems with the previously reliable MSR stove however found the windshield trivet kept falling off from half way through my hike. I always had to keep an eye on this to ensure it wasn’t lost

Possibly the only piece of gear that I had selected for my hike that properly failed was a bespoke pack liner that I had commissioned. It simply wasn't up to handling the deluges in Scotland and at Fort William I swapped out to a heavier but watertight Sea to Summit roll top liner

Possibly the only piece of gear that I had selected for my hike that properly failed was a bespoke pack liner that I had commissioned. It simply wasn’t up to handling the deluges in Scotland and at Fort William I swapped out to a heavier but watertight Sea to Summit roll top liner

One of the most exciting materials that has found its way into hiking gear in recent years is cuben fibre, more recently known as dyneema composite fabric. Very strong, very light. Also very expensive. I carry a few items made of this but was well aware of this materials biggest drawback. It doesn’t suffer abrasion well. The only cuben items I used were a few stuff sacks (a big fan of these as I like to compartmentalise) and my shelter.

cuben stuffsacks wore badly if they abraded

cuben stuffsacks wore badly if they abraded

My Z packs chest pouch was one of my favourite pieces of gear and took a lot of hammering. It leaked like a sieve by the end however purely as a result of wear to the cuben

My Z packs chest pouch was one of my favourite pieces of gear and took a lot of hammering. It leaked like a sieve by the end however purely as a result of wear to the cuben

My shelter was the Z Packs Duplex. I loved this tent. Huge interior and only weighed 637 grams. However it will never see another hike with me

My shelter was the Z Packs Duplex. I loved this tent. Huge interior and only weighed 637 grams. However it will never see another hike with me. Strath na Sealga, Scotland

Strong winds saw a guy tie out ripped off a side wall. A cuben repair patch sorted things out

Strong winds saw a guy tie out ripped off a side wall. A cuben repair patch sorted things out

I put cuben 'stitches' across some seams that appeared to be under strain but there was never any actual failure

I put cuben ‘stitches’ across some seams that appeared to be under strain but there was never any actual failure

Some points of particular strain, such as the tent door tie outs, suffered badly over the miles but never failed entirely

Some points of particular strain, such as the tent door tie outs, suffered badly over the miles but never failed entirely

Three Points of the Compass used Pacer Poles not only for trekking but also as supports for my shelter. I like their raked, moulded grips and find them comfortable to use. I am not a fan of their twist locks though and found these bound up over time and frequently couldn’t loosen them Rocky steep paths on the Cape Wrath Trail put a bend in one of them. Unable to separate the sections I was unable to fly home with them at the end of my trail and, reluctantly, I was forced to leave them at John O’Groats. Despite their faults, I have bought another pair since my return.

2018 08 29_5990

It is doubtful that I could have completed my 2000 mile Three Points of the Compass hike without my Pacer Poles. At the end they were missing much of the paint on their shafts, one tip had been replaced mid-trail, the sections couldn’t be separated and one pole was bent like a banana. Nonetheless I was saddened to leave them behind

Duncansby Head- the end of my trail

Duncansby Head- the end of my trail. August 2018

Top five Victorinox 58mm knives

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

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

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

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

Rambler

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

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

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

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

Rogue

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

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

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

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

Manager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midnite Manager (white LED)

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

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

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

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

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

Midnite Manager (red LED)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top five Victorinox 58mm knives

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

Added utility: the ‘Rally’ series

The requirement on trail for any additional tools other than a knife blade is personal and will largely depend on what is carried on a hike. There is little point in carrying tools that ‘may’ be useful for other hikers that ‘may’ be met. However, if you want to tighten the screws on your glasses, cut open backpacking meals, dismantle and reassemble a stove, tighten the locks in trekking poles, open a can or bottle or any number of other maintenance or necessary tasks, then the inclusion of the right tools for the job will benefit immensely.

Combination tool in use

Combination tool in use on trail. This version, the Talisman, has a magnetised Phillips head, wire stripper and cap lifter

The Rally series includes, on the back of the knife, a little combination tool that will often suffice, though it still wont do all of the tasks mentioned above. Early versions of the tool were simply a magnetised screwdriver tip and cap lifter. Later combo- tools included a wire stripper/bender that I confess to never using and never requiring.

The Rally is one of the simplest and least equipped of the 58mm knives produced by Victorinox. However it may be all that is required

The Rally is one of the simplest and least equipped of the 58mm knives produced by Victorinox. However it may be all that is required

Rally

Available since 1995, the 58mm Victorinox Rally is the basic tool on which the variants shown below are based. It is a two layer tool with a typical small drop-point pen blade with 34mm of cutting length opening toward the keyring. This is an annoying feature that makes the knife harder to use while still attached to a lanyard or similar. Beside this is a nailfile, opening in the same direction. This has a flat 2.5mm ‘SD’ screwdriver tip. On the opposite side, opening away from the keyring, is the aforementioned combo-tool with magnetised Phillips head. It is an easily found knife and can be picked up quite cheaply.

My version has translucent red scales in which are located a useful pair of tweezers and a plastic toothpick. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. I don’t like these toothpicks and if taking one of these knives on trail, it is potentially more useful to include one of the little Firefly ferrocerium rods.

Rover

While the Rally Combo-tool has a Phillips head, the Rover is a simple variant that has a 2.5mm flat screwdriver tip on the combination tool and a nail cleaning tip on the nailfile. The tip of the nailfile can be used with some small Phillips head screws. This is, I feel, a less useful knife for use on trail. Scale tools and blade are the same as on the Rally.

Victorinox Rover. Possibly the least practical multi-tool from the Wanderer series

Victorinox Rover. Probably the least useful of the multi-tools in the Rally series

The Victorinox Talisman is the third choice of Three Points of the Compass as a knife particularly suited for use on trail. It has a small but useful set of tools- small blade, nailfile with flat screwdriver tip, cap lifter, wire stripper, Phillips screwdriver, tweezers and ball point pen

My battered and well used Victorinox Talisman is my third choice of 58mm knife and is particularly suited for use on trail. It has a small but useful set of tools- small blade, nailfile with flat screwdriver tip, cap lifter, wire stripper, Phillips screwdriver, tweezers and ball point pen

Talisman

The final knife I show from the Rally stable is the most useful I feel. The toolset is exactly the same as the Rally, but the Talisman has a slightly thicker cellidor scale on one side that accommodates a retractable ballpoint pen instead of the useless toothpick. The Talisman is, at a little over 10mm, only a shade thicker than both Rally and Rover but provides a small set of tools with nothing superfluous. A pretty old and now obsolete model, the Talisman is not an easy knife to find and include in a hiking set-up. Three Points of the Compass rates this tool as his number three choice from the 58mm range of knives that Victorinox has produced, providing just a small amount of added utility to a basic toolset which is frequently all that is required on trail.

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 considerable wasted space in the plastic holder of this version

The Victorinox Talisman has a similar basic toolset to that found in the SwissCard Quattro- blade, nailfile with flat screwdriver tip, pen, tweezers and Phiilps head screwdriver

Model Length Width (at widest point) Height Weight
Rally 58mm 19.15mm 9.35mm 21.7g
Rover 58mm 19.15mm 9.35mm 21.0g
Talisman 58mm 19.15mm 10.20mm 23.0g
Victorinox Talisman in the hand with ball-point pen extended. Opening the nailfile makes the small 58mm long knife more comfortable in the hand for writing with

Victorinox Talisman with ball-point pen extended. Opening the nailfile makes the small 58mm knife more comfortable in the hand for writing with

Top five Victorinox 58mm knives. The Talisman, at number three, is third from left

Top five Victorinox 58mm knives. The Talisman, at number three, is in the centre

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

‘back of the drawer’ EDC- the BCB mini-work tool

Stainless steel pocket tool from BCB. This probably dates from the 1990s and is a better credit card sized tool than the cheaper copies that followed

Stainless steel pocket tool from BCB. This probably dates from the 1990s and is a better credit card sized tool than the cheaper copies that followed. Despite that, it has been supplanted by more useful pocket tools today

Having a clear out the other day, I came across a ‘blast from the past’, a little metal tool from BCB that I used to carry for around a decade or so before switching out to more useful tools for my Every Day Carry, or EDC. This little card sized tool would even accompany me on the odd hike a couple of decades ago, but at 30g, or 40g with its vinyl sheath, it offers too little practicality today so will probably go back into the drawer.

This little tool, measuring 69mm x 40mm x 2mm, has been updated then cloned by numerous other manufacturers in the intervening years. The modern copies, the majority of which seem to be Chinese made, are pretty shoddy in comparison. Every equivalent card tool I have seen of recent years has any number of extra ‘useful’ functions incorporated, few of which are actually useful. Always of most use to me was the corner flat screwdriver (mine is pretty torn up now), bottle opener (or cap lifter), the point of the tin (can) opener, which was always useful for opening packages etc. and the the ‘knife’ blade. I can’t really call it a blade as it is more a 45 degree sharpened 29mm edge at one end of the tool but it would still cut cordage with a bit of effort. The cut-out hex wrenches on these tools are never any use as you usually need to access from above the nut instead of from the side.

My old BCB pocket tool to the right of one of the cheap modern versions. The addition of a few extra functions hasn't really added anything to the usefulness of these little credit card sized tools

My old BCB pocket tool to the right of one of the cheap modern versions. The addition of a few extra functions hasn’t really added anything to the usefulness of these little credit card sized tools

Cheaply made, pressed stainless steel pocket sized tool is of limited use today. The finish on these bits of kit is extremely poor

Cheaply made, pressed stainless steel pocket sized tool is of limited use today. The finish on these bits of kit is extremely poor

I really do feel that the more modern versions have lost much of the capability even though they seem at first glance to offer more. More recent versions often have a bearing plate for a button compass, but not the actual compass. The tin opener has become far less aggressive, and as a consequence, far less practical in use. This was probably because the piercing point on the earlier version protrudes further and is therefore more likely to cause injury to the unwary. Another reason why a nasty little camo vinyl holder was supplied. The saw blade on the early version is, while very short at just 31mm, actually well cut and aggressive. Recent versions have a far less effective saw. The wire stripper has also been excluded from the bottle opener in the modern version. All of these changes mean that modern rubbish versions can be picked up for a pound or two. I don’t carry one of these credit card sized tools with me now, preferring the greater versatility provided by a proper, fairly small, multi-tool from Victorinox or Leatherman, supplemented by other tools in my EDC on occasion. But on trail, I usually settle for something far simpler, more on that in a future blog or two.

The Firefly can be ordered in different pack configurations, I ordered two Firefly and two Firefly Mini. Toothpicks can be stored in the pack when swapped with the firesteel

Firefly- a simple addition to your kit

I recently received a sweet little package through the post. I ordered the Firefly firesteel when I came across it on Kickstarter. It is one of those simple ideas that you wonder why no-one had produced before. A very small, very slim ferrocerium rod that takes the place of the toothpick in a Swiss Army Knife.

Large and small Firefly inserted into the slots provided for toothpicks on my Victorinox Spartan and Classic SD Swiss Army Knives

Large and small Firefly inserted into the slots provided for toothpicks on my Victorinox Spartan and Classic SD Swiss Army Knives

One of these fire steels is not going to last any great length of time. Instead, they work well as an emergency carry, for those times where you get caught out for some reason, wet matches, ineffective lighter etc.

A good edge is required to raise a spark so not every tool in a Swiss Army Knife is effective. You will see me use the back edge of a saw in a Wenger Swiss Army Knife in the film below. But scissors, awl and fish scaler are effective too. The suppliers of the Firefly, Tortoise Gear, say that a can opener or file tool could also be used, however I have had less success with these. The knife can also be used but I’m not wrecking my blades attempting to do so. The back of a tool in a Swiss Army Knife can also be filed to give a good ninety degree angle for striking a steel, but likewise, I’m not butchering the tools on my knives.

There is an additional technique required when using these mini firesteels, you have to support the steel with a finger to stop it being broken. Also, strike along the thin edge rather than the wide edge, this stops it being worn away during use and no longer fitting tightly into the slot in the scales of your Swiss Army Knife.

Should you be interested, the larger 52mm Firefly weighs 1.7g , and the smaller 44mm Firefly Mini weighs a paltry 1.2g. So if you carry a Victorinox with you on trail or as an EDC, you may like to consider these. Alternatively, simply slip one into your ditty bag along with a small striker. One word of warning though, if living in the UK, watch out for those customs fees!