Tag Archives: tweezers

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.

 

Selection of Tick Tweezers

Gear talk: A few grams here, a few grams there- tick removers

You don’t have to venture far from the home to put yourself at risk from ticks. In fact, they can be encountered in gardens and town parks as well as the wider countryside. As the weather warms, the prevalence of ticks increases. If there is one item you want to include in either your backpacking kit or even a solitary day walk in the country as a ‘hopefully never to be used’ piece of kit, it is a tick remover. They cost little, weigh just a handful of grams, but may very well preserve your health.

Tick

Ticks can be small or large. It is important to check yourself periodically on a walk and especially at the end of the day. Three Points of the Compass never felt this tick either attach itself or begin feeding

It is not just ticks themselves you should be wary of, but the disease that they may carry. After mosquitoes, ticks are the second most common vector in transmitting disease to humans. Of these, one disease in particular should be of prime concern. Lyme Disease is getting more common, it is pretty easily transmitted and it is horrible. Though it should be noted that not all ticks are infected with Lyme disease. In some areas, none may carry it, in others, the percentage of ticks with Lyme can be high. At present there is less prevalence in the UK and more so in mainland Europe. However hikers in both the UK and US are encountering Lyme on an increasing basis each year. Other diseases are also carried by UK ticks, such as tick-borne encephalitis and anaplasmosis, and these can also be transmitted to humans. Lyme disease consists of a group of closely related spirochaetal bacteria, so called because they were originally thought to be spiral shaped. The wide range of bacteria are collectively known as Borrelia Burdorferi sensu lato and different types of related bacteria can be found across the world.

Classic 'bulls eye' rash following an infected tick bite, however such rashes do not always occur. Image copyright Lyme Disease Action

Classic ‘bulls eye’ rash following an infected tick bite, however such rashes do not always occur. Image copyright Lyme Disease Action

Lyme disease transmitted from tick bites moves through the skin into the bloodstream and onward to the lymphatic system. Damage from Lyme can be severe- joints and nervous system can be affected. While a bad tick bite can be indicated on the skin by the classic ‘bulls-eye’ rash, this is not always the case. Flu like symptoms, muscle ache and pain can follow, but not always. If you have been walking in the countryside and suspect that you may have been bitten by a tick prior to such symptoms, be sure to mention to a health professional who may arrange for a blood test.

Ticks are most prevalent March to October but they can be found active all year round. A mild day in winter will tempt the little beasties out. Ticks can be very small and it is easy to get a little paranoid about seeds and flecks of dirt found on the skin and clothes but a regular check should still be carried out. Ticks will show up best on light coloured clothing and brushing off clothes frequently may aid in removing ticks before they bite. Application of DEET or Picaridine will also work against them. There are many species of tick, some twenty of these can be found in the UK but different parts of the World have other species that may present a greater danger. For example, it is the Deer Tick that is one of the greatest risk to hikers in the US however that particular species has not yet been found in the UK. Borrelia bacteria is found in many mammals and birds, including sheep, mice, voles, foxes, badgers and squirrels. If an animal carries the bacteria and is bitten by a tick, then the bacteria can pass to the tick, and from that tick to a human. Unfortunately such animals are common in the very areas that are most popular for walking- the Lake District, Scottish Highlands, The Yorkshire moors, Exmoor, Thetford Forest, New Forest and the downlands of South-East England.

Ticks- engorged and prior to feeding. Image copyright Lyme Disease Action

Ticks- engorged and prior to feeding. Image copyright Lyme Disease Action

Not only is it important to check for ticks on the body and clothes but also to do so throughout the day. Ticks are small and their saliva contains an anaesthetic so it is common to not even notice a bite. Because saliva is transmitted from tick to person throughout the feeding process, the longer a tick is embedded in the skin, the greater chance that bacteria is transmitted from tick to person. I will not cover disease, tick morphology, symptoms or other related factors further here. Instead, I shall simply have a look at some of the choices of removal tool that may help in extracting a tick after it has embedded itself in the skin, concentrating on those that may be most suitable for the backpacker.

Firstly, some suggestions for successful tick removal in the past from others have included covering the ticks body with petroleum jelly (vaseline), meths, or burning it off with a lighter or cigarette. It is now known that if a tick is stressed during removal, it may likely eject its stomach contents back into the host, which may then actually cause the injection of harmful bacteria. Squeezing a ticks abdomen will have the same effect. This is why effective removal of a tick involves placing a tool close to the skin, around the mouth-parts (hypostome) of the animal.

General use fine-tip tweezers

Metal tweezers have the advantage of being both robust and all are capable of being sterilised by dropping in to boiling water. With some plastic tweezers there may be a degree of uncertainty as to how boiling water will affect them. If purchasing a pair of large general purpose tweezers for tick removal then they must have fine tips. Those with wide or slanted tips simply will not grip the mouth parts of a tick with the care that is required to ensure the creature does not stress and eject stomach contents.

Two full size, stainless steel fine tip tweezers. Large: 12.7g, small: 10.1g

Two full size, stainless steel fine tip tweezers. The larger pair above have fine serrations at the tips. Top: 12.7g, bottom: 10.1g

A pair of large and good quality fine tip tweezers will handle many ticks but may struggle with the smallest of nymphs. While a pair of these would be advisable to pack into a group first aid kit, they are probably overkill for a lightweight hiking set up. But that is your call. Certainly it is advisable to keep a pair of these in a home first aid kit. Both of those shown above sit in my home kit.

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

Tips of tweezers found in Leatherman keychain sized multi-tools. None of these have the precision fine tip required for efficient tick removal

There is no need to pack along a large pair of tweezers on trail. There are many smaller options that are almost as good. Being lighter and less bulky, they are also easier to pack. When packed, care needs to be taken to ensure the thin tips do not end up poking a hole in expensive fabrics such as tent, waterproofs of sleeping bag. A small plastic sleeve cap will prevent most such mishaps. The snazzy looking pair of small tweezers below has been carried by Three Points of the Compass for many years when hiking. They are small, light and efficient, the only reason I don’t carry them now is that I have found something lighter and more efficient. More on that later.

Small titanium, fine tip tweezers: 10.3g (plus 0.1g for plastic tip guard)

Small, titanium, fine tip tweezers: 10.3g (plus 0.1g for plastic tip guard)

As said, there are many small and light tweezers on the market. However if you are choosing a pair of tweezers simply for general use, where they can also be used for tick removal, then care has to be taken as many small tweezers are of extremely poor quality. Many will flex with ease and simply will not grip where required. Often the tips will not align and many also lack any form of serration at the tips.

One brand of small tweezer has been on the market for decades and continues to find favour both with the U.S military and backpackers across the globe. These are Uncle Bill Sliver Grippers. They have their faults but are both very small and very light. Three Points of the Compass had an in depth look at the various forms of Sliver Grippers in an earlier post. In that post I also covered the easy steps to take to improve them. If you have a pair and haven’t read this, you might find it useful to do so.

Uncle Bill's Sliver Grippers and tip guard: 4.9g

Uncle Bill’s Sliver Grippers and tip guard: 4.9g

Three Points of the Compass doesn’t particularly rate this type of small tweezer highly for tick removal; they will work fine with larger ticks and are also OK with thorns and splinters, but I find the tips are not fine enough to properly anchor onto the mouth-parts of a small tick.

Specialised Tick tweezers

While finer point tweezers like those shown above will safely remove most ticks with relative ease and prevent stressing the animal. A pair of dedicated tick tweezers will enable a tick to be grasped with greater ease and precision, correctly placing the fine curved points so that a safer extraction can be achieved. Specialised tweezers are better at preventing stress to a feeding tick, stress causing it to eject stomach contents prior to removal, so something to be avoided if possible.

Large specialised tweezers are more suited to safe removal of ticks. Image copyright Lyme Disease Action

Large specialised tweezers are more suited to safe removal of ticks. Image copyright Lyme Disease Action

Large and specialised tick removal tweezers are available from a small number of manufacturers. Again, they are made from stainless steel and invariably of high quality. They are probably the best type of tweezer but will also be regarded as overkill for most country walking. However if crossing an area that is either very high in ticks, or where there is an extraordinarily high prevalence of Lyme disease in resident ticks, then it might be advisable to either carry a pair of these, or ensure that a pair of large dedicated tick tweezers is held in a group kit.

Large stainless steel dedicated tick tweezers: 14.g, plus case: 18.9g

Large stainless steel dedicated tick tweezers: 14.g, plus case: 18.9g

There is a smaller version of these available that weigh less than half of that of the larger option. While these may also be available from other manufacturers, the ones shown here were made by Lifesystems.

Small, dedicated tick tweezers on keychain

Small, dedicated tick tweezers on keychain

Small tick tweezers slipped out of their protective sleeve

Small tick tweezers slipped out of their protective sleeve

The Lifesystems small and dedicated tick removal tool is designed to fit a keychain. The tweezers themselves slot into a plastic case cover that both protects the fine tips and, to a degree, keeps them clean. The springiness in the tweezers prevents them sliding out of the protective case when being carried.

These weigh 6.3g with their protective plastic case and keyring however the whole lot can easily be dismantled if wished, but that does leave the tips exposed and unprotected. Three Points of the Compass does not take these on hikes but simply keeps them permanently hanging from his keychain.

Dismantled Lifesystems keychain tick tweers- tweers: 3.0g, case: 1.4g, keyring: 1.9g

Dismantled Lifesystems keychain tick tweezers- tweezers: 3.0g, case: 1.4g, keyring: 1.9g

Tick removal cards

As well as tweezers, some outdoor suppliers also provide tick remover cards. These can be made of durable plastic or shorter lived card versions. If you are going to use one of these, only use a more durable plastic card and preferably from a reputable manufacturer who has made it to the required precise tolerances. Most cards come with two sizes of ‘prong’, one for large and one for small ticks. The transparent and translucent cards are better to see a tick that is to be removed. My Lifesystems tick card also has a simple low powered magnifier to enable a tick to be studied prior to removal, it is obviously of no use when the card is actually being used to remove tick. Do not get a black or dark coloured card as this makes the tick harder to see while extracting it.

Tick card: 5.3g

Tick card: 5.3g

Most of these cards work well with small and large ticks however I find them awkward to use when the tick is in a crevice, or embedded in an awkward part of the body to access. There is never a friend around when you need one!

Which brings me to another point. An almost equally important tool in your tick removal armoury is a small mirror. In addition to checking periodically during the day, Three Points of the Compass also has an evening tent-based ‘tick check’. Which is more akin to tent aerobics and contortions, but ticks will crawl into areas which are not necessarily the easiest to view. This is where the mirror comes in. And remember, ticks can also secret themselves about hiking clothes, so a decent shake off of those should be attempted alongside some form of inspection of the folds of clothing which may discover lurking creatures, all prepared to latch on the following day. Another reason why lighter coloured clothing can help in seeing the small animals.

One manufacturer has gone a step further and produced a tool that combines both angled tweezers and slotted tick remover. The TickEase is a really effective solution and is endorsed by the US based Tick Encounter Resource Center. One end of the tweezers has angled fine tips and is suited to quite small ticks, however the tips are not as fine as those shown previously. The other end of the tool has a slot that will handle larger ticks but are too large to tackle the more problematic smaller ticks. This is advertised as especially suited for those with pets such as dogs that can easily pick up ticks in the countryside. While I have carried a TickEase on hikes and had to put it to use on occasion, it is now transferred to the first aid kit carried by Mrs Three Points of the Compass. In my kit it has been supplanted by what I regard as a more effective, lighter and considerably smaller option.

Stainless steel dedicated tick remocal tweezers. The 15.7g TickEase has fine pointed angled tweezer at one end and tick removal prongs at the other

Stainless steel dedicated tick removal tweezers. The 15.7g TickEase has fine pointed angled tweezer at one end and tick removal prongs at the other

O’Tom Tick Twister

We now come to what is probably the best tool available for effectively removing ticks. The plastic bodied O’Tom Tick Twister come in two sizes that are very well suited for backpacking trips, day walks or simply when walking the dog. There is also a three pack, three size ‘family’ option for purchase but the two shown here will handle almost any tick encountered other than the extremely small. These tools are cheap, small and very light at just over two grams for the pair. I find one of their prime benefits however, is that they can be used to remove ticks from awkward parts of the body, craning around the torso, or twisting awkwardly to remove a tick that can only be seen in a mirror. So they are especially suited to the solo hiker.

A brighter coloured pair of this tool has two advantages- the dark body of a tick can more easily be seen against the tool, and as the little tools really are quite small, a brightly coloured Tick Twister shows up better if dropped in the undergrowth. For these reasons it is probably best to steer clear of the black coloured Twisters.

O'Tom Tick Twister. Pair (small and large): 2.2g

O’Tom Tick Twister. Pair (small and large): 2.2g

Three Points of the Compass did not feel this and it was only when checking for the presence of ticks that it was found embedded.

Three Points of the Compass did not feel this embedded tick. It was only when carrying out a body check in the tent at the end of the day that it was found and safely removed with the O’Tom Tick Twister

The O’ Tom Tick Twister was designed in France and is manufactured there, but is easily purchased worldwide. However it appears that it is being widely cloned and ripped off. Beware some of those fakes that are advertised as they do not always work as effectively as the real thing.

All of the previously mentioned tick removal tools- tweezers and cards, require a straight and careful pull or lever of the tick to remove it from the skin. The O’Tom Tick Twister is different however. There is a knack to using it. It is not difficult but does require a degree more care, particularly the first few times removing ticks. Once the correct size tool is selected, to suit the size of tick to be removed, and after it has been carefully slipped under the tick’s body, around its mouth-parts, the tool is then twisted, or spun, in the finger tips. It is this that safely removes the tick from the skin. The shape of the handle of the O’Tom Tick Twister allows this to be correctly done, however some look-a-like clones have a shaped handle that prevents this being done and the tick has to be pulled or levered out instead, this is a less effective removal technique. Don’t skimp the pennies, buy the real deal if choosing this tool.

So what does Three Points of the Compass carry when backpacking? I actually carry two of the options shown above. I include a pair of the lightweight and effective O’Tom Tick Twisters in my backpacking first aid kit (see image below). In fact, at only 2.2g I don’t even bother to remove these from the kit in winter months, they live there year round. I have safely removed dozens of ticks with these, both from myself and poorly equipped hikers met on trail. I doubt I will ever change these tick removers for anything else. To my knowledge, I do not have Lyme Disease or have ever had it. The risk of disease from tick bites is always a possibility, but in the UK at least, it is very small risk.

In addition, I have a pair of Uncle Bill’s Sliver Grippers in my first aid kit. However these are not carried for tick removal but solely as a pair of tweezers for first aid purposes- thorn and splinter removal, lifting flaps of skin, picking grit from a wound…

Three Points of the Compass carries a fairly comprehensive First Aid Kit on longer hikes and this includes both a pair of the Uncle Bill Sliver Gripper tweezers and a pair of O'Tom Tick Twisters. Ardnamurchan, Western Scotland, 2018

Three Points of the Compass carries a fairly comprehensive First Aid Kit on longer hikes and this includes both a pair of the Uncle Bill Sliver Gripper tweezers and a pair of O’Tom Tick Twisters. Photographed on trail at Ardnamurchan, Western Scotland, 2018

Precision point tweezers

Gear talk: Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers

 

I was looking recently at the various First Aid Kits that accompany me on various treks, be they day walks or longer. One item that I always like to ensure is included in a kit is a pair of tweezers. It is difficult to make do with anything else when attempting to extract thorns, splinters, grit within a cut, pick loose pieces of skin from torn blisters etc. A sterilized needle may be used on occasion but is never going to be as useful as a pair of tweezers. There are various hacks- smoothing a piece of duct tape over a splinter may ease it from the skin, but for some purposes, a pair of thin nosed or precision tweezers is what is required- for careful removal of ticks for example.

Tweezers come in a variety of sizes and even materials. The heads can be blunt and wide, or thin nosed and pointed. They can be quite large scissor operated for precision and strength, or a tiny pair slipped into the end of a Victorinox multi-knife. Stainless steel is an excellent material for medical purposes, doesn’t stain, doesn’t rust, strong. This is what most pairs of tweezer knocking around my house were made of, but I was also intrigued to see if there were any alternatives.

I had been looking at replacing a perfectly functional pair of tweezers with something equally as practical yet a little smaller and lighter if possible. I didn’t want to be too financially extravagant about this, it is only a pair of tweezers I was looking at. However I found that there wasn’t much choice out there. I found a number of surgical tweezers that looked the ticket but their cost frightened me off. The lightest pair of titanium thin-nosed tweezers I could find weighed just 10g. Perfectly acceptable, a pair of these has accompanied me on many trips in my First Aid Kit- but the search continued…

Stainless steel Sliver Gripper tweezers and key chain holder

Stainless steel Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers and key chain holder

Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers

When I came across Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers I realised that my search was mostly over. These tweezers are small, of pretty good build quality and lightweight. You can get them in a couple of guises, each coming with the small incorporated key chain holder that does so much to prevent them poking a hole in anything whilst in transit. The original precision point design was produced by their inventor Bill Jones (if ever anyone could claim to have invented a product that had been in use for thousands of years already) in small numbers until development and manufacture was taken over by the West Hartford firm that took them to the next level. The firm takes its name from the owner- Elwyn Harp and his wife, Elsie Martha, hence El. Mar Inc., who still make them

These tweezers are quite tiny in the hand

These tweezers are quite tiny in the hand

The tweezers are made from a single piece of metal which is bent, providing the springiness that keeps the points apart. The small size and width mean that a precision grip is usually easily obtained. So simple and effective is the design that the U.S. military purchased them in very large numbers. These carry the National Stock Number (NSN) 3740-01-474-7377. Being described on  stock as ‘spring tempered stainless steel tick tweezers’. It is the tick removal aspect that El. Mar have focused on to an extent to boost sales numbers to the general public in recent years. Many years ago these tweezers underwent a degree more of finishing than they do now. The famed ‘precision points’ were achieved by bevelling the point, however they are now simply stamped out and finished on a machine belt that, while it removes most of the rough edges, does little to impart improved accuracy of use. That can be rectified post-purchase though. Many might argue that having purchased a product, it should not then be necessary to make any alteration to rectify or improve performance.

There is very little chance of the tweezers coming separated from the clip holder on their own account

There is very little chance of the tweezers coming separated from the included key chain holder on their own account. This is extremely useful in preventing them from poking holes while in transit

Each pair of tweezers comes with a little holder in to which the tweezers are inserted, they then open and are securely gripped until squeezed together to release them. It would be easy to leave the little holder at home but it is such a lightweight and functional offering that its inclusion is a sensible choice. If taken, it can then be hung from a key fob, round the neck on cord/dog tags, looped on to a mini carabiner or simply slung inside a ditty bag.

One of the prime purposes for a pair of tweezers on the trail is removing ticks. Some, but not all, ticks carry Lyme disease. Instances of this are increasing, both in North America and Europe. Once picked up from vegetation lining the trail and latched on to a hikers skin, if not removed carefully with an appropriate tool, a tick can be stressed or squeezed. Thereby disgorging its stomach contents, which may include Lyme, into its host, us. I usually carry a 2.2g pair of O’Tom Tick Twister dedicated tick removers when ticks are in season but a pair of tweezers will do the job almost as well.

 

“I have never had a pair of tweezers in my life that was worth a damn. Now I do and I appreciate it very much.”

General Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the allied forces during Desert Storm, writing of the Sliver Gripper tweezers, 26 September, 1990

 

Anodised version of Sliver Gripper tweezers

Black anodised version of Sliver Gripper tweezers

The perfect product to prevent the enemy seeing you removing splinters...

The perfect product to prevent the enemy seeing you removing splinters…

For the tactical minded amongst us, OK, amongst you, there is a version that may excite curiosity. This is the ‘military’ version; a black anodised Sliver Gripper tweezer. Anodising is a process where the metal is coated with a protective (in this case, black) oxide layer by electrolytic action. The black tweezers do look good, having an almost gunmetal finish.

Be warned though, while using the black tweezers should prevent reflected light revealing your position to the enemy (plenty of them on the trail) these black tweezer points will not help you in seeing fine splinters etc. The very opposite in fact. They are also more susceptible to being lost if dropped so perhaps are not the best choice for the trail.

 

 

Of course I was not only engaged on a search for a decent pair of tweezers to take on the trail, I was also after saving a few grams where I could. So I was pleased to find that a ‘Grade 1’ titanium version of the Sliver Gripper tweezers has also been made.

Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers. Made in the U.S.A.

Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers. Made in the U.S.A.

Titanium, a word that immediately draws the attention of anyone looking to reduce the weight carried on their back. But this material comes at a cost though, and it is for the individual to decide if the doubled cost of a pair of tweezers is worth such minimal weight saving, I suspect the answer is no. Usually the only way that increased cost can be justified is if the weight saving is large, an item was being replaced anyway, or if the titanium product offers any improvement in function as a result of its material. Both stainless steel and titanium are suitable for using on skin and will not cause adverse reaction, neither metal rusts. So I was interested to see how the titanium version of the Sliver Gripper tweezers held up against the normal product.

Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers and clip holder

Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers and clip holder

Careful filing of the points of the titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers corrected the poor manufacturing finish and bought the points together

Careful filing of the points of the titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers corrected the poor manufacturing finish and bought the points together

I was frustrated to find that the quality of finishing, or quality assessment, was a little disappointing.  Out of the packet the points do not quite line up and precision of use is lacking as a result. So not quite meeting the description on the packaging- “Accurately ground precision manufactured points”. However this was easily and quickly rectified with careful filing. Though this is not something one would expect to have to do with a brand new purchase.

 

A few minutes with a fine file adding chamfered edges improves the precision points of these tweezers immensely

A few minutes with a fine file adding chamfered edges improves the precision points of these tweezers immensely

The non-magnetic titanium Sliver Grippers lack the degree of finishing that the steel versions exhibit. Edges feel rough to the touch and benefit from a slight filing in the hand. I am unsure why a thicker gauge of metal has been used too, surely strength would not have been compromised by using a similar gauge to the original steel tweezers. The ‘springiness’ in operation feels different too, though I  don’t think this affects performance.

A small pair of Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers are included in this kit. With holder, these weigh 4g (or 2.8g for those who wish to leave the holder at home)

Small and lightweight titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers. With key chain holder, these weigh 4g and are very functional

The remarkably light weights for any of the three variants looked at mean that any of the three would be suitable for a lightweight backpacking kit. As mentioned above, it makes sense to include the small and functional key chain holder with whichever is taken as it will certainly prevent them poking a hole from within expensive packs and dry bags.

Type Weight of tweezer Weight of clip holder Total weight
Stainless steel 3.7g 2g 5.7g
Black anodised steel 3.7g 1.9g 5.6g
Titanium 2.8g 1.2g 4g

Of course I can now be really anal. Having purchased the three, I could, if I wished, take the stainless steel version, with its superior gripping tip (on account of the serrations) with the titanium clip, thereby saving a grand total of 0.8g …

… nope, I don’t think so either!

Top: Stainless steel tweezers, centre: Black anodised, bottom: Titanium

Top: Stainless steel tweezers, centre: Black anodised, bottom: Titanium

Serrations on stainless steel tweezers

Serrations on stainless steel tweezers

All of the three types of tweezer measure 47mm in length and are 9.5mm wide. The gauge of sheet metal differs however, being 0.6mm for the steel versions and 0.8mm for the titanium.

No serrations on titanium tweezers

No serrations on titanium tweezers

 

Some improvement to grip is also provided by slight serrations being added to the inner 6mm of the tip. However these are only present on the steel versions, not the titanium for some reason. This is a surprising omission as their inclusion would improve the titanium tweezers immensely.

Black anodised tweezers also have faint serrations

Black anodised tweezers also have faint serrations

The little key chain holders for the tweezers are all of the same type of metal as the tweezers that they contain. 28mm long and 9.5mm wide. Much of their strength in gripping comes from the broad head of the tweezer, tapering toward the tip. This is cut to an angle of 40° which may prove troublesome for getting into tight spots but is probably the sweet spot between strength and impracticality.

Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers are easily found on-line and come with a lifetime guarantee. I purchased my three from two different suppliers, and costs are reasonable, even when purchased in the UK. They can also be bought in dual packages, or in small plastic tubes. Though I see no need to prefer those last over loose ones unless a pair was going to be kept in a tool box and there was a wish to keep them clean and separate from all the crud around them.

The much advertised 'precision manufactured points' are dissapointing

Fresh out of the packaging the much advertised ‘precision manufactured points’ are mostly disappointing, being quite thick and lacking any chamfer

These tweezers, whichever type you go for, are not perfect. The tips could be narrower and chamfered and the titanium ones are quite rough out of the packaging. However, as a lightweight pair of tweezers, they are mostly ideal for picking out thorns, splinters, bee stings, gravel from road rash, peeling back loose and torn skin, even plucking eyebrows! Particularly if a few minutes are taken post-purchase to file off the rough edges and improve the point. They are then a worthwhile inclusion to even the most lightweight of backpacking gear lists. However their most important attribute must be their suitability for dealing with that most menacing and increasing of trail threats, the Tick.