I’ve often been asked if there is one essential piece of kit I have with me on all my trips. Answer: My Swiss Army Knife, or to be absolutely accurate, my Swiss Champ.
Over the years, I’ve had at least five of these first class multi tools, not because they break (I’ve only managed to bend the pliers on one knife, and that was because I was misusing them horribly) but rather because wherever I go, there will be someone who falls in love with my penknife and I leave it for them as a “thank you” for help they have offered!
There is only one “proper” Swiss Army Knife company, and that is Victorinox. They produce an astonishing range of multi tools, but for me, it’s the Champ which ticks all the boxes. There isn’t a single blade that has remained unused in mine. I won’t list the lot (there are 33 functions in all) but here are some without which I’d feel lost.
- Big and small blades, – (of course) – both razor sharp, both super strong and well balanced. I keep my small blade for jobs that require the keenest edge, and the big blade for general cutting.
- Wood Saw. Amazingly effective, and a complete godsend when camping. I’ve even used it for DIY!
- Metal saw / file. This has got me out of many a tight corner, from fixing the car and cleaning up contacts, to getting into my camera case after I lost the key to a padlock!
- Tin Opener. Unlike many that you find on other multi tools it works beautifully (albeit the opposite way from the majority, cutting forwards as opposed to back around the tin).
- Cork Screw. What’s life without wine? And in addition, great for getting the end of a melted candle out of a candle stick, pulling tight knots apart, etc, etc.
- Mini jeweller’s screwdriver: Cleverly threaded onto the corkscrew. Great for camera kit, glasses, and jewellery I guess (though I don’t wear much of that).
- Scissors. Really effective, one-handed use. Limitless applications.
- Magnifying glass. I have started fires with this (in sunny climes) and used it for snooping at bugs or small print.
- Pliers. These are not super robust, but perfectly good for turning a nut. I only damaged mine once by levering them in the wrong direction against the body of the knife.
- The little bits: Pen, Toothpick, Tweezers and Pin. All amazingly handy at some point, indeed more often than you might imagine. The pen is self-explanatory. The toothpick, a very handy little plastic stick for any amount of micro tasks (including cleaning your teeth) and the Pin… ah the pin. I just love this. I have used the pin for SO many things, but, perhaps most importantly, getting thorns and splinters out of my fingers and toes. I always pass it through a flame before I start digging around just to clean it up. The tweezers finish the job and are great for picking up tiny screws etc.
- Reamer: I don’t think I’d ever heard of a reamer before I had a Champ. It’s the sort of thing most people would say was good for getting stones out of horses hooves (and it probably is) but it is super handy for so many other things. It is, in effect, a mini drill that you can work with one hand. I’ve cut holes in wood, in leather (my belts when, and if, I lose weight!) plastics and fabric. It has a wee hole in the tip, which makes it super handy for stitching canvas etc, very useful again when camping. And because it can be used at an angle, I’ve often used it to countersink a hole I’ve made with it.
There’s a lot more of course; screwdrivers that work for flat head or star screws, a mini chisel, a disgorger and ruler (yup, I’ve used them too, for many more tasks than fishing) and a hooky thing that is also super handy with tough knots and many other things.
I always used to travel with my Champ on my belt, now of course it is relegated to the hold luggage when I fly, which invariably leaves me feeling half dressed. It also finds me struggling to get into cases which I have cable tied once I arrive (in the past I used my Champ scissors to cut them, now though, its locked behind its own cable tie- doh!)
A classic piece of kit and a complete must have.