The Victorinox ‘Mountaineer’ Swiss Army Knife: Tested
In 1890, who would have imagined the Swiss Army’s need for a folding knife to double as a rifle maintenance tool and can-opener would one-day become an icon of the outdoor industry, to be found everywhere from a ski-tourers backpack to a 15 year old’s scout-belt. The trusty ol’ Victorinox Swiss Army Knife is now more than 125 years old, but such ageless design and iconic status in the world of outdoor and military means the compact folding knife is just as useful today as it was to Swiss soldiers back in the 1890s.
Here at AGA, we love anything that makes our outdoor adventures more enjoyable and so we decided to take a step back in design history, to examine whether the Victorinox Mountaineer Swiss Army Knife is as relevant today as it was when Karl Elsener opened his cutler’s workshop in Ibach-Schwyz, Switzerland in 1884.
For adventurous weight-weenies the 109.1-gram Victorinox Mountaineer Swiss Army Knife might just be the best of both worlds when it comes to a pocket-sized tool that won’t break the bank (or trouser-lining) but still delivers a load of useful gizmos for adventures off the beaten path. At 91mm x 20.5mm when folded, the Mountaineer is compact enough to fit in a shirt pocket but still opens to 160mm long with a handy 58mm stainless steel blade, enough to slide off a chunk of salami when needed.
As per the original ‘Modell 1890’ knife, today’s ‘Mountaineer’ model still features a can-opener and flat head screwdriver, just in case you need to tend to your Schmidt–Rubin service rifle, or more likely pry open a tin of Milo. In fact, the Mountaineer also delivers a small blade, corkscrew, small-screwdriver, bottle opener, screwdriver, wire stripper, reamer (punch), scissors, multipurpose hook, nail file, metal file, nail cleaner and metal saw… and, of course, the conventional tweezers and toothpick. If you’re the “I must have a tool for every occasion” type, then the 73-function Swiss Champ XXL is maybe more your cup of tea, or if you’re feeling a little ‘rockstar’ then the 320-layered Damasteel® blade on the Damast Limited Edition Swiss Army Knife might be for you. Here at AGA, we were rather content with the Mountaineer.
In the field
Right off the bat I’ll admit I am a biased in my love for the trusty ol’ pocketknife. At 13 years old my father handed me a small single-bladed Victorinox Swiss Army Knife and immediately I felt ‘all grown up’. I loved that knife. Today’s Mountaineer model is a slightly beefed-up version of my beat-up teen-pocketknife, but at $95 it slots right in the value for money category of multi-tools, offering a, “here’s what you need, and nothing you don’t” kind of build.
The knife works a dream, the 58mm blade is the right size for most requirements, the can-opener works just as well as it always has, and the scissors continue to be more useful than I ever believe they’ll be. OK, a corkscrew is rarely needed in today’s world of screw-tops, but it’s a blessing when it’s needed, and I’m not sure I’ve ever used the toothpick for its intended purpose. The Mountaineer also doesn’t deliver a locking blade and, truth be told, the small blade is only ever used when the large blade is blunt. However, the tweezers are as useful as they’ve ever been, and I have surprisingly used the reamer (punch) more than I’d have ever dreamt I would.
The most attractive feature of the Swiss Army Knife, however, is its lightweight compactness and the Victorinox Mountaineer highlights this with the benefit of slotting nicely into the pocket of everything from my camera bag to motorcycle jacket to multi-day rucksack. There is no doubt I missed the usefulness of pliers found on my modern-day multi-tools; however I certainly didn’t miss the heft and weight that accompany these heavier duty tools.
The final word on the Victorinox Mountaineer Swiss Army Knife
If you want a high quality, lightweight, compact blade that doubles as a tent fixer, bottle/can opener, splinter puller or rope cutter, then the Victorinox Mountaineer Swiss Army Knife might be worth adding to your side/backcountry kit.
RRP $95 See Victorinox for more info on the Mountaineer and other Swiss Army Knife models.