Victorinox started producing knives for the soldiers of the Swiss Army in 1891. But their claim to fame has always been the pocket knife that Karl Elsener invented and called Officer’s Knife. Today, these medium-size Swiss Army Knives are considered as one of the best Every-Day-Carry (EDC) tools by many.
Victorinox has more than 70 models of Swiss Army Knife that they call ‘medium pocket knives’, the descendants of the original ‘officer’s knife’. All of them are included in the 84mm, 85mm, 91mm, and 93mm lines of Swiss Army Knives.
While many of these models share some common features, Victorinox has selected the tools in each model for a specific theme or purpose. There are some models meant for general purpose usage, some for dismantling a computer or a laptop, while others for outdoor activities like survival, hunting, fishing, camping, or hiking.
However, with these many options, It has become extremely daunting for someone to select one Swiss Army Knife for every-day-carry, i.e. an EDC SAK that is always with you.
The purpose of having an EDC pocket tool is about having the right tool in your pocket for common everyday tasks. From this point of view, we try to solve the problem at hand – finding the best Swiss Army Knife for EDC from the myriad of options that Victorinox offers!
Pre-requisites for an Urban EDC
First, let us set the record straight. We must prioritize a set of criteria for a Swiss Army Knife to be considered eligible for EDC. If you don’t do this exercise first, you will almost always end up having the wrong SAK for EDC. While the criteria might slightly vary from person to person, but largely, for most people, these would be the same.
The two most important criteria for an EDC SAK are:
Let’s look into these in a bit more detail.
The Length or Size of the SAK
The first criterion for an EDC is something that you can carry in your pocket. Too small, and the tools become impractical. Too large, and it becomes awkward for pocket carry.
Of course, you can have a separate sheath to carry your SAK, but that just defeats the purpose of an EDC. How comfortable will you be carrying a knife holder in your belt while roaming in a crowded city? It not only attracts unwanted attention, but people around you will sometimes be apprehensive once they notice the attachment in your belt.
For EDC, you want just the right size and weight that you can comfortably carry in your pocket, hidden away from public view.
After carrying various models of Swiss Army Knives for more than a decade, I have realized that the 91mm series of SAKs have the ideal size to be an EDC.
These provide just the right combination of size, weight, and tool-set for most day-to-day needs.
Trust me, you don’t need anything bigger than what the 91mm SAKs provide. Of course, It is assumed that you won’t be pushing your pocket EDC too hard because in an urban environment you will likely have access to dedicated tools for the tougher jobs.
By restricting our choice only to the 91mm models, we can now have an easier time selecting the best SAK for the job at hand. Or is it?
Turns out, there are almost 30 models in the 91mm category! Well, this brings us to the next shortlisting criterion, the tools in a SAK meant for EDC.
The Tools in the SAK
What are the most used tools in an urban environment?
While Swiss Army Knives are found with lots of tools meant for different functions, there are only a handful of tools that you would need in your EDC. Anything more is just a waste of space in your pocket. Let’s shortlist some of the must-have tools and some others which are good to have.
Sharp blade: For most people, the very purpose of having an EDC tool is to have a small and efficient blade, and a SAK doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Almost all 91mm SAKs have at least one blade, most have two. From opening packages, and cutting fruits and vegetables, to trimming your nails, the SAK blade is good enough for anything you may encounter in your urban life.
Scissors: You might want to get a SAK for the blade, but you will eventually end up using the scissors the most. In normal everyday tasks, you may find that the scissors almost make the blade of a Swiss Army Knife redundant. For cutting ropes or threads, or opening food packs while traveling, you will be constantly using the scissors.
I might also add that the scissors in a Swiss Army Knife are the most efficient that I have encountered in any multi-tool ( I guarantee this is not the first time you will be hearing this).
Flathead Screwdriver: The urban world is held up with screws and nuts and bolts. As such, you would like to have at least one screwdriver for that occasion when you need to tighten up some screws to fix a thing or two. So having a screwdriver with you is always very helpful.
Awl: Awl, or reamer, or punch? call it whatever you like. But there is no denying that it is one of those nifty tools that do more things than you realize. From using it to clean your fingernails to punching holes in your belt, there is so much you can accomplish with the awl. And it is so small that you don’t even realize that you have it in your SAK until you feel the need to use it.
Need more convincing? Don’t miss this article:
Bottle Opener: It is the omnipresent tool in almost all multi-tools, big or small. How can you not have one in your EDC SAK? And if you have the big flathead screwdriver in your SAK, then you also have the bottle opener, as the same tool of the SAK performs both these functions.
Philips screwdrivers: While a flathead screwdriver is useful, you will often find that a Philips head screwdriver comes in handy more often than not. Good that some models of the 91mm SAKs do have a dedicated Philips screwdriver.
We will try to find a SAK that has most of the must-have tools if not all.
But there are also some other tools that you will often see in a SAK. Some of them are found in almost all models. People have become so accustomed to using these tools in a SAK that not having them seems kind of a miss.
We will refer to them as good-to-have tools as these while not a necessity, do enhance the functionality of a SAK to a great extent.
Can-opener: This is one tool that I have mixed feelings about. The tool is super-efficient, perhaps the best design of a can-opener in any multi-tool. But how often do you see canned foods nowadays? Till today, I have used the SAK can-opener only about 2-3 times.
But the good thing is, the tip of the can-opener can be used as a small screwdriver. It even fits some Philips screws. This is what makes the can-opener a good-to-have tool in a SAK.
Corkscrew: This is another tool that I don’t find much use in daily life. After all, whenever there is an occasion to open that wine bottle, a dedicated can-opener is almost always nearby.
But like many other tools in a SAK, the corkscrew also serves more than one purpose. One very useful function is untying stubborn knots. Don’t know about you, but I have untied more knots than uncorked wine bottles with the corkscrew :-). I guess that makes the corkscrew a good-to-have tool in your pocket.
Multipurpose hook: I won’t blame you if you think this is the least useful tool in a SAK. I also used to think the same. But do have a look at the things you can do with this seemingly useless tool before you pass your judgment. Hopefully, some of these uses will convince you of the multipurpose hook being one of the good-to-have tools in an EDC SAK.
Toothpick, Tweezers, Pen, Stainless Steel Pin: These small tools are found in the scales of some of the SAKs.
I have a tendency to use the toothpick a lot. The tweezers are handy to dig out splinters from the skin sometimes (or remove ticks from dogs).
I usually carry a pen with me, but in case I forget to carry it someday, I can see many occasions when that ballpoint pen may come in handy. I have often used the stainless steel pin to dislodge the sim tray in my smartphone, and also occasionally to reset my home router.
Depending on your usage, the scale tools may or may not be a necessity, but considering that these do not add any bulk or weight to the SAK, the tools are almost always good to have.
Best General Purpose Swiss Army Knife for EDC
Now that we know what we are looking for, we are in a better position to filter out most of the models from the enormous catalog of 91mm SAKs to arrive at the ultimate 3 models.
However, just in case you are looking for something much more minimalistic, I have also shortlisted the best Swiss Army knives that you can effortlessly carry in your keychain without compromising on functionality.
Bear in mind that no single 91mm SAK will likely have all the necessary as well as the good-to-have tools, and at the same time be slim enough to carry in the pocket. But these 3 carefully selected models have the best compromise between form and functionality. One of these 3 models will suit the requirement of almost anyone looking for a Swiss Army Knife for EDC.
For many SAK enthusiasts, the Compact is the Holy Grail of EDC pocket SAKs.
True to its name, this model is slim, it has just two layers of tools! But Victorinox has done a tremendous job of fitting so many functions in just those two layers.
This is obviously made possible by a redesigned tool that works both as a bottle-opener and a can-opener, in addition to being a flathead screwdriver.
On top of that, Victorinox has also added the plus scales to this model, thereby adding all the scale tools. This is a rarity in any other 2-layer SAK. The Compact is also the only 2-layer SAK that has a pair of Scissors!
As a result, it is also much pricier compared to any other 2-layer or even 3-layer SAKs. It almost feels like Victorinox deliberately keeps the production low so that they can charge a premium for this model.
But most people who use the Compact consider it one of the best value-for-money EDC tools, and those who don’t have it will be glad to get hold of one.
- Flathead Screwdriver
- Multipurpose hook
- Nail file
- Wire stripper
- Mini screwdriver
- Pressurized ballpoint pen
- Stainless steel pin
From the tool set, you can see that the Compact has most of the necessary tools as well as the good-to-have tools. I might have preferred an awl in the mix, but considering everything that the Compact is capable of, I am not complaining.
With so much functionality crammed into such a slim body, you may wonder why you don’t see many people carrying it. the reason is simple – availability.
The compact is almost always out of stock in the stores. you may check the availability on Amazon from this listing.
All 91mm SAKs have one layer comprising two blades, and one layer comprising the bottle-opener and the can-opener. But it is not the case with the Compact!
In the Compact, the functionalities of these two layers have been merged into one layer, by removing the smaller blade, and modifying the bottle-opener to also work like a can-opener. This design is unique to the Compact only.
I have written a complete review of the Victorinox Compact where I detailed my experiences with it and pointed out some of its shortcomings that I ran into.
Victorinox Super Tinker
The Super Tinker just adds one extra layer to the width of the Compact. As such, it is only slightly thicker than the Compact.
But that little extra thickness allows the addition of two very important tools – the awl, and the Philips screwdriver. It also has an extra blade.
Many consider the Super Tinker better than the Compact just because of how useful the Philips screwdriver can be sometimes.
I find myself using the Philips more than the flathead in a SAK. I guess you already know how useful the awl can be from this post.
A pity that the Super Tinker does not come with plus scales. There used to be a variant with plus scales, but Victorinox probably discontinued that.
This is quite understandable, considering a model with that many useful functions will adversely affect the sale of other 91mm models.
- Two blades, large and small
- Flathead Screwdrivers, 3mm and 6mm
- Philips Screwdriver
- Multipurpose hook
- Wire stripper
Luckily, availability is not a big issue with the Super Tinker. I got it quite cheap from this Amazon listing.
The tool-set of the Explorer is something you will love to have always with you. It adds one more layer to the width of the Super Tinker, i.e. the Explorer is a 4-layer SAK.
The Explorer has often been considered by many as the best SAK for urban carry.
Reason? It has all of the must-have tools and almost all of the good-to-have tools. And the icing on the cake? It adds one very interesting tool to its already impressive toolset – a magnifying glass.
For many (including me), this is the most layers that a SAK can have and still qualify as pocket-carry. Any more layers, and you will probably need a sheath to carry it comfortably.
The magnifying glass, however, is surprisingly useful. I guess you can understand how handy a magnifying glass can be, especially for a long-sighted person.
It can double up as emergency glasses. Even a person with a good pair of eyes often needs help while reading extremely small prints.
The completeness of the toolset in the Explorer also makes it a very sought-after model.
- Two blades, large and small
- Flathead Screwdrivers, 3mm and 6mm
- Philips Screwdriver
- Multipurpose hook
- Magnifying glass
- Wire stripper
I have reviewed the Victorinox Explorer thoroughly in this post detailing my experiences of using it as my primary EDC.
Naturally, availability becomes an issue sometimes, but it is not as elusive as the Compact. A perfect 5-star rating in the Amazon listing is proof of the popularity of this model.
How to Improve your EDC Swiss Army Knife
Now that you have chosen your EDC Swiss Army Knife, let’s see how you can improve it. It may cost a little, but it is worth it, especially if you plan to carry only one SAK in your pocket.
Victorinox Compact: It has all the scale tools. So you cannot add anything to the scales. But sometimes, it doesn’t come with a mini-screwdriver. In that case, you can get the mini screwdriver from any other SAK that comes with it, or you can buy it separately.
Adding it to the compact is a quick and easy way to add one more functionality to an extremely slim SAK without adding any extra bulk.
Victorinox Super Tinker: It comes with normal scales. So you can replace them with plus scales. This will allow you to add the ballpoint pen to the scales. You can get the plus scales from any other SAK that comes with it (all 91mm SAK scales are interchangeable), or you can buy the plus scales separately from certain sellers.
You can also add the stainless steel pin to the scales which can be purchased separately.
Victorinox Explorer: This also doesn’t come with plus scales. Also, it has a corkscrew, just like the Compact. As a result, all the modifications for the Compact and the Super Tinker apply to the Explorer.
So you can add the plus scales with the ballpoint pen and the stainless steel pin to the Explorer. You can also attach the mini screwdriver to the corkscrew.
Tools to Avoid in your EDC Swiss Army Knife
You may have seen a lot more interesting tools in a Swiss Army Knife and wondered why I haven’t considered those. Here are some of the tools in a SAK which doesn’t serve any meaningful purpose as an urban EDC pocket tool.
Flashlight and Digital Watch
In today’s world, a flashlight or a digital watch are redundant tools in a SAK.
Why? Because everybody has a smartphone in their pocket which serves these purposes much better. A smartphone is everyone’s first EDC tool, I don’t think a SAK will ever be able to replace it, especially in an urban setup.
Add to that the extra headache of replacing the battery when it runs out, or worse, forgetting to remove the battery before cleaning the SAK. I have already damaged the digital watch in one of my SAKs this way! All these complexities for no added value make me avoid all SAKs with electronic parts in them.
Wood Saw and Metal File
These are useful tools of course, but honestly, do you really need them in a pocket EDC?
Trust me, I have used SAKs to saw off branches of a tree, and also cut iron nails in half. But these need considerable effort, especially with a 91mm SAK. You would prefer a 111mm SAK for such tasks. Both the wood saw and the metal file work better when the tools are longer and the SAK handles are bigger.
In an urban environment, the use of these tools is very limited. Even if the need arises, you will probably have access to dedicated tools meant for the exact purpose.
Most of the Alox models are slightly bigger, 93mm to be exact. But that is not why these models have not been considered for EDC.
The real reason is, apart from being great-looking and having slightly better-built quality, the Alox models of SAKs do not offer anything extra. The main deal-breaker is that you lose the scale tools, i.e. the tweezers, the toothpick, the pen, and the stainless steel pin.
If you want to maximize the utility of your EDC SAK, the Alox models are a strict no-no. Of course, if the scale tools are not very important to you or you are comfortable carrying more than one SAK, then, by all means, go for an Alox model. I particularly like the Victorinox Pioneer X Alox.
By the way, I have written a complete post on the Alox Swiss Army Knives along with their pros and cons. Do read that to get a better idea of whether an Alox model is right for you.
I hope I have been able to reduce your confusion in choosing a Swiss Army Knife for EDC to some extent. If still in doubt, you can blindly go for any of the models mentioned below. You won’t regret owning any one of them :-).
The 91mm series of SAKs are specifically based on two main model designs, the Spartan which has a corkscrew, and the Tinker which has a Philips screwdriver. All other models are basically an extension of these two models, with some models being a hybrid of both.
Among our three selected models, you can see that the Compact is an improved version of the Spartan, the Super Tinker is an improved version of the Tinker, and the Explorer is a hybrid, having both a corkscrew and a Philips screwdriver.
On the other hand, if you are okay carrying a much heavier SAK that can handle everything you through at it (and more), you may have a look at the Victorinox Swiss Champ. I have detailed my experiences of using the Swiss Champ here.
I remember spending at least a week choosing my first Swiss Army Knife. Since it was supposed to be my first SAK, I wanted something that would be useful both indoors as well as outdoors. Ultimately, I ended up getting the Vic 91mm Ranger (a 5-layer SAK). It has all the ‘default’ tools of a SAK, and in addition, has the scissors, the wood saw, and the metal file.
I don’t use that model much nowadays, simply because while it has the tools both for urban and outdoor environments, I always find myself missing one or more tools.
Having a lot of tools in your SAK may give you a feeling of being prepared for anything (it did, for me). However, gradually I realized that it is not an optimal solution for every situation.
It is always better to have a small set of tools that is just adequate for the environment you are in. And the three models shortlisted above have just the right balance of form and functionality for the urban environment.