I fell in love with the SwissTool Spirit X the first time I saw it. It is the first plier based multitool that looks awesome, and the fact that it is a Victorinox product guarantees that it will perform. But how good is it? Especially when there already exists a lot of very capable plier based multitools from Leatherman, Gerber, and Sog?
Exceptional design and build quality, the hallmark of any Victorinox product
Best in-hand feel out of any multi-tool of comparable size, but there are certain compromises
I have been using Victroniox SAKs for decades, but plier-based multi-tools are a different breed. Leatherman products have always been the preferred choice in this category. But after using the Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X for just a few months, I realized that this tool can be a worthy competitor, especially to the ever-popular Leatherman Wave and Charge models.
So is it the perfect multi-tool? Now that I have been using this tool for over two years, I think a better question is whether this tool is perfect for you. Read on, as I elaborate on my experiences of using this tool.
Design And Build Quality
The design of the SwissTool Spirit is what attracted me initially. It is sleek, stylish and looks classy. In fact, this is one tool that will not look odd in your hands whether you are at home, office or camping in the woods.
It is made of stainless steel of a high luster variety. Victorinox does not reveal the composition of the steel they use in their multi-tools. But one look at this one and you will realize that it is the same steel they use in their Swiss Army Knives. It apparently has a high percentage of Chromium content in the composition, the reason for the high glossy look.
One advantage of the material used in this tool is that it will never rust. I have heard stories of this tool being recovered from the sea by sailors after remaining submerged in the water for months, and there was no rust anywhere in the tool.
The shape of the tool when closed is unlike any other multi-tool I have seen. It looks like two narrow metal bars joined in the middle forming an elongated ‘X’ shape.
Just like the Swiss Army Knife, the Victorinox SwissTool Spirit has impeccable build quality.
You will realise this as soon as you take this in your hand and start opening and closing the various tools in it.
Every tool opens and closes into position with a satisfactory ‘click’. Every tool locks and has its own individual spring. Each of the tools in the multi-tool feels solid, and once a tool locks into an open position, there is no play in any direction. It is also easy to unlock it with sliders at the top end.
It is longer than other comparable multi-tools but narrower and thinner. It is remarkable how Victorinox could accommodate so many tools in such a thin profile.
The multi-tool is so uniformly designed that you can make it stand on a flat surface on any of its sides and ends.
As far as build quality is concerned, the SwissTool Spirit is the best that I have used to date. No other multi-tool can come close to Victorinox’s quality in this parameter. These multi-tools are just better-finished products than any other multi-tool in the market.
Victorinox says that the SwissTool Spirit has 24 functions.
While that is a lot, once you go through the spec sheet, this long list seems more like a marketing thing.
E.g. the wirecutters in the pliers is listed as two separate functions, soft wire cutter, and hard wire cutter. I know other manufacturers also do this, but Victorinox just seems to overdo this in their list of functions. Here is the list from the official website.
There is no point in going through each and every function here, but let us see how well some of the main tools perform.
The pliers are as robust as they come. It is of the needle-nose variety, similar to what you see in Leatherman’s design.
However, the tip is not as pointed as that of Leatherman Wave or Charge.
I think this makes the design a little stronger as you get more metal at the end to grip something with a lot of force. I have used the pliers a lot and it never failed to deliver.
Once the pliers are deployed, the handles fit very well in your hands. Even if you are squeezing hard, the gap between the handles remains big enough minimizing any chances of your palm or fingers getting squeezed. This is a well-known issue in Leatherman Wave and Charge models and many have got nasty blood blisters from an accidental squeeze.
The Spirit gets rid of this issue with its ergonomic design.
However, there are two things about the pliers that I felt could have been better, both related to the wire-cutter at the base of the pliers
- The cutting area is too small, so it sometimes becomes difficult to fit the wire between the cutting heads.
- The wire-cutters are not replaceable. So if you damage them, it may not be possible to fix them and you will be carrying a multi-tool with one less function.
Wire-cutters are such an important function in a multi-tool that given an option, I will always prefer longer and replaceable wire-cutters. Apart from this minor ‘issue’, the pliers do not have any other drawbacks.
You get a different style of knife based on the SwissTool Spirit model you select. The SwissTool Spirit X has a straight edge knife.
This is one area where I think the SwissTool Spirit does not compare favorably with its competitors. This is also the main reason why I may prefer a Leatherman Wave or Charge over the SwissTool Spirit.
The Spirit has only one knife. This is unlike other full-size multi-tools that have both plain edge as well as serrated edge knives. This for me is a drawback as I need multiple cutting options in a multi-tool as large as this.
The design of the blade is very similar to what you see in SAKs, but the blade in the SwissTool Spirit is a bit thicker and hence stronger.
My main issue with the knife is that it is fairly small and short, much shorter than the ones you get in Wave or Charge. This is even though the Spirit is longer than both the Wave and the Charge! I guess the blade length is only about 70%of the length of the tool.
Whereas, in the case of the Wave, the knife blade is almost 90% of the length of the tool.
My other issue with the knife is that it does not support one-handed opening. You will always have to use both of your hands and your fingernails to get it out. This may not be an issue for you if you use SAKs regularly. But if you have become accustomed to using your Wave or Charge with one hand, this can be a deal-breaker.
The knife is sharp and functional no doubt, and it has done everything that I wanted to do with it. But because of the above factors, I am always apprehensive about using it much. If you are carrying a separate pocket knife along with the SwissTool Spirit, then it may not be an issue.
There is a model where you get two knives in the SwissTool Spirit, but you lose the scissors. So that model is not an option for those who need a pair of scissors in their multi-tool.
I wasn’t sure how well the wood saw would work, given the short length. I usually prefer longer saw while cutting timber or branches of a tree. However, the teeth of the wood saw are very aggressive in all Victorinox products. It is the same in the SwissTool Spirit too.
Unlike Leatherman saw where the teeth are angled backward, the teeth in this saw are straight and a little bigger in size. I guess this design helps in both the forward and backward movement of the saw.
I did not get a chance to use the saw in the outdoors yet, but I did use it on timber and it did well.
I was in fact surprised how quickly it got the job done. However, given the short length of the saw blade, it will be a bit difficult to use it on something bigger than 4 inches in diameter.
Metal File and Saw
The metal file on the SwissTool Spirit has the traditional toothed pattern on both sides. On one side, the pattern is a little less aggressive and hence can be used as a nail file too. For Leatherman fans, no, there is no diamond file in this tool.
However, the toothed pattern is more aggressive than what you see in Leatherman files. I have used the file on both metal and wood, and it works fine. This file gets the work done faster than the file on the Wave.
There are ridges on the bottom edge of the file which can be used as a metal saw. The ridges are very aggressive too.
Though I have not used it as a metal file, I have seen people cutting iron nails in half with this file. It takes some time, but it gets the job done.
I use the scissors in my multi-tool a lot, the reason why I always make sure that any multi-tool I carry has one. However, after using SAKs for so many years and loving their scissors, I expected more from the scissors in the SwissTool Spirit.
Victorinox has changed the design of the scissors from what they use in their SAKs. These look a bit more robust, but the scissors do not open very wide.
You may find it difficult to fit anything thicker in these scissors. This design looks too restrictive.
This I think is a major negative for this tool, as Victorinox could have used the original design which is probably the best scissor design in any multi-tool.
The scissors are however very sharp, similar to the ones you get in a SAK. You can cut paracords easily with these scissors. And yes, you can cut your fingernails and even toenails with it.
A chisel is an interesting tool in the SwissTool Spirit as most popular full-size multi-tools do not include this. It can be used to trim wood or plastic, or clear debris off hard smooth surfaces like glass.
For me, it has very limited uses. But people who are into wood-carving or other similar kinds of wood-work will find it very useful.
One corner of the chisel is sharpened, and this gives this tool an extra functionality.
This sharpened end of the chisel can be used very effectively as a box cutter. In fact, I have used it to cut boxes and packages multiple times.
Apart from these main tools, the SwissTool has all the other suspects that you usually see in a multi-tool. These include bottle and can openers, wire stripper, and wire bender. It has three flathead screwdrivers and one Philips head screwdriver. It also has an awl or reamer. All of these work as expected.
There is also a small hole on both sides of the tool which works as a coupling to attach a corkscrew. The corkscrew, however, does not come with the Spirit and has to be purchased separately.
This video from Victorinox explains the functionality of every tool in the SwissTool Spirit:
Ease Of Use
Usability is one area where the SwisTool Spirit has both hits and misses. In fact, the positives and negatives are so pronounced that it can very well dictate whether you should get this multi-tool or not.
The contoured shape of the SwissTool Spirit provides a good grip when held in the hand. The sides of the tool are almost smooth with nothing sticking out. In the open position when the pliers are deployed, the corners are rounded. In the closed position, there are no significant hot spots even if you squeeze it hard. All these make the SwissTool Spirit a joy to hold in the hand, whether in the open or closed position.
Another advantage of the SwissTool Spirit is that all the tools and functions, except the pliers and integrated wire cutters, are accessible from outside. It means you can deploy all these tools without opening up the pliers. This is significant as very few full-size multi-tools have this feature.
However, there is a significant disadvantage to this design as well. As already mentioned, the knife cannot be deployed one-handed. Almost all full-size multi-tool nowadays have one-handed opening knives.
In addition to this, all the tools have to be deployed with the help of tiny nail nicks built into the body of the tools. It is similar to how you deploy the tools in a SAK. This can be quite challenging if you have chubby fingers or soft fingernails. If you are wearing gloves, you will probably have to take them off your hands before you can deploy any of the tools.
The smooth and shiny body of the SwissTool Spirit looks amazing, but this also makes it difficult to hold it firmly if your hand is wet or sweaty. You will have to frequently wipe and clean your Spirit in such situations to get a firm grip on it. This can be very annoying, especially when you are in the middle of doing some important task with this tool.
The SwissTool Spirit weighs about 250 gms and is about 4 inches long. From the smooth and flat design along with the size and weight, you may think that it a good candidate for pocket carry. But here is a problem. Victorinox does not provide an option to attach a pocket clip to this multi-tool. This is again similar to how SAKs do not support pocket clips.
The only other option left is to use a sheath, and Victorinox does provide one along with the tool. The one I got is a stitched leather sheath.
The sheath is very compact and has a velcro closing.
It has just enough room to store only the multi-tool and can be attached to your belt.
I am sure there are other bigger sheaths available from Victorinox with more room in case you need to carry some accessories along with the SwissTool Spirit.
However, if you are really interested in attaching a pocket clip to it, have a look at the one called Nite Ize HipClip.
This pocket clip attaches via a strong adhesive and hence is perfect for the smooth surface of the SwissTool Spirit.
Since the clip is also made of stainless steel, once attached it matches the color and look of the Spirit perfectly.
The Victorinox SwissTool Spirit is probably one of the best full-sized multi-tools available in the market today. With its elegant and lightweight design, it can be a true Everyday carry tool, especially if you get a clip like the Nite Ize HipClip attached to it. However, if you think one-handed opening, replaceable wire cutters, and a diamond file are important to you, there are other better options available. In any case, this is an outstanding multi-tool in its own right, and with proper care can last a lifetime.