“The closest Victorinox has ever come to designing the perfect Swiss Army Knife is the Compact!”
This is what I had heard but didn’t take seriously. My opinion did change a lot after getting hold of the Victorinox Compact and using it as my primary EDC for a few weeks. I think now I am in a position to jot down my thoughts about this one-of-a-kind SAK model.
While the Victorinox Compact does have a few drawbacks, there are a lot of positives going for this special Swiss Army Knife. The Compact can be the ideal EDC tool for a lot of people, especially those who need a set of useful tools in a small and light package that is extremely handy in many day-to-day activities and situations.
The unique features and toolset of the Compact also make it a must-have Swiss Army Knife model for SAK enthusiasts, and especially collectors.
I got the Compact from this Amazon listing. First, a quick look at the things I loved about the Compact, and the things I didn’t like that much!
- Ease of carrying
- The Combo tool
- The Plus Scale tools, and the Mini-screwdriver
- The price
- The tools on the backside
- The Combo tool (yes, I found a few negatives about it)
Tools in the Victorinox Compact
Before we dive in, let’s have a look at the toolset of the Victorinox Compact. Officially, this model can perform 15 functions.
That is quite a lot, especially for a two-layer SAK.
Its other two well-known 2-layer siblings, viz. The Spartan and The Tinker has only 12 functions.
So how does the Compact achieve this?
- Flathead Screwdriver
- Multipurpose hook
- Nail file
- Wire stripper
- Mini screwdriver
- Pressurized ballpoint pen
- Stainless steel pin
For more details on specifications, check the official page at Victorinox.
Victorinox has crammed as many features as it can into the Compact by doing two things:
- Adding a combo tool
- Adding plus scales
I will cover both these points later on, but first, let me tell you about my experience of having the Compact daily in my pocket for almost a month.
Ease of carrying
The primary reason why I got the Compact is that it’s a thin and light 2-layer SAK.
I have used another 2-layer SAK before, the Spartan, and was surprised how light it was in the pocket. But I stopped carrying it as I missed a pair of scissors.
If you ask me, for an average user, the most used tool in any urban environment is a pair of scissors. Even if I have a knife blade in the SAK, I usually find myself in more situations where a pair of scissors will do the job better. As a result, I eventually upgraded from the Spartan to a 3-layer SAK, the Super Tinker (which has scissors).
The scissors in a Swiss Army Knife are the best I have seen in any pocket-size multi-tool. The Victorinox Compact adds the pair of scissors, without sacrificing any other major functionality of the Spartan.
The Victorinox Compact is the thinnest medium-size Swiss Army Knife (91mm model) to carry a pair of scissors. Few other 2-layer SAK models which also had scissors are either discontinued or are made only for certain specific markets, i.e. not available globally.
It also adds a few more tools that the Spartan does not have.
And the Compact does all that without adding any more layers or weight! So it’s still the same size as the Spartan, but much more functional.
A 2-layer SAK like the Compact is a joy to carry and work with. It almost disappears in my pocket and I forget about it until I need it.
You will only understand this once you scale down from a 3 or 4-layer SAK to a 2-layer SAK. It is just the ideal size for a pocket knife.
It feels so natural whether you are slicing fruits or vegetables with the knife blade, using the cap lifter to open a bottle of beer, or using the scissors to unpack a gift.
What I Like About the Combo Tool
So how does the Compact manage to add a pair of scissors without adding any more layers to the SAK? It does so by adding a combination tool, aptly called, the Combo tool.
Other 2-layer SAKs have a bottle-opener and a can-opener which together occupy one layer. The Combo tool combines both these functions into one single tool.
The Compact also loses the seemingly redundant small blade of the SAK and replaces it with this Combo tool.
This frees up one layer in the SAK completely to include the pair of scissors.
How does the Combo tool perform?
The Combo tool works as well as the normal bottle-opener in other SAKs. Even the tip, though a bit small, works as well as a flathead screwdriver as the tip of a normal bottle-opener in a SAK.
However, I was a bit skeptical about how the Combo tool will fare as a can-opener. And boy, was I surprised!
The combo tool is not sharp, unlike the normal can-opener which has a sharp edge. But it opens up cans just as well.
A friend of mine has had the Vic Compact for many years. He says that he sharpened the edge of the Combo tool with a knife sharpener, and now it works even better as a can-opener.
A little more force is required to get started when making the hole, but after that, it works smoothly.
In fact, some people say it works better than the normal can-opener in a SAK!
The wire stripper at the base of the Combo tool works the same as the one in the normal bottle-opener tool. So no functional sacrifices here too.
Other SAKs with the Combo tool
The excellent performance of the Combo tool got me thinking. If this one tool can replace two tools in a Swiss Army Knife, why doesn’t Victorinox use the Combo tool in all 91mm models?
Turns out, Victorinox has used this Combo tool in many other models, but most of them are not produced anymore. You may get some of them in marketplaces like eBay if you look around.
While the Combo tool is unique, the Compact is not the only Swiss Army Knife to have this tool. But barring a few, most of these models are retired now. Following are some SAK models that have the Combo tool:
- Swiss Champ XAVT
- Duke of Edinburgh (DofE)’s Award Pocket Tool
- Special Mechanic (Mechanic junior)
- My First Victorinox
The Compact has Plus Scales
The plus scales are not new to Swiss Army Knives. These improve the functionality of a SAK significantly without adding any extra weight. But alas, Victorinox includes them in only a select few models.
Luckily, the Compact is one of them.
In addition to the tweezers and the toothpick, the plus scales house two more tools in them – the pressurized ballpoint pen, and a stainless steel pin.
I find the pen very useful, especially on occasions when I don’t have a pen with me but need one. If you want to know more about the pressurized ballpoint pen and how to use it effectively, do read: Which Swiss Army Knife Has a Pen?
The stainless steel pin is located in a hole in the scale beside the corkscrew. Till now, I have used it a couple of times at home to reset my router.
But the time when the pin really came in handy was when I had to swap the sim cards in my phone while traveling. Yes, you can use it to eject the sim tray of your smartphone.
A SAK with normal scales also has a hole for the pin but doesn’t come with a pin. So you can take the pin from the Compact (or buy the pin separately) and put it in any other 91mm SAK.
Another advantage of having the plus scales is the inclusion of the mini-screwdriver in the Compact.
The mini-screwdriver actually doesn’t reside in the scales. It is twisted into the corkscrew.
The Compact is the thinnest mid-size SAK to have the mini-screwdriver, the pressurized pen, and the stainless steel pin.
It can be used on eyeglasses, watch bracelets, and even on small electronics.
If you find the mini-screwdriver too tiny to hold, you can attach it to the corkscrew backward.
This will give a bigger handle to hold it and work with it comfortably.
In spite of its awesome usability, the Compact is not without any drawbacks. And some of these drawbacks may be a deal-breaker for many. Here are some of the notable shortcomings of the Victorinox Compact.
The Compact is too Expensive
Victorinox Swiss Army Knives are known to be quite affordable. But not the Compact! In fact, it is the most expensive 2-layer Swiss Army Knife. The Compact costs more than twice the other 2-layer SAKs like the Spartan or the Tinker!
I delayed buying the Compact because of the high price. I kept checking the price occasionally for over a year. It went out of stock and then became available again, but the price never came down.
the Compact is even dearer than the 3-layer SAKs like the Super Tinker, Climber, or Hiker. Its price tag is in the range of (and sometimes surpasses) popular 4-layer SAKs, like the Deluxe Tinker and the Explorer.
At last, I gave in and bought it anyway.
But even with all its advantages, I can hardly justify the Compact being more useful than the Explorer or even the Deluxe Tinker. Is being light and ‘compact’ more important than all the functionalities of a 4-layer SAK? I let you decide for yourself.
Why is the Victorinox Compact so Expensive?
I have often been confused by the pricing structure of different models of Swiss Army knives. In general, I consider most SAKs as value for money. But how a medium-size 2-layer SAK like the Compact can command such a high price?
After doing some research, especially from what Victorinox has publicly disclosed, and the opinion of other SAK enthusiasts, here are some possible reasons for the high price tag of the Compact:
- Some specific SAK models are assembled by hand rather than by automated machinery in the Victorinox factory, which increases the price. The Compact is probably one of those hand-assembled models.
- The plus scales in the Compact add to the price.
- The Combo Tool is not produced in volume (few SAKs have it). This increases the cost of production.
- The multipurpose hook in the Compact is unique, as it has a nail file on the back edge. This makes it a niche tool that is not produced in volume, thus increasing the price.
- It is the only 2-layer SAK available today that has a pair of scissors. Yes, exclusivity does demand a higher price.
- The Compact is highly regarded by many and is often considered the perfect EDC. As such, lowering the price might hurt the sales of other SAK models 🙂
I guess any of the above reasons, or perhaps a combination of all is what makes the Compact such an expensive Swiss Army Knife.
The Back-Side Tools in the Compact
The tools on the backside of the Compact have almost no significant value to me. This is especially when other two-layers SAKs like the Spartan and the Tinker have more useful tools on their backsides.
I personally find a Philips screwdriver and an awl much more useful than a corkscrew and a multipurpose hook.
Granted, the corkscrew in the Compact also houses the mini-screwdriver. But both these tools have very little use in my day-to-day life.
The multi-purpose hook in the Compact is also a tool with no specific purpose, even though it can come in handy sometimes. But given a choice, I would prefer the awl (found in the Spartan and the Tinker) over the hook.
By the way, if you want to know how the hook can come in handy sometimes, do read: 13 Uses of the Swiss Army Knife Hook That May Actually Surprise You.
Here I must mention that the multipurpose hook in the Spartan is somewhat different than that found in other SAKs.
This particular design has a nail file on the back edge. It is similar to the nail file you see in the 58mm model Victorinox Classic SD, but a bit narrow.
I have written about the Vic Classic SD in detail here. Do have a look if you need a keychain SAK.
The nail file is not as comfortable to use as the one in the Classic SD, but it works anyway. I guess some people will find it useful.
What I Don’t Like About the Combo Tool
The Combo Tool is great in the sense that it completely replaces the bottle-opener and the can-opener. But can it handle everything that those two tools do? In my opinion, no.
The can-opener on other SAKs has a tip that works as a 3mm flathead screwdriver. What many people don’t know is that the tip works on #2 Philips screws very well.
Can the Combo Tool do it?
Some people have suggested that the Combo tool can also be a replacement for a Philips screwdriver.
I tried, and it generally works on medium-sized Philips screws.
But it often slips and is nowhere as reliable as the Philips head screwdriver found in other models of SAKs.
While the Combo-tool can be used on Philips screws by holding it at a certain angle, the experience is very frustrating. And it doesn’t work at all on small #2 Philips screws!
I would rather declare that the Victorinox Compact has almost zero Philips capability.
The other function where the Combo tool doesn’t feel good is while using it as a prying tool.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not a complete failure in this function. But it won’t give you much confidence, owing to how thin it is.
In fact, the Combo tool is even thinner than the can-opener!
I have used the bottle-opener of a SAK to pry open so many things, but I would think twice before putting much force while prying with the Combo tool.
Is Victorinox Compact the ideal SAK for you?
The Compact is the best 2-layer Swiss Army Knife available in the market, period. And it will remain so until Victorinox comes up with something better.
If you like the toolset of the Compact, go for it. You will be carrying it with you everywhere.
The Scissors, the Combo tool, along with the plus scales make it one of a kind, especially if you prefer a light EDC tool that can do a lot.
The best 2-Layer Swiss Army Knife money can buy
However, if the negatives are a deal-breaker for you, don’t worry, there are other EDC options available. In fact, I have written a complete post on the best EDC Swiss Army Knives that would be perfect for just about anybody.
On the other hand, If minimalism is not your thing and you want one Swiss Army Knife to do it all, the Victorinox Swiss Champ that I reviewed here might just be the SAK you need. Or maybe the Victorinox Explorer that falls somewhere in between the Compact and the Swiss Champ is the one you are looking for.
Hopefully, my experiences with the Compact will help you make an informed decision.