Thursday, April 15, 2010

Better mousetrap? But would you pay the asking price?

Here's a better Swiss Army knife (and compass watch)

The Swiss know gadgets!
Though they maintain their neutrality in international politics, the Swiss aggressively battle for dominance in outdoor gadgetry.
The new Mike Horn Knife from Wenger presents a new take on an old design. South African adventurer Mike Horn worked with Wenger to develop this modern Swiss Army knife. Horn's four-year Pangaea Expedition a sailing and hiking adventure around the wildest parts of the globe puts gear to the ultimate test (
The Mike Horn Knife includes many of the tools you'd find in a collapsible multitool, but in a more functional design. The hefty tool sports two locking knife blades: a 4-inch straight and a 4-inch serrated blade. A hole in the butt of the composite handle accepts standard hex-bits (straight and Phillips screwdriver bits are included in a storage slot in the knife's nylon sheath). The Mike Horn also includes a reamer/awl, metal saw, file and pliers.
The knife weighs 9 ounces, well below many full-sized tools. It also proved far more comfortable and easier to use than any multitool we've experienced. The tool helped us adjust snowboard bindings while riding at Crystal Mountain. We also used it to fix a cranky stove while snow camping on Mount Rainier.
Priced at $175, the Mike Horn Knife is an investment that could serve you for decades. Horn told me he is still using his original version after years of hard adventuring around the globe, with no issues. So the rest of us should expect the knife to last us through a lifetime of "normal" adventures.
As much as they know about knives, the Swiss know more about watches. Wenger's Nomad LED compass watch offers a stylish design with outdoor performance. At first glance, the Nomad is a simple analog watch, with a dark face and steel case. But the four buttons around the perimeter suggest there is more to this watch. The buttons turn on bright red LED lights over the dial face. One brings up the time, another the date, the day and, finally, your compass bearing. The Nomad allows you to set declination so you can establish your bearing on true north rather than magnetic north.
The Nomad proved one of the most accurate and easy-to-use digital compasses we've ever tested, and its rugged watch-based housing makes it multifunctional, too. The fact that its stylish enough for daily wear in the poshest office means you'll never have to take it off. The Nomad runs $375. See
Freelancer Dan A. Nelson, of Puyallup, is a regular contributor to Backpacker magazine, and an author of outdoor guides with The Mountaineers Books. For the purpose of review, gear manufacturers lend products, which are returned after a typical use of six to eight weeks. There is no payment from manufacturers and they have no control over the content of reviews. Contact Dan with gear-related questions at

Courtesy of Wenger
The Mike Horn Swiss Army Knife
created for the adventure's
Pangaea Expedition

Courtesy of Wenger
Wenger's Nomad LED compass watch
has both analog face and digital readouts 

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