No Shortcuts Were Taken On The Victorinox Hunter Pro M Alox And Swiss Tool Spirit XC Plus Ratchet Multi-Tool.
The Swiss Army Knife, often referred to as a “SAK,” is one of the most common tools on the planet. It seems that anywhere you go, you’ll see the familiar bright-red handle bearing the Swiss flag’s cross. It’s probably a safe bet that most ASG readers count at least one SAK in their possession, whether it’s carried regularly or resides in a tackle box or on a workbench.
“The teeth on the saw are very aggressive and tear through wood quite easily. The scissors work great. As one would expect coming from Victorinox, every aspect of the tool is as precise as, well, a Swiss watch.”
It all began in 1884, when Karl Elsener opened his knife shop in Ibach-Schwyz, Switzerland. Within just seven years, he was supplying the Swiss Army with cutlery tools; and, by 1897, he’d developed the Officer’s and Sports Knife—the forerunner of the modern Swiss Army Knife.
Over the years, Victorinox has branched out well beyond those ubiquitous folding knives. Today, it offers five distinct product lines: Swiss Army Knives, watches, fragrances, travel gear, and household and professional knives. Other than the travel items, everything is still manufactured in Switzerland.
Victorinox has earned a well-deserved reputation for exacting quality with all of its products. This company must be doing something right: A few years ago, it produced its 500-millionth SAK!
Recently, I decided I wanted to expand my own collection beyond the Tinker and similar SAK models. In checking Victorinox’s website, I found a number of great tools. After some difficulty narrowing down my choices, I finally settled on a Hunter Pro M Alox folding knife and the Swiss Tool Spirit XC Plus Ratchet multi-tool. Shipping was a breeze, and I had both items in hand within a few days.
“ … I’m really digging the Spirit XC. It’s a classically designed multi-tool, with the ubiquitous fold-out pliers profile. However, there’s a lot going on here, especially when you add in the ‘Plus Ratchet’ part of the equation.”
The mild jimping along the back of the blade is exactly where your thumb naturally falls. (Photo: Jim Cobb)Here’s how they stacked up.
Hunter Pro M Alox Knife
The first thing I noticed about this knife when I opened the box was its size—much larger than I’d anticipated. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; it just took me by surprise. Closed, it runs a bit more than 5 inches, including the lanyard tab. With the blade open, it measures 9 inches. The Hunter Pro M Alox weighs 6.6 ounces. So, while it has some heft (more about that later), it isn’t going to feel as if you’re constantly being pulled to the side by the weight in your pocket.
Speaking of carrying the Hunter Pro, it comes equipped with a deep-carry pocket clip, along with a paracord lanyard. The latter works great to help draw the knife out of your pocket.
The “Alox” in the name refers to the handle material. The scales are punched from embossed aluminum and then treated with “anodic oxidation.” This is an electrochemical treatment that produces an oxide layer over the metal. As a practical matter, this increases the corrosion and wear resistance of the handle scales.
Hunter Pro M Alox
Closed: 5.4 inches
Blade: 3.88 inches
Blade material: Stainless steel
Handle material: Textured aluminum
Pocket clip: Fixed; right hand; tip up
Weight: 6.6 ounces
A thumbhole at the top of the blade is used to swing out the blade. Alternatively, the blade can, of course, be grasped with your other hand and opened. There’s no need for a nail nick with this knife, because there’s plenty of blade exposed to grasp easily.
“I used the Hunter Pro M ALOX for several tasks and found it to be incredibly comfortable, despite its large size.”
The blade is a drop-point design with a slight swedge. It has a matte finish, which looks nice against the shinier handle scales. There’s a small bit of jimping on the spine just behind the thumbhole. I found this was naturally where my thumb instinctively went when holding the open knife.
This is a locking knife, with the release button located at the back of the handle. Initially, this was a pretty stiff lock, but the release loosened up a bit after some use (by this, I mean the button became easier to depress, not that the lock, itself, became loose). Lockup on this knife is absolutely solid, with zero wiggle.
“It’s probably a safe bet that most ASG readers count at least one SAK in their possession, whether it’s carried regularly or it resides in a tackle box or on a workbench.”
I used the Hunter Pro M Alox for several tasks and found it to be incredibly comfortable, despite its large size. As longtime readers know, I often bring a new knife into the kitchen for food prep chores. I’m the cook in our family, so it’s easy for me to put it to work in that environment. In this case, I used it to slice and chop some carrots.
The test here isn’t to find out if the knife is up to the task, because even a butter knife can be pounded through a carrot. Rather, the idea is to see how the knife handles when put to work.
The Hunter Pro M Alox handled like a dream. Its large handle size gave me plenty of control over the knife. Plus, I experienced no cramping fingers or palm from trying to hold a small and thin knife for long periods of time. It handled similarly well with cordage, a leather belt and other materials.
Nevertheless, it isn’t without a couple of minor downsides: It’s heavy, as far as pocketknives go. At almost 7 ounces, it weighs about the same as a roll of nickels or a couple of C batteries. No, it isn’t a “boat anchor,” but you’ll definitely notice it in your pocket. The only other gripe I have is that if I had the choice, I wouldn’t choose to have a thumbhole in the blade spine. The action is still just a little too tight for it to swing the blade out that way. But, again, there’s plenty of blade there to grasp with your fingers to open it.
Swiss Tool Spirit XC Plus Ratchet Multi-Tool
That name sure is a mouthful! So, for the remainder of this article, I’m going to just shorten that to “Spirit XC.”
I’ll admit that I run hot and cold with most multi-tools. I recognize they’re useful, and I do carry one in most of my kits. But I also feel that there’s sometimes an over-reliance on them and that some folks plan to do way more with a multi-tool than it’s designed to handle.
That said, I’m really digging the Spirit XC! It’s a classically designed multi-tool, featuring the ubiquitous, foldout pliers profile. However, there’s a lot going on here, especially when you add in the “plus ratchet” part of the equation.
This is a medium-sized multi-tool, measuring about 4 inches from end to end when closed. Without attachments or additions, it weighs 7.3 ounces. The handles are slightly curved, which gives the tool a very comfortable feel, whether open or closed.
All told, there are 24 individual functions available on the Spirit XC. All of them, with the exception of the pliers, are used when the handles are closed. Most of the tools have a nail nick for easy opening. The ones that don’t are easy to grab (such as the Phillips head screwdriver).
When they unfold, the tools lock into place—a great feature. There’s also a positive stop at 45 degrees, although the tool doesn’t lock in that position. Even so, this is great when you’re working at an angle and need to reach a screw, for example. The lock release is located along the back of the handle. Simply slide the release down to unlock and then refold the tool.
The pliers have three functions: There’s the typical needle nose, but then, the “belly” opens up to tackle larger bolts and nuts. Then, at the base, there’s a wire cutter.
Other standard tools are the screwdrivers, can opener and scissors. These are all exactly what you’d expect in a tool of this quality, meaning that they’re well-made and perform well.
This multi-tool also offers a few unique features: Most tools of this nature have a knife blade, and the Spirit XC is no exception. However, this one incorporates both serrations and a smooth edge. The serrated edge runs for the first two-thirds of the sheepsfoot blade—from the flat tip on down. The knife edge then smooths out. There’s also a slightly upswept curve to the blade, itself, lending additional cutting power to each stroke. The blade is frighteningly sharp too.
There’s also a secondary cutting tool. It has three distinct sharp edges. Victorinox refers to these as a “chisel/scraper,” a “longitudinal cutter” and a “crossways cutter.” The latter two are apparently intended for cutting the cover from cable of some sort.
All the tools swing out and back smoothly without any effort. The lockup is rock-solid on each of them, as well.
Swiss Tool Spirit XC Plus Ratchet
Overall length: 9.0 inches
Closed length: 4.1 inches
Tools: 38 functions; includes ratchet tool and 6 bits
Pouch: Leather; holds knife and ratchet kit
Weight: 7.4 ounces
As noted, this is the “Plus Ratchet” model. As such, it comes with a well-made leather pouch that carries the Spirit XC, as well as some additional tools. To be quite honest, these extras had me really excited about this tool: There’s a ratchet with several bits, a ratchet extension and a small corkscrew nestled in dedicated pockets inside the pouch. The corkscrew is actually two tools in one. Secured inside it is a small eyeglass screwdriver. It screws in and out easily when needed. The corkscrew, itself, attaches to the Spirit XC via a slot that’s found on either side of the tool (as a result, no matter what happens, you’ll always have access to wine!).
The ratchet is slightly more than 4 inches long. I counted 36 clicks as it rotated around. It’s reversible: You put the bit in one side if you’re tightening it and the other side if you’re loosening it. The bits can also be put into the handle end of the ratchet. In that position, you can use the extension as a handle in the ratchet to give you more leverage. The extension will also fit into the handle to increase your reach. It comes with six bits (two each of Torx, Phillips and Allen heads). There’s space for four more bits in the carrier, so you can add others you use often.
With everything loaded into the pouch, it weighs about 13 ounces. That’s a bit more than I’d like to add to my belt, so I mostly stored it in my off-body EDC kit. I kept it handy for a few weeks, just waiting for something in the house to break so I could leap into action with the Spirit XC. The first job I tackled was opening the back of an old toy to see why it wasn’t working. This gave me the opportunity to use the ratchet and Phillips bit, as well as the extension. Everything worked great at removing the screws, even though they’d obviously been in place for many years.
I was really curious about the Spirit XC’s unique cutting tool, so I grabbed a shipping box and went to work. The tip worked like a dream to slice the box into strips. (Again, I wasn’t just testing the capability of the tool but its ergonomics.)
When the tool’s handle is closed, it’s really easy on the hands. All exposed edges on the frame are slightly rounded, so there aren’t any hot spots. This is also evident when you’re using the pliers. I have an old iteration of another multi-tool that’s just murder on the fingers and palm if you need to exert any real force with the pliers; it really digs into the hands. That’s not the case here.
The teeth on the saw are very aggressive and tear through wood quite easily. The scissors also work great. As you’d expect from Victorinox, every aspect of this tool is as precise as, well, a Swiss watch.
My only complaint about the Spirit XC is its weight. The high quality and robust build do come at a cost. However, for someone (like me) who’ll toss it into a pack or bag rather than strap it to a belt, the weight is probably negligible in the grand scheme of things.
The folding knife and the multi-tool are both exceptionally well-made. I could easily see them being passed down to children or grandchildren after years of service. As with anything bearing the Victorinox brand, these two tools are great buys and well worth the investment.
EDC Tool Kit
Depending on your general daily activities, adding a small tool kit to your EDC load might be worth the time to assemble. You won’t be performing major engine repairs with it, but it could get you out of a jam when a full-scale tool box isn’t available. Here are some things to consider adding to it:
- Multi-tool, such as the Swiss Tool Spirit XC Plus Ratchet
- Folding knife
- Small pair of channel locks
- Duct tape rolled onto a pencil or old credit card
- Cordage, such as paracord or bank line
- Penlight or other small flashlight
- Disposable lighter
- Notebook and pencil
All of that—and more—will fit into any number of pocket organizers available from companies such as 5.11 Tactical, Maxpedition or Vanquest. Toss these items into your EDC bag, and you’ll be ready for the next expedient repair need.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the June, 2021 print issue of American Survival Guide.