Do I need a Swiss Army Knife (SAK) for my Kinabalu climb?

Not necessary, but it is better if you have one. I use to have my own multi-tool while I was in the university. Mostly used for daily usage, this handy multi-tool are also lightweight when I go for any outdoor trip.

But when I came to Sabah and fell in love with Mount Kinabalu, I know that I need to upgrade my multi-tool to become more suitable for my climb. I bought a Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-tool just before my first trip up on Kinabalu in 2002. It was a bit expensive then, but it was really worth it.

Why do you need a multi-tool?

My mentor always tell me, “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst”. By taking the advise seriously, having a multi-tool during your climbing trip up on Kinabalu might save your life. Although I only used the can opener and the knife of my Victorinox Swiss Army multi-tool during most of my climb, it gives me a “peace of mind” to know that I have other tool elements that I “might” use during emergency situation.

So, by having this multi-tool, it completed my preparation for the worse of the climb, apart from my first aid kit and other necessary items.

Why Victorinox Swiss Army multi-tool?

Apparently, it is the only high quality multi-tool that is easily available almost anywhere in Malaysia. At one time, because of the expensiveness, I bought a similar looking multi-tool – but not the original Victorinox – that was “Made In China”. Unfortunately, the blade broke when I use it for few times, and rusts sets in in just few months.

There are other multi-tools around, but I don’t think that it has the credibility, performance, versatility and value like Victorinox has.

Victorinox History

Victorinox Swiss Army Climber Pocket KnifeIn 1891, Karl Elsener, then owner of a company that made surgical equipment, discovered to his dismay that the pocket knives supplied to the Swiss Army were in fact made in Germany. Upset, he founded the Association of Swiss Master Cutlers. Its goal was simple — Swiss knives for the Swiss Army.

Upon suggestion by his engineer friend, Jeannine Keller, Elsener began working on what became the predecessor to the modern Swiss Army knife, called the “Soldier’s Knife”. The original had a wooden handle, as opposed to the plastic and metal seen today, and featured a cutting blade, a screwdriver, a can opener, and a punch.

This knife was sold to the Swiss army, but Elsener was not satisfied with its first incarnation. In 1896, after five years of hard work, Elsener managed to put the blades on both sides of the handle using a special spring mechanism, allowing him to use the same spring to hold them in place, an innovation at the time. This allowed Elsener to put twice as many features on the knife; he added a second cutting blade and a corkscrew.

Karl Elsner used the cross and shield to identify his knives. The same symbol is still used to identify a Victorinox Swiss Army Knife. When his mother died in 1909, Elsner decided to name his company “Victoria” in her memory. In 1921 the company started using stainless steel to make the Swiss Army Knife. Stainless steel is also known as “inox”, short for the French term acier inoxydable. “Victoria” and “inox” were then combined to create the company name “Victorinox”.

The term “Swiss Army knife” was coined by US soldiers after World War II, as they couldn’t pronounce its original name, “Offiziersmesser”.

Which Victorinox multi-tool?

Aah… It is really mind boggling when you head to Victorinox official website and see there are hundreds of similar tools in the website. Don’t know which one to choose? Maybe this short guide on choosing your Victorinox Swiss Army Knife may help:

  1. Features. The good thing about Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-tool is that they have categorized the multi-tool according to your usage. For example, in our case, I choose “Victorinox Swiss Army Climber Pocket Knife“, which I personally have. It has all the basic features that’s necessary for climbers. And because of their varieties, Victorinox has also created their own multi-tool “Collection”, for those who wants more specialize collector’s series. For example, GolfTool – Victorinox – Swiss Army, a specialize multi-tool for golfers which has “removable ball marker & tee punch with groove cleaner”.
  2. Budget. How much should you spend for a multi-tool like Victorinox? Well, I must tell you that it doesn’t matter how much you spend, as it worth every penny. But make sure you know what activities are going to do, and then compare the features that they have before buying. Size of the multi-tool is almost unimportant, as each and every Victorinox multi-tools has been designed and engineered to be compatible with each activities.

What does Victorinox Swiss Army Climber Pocket Knife has?

  • Contains 13 stainless-steel tools
  • Large knife blade, small knife blade, large screwdriver, small screwdriver, reamer/punch
  • Can opener, bottle opener, wire stripper, tweezers, toothpick, scissors, hook, corkscrew
  • Just 3-1/2 inches long
  • Includes key ring; lifetime warranty against defects

By the way, do you know that Victorinox also has multi-tool which features 2GB of USB memory drive?

This entry was posted in Climber's Tips on by .

About drizad

A self employed General Practitioner who lives with his lovely family in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. He dedicates his spare time serving people with precious information on climbing the Majestic Mountain of the Borneo, Mt Kinabalu. Reachable at drizad(at)

5 thoughts on “Do I need a Swiss Army Knife (SAK) for my Kinabalu climb?

  1. Seth Adams

    >>>>”There are other multi-tools around, but I don’t think that it has the credibility, performance, versatility and value like Victorinox has.”

    Amen, brother! They’re great knives!

  2. arif

    you said these swiss army knives can be found anywhere in malaysia? where exactly are these victorinox outlets?
    when i check the victorinox websites most dealers in KL only trade in watches or travel bags.
    I’m looking for a victorinox Manager

  3. ReginaPhalange

    To add to the confusion, Victorinox also makes a line of Leatherman-like multi-tools that have pliers in addition to all the typical Swiss Army Knife tools, with the exception of tweezers and toothpick. They’re called the SwissTool and SwissTool Spirit, with several variations of each. 🙂

  4. Steve

    Great article, appreciate the history. Victorinox knives have been to the moon, to the summit of Mt. Everest, and to the Arctic Circle. And although knife sales to the Swiss Army itself actually represent less than one percent of the Company’s total business, the name “Swiss Army” and the familiar white cross on red emblem are known and respected worldwide.

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