In extensive testing, we like much of what the Victorinox Climber has to offer. The extra functions are its defining characteristic. To get scissors and openers and some handy tools you sacrifice some portability and ergonomics. We notice the lack of a pocket clip and attributes that enable one-handed deployment. If your knife use is more patient, you won't notice these shortcomings.
Victorinox Climber Review
Cons: No pocket clip, no one handed opening
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Is it a pocket knife with extra functions? Or is it a pocket-knife-shaped multi-tool? Or does it even matter? Clearly, we've elected to include it here with other pocket knives. However, it wouldn't be wrong to have included it in our Multi-Tool Review. The "Swiss Army Knife" is, in many ways, the original "multi tool". The Climber model from Victorinox is venerable, proven, and compact. It takes up less space in your pocket or purse than many pocket knives but has more functions and features than many multi tools. The construction quality and durability back up the design and our testers reach for the Climber over and over again. It doesn't stand out enough to earn any awards, but it is a reliable and intelligent choice for day-to-day use.
Our scoring matrix is optimized to score pocket knives with a main blade and maybe an extra feature or two. To shoe-horn the Victorinox Climber into this system is a little clumsy. The end result is an overall score that doesn't really reflect its utility. For day-to-day use and most backcountry applications, the Victorinox Climber is nearly perfect. Its primary short-comings, especially as it pertains to backcountry use, is that the plentiful tool selection is harder to clean before and after food prep. Otherwise, all the features are very handy for the self-contained wilderness traveler and in your day-to-day life.
Blade and Edge Integrity
Victorinox doesn't give us a ton of information about the steel and finishing process. We like to "geek out" at least a little on the blade steel, and Victorinox just won't indulge us. When we let go of our nerdier aspirations and just use the Climber, we like what we find. The blades are thin and low profile, but arrive well sharpened and hold that edge as long as anything else. The steel is very easily sharpened with any of a variety of good methods. Decades of experience with Victorinox products validates this assessment, and we have no reason to believe that recent products are any different from the 25 year old knives members of our test team still have in use.
In recent decades, knives have improved greatly in ergonomics. One-handed opening, assisted opening, and slick locking mechanisms really do enhance your experience. Modern knife designs are truly more ergonomic than older styles. The Climber is decidedly "old school" with the attendant usability compromises. You'll find that the assisted opening, one-handed deployment of the Editors' Choice Benchmade Mini-Barrage is more user friendly. Even Best Buy winning Kershaw Chill has a one-handed opening function with no additional parts. The fingernail groove on the main blade of the Climber is similar to that on the Buck Knives 110 and the Top Pick Victorinox Classic. It works, but others do better for sure.
Portability is a function of size, weight, carry options, and external texture. For all it packs in, the Climber is pretty small and light. More than half of our tested knives are heavier than the Climber and none have more features. The Climber has a smooth external profile and a key chain loop. Our preferred carry method, though, is not possible with the Victorinox Climber. A pocket clip holds your knife up out of the clutter of your pants pocket. The Climber does not have this. Of our award winners, all but one have a pocket clip. The modular design of the pocket clip on the Kershaw Leek allows it to be highly customized. The Editors' Choice Benchmade Mini-Barrage has a low profile pocket clip that can be mounted for either right or left hand carry and use. The Climber is a little behind the times.
Here the Climber excels. It has more features than any other knife we tested. Testers love the scissors and bottle opener. Handy folks and those requiring self-reliance like the awl and screwdrivers for quick and dirty field repairs of equipment of all kinds. The tweezers aren't the best available, but they are often better than nothing.
In decades of using a whole host of Victorinox Swiss Army Knives our test team has had precious few issues with construction or durability. Our most recent test time with the Climber wasn't really long enough to deduce any particular issues, but our prior experiences lend us the authority to say that the knife will last very very well. Hinges and springs are tight, and will remain so. Even when gummed up with food or dirt, everything works as advertised for years and years.
This is a solid choice for backpacking or for basic every day carry. The primary limitation is in the lack of quick and one-handed blade deployment. You won't get it out and in use as frequently as a knife with one-handed opening and a pocket clip. Nonetheless, the presence of all the other tools and functions will likely earn it a place in many pockets and backpacks.
Given its durability, construction quality, and a plethora of functions, the Climber is relatively inexpensive. Victorinox leverages an economy of scale to make these widely available and quite affordable.
A classic pocket knife for classic and patient applications. The Victorinox Climber lacks some modern attributes, but includes tools and functions that no other pocket knives have.
— Jediah Porter