Friday, July 16, 2010

Minichamp vs. Leatherman

Why the obsession with finding the perfect little tool? What’s the logic behind changing your every day carry knife only because the knew one comes with a better steel or changing your flashlight because the new LED puts 100 lumens out the front with a single AA battery cell?

No idea man. Still don’t have the right answer for that. My best attempt would be saying that what you have with you is all you have during an emergency, and that short answer would be enough to at least begin to understand it from a survival and preparedness point of view.

How important is it? Well, sometimes its having the tool to avoid a mere inconvenience, other times its having the tool in a more serious complication.
Getting caught on the highway during heavy rain with a windshield sweeper that got loose, that means you can’t continue until you tighten it again with your multitool.

How about the famous EDC knife and all the ordinary daily chores it does?
A good friend of mine went out the front porch of his house in Texas for a smoke, cornered a coyote without even realizing it, and the animal attacked him. He ended up stabbing the animal with his EDC knife, a Benchmade that opens one handed. A nice Swiss Army knife, as practical and as much as I love them a) Wouldn’t have been clipped to his pocked b) wouldn’t open one handed c) Wouldn’t lock open so as to use it as a weapon d) The blade would have been much smaller and less adequate for fighting.

How likely are you to get attacked by a coyote, by a street dog, by a thug or sociopath? How likely are you to need a blade to cut a rope or tape choking you or tearing a limb, or a cement hose crushing your arm and you using your Buck knife like a construction worker did once, saving his arm?

The amount of hardware we carry is limited. At least in my opinion, its both useful and fun finding the best possible alternative, given our options and circumstances. Did I convince anyone that all this gear review and philosophical discussion has a point?
Well, at least I tried. The circumstances I’ll describe are far less critical but they still illustrate the difference between different pieces of gear.

The mission

The task at hand was fixing the roll up shutter that had suddenly broken. Oh, I could think of a hundred things to do that are more fun, but someone has to do it so armed with my trusty Leatherman Charge Tti, 10 feet of curtain tape and an Energyzer headlamp I went to fulfill my duties as the man of the house, fixing stuff that breaks. :)
Now after removing the lid I saw the rolling curtain was broken where it got attached to one of the boards. Useless to hope for the attachment thingy that broke so I just screwed it directly into the board. Doing this is of course much easier said that done, with limited space and illuminating with the flashlight.

The Leatherman’s limitation

As much as I like this tool the one thing that I dislike about it proved to be an inconvenience. The Charge and Wave models use removable bits that allow you to use different kind of screwdriver bits. This is nice and if you have the holster with the spare bit kit you have a nice variety of flat, cross and allen bits at hand.
I even have the extension adaptor that makes it look more like a real screwdriver. Is the extension adapter worth it? I’d love to say yes, that’s its awesome and makes a world of a difference, but truth be told, while it does give you the extra range, its too loose and for demanding tasks it just feel wiggly. Leatherman should look into that and make one with tighter fitting on the mutitool end.
 Both the Phillips screwdriver and the small flat one have more reach in the small leatherman, only the large flat one has more rech than the cuticle pusher (which I often use as a large screwdriver)

The Swiss Army knife Midnight Minichamp Awesomeness.

So, I’m trying to maneuver inside the curtain roll cover, doing a poor job with the Charge and its cross bit, when I remember the Minichamp and its terrifically well designed Phillips screwdriver tool. Just when I decided to stop experimenting and go get my tool box, I thought about giving the Minichamp a shot and voilá, it worked like magic.
The tool itself is small, ketchain small, but the Phillips screwdriver in it has much more range than the Leatherman. As I saw when using the Charge for changing batteries in toys and a million other gadgets that needed to be opened, where the Leatherman bit simply wont fit, the Minichamp will be just the right size.
Pondering the situation today, I could have cut the tape to the right length with the Minichamp and not use the Leatherman multitool at all. Heck, it even has a flashlight in it, which while poor alternative to a White LED headlamp, it IS a light at the very least.


I love the Charge Tti. I love having that nice S30 steel blade, the serrated blade. Man, I love having a real saw and a wood file with a diamond file on the other side.
I love having the tough pliers and wouldn’t want to be left without it. For me that’s reason enough to carry it every day, but I’ll still never be caught without my beloved keychain and the Swiss Army Minichamp in it.



Anonymous said...

I would suggest the Leatherman Super Tool 200 - if you can find one. All the tools have a positive lock; there is an adapter that lets you use standard 1/4"hex-drive bits; and the built-in Phillip screwdriver is darn near two inches long...
'Course the downside is that it's about five inches long and weighs damn near a pound.

Anonymous said...

I was recently reading Colin Fletcher's "The Complete hiker" and noticed that he is continually trying out new gear. He is a veteran backpacker and has been active and writing about it for decades.

It seems reasonable to me that a person should strive to improve on their gear.

Anonymous said...

i would say if you are going to get a multi tool for defense and utility tasks get a leatherman mut in a few weeks because thats when it comes out