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When I worked in higher education, I occasionally heard people with a Ph.D. condescendingly refer to someone further down on the academic hierarchy as a “jack of all trades, master of none.” The idea was that if you spent time learning more than one skill, you must be bad at everything and should have instead devoted your life to one specific interest. Ironically, the full version of that expression means the exact opposite. It reminds me of multitools.
Generally speaking, I agree with fellow Task & Purpose contributor Joe Plenzer that it’s better to have a robust toolbox filled with specialized equipment than a multitool that’s intended to do everything — oh, and fit in your pocket, too. Multitools have a way of feeling like a party trick that’s interesting but not terribly useful. Besides, they usually look a little ridiculous. Adding to the confusion is a range of products that span from impulse buys to serious investments.
Enter the Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X. The renowned knife-maker offers the Spirit X right at $100, which is on the high end of the multitool market. There’s no shortage of solid options for less than that, so I was curious to see what the extra $50 (give or take) buys. This multitool also occupies an interesting place between tactical gear and traditional pocket knives in terms of both form and function.
Have the Swiss found a way to provide the practicality and usefulness that made multitools so popular to begin with? Is there any reason to reach for one of these instead of, say, a screwdriver, saw, or set of pliers? Does it include that weird little toothpick that Victorinox seems convinced we want?
Spoiler alert: there is no toothpick. For the rest of those questions, I needed to track down this multitool for myself and do some homework.
Weight: 7.4 ozrnrnMaterial: Stainless steelrnrnTools: needle-nosed pliers, wire cutter for thin and soft wire up to 40 HRC, hard wire cutter, large blade, Phillips screwdriver, reamer, punch, multipurpose hook, can opener, small screwdriver, medium screwdriver, large screwdriver, bottle opener, crate opener, wire bender, scissors, wood saw, metal saw, metal file, chisel and scraper, cable cover longitudinal cutter, cable cover crossways cutter, wire stripper and scraper, lanyard holes
I’m no stranger to Victorinox. Anytime a product shows up at my door with that cross-and-shield logo, I expect a quality item. Anything less would be a disappointment and I would definitely let the Swiss hear all about it.
The SwissTool Spirit X I received felt like a quality item, but in a very different way from the other multitools I’ve seen lately. It bucks the current trend, which seems to be driven by a desire to have the most aggressive, eye-catching, do-it-all multitool ever made. The Spirit X is compact (about four inches long) and fairly dense (7.4 ounces). It doesn’t look like something out of a video game. The pouch is made from soft brown leather, rather than coarse nylon. Instead of a muted black or coyote brown coating, the whole tool is built from polished stainless steel.
The Spirit X felt substantial in my hand and all the tolerances were nice and tight. Well-lubricated joints rolled smoothly and each tool snapped into place with a satisfying clack. Everything from the mirror-finish stainless steel to the stitched and riveted leather pouch made me want to use the tool to pop open a bottle of scotch, snip a cigar, and kick back in a leather chair. That’s got to be a multitool first.
How we tested the Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X
The Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X isn’t a tactical item, so I put mine to use in more civilized environments. I asked it to perform assorted home renovation tasks in my fixer-upper of a house. I brought it on bike rides to tune up an old bicycle during coffee breaks. The results were the same each time: practicality with a touch of class.
Of course, it’s also my job to make sure gear doesn’t fail you loyal readers when the going gets tough. I recently tested a blade made from D2 steel by soaking it in water and allowing it to air-dry, but since Victorinox uses a blend of stainless steel that’s known for being exceptionally durable, I figured I’d up the ante with a two-hour bath in salt water. This was no sprinkling of basic table salt, mind you: I opted for a heaping scoop of the nasty car-killing stuff they use to melt ice off the roads here in Wisconsin. By mixing it in a ratio of about one part salt to four parts water, I created what I figured was close to a perfect storm of corrosion.
The result? Water spots. Seriously, that was it. No pitting, no crunchiness, no binding. I opened and closed all the tools and clicked the pliers together a few times. The tools were spotless and the exterior of the handles only had dried water spots to show for my troubles. To determine if they were indeed water spots or the early signs of corrosion, I followed the cleaning recommendation provided by Victorinox by giving the tool a rinse in warm water and lubricating the moving parts with oil. The water spots rinsed off and everything moved like new.
I’ve heard that Victorinox tools are popular among people who work on and around the ocean because of the steel’s ability to survive salty conditions, and now I see why. A test that I almost felt guilty about conducting didn’t even phase the Spirit X. Well done, Victorinox.
What we like about the Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X
The best part about Victorinox products, in my experience, is knowing what you’re going to get. Build quality is quintessentially Swiss––I’m pretty sure someone at the factory would be personally embarrassed if something they built ever came back for a warranty repair. Speaking of which, the Spirit X carries a lifetime guarantee. That always makes spending your hard-earned money easier.
This tool’s size helps it stand out in the multitool market. Like cars, multitools seem to get bigger every year until they’re no longer what they set out to be. Hefty multitools might be getting more capable, but I’m glad we can still get a quality option that’s barely larger than a pack of gum. Carrying the SwissTool Spirit X I tested felt like having an old-school pocket knife in my pocket — I was aware of it, but by no means uncomfortable. Even at such a compact size, it didn’t sacrifice any of the capabilities I expect from a multitool (and just one that I want, but we’ll get to that soon).
This last point is personal, but I appreciate the option to buy something that’s functional and durable without going full tacti-cool. If you’re into that type of thing, have at it; no judgment here. I’m just glad we have some variety available.
What we don’t like about the Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X
In the case of this Victorinox, strengths are also weaknesses. As much as I respect and appreciate this kind of build quality, it does drive up the price. Spending more than $100 on a multitool can be hard to swallow when there are loads of alternatives priced at less than $50––especially considering how well some of them punch above their price tag. Is the Spirit X worth the money? Yes, I think it is. Does that make buying one an easy decision? Not necessarily.
The beautifully polished stainless steel is something else to think about. It’s attractive, but it’s also incredibly reflective. I found myself obsessively wiping it after each use to keep the lustrous finish free of fingerprints. Naturally, that kind of thing has no place among anyone’s tactical gear––it’s definitely an around-the-house kind of tool. A blacked-out version is available, albeit at a much higher price.
My final gripe comes at the lack of a corkscrew. What’s the deal, Victorinox, are you going soft on me? I guess if I get parched from using all these tools and need a refreshing glass of chilled rose, I’m just shit out of luck. I know some people make fun of Swiss Army Knives that have corkscrews, but it’s a thing now, so they should lean into it. The fact that this tool is designed to perform 37 different functions and still doesn’t have a corkscrew is — pardon me for being blunt — a bit uncouth.
Chalk the SwissTool Spirit X up as another win for Victorinox. It’s practical, well-designed, damn near impervious to the elements, and downright pretty. If all else fails, the lifetime warranty should make you feel good about spending a few extra dollars to get one. This is exactly the kind of thing I want in my toolbox.
Where I wouldn’t want this Spirit X is anywhere near a tactical environment. The finish might as well be a visible strobe, the tools are relatively small, and you’re not getting to any of them except the pliers with gloves on. The matte black version is definitely more tactical in appearance, but the other drawbacks remain. I just can’t recommend this multitool for any kind of military field use.
Once you’ve come to terms with the limitations of the Spirit X, the last decision is whether or not you can justify the price. That’s a matter of personal preference, but I’m inclined to say that this multitool is worth the cost. Craftsmanship is worth shelling out for, in my opinion. Just remember that you’ll need to budget for an alternative to use in the field or on deployment.
A lot of gear that’s aimed at the “tactical” marketplace faces a strange problem in my eyes. It’s useful stuff, but very specifically built for twenty-somethings on a budget. Once those buyers lose interest in the most aggressive-looking thing in the display case, many of their tactical products are probably going to be cast aside. Think about it; when was the last time you saw your SNCO or field-grade OIC whip out a Jackhawk 9,000 to cut the label off a can of Grizzly? Probably never.
I’m guessing things like the Spirit X are more likely to stay in your EDC or gear locker for keeps. It feels like something you won’t outgrow, and could even pass on as a family heirloom.
FAQs about the Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much is the Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X going to set me back?
Q. What tools are included in the Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X?
A. This multitool includes needle-nosed pliers, scissors, three flathead screwdrivers, a wire cutter, wire stripper, Phillips head screwdriver, can opener, bottle opener, crate opener, wire bender, knife, metal saw, wood saw, file, hole punch, and chisel. Other tools, including more screwdrivers, Torx bits, and the much-coveted corkscrew, are available as separate attachments.
Q. This looks a lot smaller than other multitools. Should I be concerned about that?
A. This is one of the best-built items I’ve used. The Spirit X feels substantial in the hand, and stainless steel construction is a huge advantage for anyone who doesn’t baby their gear. It’s lovely to look at, but don’t let that keep you from putting it to work.
Q. How should I maintain this beauty?
A. Victorinox recommends submerging the Spirit X in warm water and opening and closing each tool a few times. That should loosen up any grit that’s worked its way in there and allow the water to wash it away. Let the tool air dry, then apply a small amount of lubricating oil to the moving parts.
Q. Are Swiss Army Knives actually made in Switzerland?
A. Yes, and the Ibach factory is a serious operation.
Got questions? Comment below & talk with T&P’s editors
Scott Murdock is a Marine Corps veteran and contributor to Task & Purpose. He’s selflessly committed himself to experience the best gear, gadgets, stories, and alcoholic beverages in the service of you, the reader.