Dear Victoria Inox,
I love you. Your slender shapes, gentle curves, and amazing utility have bewitched me. Your myriad of forms pleases both my eyes and my heart. Even some days when I choose another to be at my side, I cannot let you wander far. Amidst the younger, finer, richer models I could do with, I still always find it in my heart to carry you. You were my first real… knife.
And since then, I have only learned to appreciate you more. I like you most when you’re done up to the nines in Alox. Sure, the red outfit is what you’re known for, but that Alox has an enduring beauty. I love you, Victoria Inox.
In reality, the brand of Swiss Army Knife we all know and love is a portmanteau of the founder’s mother’s name (Victoria) and the French word for stainless steel (inoxydable). There was a real Victorinox, and I can’t help but feel indebted to her as the namesake of some of my most cherished knives. Victorinox makes many a splendid tool, but among their best are those that do away with the traditional lipstick-red handles in favor of ribbed aluminum ones, a material Victorinox calls Alox. This more durable material both slims the knife down and manages to retain its sleek appearance even after absorbing an amazing amount of damage compared to its cellidor counterpart. Of the many models featuring Alox scales, a select few stand out. This introduction to Alox knives features my personal favorite, the Cadet, as well as the Farmer, Pioneer, Money Clip, and Rambler models.
The Cadet’s assortment of tools is just about perfect for EDC – a good blade, a bottle opener, a can opener, a file, and three different sized drivers. However, it’s not just the selection of tools that make it noteworthy. At 84mm (3.3 inches), it’s perfectly sized for EDC. The blade is big enough for everyday tasks like opening packages and food prep, but not so big as to be threatening. The bottle opener, as per Victorinox tradition, is an awesome single-pull implement. The Cadet achieves a great balance of versatility and minimalism in a form factor thinner than a pack of gum. Carry it for a day and you’ll realize why the Cadet is such a popular “work blade,” even alongside pricier custom folders.
Pioneer & Farmer
Take the Cadet and replace the file/Philips driver with an awl or a punch and you have the Pioneer. Add a truly great wood saw to that, and you have the Farmer. If you’re in a more rural environment, and wouldn’t miss the Philiips driver, then either of these makes a good substitute for the Cadet. You’d be surprised at all the ways a punch is useful (restringing frayed shoelaces, for example). As nice as the punch is, even better is the wood saw on the Farmer. With aggressively cut teeth, it makes dust of softer woods like pine and cuts through green branches swiftly.
This knife, intended to be used as a moneyclip, packs a rather small and less common 74mm-class blade. However, the money clip actually works quite well as a pocket clip – a unique feature among traditional style Swiss Army Knives. The tool selection is fairly standard, much like a slightly larger version of the Classic: a small pen blade, a pair of scissors, and a driver/file. However, unlike common cellidor Classics, it foregoes the tweezers and toothpick in favor of a classy, svelte aesthetic and feel. Whether clipped to your pocket or to your cash, the Alox Money Clip fills its niche.
The Rambler outdoes the Classic in the 58mm class by packing a hybrid bottle opener/magnetic philips driver/wire stripper in its toolset in addition to a pen blade, nail file/driver, and scissors. Despite its toolset’s exceptional utility for a keychain knife, many of its tools become less usable at such a small scale – except for the scissors. They perform surprisingly well, even at small proportions. Overall, it makes for a great keychain companion. The Alox version of the Rambler is available exclusively through SwissBianco.
The diverse Victorinox product line is full of gems, but the Alox models really kick things up a notch. The durable scale material has a visually striking pattern and comes in a wide range of colors through the anodization process. Aesthetics aside, it’s the incredibly slim form factor that makes them worth buying. Fortunately, most Alox models are affordable and easy to grab a hold of, with perhaps the best of the models, the Cadet, being the most widely available of them all. Try adding one to your own carry – few products are a better value in EDC gear.
When it comes to gear, most of the time you get what you pay for. Sometimes, you get much more. The ESEE-designed Blue Ridge Zancudo framelock folder is one of those great values in pocket knives. At around 30 bucks, it's often been recommended by our readers as one of the best budget knives for your EDC.
The Zancudo rightfully makes for a solid EDC knife thanks to its useful blade shape, pocket-friendly design, and robust materials. At a modest 3”, its AUS-8 blade has plenty of cutting edge to be versatile enough for tactical, outdoors, and everyday applications. It deploys via dual thumbstuds and locks up with a stainless steel framelock. You won't often find a framelock in too many knives of this class, but you'll enjoy the extra security and slimmer profile it provides. A lightweight G10 scale graces the front of the knife, while a lanyard hole and large pocket clip on the back give you multiple carry options.
If you're not chasing the latest and greatest blade steels or advanced deployment mechanisms and just want a good, all-around EDC blade, start here. The Zancudo's also a thinner alternative to the popular Ontario RATII if you prefer a framelock over a liner lock. You can pick one up in one of many blade/scale color configs at the link below.
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