Concept: 2 out of 5
Execution: 2 out of 5
Yeah, but: We can't all want Swiss Champs.
The Long Version: I tried to use the Explorer, I really did. I've been reviewing a different Swiss Army Knife each month, which gives me a reason for a little variety in what I carry. But the Explorer is a thick four-layer knife, and it's just too bulky for me to like. I ended up carrying it in my backpack instead of in my pocket, and unsurprisingly, it saw very little use.
The Explorer is remarkable for adding a really excellent in-line Philips screwdriver and a magnifying glass to the foundational SAK toolset. Large blade, small blade, scissors, can and bottle openers, corkscrew, awl, and hook – no nail file, but otherwise it's a very complete kit. The Explorer really is an iconic Swiss Army Knife.
But aside from the magnifying glass, it doesn't have any core capabilities that the two-layer Compact doesn't have, and it even lacks a few tricks. Yes, the Explorer's dedicated openers and screwdriver do work better than the combo tool, but I carry a SAK for contingencies, not in place of a proper toolkit.
The screwdriver really defines the Explorer for me. The Victorinox in-line Philips is vastly more useful than the backside driver, and it even has a ninety degree detent position, so it can beat the T-handle configuration for both power and ergonomics. Its asymmetric handle still isn't as nice as a proper screwdriver, but it really is usable for more than the quick turns that the backside driver or combo tool are good for.
Those who like the bigger tools – anyone who aspires to a Swiss Champ – will be very happy with it. Having it kept my "I Own A Swiss Army Knife" checkbox ticked for more than a decade; I even bought two other large knives simply because that's the form factor that I always expected a SAK to have. Bought, but not carried, just like the Explorer.
Even though I prefer the single and two-layer knives for everyday carry, It's still good to have the Explorer for the times when I need more than my Tinker but not something as heavy as a pliers-based multitool.
last updated 13 apr 2013