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Victorinox makes the most popular pocket knives in the world. That’s not hyperbole, it’s just a fact: globally, Victorinox sells more folding knives than any other cutlery company and it isn’t even close. The Swiss Army Knife is an icon, lionized by media (MacGyver) and government (NASA) alike. They’re so well-known to be useful tools that the phrase “Swiss Army Knife” has come to represent the idea of multipurpose utility, itself.
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Out of the hundreds of Swiss Army Knife variants, the Alox Cadet seems to be the “gear geek” consensus choice for everyday carry: a winning combination of durable Alox construction, pocketable size, and useful tool selection. But what if I told you there might be an even better knife for the job in the Victorinox catalog? Allow me to (re)introduce you to the Alox Bantam.
General Dimensions & Blade Details
The Bantam, like the Cadet, falls in the middle of the current Swiss Army Knife (SAK) size range. At 3.3 inches (84mm) long when closed, it’s a sizable step up from their keychain models, but noticeably smaller than their “full-sized” pocket knives. Here it is between a Rambler (58mm) and an Alox Farmer (93mm):
Unlike the Cadet, which has a second backspring to accommodate separate can and bottle openers, the Bantam has a single tool for opening both nestled beside the main blade. This single-layer construction, coupled with skinny aluminum scales, makes the Alox Bantam literally wafer thin. Or, if you happen to have some Ritz handy, cracker thin:
The blade shape on the Bantam is quintessential Victorinox: a drop point with a slightly bulbous tip. Everything you’d expect a 2.5-inch slipjoint to do, this blade does well. There’s enough belly to make cutting on a board feel natural. It’s thin enough to cut with even after it gets a little dull (which it will, and fast). And while I do wish the tip was a little more acute, it’s not as blunt as it looks – it still pierced clamshell packaging with ease and cut out printed shipping labels with precision.
Victorinox doesn’t advertise their blade steel anymore, but it’s no secret that whatever they use doesn’t hold an edge for very long. Thankfully, it’s also inexpensive and impressively stain-resistant. For my money, it’s a compromise I’m willing to work around, especially since I’m usually carrying the Bantam alongside a larger and more capable folder. Plus, the steel’s softness / lack of wear resistance means you can maintain it on just about anything abrasive. For example: after the blade lost its keenness cutting two large cardboard boxes into strips small enough to fit in my undersized recycling bin, it only took a minute of stropping against that same cardboard to bring it back. Unfortunately, those sorts of tricks only work for so long before it’s time for a proper re-sharpening.
Handle, Ergonomics, & Pocket Clip
The first time I held the Bantam, I had to repress the urge to put it in my mouth to snap it like a chip. The waffled, wafer-like texture of its thin Alox scales coupled with its barely-there weight makes the Bantam feel more like a popsicle stick than a pocket knife. The more I used it, however, the more I came to trust it (and the less I subconsciously associated it with snacks). The riveted all-metal construction is rigid and the handle texture, while not aggressive, provides some traction even when wet.
Measuring in at 3.3 inches long, the handle of the Bantam is long enough to wrap all four fingers around, but thin enough that I wouldn’t really want to bear down on it. It’s practically two-dimensional: whichever tool you have unfolded, the handle presents as a simple, flat, oblong shape. Not exactly comfortable, just impossible to hold incorrectly. Once you get used to its exceptional thinness the Bantam basically disappears in use, allowing you to focus on the task at hand instead of how you’re holding the tool.
I avoid carrying anything loose in my pockets if I can help it. So, with neither pocket clip nor lanyard loop to anchor it from twisting, swinging, or knocking around in there, the Bantam was not something I expected to enjoy carting around. To my surprise, I struggled to notice it was even there. It’s hard to overstate just how slim and light this knife is – I’ve pocketed CVS receipts bulkier than the Alox Bantam.
Deployment & Lockup
The backspring tension on the Bantam is well-balanced: strong enough to keep the tools firmly in place when open, but not so strong as to make them awkward to unfold. Opening either one is always a two-handed operation. After more than a year of use, neither tool has developed any play, though they’ve picked up a fair few scratches.
Equipping a pocket multi-tool with a dedicated can opener has always been baffling to me. Even if we set aside the fact that pull-tabs on cans have become ubiquitous, I can think of a dozen other tools I’d need before encountering a single unopened can. Victorinox clearly disagrees, because nearly every full-sized SAK includes a can opener. Here on the Bantam it’s been cleverly integrated into a “combination tool,” which also lifts off bottle caps…
…and scrapes, prods, and pries if need be.
It’s become my favorite Victorinox tool by far, and it makes the perfect companion to the Bantam’s light-duty blade. It’s not a crowbar or an impact driver – obviously – but in the daily struggle against encroaching entropy, the combo tool is often enough to tweak, tighten, or undo the issue on the spot without a walk to the toolbox.
Victorinox Bantam Review – Final Thoughts
Goldilocks would agree with me: the Bantam is just right. The keychain-sized SAKs are useful to have around (who doesn’t love those tiny scissors?), but far too feeble to replace a dedicated knife. The larger SAKs are also great, but tend to be loaded with tools I don’t use often enough to justify carrying them around all day. The Bantam is just enough knife for most cutting, plus it’s capable of work that a blade alone can’t (or maybe just shouldn’t) do.
I don’t think there’s another knife on the market that packs so much utility into such little mass. For me, this is where the Bantam really pulls ahead of the Cadet as a daily companion: it offers 80% of the functionality at half the size. Unless you absolutely need a nail file or can’t live without a lanyard, the Bantam wins by sheer efficiency. And even though the Alox variant is about $10 more than the red plastic-handled Bantam, the durability, grip, and next-level thinness the Alox scales provide are well worth the upgrade.
Some, I suspect, won’t see the Bantam’s ultra-minimalist design as a selling point. If you’re looking for a multi-tool that’s more “off-road” than “office,” I would point you elsewhere. But if you’re looking for a polite companion to a larger knife, or want the multipurpose utility of a Swiss Army Knife without any extra frippery, I would enthusiastically recommend the Alox Bantam.
- A CUT ABOVE THE REST:Compact, agile and ready to face any adventure head-on. Our range of Swiss Army Knives have been established since 1897 and continue to be an icon of utility and smart design.
- DURABLE CONSTRUCTION: Swiss made stainless steel construction encased in our popular scales offers a slimmer profile and is extremely resistant.
- COMPACT CARRY: Bring this knife with you on your daily adventures without sacrificing space.
- FIT FOR ALL TASKS: At their heart, all our pocket knives are a survival tool; multitaskers that deliver in any situation. At their most evolved they have surpassed basic function to pioneer space travel and restart engines.
- TRUSTED QUALITY: Made in Switzerland; Victorinox provides a lifetime against defects in material and workmanship. Making a lifetime commitment has never been so easy. No assembly required, money back guarantee.
Editor: I recommend purchasing the Victorinox Bantam at Amazon or BladeHQ. Please keep in mind that purchasing anything through any of the links on this website helps support BladeReviews, and keeps the site going. As always, any and all support is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.
Good review. As I read, I became interested in an even slimmer Cadet, but at nearly double the price I don’t think it makes sense. This knife compares well until you shop for it.
Seth Vietti says
Thanks for reading the review. For whatever reason, Amazon prices seem to fluctuate wildly on the Alox Bantam and at it’s current asking price ($65 for those reading this after the inevitable price correction) I agree it’s hard to recommend. I paid less than half that when I purchased mine last year direct from Victorinox.
It seems I should have shopped around more. Victorinox has them listed at $24 right now. Substantially more sane pricing. Thanks for the speedy reply.
Agree that the can opener on the Cadet wouldn’t be missed much; I only use that tool for its leetle flathead bit at the tip.
But I would miss the Cadet nail file, believe it or not, because it is a really decent pinch-hit Phillips driver. Third most used function, easy, after the blade and the cap lifter.
Still, this Bantam is cool and I am going to get one (not at $65).
Seth Vietti says
Hi R.D. –
Good to know. Even without that extra functionality, I’ll take a file over a can opener any day of the week! Sometimes I think Victorinox puts obscure tools on their knives (Parcel hook, I’m looking at you) just to challenge people to use them creatively. I’ve used the pointy corner of the combo tool on the Bantam to turn a Phillips, but it was a fairly awkward experience.
C. S. says
I’ve been eyeing the Bantam for some time now and appreciate the review. The Bantam seems like the perfect minimalist EDC, but I do wish it had a key ring or lanyard hole. Even a 93mm version would be nice, to give it just a bit more heft. I would probably own one by now if I wasn’t so darn worried about it slipping out of my pocket.
I couldn’t agree more about the can opener function. I’ve had Vic’s for years and never actually needed it for opening cans. Scraping, prying, pulling? Yes. Opening cans? Never. The bottle/can/driver tool seems like a good compromise.
Seth Vietti says
Hi C.S. –
Thanks for the comment. I agree the Alex Bantam is easy to misplace. I haven’t lost mine yet, but it has spent more than a little time in my laundry bin, forgotten. Then again, I’ve done that with wads of cash, too, so I’m tempted to think maybe the problem is with me and not the Bantam.
I believe there was a short run of Alox Bantams made for Swiss Bianco with a key ring, but I’m sure they’re harder to get and/or more expensive. The regular cellidor-scaled Bantam is a little bulkier and has a keyring, too.
I never thought I’d say it, but this is one model where I actually prefer the Celidor version over the Alox for the Bantam and other 84mm single layer knives. I bought a Waiter (Bantam+Corkscrew) and swapped the corkscrew out for a backside Phillips. The mod took less than 5 minutes, but I’ve got some experience in modding slip joints. I’ve got a blade, combo tool, Phillips, pin, tweezers and toothpick and lanyard attachment in a package that’s .2 ounces heavier than the Alox bantam and a lot more comfortable in hand.
Where the Alox Bantam does excel is in thickness. I carry it when we go swimming. I put it in a Chums wallet with a debit card and drivers license in the back pocket of my board shorts. There aren’t any other knives I’d carry around in my wallet 😉
Seth Vietti says
Hi Heath –
Thanks for the comment. If Victorinox made that knife, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. Personally, I’ve always wished for a Cadet with an electrician’s blade instead of a can opener.
Great review. I upgraded to the smaller Alox too. I keep it in my wallet as it’s so thin, just tucked inside one of the credit card pockets. It’s that small. I also have some SAK tweezers in there too. And to balance all the other little tools I have an Alox mini champ on my Keyring and a little slipjoint titanium scalpel holder for precision stuff on there too. The combined size and weight of these three is next to nothing and I’ve got so many options on me at all times.
Very good knife, but no key ring, no hole, no nothing…
I thought of this review a couple weeks ago and decided to try out that Victorinox combo tool on the Alox Bantam.
At the last moment I veered and got a different one-layer 84mm Victorinox with the combo tool — the Waiter. Basically the Bantam plus a corkscrew on the back, tweezers and toothpick tucked inside, and a key ring. It’s only available with the standard red celidor scales; the corkscrew’s width probably rules out a thin Alox version.
Love it. I’m a wine drinker, mostly Old World wines with traditional corks, and the Waiter’s small but fully functional corkscrew was part of the attraction for me. It pulls its weight around the house and on picnics. Small but functional. I wish the ‘can opener’ beak on the combo tool were a tad sharper, as it would make an ideal capsule cutter for wine bottles.
Blade is obviously excellent; it’s the Cadet/Bantam blade. The cap lifter works great too. I note that the combo tool, although thin, deploys with a crisp half-stop and a surprisingly strong backspring detent once it’s out.
I am so devoted to the Alox models that I had forgotten how crazy reasonable the celidor Victorinoxes are priced. $18 for the Waiter is like theft. It’s in my pocket right now.