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Pocketknives and multitools buying guide




A quality knife or multitool is one of the handiest things you can carry in your pack. It’ll help you spread peanut butter, carve a tent stake, fillet a rainbow trout, maybe even save your life. But you have to pick the right tool for the job.

Outdoor survival expert Peter Kummerfeldt will show you how.

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THE LOWDOWN

There are several types of knives. Kummerfeldt’s favorite, fixed blades, are no-nonsense knives with a beefy handle and stationary blade.

“You need a knife to accomplish the everyday tasks you come across in the outdoors, from whittling on things and cutting materials to spreading peanut butter on your sandwiches,” he says. “And a short, no more than four-inch-long, fixed-blade knife will accomplish all of that.” Avoid large sheath knives; they are heavy and awkward to carry.

Then there are all-purpose folding pocketknives. Most come with tools such as a can opener, screwdriver, tweezers and, of course, knife blades — all in one compact package. Though they can be extremely handy, Kummerfeldt says a downside is the knife blade doesn’t lock into place, so it may fold up on your hand while you’re using it.

Lockbacks are simple folding knives with a single blade that can be locked. So you get the benefits of a sturdy fixed blade-style knife but in a convenient pocket-size package that can be folded open with just one hand.

You’ll also find specialty knives such as river rescue knives with serrated blades for slicing rope, whittling knives designed for carving wood, and multitools, which are compact, handheld tool boxes. Most are built around a pair of folding pliers.

BLADES

Most blades are made from strong and durable stainless steel. Blades are available in straight edge, serrated (jagged like a saw) or both. Bigger is not always better. A small, sharp four-inch-or-smaller blade can cut just as well as bigger knives but is much safer to handle and easier to maneuver in tight spots.

PRICE & QUALITY

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a quality tool.

“My $15 knife does everything I want it to do,” Kummerfeldt says.

As prices go up, you’ll see small improvements in the quality and size of the blade.

CARE & MAINTENANCE

“The only good knife is a sharp knife,” Kummerfeldt says. “A blunt knife requires you to put so much force on it that it could slip, and you could drive the blade into your leg.”

As needed, run the edge of your blade across a sharpening stone a few times. Wipe the tool clean after every use and lubricate any hinges with a light oil like WD-40.

CARRY IT

Kummerfeldt says the smartest, safest place to stash your knife is in an easy-access spot in your backpack. You’re asking for trouble by wearing a fixed-blade knife on your belt. If you fall, the knife could rotate inward and you could land right on the blade.

WHAT’S HOT

You did it! You finally earned your Whittling Chip or Totin’ Chip, and your parents gave you the green light to get a new knife. Now’s the really tough part: figuring out which one you should get. There’s a dizzying number of options out there, but your Gear Guy did the shopping for you to bring you eight great and affordable knives and multitools.

WAIT! Although the following are still great knives and multitools, the Gear Guy is currently researching new models. Watch for his updated reviews in the December 2014 issue of Boys’ Life.

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