A quality knife or multi-tool 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.
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 multi-tools, which are compact, handheld tool boxes. Most are built around a pair of folding pliers.
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.
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.