Now that’s a knife!


Generic screen capture from GIS

When I was in Cub Scouts, I received my first pocket knife from my Dad. A genuine US army issued knife. 

from Blade Forums

A simple knife in this day of complex multi-tools. And a knife that is considered small when many knives are sold to people who imagine a life that is a cross between Rambo and a Doom’s Day Novel (TM).

This simple knife had a can opener my ten year old self never could quite manage,  a bottle opener that my forty-year old self could make use of (but not my 10 yr old self), a screw driver that worked well with my Erector set, an awl that put neat holes in a leather belt and a knife that worked well for whittling. A year or two later, the cool lanyard attached easily to the clip on my official Boy Scout belt quite nicely.

That particular knife is no longer used. It is in the same mental place as my grandfather’s World War Two medals, a pocket knife that was also my grandfather’s, some old family photos and other items that are not put to practical use but I will treasure.

Looking back at this simple knife, I realize it was the first tool issued to me. One to keep, use and call my own.

In my current home town, I suspect a  ten year old boy receiving a pocket knife  would mean that the parents would be put on notice, the child would be called into counseling and, no-doubt, a three part expose’ would be shown on the local TV news station about the proliferation of weapons among school children.

But the knife was simply a tool. Dad trusted me with it. He explained its use and that it was not a toy. No different than a hammer, a trowel, snips or other tools used by members of our family in their daily work. A pragmatic view that I still take with me.

Over thirty years later, I take that pragmatic view instilled in me and apply it to my gear.  I want something functional, simple and will do the job I need it to do.

And that is how I also view the knives I use for outdoors.

There are many forums for knives and their use. Knife discussion appears to be popular. But, much like much the more extreme gear discussion, I don’t get into the technical details of knives. I just want something that works.

So, here are the knives in my kit I use for the outdoors. Are they the best? Maybe. Maybe not. But they are the best for me and my use.


I’ve briefly written about this little knife before. Along with the P51 can opener and my Photon II light, it is something I bring on every trip and also carry every day.  (More by accident than by design, the plastic casing came off. Ends up being better that way: less bulk and weight)

For non-technical hiking and backpacking, I really have not had a use for anything else. Cut some string, open a package, slice some cheese or summer sausage? Works well enough. It has been what I’ve used for many days and nights in the backcountry.

It won’t let me construct a Swiss Family Robinson-esque shelter for survival. But when I have a shelter, sleeping bag, clothing, food, water and everything else I need to be out for days in backcountry, not sure I need anything more.  And if I do need to build a survival shelter for some odd reason (mugged by chipmunks?), I remember we were taught how to build emergency shelters without a knife when I was twelve years old. Think I’ll still manage. 🙂

  • Leatherman Kick

I normally eschew multi-tools. They are heavy, are too much for what I want to do andcan’t fit comfortably in my pocket as well as my little Swiss Army Knife Classic.

The exception? More technical pursuits; backcountry skiing especially.


Leatherman file photo

I need a tool to make emergency repair to bindings, perhaps cut some paracord and snip baling wire. The tool I use? The now, no longer made, Leatherman Kick (not to be confused with the more expensive and, IMO overkill, successor called the Sidekick).

Smaller than other Leathermans, priced less expensive (I paid $30 IIRC)  and more full featured then something such as the Micra, it has enough toosl for what I need  but not so much that it is over kill.

The Kick was reasonably light for what it does. Alas, it is no longer made.

Made by the famous Mora knife company for Bahco, this fixed blade knife is a stainless steel version of the well-known Mora Clipper.  Easy to maintain, very sharp, relatively light (sub-four ounces) and all around good utility knife. And for the bargain price of $10 or less. It is essentially a modern version of the well known Finnish style of knife called a puukko.

I am sure there are “better” knives made for fishing, hunting, gardening, house chores, etc.

From Bacho

But this is an all purpose beater knife to keep in the tool or camp kit.    I personally do not use it too much (as I do not hunt, fish, garden and have minimal house chores..for now!), but it did come in handy more than a  few times while car camping. And when I do take someone backpacking, I like to make some nicer food (including lunches).  This knife becomes a rather serviceable kitchen knife.

Again, there are “better” knives. But for an inexpensive and very utilitarian knife, I rather like this particular one.


So these are the knives I use. The Swiss Army Classic is by far the one I use the most with the other two getting brought/used occasionally depending on the trip.  Knife collecting and bush craft can be an interesting hobby I am sure.  But with limited free time, I’d rather, personally, take the tools that let me enjoy my main hobby (getting outside) without having to think too much about the tools themselves.

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9 years ago

I have a knife like the one that was given to you as a kid. I carried it as a teenager and used it all the time. I still have it, but the blade has been sharpened so many times that there is almost nothing left of it. I’ve carried a pocket knife for many years and am so used to having one that I can’t imagine not having one.

9 years ago

I’ve been carrying a Camillus knife like that for 42 years now. It’s been with me on duty and off for all my adventures. Used it last weekend to spread peanut butter on torillas.

8 years ago

I spent more than a decade in the army and deployed three times (twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan) I love the cold steel Bushman. It’s literally tougher than nails. It is much more knife than I really need but it’s served me without fail and it’s fairly light for its size and toughness. A small stick lashed into the hollow handle makes it into an effective machete. When doing trail maintenance I also bring the cold steel “SF” shovel. It’s a jack of all trades that chops, smashes, and digs with equal ease. It’s MUCH lighter while also… Read more »