The Pocket Knife

by Bruce Watts
The classic pocket knife is "pocket jewelry" for a camper
The classic pocket knife is "pocket jewelry" for a camper

There is something about a good pocket knife that somehow completes me. Perhaps it hard wired into all red blooded homo sapiens.  

The creation of the first knife, or more accurately described as a cutting tool, could in fact have been the evolutionary tipping point that began the human race’s eventual domination of the planet. 

So to be human is to cut!

Despite the theoretical liberties I have so bolding spewed… the personal fact remains, I am fascinated with the engineering, artistry, functionality and history that comes with each cutting tool.  So lets explore some of the many pocket knife variations available for the inner camper in all of us.

Knife Choices:

the tech knife - modern, light, strong and practical the tech knife - modern, light, strong and practical Classic - The old school pocket knife made with bone handles, nickel/silver accents, brass liners, and constructed with a boat load of artistry and pride. They cost a pretty penny, however in my mind worth the investment.  A well crafted old school pocket knife will last generations and give pride to their owners. Some refer to these cutting gems as “pocket jewellery”. The Americans and the Germans do these knives so very well, with such manufacturers as CASE and BOKER

Swiss Army - During the late 1880s, the Swiss Army commissioned the creation of a folding pocket knife for their troops.  The proposed knife required a can-opener, blade, and a screwdriver to service the issued rifle. In 1891 the first knife received its official designation. The design had a blade, reamer, can-opener, screwdriver, and the handle was made of dark oak. It’s interesting to note that the initial order for 15,000 knives was manufactured by German knife maker Wester & Co… there were no Swiss manufacturers at the time that could handle the capacity. 

the Swiss Army knife - perfect blend of all you need and qualitythe Swiss Army knife - perfect blend of all you need and qualitySince 1891 every Swiss soldier has been issued an knife.

Swiss army knives are currently made under 2 brand names… Wenger & Victorinox.  In 2005 Wenger was bought by Victorinox.  Currently there are more than 350 different models, and more than 800 different tools. 34,000 Swiss Army knives, 38,000 pocket tools, and 30,000 household, kitchen, and professional knives are produced daily. 90 percent of production is exported to over 100 countries. There are very few challengers in this segment… however keep an eye on BOKER of Germany and SWIZA of Switzerland. They recently created a small line of “Swiss Army-ish” knives that strongly compete.

Swiss army knives’ quality, value and functionality is undeniable. The blade steel is a bit of a mystery, however generally considered a quality mid level alloy.

Multitool - A tool kit in a small package. When a job needs to get done, a quality multitool will do the trick in most cases They are ideal for the handyman’s everyday carry. Perhaps store one in a glove box,  in your camping kit, and yet another in your canoe ditch kit.  They range from tiny to huge, plus there are tactical designs for military and police.  Leatherman leads the industry, with many quality copy cats from Victorinox, Gerber, SOG and others.

The multitool - a tool box in your pocketThe multitool - a tool box in your pocketHigh Tech - The iconic pocket knife made with modern materials, high tech designs, and modern twists.  They can have super elite steels, handles made of carbon fibre or super-tough plastics, lock blades, assisted and one hand opening designs. Rarely a work of art like the classic pocket knife, however evolutionary leaps ahead in functionality and durability. Leaders in the industry include makers such as Spyderco, Benchmark and SOG

Campers Choice - Carry the best tool for the selected adventure. Go as small as the potential tasks require.  When backpacking, I carry a small quality Spyderco Dragonfly plus a tiny Leatherman Squirt PS4. When canoe camping I carry and larger Leatherman Multitool to help with potential canoe repairs.  Big is generally better, however franking you will unlikely ever need a knife blade longer than 7 cm, good knives in this size generally weigh in less than 40 grams.  Save your overworked back and some precious backpack real-estate… and go small.

Cooks, Hunters & Warriors - I have neglected to mention the knife requirements of cooks, hunters and soldiers. These folks have specialized needs and requirements that often require BIG. However campers needs are generally less, and a tiny folder and/or a small multitool with complete 99% of the required camping cutting needs.

It’s not the size of the tool that matters, it’s the quality of the steel :)


Campologist Talk

A blog for campers by campers. Bruce is the primary contributor, with regular posts from Tracy and friends.