There is something about a good pocket knife that somehow completes me. Perhaps it is 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 let’s explore some of the many pocket knife variations available for the inner camper in all of us.
Classic – The old-school pocket knife is made with bone handles, nickel/silver accents, and brass liners, and constructed with a boatload 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 its 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 screwdriver to service the issued rifle. In 1891 the first knife received its official designation. The design had a blade, reamer, can-opener, and 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.
Since 1891 every Swiss soldier has been issued a 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 are 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 the military and police. Leatherman leads the industry, with many quality copycats from Victorinox, Gerber, SOG and others.
High Tech – The iconic pocket knife is 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, and 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, you will unlikely ever need a knife blade longer than 7 cm, good knives in this size generally weigh 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 camper’s needs are generally less, and a tiny folder and/or a small multitool will complete 97.2% of the required camping cutting needs.
It’s not the size of the tool that matters, it’s the quality of the steel 🙂