Gerber have released a number of different Paraframe models over the years and it has consistently been a best seller for them. Some models have been bundled in with multi-tools so customers may have received one that way. At just 40g the Gerber Paraframe Mini SS FE is the smallest and lightest of the Paraframe models and could be considered for lightweight backpacking.
Gerber Legendary Blades, established in 1939, are based in Portland, Oregon, USA. They were acquired by the Finnish Fiskars Corporation in 1986. While some Gerber products continue to be manufactured in the U.S. much has transferred overseas. This has enabled prices to remain competitive but has also resulted in varying degrees of quality.
The primary option with the Paraframe Mini is the choice of blade- clip or tanto point and either fine edge or semi-serrated. Three Points of the Compass feels that having only a serrated blade while backpacking is not a practical option. A serrated blade, or even semi-serrated, is less suited for most tasks when backpacking, be it first aid, gear repair or food preparation. Fine if it is a secondary blade, but not if the only blade carried. For this reason I am only looking at the fine edge blade option here. The SS and FE in the model’s name stand for Stainless Steel and Fine Edge.
The Paraframe Mini is a ‘naked’ knife with cut-outs in the stainless steel frame to slightly reduce weight and improve asthetics. It is an attractive knife with well finished and rounded edges. It is contemporary, modern looking, but looks should be considered secondary to usefulness and practicality. There is no roughness or burred edges in its manufacturing finish and the knife is comfortable in the hand even though only a partial grip can be achieved due to its small dimensions. The Chinese manufacturing has done a good job with this little knife compared to the roughly finished and more industrial appearing Gerber Vice and Splice mini multi-tools. No scales are fitted to the open frame though the pocket clip does increase the tools bulk in the hand while making it slightly more comfortable to hold and use. As well as the bead-blasted finish to the handle shown here there are black, red and camo versions, plus a few other after-sale and uncommon colour options.
There is a pocket clip on this knife however that is not much use while hiking. It is so light that it could be lost from a pocket without noticing and there is no provision to attach a lanyard or carabiner. Not that this is necessary while on trail as the blade would normally live in a ditty bag or food bag. So you could consider removing the pocket clip which knocks off a handful of grams. Note that this is a right-handed knife, the clip cannot be moved to the other side for left-handed opening.
The larger brothers to the Mini, the Paraframe I and Paraframe II, are easy to manipulate one-handed and the Paraframe Mini can, in theory, also be opened one-handed. However Three Points of the Compass has quite large hands and absolutely fails to achieve this easily, though closing one-handed can be done with care. It is safer to regard the Paraframe Mini as requiring two hands to both open and close. There is a good size nail nick on the blade however a good pinch of the back of the blade enables it to be opened easily.
A tanto point option is also available for the Paraframe Mini however that is more suited to piercing duty and reduces the amount of cutting edge when chopping. A tanto point would be useful for opening packages but it will be food preparation and slicing tops off Mountain House type meals that a blade on trail is mostly employed for. The clip point blade is held open by an efficient frame lock, which does mean that in the UK you will have to prove good reason for carrying this as it does not comply with UK knife law. The blade is quite thick, measuring 2.60mm across the spine. There is very little sideways flex on basic food chopping duty. The blade pivot is based around a teflon washer and is fairly stiff when purchased but loosens up with use, this pivot obviously wears with time with resultant increased ‘floppiness’. There is no sideways play in the blade from new.
- Length- closed 79mm, open 134mm.
- Width- closed 23mm, open 20mm.
- Thickness- 11.75mm (including depth of integrated pocket clip)
- Blade Length: 60 mm with a cutting edge of 54mm
- Fine edge ‘high carbon’ stainless steel, clip point blade. 23º sharpening angle
- Frame- stainless steel, frame lock
- Weight- 40g
Gerber advertise this knife as weighing 40g, on my scales it comes in at 39.8g so just about bang on. This knife is no heavyweight but for a tool offering little more than a single blade, it is possibly too heavy an option for a truly lightweight set-up while backpacking. Other users might feel that the moderate weight is reassuring.
And now we come to the quality of steel used for the blade. Gerber have been annoyingly reticent over the years to divulge exactly what is used in their knives. They simply advertise this blade as ‘high carbon stainless steel’. It is unlikely, particularly for the moderate price, that a particularly high quality steel is used on this knife. It has been suggested that it is 7cr17mov, hardened to 55-57 HRC, which is a ‘middle of the road’ steel used on many cheaper knives. This steel is almost certainly of the 400 range (resistant to corrosion and easy to sharpen), either 420 or 440 series. If the latter, probably 440A, which is a fairly low cost, highly corrosion resistant stainless steel. However Gerber do specify that it is ‘High Carbon’ (HC) steel, pointing toward 420HC, another cheaper steel, that can be brought to a higher hardness than regular 420. This is not a great steel but adequate for such an unassuming knife. If you want a better steel in your knife, be prepared to spend more money.
It has also been suggested that the actual hardening of the steel has varied over the years. If so, such inconsistency may explain the wide range of opinion that this little knife excites. Suffice to say that the blade comes reasonably sharp when purchased, requires touching up, but will hold an edge for some time if used for light work. Which is all that a knife on trail would normally be subjected to.
The French made smaller Opinel knives will provide just as functional a blade as that provided on the Paraframe Mini for backpacking purposes, actually sharper, and are equally as competitively priced. The blades found on smaller Opinels are considerably thinner and flex considerably more. The blade on the Opinel No. 5 is just 1.34mm across the spine of the blade. While the Paraframe Mini has a locking blade, this feature is only found on Opinel models larger than the No. 5. The locking No. 6 only weighs 28g but has a much longer blade at 72mm. Three Points of the Compass will look at the Opinel folders in a separate blog.
The Gerber Paraframe Mini SS FE is a cheap and perfectly functional option for those wanting to take a fairly lightweight and reasonably robust knife, with a single blade, out on trail. It is attractive and as well made as many knives being churned out in China today. The steel used is nothing to shout about but is up to the basic tasks required on trail- which will mostly be cutting food and opening packages. The pocket clip does add a little comfort when holding the knife however few hikers would risk clipping this into their pocket while hiking for fear of losing it. There are many better knife options available but most will cost a lot more than this reasonably priced folder.
The major entries in the Paraframe series:
|Model number||Blade length *||Blade type||Weight*|
|Paraframe Mini SS FE||GE-1013954||60mm / 2.3″||Fine edge||40g|
|Paraframe Mini SS SE||GE-1013953||60mm / 2.3″||Semi-serrated||40g|
|Paraframe I SS FE||GE- 1013969||79mm / 3.1″||Fine edge||73g|
|Paraframe I SS SE||GE- 1013968||79mm / 3.1″||Semi-serrated||73g|
|Paraframe II SS FE||GE- 1013972||90mm / 3.5″||Fine edge||119g|
|Paraframe II SS SE||GE- 1013971||90mm / 3.5″||Semi-serrated||119g|
|* as specified by Gerber|
Three Points of the Compass has looked at quite a few knives and multi-tools that may, or may not, be suitable for backpacking, day treks or Every Day Carry. Links to these can be found here.