Knives on trail

“That’s not a knife… THAT’S a knife”

Mick ‘Crocodile’ Dundee

A decent knife is one of the essentials to carry whilst on trail. A knife need not be large, it doesn’t necessarily need to be expensive. An all singing, all dancing multi-tool is not essential, though if that is what you want to carry, then go for it.

All that is probably required is something to cut up a bit of food, open a few packages or trim cordage, tape or effect repairs. Sometimes it can be helpful to have a particular tool to repair certain pieces of gear- stoves, trekking pole locks or electronics. In which case a small multi-tool could be helpful.

Perhaps it is the latent boy scout in me, but I usually carry a knife on me. Not due to any maniacal tendencies and the knife is usually stowed away safely in a rucksack, but a blade and accompanying tools get a lot of use. The Leatherman Wave that I use for every day work is ideally suited to the tasks that arise. The assortment of tools being complemented by a selection of mini drive bits in the carry sleeve. Good that this tool is, it is far too heavy and bulky to consider use on walks, be they day or longer.

Cheap and nasty little flick knife

Cheap and nasty little flick knife. Possibly not the ideal backpacking tool

In the 1980s, on many camping excursions or walks I carried a cheap flick knife that I purchased in Germany. The single blade was (obviously) easily bought into use with a single hand and was perfectly up to the minimal tasks required- cutting paracord for bivvies and slices of sausage for meals, well, that was about it! Just as well as the poor blade was easily blunted. These days, with greater disposal income and a wish to carry something slightly less illegal, I use a better quality tool.

No one knife is going to suit every type of walk. Instead, Three Points of the Compass finds it best to have a small selection of good quality, well constructed, efficient knives and or multi-tools in the home and then select what is appropriate for the planned adventure.

Three Points of the Compass has looked at a few knives, smaller multi-tools, possible trail options and associated matters, links to these can be found below. You will not find links or reviews to larger bushcrafting knives, or much in the way of fixed blade knives here, their suitability for the more lightweight of outdoor activities is limited so fall outside my interest.


58mm range











Gerber Legendary Blades, established in 1939, are based in Portland, Oregon, USA and were acquired by the the Finnish Fiskars Corporation in 1986. Fiskars was founded in 1649 and is the oldest business operating in Finland. Much of the manufacture of Gerber tools has shifted to China and their quality has suffered as a result. Despite being the second leading seller of multi-tools in the US, many of their tools now lack finishing and retain rough edges when purchased. The quality of steel used in production also appears to have suffered as a result of the manufacturing switch, however this is reflected in the continued good value of Gerber products. It is only some of the smaller Gerber multi-tools that are likely to be considered for backpacking or thru-hiking. If only subjecting these to light work, then few problems are likely to be encountered. They are not intended for heavier work and attempt that type of task and these keychain tools will fail.

BCB Mini worktool

British Army Knife

Zwilling J. A. Henckels

The Firefly

Fallkniven DC 3 Knife sharpener

Fallkniven DC3 sharpening stone

Fallkniven DC3 sharpening whetstone

Knifes should be kept as clean as possible, any damp or grime periodically cleaned off and the joints, hinges and surfaces lightly oiled and wiped clear. Knife blade edges will also burr or dull with time and use. Also necessary following or on longer trips (though certainly not on a day walk) is a knife sharpener. There are a number of popular brands utilising ceramic rods in their design, but none are particularly effective at producing a good edge without damage, either to rods or blade.

Far more efficient is a flat combination whetstone. Fallkniven are a market leader in these for a very good reason. One of the smallest they produce is the 38g DC3. Measuring just 75mm x 25mm, this small pocket sized variant is so named because it is 3” long, one side of the sharpener being a 25 micron fine Diamond stone, the other side being a Ceramic stone (DC3- geddit). It comes in a small black leather pouch which I have left it in, but this could just as easily be left at home. I have heard of some people that use the pouch to do a final strop of the edge but I feel it is to small for this, a leather belt being far more practical, though who takes one of them backpacking?

The stone does not need wetting but you do need to know how to use it. The thin diamond side is used first, followed by the thicker ceramic side to de-burr the edge and obtain a good edge. Start by laying the blade flat on the stone, raise the blade spine approx. the thickness of the blade, and start moving the knife in circular motions. An easy test of sharpness is to gently drag the blade, vertically, with care, across the finger nail, it should pick up slivers of nail.

Oiling knives

The little 5ml, 12g bottle of Multi-tool, food grade, mineral oil by Victorinox is formulated specifically to lubricate and protect knives from corrosion. It comes in a tiny dropper bottle with an extended tip for easy application.

The little 5ml, 12g bottle of Multi-tool, food grade, mineral oil by Victorinox is formulated specifically to lubricate and protect knives from corrosion. It comes in a tiny dropper bottle with an extended tip for easy application.

Beside keeping a knife clean and the edge keen, it is worth taking the time to lubricate the hinges every so often. This need not be an onerous or frequent task. Possibly a job for a cold and dark winters evening at home when you are champing at the bit and want to get out but cannot.

If your knife is coming into contact with salt water, then oiling is a more frequent necessity, along with a good rinse with fresh water to get rid of the salt, followed by thoroughly drying in a dry heat ( I put mine on the radiator) before oiling.

Most knives are going to be used with foodstuffs, so a little care with what oil is used is needed. Mineral oils with a very low viscosity are available specifically for the task, though are not cheap. There a small number of good, reputable suppliers, take your choice. Just remember to use oil extremely sparingly and wipe excess away or a knife becomes a big bunged up mess with lint and whatever adhering to the excess oil. There is no need to pack a bottle of oil on the trail, just store with the knives at home and remember it is there to be used.