“That’s not a knife… THAT’S a knife”
Mick ‘Crocodile’ Dundee
A knife is one of the essentials to carry whilst on trail. A knife need not be large, it doesn’t necessarily need 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. Those who wear glasses might appreciate the ability to tighten frames. In which case a small multi-tool could be helpful.
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, slicing sausage for meals and, 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 thinks it advisable to have a small selection (perhaps between one and five) of reasonably good quality, well constructed, efficient knives and multi-tools at home, and then select what is appropriate for the planned adventure and take that tool. I do have my favourites however and it is one particular small ‘keychain’ multi-tool that accompanies me on the majority of my hikes. If not that, then usually one of two favoured small Swiss Army Knives. I do like the smaller Victorinox products and attempt to visit the flagship London store on an annual basis.
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. Swiss Army Knives are looked at first and are mostly listed alphabetically within frame length classifications. Note that there are FAR more Swiss Army Knives than are listed here.
I am only listing those knives and multi-tools I own and have used. Some other manufacturers whose products I have and think may be useful follow on. I continue to add links to reviews as I get round to it.
You will not find reviews of larger multi-tools, bushcrafting knives, or much in the way of fixed blade knives here, their suitability for the more lightweight of outdoor tasks is limited so fall outside my interest. Some of these reviews are for products that have been discontinued by their manufacturer but can still be located on the second-hand market and may provide exactly the tools or configuration you are after.
- Bijou SD
- Classic Alox
- Classic SD
- Classic SD Emergency
- Jetsetter@work Alox
- Midnite Manager
- Midnite Manager@work
- Midnite Minichamp
- Minichamp I
- Minichamp Alox
- Pocket Pal
- Signature Lite
- Swiss Memory
- Excelsior Alox
- Excelsior One Blade
- My First Victorinox
- My First Victorinox Plus
BCB Mini worktool
British Army Knife
- The ‘Sapper’s knife’- NSN 7340-99-975-7403
Deejo is a trademark of Coriolis, a cutlery and outdoor gear company founded by Luc Foin and Stéphane Lebeau. In 2010 Stéphane designed and invented a particular design of ultralight pocket knife. Products are sold under two brands- Baladeo (founded 1995) and Deejo. In 2020 the basic range of Deejo knives was still limited to three, each named by its weight- 15g, 27g and 37g, the knives can be extensively personalised by both handle material and blade ‘tattoos’.
Warren Grosjean started Derma-Safe in 1979 after retiring as Director of Quality Control for Schick, where he was instrumental in the development of their stainless steel razor blade. Derma-Safe LLC now manufacture a product that has been used by U.S. forces in their survival kits for decades. A low cost, convenient utility blade.
Gerber Legendary Blades, established in 1939, are based in Portland, Oregon, USA and were acquired by 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 or single blade knives 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 small tools will fail.
It was while on holiday in Europe in 1975 that American Tim Leatherman decided he wanted a pair of pliers combined with a multi-tool. Nothing commercially available, he set about designing his own. In 1983 he and Steve Berliner launched the Pocket Survival Tool- the PST. Knives, multi-tools and accessories are still assembled in Oregon U.S. Quality is outstanding and many of the smaller Leatherman multi-tools are just about ideal for the backpacker who wants more functionality than simply a knife on trail.
- Accessories– adding on-trail functionality to Leatherman multi-tools
- Charge– as part of an EDC kit
- FREE T4
- Juice B2
- Juice S2
- Keychain Leatherman knives- features and specifications
- The Micra
- The ‘Style’ series– and as part of an Urban Altoids Kit
- The ‘Squirt’ series
- Which is the best Leatherman keychain multi-tool?
- Making a ‘pop can’ alcohol stove on trail with a Leatherman keychain multi-tool
- Raptor– as part of an EDC kit
- Skeletool KB
Engineering and manufacturing company owned by Sysmax . Established in 2007 and based in Guangdong, China, Nitecore produces innovative high quality LED torches (flashlights), headlamps, batteries, chargers, powerbanks and other accessories sold in more than 100 countries. Despite not having a reputation for knife products, they have bought just a few to market.
French manufacturer with a long and revered history producing traditional folding ‘peasant knives’. Celebrating their 130th anniversary in 2020, this family run company still makes wooden handled knives of an iconic design first made popular with farmers, herdsmen, and winemakers. Some 15 million Opinel knives are sold each year. Made from only four (on smaller knives) or five (on larger knives) components, Opinel knives are reasonably priced and smaller ones are ideal as a lightweight and simple folder on trail.
Established in 1986, SOG originally stood for Studies and Observation Group. This was a special operations miltary group engaged in covert operations during the Vietnam War. They obtained their own equipment, amongst this was a specialist knife. SOG Specialty Knives began importing multi-tools from Seki in Japan. Production of SOG knives and multi-tools switched to the US but much has subsequently moved to China. SOG have released just a handful of products that could potentially be of interest to backpackers and thru-hikers wanting a small multi-tool suited for use on trail. These are the USA manufactured Crosscut (late 1990s-2008, discontinued), its second generation, the Crosscut 2.0 (made in China 2011-2015, discontinued) and Snippet (2019- ).
Founded by Sal Glesser in 1976, this US company design and manufacture a large number of knives and knife sharpeners, producing their first folding knife in 1981. Spyderco continue to innovate and work with knife designers on an ever expanding range of custom knives. They are known for many almost universal features such as pocket clips and an ‘opening’ hole in knive blades. Much of their production is outsourced overseas to countries such as Japan, China, Taiwan and Italy. Though popular with law enforcement agencies and the military, few of their products are particularly suited to backpacking activities. Just a few of their smaller knives may provide the sort of lightweight, folding, blade-only tool required on trail or for simple Every Day Carry.
Zwilling J. A. Henckels