Knives: How good is good enough?

2:38 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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We seem to talk about knives here a lot.  Lots of us are knife people, I respect that. 

I wonder though, what is the minimum knife you really need for actual backcountry travel? What do you NEED it for that can't be done without it?

Some have other really cool features but what are your minimum knife requirements for actual situations likely to happen in the back country?  You know, real survival situations like cutting a stray thread or gutting an obscenely small mountain trout.

I think back to my experiences and can't think of a single instance where a simple 2" (dare I say) Wal-mart knife would not have served just fine.  I think when it comes to knives, I overpack, to the point that, on most trips I could honestly do without one.  Will I go without? No, but I could see doing it and not having any issues. 

So, would you ever DARE to leave a knife at home?  What is the smallest/simplest/cheapest knife that would be suitable on the trail?





2:48 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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FromSagetoSnow said:

...minimum knife you really need for actual backcountry travel?

...situations likely to happen in the back country?

What is the smallest/simplest/cheapest knife that would be suitable on the trail?

 Lots of variables still at play here, Jeff. Also, a few contradictions already in your OP...unless these lines I highlighted are to be addressed separately.

As it is...To me, "actual backcountry travel" is often not "on the trail"; in addition, "likely" is a very nebulous word.

I'm really looking forward to a good discussion here, but please define things/clear things up a bit better for us first.

3:32 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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A high-carbon, skeleton, fixed-blade knife with a 3" blade, e.g., trout and bird, would be enough for any off-trail use for me. It would cut spills, clean fish and small animals, cut turf, and, of course, cut para-cord.

4:20 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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of course, it depends.

quality is something that will draw a diversity of opinion, depending on a person's likes/dislikes.  ultralight hikers will usually choose the option that hopefully gets the job done at the lightest possible weight.  people who don't want to spend a lot of money will tend to choose the least expensive option.   my bias? i don't like throwing things away or replacing them, and i hate it when i'm out hiking and something fails.  i'll spend more on something that i think will last a lot longer.  in knife terms, i would rather spend a little more and get a knife that i'll use for a really long time, & that i don't have to sharpen often. 

as a preface, on most trips of any length i take a multitool and one knife.  for a long time, though, the smallest/lightest/cheapest knife i carried was the Opinel #6.  folding knife, wood handle, steel blade with a ring that twists and locks it.  cost me a few bucks and was fine for several years.  you could buy one today for 10-12 bucks, I'm guessing.  i took a fresh look at knives after i accidentally sliced my thumb open with that Opinel, though.  slippery handle, and i was trying to pry something with it.  of course, i blame the knife rather than my own stupid behavior.  of course, it's the better handles on my current knives that have avoided repeated mishaps, not the fact that i learned the hard way to use knives the way they are supposed to be used.  :)

i think some sort of multitool is extremely helpful in repair situations.  i have used pliers to repair external frame backpacks, snowshoes, crampons, trekking poles, tent stakes that get bent.  i don't know if it's necessary, but it is pretty darn helpful.

that same multitool could be used to prep meals, gut a fish, whittle a branch into a makeshift tent stake, fuzz up a stick to help start a fire, cut webbing or rope.  for most people, then, a multitool could render another knife unnecessary.  Most people who have used the knife on a multitool for an extended period of time know it isn't very comfortable in your hand & can take a bit longer, or a lot longer, to do whatever it is you are doing. 

knife blades shorter than 2 inches don't make a lot of sense to me, or they end up being too small for doing even basic things.  on the other end of the spectrum, i can't recall any situation where i longed for a knife blade longer than 4 inches. 

i don't always know why i'll take one knife vs. another on a trip, but i'll give it a try.

1.  handle comfort - if you don't end up using a knife much, it doesn't matter much.  if you do, if you have a habit of whittling things, choose one with a decent handle.  example: kershaw makes a small folding knife called the chive that has a blade about that size, it's very small folded up.  weighs about 3 ounces.  the blade locks open nicely.  it isn't the greatest knife to hold while doing anything heavy or extended because it's so small, but it is fine.  it's not cheap, considering how small it is.  in contrast, bark river knife & tool co. makes some small fixed blade knives, the PSK is one example. same blade length as the chive, but it is a fixed blade knife, has a thicker blade that is much less likely to get damaged, it stays sharp much longer with regular (or irregular) use, and has a much more usable handle.  weighs a little less.   it's quite expensive for a small knife; other companies make similar knives for less, i'm sure.  independent of price, i'll take the one with the better blade and handle.  all things equal, i think the handles on knifes with a blade in the 3 1/2 to 4 inch range are more comfortable in my hand than the smaller ones - that's one man's opinion. 

2.  composition of the blade - i have one knife that has a carbon 'tool steel' blade.  i won't use it if i expect really wet conditions or plan to be camping & using it near the ocean, the steel doesn't handle those conditions well.  otherwise, it's a great knife.  also, for river rafting in particular, it's pretty important to have a blade that doesn't have a pointy end, and can be pretty important to have at least a little serrated portion of the blade. 

3.  fixed vs. folding - mostly, this is a function of how dirty/messed up the conditions are where i'm using the knife.  if i expect something to get really gunked up, i'll take a fixed blade.  they are uniformly easier to clean than a folding knife, and taking apart a folding knife to fully clean out junk is a PITA.  still, unless you have a very small fixed blade knife, you probably aren't going to walk around with it in your pocket and may not feel it's convenient or socially acceptable to walk around with the sheath on your belt or pack.  i'm much more likely to bring a folding knife based on the company i keep, if having something long and in a sheath will be off-putting for some reason, where a folding knife can just sit in your pocket or unobtrusively clip onto your pack straps or pockets until you need it.

4.  how you carry it - relates to what i just said, but with a few wrinkles.  folding knives can be much easier to carry around because they can either be in a pants pocket or often has a spring clip & can be carried on a backpack strap or pocket edge.  special situation? if you're rafting or canoing and want easy access to a knife for some reason, you will want one that's shor tand has a sheath that can attach to your PFD.  knives with spring clips have a funny habit of knocking loose and dropping into the river when things get hairy; knives with a belt sheath can get in the way when you're paddling or sitting in certain ways. 



4:20 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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I used to carry a cheap stainless 4" paring knife that I bought at Sears for about $12.00, it came with a kydex sheath and was razor sharp. The stainless was a little soft so the hollow ground edge would give if it was abused, but that also made it easy to field sharpen.

I always thought it made a great knife for camp chores, cooking, or as a fillet knife.

I still have the knife in my car camping kit because I like it so much.

I also love the little, inexpensive bushcraft knives by Mora of Sweden. For around 15.00 - 20.00 you get a knife with good wood or rubber grips and a decent quality stainless blade & kydex sheath. I think it's good bang for the buck.

My first knife was one I robbed from my mothers kitchen drawer containing all the rarely used utensils. It was about 7" long with riveted wooden handles and a thick high carbon steel blade. I still have it 35 years later and I think the blade rivals the steel in much more expensive "survival knives" all day long.

I hollowed out the faces of the wooden handles and put fishing hooks, line, and some split shot in one side, and a fire steel and storm matches in the other. I cut and tightly rolled a piece of bicycle inner tube over the entire handle of the knife to hold the contents in place and give me a better grip.

Anyway, I don't think I need to have a big or expensive knife to meet my minimum requirements. Or for that matter, a knife built just for hiking & camping.

I will admit that I do love nice knives and admire quality steel. I like owning a couple and I do think it is a good investment.

Mike G.

9:07 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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I take a Leatherman Wave with me most of the time. There is a little weight penalty but it's good to have the option of the tools if needed.

11:50 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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I take a Ontario SPEC Plus SP8 Machete Survival and a leatherman wave. I almost always go gear heavy. I may be slower but I will get there.

9:36 a.m. on September 15, 2012 (EDT)
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Re: Knives: German handmade folder

My favorite knife is a German folder.  Not only is it a great knife, but has sentimental value as well.  Was given to me from a family friend who was dying of cancer.  He fought through Europe and the main battles of the islands of the Pacific in WWII as a combat Marine.

Yes may be a little heavy compared to the ultralight versions, and the blade-lock release is top at rear, I love it.  As I hike & use it, I think every time I open it of Roy.

It is a:     FRIEDR.HERDER ABR.SOHN    SOLINGEN-GERMANY  (trademark is an Ace-of-Spades)

Indent top-rear, is the release 


I added a very small clip-ring, held by waxed thread, in the loop hole at rear.  

11:37 a.m. on September 15, 2012 (EDT)
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Compared to no knife, any knife is fine.  With experience I have come to really appreciate carbon steel in  a blade about 4 in long with heft, balance, and feel.  The feel part is very subjective and helps explain the amount of knives for sale and the amount of knives we own if we care about knives.

12:57 p.m. on September 15, 2012 (EDT)
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Victorinox Soldier(pretty much the same knife as the One Handed Trekker.)


(Oh wait, that isn't the pic I wanted....)

Here it is:


Not much more I can say about the knife that I haven't said in the review so here is a link if ya feel like reading and looking at some pics: 

I also have a Puma White Hunter packed away but that knife is more of a show piece than anything. 

4:32 p.m. on September 15, 2012 (EDT)
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I like my cheap three inch folder I got at the knife store in Julian. hollow ground three inch stainless blade, 300 series I think, plastic handle, easy to field sharpen. I take it everywhere I hike, day trips and backpacks. Hasn't let me down yet.

8:49 p.m. on September 15, 2012 (EDT)
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Well then...for me it's a fixed-blade with about a 4" convexed or "scandi" edge, slight drop-point or clip point, and sturdy enough with which to do "bushcrafty" things. A bajillion knives meet these specs, from the Moras Trout mentioned, to $1000+ custom one-off jobbies...I have two knives like this, which somewhere in the middle: a Spyderco FB-01 Bill Moran knife in VG-10 with a clip-point scandi blade, and my newest blade acquisition--a result of my love for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan--a Bark River North Star in CPM3V with a convexed drop-point. Many factors are at play when choosing a certain tool for a certain job, and I happen to believe that a person is (at least partially) defined by the tool he or she chooses.

Regarding your other question, Jeff: I always take a knife. Always. EDC and all that stuff...I almost don't want to count it in my base-weight because I've had one on my person every day for the last decade or so, and at this point it's like a part of my body weight.

Now, when I'm on the trail it's sometimes a different story...on these occasions, I often just take just a Leatherman PS4, which has a blade more than adequate enough for cutting food and opening plastic packaging. I take the PS4 on many of my trips anyways, on account of the great pliers, scissors, and stove-fixing bits, so when I know I won't be leaving the trail I just drop the fixed-blade altogether.

...this new knife thread makes me want to take sensuous pics of my North Star...

12:12 a.m. on September 16, 2012 (EDT)
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Well, knife collecting is more than just a hobby for me, so I am probably in the minority here.  And I believe in quality, too, so none of the cheap stuff for me.

Although I carry more than one knife when backpacking, if I were to be honest I would have to admit that a simple 2.5-3" blade would handle virtually all of the cutting chores that I encounter when backpacking - food prep, trimming tape or bandages, etc.  However, a few years ago I decided to carry a 4" fixed blade on a backpacking trip (before that it was only smaller folders).  On that trip I was able to use that knife to take care of a problem in a couple minutes that would have taken at least an hour with a smaller blade or a small saw.  Ever since then, I have decided that it is worth the extra weight (a little over 4oz) to carry a 4" fixed blade, usually this custom from Ray Laconico:

3:49 a.m. on September 16, 2012 (EDT)
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I have a Victorinox SAK, no idea what model. Mine has scissors, two blades, couple of screwdrivers that double as can and bottle openers, phillips head screwdriver, corkscrew, tiny glasses screwdriver that sits in the corkscrew, awl and a magnifying glass. Pretty basic. I bought mine partly because the phillips head screwdriver fits the screws on a bike derailleur. I've never really needed anything else. I also have a tool for working on ski bindings if I take skis.

10:46 a.m. on September 16, 2012 (EDT)
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I reviewed my newest knife here....

I agree with what seems to be the consensus here, a 3 inch blade will more than suffice in the majority of situations. But I also have other knives for different situations. I do like having a multi tool for longer trips in case of equipment malfunctions or a survival scenario. And another 5 inch blade handed down to me by my uncle.

1:59 p.m. on September 16, 2012 (EDT)
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Oh lambertiana...I always look forward to new knife threads if only because I know I'm gonna see a photo or two of your favorite Laconicos. Boy, that's a sharp one!

7:56 p.m. on September 16, 2012 (EDT)
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OK, so here's a couple shots of my Bark River North Star...



With the Ironwood handles it comes in at 4-1/2 ounces, and the matching Sharpshooter sheath probably doubles that.

4:00 p.m. on September 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Bark River Gameskeeper and PSK.  fixed blades, the steel is one piece from the tip to the end of the handle scales.  both have 'micarta' handles, which as near as i can tell is some combination of fiberglas, epoxy, and resin.  hard, near-impossible to damage.  i very lightly sanded the larger knife handle because it felt a little slippery out of the box; that did the trick.  


The large one is 6.3 ounces with the cord attached, 8.2 including the sheath.  the cutting surface is 4 inches, blade is 4.5 inches (has a half-inch rectangular portion closest to the handle that you can hold with your thumb and forefinger, makes it easier to manipulate in some situations.  useful for a larger, heavier knife).  Intended for hunting, but i like it on trips where we rotate cooking for a group or where we're building a fire.  holds an edge well, sharpens pretty easily.  needs some care; A-2 steel is high carbon and can oxidize.  i wipe it from time to time with a little mineral oil.  same steel as the northstar pillowthread posted above.  

the small one is 1.9 ounces, 3.3 with the sheath.  2 inch cutting surface.  stainless steel blade, easier to maintain.  i hold it with three fingers.  

4:16 p.m. on September 17, 2012 (EDT)
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I use a Gerber knife tool with pliers, sissors, and other tools on my hikes and bike tours. I have a second folding knife but rarely use it as the Gerber one works fine. (its like the Leatherman type tool, but the blade/tools lock open.

8:21 a.m. on September 20, 2012 (EDT)
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I always carry a knife, and think everyone should carry a knife, and a decent one at that. We never plan for something bad to happen to us, but if you ever truly find yourself in a survival situation out in the backcountry then you will be really really wanting a good knife. A knife has tons of uses, and I carry mine every single day, backcountry or not. Do I really need a knife? Well if it was purely backpacking and nothing else, then no i would not really need a knife. However, i think it would be incredibly foolish to not bring one. A knife should also be carried on your person and not in your pack. If you ever become seperated from your pack and gear a knife can become the difference in surviving or not.

I carry a small 3in skeleton fixed blade, its ,made by Kabar but i forget the model, BK something, it is 30-50$ depending on fi you can get it on sale. It is made of a good high carbon steel and is an awesome bare bones knife for the price. Just the right size for everything i need to do, besides normal cutting tasks I commonly use my knife for splitting wood for my wood stove/fire, and filleting fish.

I like to practice a little bushcraft on my trips, and I find a good quality knife that holds an edge even with alot of use is critical to my needs.

In the winter I also carry a small leatherman squirt. I carry this anytime I carry my whitegas stove, snowshoes, and crampons/microspikes. The pliers and other basic tools can be quite handy when repairing those kinds of items.

1:38 p.m. on September 23, 2012 (EDT)
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Something dawned on me while I was digging in my tool belt.

These lock back utility knives are cheap($8-$10,) easily sharpened(flip or replace the blade,) and they have a belt clip.

If on a tight budget this might be a solid option. 


10:11 p.m. on September 26, 2012 (EDT)
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I'm not a knife enthusiast, but a while ago I got fed up with the millions of options and endless scenarios trying to figure out what would be the best knife for the price. After a lot of research, I've found Morakniv to be the best quality for the best price for my needs. They come in a range of styles, but they are all basically the same. They're strong, light, durable, versatile, and cheap. I have three different models: their traditional one, their construction "utility" type one, and the Companion MG I take backpacking and camping, shown here:

I have the carbon steel versions and keep them razor sharp. And I know at such an affordable price if I ever lose one I can replace it easily.

I got each of them for around $11 a piece. Never found a better knife for a better price. I don't screw around with multi-tools anymore. They're heavy and mostly unnecessary.

11:10 p.m. on September 26, 2012 (EDT)
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I have an old Schrade sharpfinger that I have had for close to 30 years. It is carbon steel, easy to get sharp, thick and sturdy near the handle with a fine thin tip.  The shape can be a little odd, but it does most things well.  I don't know if they make them anymore.  I am tempted by Mora, but don't need to replace it yet.  

I carry a leatherman juice every day, but am looking at the PS4 as my second for future camping trips.

3:32 a.m. on September 27, 2012 (EDT)
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Lots of knive options. Strongly urge locking blade only. Personal best is a Myerchin 377 with a 3/4 serrated blade and a mariners spike for untying knots poking holes etc. All stainless steel; both blade and spike are locking with one release. Thick SHARP blade that holds an edge. ALWAYS use a locking blade, no accidents. Straight edge blade may not always cut cord, serrated will. Comes with a cordura like sheath w/ belt loop and velcro closure. Quality all around. Strong enough to dig hole, sharp enough to thinly slice food. Good grip, no slippage. Myerchin has many models even some with lights but 377 best for me - no nonsense camping knife. Would welcome any discussion.

7:21 a.m. on September 27, 2012 (EDT)
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My favorite that goes with me everywhere is my toollogic knife bought from REI.  Its light, it's tough and it will start a fire as it keeps a metal match in the handle..and there is a whistle as well.  Cost about 32.00.


I have had two of them.  One lasted me for about 8 years with a hundred boys borrowing it to start fires.  The sharade blade works well and the knife remains sharp. 

I also carry a 3.00 folding camp sissors..they go with me everywhere. 


Mark Jones

10:04 p.m. on September 28, 2012 (EDT)
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The "right" knife is always about use intended. For the usual, maintained trail walks I rarely carry anything more than a Kershaw Skyline, which is my EDC anyway. Great little knife, made in America.

For off-trail brush-bustin' and for bushcraft work my preference is for more capable blades like the Ka-bar Navy Mark 1, another excellant blade that can also be had for very little money and is made in America.

Utility is important. Expendable is important. And if you're gonna' actually work your blade a sharpening method is important, which is one subject that rarely comes up.

So here is an idea - it is what I actually do. Glue a piece of 400 grit wet-dry sandpaper to a magnesium fire block. That's it. No weight, easily replaced, it just works.

Good enough.

12:35 a.m. on September 29, 2012 (EDT)
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A lot of the knives I see mentioned or pictured here have distinct points, sometimes less than the Arkansas toothpick variety but more than the skinner's blade. The former type is good if you anticipate "wrastlin' a bar", but not as practical as the latter. I always either carry a Swiss Army knife with some tools, or a Leatherman. On canoe trips, I have  stainless knife that is patterned after a Green River Butcher Knife. I got it at a sail maker's loft. A simple sailor's knife. Great at cutting cheese. I have a native friend in the Yukon. No sharp points for him, a Buck Skinning knife is his choice. "Too easy to poke myself" he says of dagger shaped knives.

8:47 a.m. on September 29, 2012 (EDT)
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rescue and river-oriented knives generally don't have a pointy end, by design, for the reasons Erich pointed out.  you don't want to kill your whitewater raft or accidentally poke your hands.  NRS makes a specialized knife with a sheath that is made to attach to a PFD, the Pilot Knife, that is a good choice for water.  and it has a bottle opener...

sharpening is an interesting topic.  for convex ground blades, i use a leather strop (piece of leather attached to a piece of wood) and a mildly abrasive green honing compound.  for other knives, or if a convex blade really loses its edge, i use a 2 sided oil sharpening stone (one surface is fine grit, the other coarse grit) and some honing oil - these are available in pretty much any hardware store.  sharpening knives takes a little practice, but there are some great youtube videos that explain how to do it.  best to practice with a knife you don't care much about for starters.  

2:13 p.m. on September 29, 2012 (EDT)
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Gerber Big Rock !!!!!!!!

3:35 p.m. on September 30, 2012 (EDT)
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I used to carry a gerber with a blunt point when I kayaked a lot. I feel like a point on a back country knife is important. What if you need to make a small hole in something? Or get a splinter or thorn out of your skin? A point makes these much easier. I now carry a sog seal pup elite, the weight to heft to strength is good for me. It is strong enough to baton wood but doesnt weigh a ton. I like knives and have maybe thirty, from walmart cheapies to a couple of handmade beauties. I carry the sog because it works for me and is priced so I feel comfortable working it. My expensive knives tend to get used a bit more carefully. For a cheap bomb proof knife that really robust, my son has the bear grylis gerber. It has a whistle and mag fire stick in a very versatile sheath. My only complaints are the weight and the finish on the blade. I cut up a deer with it last season and the meat somehow changed the finish. my buddy with the ti cup and the burned lips has the same knife with the same finish issues. I carry a multi tool if I take a white gas stove or if im using snowshoes or ice gear. My edc is a gerber g-60 fast one of their spring assist clip knives. For real use I try to spend about $50 on a camp knife, not a major hit if you break or lose it that way.

8:07 p.m. on September 30, 2012 (EDT)
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It is my personal view that the Gerber-Grylls blades, though popular, are not good-enough blades.  I see them mostly as sub-par executions of a toy-maker's dream.  That really is about the best I can say for the line.

And I am not a knife snob.  I do own several exotic blades, but I prefer 1095 and 1085 in blades that will see rough use.  I keep my edges keen but I do not worship them.  I have a razor for shaving, in the bathroom, and I don't use it that often.

I actually see these Grylls blades as a triumph of marketing, not as quality edge tools, likely because my reality is that I am a tool guy, not a toy guy.  So there it is.  There are much better knives out there, better values competively priced that don't scream FNG in blaze orange plastic, that fit the hand, that hold an edge, that stay in one piece.  A bunch of 'em are made in America.


This Grylls stuff is just not good enough, never has been, ain't likely to ever be.  Because Gerber puts its money into the marketing, not into the blade.


As always, may Good be on you and yours. 



6:17 a.m. on October 1, 2012 (EDT)
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I dont agree with that at all. I have an old gerber lmf that I have abused for 30 years. I dont carry the grylis knife, my seventeen year old son does. He picked it out when he was 15. He treats it pretty poorly and it hasnt failed in any way, other than the finish. Back to my old lmf, I have dug holes, chopped wood, and done everything bad you can imagine to that beast without any damage. You say your not a knife snob, but I seems like you kinda are. I dont suppoet bear grylis but it has been a solid knife, my son dropped it last summer and that bright orange is the only reason we found it. Gerber makes the same knife without his name on it, I think its called the prodigy. My son and I both have big hands and the knife fits our hands very well. Ill put my lmf against any knife, in any kind of test! If it wasnt so heavy it would be my go to knife.

10:08 a.m. on October 1, 2012 (EDT)
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Most of my hiking is on maintained trail or "open country." I carry a $3 stainless no-name with a nylon handle. It is serrated near the handle, which makes it wonderful for cutting bear line, shoe laces and trimming nails. I was worried when I got it that it wasn't long enough for spreading peanut-butter, but promptly realized that is what sporks are for! I've actively avoided learning too much about knives, because I'm certain that when I do I'll realize how deficient this set-up is and have to remedy it with something more expensive! Great topic Sage!

10:37 p.m. on October 1, 2012 (EDT)
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I tend to think that if a knife will get the job done - it is enough knife when that is the knife you have.

It doesn't have to be made of the highest quality steel, excellent feel & balance, or come from a long pedigree, to do camp chores. I love owning a couple knives in that category (high quality) but I have had great backpacking & camping trips with much lessor knives.

My one caveat would be that I don't want a piece of junk which might fail on me should I find myself in a tough spot.

For a while, a few years back, I experimented with carrying nothing more than a decent fillet knife (I fished a lot). I finally ended up throwing my Swiss Army knife back in my pack in addition to the fillet knife because despite the added weight of the SAK it was just more convenient for me to have the extra tools like scissors, tweezers, small blade, leather punch, etc. I broke the corkscrew off because it was useless to me and I got tired of looking at it.

I have two loaner packs that I keep stocked with the essential gear so my buddies & family members who go with me from time to time automatically have a decent kit without me trying to explain to them what they should buy / bring. "Here it is, put it on."

I have found this streamlines the process of getting newbies geared up. I put decent gear in these packs but not great gear.

EverReady headlamps - switch & battery compartment sealed with duct tape

Blue Wally sleeping pads

12.00 base plate compasses

TexSport stainless cookware

Coleman stove

PVC poncho

14.00 stainless Mora knives & a cheap fire steel

...and so forth.

A lot of it is gear that I have used in the past before moving on to nicer, lighter, and more durable gear.

It always got / gets the job done. None of it however is what I would call junk - for the conditions we are in.

I think everyone's needs will be different of course, someone who goes caving shouldn't rely on an EverReady headlamp any more than someone who goes out in sub zero temps should use a PVC poncho.

How good is good enough should be based on personal needs obviously, but I spent many years having an awful lot of fun with less than stellar gear and for the most part I think I did so safely.

Besides, letting my bigger friends with longer legs carry the heavier gear is only fair don't you know.

Mike G.

10:38 p.m. on October 2, 2012 (EDT)
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Good post, Mike.  Good enough gets the job done and does so without catastrophic failure, we agree.

My point, admittedly offered a bit too strongly perhaps and my apology goes out to the room if any were offended, goes to just how close that Gerber/Grylls stuff actually is to catastrophic failure when subjected to hard use.  That's it.  I'm down with the EverReady headlamp, the TexSport cooking pots, the rest of the practical, good enough gear.  We all know what that stuff is.  And nobody in their right mind calls any of it "ultimate".

So I'm not real tolerant when it comes down to junk "ultimate" blades, regardless what spin some marketeer puts on 'em, pure and simple.  Because that's where the line is for me.  My son bought the Ultimate Survival when it first came out.  "Junk" as descriptive is a kindess.  The handle failed under light batoning.  The pommel was defeated by an acorn.  And that's why that Grylls stuff is gonna' stay on the other side of that line. 

It should have stayed on the other side of the Pacific.

And the really, really disappointing part of this is that Gerber, a manufacturer who has made some very good blades over the years, as tens of thousands of happy customers will attest, traded its credibility for short term profits by going to market with products unproven, like they didn't care about the quality at all, as if quality was never part of the program in the first place.  And the only plausible explanation for why this happened is that the Board suffered a bout of Mass Insanity and hired some blisterpack queen to be marketing director/product development manager/operations manager and CFO all rolled into one job, the one and only way to ensure such poor results.  I can't come up with a better explanation and I have really, really tried. 

Whatever, I really do believe that way better blades are available, in terms of price/value, quality of design and quality of construction.  

And good enough still has to meet some standards.  Even if they are low standards.





9:16 a.m. on October 3, 2012 (EDT)
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I wonder if you got a defective knife. That knife has been on the market for several yrs. It is called a prodigy, they only dressed it up for the grylis model. I have been around two of those knives for over a year. My son abuses his constantly, batoning wood, digging and just general abuse. The other one belongs to a guy I hike with,both have been used heavily with no damage. Ive been carrying gerbers for thirty years without a failure. Several different models.

10:25 p.m. on October 9, 2012 (EDT)
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I would say a good knife would be one that can perform multiple duties. Much like any other gear that we would carry with us in the field.

Sure it should be able to cut through rope but just just about any blade could do that. I personally like a multi tool that is a blend between a pocketknife and the kitchen sink. 

I use a Super Leatherman I have carried for many years. Straight blade, serrated blade, can opener, and pliers. All good stuff.

If I carried all these items separately it would surely cost me a few more ounces. And I can certainly use this tool on every trip.

11:36 p.m. on October 20, 2012 (EDT)
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168 forum posts

The absolute minimum knife for me would be the Victorinox Classic SD. Yeah, the blade is around an inch long. But you could cut or spread most anything you need to -- you're not gutting deer are you? -- and it has those very handy scissors.

But thank the lord I don't have to carry the minimum. I usually pack a Classic SD because the scissors are so handy and it is so light and small, why not? But for most knife use, I turn to an old Boy Scout sheath knife made by Western. It is the small one -- 4 inch blade -- not terribly common but you see them around. I like the feel of a stacked leather handle. The blade is large enough for any cooking chores, yet the knife overall is so small and light that I don't notice it on my belt, even with the pack's hipbelt snugged tight over it. While I could cut sausage, cheese, etc, and spread peanut butter or whatever with the tiny blade on the Swiss Army Classic SD, it is nice to have a bigger blade. Classic good looks, too.

For very little money, and very little weight, the Mora Companion is one helluva knife also. I haven't carried it backpacking yet, but would without reservation. Just haven't yet is all.

3:09 p.m. on October 23, 2012 (EDT)
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I was leery about getting in on this thread, thinking it would turn into yet another 'My knife is bigger than your knife' thread. Seems to be a bit of that going around... :-)

However, I rather liked SagetoSnow's caveat that he wanted to know about the absolute minimum knife that would do the job.

How about this one?


A silly little toy, you say? Perhaps. Certainly not a 6" bowie knife, an armour-piercing K-bar, a bush-killing machete, or a multi-tool with 40 different gadgets!

But it has a few things going for it.

First of all, it's fairly hard stainless steel, so the blade is strong and rustproof, and it holds an edge reasonably well.

Second, the few tools it has are actually more than I've ever needed! It has a 1.75" blade, a canopener, bottle opener and scissors, a slot head and Phillips driver, and the silly nail file and corkscrew. That makes it like Ricks Victorinex Soldier or Tom's SAK, just a bit smaller.

In all honesty, I've used the Phillips driver to adjust the Flicklocks on my BD hiking poles, the scissors to cut bandages and moleskin, and the knife for any other tasks requiring a strong, sharp edge. The rest are, for my purposes, a waste of space.

Don't get me wrong, I have a nice Leatherman Wave and a Gerber, and a variety of old jackknives. While I carry one or the other of the multitools for hiking and backpacking, I can't say I've ever really needed to use either one for any purposes other than what I already have on the pocket knife.

But the biggest advantage the little jackknife has is that it stays in my pocket. It's always with me so I never forget to bring it, and even if I lose my pack I still have it handy. And no matter how fancy your knife might be, it's absolutely worthless if you don't have it with you when you need it.

"What is the smallest/simplest/cheapest knife that would be suitable on the trail?"

The knives were a promotional giveaway, so the cost was free. A replacement would probably cost $10.00. My first one lasted 5 years (and still works fine) and my new one should be good for just as long.

May 22, 2018
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