Forum Index » Philosophy & Technique » Why a knife?


Display Avatars Sort By:
Michael Reagan
(MichaelReagan) - F

Locale: Southern California
Why a knife? on 12/21/2010 15:11:51 MST Print View

I know there are plenty of threads here already on the various cutting tools our members carry, and I have found them all fascinating. From fixed blades to tiny folders, from single-edge razor blades to scissors to nothing at all, it seems the choices are as varied as the people and philosophies behind them. I have learned a bit from every discussion and really appreciate the ideas you've all given me. I hope you won't mind one more post on the subject.

For my part, I now carry a small pair of scissors taken from a Victorinox SwissCard and a surgical scalpel blade in my First Aid/Repair kit. Before adding the scalpel, I usually packed a razor blade in a resealable cover. Despite these cutting tools, and my commitment to going as light as possible, I find I must always add a "real" knife, usually a Benchmade or Spyderco lock-blade folder with around a 3" or so blade, which I carry clipped to my right front pants pocket.

My reason for this is two-fold. First, I normally carry this sort of knife on a daily basis and use it constantly. I find that I feel a bit naked whenever I am without my knife where it belongs. Second, on one trip in which my only knife was a SAK Classic, I discovered at mealtime that I had forgotten to pack any eating utensil. "No problem," says I, "I'll just whittle a spoon from a stick with my trusty blade". Ha! Have you ever tried to whittle with a Classic? If so, you can imagine my frustration at the attempt. After a few moments of the most pathetic woodscrafting ever seen, I had barely scratched the bark off the surface of the stick. I gave up at this ridiculous effort and asked my hiking buddy if I could borrow his knife, a 4" Al Mar folder. With his knife I was able to quickly split and whittle the stick to fashion a very serviceable paddle spoon that fed me for the rest of the trip. My buddy could not resist offering a few choice comments on my ultralight bladeware and his surprise that I would allow myself to go out into the forest so unprepared.

And so I find that I *must* carry a knife, though I likely will never have to whittle another spoon. I find that being without an adequate tool to handle life's little problems, or worse yet, injuring myself by forcing a razor blade or non-locking "mini-knife" to handle a job too big for it, makes me feel a bit too "edgy". The 3-ounce penalty of carrying a "real" knife is worth it to me for the sense of well-bring it brings. Carrying such a knife has become a habit I can't comfortably break. I'll bet a few of you know what I mean.

Michael

David Noll
(dpnoll) - MLife

Locale: Maroon Bells
Why a knife on 12/21/2010 16:56:35 MST Print View

Exactly, Michael. If you have to explain to someone why you carry a knife they won't understand. you are either a knife person or not.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
wood on 12/21/2010 17:30:45 MST Print View

if your stove fuel happens to be wood, I think a knife moves up a notch or two in the grand scheme of things

I got by OK w/ my Classic when using a canister stove (albeit I felt a little naked :)), when I went to a wood burning setup I went back to a small fixed blade (which also works better for fish and grouse than the Classic)

I think there are a lot of folks that get by just fine w/ a very small cutting tool and I say more power to them, I'm definitely in the "knife guy" category and don't apologize for that, but certainly wouldn't advocate that everyone needs one

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Fun on 12/21/2010 17:44:47 MST Print View

I only carry a knife for the following:
1. Leisurely trips. If I feel like sitting around the fire and whittling, practicing bushcraft, etc. Feathersticks are fun to make, but not necessary. (I do a lot of leisure trips but the knife is hardly essential to them).
2. Trips centering on hunting and/or fishing: cleaning game. (rare for me)
3. Rainy trips when I know I'll want a fire. While not totally necessary, a knife can certainly help prepare wet wood. (rare for me...I'll just go without fire).

It's actually my more "ambitious/serious" trips (high miles, faster pace) that I don't really ever carry a knife...usually just a single-edge razor blade for first aid reasons.

Whenever I carry a knife I tend to find/create uses for it.
Whenever I don't have a knife, I don't miss it.
So basically it's not necessary backpacking gear for me. To each their own.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Why a knife? on 12/21/2010 18:05:24 MST Print View

Just this past weekend I attended a birthday party for a three year old. There were presents to be unwrapped and fiendishly clever packaging to be removed and disposed of.

Never Go Anywhere Without A Knife!

Fixed, folder or multi-tool sometime, sooner or later, someone will ask, "Anyone here got a knife"?

Party On,

Newton

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Multitool on 12/21/2010 19:15:38 MST Print View

I usually carry a multitool .... Its useful in winter or if you have gear that may need fixing

its much easier to start a fire in winter or in wet conditions with a knife too

for climbing you should always carry a light knife on u

Jace Mullen
(climberslacker) - F

Locale: Your guess is as good as mine.
Re: Why a Knife? on 12/21/2010 21:00:17 MST Print View

I had a multi-tool that I always brought with me camping. And I used the same logic: "well if anything breaks I can fix it". As Ive gone UL and now borderline SUL I have nothing that a multi-tool could fix. Alky stove- nothing that can really go wrong, Pack- no zippers or anything, Just a little zipper on my quilt and nature certainly does not create anything with a philips head.

I now just use a SAK and will probably up-grade (downgrade?) to a derma-safe blade when I get an order together thats worth paying for shipping from BPL.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
re on 12/21/2010 21:06:06 MST Print View

I always carry a Leatherman Micra that includes a knife which I use occasionally. Very sharp knife, but very small.

It has a screwdriver which I use occasionally, for example to screw back together my glasses.

It has a scissors and can opener that I use occasionally.

2 ounces

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: "Why a knife?" on 12/21/2010 21:18:24 MST Print View

Jerry,

>>I always carry a Leatherman Micra that includes a knife which I use<<

.....quite often! ;-)

+1 for the Leatherman Micra.

Party On,

Newton

BRIAN TACKETT
(tacksman99) - F

Locale: So Cal
Why a knife? on 12/21/2010 22:30:13 MST Print View

To be prepared for the unknown.

John Brown
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
why a knife on 12/21/2010 22:40:56 MST Print View

I carry one because I like them. That said, I have never used one for anything essential, beyond cutting an apple.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Fun on 12/22/2010 00:08:59 MST Print View

+1 to all of Craig Wisner comments. My choices (and experience) are almost identical except that I drop down to just scissors from the swiss card rather than a razor blade when I am really pushing it.

Two other reasons:

4. group trips where we are doing more fancy meals that require cutting / chopping for some part of the prep work.
5. if I was going someplace (like canadian rockies) where there is a real chance I wouldn't see people for week or more, and might not to really use those survival skills I learned years ago.

--Mark

Edited by verber on 01/05/2011 15:47:26 MST.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Why? on 12/22/2010 03:38:47 MST Print View

Well, I am not a survivalist, but a knife is one of the few basic tools you will have a hard time making.

Overall, a knife is too handy to be without. There are thousands of uses for a knife, too many to list.

One with a fairly good blade, good steel, but not brittle, about 2-3" long is my choice. A small piece of carbide paper (carborundum) is enough to sharpen it. Gerber or Buck makes good blades (LST or Rush versions.)

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Why not a knife? :) on 12/22/2010 08:38:47 MST Print View

For something which weighs around 3-4 oz and, with the corresponding skills, can enable you to make almost anything you might need in an area where wood is available, it's hard to not carry a 3-4 inch fixed blade knife on a trip.

Edited by AndyF on 12/22/2010 08:39:28 MST.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
re: Why a nife? on 12/22/2010 09:00:11 MST Print View

Why any piece of gear? I find that the utility justifies the weight. As with any gear, either you do or don't.

Knifes do carry some emotional baggage as they can be considered a weapon. So can a rock or stick for that matter. The intent of the user is the thing to be concerned with, not the object.

Ray Jardine mentions that many gear choices are based on an underlying fear of nature, prompting people to over-equip, and I think that is an accurate assessment. I do hold that a small amount of gear is needed to handle basic emergency/survival situations. That needs to be kept in check, just like any other gear category. The same UL principles should be applied, with an eye to multiple use and finding the lightest functional options.

I think the real issue comes to carrying equipment that is not used every time we hike. I carry some survival items with the great hope that I will *never* need to use them. In my case that would be a whistle, space blanket bivy, some alternate fire-starting options, back-up lighting, and some larger first aid items--- maybe 4 ounces more than the more Spartan SUL gear lists, plus my choice of knife. IMHO, hiking without the essentials is foolish, particularly when hiking solo.


Buy why carry a knife specifically? It is part of my personal safety/survival gear, a repair tool, cooking gear, and I do consider it to be a self defense option. That said, I don't think it needs to be some massive Rambo chopper. I prefer a quality 3.5" folder with locking blade that weighs 3-4oz.

On a typical hike you would find me with a Victorinox Classic on my survival keyring and a Benchmade Griptilian clipped in my pants pocket. I carry the Griptilian daily, along with a Leatherman Style CS.

Other knife options I like:

Leatherman Micra
Victorinox Trekker one-hand opening
Victorinox Farmer (non-locking)
Victorinox Hiker (non-locking)
Victorinox paring knife (fixed blade)
Mora All Round (fixed blade)

Daniel Goldenberg
(dag4643)

Locale: Pacific Northwet
We don't need no stinkin' knives :) on 12/22/2010 09:52:39 MST Print View

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPk28DiIWPU

Ray Mears constructs a bowdrill set from scratch with no knife by knapping a stone!

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
ray mears on 12/22/2010 15:01:00 MST Print View

^ good idea but ray mears probably weighs close to 180 lbs, lighter to just carry the knife :)

John Devitt
(cabana) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
Re: re: Why a nife? on 12/22/2010 19:17:18 MST Print View

"I think the real issue comes to carrying equipment that is not used every time we hike. I carry some survival items with the great hope that I will *never* need to use them. In my case that would be a whistle, space blanket bivy, some alternate fire-starting options, back-up lighting, and some larger first aid items--- maybe 4 ounces more than the more Spartan SUL gear lists, plus my choice of knife. IMHO, hiking without the essentials is foolish, particularly when hiking solo."

+1 Dale. In the backcountry for multiple night trips is no place to be w/o a few key survival items and the skills that make them effective.

On the AT, I carried a spyderco ladybug. It was fine for the uses I needed a knife for. I was never very far from a town, road, or another hiker. I emergency items were just as compact for the same reasons.

When I started hiking in Colorado, I changed up my kit a bit. I learned from years of hiking that cold hands don't work well with folding knives, matches, small shelter bits, ect. I use a mora fixed blade, either my clipper or miki, most times it is a bit more than my needs but is great when way out from a town or another hiker. Heetsheet, fero rod, tinder, whistle, and chapstick w/sp are now standards in my kit. Even with these additions my pack for 5 days w/ 1 liter of water is only 20 - 25 lbs bepending on the time of year. Yeah, I know it isn't a light as some on here, but I can easily handle it and it offers very safe margins when the weather gets wacky.

At any rate... HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Regards,
John

jeffrey bennett
(jollygreen)

Locale: Near the bottom
"Why a knife?" on 12/23/2010 01:08:47 MST Print View

^ good idea but ray mears probably weighs close to 180 lbs, lighter to just carry the knife :)

Now that was funny!

I carry a 530.

John Devitt
(cabana) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
Re: "Why a knife?" on 12/23/2010 13:15:48 MST Print View

I missed that....that IS funny!!!