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Ultralight knives and multi tools?
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Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Ultralight knives and multi tools? on 02/27/2007 17:28:44 MST Print View

I'm doing some research on ultralight knives and multi tools. The options are endless, so I'm looking for some feeback: how much weight do you or would you invest in a multi-tool or knife?

Steve .
(pappekak) - F

Locale: Tralfamadore
Re: Ultralight knives and multi tools? on 02/27/2007 17:34:15 MST Print View

Personally, I would go for about 1 ounce max for a multi-tool.

I have a Leatherman Micro that comes in at 1.75 ounces, but the scissors aren't very good. A better option for scissors would be a Wenger Esquire:

The lightest weight knife, aside from a razer blade, I've seen is the one reviewed by Mike Clelland:

Jaiden .
(jaiden) - F
Re: Re: Ultralight knives and multi tools? on 02/27/2007 18:17:13 MST Print View

I found a nice little one at walmart for around $12. It's in the fishing section. I have no idea how much it weighs, but it's quite well built. There is one with scissors instead of pliers, but I have the other one, which seemed to be of higher quality. I forget the brand, but it wasn't noname iirc.

Steve .
(pappekak) - F

Locale: Tralfamadore
Re: Re: Re: Ultralight knives and multi tools? on 02/27/2007 18:18:48 MST Print View

Jaiden, thanks I'll have to take a look at the pliers version. Been looking for light pliers for fishing.

Benjamin Tomsky
(btomsky) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Ultralight knives and multi tools? on 02/27/2007 18:21:11 MST Print View

I own more knives than I would like to admit, some of which I bring backpacking. ;-)

Recently, I've been asking myself the same question you pose, Dale, trying to figure out what is the lightest I can bring for SUL trips. I didn't start with a set figure as you have in mind; I just weighed all my knives and used that as my basis for my decision making.

What I actually bring on a backpacking trip depends on more than just weight. Mostly, I consider the intended use, with the biggest factor being whether or not I plan to clean/gut fish. Regardless, I really don't go for the micro-knife or razorblade thing, but prefer something that has at least a 2 inch blade. I guess this is more philosophical and aesthetic than practical. All that said, I don't think there is any reason to carry more than 1.5 oz for a really good knife. Less than 1 oz is easily attainable.

To aid your search, here are the knives I have been using on backpacking trips lately, with weights in oz:
Spyderco Jester - 0.6
Boker ceramic folder - 0.8
Opinel folder - 1.2
Benchmade teather (w homemade sheath) - 1.4
Benchmade Benchmite auto - 1.4
Chris Reeve Mnandi - 1.5
Benchmade Salmon Creek filet - 1.7
Benchmade Mel Purdue Axis folder - 1.8

So, maybe that will give you a few more to consider. Lemme know if you have any questions on any of these.

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
re: Ultralight knives and multi tools? on 02/27/2007 18:42:31 MST Print View

A knife, like any tool, should be selected based on what you will and might do with it.

If you're just going to cut open freeze-dried food packages and pierce blisters, a scalpel blade in a home-made UL handle is all you need. Or a leatherman micra or other keychain knife; these are light, durable, and always on you.

If you're trained (or not trained) in survival and bush craft, you may well stake your life on your knife if everything else goes to you-know-what in a handbasket. Building shelter and collecting firewood can be done in a fraction of the time if you have a decent (not necessarily large) blade on a full-thickness handle. Also dressing game, building traps, fashioning splints for tent poles, building a litter, extricating someone from an accident scene, opening clothing around an injury, making an emergency exit in a tent in bear country, the list goes on.

Further, if you're separated from your pack in a river or an avalanche or a bear emergency, your knife is one of the few methods of life support that you'll probably still have on you.

The less gear I carry, the more I pay attention to my knife and my survival kit (and skills.) I've never had to use them and I'm sure I never will, but you'd have to either kill me or kiss me to get me away from them...

(jhaura) - F

Locale: Trail
Re: Ultralight knives and multi tools? on 02/27/2007 19:08:28 MST Print View


For a nice ~1.5 oz knife there are three that I like:

Al Mar Falcon Ultralight or Hawk UL

Kershaw LFK (super sharp blade)

A.G. Russell Featherlite Series (check out the ones with ATS-34 Steel, very high quality tough steel)

Edited by jhaura on 02/27/2007 19:11:15 MST.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Ultralight knives and multi tools? on 02/27/2007 19:13:09 MST Print View

I've been carrying a Trango Pirahna with me. It weighs a scant 19g (0.7 oz), locks in place and opens with one hand.

Jason Smith
(JasonS) - MLife

Locale: Northeast
Re: Ultralight knives and multi tools? on 02/27/2007 19:24:26 MST Print View

I have been using the sog cross grip as a multi tool. The knife part is not great but its the lightest multitool at 2 ounces that I haven't been able to break. My leatherman squirt broke on its first day, and broke a leatherman PST-II as well, using the PST-II as a hammer, so I am not easy on tools. I carry multitool as I have found pliers usefull on trail on more than once occasion.

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Ultralight knives and multi tools? on 02/27/2007 19:24:34 MST Print View

For about 10 years I have been carrying a Buck Mini Multi-Tool. I can find a photo of the beast but no factory specs. It has pliers and scissors, as well as small blade screw driver/bottle opener, nail file/cleaner, drop point blade, smaller blade/phillips screw driver and a rather poor tweezer. On the outside of one handle it has 1/8" tick marks to 1.5". On the other handle it has a metric scale to 50mm. It's weight is 1.09 oz. on my jewelers scale. Folded, it measures 2.5"x5/8"x5/16". I carry it in my first-aid kit. The most useful items are the pliers and scissors. If one was offered in titanium I'd probably spring for it. The pliers have been useful for repairing gear on the trail and the scissors are mostly used in first-aid and equipment repair. Though I don't use it very often it works very well when needed.

Minibuck Tool
Buck Knives Minibuck Tool Model 350

Edited by redleader on 02/27/2007 19:31:03 MST.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Ultralight knives and multi tools? on 02/27/2007 19:35:58 MST Print View

Nice selection of tools, Ben.

I'm of a mind that there are plentiful options for small lightweight knives and multi-tools. IMHO, it's not neccessarily a question of the absolute lightest tool, but the most bang for the ounce.

If you check some of the knife forums, there are people who think a 7" blade that is 1/4" thick and 20oz is neccessary if you go into the woods, in fact many consider that to be on the small side! Given that a lot of those guys are hunters, it is a whole different mindset than an ultralight thru-hiker who takes only a Swiss Army Classic. This jumps right to the core of the take-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink vs the Spartan ultralight philosphies. I just read a thread on another forum where a guy is convinced that he needs a shotgun or high caliber rifle to safely camp in the Adirondaks. Several cooler heads told him to buy a can of bear spray and practice good camp hygiene (thank God). Ray Jardine pointed out that a fear of nature is what motivates many people to carry heavier gear. The guy camping with a shotgun is a perfect example.

What I'm researching is how much of your base load will you allot to multi-tools or knives.

Some hold that you need a larger knife, hatchet or saw in order to be survival safe, in the event you need to build an emergency shelter or use batoning techniques (hitting a blade with a stick) to cut larger diameter wood for fire building and the like.

Another tangent on this subject involves leave no trace practices. Some camping styles lean toward "bushcraft" and building shelters and campfires which runs up against leave no trace concepts headlong, IMHO.

I think lighting makes a good parallel and removes some of the emotional impact of big knives. From what I gather, Scott Williamson did the PCT nine times using micro led lights for his only lighting source. I didn't identify what he took in the way of tools or knives, but obviously Williamson is not threatened by nature!

First aid kits are another good parallel. Some call a ziplok with a few bandaids and some moleskin a first aid kit while others might be carrying battle compresses and suture kits.

So what is your weight allocation for tools and/or knives?

While we're on the subject, does anyone know what Ryan Jordan and crew took for tools while hiking in Alaska?

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Bucklite Mini on 02/27/2007 19:50:24 MST Print View

Thanks for mentioning the Bucklite Mini, Dennis.

For some reason Buck discontinued the mini. I have one and I think it is the best compromise with priority to pliers. The Leatherman Micra is the best with priority to scissors. To complete this round robin, the middle-sized Swiss Army knives win for best with priority to cutting blade.

Wayne Kraft
(WayneKraft) - F
knives on 02/27/2007 21:45:00 MST Print View

For a long time I just carried a Victorinox Classic. Hey, Ray Jardine says it's all you'll ever need! Knife, scissors, screw driver, tweezers, nail file and tooth pick and you can pick them up cheap on ebay. I've bought them by the dozen and given them away as gifts.

Then one day a backpacker, carrying a pack that approached 50% of her body weight, attempted to cross a flooded stream in my own stomping grounds, was swept down river trapped beneath her heavy pack and drowned. I got to thinking: Suppose i'd been there, what could I have done to help? I don't think one person alone could have pulled her and her heavy pack out with the strong current pushing against her. You'd need to slice through the waist band, sternum strap and maybe the shoulder straps pronto. I didn't think my little Classic would be up to it and I started looking for an alternative.

I finally settled on a fixed blade Mora knife with a plastic handle. Number 511 on this website:

It is not nearly as light as some of the alternatives. I haven't weighed it, but the website lists it as 3.5 oz with the plastic sheath. I'm pretty sure you could save an ounce at least with a home made sheath, but it is still a pretty substanial weight investment. I've taken it with me on a couple of trips, but still haven't decided if it is a permanent fixture in my kit.

The only downside I can see is the weight. The knife is sharp and easily sharpened. With the fixed blade and plastic handle, it is nearly indestructible. I can use it as a hatchet by hitting the thick side of the blade with a piece of green wood. It can perform many tasks instantly that would take much longer with a smaller blade and the hilt guard makes it safer to use.

I like carrying the knife because it seems, at least, like a tool I could use effectively in many situations, but realistically, I haven't actually yet used it for anything my little Classic couldn't have easily accomplished as well and I haven't really identified any other items I could leave at home because I'm carrying this excellent knife. The jury's still out.

Jason Smith
(JasonS) - MLife

Locale: Northeast
Re: knives on 02/27/2007 21:58:48 MST Print View

I'd love to have the sissors on the Buck mini. What is the durability like, I mean as long as I don't use it for a hammer. If you have been carrying it for 10 years sounds like its pretty good.

Edited by JasonS on 02/27/2007 22:01:46 MST.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Buck mini quality on 02/27/2007 22:48:02 MST Print View

The Buck mini is made of a good grade fo stainless. Buck has been know for 420c steel and that would be my bet. Fit and finish are first rate. What is hard to gauge is the scale of this tool-- it is tiny.

Bladematrix claims to have a few they found in stock. I know nothing of them, so the usual caveats:

Here's some photos in my hand so you can get a sense of the scale
Minibuck 350

Minibuck 350

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Buck mini durability on 02/27/2007 23:09:34 MST Print View


This is a quality piece of gear but... as Dale says "it's tiny". This is not the knife that will cut the pack off the drowing woman. If you're going light and need a reasonable pair of pliers and a fair excuse for scissors, it will get you through and, if treated well, most likely will not break down. As Dale says, it's the best compromise with priority to pliers. I lead groups of beginning backpackers and am occasionally called upon to operate on equipment. The pliers are the best light weight versions I've come across. The scissors just are "ok", as is the knife blade. I carry a small, two blade Buck knife in my pocket and the MIni rides in my first-aid kit. I only take it out for specific use. As you can see, the Mini's handles won't provide a comfortable grip and so you probably won't be pulling them out every time you want to cut something. Or maybe you would.

Edited by redleader on 02/27/2007 23:10:10 MST.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Ultralight knives and multi tools? on 02/27/2007 23:25:29 MST Print View

Most of the time the only knife I take is the knife that is always in my pocket, a Victorininox Rambler which is a lot like the tiny "Classic" except that it has a decent philips head blade. The blade is adequate (though a bit short) for the food prep I do, I can cut through light rope when needed, the scissors are easier to use than a blade when trimming duct tape which I use to prevent / treat blisters, I can manage my nails using the scissors and nail file, and the flat head and Phillips head screw drivers are useful when I need to tighten up various items. If I am doing a lot of food preparation which needs a knife I take either a Benchmade 530 or an Opinel folding knife. If I am going significantly off the beaten path I take an ancient fixed blade air force survival knife. Personally I think multi-tools are typically not particularly useful in the back country.

For a list of other knives I would recommend checking out:

Edited by verber on 02/27/2007 23:30:53 MST.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: moras as trail knives on 02/27/2007 23:34:48 MST Print View

Wayne Kraft said: ".........I finally settled on a fixed blade Mora knife with a plastic handle......"

Wayne, I didn't name a knife as I was looking for weights, but I'll digress here :)

IMHO, the mora is the most knife for the weight and money. 3.5oz is quite bearable for a tool with the qualities of the mora. They are made as work knives and are tough, light, cheap, and they perform. I bought a Frosts of Sweden stainless steel model with sheath last week at Seattle Marine Supply for a whopping $7.90. They make plain carbon steel models too. I don't think you will save much weight on the sheath and the stock sheaths are part of the mora-aura for me. You can have custom Kydex ones made for about $20, but the weight won't change much.

Anyway, I think a small multi-tool like the Swiss Army Classic, Leatherman Micra, or the Minibuck along with the mora will take you a long ways. Add a "commando" wire saw (see and you have a survival tool suite.

If you guys want to go mora, here's the Godfather of Mora Web Sales:

Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Re: Ultralight knives and multi tools? on 02/28/2007 03:33:07 MST Print View

I invest a 100 grams into my Victorinox Altimeter. This isn't based on any weight decisions.

I bought my first Victorinox when I was 12. It was the Huntsman model that has all the basic functions plus scissors and a wood saw. Than the Altimeter came out that is basically the same as the Huntsman with the adition of an altimeter, pen and needle. So I had to have that one. If Victorinox would make the same model with the adition of the lighter function I'd probably buy that so I can use my knife to light my stove.

I've had a Victorinox on me for 14 years. I feel naked without it. Although I could buy a simpeler (thus lighter) version to lighten my skin out weight, I won't. That's how much I am attached to my knife. Besides, I wouldn't like to leave the pen of my Altimeter at home. That's what I use for journal writing.


Edited by EinsteinX on 02/28/2007 03:34:51 MST.

Douglas Hus
(Hustler) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
Ultralight knives and multi tools? on 02/28/2007 06:22:39 MST Print View

Curious, do we / you use a multi-tool or a knife?
or both?

(assuming we are using the lightest weight tool / knife, available)