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how big of a knife do we really need (or how small of knife can we get by with)?
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Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
how big of a knife do we really need (or how small of knife can we get by with)? on 09/08/2013 18:25:30 MDT Print View

just got back from a two day trip in the Belts Mountains (Edith & Baldy Basins) and am happy to report that my tiny Swiss Army Classic was up to the task, which in addition to the usual- opening of food packaging, food prep, etc; I had no problems whatsoever cleaning fish and fowl

I wouldn't want to dress an elk out w/ it :), but for most backpacking duties it sure seems like it fits the bill

 photo cutthroat_zps4d2cd289.jpg

 photo bluegrouseampknife_zps3cedd672.jpg

 photo grousecleaned_zpsa6dd62a0.jpg

John S.
(jshann) - F
knife on 09/08/2013 19:12:59 MDT Print View

For some reason, maybe it's me, the image does not look like a swiss army "classic" (model) knife.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
how big of a knife do we really need (or how small of knife can we get by with)? on 09/08/2013 20:33:04 MDT Print View

Any better ?
SAK yellow

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
tiny knife... on 09/08/2013 21:10:57 MDT Print View

I too have a tiny knife. The biggest issue is leverage.

it would be interesting to take a tent stake and have it somehow screw into the handle of the knife so you have a larger hilt...

I have thought about just carrying a razor blade. However, in emergency situations a REAL knife can come in handy. You can make extra tent stakes from it, spears and improvised weapons for small game traps. I can't see myself doing that with a razor blade.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: tiny knife... on 09/08/2013 21:19:01 MDT Print View

"I have thought about just carrying a razor blade. However, in emergency situations a REAL knife can come in handy. You can make extra tent stakes from it, spears and improvised weapons for small game traps. I can't see myself doing that with a razor blade."

Gosh, I've never had to do any of that with a knife. I usually take a razor blade or a derma-safe. Sometimes a Classic SAK, and can confirm you can indeed clean a trout with it, fairly easy too. Could probably do it with a razor too.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: how big of a knife do we really need (or how small of knife can we get by with) on 09/08/2013 21:24:23 MDT Print View

Yeah but can you build a shelter, split a log, fight off a bear, and fell a redwood with it?

There are limits to what you can do with a tiny slipjoint knife, but most backpackers don't go beyond that. The limits are still there though.

Richard Cullip
(RichardCullip) - M

Locale: San Diego County
Not very big on 09/08/2013 21:37:20 MDT Print View

Put me in the razor blade camp. I've been knifeless over the past three years carrying only a single edged razor blade. In fact, the razor blade has been dead weight, albeit not much dead weight, since I have yet to use it. I guess I'm not finding any need to cut something on my recent back packing trips.

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
re on 09/08/2013 21:39:09 MDT Print View

Having a good knife that locks back is a huge safety thing. Razor blade is a hazard is you have to use it .

Mike In Socal
(rcmike) - MLife

Locale: California
Situational on 09/08/2013 22:20:18 MDT Print View

If all goes as planned, then a razor blade should do fine. However, I opt for a more capable knife depending on what else is in my kit. That might be a small lockblade or straight-blade knife (anything similar to a Fallkniven U2 or F1).

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Just watch the handle on 09/08/2013 22:22:46 MDT Print View

I'm less interested in the blade and more interested in the handle length. I don't like tiny handles if I'm doing serious cutting. Small handles are tiring and I'm concerned about slipping and cutting my hand.

Edited by Cameron on 09/08/2013 22:23:31 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Situational on 09/08/2013 22:24:57 MDT Print View

I bought a Buck sheath knife in the 70's. I bought a Classic SAK in the 80's. Razor blades are almost free. Bought a derma-safe a few years ago. All the money I have saved by not buying any other knives has gone into investments for retirement.

I have a few other knives that were given to me as gifts, but I don't use them. :)

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: knifes on 09/09/2013 00:10:59 MDT Print View

I hate cleaning fish/bird/squirrel guts out of the bowels of a folder. A little fixed blade is my preference.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
+1 on SAK. And on Paklites. And a potentially clever new idea. on 09/09/2013 01:22:12 MDT Print View

Mike, Thanks for the post - I've never gone so UL on a hunting or fishing trip, but it is helpful to know that an SAK Classic suffices.

Others: Mike's knife is an SAK Classic, but with an aftermarket, hi-vis orange plastic handle. I saw it in the R2R2R trip.

If I wash up on a distant beach (again) or get flushed down the river and need to feed myself, 1) I'm picking berries, edible plants and even bark before I chase down a Dall sheep or a black bear with a spear, and 2) I'm far more likely to land a fish, throw a rock at a ptarmigan or club a porcupine with a stick and have a gutting job more like Mike showed, than skinning out big game.

For actual big stuff, which I deal with a few times a year, I'm liking:

I got the version with the "black traction coating": 2.4 ounces in a very functional sheath and 1.3 ounces without. It is just as functional and vastly lighter as what most hunters carry with them.

I'm seeing more hunters use these replacement blades:

in knives designed for them. They get super-sharp blades instantly by popping in a new blade into the holder. But my UL and uber-cheap thought is that you could buy just the refill blades and use it like you would a razor blade, but as a whole lot more capable blade. There are several lengths of blades available from $0.80 to $3 each. If someone else would be interested in giving that a try, PM me with a snail mail address and I'll toss one in the mail. I don't have them in hand yet, but I'm guessing I'll belt-sand some finger grooves into the replacement blade and maybe paint a little plastic goo on the back side (the stuff you can dip tools into to form a handle around it).

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Fixed blade on 09/09/2013 04:39:20 MDT Print View

I prefer a fixed blade for ease of access when paddling and ease of cleaning when fishing.

The smallest blade that fits the bill is a titanium-carbide knife from Javan Dempsey that now travels with me everywhere for daily use. At about 0.2 oz, there's never a reason to leave it behind.

When a little more edge is needed, I like my bark river bravo necker. This weighs a hair more than the SAK, but not much.


Edited by Ike on 09/09/2013 07:31:48 MDT.

Phillip Asby
(PGAsby) - M

Locale: North Carolina
Interesting on 09/09/2013 07:29:25 MDT Print View

Nice to see that the classic - as noted - is capable of handling most jobs (if perhaps not elegantly).

I'm a bit of a knife knut so I typically have more knife with me than I need. I recently picked up a Zero Tolerance 0550 - which is a beautiful knife and my largest blade at 3.5". But it is one big honking knife - capable of serious duty but overkill for most backpacking trips I think. I mostly use 3" and under blades so this was a purchase intended to fill a gap of a larger blade and also check out the Hinderer design. It weighs 6.2 ounces and feels every bit of it.

I usually take a Benchmade mini griptilian - 2.56 ounces and really about perfect for most needs - 3" blade - excellent grip as the name suggests - axis lock is super solid. But arguably even that is a bit of overkill - but I camp with Boy Scouts and admit that I take a bit more blade than I need to assist with some rope cutting etc... when the kids show up with 100' of rope for a bear bag, etc... I could cut that with a classic but I really prefer a more substantial blade.

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Re: how big of a knife do we really need (or how small of knife can we get by with)? on 09/09/2013 10:52:14 MDT Print View

I'm sure most here all know but the classic also has a small file, screwdriver,scissors,toothpick and tweezers and the orange cord Mike added really helps keeps it and the photon that Mike also has on from getting lost as those are my most frequently lost items.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: re: knifes on 09/09/2013 17:45:22 MDT Print View

"I hate cleaning fish/bird/squirrel guts out of the bowels of a folder. A little fixed blade is my preference."

+ 1 back in my fishing days. Especially if there are bears around.

Daniel Collins
(Diablo-V) - M

Locale: Orlando FL
CS tool + boker anti-grav knife on 09/09/2013 21:27:21 MDT Print View

I will be carrying two knives.
The leatherman CS tool and for more serious knife-centric tasks, the 2.1 oz Boker.

Blade length: 3 1/4". Overall length: 7 3/4". Weight: 2.1 oz.Boker anti-Grav

Edited by Diablo-V on 09/09/2013 21:28:17 MDT.

And E
(LunchANDYnner) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
that's not a knife.... on 09/09/2013 23:18:49 MDT Print View

Really? Really? How has nobody posted this yet?


I have a light my fire (Mora) fire steel knife. It's nice and light and pulls double duty as emergency fire tool. Sometimes, just for fun, my fiancé or I will carry our Gerber Gator Jr machete for some overnighters.


en garde

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
YIKES! on 09/10/2013 11:39:46 MDT Print View

Do not EVER cheat on that (armed) woman!

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Ptarmigan on 09/10/2013 12:18:36 MDT Print View

Grouse and related don't need a knife. You just pull their little jammies off with your hands. The rest is similarly removed.

A razor blade works okay for trout.

That long fixed blade without handle reminds me of the blades used on my fabric knife. Razor sharp, I don't know what kind of sheath would hold up.

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
depends on what tne "need" is on 09/11/2013 10:49:38 MDT Print View

If you never forget your tent poles or stakes, and don't fish, your knife needs could be pretty small. Even with fishing, a SAK classic would suffice in a pinch. For the added utility and ease of use, I'm happy to carry a 2 oz Mora knife. What I am considering is also taking a ceramic knife for fish cleaning. A ceramic knife with a plastic handle is pretty darn light, but not up to cutting off willow branches to make a tent pole.

On a recent trip, we were in a public campground and had only large wedges of wood as firewood. We needed smaller pieces to make a fire, as the area has been picked clean of small wood. With the Mora knife we cut off flakes of wood off the bigger pieces by batoning, and made some pieces 1" thick from the 4 inch wedges of firewood. Later in the trip, when fish heads needed to be cut off before cooking, it was "hey, can I borrow your knife?" Way easier to do that with a Mora knife than a razor blade or SAK classic. Plus with a Mora knife one never feels that you don't want your nice clean expensive knife to get filthy. A Mora is a utility knife, costs around $20, and is highly functional.

Phillip Asby
(PGAsby) - M

Locale: North Carolina
Re: CS tool + boker anti-grav knife on 09/11/2013 13:56:32 MDT Print View

That Boker is sweet - curse you I just bought the titanium handled version...

The worst part is that I will worry about the ceramic blade and likely end up bringing another knife along as a backup...

Between that and almost always at least 2 lights - well - no wonder I am far from SUL despite my efforts to lighten up. Although I do still beat out most of the adults who go on our Scout trips! The guys who pack in Kingsford charcoal and a portable grill to cook dinner kind of set the bar at a whole other level.

Edited by PGAsby on 09/11/2013 13:58:55 MDT.

And E
(LunchANDYnner) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
segue on 09/11/2013 14:31:58 MDT Print View

Oh man, a charcoal grill eh? I would love to see a packable, UL backcountry smoker, although, as I'm allergic to fish so can't can't catch and smoke it, I'd have to pack in heavy meat or hunt a boar or something and hope I can eat the whole thing then and there.

Benjamin Meadors

Locale: Central Arkansas
ESEE Izula on 09/11/2013 14:55:58 MDT Print View

It's hard to beat the ESEE Izula at only 2 oz. I can baton wood and clean game with it. For a while, it was actually my everyday carry knife (belt clip). Micarta scales can be added for a better grip at the cost of another ounce I believe. I love modular items.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: ESEE Izula on 09/11/2013 15:03:49 MDT Print View

I'm also a fan of small neckers but I use the blind horse knives tiger knapp. You can beat the hell out of those things.

Desert Dweller

Locale: Wild Wild West
how small? on 09/11/2013 15:56:24 MDT Print View

I have lots of knives, but my favorite lately is this tiny leatherman. Perfect for BPL!itsy bitsy!

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Re: how small? on 09/11/2013 16:34:07 MDT Print View

What does the leather man weigh,it appears to have the same length but wider blade as a sak classic and smaller scissors lacks the toothpick and tweezers but stronger blade might be nice

Desert Dweller

Locale: Wild Wild West
leatherman weight on 09/11/2013 16:41:49 MDT Print View

.85 oz on my digital scale. I would not dress an elk out with it but that's what my Mora knives are for. its model #831219.

Edited by Drusilla on 09/11/2013 16:50:05 MDT.

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Re: leatherman weight on 09/11/2013 17:04:00 MDT Print View

Thank you that looks a bit stronger than the classic and a bit longer on the handle length. I will have to check one out.

John Coyle

Locale: NorCal
how big of a knife do we really need (or how small of knife can we get by with)? on 09/11/2013 17:49:27 MDT Print View

Naw, those aren't knives, this is a knife:

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: ESEE Izula on 09/11/2013 18:08:36 MDT Print View

Received one as a present. Beautiful knife!

smALL on 09/11/2013 20:20:43 MDT Print View

Ive taken a liking to a #11 xacto blade, 0.03oz

I cant imagine using it for anything but cutting dental floss, bear cord, moleskin, ducttape, or a food package.

howver, Im starting to think a scalpel with the plastic handle cut very short would be a nice option too.

wiiawiwb wiiawiwb
(wiiawiwb) - F
ESEE on 09/12/2013 13:54:03 MDT Print View

I'm never in the woods without my ESEE IZULA neck knife. Small and will get the survival job done. If alone on an overnight I'll also carry an ESEE-4.


robert van putten

Locale: Planet Bob
Gerber LST on 09/12/2013 17:31:35 MDT Print View

An-D, I loved those photos!

For me the smallest I’ll go is the Gerber LST ( the bigger version ).


It’s a heck of a knife and has served me well for a very long time as EDC and for backpacking.
I’m very impressed with what it can easily do, including field dressing a deer and light batoning. It’s also reasonably priced!

The swiss army classic is a great and very useful knife, but when I carried one backpacking it went in my backpack and my Gerber LST still rode in my pants pocket, I just couldn’t leave it behind.
My Classic has a G.I. P38 can opener on the key ring making it even more multipurpose. Typically it does toe nail and finger nail duty at the end of the day, or is broken out to open the rare can of tuna or what-not, and that’s about it, but I reckon it is a useful backup.
The Gerber gets used several times a day and is always close at hand in my pocket.

A knife I have just gotten this summer is the Wenger Evo 17.

This handy little tool has a nifty saw, scissors, a great nail file ( the main reason I got this knife over similar Victorinox offerings ) a locking main blade ( pretty cool on a swiss army knife ) in addition to the usual can opener, bottle opener/screw driver, crock screw ( essential since I drink wine ), awl, tooth pick and tweezers.

evo 17

I figured this knife has everything a backpacker could ever want, but it is slightly heavier than my old Gerber LST / Swiss Classic / P38 combo, and a little bulky in my pocket.
I’ve been carrying it alone on trips this summer. The nail file got used a very great deal it seems either my wife or I was always breaking a nail!
I’m still a little on the fence about it, part of me still prefers the slender-yet-very-robust-Gerber.

John Coyle, I find it interesting you brought up the one-handed GAK.
I also purchased a black handled version of that knife this summer, also with an eye towards backpacking, and am very impressed by it.
It’s heavy, but rides in a back pocket well. The saw is awesome and the blade locks very sturdily. I think this is an excellent choice for fieldcraft.

My wife has used a Victorinox Spartan for twenty years now. I’m pretty sure it was the first decent pocket knife she ever owned, and she has no complaints or desire to upgrade.

Edited by Bawana on 09/12/2013 17:32:59 MDT.