is a knife a non-essential item?
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Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Knife for water on 08/28/2014 10:06:39 MDT Print View

Justin pondered, "What does ice do to a knife edge?"

It makes it cold :)

I would worry more about bending the point and would lean to a thicker, blunter profile if that was a primary use. With reasonable care, I wouldn't be too worried about it. Sounds like a good job for a Mora.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
is a knife a non-essential item? on 08/28/2014 10:21:06 MDT Print View

Not going to get in if a knife is needed or not. I do know *I* use a knife/scissors pretty frequently on trips...even if it something as simple as opening up a package of food.

I carry a SAK classic on me at all times and actually the use scissors pretty frequently.

On this little key ring, I also have a p51 can opener and a small orange photon light.
http://www.pmags.com/light-versatile-and-cheap-the-p38-and-p51-can-openers


About 1 oz. Don't really think about it. Provides much utility both on trail and in daily life. (I opened up a package from Amazon with the p51 last night!)

Not sure what it says about me..but it DOES work for me. ;)

Edited by PaulMags on 08/28/2014 10:23:42 MDT.

Mitchell Ebbott
(mebbott) - F - M

Locale: SoCal
Re: is a knife a non-essential item? on 08/28/2014 10:58:34 MDT Print View

Thanks for that tidbit, Paul! I just replaced the striker for my firesteel with a p51 I had lying around. It strikes just as well, and the weight difference is negligible for the extra utility.

I've normally kept the blade on the can opener taped down until I need it. I feel like if I don't, it'll rip a hole in something. But I noticed you just let the blade flop loose. Am I just being paranoid?

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: Re: Re: Knife for water on 08/28/2014 11:01:13 MDT Print View

"What does ice do to a knife edge?"

Probably not much, but all the grit and sand in the ice will do a number on the edge...

billy

Doug Smith
(Jedi5150) - F - M

Locale: Central CA
Knife on 08/28/2014 11:23:29 MDT Print View

I recently spent an evening around a campfire with a group of coworkers and the knife discussion came up. One of the guys had a big 1/4" thick, 7" blade survival style knife and we had loads of fun giving him crap about it. His response was one of pure shock that we all didn't have our own 7" blade bowie knives. He said, "I thought everyone brought a knife camping". We then spent the next couple hours at the campfire watching him baton firewood into smaller firewood, make fire-bows, etc. In short, his knife provided a lot of entertainment for about 15 people for an evening. :) On a serious note, he'd also done a lot of survival studying and practice, and if you were in a real wilderness emergency, would be the kind of guy to have along. He liked to think outside the box.

I think in our day of cuben fiber tarps and freeze-dried, vacuum packed meals, it is harder for us to imagine the uses of a knife for survival. Less than 100 years ago, when jogging to your car for a bail-out of the mountains wasn't an option, a knife was an essential part of survival. I think that is the key to whether a knife is "essential" or not. Can it be replaced with other items in the event you do need it?, and how likely is it that you'll need it.

Personally, I like a small knife as it is one of the most "multipurpose" items in my kit. I thought that's one of the things we try to go for in BPL, is having items that serve more than one purpose. It came in super handy for me when I needed to use a flint striker because my Bic lighter was frozen, when I needed to cut cord, or make kindling, etc. And yes, I use it to clean my fingernails and dig out splinters, pop blisters, cut bandaging materials. None of those are theoretical uses, those are all things I've done with a knife on camping trips.

The answer is different for all of us, since we have different styles and needs. An item for protection alone, like a firearm, can be tough for me to justify; It is solely based on a highly unlikely scenario, weighs quite a bit, and is a single purpose item. A knife, on the other hand, has a multitude of uses, is lighter weight, and is a super easy answer for me.

Some folks snicker at the "over prepared" hikers who plan for worst case scenario. For me it is a balancing act of emergency preparedness, comfort, and light weight. I think that going to either extreme can be a bad idea. If you're one of the lucky folks who have never needed better raingear, a sturdier tent or pack, a knife, or a first aid kit in the back country, then I'm genuinely happy for you. Many of us are in the same boat. Many, but not all. After spending the past 16 years on SAR, I have met my share of folks who suffered from having too minimalist a strategy. ;)

Edited by Jedi5150 on 08/28/2014 11:32:02 MDT.

Matt Dirksen
(NamelessWay) - MLife

Locale: Mid Atlantic
Re: Re: Re: is a knife a non-essential item? on 08/28/2014 11:46:24 MDT Print View

Do you need any kind of first aid kit for your trip?

If so, how much of one?

Same goes with the knife.

Of course if you are not alone, perhaps bring one to share so there's no redundancy.

like the compass.

Just because I didn't use it doesn't mean I didn't need to have it along.

Stephen Murphy
(sjtm) - F
Wants vs needs on 08/28/2014 11:55:59 MDT Print View

I like my Mora.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
is a knife a non-essential item?" on 08/28/2014 12:59:31 MDT Print View

At least on my p51, the blade is not floppy and seems to stay still. Some people suggest using a paper clip to hold it in place otherwise.

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: is a knife a non-essential item? on 08/28/2014 13:02:57 MDT Print View

For those who don't think a knife is an essential item, how would you deal with the following scenarios without a knife?

1. You're in a forested area. High temperatures are in the upper 30's (F/slightly above freezing). It's been raining nearly constantly for 4 days, and continues to rain. While attempting a stream crossing, you slip and have to jettison your pack in order to prevent drowning in the dangerously swift water. You're now soaked and shivering with only the clothes you were wearing and the gear you were carrying on person. How do you warm up?

2. You awaken suddenly to find that the only entrance to your tent is engulfed in flames because your companion was careless with the stove in the vestibule while making breakfast.

[Edited to clarify: "gear you were carrying *on person*" and 30's *F*]

Edited by AndyF on 08/28/2014 13:09:44 MDT.

William Chilton
(WilliamC3) - MLife

Locale: Antakya
Re: Re: is a knife a non-essential item? on 08/28/2014 13:23:44 MDT Print View

1. By avoiding the situation.
2. By avoiding the situation.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Scenerios on 08/28/2014 13:23:50 MDT Print View

1. You're in a forested area. High temperatures are in the upper 30's (F/slightly above freezing). It's been raining nearly constantly for 4 days, and continues to rain. While attempting a stream crossing. . .

I was doing that last month (see Manfred's Trip Report, I'm in one shot from the first day) and going back solo was more edgy than going out as one of four. Not for the 40-odd frigid river crossings on the return, but for the one really large river crossing.

Answer: a mini-Bic and some wax paper. That and other helpful stuff is always in my PFD for exactly that sort of occurrence.

2. You awaken suddenly to find that the only entrance to your tent is engulfed in flames

Answer: There would an impromptu seam-strength test. I might not win against a trad 4-season tent, but I could shred a UL tent. Honestly, when I do bring a knife (which is usually), I don't sleep with it.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Scenerios on 08/28/2014 13:31:09 MDT Print View

David, in your first scenario a knife would help as well for fire starting. Find a large tree branch that is mostly sheltered, break it off, and split it down a bit to get dry (or dryish) pieces.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Re: is a knife a non-essential item? on 08/28/2014 13:36:21 MDT Print View

"1. By avoiding the situation.
2. By avoiding the situation."

How would you avoid the situations?

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Scenerios on 08/28/2014 13:44:28 MDT Print View

Justin: I would definitely go for the driest branches low on the tree. I find they snap off just fine (of the Black Spruce we have up here). I agree that a serious knife could be helpful, but for me, I'd rather not rely on hundreds of splitting/batoning operations with a sharp knife and trembling hands. When I last had that situation (15 years ago when my wife dumped her kayak on ocean-beach landing), I just piled driftwood over the stove until the wood was burning well and then extracted the stove. It wasn't elegant and it wasn't the "one-match" teepee/log cabin fire my scoutmaster taught us, but it was a roaring blaze very quickly.

Knives are multi-purpose.

So are wax paper, a stove, stove fuel, and hand sanitizer. Even synthetic clothing in a pinch.
"Better living through Chemistry" -DuPont.

If I packed a wood-burning stove or when I plan on a small campfire, I bring a small pull saw before I bring a medium or big knife.

But to each their own.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Re: Re: is a knife a non-essential item? on 08/28/2014 13:47:22 MDT Print View

"1. By avoiding the situation."

How would you avoid the situations?

Read Manfred's Brooks Range trip report. Sometimes, the right response is to change plans.

But yeah, stuff happens. Good to have a plan, a back-up plan, and the skills to make it happen.

William Chilton
(WilliamC3) - MLife

Locale: Antakya
Re: Re: Re: Re: is a knife a non-essential item? on 08/28/2014 13:48:46 MDT Print View

I wasn't really being serious, but backpacking always carries some risks. We have to assess how real (probable) those risks are for a particular trip and how far we are prepared to go to mitigate them. For the trips I do, the odds of either of AndyF's situations coming about are extremely low and though I carry a knife, it isn't in case 1. or 2. happens. (It's unlikely I'd get to my knife in time for scenario 2, in any case.)
I have a friend who often asks for advice (not backpacking related) who always counters any suggestion with, "But what if...", which taken to the logical limit makes any solution impossible. Your post reminded me of this a little.

Edited by WilliamC3 on 08/28/2014 13:55:59 MDT.

William Chilton
(WilliamC3) - MLife

Locale: Antakya
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: is a knife a non-essential item? on 08/28/2014 13:54:19 MDT Print View

David, I'm not saying that those situations don't happen, but Andy said, "For those who don't think a knife is an essential item, how would you deal with the following scenarios without a knife?"
Those 2 scenarios are avoidable on many trips, so a knife may not be essential on all trips.

Andrew U
(anarkhos) - M

Locale: Colorado, Wyoming
Re: Re: Re: Scenerios on 08/28/2014 14:00:40 MDT Print View

How would a knife help you build a fire if all your fire starting gear got swept downstream with your pack?

I liked the first response. 'Avoid the Situation.'

Most every life and death situation I have ever read about seems to have been in some shape or form the cause of ill preparation and recklessness.

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Scenerios on 08/28/2014 14:02:44 MDT Print View

David, that's pretty good, but I'm skeptical about:

1. wax paper catching wood on fire which has been soaked for many days

2. being able to break branches off to get sufficient inner dry wood

3. whether the Bic would work after being soaked

4. wearing a PFD device while backpacking in case someone presents a scenario like this (just kidding, I know what you meant)

jimmy b
(jimmyb) - F
BPL always satisfies on 08/28/2014 15:29:42 MDT Print View

BPL always satisfies and fills that spot for a virtual journey from question to almost any abstract hypothetical :)

Maybe time to real it in a little. Let me remind all of what they know already and that is the tool between your ears will be the ONLY single tool that will save you when it hits the fan. No one piece of gear will save your bacon. Make sure the tool between your ears is the sharp one. You can have all the appropriate equipment for survival on board and if you have ever seen anyone panic you would know it quickly goes out the door real fast.

I contemplate hypotheticals inwardly all the time. It entertains the what ifs but if I sit at home going over the hypotheticals and I come to the conclusion that a certain piece of gear is going to aid/save me in a particular scenario Murphy will assuredly lend a hand in me leaving that piece of gear behind. I really have to have complete, or near as I can muster, faith in my ability to problem solve. Then there is the stark reality that some real life incidents simply cannot be overcome and that's when even the best of the best don't make it home.

jimmyb