↞ Let's Talk Knives ↠

By Tara Moya-Mendez Becker, Girls Who Hike South Carolina Ambassador

Do you carry a knife with you while hiking or backpacking? If so, do you prefer a pocket knife or a multi-tool? Or do you opt for a fixed blade? I'm going to discuss pros/cons of an EDC (every day carry), the advantages of fixed blades, and what types of knives I prefer when out on the trails.

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Are knives a hiking/camping necessity?

Knives aren't listed as one of the Ten Essentials for some reason, but from my personal experience and preference, I completely argue that they are necessary! Knives come in handy in almost every scenario, whether that is opening food packages, splitting firewood, or (worst case scenario) fending off a predator. You've heard it a million times, but the quote "better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it" is always spot on when the topic is knives.

Everyday Carry - pocket knife or multi-tool?

The main difference of a pocket knife and a multi-tool is that the pocket knife is solely a blade, whereas the multi-tool has several individual 'tools' in one compact unit (most often with pliers). Which is better for the outdoors? That all depends on preference.  Below is a comparison list:

Pocket Knife:
Pros: lightweight, easy to carry, easy to use, quickly opens for use
Cons: lacks other tools

Pros: blade plus additional tools, more options
Cons: heavy, weighs down pack, bulky, takes more time to open each tool

I personally carry a pocket knife on most of my hiking/camping trips, usually my Boker Magnum Series 'Deep Blue' because it's super lightweight and easily portable. I recommend finding one that has a locking blade - this keeps the blade 'locked' open which tends to be safer in the sense that it won't close on your fingers while using it.


However, multi-tools can be useful in many ways as well. I really like having my Leatherman 'Skeletool' multi-tool whenever I'm car camping. The pliers help to handle pots that are too hot, and the screwdriver comes in handy for gear repair (ex. tighten loose trekking pole lock). It also has a built-in carabiner that doubles as a bottle opener, holla! Other multi-tools offer scissors which come in handy when trimming moleskin or hangnails. If you're creative enough, the uses are endless! 

Some great quality brands of pocket knives and multi-tools that my husband and I have used are Swiss Army, Sog, Boker, and Leatherman. Swiss Army in particular has a line of knives with a great combination of a knife and several small tools. They are still considered pocket knives, but don't have the bulkiness or weight of added pliers, while still offering some essential tools!


Let's switch the subject. Fixed blades - what are they and why I carry one

Fixed blades are knives that are non folding. They tend to be larger and stronger than EDCs, and are used for more severe duty and survival situations. I prefer a full tang knife opposed to a partial. On a full tang knife, the blade material extends the full length of the handle, ultimately making it stronger than a partial tang. I also recommend choosing a fixed blade made from quality materials.  You want high quality steel as well as a nice comfortable handle. Great reliable brands include Cold Steel, Ka-Bar, Sog, and Gerber (links to their websites will be listed below).

I carry a Gerber 'Big Rock' knife whenever I'm out on the trails. It's 4.5", partially serrated, and the handle feels super secure in my hand. I keep it in a sheathe until I need it. It comes in handy for splitting firewood for the campfire, bushwhacking through lesser maintained trails, and it gives me comfort knowing that if there was ever a threat, I wouldn't be caught helpless.


 Let's 'Cut' to the Chase

Hopefully, you learned a thing or two today about knives and their handiness in the wilderness. Whether you choose to carry a pocket knife or multi-tool, just a fixed blade, or all of the above, I hope this information was useful. Also, it should go without saying, but please follow the knife safety rules at all times. 

  1. Keep the knife closed or in a sheathe when not in use. 
  2. Walk, never run with it.
  3. Please don't throw the knife.
  4. Keep the knife sharp (a sharp knife is safer and less likely to slip and cut you).
  5. Always cut away from your person (cut towards your chum, not your thumb!).

General info:

Additional links:

Tara is the Ambassador for our South Carolina chapter. This blog was originally written on her personal website. You can join her local meet ups and discussions through the South Carolina chapter by clicking here.