Knife & Multi-tool Buyer’s Guide
“Give me a good knife and I’ll build a camp.” What brainy person said that? Well, actually, I just did.
And it’s true. With a good knife, it’s possible to take what nature provides and build shelter, obtain food, make a fire and collect water. Around camp, there is no other tool that is as useful as a knife — unless you count multitools with good knife blades. In this guide, we’ll take a look at a broad selection of knives and multi-tools that are on the market this year from some of America’s top companies.
The Activator ($130) is a beautiful fixed-blade knife with full-tang construction that features an overall length of 8.13 inches and a blade length of 3.63 inches. The D2 tool steel ensures great performance from the utility-style blade. Stabilized real wine-wood handle scales provide a comfortable grip and classy styling. The knife weight is right at 5 ounces, and it comes with a stitched-leather, belt loop-style sheath that has a snap-over strap to keep the knife secure.
Fully open, the Benchmade 930 Osborne Kulgera ($200) measures 8 inches in length, but closes to a compact 4.4 inches long. The 3.6-inch modified drop-point blade is made of S30V premium stainless steel and is equipped with ambidextrous dual thumb-studs for convenient one-hand opening. Weighing in at just 3 ounces, the Kulgera is light enough for everyday carry, is comfortable in the hand, and the reversible black nickel clip allows you to carry it on either side. The handle features a coated stainless-steel liner, capped by CNC milled black/blue G10 material, lending an exotic appearance. Benchmade: 800-800-7427, www.benchmade.com.
Its Model 770 FlashPoint ($52.50) folder is new to the family of Buck knives. Employing Buck’s SafeSpin technology, the slide-lock action is easy to open with one hand, even while wearing gloves. Once open, the blade locks solidly in place for safe use. The modified drop-point blade is 2 7/8 inches long and is partially serrated for extra cutting capability when needed. Along the top of the blade there are thumb grips to assist in safe handling. Made of Buck’s time-tested 420HC stainless steel, the corrosion-resistant hollow-ground blade holds an edge well. Lightweight, forged aluminum handles are anodized and equipped with rubberized tactile inserts. A special feature is the integrated carabiner and bottle opener. For easy carry, the 4-ounce FlashPoint has a removable/reversible belt clip. Overall length is 7.25 inches open and 4.5 inches closed. Buck Knives: 800-326-2825, www.buckknives.com.
Coast Cutlery’s Damascus Folder Model C244301 ($80) is a visually fascinating knife. The manufacture of Damascus steel is an ancient art that was once a secret of the Middle East sword makers. The blade material was made strong by repeatedly folding the steel upon itself to create multiple layers, resulting in the appearance of overlaid bands on the blade. Today this same technique can be used with stainless steel. The ancient art is employed in Coast’s Damascus stainless-steel drop point blade. Also great looking is the bead-blasted stainless-steel handle with Thuya wood overlay. Thuya wood, so named by the ancient Greeks, means “sacrifice” because they used oil distilled from this wood as an incense for their religious ceremonies. The Coast Damascus Folder measures 6.5 inches open and 3.75 inches closed. Coast Cutlery: 877-704-4545, www.coastportland.com.
Columbia River Knife & Tool
If you want a knife so small and lightweight you will barely notice you’re carrying it, take a look at the Minimalist Bowie ($30) designed by Alan Folts. The knife and sheath together weigh only about 2 ounces, and the overall length is 5.13 inches. Thanks to the unusual geometry of the full-tang blade, aided by three finger choils, friction grooves for the thumb, hand-contoured green-black Micarta scales and a braided fob, this knife with its 2.125-inch blade shaped in a classic hunting knife-style is functional for a wide variety of tasks. The Minimalist comes with a custom-fitted Zytel sheath and neck paracord for inverted carry as a neck knife. The knife is held securely in place by a positive detent that locks the base of the blade in place for maximum safety. Columbia River Knife & Tool: 800-891-3100, www.crkt.com.
The Gerber Metolius Pocket Folder ($48) is a thin, strong, everyday-carry knife designed with outdoor work in mind. Crafted from stainless steel for good balance and strength, the Metolius Pocket Folder features a TacHide handle inlay that delivers a secure grip in all conditions. A lanyard hole allows you to rig it with a line to prevent loss. The 3-inch, drop point blade exhibits a full fine edge that is easy to field sharpen. Thanks to the styling and low-rise pocket clip, the Metolius folder is perfect for discrete carry. Yet its 3-inch blade and stout construction at 4.7 ounces make it robust enough to be up to the task. Closed length is right at 4 inches and when open it measures 7 inches in length. Gerber: 800-950-6161, www.gerbergear.com.
While Leatherman is best known for its multitools, they offer some dandy folding knives as well. The Expanse e33L ($30) is a prime example of a lightweight and compact pocket knife that offers a little something extra — a carabiner clip and bot-tle opener. The 2.6-inch blade is made of 154CM stainless steel for what the company claims is almost three times the edge retention capability of regular stainless steel. The blade folds into the protection of a 60 percent glass-filled nylon and stainless-steel-reinforced handle for an overall length of 3.94 inches when closed. The Blade Launcher system and thumb stud permit easy one-handed opening to a position secured by a locking liner. A removable pocket clip provides for easy carry, and then there’s the carabiner and bottle opener for added convenience. Leatherman: 800-847-8665, www.leatherman.com.
When the folks at SOG developed the Aura Camping ($53) fixed blade, they studied the original bowie knife created by Rezin Bowie in 1838. Then they focused on issues of weight, ease of carry, safety and intuitiveness, and blended those design elements with utility, ergonomics and comfort. What they came up with is a classic knife that measures 10.95 inches overall with a 6-inch straight blade made of 7Cr13 stainless steel and honed to razor sharpness. Equipped with a glass-reinforced polymer handle that is overmolded with a pliable material for a slip-free grip, the Aura Camping weighs in at 8.6 ounces, including the carbide sharpener that hides inside the handle.
SOGzilla SP-21 — the name alone inspires visions of monstrous strength. SOGzilla ($49) is one of SOG’s new folding knives for 2011, and it measures 8.54 inches in overall length when open. The grip (available in a variety of colors) is a dual-directional plate that feels good in the hand, and the big-bodied 3.8-inch blade is made of 8Cr13MoV steel and features a new opening shape the likes of which has never been seen before. Steel liners make for robust construction, and a reversible low-carry clip keeps the knife safely in your pocket until you need it. SOG: 888-405-6433, www.sogknives.com.
The Spyderco Manix2 ($130) is a stealthy folding knife that when open measures 8 inches in length, with a 3 3/8-inch blade of Crucible 154-CM steel that is hollow ground and has aggressive thumb serrations. One of the special features is the ball bearing lock that consists of a free-floating ball bearing contained in a custom high-tech polymer cage. Inside the G-10 handle scales are dual steel liners, skeletonized to provide rigidity without excess weight. The pocket clip is reversible.
Custom knife maker Ed Schempp has a gift for co-mingling geographic and ethnic cutlery styles with 21st-century knife-making methods and modern steels. Comprised of graceful, sweeping lines, his Spyderco Persian Folder ($230) has red G-10 handle scales capped off with polished stainless bolsters and a 3 7/16-inch blade made of VG-10 steel. Finger indents on the handle’s underside position your grip on the handle in a way that translates into comfort and cutting control. The Eastern-influenced blade has a full-curved belly, ending in a graceful upswept tip. The prominent hump above the Spyderco Round Hole creates a leveraging platform welcoming the thumb for easy one-handed opening. Spyderco: 800-525-7770, www.spyderco.com.
The legendary maker of the Swiss army knife presents a new entry into its product line. The Climber Road Tour ($40) joins the On The Road Collection. The knife sports an assemblage of tools that includes a large knife blade, small blade, can opener integrated with a small screwdriver tip, bottle opener integrated with a large screwdriver tip and a wire stripper, spring-loaded scissor, reamer with a sewing eye, corkscrew, hook, toothpick, set of tweezers and a key ring. That’s a lot of tools, and I’m tempted to put this in the multi-tool section, but by Swiss army standards it’s really just a well-outfitted knife. Victorinox Swiss Army Knives: www.swissarmy.com.
Multi-tools are the ultimate utility gadgets for outdoor enthusiasts. In one handy item, you get the benefits of a knife, screwdrivers, pliers, sometimes a saw blade or scissors, and more. Unless I need a combination wrench or a socket set, rather than rummaging through the chaos of a toolbox, I usually reach for my multitool for most small jobs.
Coast Cutlery has come up with a truly useful innovation for its LED Multitool ($50). Two LED lights illuminate the work area directly in front of the pliers or the knife blade or variety of other tools that pivot out from the opposite end of the handle. The assortment of tools includes scissors, a Phillips screwdriver and two flat-blade screwdriver tips. There’s also a can opener equipped with yet another screwdriver tip tucked into the handle. The multi-tool is manufactured of 440c stainless steel for corrosion resistance. The knife blade is partially serrated for effective cutting of rope. Pliers are spring-loaded for easy one-handed operation of the gripping surface or the integral wire cutter. The handles have a chrome finish for great looks and durability, and rubber inlays for sure grip. Power for the lights comes from a pair of CR1616 batteries (included). This multi-tool measures 4 inches long closed and comes with a sheath. Coast Cutlery: 877-704-4545, www.coastportland.com.
Columbia River Knife & Tool
The Flux ($59) multi-tool doesn’t look like your everyday multitool. This unusual tool is egg-shaped and looks like it has a hole in each end. Actually, those holes are carabiner clips that allow the tool to be quickly attached to a belt loop or a line on other items of equipment. (Note: Flux carabiners are non-weight-bearing and must not be used as a climbing aid.) Two chassis are available: one with dual rails that will hold any two Flux tools, and one with a single rail that provides a carabiner for any single Flux tool. For example, the GoWork Pack (Flux Knife and Flux Hex Driver) is a useful work tool combination, both indoors and outdoors, providing the benefits of a 2.25-inch clip point knife blade and an assortment of hex drivers. Using the Flux system, lightweight tools are easy to select and carry for any activity. Just “pick and click” the tool you need. The overall weight is 3.8 ounces, and length is 4.25 inches. Columbia River Knife & Tool: 800-891-3100, www.crkt.com.
Not everyone wants or needs a multitool with a bazillion functions, and for those folks who are more prone to a minimalist philosophy without scrimping on quality there is the Gerber Crucial F.A.S.T. ($75). This is an update of the Crucial tool, one of Gerber’s most popular multitools ever. The Crucial F.A.S.T. retains all the style and functionality of the original but adds the patented Forward Action Spring Technology that assists in launching the components. According to the company, this is the first and only pocket tool available with assisted-opening blade technology, offering maximum utility in a minimalist package. Compact and lightweight, Crucial F.A.S.T. weighs 5.8 ounces and is equipped with pliers, pinch-style wire cutters, a flat-head screwdriver, a half-serrated blunt-tip blade, a cross driver and a bottle opener. All components are equipped with liner locks. Overall length is 5.8 inches and the closed length is 4.8 inches. Gerber: 800-950-6161, www.gerbergear.com.
Bristling with components, the Leatherman Blast ($60) multi-tool is loaded with the most requested features. Longer 3-inch blades for the largest tools mean easier slicing, sawing and filing. Zytel inserts in the stainless-steel handle provide a secure and comfortable grip. New designs for the handles and pliers help the Blast sustain more than double the squeezing load of the original PST. The assortment of components include a 3-inch-long 420HC clip point knife, needle-nose pliers, regular plier jaws, a regular wire cutter as well as a hard-wire cutter, a wire stripper, three screwdriver tips (small flat, large flat and Phillips), a small bit driver and a set of bits (Phillips and flat eyeglass screwdriver tips), scissors, a wood/metal file, an aggressive saw, a bottle opener, a can opener and a lanyard ring. All the blades and tools lock open when in use. A black oxide version is available, and you have the choice of a leather or nylon sheath. Leatherman: 800-847-8665, www.leatherman.com.
OK, so you’re looking for something small and lightweight in a multitool? Maybe something you can carry in a pocket or purse without having to hang it from your belt? Take a peek at the SOG Micro ToolClip model TC-01 ($20). This is the newest, and perhaps coolest, member of the SOG multi-tool family. It’s a collection of small pocket tools brought together in functional fashion. The Micro ToolClip is a formidable compact tool with pliers that has the precision to cut paper, the power to cut wire, and the determination to grip screws and not let go. It does it all with a spring return for easy operation. The rest of the component package includes a knife blade, two screwdrivers and a file. Its overall length is 3.75 inches and it tips the scales at a mere 3 ounces. SOG: 888-405-6433, www.sogknives.com.
From the maker of the Swiss army knife comes the new SwissTool Spirit Road Tour ($164) multi-tool with an overall length of 4.13 inches and a collection of components sufficient to qualify as a rollaway tool chest. Well, OK, maybe not. But it’s still an impressive inventory. There are needle-nose pliers, wire cutters, a strong crate opener, screwdriver tips in three sizes, a scissor, an etched spear-tip blade, a metal file, a wood saw, a metal saw, a reamer, a chisel/scraper, a wire insulation-length cutter, a wire bender, a wire stripper/scraper, a round cutter, a can opener, a multipurpose hook, coupling for a corkscrew, a hand wire cutter, a lanyard hole, 10 individual springs and a lock release. And the SwissTool Spirit Road Tour comes with a special edition pouch. Victorinox Swiss Army Knives: www.swissarmy.com.