On Camp: You Need a Pocket Knife

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Regardless of whether you’re using it on a camping trip or just around the house, a pocket knife is hands down one of the Most Important Gadgets you can own. You can do so many things with it: slice cheese, open bottles or even carve the perfect stick for toasting marshmallows. They were the app for that before there was an app for that!

In general, pocket knife blades are smaller than regular knife blades for convenience and transportability. For the most part, the blade will be between 2″ and 4″ long. This may not be a long or strong enough blade if you want to do something like field dress an elk, but if your goals are more along the lines of cutting ropes and vegetables, you should be just fine. Manufacturers use all kinds of materials–from aluminum to wood to bone — to make the handle and all your favorite metals (think carbon and stainless steel) for the blades.

You have so many options at your fingertips when shopping for a knife, so narrowing down what you might use it for is a good place to start . Pocket knives can be as basic as a single blade, or they can hide two blades, three, or more! Maybe you will find a reason to need the Air Force Karambit Rescue Folder Spring Assist Pocket Knife or some scorpion throwing knives. Who knows? Variety is the spice of life.

Then you’ve got multitools. Multitools are perhaps more familiar to you as those little transformer-esque devices that house all kinds of useful tools in their handles. They’re well known for their ability to solve any and all your camping (and life, if we’re being honest) problems.

Make sure you check your new multitool’s list of components before you buy it! It was W.C. Fields who wrote, “Once, in the wilds of Afghanistan, I lost my corkscrew, and we were forced to live on nothing but food and water for days.” Do not share his fate! Make sure you have a corkscrew and a bottle opener! Check out Amazon’s consumer reviews for a more diverse perspective.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the frankly frightening array of knives available to you.


The Classic

The Original, Timeless Swiss Army Knife

Did you know that the Swiss Army knife got its name from U.S. soldiers during World War II who couldn’t pronounce “Schweizer Ofiziersmesser,” the German translation of “Swiss officer’s knife?” And yes — while all Swiss officers have carried a version of the same knife since the 1890s, it has become so popular since then that it is now part of the required gear for all astronauts on the international space station. The Swiss Army knife has evolved with the needs of the Swiss Army, and as of the early 2000s, modern models have been introduced that include features like USB flash drives, digital altimeters, and MP3 players.

You can start small with a keychain-sized baby Swiss Army knife (Sooo many colors! And animal prints!) Or you can go crazypants with the world’s largest Swiss Army knife, the Wenger 16999, which will only set you back $1,000. It definitely won’t fit in your pocket, but it does include a fish scaler, a flashlight and what I’m pretty sure are tools with dental functions.

The thing I really like about Swiss Army knives is that they are engravable, which makes giving and getting them as presents kinda special. There’s something about getting a Swiss Army knife in your favorite color with your initials on it that makes you feel simultaneously loved and ready to assemble furniture.

Price Range: <$10 – $1,000


Leatherman Multitool

Leatherman multitools were developed by Mr. Timothy Leatherman in the 1908s. Leatherman was inspired to design a “Boy Scout knife with pliers” after spending a large amount of a trip though Europe and the Middle East trying to repair a the repeatedly malfunctioning car he and his wife were travelling in and leaky hotel plumbing. The first prototype of the Leatherman multitool was (unsuccessfully) named “Mr. Crunch.” Unlike Swiss Army knives that are structured predominantly around the central knife blade(s), Leatherman tools are built around a set of pliers, with the other components of the knife stored inside the two handles.

Price Range: <$20 – $100ish


Gerber Multitool

In the 1930s—- back when they sold camping equipment instead of sex–Abercrombie and Fitch sold Gerber tools in their catalogue. Also! The host of Man vs. Wild uses a Gerber tool on the show. Like Leathermans, Gerber multitools are structured around a set of pliers. But unlike Leathermans, the pliers slide out of the end of the tool rather than folding out. Either way, though, both Leathermans and Gerbers come with cool holsters you can loop through your belt, so everyone’s a winner.

Price Range: $10ish – $50ish


I have owned and used all three of these multitools and I liked them! Leatherman and Gerber are both relatively young companies and both originate from Portland, where I feel like they have the outdoorsy thing pretty much down to an art form.

It’s worth mentioning that if you aren’t into those and are really serious about buying a KNIFE knife, then there are also fixed-blade pocket knives. Fixed-blade pocket knives aren’t really “pocket” knives at all, since the blade doesn’t have anywhere to god. They’re more what you’d sling on your belt/over your shoulder if you were intent on hunting kinds of activities where it’s less about convenience and accessories than it is about winning the Hunger Games. There’s a menacing selection of fixed blade knives available, some of which come with brass knuckles, spiky bits, and alien heads. Cato and Faith shop here.

Finally, and most awesomely, there are other quirky survival tools that you probably never knew about but will now desperately need.

The 11 Function Credit Card Survival Tool. This thing fits inside your wallet and is smaller than a credit card! It can do so many things! Price: $1.50!


The SE 6-1 Detachable Knife. It has: all the regular stuff plus cutlery! Price: $4.59. Sporks are so last year.


Swiss + Tech Keychain Multitool. It has 2 wrenches, 6 screwdrivers, a hand drill, and other things. Price: $8.67


BodyGuard Emergency Hammer with Seat Belt Cutter and LED. For car-related disasters, this includes a spring-loaded hammer to break the car window, a seat belt cutter for getting yourself free, and a light and a sonic alarm to signal for help. Price: $14.00


Kershaw Carabiner Tool. It’s a carabiner! It’s a tool! It’s both! Price: $20

Once you have your knife, you need to know a couple last things about it. The experts agree: make sure that the blade is made from quality carbon/steel so it’s able to hold a sharp edge over time and keep it clean and dry. If you’re already on Amazon you can pick up a knife case and a sharpener for these purposes.

Oh also also! Responsibility! Open your knife away from you so you don’t snap the blade down on your fingers when you close it. I got my first pocket knife when I was six and the first thing I did was slice my palm open…so, don’t do that. Also try to avoid situations where a 127 Hours repeat could occur. I like your hands and want them to stay safely away from boulders. You need them more making s’mores and drinking microbrews around the campfire.

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Keena has written 4 articles for us.


  1. I carry a Swiss Army knife my Dad gave me as a kid because “Everybody should carry one.” My Dad was MacGyver before there was a MacGyver!

  2. In addition to making me aware of the terrifyingly awesome existence of the Wenger 16999, this article rules for Father’s Day gift ideas.

    • Or if your dad is like mine, it’s his idea of the perfect stocking stuffer for the kids at christmas

  3. I’ve had several Gerber multi-tools, and I love them. Also had a couple of their folding knives and lights, again which I love. I also like Buck knives, but can’t really speak to their current lines; most of mine are inherited.

    ALSO: If you are going to be carrying ANY knife, but PARTICULARLY A FIXED BLADE KNIFE (ie, it doesn’t fold), you NEED to be aware of any relevant knife laws in your area. For example, know the legal blade limit for regular carry. (The blade limit in my area is 3 inches. Yours is probably simular but different.)

    Also be aware that any folding knife or mult-tool is going to be a TOOL far more then it is any kind of viable self-defense option. As it is, I personally use my penknife for a gajillion things, and I’m okay with sometimes getting a weird look or two.

    • Thanks for posting good advice about knife laws. I was not aware.

      And btw, I would not give you weird looks for carrying a penknife. Very handy and sexy!

  4. I’ve had swiss army, leatherman, and gerber multitools, I prefer the leatherman or gerber. I also have a kershaw that I carry everywhere.

    • I lost my Kershaw on a beach in South Africa. Saddest day ever. Mt uncle gave it to me when i moved to DC and even carved my name into it. I can’t wait to get back stateside to buy a new one.

  5. When I was little I begged my parents to get me a Swiss army knife. I thought they were so cool. When they finally decided I was old enough and gave me on, I felt so adult. I love that thing–I used it to carve sculptures out of little hotel soaps.

    On a related note: aaaah, why am I not going to camp? I could be carving marshmallow roasting sticks with my pocket knife!

  6. The hardest part about going on trips that involve the airport is unhooking my Leatherman from my lanyard and leaving her on my dresser.
    “Goodbye, little buddy. I promise, I’ll be back soon.” I mean… I never said that.

  7. I HIGHLY recommend the Kershaw Chive – it is small, cute, and wickedly sharp. Also, it has a really good safety on it so it doesn’t spring open in your pocket/purse/messenger bag.


    I also have an SOG Fixation Knife that only goes on backpacking trips (in states where it is legal to carry) with me that I don’t have to fly to (and btw it is super illegal to carry in Texas* – it has to be in your house or your car!). That being said it is really really useful to have around on said backpacking expeditions!


    In the truck I keep a Gerber, which started out being great and sharp but dulled really quickly and needs a lot of TLC. Also it’s a little big to be carrying in your pocket. The serrated edge is pretty good to have around, especially on long cycling trips.


    *It amuses me that the one state that one immediately thinks of when one thinks of a Bowie knife has made it absolutely illegal to have it on one’s person. Not that I’m opposed to people being prohibited from carrying ridiculously huge knives around.

  8. I have this knife (with a slightly longer blade):

    It’s simple and tiny, but incredibly useful and sharp nonetheless and I love it. I also have a cool one I bought at a gift shop in Tennessee, but the blade is longer than 4 inches and it’s not convenient to carry daily.

    I really want that carabiner tool.

  9. i just got really excited about bringing my dyke knife to camp and then i remembered that i’m flying from NYC and the airport privacy invaders would prolly take it from me.

    Sads now.

    wait, can i pack my weapons into the luggage i’m checking…? what about fireworks…?

    • yes, don’t do it! this post made me so sad because my beloved swiss army knife was confiscated by the Syracuse airport recently. it had my name scratched into it and everything…

      • Not only that, but once in a country that shall not be named they took my knife AND my jumprope. SONOFA. I did not react like an orderly citizen.

        • and your JUMP ROPE??? that is some old bullsh*t. poor lil jump rope never did nothin’ to nobody…

          ::pours out some liquor on the concrete for lil jump rope::

          ps- keena is like the wickedest name everrr

      • Oh Hancock Airport Hair Care and Tire Center. How I miss thee. And the TSA agents who somehow think that when the terrorists strike it will TOTALLY BE THROUGH SYRACUSE. (Spoiler: it probs won’t…)

        • hahaha oh my god, yes! also, when they took my knife they winked at me and said that they weren’t gonna continue to search me because i “didn’t look like a terrorist.” really???

          • Oh. Really. The Liverpool native that took your knife ACTUALLY is using it to clean out the fish that he got ice-fishing up in Ontario a few weeks ago. We went snowmobiling this past weekend. One last hurrah!

  10. The Wenger 16999 is going to haunt me in my nightmares forever. WHY EVEN IS THAT A THING

    • And consider this: what if you were using the toothpick, which is in the MIDDLE of the Wenger!? It would look like you were playing the world’s most terrifying harmonica.

  11. I’m a Leatherman girl myself. Saved my life many-a-time. But that Wenger is crazy! Never seen anything like it. Seems difficult to actually use though.

  12. I have a Swiss and a credit card one.

    Both ironically given to me at church camp.

    My credit card one came with a tiny screw driver, compass and magnifying glass. Very handy when you’re a clumsy individual with a habit of falling asleep and rolling on top of your glasses.

  13. I have the Swiss pictured in the article and love it. Except once I cut book laminate with it and that was problematic and sticky. Also, I have successfully descaled fish with it so phooey on that fancy fish de-scaler.

    I had to throw out my Husky multi-tool at O’Hare. I teared up. I tried to give it to the pretty security lady who admired it but said she couldn’t take it from me. I hope she dug it out of the trash later.

  14. Spyderco makes probably the best folding pocket knives in the world. I love the Dragonfly but would like them to bring back the smallish Worker combo blade.

  15. I feel like I should warn people about those Bodyguard Emergency Hammers. My mother gave them to everyone as stocking stuffers a few years ago, and let’s just that that sonic alarm likes to randomly go off. My mother ended up purposefully running over hers with her car because it was the only way to get it to shut up. I had mine randomly go off at the grocery store and at the dentist (it was on my keychain).

    Suffice to say, I don’t recommend them.

  16. I wanted a Swiss Army knife so bad when I was younger. I was finally “old enough” to have one when I was 11 or 12 and I was ecstatic. I still have that thing somewhere.
    When I saw my theatre tech roommate’s top of the line Leatherman, I instantly wanted one. I still haven’t managed to scrape the cash together for one yet. I imagine once I do, I’ll probs just use it for little projects or around the house handydyke work, not camping. I’m more what you’d call, “indoorsy.”

    Anyway, this is my current knife:
    I actually think it has a different brand stamped on it, but it looks exactly the same so whatevs. I have no clue about the brand or quality, but come on! How could I NOT buy a rainbow pocketknife once I saw it? It lives in my purse so it comes almost everywhere with me, though I rarely get to actually use it.e

  17. my dad gave me a flick knife when i was 13.
    i still have it at 15 but i’m terrified to carry it because IT FEELS SO ILLEGAL.

  18. I’ve had the same Leatherman Squirt es4 for a couple years. It’s a fantastic multi-tool, durable and it keeps an edge quite nicely. Love it, recommend it highly.

  19. I am a sucker for this sort of stuff. I have a modest Swiss Army knife but have drooled over the multi-tools at my local outfitters for years. My dream really is just to have a utility belt of practical tools for saving damsels in distress.

    • Oh I am a sucker for knives too but in a different way. Knives are like works of art for me. I have the sexiest Czechoslovakian pocket knife of all time.

      • It’s my two favorite Straddlers in one place, talking about knives..Is it weird that I’m suddenly turned on? Add some gun talk and I’ll go weak in the knees!

    • Like a lesbian Batman? Damn, I need to find some distress to be in so you can rescue me.

  20. Dammit, Keena, you’re such an enabler. I just sprung for a mid-level SAK. Admittedly, as a college senior I’m most likely to open booze, cut up cheese, and assemble furniture with it. Oh well.

  21. aftee reading this article I was like “awesome, they posted about knives” now. for my wonderful opinion lol.

    based on my experiences leather man and gerber were once pretty good knives. now, unfortunately, I would do everything in my power to avoid them. if you buy a multitool think of it this way. you can be really good at one thing. or semi decent at a lot. same works with blades/multi tools. the quality of them are just lack luster. gerber. ah gerber. I never liked you. many, if not mostof your blades are brittle and snap very easily under pressure. while not all blade materials are the same and some weber knives may in fact be nice I dot trust a rand that markets their blades with bear grylles. if the knives are good you don’t need a license. I can’t speak much for Swiss army but I do believe at one time they were great knives/multitools, but I just can’t bring myself to. it something with as cheap a handle material is they have fotheir most popular blades. k Ives I trust with my life (and naturally there will e blades that fall short, but I’m talking as general as possible about brands are benchmade, buck, ka-bar(for non folding) and spyderco. I am smitten by benchmade. they use very strong and long lasting steel and steel alloys for their blades. (even Damascus type steel which isn’t true Damascus, since Damascus hasn’t been reproducible since forever) but close enough) same goes with buck and spyderco. they come an a great assortment of styles and are downright awesome looking. I swtich between carrying mchenry&williams designed benchmade made of d2 tooling [email protected]” blade length and a buck red point knife with combo edge made of 420hc stainless steel @2.75″ blade length. while I typically dislike a partial serrated edge (combo edge) I find it extremely useful. especially when camping. (it also has a bottle opener, caribiner loop and a one handed opening locking mechanism (but obviously tell authorities you open with both hands and use is as a tool for day to day uses). generally when buying a knife I suggest a couple things. ask why you want one. what will you be doin with it. opening boxes? cuttin rope starting fires(flint and steel)? gutting animals or gang initiations? then do a little research. find out what steel is best for you. it’s really easy to buy a blade that looks omfg so awesome only to find out it rusts if you don’t wipe it fry after each use(suh as the case with carbon steel, holy shit strong but will rust like a mofo if not taken care of) find out your price rangeland then visit http://www.knifecenter.com they have such a wonderful selection f knives in any order you want. from alphabetical by brand to order by type of steel. even folding and non folding. while I don’t k ke everything about knives and knife buying I do have my experiences and suggestions which you are open to use to ignore. if you have an questions I’m open to answer them. thanks for reading. I hope it helped some.

    also. I apologize for grammar and spelling. :)

  22. Opinels are great. Opinels are the greatest thing that ever happened to my little french heart.

    • My parents gave my wife one as a Christmas present. It’s perfect for slicing open an apple while apple-picking on a beautiful fall day with your beloved.

      Because it’s French, and so has to be used for something poetic.

  23. I used to have a victorinox huntsman, that i got in switzerland, lost it on a d of e award expedition. have been sad since. must get new one.

  24. I have a Swiss Army spartan with my name engraved on it. I got it from my Dad for my 13th birthday. This is one of my family’s birthday milestone presents (other ages’ gifts include jumper cables and firearms). I dutifully keep it sharp and clean and I use it all the time and it is still going strong. Sometimes I look at the other pretty knives on display at LL Bean, but my heart belongs to my SAK.
    That said, my kick-ass best friend, who I believe to be the metaphorical lovechild of MacGyver and Doctor Who, swears by her leatherman. But then again, she also swears gaff tape is better than duct tape. But the Mythbusters have never built a sailboat out of gaff tape, now have they.

  25. Everyone able to read German MUST read the amazon.de reviews on the Wenger army knife. People have taken over that forum and wrote some hilarious stuff.

  26. Does anyone have any advice on NOT LOSING pocket knives? I use one for work and don’t always have accessible pockets and then end up leaving it in the wheelbarrow and dumping it in the manure pile and figuring it out too late to go digging.

    Then I borrow my girlfriend’s knife on her day off and SHE HAS KNIFE-FU and KNOWS I have it even before she gets out of bed.

    I can MacGyver hay bales open with shedding blades, sweat scrapers, bailer twine, and sometimes sheer determination. But a knife is so much faster.

    Attach a beeper that goes off if it travels more than 5ft away from me? A lanyard? Magnets? HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR KNIVES WITH YOU?!

    • Belt holster. With a quick-release snap opening. Preferably leather.

      Because it’s totally useful and totally badass and totally hot.

  27. mannnn… this post got me all hot’n’bothered. i can’t be the only one thinking about knife play in the forest with a sexxyyy outdoorsy type….

  28. Holy cow, the Wagner 16999 is gigantic; I can’t believe you sliced your palm open at such a young age, ouch! I wouldn’t mind a Baby Swiss Army Knife with some zebra animal prints. I love animal prints perhaps I shall have my husband buy me one. I kind of like camping but I am a high tech gadget camper these days, my husband even got me a Tailgater from Dish to be able to watch TV in the woods. I have to say it was genius, pretty easy set-up. He wants me to come along for a big camping trip with some buddies, I might but I am not sure yet. I might even invite some of my co-workers at Dish.

  29. I have a standard Victorinox, a gorgeous black Wenger, and the detachable cutlery tool featured in this article. I’d really like a one-handed open locking blade knife, but I have absolutely no use for it. But so sexy!

    That said, I think the tools I use most (or ever) are the corkscrew and can opener, haha.

  30. Pingback: Amazon Spyderco Karambit | New Smiling Experts

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