$60 (although you can find it online for closer to $30)
5 oz. Swissarmy.com
Ralphie might have always wanted a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas, but when I was coming of age, I preferred the red weaponry offered by Victorinox Swiss Army. Now that I’m a grown up (relatively speaking), knives are as cool as ever, and they make a classy gift for someone on your holiday shopping list. It’s difficult to choose among the myriad pocket-sized scimitars on the market, but few have the storied history and modern use of the Solider Swiss Army Knife.
Victorinox just revised the Solider Knife in 2008, which marks the fourth evolution since its inception in the 1890s. As you may have inferred by its name, the Soldier Knife is the actual instrument issued to the Swiss Army at basic training. The most obvious update is the new ergonomic shape; when combined with the new dual-density handle, the handling is much surer than some of the all-metal or plastic handles I’ve come across. Even after dropping it in the snow on a recent trip to Mount Whitney, I could confidently handle the blade bare-handed without worry of slipping and slicing myself.
The knife is also a lot longer than previous iterations at almost 4.5 inches, which makes it even easier to handle for major cutting jobs. The large opening on the primary blade allows for easy one-handed operation (righty or lefty), which is just as useful for kitchen duty as it is for emergency situations. The serrated blade is long enough to cleanly cut through apples, scrape the bottom of a peanut butter jar, or make quick work of any summer sausage.
There’s also a wood saw that is surprisingly effective. Although most of the sustainable wood we gather is already downed and broken, I can confidently say that the three-inch blade could handle small to medium branches. Heck, it probably would’ve made Aron Ralston’s job a lot easier.
Beyond the major blades, there is also a Philips screwdriver, can opener, flathead screwdriver (large and small), crate opener (you never know), bottle opener, wire stripper, reamer, and seatbelt cutter. Aside from the outdoor uses, this means the Solider Knife is handy around the home as well. In the past few weeks I’ve used it to tighten screws on my dining room chairs, slice stubborn curtain packaging, open various packages, and crack open more than one cerveza. The knife definitely earns major bonus points for being a piece of backpacking gear that actually gets used more than once or twice a month.
Bottom line: If you’re having trouble shopping for that outdoorsy type who seems to have it all, it’s tough to beat the mix of class and function of the Solider knife. If you’re still concerned about the uniqueness of your gift, however, you could always try to track down Wenger's "Giant Knife".