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March 2008 Essentials Review: Blades & Tools

From an ultralight knife to a full-service multitool, prepare for your Survivorman moment. Or lunch.
Backpacker_Magazine_March_08_Blades_ToolsMarch 08 Blades & Tools

Gerber Obsidian
Built-in safety features aren’t extraneous on any cutting tool, but they’re especially valuable when you’re wielding a large knife that’s sharp enough to sever your thumb. The Obsidian features a switch mechanism that locks the blade in either the open or the closed position to prevent accidental movement. A tester who took the knife on a four-day primitive living trek into Arizona’s Prescott National Forest was also impressed with the torsional strength of the blade. “While building a shelter,” she reported, “I was able to lock the blade open and use it to carve notches in beams–and, more impressively, to pry apart and split larger pieces of wood and bark to make a roof.” Bonus: The Obsidian has small but useful Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, plus a file and a bottle opener. $48; 4.3 oz.; gerbergear.com

Kershaw Two Can
Twelve peanuts, four raisins, two cashews, a chocolate chip, and half an almond–one very modest handful of GORP–weighs more than this diminutive blade. Kershaw set out to design a pocketknife that would slide inconspicuously into your smallest pocket, and in so doing created the best ultralight blade we’ve seen this year. True to UL dogma, the Two Can has multiple uses: It has a simple 1.5-inch straight blade and a smaller micro-serrated blade that folds out to create a thumb-operated pair of scissors. The steel blade doesn’t lock and isn’t long enough to dip into a deep Skippy jar, but we predict it’ll tackle simple camp chores for a few seasons. Bummer: The carabiner clip bent during testing. $30; .6 oz.; kershawknives.com

Buck X-Tract LED
If you’re gearing up for an expedition or leading a group, a flyweight blade–the kind we love for solos and thru-hikes–just won’t, um, cut it. You need a rugged tool with features that can repair a sputtering stove, slice a length of rope for a prusik, and tweak snowshoe bindings or crampons. This multitool-cum-pocketknife is all that: It has a hefty, indestructible feel; a large, partially serrated blade; nifty sliding Phillips and flathead screwdrivers; can and bottle openers; a slide-out pair of pliers; and an LED light, in case your headlamp dies. Said a tester who used the X-Tract LED on a weeklong trip in Grand Teton National Park, “The blade is amazingly sharp, and the tools are useful without overloading the unit with lots of wonky gadgets you would never use in the backcountry.” $65; 6.4 oz.; buckknives.com

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