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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

Leatherman Skeletool
A multitool that weighs as much as a pint of Guinness and is packed with a huge quiver of gadgets is great for your glovebox, but how many MacGyver moments do you really have in the backcountry? On the trail, you probably won’t need multiple blades, a diamond file, a wire crimper, or an awl (among other things). Enter the Skeletool, one of the lightest full-sized multitools on the market. Leatherman pared down the feature set to one 3-inch blade, a screwdriver with Phillips and flathead bits, and the company’s trademark needlenose pliers and wire cutters. All of the tools proved useful on an late-summer summit attempt on Mt. Rainier. “From cutting salami to adjusting crampons to pulling on a piece of webbing that my cold-numbed fingers couldn’t grasp, I used nearly every implement and didn’t find myself wanting more,” said our tester. The carabiner clip pulls double duty as a bottle opener, which is handy for popping the caps on post-trip libations. $80; 5.1 oz.; leatherman.com

Benchmade 530 Pardue SBK
If cutting cheddar is your main reason for packing a knife, this exquisitely honed blade might be serious overkill, like buying a Porsche to pick up the kids from soccer. But if you want to be slicing cheese a decade from now–never worrying about rust or rapid dulling–then the Pardue’s high-quality 154CM stainless steel is a smart investment. Benchmade consistently makes some of our favorite blades, and this lightweight champ received the most glowing accolades of any new model we tested. One editor packed it on every trip he took over an eight-month span, from weekenders on the AT to a trek on Nepal’s 135-mile Annapurna Circuit. “Its slim profile takes up little pack or pocket space,” he reported. “And the 4-inch folding blade is scary sharp–I carved roasting sticks and makeshift stakes with ease and never had to sharpen it.” And it’s so light you’ll practically forget it’s there. Only caveat: Some backpackers may miss extra features like a screwdriver or corkscrew. And dipping this beauty in peanut butter gives us pause. $112; 1.6 oz.; benchmade.com

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