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Backpacker Magazine – March 2008

March 2008 Essentials Review: Blades & Tools

From an ultralight knife to a full-service multitool, prepare for your Survivorman moment. Or lunch.

by: The Backpacker Editors, Photos by Sethhughes.com

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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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READERS COMMENTS

Jacob Kokura
Feb 11, 2009

I personally love my Cutco Drop Point knife - excellent Carbon steel, Durable handle made of grippy rubber, and very sharp. Thing about it is that if you want it sharpened you can't do it yourself, so I have a schrade from Walmart for backup. Not highly recommended, but it does the job and holds an edge long enough.

I like Leatherman multi-tools personally, though I've owned a tiny gerber clutch and liked it a lot for it's simplicity and usefulness.

kfj;as
May 28, 2008

i think your retarted

Daniel
May 21, 2008

For a multi tool, I would throw in my lot with Leatherman. Outstanding quality and durability. They really think through the practical mechanics of their tools. I also really like SOG knifes and tools. I have their little tool (don't remember the name) which I end up using more than anything. The Knifes are hit and miss. I own about seven and of them the seal revolver is a joke of knife. At $115 it becomes obscene in that at some point, without fail, you will cut yourself. I have the Seal pup which I like for its wow factor but, as yet, have found no use for and the Flash Rescue the best folding knife I have ever owned. It has assisted opening so it can be flipped open with one hand in a tight spot. It also has a curved tip (rather than a sharp point) which makes doing tricky things while climbing or diving that much safer.

Anonymous
May 08, 2008

I absolutely trust anything from Gerber. My main multi-tool is a gerber 400. Never fails and always has a sharp edge. However, good friends of mine use Benchmade and they highly regard the quality and performance. I respect their decision but will always stay with gerber.

Cory Murphy
May 03, 2008

I've owned many knives from each of these fine companies, but I must say that Benchmade and Leatherman have extremely outstanding customer service, especially to service personnel. Ijust got out of the Marine Corps Infantry a couple years ago and I've carried my Benchmade Stryker for about 6 years and never had a problem with it. Leatherman has supplied me with many fine models and my favorite is the Leatherman Supertool 200 alas it's now discontinued, but is still worth mentioning if you can find one.

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