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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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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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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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