Knives are totally romantic
February 8, 2016 1:38 PM   Subscribe

I want to buy a camping knife as Valentine gift. But, which one!?

(Yes, he might not like the one I end up buying, I will not be sad at all if he exchanges it, but I still want to buy him a knife, not a gift card)
It will be used as a camping/backpacking multi-use knife. Light is good, but crazy ultra-light not necessary.
Will be carried in cargo/pants pocket, not on belt.
Sort of a multi-use camping knife, so cutting rope, an apple, etc, not field dressing animals.
$50 max
Need it in my hands by the weekend, so Amazon, or available at REI, cabellas, etc.
posted by atomicstone to Shopping (36 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
This Kershaw Leek is a wonderful knife. Sharp, pointy, opens fast and stays sharp a long time. It's a great knife loved by knife enthusiasts as a cheap daily carry. I own several and they are sweet.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 1:49 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't have personal recommendations but Adam Savage uses the Leatherman Wave, which is $90 but the Sidekick is within your price limit. Walmart has the Wave listed, so it might be available locally (and save on shipping).
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:02 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

My suggestion? Go old school and get him a Swiss Army Knife.
posted by Hellblazer at 2:05 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

a classic opinel? (go with a stainless blade for camping, i think)
posted by andrewcooke at 2:09 PM on February 8, 2016 [10 favorites]

I love the Kershaw Leek as well. I have one in my pocket nearly every day. It might be perfect for him, but in my opinion its size makes it more useful as an everyday carry pocket knife than a backcountry tool. When I'm heading into the wilderness I usually grab my Kershaw Shallot. It's essentially a larger version of the Leek. It fits in my (large) hands better, which makes it a lot more useful to me in backcountry situations.

This is a matter of personal preference: some people like a serrated blade, some hate it. I think a serrated blade is nice to have in the backcountry for sawing branches or cutting rope, but it's not so good for slicing apples or cheese. My recommendation: the Partially Serrated Kershaw Shallot.
posted by mammoth at 2:15 PM on February 8, 2016

From my own experience, I can say that the Benchmade Mini-Griptilian is a fantastic multi-use outdoors knife. It's $90 though, so it's outside your budget. The Kershaw that Patapsco Mike linked has a good reputation, but I haven't used it myself. Personally, I prefer Benchmade's AXIS locking system to the more generic frame lock that comes on the Kershaw and many other knives.
posted by strangecargo at 2:16 PM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's actually large enough at 8" to be very very useful. I've sawed tree branches with the serrated blade, sliced meat with the straight blade, and all manner of outdoor tasks inbetween.

If you read the reviews, someone wrote once you own it you will never be without it. I can confirm.

In the one I linked, you can have it engraved and it comes with a pouch. I bet you can find a stainless steel cover finish if you hunt around the Internet. It's the best most useful tool. There is another version with the same length blade that comes with pliers.

posted by jbenben at 2:18 PM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have a SOG Twitch II. The model with the rosewood handle is really beautiful and the workmanship is great. As far as knives go, the rosewood gives it a little "romance". This model is "assisted opening" and it's really smooth and easy. I'm pretty sure you can remove the belt clip, but I haven't. The II is small and light and will be very comfortable in a pocket; you can move up to slightly larger versions - i.e. Twitch XL but they are pricier.
posted by achrise at 2:19 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

When someone special bought me a Swiss Army Tinker Deluxe, several friends of mine recoiled in horror. "You should never give a knife as a gift," they said, "It will sever the friendship!" They were most emphatic that the gift was in terrible taste.

The Special Someone and I are still married after 15 years, so you can draw whatever conclusions you want about this superstition—but hopefully the intended recipient doesn't share it!
posted by BrashTech at 2:30 PM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is the work-around for never giving a friend or lover a knife: they have to "buy" it from you for a penny or a nickel or a dime.

Then, gift away!
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:39 PM on February 8, 2016 [7 favorites]

(Yes, he might not like the one I end up buying, I will not be sad at all if he exchanges it, but I still want to buy him a knife, not a gift card)

Potential alternate plan:
In a similar situation -- i.e. wanting something for a knife enthusiast and not knowledgeable myself -- but wanting to get sharpening stones for my then boyfriend, I had the cash in my purse and when he and I were at the mall and in front of the store that sold the appropriate things, I stopped and told him that I wanted to get him sharpening stones for Christmas but had no idea what to get, so "Surprise! -- please pick your own. Your budget is X."

He was thrilled to pieces. He married me less than a year later and his beloved and beautiful sharpening stones were on display in their fine cedar boxes for the rest of our 20+ year marriage.
posted by Michele in California at 2:41 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have the Leek, the Shallot, the Mini-Griptilion, and the full size Griptilian. The Leek (mine is partially serrated) is a great suggestion for a small knife. I carry mine every day, and I don't notice it in my pocket. For actual camping, the Benchmade Griptilian (the full size) is what gets carried. Big enough to cut an avocado easily, small enough to carry.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:41 PM on February 8, 2016

I love Spyderco knives. I've used a Delica 4 for years and loved it when camping. They have models within your price range, maybe this one, it is under $50 and is similar to the Delica, the serrated combination edge is a winner too.
posted by Caskeum at 2:48 PM on February 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

Maybe an Alox (aluminum handled) Swiss Army Knife. They look a little classier than the more common (usually) red plastic handles. While they don't have the toothpick/tweezers, they are fairly thin in the pocket compared to comparable models. None of the Alox models get too fiddly with tons of tools, mostly just the basics. And Victorinox Swiss Army Knives are among the best engineered, highest quality knives available at any price, believe it or not.
posted by 2N2222 at 2:55 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

When someone special bought me a Swiss Army Tinker Deluxe, several friends of mine recoiled in horror. "You should never give a knife as a gift," they said, "It will sever the friendship!" They were most emphatic that the gift was in terrible taste.

The Special Someone and I are still married after 15 years, so you can draw whatever conclusions you want about this superstition—but hopefully the intended recipient doesn't share it!

Your boyfriend must give you a penny. He will, in this way, have bought the knife from you, and all will be well. This was taught to me by my grandmother.
posted by not that girl at 2:58 PM on February 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

I have a lot of these too. My favourite daily is a little Spyderco, but for camping, I love my Benchmade Griptilian, but they run around $100. As a cheaper option I'd take a Delica.
posted by bonehead at 3:08 PM on February 8, 2016

If you go with a multitool (Swiss Army Knives included), I highly recommend you look for one with a locking blade. I prefer the ergonomics of the Leatherman family to Swiss Army style personally, HMMV.
posted by Candleman at 3:33 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been looking around at this (and a hatchet) for my earthquake kit, and found a blog that extensively reviews tons of these products by actually taking them wood trekking.

The knife posts are there; the reviews label is another good one to search. He runs all the knives through weight, strength and use tests, and considers both durability and maintenance.

(I'm not sure if an FPP has been made that features this blog — I've been loving it over the last couple days.)
posted by klangklangston at 3:37 PM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Whups, hit post too soon: I wanted to also point out that while the most recent knife he's reviewed is a custom one for $235 or so, he's reviewed all sorts of knives, down to the $5 range, and generally compares everything to a $10 camp knife (the custom knife is based off that $10 knife), so there's a wide range of prices, and he's got a good sense of when you're paying for actual value versus paying for name/aesthetics. He's also pretty good about discussing pros and cons of things that he himself isn't wild about (i.e. different grips — he'll note sometimes that the grip didn't work for him, but may work for other people, etc.).
posted by klangklangston at 3:41 PM on February 8, 2016

I like the Leatherman Wingman. Small enough that I can carry it in my pocket almost everyday and therefore use it almost every day. And unlike a lot of multitools you can get the blade out with one hand.
posted by trbrts at 3:44 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have this Swiss Army knife and I really like it. I am not a maximizer or a knife person so there are likely better knives out there for the same price but I haven't had any complaints about it yet.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:48 PM on February 8, 2016

I have used a CRKT Pazoda for the last several years. Small, sharp, and you can wear it everywhere. I have also used it to field dress animals, cut fruit, and cutting ropes.
posted by Marinara at 5:30 PM on February 8, 2016

My non-serrated Kershaw Leek is my very favorite everyday general-purpose pocket knife, but I find the blade/overall length just a smidge too short for all the camping tasks I want it to do, particularly cutting fruit or cutting any branch or rope located in a place where I need good leverage. Even an extra half-inch on the blade helps a lot. The Kershaw Volt is nice, and so is the CRKT M16-03S (though they're not the prettiest knives out there), and both in your price range. If price were no object, I'd suggest a Benchmade Griptilian.
posted by rhiannonstone at 6:23 PM on February 8, 2016

If you're looking at should check out KershawGuy. He sells blemished knives at a significant discount for the same quality. Buy him a bunch of knives! (I always lose knives)
posted by pilibeen at 6:25 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Shrade knives and Old Timers have hihher carbin steel that holds an edge better than stainless steel, like most swiss army knives use. At least in my experience...

Schrade Old Timer Buzz Saw Trapper Knife/Saw 4/ 3/16" Folding
posted by bricksNmortar at 7:15 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

For super light camping duty, definitely the "new" Swiss Army Knife (the RangerGrip 178, specifically, that any portmanteau already brought up). It's a decent enough multiknife. iirc, it's made by both Wenger and Victorinox. Haven't done a direct comparison, but in the past I've preferred Victorinox over Wenger on identical models.

The semi-serrated main blade is a decent utility blade; the serrated bit is extra good for cordage and rope, but not so aggressive that it'll juice an apple cutting slices from it, but big enough to cut apple slices through the core. Can be opened one-handed using the thumb slot.

The built-in saw is actually usable. Might be a little tricky to sharpen by yourself without some specialized kit, but knife stores can easily do it for you.

It also has the standard can/bottle opener. Has a flathead and a Phillips (cross) screwdriver and an awl (I've used it for emergency sewing repairs on straps/canvas/tarps).

For keeping in a pocket, invest in a lanyard and clip it to your belt/backback.

They can be bought in WalMart these days. The "original" SAK is kind of wimpy by today's standard (and I've had a Tinker since 1990 or so). However many of the original SAKs have a corkscrew (not the Tinker) which may be a make/break issue, but I've dug out corks - intact - from wine bottles using the awl on the Tinker and with small pocketknives in general.

The SOG Twitch II is indeed a very nice folding blade, but it's more of a gentleman's EDC folder, not a bit of kit for camping. The Gerber Emissary is in the same general class, but vastly outclasses the Twitch easily. But it's also quite a bit more expensive.

Caveat; the more complicated a folding knife is, the more nooks and crannies there are to get gummed up, depending on how messy you expect to get. Unless he's kinda handy, disassembling a folding pocket knife, cleaning it, oiling it, and putting it back together can be daunting, especially if it has a spring for assisted opening or complicated locking/safety mechanisms.

In which case, I do recommend Gerbers, Benchmades, Kershaws and CRKTs in general. SOG is nice, but you pay a little bit more for the "mall ninja" image. Went camping with one I got back in '96 back in September and afterwards I just ran it under the tap, used a wooden bbq skewer to detail the nooks and crannies, flicked it dry, and oiled the hinge. Cleaning the SOG Twitch or Emissary is a much more involved job. Spydercos and Cold Steel knives can also be fairly simple, but I'm not a fan (mall ninja gear).
posted by porpoise at 7:20 PM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Lots of good suggestions here. My recommendation, having owned many many knives, is the Spyderco Pacific Salt, maybe half serrated. It is light, durable, very sharp, has a nice grind, and best of all, it's rust proof (perfect for camping). Very close to your budget, but a tiny bit over.
posted by masters2010 at 7:47 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Personally I like the basic Spyderco knives. I keep a Gerber in my work truck because it is old and the thicker blade holds up well to abuse. But to actually carry and use the Spydercos have nice thin blades which are much nicer for camping duties like slicing food.

Whichever brand you pick, avoid anything super "tactical" or that is extra thick and heavy. Camping knives need to be fairly light and don't need to be extra long pig-stickers.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:51 PM on February 8, 2016

Also, I should add to my recommendation above -- the pacific salt is the same knife as the Spyderco Endura, just with the rust proof steel. It's smaller cousin, the Salt 1, is the same knife as the Delica with rust proof steel.
posted by masters2010 at 8:22 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Gerber E-Z OUt Skeleton #46751 serrated. Half fine blade, half serrated; 3.5" blade length, and hiply made in Portland, OR; USA. Great clip, looks cool, flips open with one hand; and geez man; if I gotta go woods; I'm doing it with a piece of America, dammit. :/

Not sure how they are still made state-side for $42 retail.
posted by buzzman at 8:24 PM on February 8, 2016

Locking blade-good. My Swiss Army folds back on me, the leatherman type, does not. The little saw in the leatherman is great for cutting branches, for whatever reason. I collected a wreath's worth in no time.
posted by Oyéah at 9:18 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just to get around the knife-as-gift superstition, my old WWII veteran uncle gave me knife but made me give him a penny.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:59 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

OK, a post up top reminded me... The Swiss Army Knife I linked to (w/ a serrated and a straight blade - the Hunstman or some such) is not exactly my knife. My knife has a locking mechanism.

I really love the different dedicated blades and the length. I'll search around, I hope they still make the one I do have....
posted by jbenben at 11:05 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lots of nice knives mentioned above, really.

If it's for camping use and not expensive, you would do very well to consider a Mora knife: they are quite sharp, very inexpensive, and high quality for the cost. Here, for under twenty bucks, is one of their camping knives, the Companion: Amazon link. (Check your local laws for knife blade length restrictions.) Carbon steel holds an edge better, but stainless doesn't have to be kept ry as carefully. *shrug*

The shorter-bladed ones can be slipped upright into a cargo pocket if that's non-negotiable, but a fixed blade is better for camping tasks.

I use a couple of Mora knives for carving wood, and they are quite nice. Oh, I also have a Benchmade pocketknife that I carry everywhere but airports, and other sharp stuff, but the Mora knives are in a sweet spot of "good" and "cheap" and "sharp" that few can match.

(And I learned that you tape a penny to the gift when you give a knife. YSuperstitionMV!)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:04 AM on February 9, 2016

Lots of great suggestions here. Count me in as another fan of the Sypderco knives, made here in the U.S. in Golden, CO. The Delica would be a great pick for camping. I don't really like serrated blades since they're more difficult to sharpen, so I'd prefer a straight edge. I'd definitely stay away from a multitool at your budget since they'll be heavy and most of the tools (like the awl on Swiss Army Knives) will rarely see use in the field.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 4:19 PM on February 10, 2016

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