A good knife or multitool might be the single most useful item you’ll bring with you on an overland trip.
You’ll use a knife in all kinds of situations; from cutting paracord to tie off a tarp, to prepping veggies for dinner, to shaving down a stick for kindling, to filleting a rainbow trout that you caught in a mountain lake. The uses for a good knife are literally endless and a high-quality blade can make your camp life just a bit easier.
For those who need a bit of a primer on knives, there are three distinct styles;
A fixed-blade knife (like the ESEE-3 pictured above) does not slide or fold and is primarily stored in a sheath. These knives tend to be stronger because of the lack of moving parts as well as the tang – the extension of the blade into the handle of the knife.
A folding-blade knife blade is attached to the handle of the knife through a pivot point that allows the blade to be folded into the handle for storage. When extended, a folding-blade knife is locked into place by a few different mechanisms including; lock-back, bolt-lock, and liner-lock. The Benchmade Griptillian knife above is a bolt-lock mechanism.
Multi Tools often contain a knife blade as well as many other useful tools all in one package including; pliers, wire cutters, screwdrivers, bottle openers, can opener, saw, file, just to name a few. Multi Tool knives are typically of the folding-blade variety.
READ MORE: WHAT TO BRING OVERLANDING
I could write a whole post on the types of steel used in Every Day Carry (EDC) knives, the list is pretty long. Basically, your new knife is only as good as the steel in the blade. Inferior steel can break, crack, chip, and won’t hold an edge very well. Not only is it annoying to break a knife, it is dangerous.
Look for the hardness and durability of the steel in your knife. If the steel is too soft, you blade will bend. If it is too hard, it will break or chip. A mixture of hardness and softness is ideal here.
The second thing to look for is resistance to corrosion. If you new knife corrodes easily, it is probably not made from stainless steel. Non-stainless knives need A LOT of extra TLC to keep from rusting. For an EDC blade, you’ll probably want to stay away from non-stainless knives.
Lastly, find out about edge retention and sharpening. You’ll want a knife that sharpens easily and holds an edge well. Dull knives do way more damage if you were to actually cut yourself. A dull knife also increases the amount of pressure you need to exert to cut objects.
Prices for knives range with quality and you can expect to spend anywhere from $20.00 to well over $800.00 depending on build quality, materials, and craftsmanship. How much you spend is entirely up to you, but you often get what you pay for when it comes to knives – meaning that the more you spend usually translates to higher quality.
Let’s take a look at some of my favorite knives in each category:
Benchmade Saddle Mountain Fixed-Blade Knife
Benchmade’s Saddle Mountain 4.2-inch fixed-blade knife is perfect for a variety of situations you will find yourself in outdoors. The strategically placed jimping (notches on the top of the knife for thumb control) and ergonomic shape will make the last cut feel just as effortless as the first. This knife comes with a nylon sheath and will be very useful in your overland travels.
Snow Peak Cutting Board and Knife Set
I love cooking in the backcountry and I will not go anywhere without the Snow Peak Cutting Board and Knife Set. The stainless steel chef knife has a carbon handle to ensure tight grip with chopping. The blade rarely needs sharpening and makes meal prep a breeze. I’ve had my Snow Peak set for a decade, I use it on every trip, and it is better than ever.
READ MORE: GEAR COLLECTIONS : OVERLAND VEHICLE STORAGE
Benchmade Griptillian Folding Knife
This large EDC knife (for smaller hands, they do make a mini version of this knife as well) is perfect for nearly every scenario you’ll find yourself in while traveling overland. The 3.45-inch steel blade with nylon handle makes quick work of anything you cut and the knife has a great weight to it when in your hand. I carry mine with me every time I’m out on the trails.
Gerber Fastball Cleaver
The lightweight, American-made Fastball Cleaver is a light EDC knife with an intuitive finger flipper opening, a bold cleaver blade, and an aircraft-grade aluminum handle. My Fastball goes with me almost everywhere and is a perfect little knife for a variety of uses.
I included this blade not because of the “overland” moniker, but because it is a rugged, inexpensive knife designed for multiple duties around camp – or in your vehicle. From cutting and stripping wire to slicing your evening steak fresh off the grill, you’ll get a ton of use out of the CRKT Overland.
Leatherman Skeletool CX
The sleek Leatherman Skeletool CX multi-tool gets you back to the basics. It has only the most necessary of multi-tool features, because sometimes that’s all you need. The all steel multitool features a blade, needlenose and regular pliers, wire cutters, four bits (Phillips #1 and #2 bits and 3/16 in. and 1/4 in. flathead bits), a bit driver, and a bottle opener.
The best way to know what knife is right for you is to get out there and use one. You’ll know pretty quickly what works for you and what doesn’t. There are lots of companies like Benchmade and Gerber who will customize knives to work for you, not against you.
Whatever knife you end up using, take care of it and it will last you for decades.
AUTHOR: ANTHONY SICOLA
Anthony is the Director of Sales for Overland Expo and travels extensively with his wife Astrid and his dog Sir Digby in his 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser, nicknamed Hank the Tank. Follow his adventures on Instagram @overlandnomads
Header photo: Benchmade