An Introduction to Ultralight Backpacking Scissors!
Backpackers use many kinds of cutting gadgets, including survival knives, multi-tools, and razor blades. For many years, I’ve carried the Victorinox Swiss Army Knife Classic, but most of the time, I just use the scissors on that little multi-tool. So why carry the rest of the knife? After asking on BPL, I found several others using "backpacking scissors."
I’ll compare ten pairs of scissors to the Classic, using a baker’s dozen of backpacking-based scenarios and tests. The Classic was tough to beat. But you can save half an ounce (15 grams) by switching to a very familiar pair of scissors with a couple of tradeoffs.
Can you fly with scissors?
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration won’t let you take sharp knives or razor blades onto planes. Some BPL members buy TSA-seized Swiss Army knives by the bucket. Luckily, TSA says you can fly with scissors in checked baggage, as long as they are “sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and inspectors.” If you carry scissors on board, they must be “less than 4 inches [102 mm] from the pivot point.” However:
The final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.If you don’t want to take your chances with a TSA officer, or keep up with frequent rule changes, check or ship your scissors. You can ship securely stowed scissors via FedEx, UPS, or the US Postal Service.
Eleven Backpacking Scissors
Victorinox Classic Swiss Army Knife
The standard lightweight backpacking multi-tool includes a pair of tiny scissors, a short knife blade, tweezers, and a toothpick. Standalone scissors should be at least as good as the Classic for most backpacking uses, and weigh less, too.
Victorinox Classic Swiss Army Knife with 1 gram Gold Ingot
At $224 plus tax, I couldn’t afford to test this one! Too bad, it must be 14 times better than the $16 plain Classic, because a gram of gold is almost worthless in the wilderness.
Coghlan’s Folding Scissors
Many companies make scissors like these. I’ve owned various brands since the 1970s.
Cuda Micro Scissors
Fishing and fly-tying scissors come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. BPL publisher Ryan Jordan recommended this model in a reply to a post I made about backpacking scissors in the BPL Forums.
Fiskars Folding Scissors
Orange-handled Fiskars scissors seem to be everywhere. A BPL member recommended this tiny folding model.
Generic bandage scissors
Bandage scissors can cut tape without damaging your skin, due to a dull, flattened tip on the lower blade. I’ve owned this tiny pair for many years and don’t remember where I got them.
Spring scissors appeared about 3,500 years ago in Southwest Asia and spread worldwide. Unlike common scissors, these snippers don’t have a pivot point, relying on your strength for cutting, instead of leverage. Japanese artisans still make the best. This model includes a slim plastic case that weighs 1 gram.
Rescue Essentials Mini Shears
Also known as trauma shears or EMT shears, these scissors can cut through tape, heavy clothing, and even light metal. Like the bandage scissors, they have an extended blunt lower blade that won’t slice into your skin. This was the lightest model I could find online, with a longer grip for easier cutting. These shears may be
These pruning snippers are similar to the Kotobuki Thread Scissors, with plastic handles, a lower weight, and a much lower price per pair.
Singer Sewing Kit Scissors
I found this tiny pair of scissors in a travel sewing kit at the local arts and crafts store.
Victorinox SwissCard Scissors
Inside the SwissCard plastic sleeve are removable Swiss Army Knife tools. You can buy just the scissors as a replacement part, which is slightly bigger than the scissors on the Classic, and include a small finger loop. Many BPL members recommended these tiny trimmers.
Westcott Kids Scissors
Scissors for children come in smaller sizes and many colorful designs. Some models include an antimicrobial coating of debatable value. This model has tips blunt enough to carry in a pocket or stuff sack without worry.
|Name||Weight||Length open||Length closed||Cutting edge||Smallest finger opening||TSA compliant (Note 1)|
|Victorinox Classic Swiss Army Knife||22 g||100 mm||60 mm||14 mm||N/A||No (Knife blade)|
|Coghlan's Folding Scissors||29 g||96 mm||80 mm||29 mm||20 mm||Maybe|
|Cuda Micro Scissors||21 g||90 mm||90 mm||25 mm||21 mm||Maybe|
|Fiskars Folding Scissors||16 g||107 mm||61 mm||35 mm||19 mm||Yes (Note 2)|
|Generic bandage scissors||17 g||94 mm||94 mm||25 mm||18 mm||Maybe|
|Kotobuki Thread Scissors||19 g||105 mm||105 mm||36 mm||N/A||Doubtful|
|Rescue Essentials Mini Shears||16 g||115 mm||115 mm||26 mm||20 mm||Maybe|
|Sago Brothers Bonsai Scissors||14 g||104 mm||104 mm||35 mm||N/A||Doubtful|
|Singer Sewing Kit Scissors||3 g||63 mm||63 mm||19 mm||14 mm||Maybe|
|Victorinox SwissCard Scissors||7 g||77 mm||77 mm||17 mm||11 mm||Maybe|
|Westcott Kids Scissors||26 g||140 mm||140 mm||55 mm||20 mm||Maybe|
Note 1: TSA Compliant, in my opinion. TSA rules change frequently, and a TSA officer might take your scissors anyway.
Note 2: Fiskars packaging claims “TSA compliant.” See Note 1.
Member's Only Content
- Performance Tests: 13 Scenarios for Backpacking Scissors
- Daily Duties
- Test 1: Packets
- Test 2: Packaging
- Occasional Chores
- Test 3: Toenails
- Test 4: Fabric
- Test 5: Strap
- Test 6: Cord
- Test 7: Duct tape
- Test 8: Leukotape
- Thru-Hiker Tasks
- Test 9: Box
- Test 10: Cardboard
- Other Features
- Test 11: Safety
- Test 12: Security
- Test 13: Weight
- Daily Duties
- Victorinox Classic Swiss Army Knife
- Coghlan’s Folding Scissors
- Cuda Micro Scissors
- Fiskars Folding Scissors
- Generic bandage scissors
- Kotobuki Thread Scissors
- Rescue Essentials Mini Shears
- Sago Brothers Bonsai Scissors
- Singer Sewing Kit Scissors
- Victorinox SwissCard Scissors
- Westcott Kids Scissors
- Conclusions & Recommendations
- And the “Stupid Light” Award Goes To …
- Best Scissors for Gram Weenies
- Best Performance-to-Weight Ratio
Word Count: 3,427
Where to Buy Ultralight Backpacking Scissors
- MOST POPULAR - Victorinox Classic at REI | Amazon - Gold Ingot Version here | Signature | Jetsetter
- GRAM WEENIES - Victorinox SwissCard (Lite Version) at Amazon
- PERFORMANCE - Coghlan's Folding Scissors at REI | Amazon
- PERFORMANCE-to-WEIGHT RATIO - Cuda Micro Scissors at Cabela's | Amazon
- Fiskars Travel Folding Scissors at Amazon
- Kotobuki Thread Scissors at Amazon
- Rescue Essentials Mini Shears at Rescue Essentials
- Sago Brothers Bonsai Scissors at Amazon
Singer Sewing Kit Scissors atNo Retailer Should Ever Sell These
- FOR PEOPLE WHO LOSE STUFF - Westcott Kids Scissors at Amazon
Related Content at BPL
- Scissors may not be for everyone. Ryan wrote a recent review featuring a tiny utility knife that weighs less than a quarter of an ounce.
- BPL has a Gear Guide of Ultralight Knives, too.
- Here's the forum post I started when I was doing research for this article.
- Older threads discussing backpacking scissors can be found here and here, and this thread offers a lively debate on the knife-vs-scissors for backpacking topic.