Ultralight Knives and Other Sharp Things

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Ultralight Knives and Other Sharp Things

Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 62 total)
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    Benjamin Smith
    BPL Member


    Locale: South Texas

    Companion forum thread to:

    Ultralight Knives and Other Sharp Things

    James Pitts


    Locale: Midwest US

    I eat the MONSTROUS weight of the Leatherman Micra today. I love that thing but in truth I would say I use the scissors and the knife blade heavily. I have used the tweezers a few times (cactus thorns in the Grand Canyon). The other items are generally unused.

    I really liked this article and it got me thinking about a way I might be able to cut an oz from by ditty bag. It never dawned on me that my knife weighs more than my cookset… I am not sure why that seems wrong to me but it does.

    Great article. Thanks!

    kevin davidson


    Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson

    Follow the way of the coyote—-when a limb is caught in a trap, they'll gnaw it off. You'll also get to use an underutilized protein source and improve your body-mass index.

    So, dutifully maintain your chompers—-see a dentist twice a year.
    Achieve hyperlight bliss, rid yourself of technological artifacts and superfluous limbs.

    David Olsen


    Locale: Steptoe Butte

    Here is some of my collection.

    Sewing nippers .4052 oz.
    sewing nippers
    with these I can cut foam for
    blister donuts from my foam pad, trim ear and nose hairs,
    trim toenails, cut cord or packaging, even cut cloth or naw through climbing rope. I think I paid $12 for a dozen of them.

    Cut them in half and grind down the blade with a diamond file
    for a scalpel-like knife .16 oz.
    half nippers

    Deer guthook .239 oz
    cut cord, packaging and even clean the marmot for dinner!

    razorholder with single edge blade .345 oz
    razor holder
    flip blade upside down to keep it safe in the pack, then
    turn over for a better handle. Survives wetting better than
    cardboard. Plus you can use to to scrap the graffiti
    off your car windshield at the trailhead.

    Utility knife 1.445 oz.
    utility knife
    Cost $3 from Smokey Mountain knife.
    I take it on trips with students as a loaner knife.
    Slices carrots and climbing rope and has enough
    heft for mumbly-peg.
    If I sharpen it on a coarse diamond file (3 passes each
    side is all it takes), the tiny serrations left cut through
    rope better than the commercial serrations on fancy knives.

    kevin davidson


    Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson

    You know, the one thing that hasn't been brought up for UL use is a disposable surgical scalpel —previously unused, of course :-)>. A #10 scalpel w/ plastic handle will handle most chores and is far easier to use for precision work than a single bladed razor, due to it's handle. I believe they weigh in the neighborhood of .25 oz.—I can't find my stash to weigh. You can find these on or from surgical supply stores, friendly doctors, or in my case, a nurse I once dated.

    I just need to get in the habit of using them. Giving up the old penknife can be difficult.

    Arapiles .
    BPL Member


    Locale: Melbourne
    Nathaniel Hein


    Locale: Mid South


    That is probably the best solution I have seen for a knife. Thanks for the post!

    Arapiles .
    BPL Member


    Locale: Melbourne

    You're welcome.

    I have lots of time to research these things at the moment … LOL



    Locale: Lake Tahoe

    Re: "But what happens when your arm is caught in between a fallen boulder and a rock wall miles away from anyone else and you have no way of escaping unless you are willing to perform an amputation — Huh? What happens then?"
    I had my heavy, natural teeth yanked out and replaced with Titanium dentures, then I had those filed to razor-level sharpness.

    Jason Ham
    BPL Member


    Locale: Sierra Nevada

    This knife is fairly inexpensive ($15) and weighs a slight 18 or 19 grams depending on whether you remove the little metal lanyard that comes attached. This had made it into my kit more often than not for the purposes of chopping veggies and garlic as well as cleaning fish. I tend to carry it on long ridge climbs in the Sierra for the purpose of cutting and removing all the old nylon bail slings I come across.

    I suppose a razor blade would do the trick, but the ergonomics of that particular item would definitely by a detriment.

    Brett .


    Locale: CA

    That syperco looks like its ergonomics are better than the Gerber LST, and so light..

    Brian UL


    Locale: New England

    I forgot about those Derma-safe blades ! I have some in my survival kit. Best solution if your looking for a razor with a handle- and its folding. The only downside is you cant replace the razor when it dulls, but I tried sharpening one and if your carefull it is possible to re-sharpen it. The other solution is to buy them in bulk but $50 for a life time supply is a bit much. They should sell packs of 10-20 or so.
    This article shows more than anything else that there is a big difference between a knife that is appropriate for 'bushcraft" i.e. the "ten essentials" when pre 1950-60's backcountry camping/backpacking meant building a fire for warmth/cooking ect. and when one might even build a leantoo instead of bringing a tent. These days that kind of thing might be unethical anywhere but very remote wilderness- a place few of us go.
    -OH and thanks David! I never realized you could put a blade the other way around in one of those paint scrapers, I have the exact same one you posted in my toolbox!

    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    I started a thread asking about how much weight people would dedicate to cutting tools. The Leatherman Micra and Victorinox Classic were mentioned quite a bit. We never really get down to ounces/grams.

    Here are some options I have used:

    Single edged razor blades: I pack one or two in my survival kit or first aid kit. I wrap them in clear shipping tape and trim it as much as I can. The tape keeps the blade clean and rust free and safe to pack.

    If you want a nice light knife for general cutting and kitchen chores, consider the Victorinox stainless serrated paring knives. IIRC, they weigh 3/4oz and cost about $4.

    For more of a "real" knife, the Swedish mora knives are excellent and quite inexpensive. You can get a 4" stainless blade knife with a plastic sheath for $10-$12 and they weigh 3-4oz with a sheath.

    The Boker Trance is an excellent folding knife for general cutting. I carry one every day as my pocket knife.

    The Swiss Army knives cover a wide range of size, weight and cost. In general, the simpler the knife is, the easier it will be to use. My personal preference is to the 111mm models, with the Trekker being my favorite, but it does stray from a truely ultralight tool. The long blade, saw, and the prying ability of the locking screwdriver make for a realistic survival tool.

    I went through a search for a knife that also had scissors and found myself caught up in a lot of compromises trying to get an all-in-one tool. As mentioned in the article, small scissors can be found and I'll add that separate scissors are much easier to use. I opted for some Fiskars embroidery scissors that are under an ounce and have sharp tips. $3 at my local flea market :)

    The really small light fixed blade knives are found listed as neck knives. There is a long standing tradition of small knives carried in sheaths on a neck lanyard. The Buck Hartsook is an UL hiker's knife– 1/2 oz and made of S30V steel, which is quite hard and will take a razor edge. AG Russell offers the Woodswalker knife with a Kydex plastic neck sheath that is pretty much a paring knife with a good handle.

    If you want to buy the folding razors one at a time, check out County Comm
    County Comm aslo has a hacksaw of the same dimensions as the razor and and excellent LED micro lights for $1.

    If you want a saw for hiking, the Gerber/Fiskar Sportsman's saw is about 3oz and cuts very well. Wire saws are good survival tools, provided you get a good one. has one of the better ones.

    IMHO, a saw is only necessary as a survival tool for fire and shelter building and runs against any concept of leave no trace.

    Most of the heavier cutting tools are survival equipment more than general hiking tools. As many have said, most cutting chores involve cooking or grooming, so a Leatherman Micra or a Victorinox Classic is about as much you would need for that. I equate cutting tools with first aid kits as both end up being a risk/weight consideration. For me, essentials are my largest divergence from the UL gear lists I see. I carry a first aid kit that is about 6 ounces and prefer knives that end up being more like 3-4 ounces. Much of this is driven by the fact that I usually hike solo.

    It all really centers around a concept that Ray Jardine wrote about: many of the controversial issues with ultralight equipment come down to a fear of nature. The trick is to learn to live within nature rather than seeing it as an adversary. In reality that means understanding the physics and physiology of hiking, good preparation, navigation skills, back-up plans (like leaving your destination and return time with a trusted contact), and stringent equipment selection.

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    Miguel Marcos


    Locale: Middle Iberia

    Hi everyone, first post here. Michael mentioned the scissors of the SwissCard further up. I just wanted to mention that the Swisscard is the aforementioned scissors, a pair of decnt tweezers, short but somewhat usable knife, a magnifying glass(!), pin(?), usable (but barely) ballpoint pen, multi-screwdriver, and a decentish red led. You could consider the red led a backup to a primary light source. The whole thing is 25 grams/.85 ounces. Pretty decent. Best of all it has that McGyver aura to it!

    The worst thing for me is it doesn't have a hole to hook it up safely to a cord/biner.

    Nall Fnk


    I just noticed this little thing at the local MEC. Maybe a little heavy at 0.9oz, but I think it could do a lot for its weight.

    joseph daluz


    Locale: Columbia River Gorge

    Ok, I spend most of my outdoors time playing with WRSAR in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and I carry a SRKW Camp Tramp, 7.5" of blade and heavy. The guys on my team go heavy heavy heavy, even when doing a hasty search they're wearing at least 40lbs (as a token of bravery?) I give em grief about that and they ignore me for the most part, but are coming around a little. So by carrying around a 10 lb pack during searches I can carry my one pound knife. And now for the rationale:
    I can start a fire in ANY weather and fast, in the Pacific Northwest with nothing but my knife and a metal match. I can build a shelter, a litter, cut boughs for insulation. You can't do that with a razorblade. So I go UL with a base weight of 5-10 lbs. and carry a heavy insurance policy.

    Nall Fnk


    This most recent post illustrates the other side of the quandry this article stirred up again for me. I justify my five pound kit by practicing bushcraft and survival skills so that I can fall back on them. This means I still feel a need a good firestarter and a good blade.

    Yet I question when I would actually need to cut down saplings for shelter or whittle fuzz sticks. The shelter I am already carrying would be faster and better than anything I could construct in a real emergency situation, where I am likely injured and unable build anything very useful. And when i really need that fire, odds are my hands are too numb and hypothermia is coming too quickly for me to prepare wood with a knife – better to invest the weight in some esbit fuel so I can get wet fuel going quickly. First aid emergencies? I don't know enough to judge.

    But that said, even bushcraft can be ultralight. Heavily influenced by Mors Kochanski, I have found that there is no need for anything more than a scandinavian blade as short as 3". An example is a 3" wood-handled Mora at 1.7oz. This is enough to cut down a tree up to 2" in a matter of seconds if the blade is maintained. It's a pretty cheap knife too – better materials and some construction changes could easily cut the weight in half, a project for the winter perhaps.

    A bushcraft knife is handy for creating comforts, but as a real survival item? I question the necessity. Still, at only a fraction of an ounce more than ultralight alternatives mentioned, it might remain worth taking.

    Mitchell Norris


    The Swiss Army Card Knife Kit has it all. It only weighs 25.5 grams and contains; knife blade, scissors, pin, screwdriver, tweezers, toothpick, ballpoint pen, ruler and light. It is a very useful tool. Just be careful not to loose any of the pieces.

    kevin davidson


    Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson

    …please read the earlier posts on this thread—the Swiss Army Card Knife Kit, AKA the Swiss Card was mentioned several times.
    What was not mentioned was the Tool Logic Credit Card Companion—
    which might be worth snagging just for the knife and the itsy bitsy tiny emergency compass. The whole kit is 1.3 oz. but looks worth cannibalizing.
    There are several versions inc. ones with scissors and led lights, as well.

    tkkn c
    BPL Member


    Locale: Desert Rat in the Southwest

    Here is what the swisscard looks like


    tkkn c
    BPL Member


    Locale: Desert Rat in the Southwest

    Here are the scissors.
    They weigh 0.2 oz on my scale.

    swiss scissors

    kevin davidson


    Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson

    Is that handle really necessary? To the grinder!

    Chad Mason


    Locale: Arizona

    How sharp is that little blade? Is it strong enough to be worthwhile?

    tkkn c
    BPL Member


    Locale: Desert Rat in the Southwest

    The SwissCards blade is comparable to the Classic's blade in strength. The tang goes about 1/2 inch into the plastic.
    I would only use it for light duty cutting, it would not stand up to abuse. The tang would come loose from the plastic.
    It was not sharp when I got it, It would not cut hair or paper. The blade's bevel was very uneven. I had to sharpen it.

    The blade, pin and stick pin come in the handest. I carry it in my wallet.

    kevin davidson


    Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson

    That Tool Logic Credit Card Companion I mentioned…
    Not as elegant as the Swiss Card and several of the tools look worthless—although you do get a UL means for opening up that tin of smoked oysters or that on-the-trail brewski #-) — but the
    knife looks superior.

    It's all about the knife

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