Since September 11, 2001, these little guys made themselves scarcer in passenger’s luggage (especially carry-on as they were fully banned from hand-luggage since). The US Transport Security Administration (TSA) recently reviewed their approach on these indispensable backpacker tools and say that there could be changes in the carry-on regulations. (No official implementation date has been set and the recent bombings at the Boston Marathon might have an influence on the final decision.)
But what should you look for in a pocket knife or (folding) multi-tool? Considering the wide range of products and price, the weight and the different tools available, it can be a tough decision! Classic brand Victorinox Swiss Army has (my personal rough calculation) about 54 models and prices starting around 15 CAN $ and going all the way up to over 150 CAN $.
Multi-tools are also within the same (vast) price range, but bears a different look (often a little bulkier but include pliers that are rarely found in the “pocket knife” version).
Things to consider while shopping:
-Size and weight:
If you plan on carrying your knife/tool all the time, in your pockets, than the smaller models are probably a better fit (unless you have a lot of pockets or you don’t mind carrying the weight of a bigger choice). The smaller, the fewer the options, so choose carefully. If you plan on bringing it with you only on specific occasions, then you can probably handle a more complete, heavier and chubbier model.
I used my pocket knife in my “daily routine” when I’m away: from peeling and cutting fruits and vegetables to tightening a loose screw on my sunglasses and doing what I call my “pocket knife manicure” (clean and cut). For that kind of usage, you don’t need a knife as heavy-duty as you would need for gutting fish, fixing a bike or building a shelter. Some knives/tools are built with specific activity in mind, don’t neglect that. Some even include built-in USB keys for the more techno-oriented travelers!
When I travel, I use a combination of 3 instruments – 2 Swiss Army and 1 multi-tool:
–Swiss Army Pink Classic SD as an everyday attachment to my key-chain (very light and not too big)
–Swiss Army Red Driver most of the time (perfect size for peeling and eating)
–Yukon Gear Small Multi-tool for rare and more complex use
Up to now, I never regretted having too much or too little and never needed a tool I didn’t have, but I’m not the most hardcore-camper-climbing hills backpacker, so it could be insufficient for more rugged-off-the-beaten-path-survivalist travelers.