In the UK we have a very odd attitude to knives. We are scared of them, see them only as weapons and rarely as tools. For some reason, lock knives are classed as swords, and therefore offensive weapons, which are illegal to carry unless a specific case can be made. However, folding knives with blades of less than 3.5 inches are legal to carry. Despite the obvious safety risks, backpackers and followers of bushcraft are constrained to carry folding knives for most of the time.
I’ve owned a Swiss Army Knife (SAK) since I was a young boy. The build quality, and longevity, of Victorinox is excellent throughout the range. My Camper is still going strong after 20-odd years of service. I decided to buy a Huntsman because it is the smallest in the range that has both a saw and a pair of scissors. It is also a legal carry. The full list of tools are listed at the end of the blog.
So, how does it perform in practice? Firstly, the good points. The two knife blades are very sharp, pretty strong and cut through most materials easily. Even though they are non-locking blades there is no tendency to fold unless you mean to fold the knife. Caution is strongly advised though. The corkscrew, can and bottle openers work efficiently and effectively. The tweezers are extremely useful for getting splinters out and the toothpick works. The reamer is very good at making holes in leather belts, bits of wood, canvas and so forth. The large screwdriver does what it is supposed to do.
Of less use is the small screwdriver. I think it is too large! I find the wire stripper to be unusable and I’ve never found a use for the multi-purpose hook or the sewing eye so I’ll not comment on those.
Where this knife scores over other SAKs is the inclusion of both scissors and a saw. While a knife blade can do a lot of the work that scissors can, I defy anyone to cut their toenails with a knife blade! Or cut bandages and adhesive plasters neatly. For me, scissors are essential, albeit not often used.
Most backpackers probably won’t use the saw much. Which is a shame because it has the ability to saw quite thick branches. I’ve used it to cut through a 3 inch diameter piece of wood and I think you could cut much thicker branches with relative ease. Bushcraft devotees would find this a useful tool to help build a shelter or cut wood for the fire. I did build a lean-to shelter using only the SAK- not as easy as using a proper woodsaw and axe but, nevertheless, it did the job. I also sawed enough wood to make a fire. Survivalists would probably like the saw too. They would probably like the idea of a cutting spare blade too.
In use, the knife fits in the hand nicely. There is always a trade-of between ergonomics, comfort and versatility in any multitool so you do feel bits of the blunt edges of the other blades pressing into the flesh but its not serious. You could always wrap your hand with a handkerchief if you are doing a lot of work with the saw. I used a bandanna to cushion my hand when I built the shelter.
Ultralight / Ultralite backpackers will probably whimper at the weight which is circa 60g as best as I can weigh it. Fairly heavy but the SAK does score well in the versatility stakes and has the potential to be a useful piece of kit if things go badly.
I always carry mine when I’m out and about. I use it almost every day and I’d feel lost without it. A worthy addition to any Bergen!
List of tools taken from Victorinox Website You can also see a picture of the knife there.