The Swiss Army Knife has to be one of the most underrated pieces of gear out there today.
Knife lover or not, there’s a good chance that you own one, whether you religiously EDC one, leave one in a bug out bag, or you remembered you had one in your sock drawer from way back when.
The best part about these pocket knives is how relatively accessible they are. Swiss army knives can be easily found and purchased at many stores, from sporting goods to Walmart. These multi-tool knives are high value, but inexpensive.
What makes this little multi-tool so great?
A knife saying to live by is, “Two is one and one is none” when being prepared for a survival situation, being self-reliant, or just hitting the trail for the day.
So what does this saying really mean? It shows that being reliant on only one knife when presented with a survival situation can potentially lead to losing the ability to use your cutting tool if it gets damaged or lost, and now you have a problem!
Perfect Back up Knife
Having a smaller back-up knife paired with a bigger blade will save the edge and overall life on your larger blade when sharpening is not an option at that point in time. Most of you will agree that this is not a new concept in the survival community.
This is where the multi-purpose of the Swiss Army Knife comes in; compact, lightweight, and inexpensive qualities of the Swiss Army Knife make it a sure fire back up that is easily integrated into any kit or system.
Now, to go over all the features of every tool and their specifications would take an eternity, so instead I’ll highlight some of what I consider to be some of the multi-purpose tools within the Swiss Army Knife.
What I like about the tools in a Swiss Army Knife:
The first tool (and my personal favorite) is the saw. The saw does a great job at fire board notching, small wood processing tasks, and using the spine of the saw to strike a Ferro rod.
The second tool and one of the most important is the large knife. This knife holds great importance as a secondary blade to accompany your regular knife and prolong the edge and life of that blade in a survival situation. This blade is fantastic for food preparation, small carving tasks, feather sticks, making tent pegs (when paired with the saw), and even processing game.
The third tool, the large scissors, holds great importance from a first aid standpoint. These make a useful and first aid friendly approach to precision cutting as well as general cutting of medical supplies. The scissors are also helpful when trying to refine small projects that require precise cutting on hard to reach areas.
Finally, a tool not to look past is the good ol’ screwdrivers. Not only are they fully capable of popping the top to your favorite beer (which they are great for!), but they serve to help maintain and take apart outdoor tools and gear when necessary.
The Swiss Army Knife is one of the most iconic tools on the planet.
It has served the test of time, so why do we look past it?
The simple answer to this question in short is that it’s not cutting-edge technology, built with space age materials. There is a large hype over specialty tools with all kinds of lightweight polymers and specialty steels that cost outrageous prices. (I cannot lie. I fall into this hype all the time)
Although there is nothing wrong with technological advances in gear, we often overlook a marvelous and fully capable tool that tends to receive less attention than the specialty multi-tools that cost an arm and a leg.
So what if the steel isn’t S30V?
The steel in the tools of a Swiss Army Knife will continue to retain a good edge that can quickly become sharp again after a swift strop of the handy leather belt you’re wearing.
So what if the handle scales are plastic instead of G-10?
They are light and the use of this material helps keep the cost of the tool low.
What tool is even better than a Swiss Army Knife? Click here to find out!
I carry an Outside magazine clone of a Swiss Army knife with me most of the time, but I do so with the realization that do-a-lot tools often do nothing very well. That long knife blade, for instance, probably doesn’t lock open, making it dangerous to use in some situations. And the screwdrivers may not work with tight screws. The best tool is specialized a specialized tool.
That said, if I were to be stranded in the wilderness and could have only one tool, it’d be a fire-starter. If two, the second would be a multi-function tool of some sort. On the other hand, there’s usually little need to start a fire in a city disaster. For those situations, I’d rank a long-life flashlight first and a compass second. It’s easy to lose your way deep inside a building when the power goes out. Light and direction is what you need.
–Michael W. Perry, Across Asia on a Bicycle
Michael W. Perry, this is an inane comment. Everyone knows this. You can carry around a box full of specialized tools if you wish, but the SAK is not for specialized work. Besides, you have a knockoff so you really don’t have a SWISS Army knife.
When my brother was leaving to go to Viet Nam I bought two Swiss army knives. One for him and one for me. He later told me he used it every day in VN and it was the most useful item he had. He said all the other guys had big combat knives they never used but they were always asking to borrow his SAK. I still have the one I bought at the same time. I have carried it every day since then. I used to even carry it on an airplane back in the days before we became afraid of our shadows. The scales are long gone along with the toothpick and the tweezers, It is the first tool I reach for. It has the best can opener on the market. It will even open a square can. I recently bought the exact same model for my grandson. It’s like Carl Malden used to say, “I don’t leave home without it.”
Are there better tools? Of course. My Leatherman 300 is a better tool. It is also heavier and larger. The can opener on the Leatherman isn’t as good as the can opener on my SAK.
Thank your for your story! This is a fantastic representation of real use for this everyday tool. I too never leave home without my SAK. That’s exactly why I wrote this article. Thank you for your comment and story!
I HAVE HAD A FEW OF THEM SINCE CHILDHOOD (IN ARGENTINA THEY ARE QUITE EXPENSIVE) AS A SKIER, BOY SCOUT, HUNTER, ETC, THEY ARE PART OF MY LIFE,
THE BEST ONE AND MAY BE THE ONLY I PACK WHEN GOING OUT IS THE MODEL WITH LARGE BLADE AND (THIS IS PARAMOUNT) BLADE LOCK.
THIS MODEL DOESNT HAVE SO MANY ACCESORIES, BUT CAN BE HANDLED WITHOUT FEAR OF BEING WOUNDED IN THE MOST IMPORTANT TOOL WE HAVE: HAND.
BEST REGARDS FROM PATAGONIA !!
Victorinox Knives, and the Swiss Army knives in particular have some very good steel in them. It is stainless and a bit hard to sharpen but keeps an edge well, according to Victorinox, “high carbon, stainless, first grade, A-quality stainless steel, x 50 CrMo. They are tempered to a 55-56 HRC hardness”(their website is linked below)
IMHO the blades are a bit thin for heavy duty cutting but the thinness allows them to easily cut thru stuff that a thicker blade will bog down in, and the reason you carry multiple blades for different uses and know which to use for each task. As for striking on a Fero rod, in my experience non stainless carbon steel is a much better option for getting sparks. Great Article.
My SwissChamp is my second right hand! I gave on to my financee and she agrees! Don’t not even get out of bed without it!
The only problem with the Swiss Army Knife (Viktorinox or Wenger) is that the handle dissolves in anti-mosquito jungle juice.
For everyday carry, I have a GERMAN army knife. It is somewhat more sturdy than Swiss. Only two blades: one is a knife, the other a combined saw, screwdriver, and beer bottle opener (in the German army, you need this to survive). Also has an awl and a wine screw (also required in the German army). I know there is a version called the “Mauser” that is slightly larger and has a locking blade. But that would be illegal in most European countries.
I keep mine razor sharp. I am an oboe player and I use it to scrape the tips of the oboe reeds. That is ALL I ever do with the knife blade.
So the Swiss army knife is a jack of all trades and a master of none. The German army knife is a bit closer to master but of fewer trades.
I have several model’s of swiss knives,,,,,the best is the Victorinox explorer two……it has a great magnifying glass you can see a sliver straight in your skin and the tweezers to pick it out,,,also start a fire with this glass,,,providing it’s not night time of course,,,huh,,,and the sun is out…the other tools are all useful,,,big blade ,,small blade,,saw,,skrew drivers,,Philips is used a lot…and the tiny screwdriver that fits in the cork skrew will tighten the skrews in you glasses when you need it…can opener,,and several others,,,I pack one around in my pocket every day and have for 40 years,,,,also carry a multi plier on the belt for the heavy stuff..just some old guys opinion…..
Its been years since I’ve seen a Swiss Army knife that I would take out of the store. Most are too small for my hands or have to many gadgets that I don’t have a use for to get one that I would.
My EDC is a fairly simple SAK (spartan). Knife takes a wicked edge and holds it well. Enough tools without overkill. Lacks scissors though. I used to laugh at those until I carried a version that had them. They are pretty cool. Best feature: They are ordinary, cute and “harmless” looking. People (and cops) will not get uptight when you whip one out. Can’t say the same thing for a lot of freaky looking things some people carry. Only drawback: blade doesn’t lock. Just be careful when you use it.
I`ve carried one for over 20 years. Has been a right handy little devil
I’m not a fan of any knife that the blades or tools aren’t Liner Locked. Knives that don’t lock are good for cleaning your fingernails and that’s about it. I’ve a couple of the Swiss Army’s, but I keep them for trade/barter. The concept is cool, but the execution is flawed. If they ever design one with liner locks, I may buy one for personl use, but until then, they’re just fancy finger slicers.
The original full size SAK is a great knife. I have one that I’ve had for almost 50 years and though the scales and tweezers are gone, it still seams to always be tool solves the problem in a quick fix situation as I always know exactly where to find it, bouncing around in the junk drawer. As mentioned by someone else here in the replies, the Leatherman is a great step up. I almost feel like I’m cheating on my SAK with a younger, hotter knife lol.
Grrrrr I see I misspelled “seems” and it bothers me that I cannot edit this.
LOL Mike, I didn’t notice until you gave it up. Still readable (smiles).
I’m almost 70, and have carried a SAK for years. I never leave home without it! I’ve used the many tools over and over, and the tweezers more times than I can count! One of the best investments I ever made.,,
I got my first SAK as a gift when I joined the Air Force in 1985. I brought it to my first duty assignment in Alaska. It came from LL Bean. The next summer, I lost it in a stream whilst fishing for grayling. I ordered a new one and have carried it ever since. The logo has worn off and the toothpick is long gone. I feel naked without my SAK. I also carry a SOG multi-tool I bought in 1993. But the SAK is my go to tool.
everybody that wants a locking blade SAK look a the soldier model.
I carried a pocket knife since 1946, played mumbly peg on the playground during school class breaks. A two blade model and later a Boy Scout knife with screw driver, etc and heaver blade. Elementary, high school and college never without one. My business career was industrial sales and on the road and flying. Million car miles, 3.6 million Delta Skymiles. Retired in 2003 and carried right up to the end. (don’t ask how I got thru security.) My favorite was and is a Victorinox model 82. Two and half inch blade with screw driver/bottle opener/screwdriver/canopener along with a awl blade. The scales are metal so it is solvent resistant, (I sold industrial finishes). “Repaired many a motel room on occasion”.