Do You Need a Knife for Backpacking?

Do You Need a Knife for Backpacking?


How Small Can You Go? Not carrying a knife or some form of small blade is incomprehensible to me and a lot of other backpackers and hikers, but to others it's a piece of gear they don't feel is necessary to carry at all. As some of my more frequent readers may recall, I have been slowly reducing the size and weight of the knife that I carry with my on my backpacking trips and day hikes.

Above is an example of the progression of knife devolution that I have taken over time, starting on the right with my Koster Bushcraft knife and stepping down to my Spyderco Delica4, then to my Leatherman Squirt PS4 - which is my current favorite for backpacking. On the far left is a single-edged razor blade, considered by some to be the ultimate in ultralight backpacking knives.

In Mike Clelland's most recent book, Ultralight Backpackin' Tips, he suggests that, based on his experience, you may not need to carry a knife at all when backpacking:

"Here's an insight from all my years in the mountains: With just a little bit of planning, I don't have much use for a knife and rarely use one." - Mike Clelland

If you absolutely need to have some form of a sharp edge with you, Mike recommends a simple single-edged razor blade in a home-made sheath like the one I have created below. I made mine out of a used FedEx Tyvek envelope and some sticky tape. The sheath protects you from getting cut accidentally and offers some protection to the very delicate edge of the blade.

Single-Edged Razor Blade "Knife"

So my question to all of you is, do you agree or disagree that with a little planning there is probably no real need to carry a knife with you when backpacking? Is it necessary and smart to plan for the "what if" scenario and have a blade available just in case, or can you really make do without?

I'll stick my neck out and say that I am willing go minimal and lightweight with my knife and do the best I can to carry as small of a knife with me as feasible so that I can still take care of the basic cutting tasks I usually encounter like cutting cord, opening food packets, or trimming tape. I personally can't imagine not having any type of blade or sharp edge at all - I'd feel unprepared.

Is Less More?

What are your thoughts?

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