Things to Look For in a Pack Knife
Kevin Felts 01.14.19
A question to the reader: what do you look for in a pack knife? Before we begin, let’s define “pack knife.” This is a knife carried in a backpack for hunting, fishing, hiking… etc.
Decades ago (1990s, early 2000s) my go to knife was a Cold Steel Recon Scout. Before the 1990s it was a cheap Rambo survival knife clone that had been imported by the shipload following the success of “Rambo: First Blood”.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, weight and functionality was secondary to the cool factor of having a large survival knife. Eventually, I could no longer justify the weight and bulk of carrying a large wilderness survival knife. Even on multi-day camping trips, a large knife was rarely used when a pocket knife (such as the Case Stockman) was perfect for just about everything around the camp.
Thus the dilemma: what justifies a pack knife? I touched on this topic in another article – Is a Pack Knife Needed. For the sake of discussion let’s say yes, a pack knife should be carried. In that case, what should we look for in such a knife?
Let’s be honest: weight is a factor. There is an old saying that goes something like this – Ounces equals pounds, and pounds equals pain. If we can eliminate pounds from our pack, then hopefully the trip will be more enjoyable.
Sometimes we may want a cutting edge that can be used with more force than a pocket knife. Or maybe we want to skin a game animal and do not want blood in the pocket knife. This is where a lightweight fixed blade knife comes in handy.
- Gerber Big Rock: 7.85 ounces
- SOG Field Pup: 5.55 ounces
- Morakniv Companion: 4.85 ounces
- Morakniv Robust: 4.70 ounces
- Morakniv Basic 511: 3.90 ounces
Chances are the Morakniv Basic 511 will take care of most hiking, camping or hunting applications.
It would be easy to say a certain type of steel is better than others, but most main stream steels probably have a purpose. However, cheap knives imported in the 1980s and 1990s which were made from 440 stainless left me with a bad opinion of that grade of steel.
Since the 1980s 440 has come a long way. My Gerber Big Rock, which has a 440 stainless blade seems to hold a nice edge.
Personally, my favorite is 1095 or AUS-8. The honest truth, picking a steel is like picking a car or truck – everyone is going to have a preference.
With all of that said, I prefer the Case Stockman over the Case Trapper, mainly because the Stockman has a stainless blade. This article is about pack knives and not everyday carry. With heavy use in hot, sweaty, dirty environments, stainless certainly has its place.
As mentioned earlier, in the 1990s and early 2000’s, my go to pack knife was a Cold Steel Recon Scout which weighs 1 pound 2.40 ounces. Sometimes I would carry a Cold Steel Heavy Terrain Chopper which weighs 1 pound 9.45 ounces. This is a combined weight of 2 pounds 11.90 ounces. Cold Steel discontinued the Heavy Terrain Chopped in the early 2000s.
To be perfectly honest, neither the Recon Scout Or the Heavy Terrain Chopper were used very often. Why were they carried? Mainly because I “thought” they may be needed. While on a camping or hiking trip, the most used knife was my pocket knife.