Choosing The Best Pocket Knife And Folding Multi Tool
Whether you're camping, fishing, hiking, paddling, boating, caravanning or off-roading in your 4WD, you'll need a knife and a few tools so you're prepared for anything and can make delicious meals. Cutting rope and fishing line, filleting a fish, and starting a fire is easy with the right knives and tools, and they can make all the difference in a survival situation. This buying guide outlines the key things to consider so choosing the right tools and knives is easier.
What are the best knives and tools?
The best knives and tools for one person might not suit someone else, because it depends on:
- What you'll use the knives and tools for now and in future (to camp, fish, hunt, for 4WDing?)
- Whether you're carrying everything or travelling by car (and how much weight you can carry)
- Whether you'll be close to civilisation or in the middle of nowhere (so may need survival gear)
- How long you'll be away from civilisation for (the longer it is the more tools you may need)
- What you'll need tools for (starting a fire, uncorking wine, fishing, cooking, hunting, repairs?)
- How much space you'll have in the car for tools and knives (after packing everything else)
- How long you'll be using them for and how often (a few days a year or for weeks at a time?)
- How long you want it to last (do you want knives and tools you can use for years to come?)
Which knives and tools should you buy?
Choosing knives and tools is easier when you break it down into these five steps:
There are three main types of knives and tools:
- Individual knives - in solid and fold-out designs for general or specific uses.
- Individual tools - in small and large sizes designed for a specific purpose.
- Multi-tools - with a knife and other tools in one compact, fold-out design.
Knives can be used for a variety of tasks so they're probably your most important tool.
Types of Knives
Knives are designed for either:
- General, multi-purpose use (like camping or hiking).
- A particular purpose (like fishing or hunting).
A fishing knife or knife set is ideal for:
- Cutting up live bait.
- Cutting and preparing lines.
- Preparing lures and jigs.
- Filleting freshly-caught fish.
- Is (obviously) for hunting.
- Has a large, thick blade.
- Can have a gutting hook.
- Has a blade guard to protect your hand.
- Can be large or small in size.
- Has a serrated edge for sawing (wood for a fire or shelter).
- Could save your life (help you stay sheltered, safe and fed).
- Can have a hole in the handle to hang around your neck/wrist.
- Is designed to be tough enough for combat.
- Can be large or small in size.
- Can come with a sheath for safety/carrying.
A knife set:
- Includes a few different knives.
- Is usually a bit more cost effective.
- For fishing gives you the essentials.
Fixed Vs. Folding Knives
There are fixed knives and folding knives, and each one has its own benefits and drawbacks:
- Fixed knives:
- The blade and handle stay in the same position so are securely attached.
- Are a lot stronger and more ergonomic to use than folding knives.
- Can be used for heavy duty cutting.
- Are usually heavier or bulkier than folding knives.
- Have to go back in their sheath after use to protect you and the edge of the blade.
- Folding knives
- Are more compact than fixed knives because the blade folds back in to the handle.
- Are good for lightweight cutting when strength isn't needed (for fish, veggies etc.).
- May not be as stable to use as fixed knives because of the folding mechanism.
- The blade is protected when it's folded up so it won't get blunt or cut your hands.
- Come with either a:
- Lock to stop the unfolded blade from snapping back onto your fingers.
- Button on the side for one-handed opening (press it to open and lock). Perfect for multitasking or if you need to hold something in the other hand.
- Spring-loaded hinge so the knife springs open when you start to open it. This also allows you to multitask and gives you quick access to the knife.
The material knives and tools are made from determine:
- How strong they'll be (for tougher jobs and cutting through thick materials and food).
- How long lasting they'll be (whether they're tough enough to stand the test of time).
Weigh up the material you want for the blade and handle based on their pros and cons.
The blade determines how well the knife performs, and knife blades can be made from:
- Carbon steel
- Very strong and durable so can last a long time (but requires care).
- Must be sharpened and protected so the blade doesn't rust.
- Stainless steel
- Will not rust (but might not last as long as a carbon steel blade).
- Doesn't cost as much to buy (but doesn't cut as well as carbon steel).
The handle determines how comfortable the knife is to hold:
- Hardwood handles
- Are easy to hold and grip while you're chopping.
- Look good and can come in many colours and grains of wood.
- Can be damaged by water if they wood isn't sealed and you don't dry it properly.
- Plastic handles
- Don't absorb moisture so water won't do any damage.
- Are durable so will last a long time.
- Can get slippery and hard to hold onto when they're wet.
- Rubber handles
- Are water resistant so water won't do any damage.
- Give you a good grip on the knife for added safety.
- Are usually the least durable (so can break down/degrade).
- Stainless steel or aluminium handles
- Are the most durable so will last the longest.
- Can be difficult to hold (especially when they're wet).
- Can feel cold and slip out of your hand more easily than other handles.
As well as your knife or knife set, you should also have tools so you're prepared for anything.
There are three types of tools:
- Multi-tools - giving you a variety of different tools in one compact, fold-out multi-tool.
- Small tools - little, light tools for doing specific things on your outdoor adventure.
- Large tools - bigger, heavier tools taken in the car for camping, 4WD and caravanning.
- Has a small knife and other essential tools so you only need to carry one handy little tool.
- Can include these fold-out tools (check individual product descriptions and images):
- Phillips head screwdriver
- Allen key
- Wire cutters
- Can opener
- Bottle opener
- Lanyard ring
- Comes in different sizes to suit the type of trip you're taking.
A keychain multi-tool is:
- Compact and light (but isn't as strong, durable, many tools as a pocket tool).
- Best for throwing in your backpack or pocket when you're doing short hikes.
A pocket multi-tool is:
- A bit stronger than a keychain tool and has more tools (but it's still compact).
- Best for hiking or backpacking with a larger pack (as they take up more space).
- Screwdrivers - various sizes and types (Phillips head, screwdriver kit, Allen keys).
- Wire cutters and pliers - large and/or needle-nose pliers for general use and wire repairs.
- Scissors - for cutting rope, fishing line and all kinds of other things.
- A small saw - for chopping wood to make a fire and/or a weather shelter.
- Can opener and bottle opener - for cans of food and drinks (beer and wine with a cork).
- Tweezers - to pull out painful splinters and to debone freshly-caught fish before cooking.
- Metal ruler - to measure the size of fish so you can throw back illegal/undersized fish.
- Fire starter - a clever, compact survival tool that creates a spark so it's easy to start a fire.
- Binoculars - for watching birds, whales, dolphins, wildlife and seeing into the distance.
- Mini hammer - for hammering in tent pegs, outdoor shelters and general campsite use.
- Duct tape, cable ties and superglue - for holding things in place and general repairs.
- Ropes and straps - in different sizes for repairs, tying things down and general use.
- Portable air compressor - for inflating air beds, inflatable kayaks, boards and toys.
- Files - to repair screws, make holes bigger, sharpen tool blades and do general repairs.
- Socket, spanners and wrenches - in the size (or a set) that suits your car/4WD/caravan.
- Vice grips/multi-grips - to hold something still (like a nut, pipe, hose etc.) or a hot pan lid.
- Car tools - you may want to take jumper leads, a tyre pressure gauge, bulbs and fuses.
- Wire, gloves, rags and wood blocks - for car repairs that can be painful and messy.
- Magnet - for retrieving metal parts that have fallen into a hard to reach place.
When you're camping, off-roading or caravanning for quite a while or quite a lot, larger tools:
- Are more durable, sharper and stronger (but they're heavier and take up more space).
- Are designed to be more ergonomic and do specific jobs so they make life easier for you.
- Need to be stored in their protective sheath to keep everyone safe and prevent damage.
If there's enough space (with everything and everyone else packed in) you might want to take:
- An axe or hatchets - for chopping firewood (keep the blades covered for safety).
- A folding saw - can also be used to chop down trees (if legal) and chop up firewood.
- A shovel - to dig a toilet or tires out if your car is bogged, and put out fires with dirt/sand.
- A machete - for walking through heavy forest without a pathway, and to clear thick bush.
- Hammer - for hammering in tent pegs, outdoor shelter stakes and general campsite use.
- Sharpeners - to keep the blades of your knives and tools sharp and working at their best.
- Car tools - a multimeter to identify electrical problems - a soldering iron/torch for repairs.
Always make sure knives and multi-tools:
- Are stored safely (in their sheath if they have one).
- Can't be reached by kids and aren't used by them (lock them in a container if needed).
- Are used for cutting on an even, non-slip surface.
- Are kept sharp because blunt knives (and tools) slip more easily when they're cutting.
Different states have different knife laws, so make sure that you familiarise yourself with the current legislation in the state where you live, as well as the area you're planning to visit:
When weighing up which knives and tools to buy, think about quality versus cost:
- Knives with plastic handles are generally the cheapest but may not last as long.
- Knives with stainless steel blades don't cost as much as a knife with a carbon steel blade but won't cut as well.
- You can buy individual knives and tools or get a set or multi-tool to save money and space.
- A knife with a more comfortable handle feels nicer to use and helps you avoid sore hands and blisters.
- A cheap knife may not last as long, so you may end up buying another one down the track.
When it comes to how much you should spend on knives and tools, it depends on how you want to use them:
- If you're travelling for a long time or more frequently, invest in knives and tools that will last and put in a little bit of work to maintain a stronger, better quality blade.
- If you're only going to be out in your 4-wheel drive or caravan occasionally, buy a cheaper knife or tool that can just do the job.
- You can choose to spend less money and get a knife that cuts well but doesn't last as long, or spend more money for an effective knife that will be more durable in the long term.
Make sure you clean your knives after every use so they last (food residue can do damage) and for good hygiene.
How much are knives & tools?
When you go to the Camping & Hiking section on the Anaconda website and select Equipment, you'll see tick box filters down the left hand side of the page. Using these filters makes working out which knives and tools to buy simpler because you can choose to filter what you see by:
- Category - so you just see knives and tools, fishing tools, fishing knives and sharpeners.
- Price - so you only see knives and tools within your budget on the page.
- Deal - so you only see the knives and tools that are on sale or at clearance prices.
- Brand - so you can see knives and tools made by a specific brand.